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Refraction of Light

by Jean H. Klein
  • 100 minutes
  • 2 Males, 2 Females, Min/Max 4

Professional, Simple Set

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On the day World War II ends, another war begins.  Joe Taylor, an African-American veteran decides he wants to marry Nettie French, a childhood sweetheart, and buy the house belonging to Rose Beauchamp, a white teacher who has befriended both Nettie, daughter of Rose’s deceased best friend, and Joe and encouraged their friendship and academic aspirations. Rose’s prejudice rears its head and her reluctance to sell her house to Joe sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to destroy all their futures. Harry Rosen, a Jewish immigrant from Nazi Germany, enters their lives and helps them find their way home.

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Play Details

Overview

The setting is the living room of a graceful old home in Berkley, Virginia.  A stained glass window made by Nettie’s mother, Lily, as a gift to Rose, is a designer’s delight.    Lily combined pieces of glass from baby bottles, eye-glasses, plates, and jewelry to create a symbol of the play’s multicultural mix.  Through this window, Rose, Nettie, Joe, and Harry find comfort, joy, pain, redemption; and, finally, the reality of their own prejudices.

Following the death of her mother in 1938, Nettie French, smart, sassy, African American and age 16, finds a new home with her mother’s friend, Rose Beauchamp, a white, Southern teacher in Berkley, Virginia who enhances the education of young African Americans in her home. In Act 1, Nettie finds the love of her life, Joe Taylor, and a friendship with a Jewish refugee from Hitler’s Germany. Joe returns from World War II, mature and changed by his experiences as a soldier. Joe upsets the equilibrium when he wants to buy Miss Beauchamp’s house and marry Nettie; Rose can’t adjust to changing racial and social norms and equivocates about the sale; In an impulsive rage, Joe leaves to pursue college and a career, assuming Nettie will follow him in a few days. Nettie, however, is pregnant and disappears, not wanting to hinder Joe’s life.

Joe’s first year in college is unsuccessful, and he returns to Berkley to find Nettie, only to discover that she is missing, and Harry now resides in the house to take care of Rose Beauchamp, who is failing both physically and mentally. Her decline has been exacerbated by her own guilt leading to the disappearance of Nettie; her decline is further exacerbated when she learns that Nettie was pregnant when she left. Joe doesn’t know if he can ever forgive Nettie, everything about the house reminds him of her.

The house brings up memories for Harry, too, memories he is still too haunted by and too ashamed to share. Joe stands in front of the window, remembering what it used to mean. Harry’s revelation of secrets tweaks Joe’s memories of his last day in the house and the secret he never gave her time to reveal. He guesses that Harry knows something about Nettie but Harry won’t reveal anything. Joe has to find Nettie and get the answers he’s seeking from her. He decides to put the network of his tightknit Berkley community to work

Ultimately, Nettie hears that Joe is looking for her and returns to the only home she has ever known, having lost her child in childbirth, to find Joe. The loss has changed Nettie; she is no longer the naïve and trusting girl planning to follow her Prince Charming. She is a woman who has faced the worst life has to offer and survived and now must face revealing the loss of their child to Joe. At first glad to find Nettie, Joe is mortally wounded to discover that he has had and lost a child without ever knowing about it; he doesn’t know if he can forgive Nettie for keeping that from him.

In the final scene, Rose, delusional, hears the argument and enters but “sees” both Joe and Nettie as they appeared in Scene 1, teenagers arriving for their lessons at her desk. Joe tries to confront Rose with reality, but Nettie goes along with the fantasy. Finally, Joe must decide whether to hang on to his own view of the world, which has him at the center or to join Rose and Nettie in a “lesson” in front of the window.

PDF download available. Looking for a world premiere.

From the Play

Characters:
Rose Beauchamp (Bee-cham) 60’s
Nettie French, African-American, late teens to early 20’s
Joe Taylor African-American, late teens to early 20’s
Harry Rosen Jewish immigrant, early 20’s

ACT I Scene: Time: 1938
ACT I Scene 2: Time: 1945
ACT II: Time: 1946

The play takes place in the parlor/sitting room of a house in Berkley, Virginia, from 1938 to 1946. The room is dominated by a stained glass window There are three exits: a door to a basement is underneath the stairs; a doorway to the kitchen, and one to the outside. A flight of stairs, topped by a landing, leads to the upstairs.

Excerpt from Act 1, Scene 2: Joe has returned from WWII:

Characters:
Rose Beauchamp (Bee-cham) sixties
Nettie French, African-American, late teens to early 20’s
Joe Taylor African-American, late teens to early 20’s
Harry Rosen Jewish immigrant, early 20’s

ROSE
(Pause. She crosses to the window.)
It seems like only yesterday, your mother was finding more pieces for this window. And I was buying this desk—I must have looked at 50 before I found the one I wanted.

NETTIE
You always were very particular—

ROSE
I was not! There’s just a right way and a wrong way

NETTIE
Ummm-hmmm—

ROSE
Well, there is! Even though nobody seems to pay much attention to that. You know, somebody was supposed to come out here yesterday to inspect the furnace and no one ever came! They didn’t even call! That would never have happened before the war. People had respect for things like work and keeping appointments then—

NETTIE
A young man did come. You were asleep upstairs and I let him in. I told you about it last night. I’m going to have to start writing things down for you—

ROSE
There’s nothing wrong with my memory—

NETTIE
Mmmm-hmmm.

ROSE
I remember exactly how things used to be. We never went to Sunday lunch at Ames and Brownley without our gloves. And to go out without a hat? Unthinkable! And now . . . I don’t know, Nettie. Maybe this house is just getting too big for me—I’ve been thinking about putting it on the market . . .

(She pulls out the sign.)

NETTIE
Now, what’s that?

ROSE
Oh, don’t worry. I won’t do anything until you’re taken care of—

NETTIE
You’re not going to put that sign in our yard!

ROSE
We have to think about it. Everything’s so different these days. Somebody must have come in here and made the hallways longer and the ceilings higher, about the same time as they made my arms too short to bend down and tie my shoes.

NETTIE
I’ll worry about the hallways and ceilings and you can start wearing slippers.

ROSE
Well, even so. The war’s changed things. Women are going to work. People aren’t as . . . as . . . respectful . . . Oh, I don’t know. It’s different. Besides, I don’t know how the market is for houses these days, with the war and all. I might die before I even find a buyer.

NETTIE
Miss Rose! Don’t talk like that. This house just fits us. It’s quiet. Peaceful. That carpet. And that window? We just gonna go and leave my momma’s window behind?

ROSE
I’ll bet Joe or Harry could help us move a window if we had to. Speaking of Harry, he should be here soon with the groceries. Do you remember how frightened he was when he first got here? (pause) I hate this war, Nettie, but every time I look at Harry, I’m glad we’re fighting it.

NETTIE
And you taught him English right here at that table. Why you want to go and leave all this is beyond me. I’ve imagined you teaching my children at that table—

ROSE
Your children! I hope I would—but I expect they are a good distance in the future. (Nettie turns away, abruptly. pause) Joe could hardly go to college and take care of a family.

NETTIE
He might be able to—

ROSE
I don’t see how. Nobody that I know—

NETTIE
I read an article just the other day about veterans coming back from the war and going back to college—some of them had families—

ROSE
They already had families. What were they going to do? You have a choice. Joe has a choice.

NETTIE
(trying to change the subject)
I wish they’d write an article about Joe in the paper—

ROSE
There have been lots of articles about boys from Berkley who / served in—

NETTIE
Yeah, the white boys. I’ll bet they think Joe spent him time in Germany cleaning toilets.

ROSE
Well, I hope not! What Joe did sounded very important. Why, he was sent home wounded!

NETTIE
Probably from one of those exploding toilets you hear so much about.

ROSE
Tunnel-vision. That’s what you have. More like your mother every day. Finding an injustice under every stone you turn over.

NETTIE
(a little heated)
Sometimes you don’t even have to turn the stone.

ROSE
There’s always more than one way to look at a thing, Nettie.

NETTIE
Your way and the wrong way.

ROSE
That’s not true. I always consider all the possibilities—

NETTIE
What if Joe had a gun pointed at Adolf Hitler! Would you tell him to shoot or stop and think about it?

ROSE
Well . . .

NETTIE
That’s what I mean. Sometimes, it takes a bullet to get your point across! I hear Hitler lights a candle every night, praying that Joe Taylor never sets foot in Germany.

(Nettie steadies herself against a chair, as if she were dizzy.)

ROSE
Nettie? Are you all right? You’ve been looking tired lately—

NETTIE
It’s nothing—I don’t sleep well. I think the war’s just getting to all of us—

ROSE
Just the same, you’d tell me if something was wrong—

(HARRY ROSEN knocks and enters carrying packages; He is a Jewish immigrant from Germany in his late twenties.)

HARRY
Here’s your groceries, Miss Beauchamp. I hope I got everything right.
ROSE
You always do. I’m so glad Overton’s hired you. I wouldn’t be surprised to see you owning that store one day.
HARRY
From your lips to God’s ear. But, just in case, you might mention that down at the store.
ROSE
I’ll do that. And I’ll put in a word with the Episcopalians, too.

NETTIE
And I’ll take care of the Baptists,
HARRY
Some of them don’t have much use for me. But it wouldn’t hurt. After all, who knows who’s really listening?

ROSE
It’s different here. Harry. This is Berkley.

HARRY
Maybe. Here, I haven’t seen a broken window. Yet. (He reaches up and touches one of the panes,) We used to have a window like this in Bremen—Until Kristallnacht—

ROSE
Do you miss your old house? You’ve never said much about it—

HARRY
(pulling his hand away from the window)
No. America. This is my home now—

NETTIE
Your house was like this one?

HARRY
Yes, very much like this one, very much like Berkley. We all got along, looked out for one another, whether our names were Moishe or Gunther. Somebody’s dog went missing, we all went out and whistled until it came home.

ROSE
It sounds lovely.

HARRY
It was. My mama made ruggelah every Friday . . .

ROSE
What’s that?

HARRY
It’s like a little . . little . . cookie with jam inside. My mama used to use raspberry jam, my favorite . . .My older sister Rachel used to tease her that she liked me best . . .

(Harry suddenly breaks off, as if swallowed up by the past.)

NETTIE
Sounds good to me.
ROSE
You must miss home very much. (pause) Harry? (pause) Harry?

HARRY
(snapping back)
No! No, no. No used talking about the past. It’s gone. It is today and today, in America, the sun shines. I have to go. Mr. Overton told me to come right back. I don’t want to let Joe down. Joe arranged I should get the job—he put in his —what do you call it—his 2 dollars?

NETTIE
I think that’s 2 cents, Harry.

HARRY
A new job in a new country is worth more than that. I owe him big time. That’s why I always let him beat me at basketball.

ROSE
Well, you’ve done a good job.

HARRY
I keep things straight in my mind. Six eggs for Mr. Frankel. One pound of butter to the Weston’s. I brought you their extra coupons for sugar, by the way, you want to trade your gas coupons? I thought you might. In your kitchen, the rice goes on the second shelf. A place for everything and everything in its place.

NETTIE
For now. (pause) Miss Rose is thinking about selling the house.

HARRY
Oh, no, such a thing should not be.

NETTIE
That’s what I tried to tell her

HARRY
In my world, we had a house, we kept it. It got too small, we added on.

ROSE
It’s not too small, it’s too big—

HARRY
Then close some doors. When you sell a house, you sell your past.

ROSE
I’m afraid we take our past with us, wherever we go.

HARRY
Oh, I hope not. That would be a terrible burden for God to give us.

NETTIE
Don’t tell me life has been so terrible for you in this country.

HARRY
In this country? No! I saw America from the ship and then someone said they weren’t going to let us land. They were going to take us back to Germany—

ROSE
I remember that—Something about Visa’s.

HARRY
Yes, like that. We weren’t allowed to land and I thought I felt the ship starting to turn. I jumped overboard and almost drowned getting to the shore.

NETTIE
You never told us about that—

HARRY
I hated to think about it for a long time. All that water! And me thrashing around in the middle of it. I didn’t know I could swim! But I made it . . .as you can tell from me standing here. And then they sent me back to the ship and told us we had to go back to Germany. Oy, veh! I wished I had drowned—

ROSE
Thank God you didn’t!

HARRY
No! The synagogue found me a home—and a visa . . . Thanks to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt herself—

ROSE
(reluctantly)
Well, yes, I suppose she might have had something to do with it . . .

HARRY
Something! She had everything to do with it, she—

NETTIE
Shhh, Harry, just give the credit to the synagogue.

HARRY
(laughing)
All right, it was the synagogue . . .

ROSE
And a good lawyer they brought over from Newport News—Could you take these cans to the cellar, Harry? There’s a small pantry at the back where—
HARRY
(hesitates)
Uh, not the cellar, Miss Beauchamp, the kitchen, yes, the kitchen is always a better place. Groceries are always better in the kitchen,

NETTIE
But we always put the canned goods—

HARRY
Kitchen is safer—for canned goods.

ROSE
You and that cellar – all right then, the kitchen. Harry, I’m going to find a recipe and make some of the roo-ga-la you just told me about. I don’t have any raspberry jelly, but I could use molasses.

HARRY
(making a face)
I’m sure it will be wonderful. Miss Beauchamp. Just like Mama’s.

(Harry exits into kitchen with the groceries. Nettie stands in front of the stained glass window. Sunlight flickers over her in different colors.)

NETTIE
How can you even think of selling this house? I can’t imagine leaving–all those afternoons
You, Joe and I sat around that table—

ROSE
Now, don’t make me start to cry. I loved those afternoons— your laugh sounded like a wind chime—and the minutes and hours fell into place in a predictable order—until the war came and shook us all up like a snow globe.

NETTIE
Mommee always used to say everything needed a good shake once in a while. The radio. The toaster. Even me. —Oh!

(Nettie sits or grabs onto something as if faint.)

ROSE
Now, Nettie, you’re not going to tell me nothing’s wrong. We should get you to a doctor.

NETTIE
I don’t need a doctor. Probably couldn’t find one. There’s a big shortage of doctors. They’re all overseas—

ROSE
Not all of them. I have an appointment with my doctor next week. I’ll take you with me—

NETTIE
No! I mean . . . I . . .
(From outside, we hear a sudden blast of noise—horns, firecrackers, shouts. Harry runs in from the kitchen.)

HARRY
What is it?

ROSE
I don’t know.

HARRY
(covering his ears)
Oy, Mein Gott! Help us. Help us; they’re coming, hide, run . . .Hurry up, hurry up, we don’t have time . . .

ROSE
I’m sure it’s nothing—

HARRY
That’s what they said in Germany—

NETTIE
What happened in Germany is not going to happen here—

HARRY
How do you know? We didn’t think it would happen there—

ROSE
We’re in America, Harry, we can vote—

HARRY
We could in Germany until we couldn’t any longer—I have to go, I have to warn the rabbi—

(Nettie starts to cross to the door.)

NETTIE
—Not until we find out what’s going on—

HARRY
(grabbing her by the arm)
—No! I have to warn somebody this time—

ROSE
—I’m sure it’s all right, Harry.

HARRY
—No. It’s happening again—

(Nettie breaks free just as Joe Taylor bursts in, wearing an old army shirt with dog tags.)

JOE
Germany surrendered!

ROSE
What?

HARRY
What did you say?

NETTIE
Germany surrendered????

JOE
Germany surrendered! The war’s over!

NETTIE
I don’t believe it!

JOE
The war with Germany’s over. Hitler surrendered! Halleluiah!

HARRY
What did you say, Joe? Did I hear you right . . . ?

AD LIB from others
I don’t believe it . . ./ What did he say?
The war? /What about the war?
Over. /No, he can’t have said that. Etc.

(Joe crosses to the radio and turns it on. We hear the voice of Winston Churchill. Joe shushes them.)

CHURCHILL’s VOICE
“We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Advance Britannia.”

(Joe turns the radio down.)

JOE
I told you!

(Everyone jumps around, crying and hugging one another, adlibbing.)

ROSE
Oh, Joe, I’m so glad it’s over. And you’re home safe.

JOE
It won’t be long before the whole thing is over. Hey, Harry, we got ‘em for you. We got ‘em!

(Joe grabs Harry and hugs him.)

HARRY
(dazed)
Over? It’s over?????

JOE
Yeah, Harry. We beat the sonofabitch.

NETTIE
(glancing at Rose)
Joe!

ROSE
It’s okay, Nettie. I just hope the sonofabitch is dead.

HARRY
It’s over. It’s over.

(He keeps mumbling this to himself. Joe crosses and turns the radio up.)

ANNOUNCER’s VOICE
And here is a reminder of how important our place in the war has been. Edward R. Morrow in a report filed just a month ago.
(There is some crackling and another voice with a recorded report-the voice or facsimile of Edward R. Morrow.)
“There were two rows of bodies stacked up like cordwood. All except two were naked. Clothing was piled in a heap against the wall. Murder had been done at Buchenwald. Thursday, I was told that there were more than 20,000 in the camp. There had been as many as 60,000. Where are they now?”

(Harry crosses and turns off the radio and weeps.)

HARRY
Where are they now? Where are they now?

JOE
Harry, I’m sorry. Are you all right?

HARRY
What? Yes, I’m fine, yes, the war in Germany is over . . .I’m sorry—\ I know, I know

ROSE
There’s nothing to be sorry about—

NETTIE
It’s over, Harry, it’s all over—

HARRY
No, no, never over–/ nothing is ever over

(Joe puts his arm around Harry and takes him to the side. The others continue with their adlibs about the war.)

JOE
I know, Harry. I heard the stories about the camps. We won too late for a lot of people.

HARRY
It’s not that I’m not grateful for everything you did. You risked your life and you didn’t have to—

JOE
Oh, I think I did.

HARRY
Yes, I know. And you won.

JOE
No, we won! All of us. Come on, this calls for a celebration—

HARRY
Later. I need to go . . . go to synagogue.

JOE
You want me to go with you?

ALL
Harry/
Can we come with you/
Are you all right/
Wait/

HARRY
No, no, no. I need to be alone. Just for a little while . . .

JOE
Okay, Harry. Just come by our house later, okay? See my dad. Maybe stay with us tonight . . .with our family.

HARRY
Thanks, Joe. I’d really like that. I’m sorry. I know it’s a happy day. A happy day for everyone. I know it is.

(Harry rushes out. The others stand silent.)

ROSE
Harry’s family. I never heard what happened to his family, did you?

JOE
No. I never wanted to ask. I could imagine—

ROSE
This may not feel like as much of a victory for him as it is for us.

NETTIE
No. I guess not. (pause)

ROSE
I’m a little worried about Harry. Who knows what he went through. He never talked about it, about what he saw. He was so frightened at all that noise a moment ago.

NETTIE
I don’t think he even knew we were here, that he was in America now.

(pause)

ROSE
The memories he must have . . . I hope he knows how much he belongs here. (Tears come to her eyes.) I better make us some tea.

(Rose exits to the kitchen. Joe gives Nettie a long, passionate kiss.)

NETTIE
I wondered when you were going to do that.

JOE
Just waiting for the right time.

NETTIE
Is this it?

JOE
Oh, yeah. As a matter of fact, I was kind of thinking . . .

NETTIE
What you got on your mind?

JOE
You. What you got on yours?

NETTIE
You, And . . well . . . other things . . .I don’t know if this is the right time . .

JOE
You got a secret, you better tell me.

NETTIE
Some things aren’t so easy to come right out with.

JOE
Well, let me play fair. I have a secret, too.

NETTIE
What?

JOE
What do I get if I tell you?

NETTIE
You get me

JOE
Thought I already had you. I better. You’re the home I come to when I want to quit this world. You’re the light in my window.

NETTIE
Oh, Joe, I hope so. I hope . . .I . . . I . . . I’m . . .
(She can’t bring herself to tell him the truth.)
I just found out that Miss Rose is thinking about selling the house.

(Nettie crosses and pulls out the sign.)

JOE
Really! Well, don’t that beat all!

NETTIE
That’s not quite the reaction I expected. Did you hear me? (She leans up close and yells into his ear.) She wants to sell the house!

JOE
I heard you the first time. How much does she want for it?

NETTIE
What? How would I know? I thought you’d be upset.

JOE
(points to the sign}
Upset? Me? Nettie, this is a sign!

NETTIE
I know what that is!

JOE
No, I mean it’s a sign. A sign!!!! An omen. On my way over here, I was thinking about . . . I was planning to . . . And now I see it. A sign from God. I . . . I’m going to buy us a house!

NETTIE
What!!!!

JOE
I got that GI bill—

NETTIE
But I thought you were going to college—

JOE
Yeah, yeah, that too, but I can wait for a couple of years. The tuition money will still be there—

NETTIE
Oh, Joe! Is that really what you want? For us? A house! Can it have a stained glass window like this one?

JOE
Wouldn’t have it any other way,

NETTIE
And azaleas all along the side?

JOE
Along both sides just like this one . . .Exactly like this one.

NETTIE
Joe? (beat) You talking about this house?

JOE
As soon as I saw that sign and you said Miss Rose was thinking of selling, well, everything just seemed to fall into place and. . .

NETTIE
Oh, Joe, I don’t believe it! You and me . . . But . . .But this house —Not this house, Joe.

JOE
But you love it. I can pay whatever it is—

NETTIE
Oh, don’t tell me you don’t get it. How many dark faces do you see walking down this street with keys in their hands?

JOE
That’s changing, even in Virginia. I got some cousins just moved over on Whitehead Street. That’s just a few block west from here—Nobody said nothing about that.

NETTIE
“Anything”

JOE
Now, don’t you go getting uppity on me. Just because I’m buying you a new house and marrying you and all . . .

NETTIE
I was afraid you were going to leave that out. The marrying part.

JOE
Things’re just waiting to happen, Nettie. More and more people like us come back. Carrying medals from the war—

NETTIE
And then some white man makes you step off the sidewalk so he doesn’t have to walk around you? What you think then?

JOE
I learned in this house I was just as good as anybody else. Stepping off the sidewalk today doesn’t mean I’m gonna step off tomorrow. If anybody belongs in this house, we do. (He points at the globe.) I learned about the Straits of Magellan and the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and Victoria Falls right here. And that window was like a portal to me, showing me all the places I could go.

NETTIE
Oh, Joe, I want you to be right but I’m afraid.

JOE
If things are gonna change, we have to make it happen. In France, I wasn’t just some colored man. I was a member of the Red Ball Express. White and colored, we jumped into the same foxholes. We got supplies to the front when no one else could. I made something my own over there, and I’m not giving it back.

NETTIE
That was you, Joe. That was over there. Please, don’t ask about the house. This neighborhood—

JOE
Neighborhoods are changing with all the vets coming back—

NETTIE
Not this one. And not that fast—

JOE
Then let me be the one to speed it up. You deserve this house, and I want to give it to you. Okay. My secret’s out. I want to marry you and live in this house. Now, what’s your secret?

NETTIE
Oh. My secret? I hope you’ll be happy, too . . .

(Nettie hesitates. Rose enters with the tea tray and puts it on the desk, taking off cups and plates.)

ROSE
I made us some tea. Sit down, Joe. You, too, Nettie. There’s some of your favorite tea cakes there in case the cookies were too sweet. You haven’t been eating right lately. I thought you might be able to eat these.

NETTIE
(Looks at cakes.)
Thank you. Really. It’s just . . . Sometimes the thought of food . . . . Let me clear this tray away.

(She clears the tray and exits with it to the kitchen.)

ROSE
I swear, I can’t get that child to sit down for a minute. These last couple of weeks, she hasn’t eaten a thing.

JOE
I’ll take care of that. I just asked Nettie to marry me.

ROSE
Oh, that’s wonderful, Joe . . . but I hope you’re not forgetting about college—You have to remember what you can do with your life. Joe. You have a mind! A capital M mind that buzzes like blue lightning! You take to ideas like a frog takes to flies.

JOE
To most people, no matter how I croak, I’ll still be a frog.

ROSE
Not the way you’ve learned to speak. Why, I’ve heard you sound like Winston Churchill. You’d make a good lawyer, Joe. You could always get me to believe up was down. (She pulls an envelope from her pocket.) Look, Joe, Morehouse is looking for returning veterans for a special summer program to get them ready for college. I’ve already written them a letter about you . . .

NETTIE
Morehouse? That’s in Atlanta . . .

(Joe takes the envelope and stuffs it in his pocket.)

JOE
I will go back to school, I mean, part time with my GI Bill. If I stay here in Berkley, I can afford to do all that.

ROSE
Just don’t get so . . . preoccupied . . . that you lose your way.

JOE
I know exactly where I’m going. (pause) I’m going to buy a house.

ROSE
A house!

JOE
My G. I. Bill gives me money to cover the down payment. (pause) I’d like to buy this house.

ROSE
My house?

JOE
Nettie showed me the sign. You’re selling, aren’t you?

ROSE
Well, I hadn’t . . . that is, not really . . .

JOE
You told me the other day that it’d gotten too much for you. You ask me to change the light bulbs in the ceiling.

ROSE
I’m thinking about selling the house. I’m just putting out some queries to help me make up my mind. I may not sell for a long time.

JOE
I can wait.

ROSE
It’s a big step, Joe, buying a house. When you start college and have to pay tuition . . .

JOE
The G. I Bill covers that, too.

ROSE
Finish school. Then we’ll talk about the house.

JOE
You’ll sell it to me then?

ROSE
Why, I might not even be alive!

JOE
That’s not what I asked. Would you sell me the house then?

ROSE
By that time, you probably wouldn’t even want an old house. With your degree and all. Who knows where you’ll want to go once you have that piece of paper in your hand.

JOE
Did you ever think about what I would do once I got that piece of paper?

ROSE
Why, whatever you’d studied for, I suppose!

JOE
Is that right? What do you and everybody else see? A colored man with a piece of paper in his hands. If I’m lucky and work real hard, maybe I can be head porter on the Southern and Western Railroad. Oh, wait. If I’ve got a degree, I could probably get a job in the circus. “Step right up, ladies and gentlemen. For just one thin dime, you can see the colored man recite from memory. He adds. He subtracts. He makes change for a ten dollar bill!”

ROSE
The Joe Taylor I knew wouldn’t have talked like that
JOE
The Joe Taylor you knew just went missing in action. When you get right down to it, you’re not much different than the rest of them. I want to live in this house. Miss Rose. I want you to tell me I’m good enough to live in it.

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