GEORGE GARRETT | Garden Spot, U.S.A.
Act I, Scene 1
(The public park in Garden Spot, U.S.A. A
stylized park scene. To one side stands the heroic statue of the
GENERAL. There are several
park benches. There is a large trash barrel labelled TRASH. There
is a KEEP OFF THE GRASS sign and a DO NOT PICK FLOWERS sign.
The curtain rises on a perfectly frozen scene, lifeless as a photograph.
Two old men, PAT and MIKE, are bent over a checkerboard. The
are perfectly still, as if caught in an action photograph: A
MAID pushing a baby carriage; a POLICEMAN passing her, his hand on
visor of his cap, as if he were just about to raise it. A young
couple arm in arm. An athlete in a sweat suit, the sweatshirt bearing
stenciled label—P.E. GYM. . . . Suddenly the STRANGER appears,
from behind the statue of the GENERAL. He wears black full dress,
a cape, white gloves, and he carries a gold-headed cane. Briskly
salutes the statue as he enters.)
General . . .
(He strides across the stage, invisible,
of course, to the others. He looks around quickly, well pleased.
Using his cane like a baton,
he waves it and exits. The others instantly come to life. The sweat-suited
athlete jogs by, puffing and blowing. The maid crosses. The policeman
tips his hat and smiles. They take a couple of steps, turn simultaneously
to look at each other. The policeman tips his hat again. The maid
sticks out her tongue at him. And they are gone . . . The young
couple crosses, arm in arm, talking intently in low voices . . . Under
park bench JACK is fast asleep, his bare feet protruding. He is
the town bum and drunk, who holds down the vague job of keeping the
more or less clean and picked up. A young man, a TRAVELING SALESMAN,
enters. He carries an attaché case. Glances at his wristwatch,
checking it against the unseen Courthouse Clock . . . Then he sits
down on a bench. Carefully he opens the attaché case in his
lap; from it he removes his lunch—a sandwich, an apple, a
thermos bottle . . . JILL WORTHY enters. She is a young pretty
primly dressed. She is the town librarian. She carries her lunch
in a paper sack. The only empty bench is the one under which JACK
is sleeping. Just as she starts to sit down, he stirs and snorts
in his sleep and she notices him. Seeing his dirty bare feet, she
gives a little wince of disgust and moves over to the bench where
the YOUNG MAN is sitting. He smiles politely and makes room for
her. They exchange a nod and a smile. She takes an apple out of
bag and is about to bite into it. He is also just about to bite
into his apple. At that moment, they steal a second look at each
They smile and move a little farther apart. Once again, they raise
their apples in unison, turn to look, smile, lower their apples
and open their mouths to speak . . . At precisely that instant
siren begins to wail, drowning out any possibility of conversation,
and the Courthouse Clock begins to strike twelve times. At that,
JILL and the YOUNG MAN smile and shrug. As soon as the siren begins
to wail: (1) PAT and MIKE stop their checker game long enough to
check the time on large gold pocket watches, nod with satisfaction
to each other and bend over their checker game again. (2) JACK
wakes up with a start and comes crawling out from under the park
looking around wildly as if it were Judgment Day. Then he stretches
painfully and, scratching himself, goes straight to the trash barrel.
He fumbles and rummages inside of it, coming up with: (a) a short
stick with a nail in the end of it for picking up trash, (b) a
burlap bag with a strap, and (c) a battered visor cap. He squares
in a military manner, gives a neat sober salute to nobody in particular
with the stick, then assumes the classic en garde position
of a fencer. Then he looks around quickly and, seeing that no one
is paying any attention to him, he rummages in the trash barrel again
and produces a bottle of whiskey he has hidden there. Takes a long
drink and puts the bottle in his burlap sack. Suddenly JACK notices
something on the unseen Courthouse. He rubs his eyes and looks again
in pure amazement, then he advances on the YOUNG MAN and JILL.
Hey! You know what? The bastard didn’t move. He didn’t even budge.
Are you speaking to me?
Who do you think I’m talking to—the General? (indicates the statue)
I’m afraid I didn’t hear what you said.
I said: The courthouse clock struck noon with its usual dull and plonking,
leaden tones. The damn old siren in the Firehouse went off like the trump
of doom itself and stirred me out of a daydream of fame and riches and pure
respectability. And in spite of all that godawful cacophany, that chaos of
noise unleashed upon a startled universe, that old bastard up there didn’t
Watch your language, Mr. (in a more confidential tone) There’s a lady present.
Oh—her. She knows what a bastard is.
Now wait a minute . . . !
If she doesn’t know what a bastard is, she ought to. She works in the library,
and if she doesn’t know, she can look it up. Anyway, I was only speaking
Is he annoying you, ma’am?
I am not. She’s just very sensitive.
Lady, if he’s annoying you, you just say the word.
Thank you very much for your concern. But I am perfectly able to cope with
any . . .
Cope? Cope? You can say that again. That’s one thing nobody can ever take away
from you, Jill Worthy, worthy Miss Worthy, you can really cope. Look at her!
Just look at her! She is a pretty near perfect example of the modern American
female. You know what the trouble with the modern American woman is?
I believe you said you noticed something—unusual.
Indeed I did. Something very unusual. And if you will allow me to dispose of
the problem of modern American women . . .
Nobody is the least bit interested in your theories. They’re completely juvenile
and predictable. And, anyway, we have all heard them over and over and over.
I haven’t. I’m a stranger here myself.
You’re just trying to make me look ridiculous.
That seems to be your vocation. It’s the only thing you do really well.
What line of work are you in anyway?
Do. What do you do?
Sir, you are speaking to the unabridged and unexpurgated conscience of this
town. In spite of my, shall we say, casual appearance, I am a philosopher.
I am a park bench philosopher in the grand old American tradition.
Yeah, like Bernard Baruch.
I have heard of the gentleman’s reputation. I won’t ask you your line
won’t even ask you what in the world has caused you to stop here in Garden
Spot—dear old Garden Spot—the most dreary—the most godforsaken
little old . . .
You were about to tell us something you had noticed, before you digressed.
Digression is the essence of my style.
May I ask what it was—or is it some kind of a big secret?
You are at liberty to ask. Although I have already explained in faultless rhetoric.
There is one little flaw—I wasn’t listening.
JACK (to the YOUNG MAN)
See? See what I mean? (to JILL, with a note of self-pity) You never pay any
attention to me.
That, Jack Peterkin, is because you never speak in an organized way.
You want an outline? I will repeat, Miss Worthy, in spite of that siren, in
spite of that and everything else, that bastard didn’t budge! It didn’t even
ruffle his feathers. He just sat there, and he is sitting there now. Just
sitting and looking . . .
Who is just sitting and looking?
(JACK glances again at the Courthouse. He shudders and produces
his bottle and takes a drink.)
Where is he sitting?
Smack on top of the Courthouse Clock.
Is it anyone we know?
You never believe me—just because I am not living up to my potential.
I am not pulling my oar. I am not carrying my own weight. I am not putting
my nose to the wheel and my shoulder to the grindstone. In short, I am a bum.
I admit it fully and openly and categorically and most emphatically without
pride, dismay or hesitation. . . .
Man! You said a mouthful.
Sir, I am not addressing these remarks to you.
YOUNG MAN (belligerent)
Oh, yeah? Well, I’m talking to you, old buddy.
In a strictly chronological sense I am not old. Nor am I, to the best of my
somewhat cloudy recollection, a buddy of yours.
Whom did you see sitting on top of the Courthouse Clock?
I didn’t say that. I didn’t say I saw somebody.
What was it that you saw, then?
See! Let’s be accurate, please. Do see! The son of a bitch is still up there.
YOUNG MAN (laughing)
I know! A very large pink elephant!
Wrong! You have missed the mark, sir. As a matter of fact, it happens to be
What kind of a bird?
A dodo bird! A red, white, and blue dodo bird!
JACK (to JILL)
Come up here and see for yourself.
I’m trying to finish my lunch before I have to go back to the library. But
suppose you describe the bird and I’ll see if I can guess what it is.
You won’t have any trouble.
I won’t have any trouble either. Back home I’m the acting secretary of the
Early Bird Watcher’s Society.
How nice for the birds!
Go ahead and describe the bird. Let’s see which one of us can guess it first.
Why are you so competitive?
What’s wrong with competition?
You don’t know?
Say, what are you—some kind of subversive or something? What are
JACK (taking another drink)
At the moment? Sobriety.
I’m trying to be serious.
Well, I’m not. I spend most of my waking hours trying my damnedest not to be
Jack, will you please stop talking and simply describe the bird.
Okay . . . . . . . . . It’s a big one . . . . . . a very large bird . . .
Is it an eagle?
No, sir! It’s a very large bird. It is a very large, very black . . .
A swan? A black swan?
A very large, very black, very ugly bird. With a big, long, skinny, naked-looking
neck . . .
That couldn’t be a swan.
But they never roost in towns.
Look for yourself, damn it!
(Very slowly the YOUNG MAN turns around to take a good look. He
reacts by quickly slumping down on the bench, loosening his tie and
mopping his brow with a handkerchief.)
You want a drink?
YOUNG MAN (grabbing the bottle)
Don’t mind if I do.
Well, I give up. What is it?
I’m afraid he was telling the truth, ma’am.
And the truth is?
The truth is that there is a very large, very black, very ugly-looking old
buzzard sitting right up there on top of the clock.
A buzzard? Are you drunk, too?
No, ma’am, not yet. But I’m getting there.
Hey! Take it easy on that bottle.
How long has he been up there?
Since early morning. I didn’t pay much attention at first. Frankly, there are
times, especially first thing in the morning, when I don’t feel I should
give full credence to the reports of my sensory apparatus.
And when the clock struck twelve, he didn’t even move?
The bastard didn’t even budge?
Didn’t even budge.
JILL (to JACK)
You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
I don’t think she believes us.
(The YOUNG MAN crosses quickly to the bench where
PAT and MIKE are still playing checkers . . .)
(They turn slowly to look where he is pointing)
Do you see what I see? Do you see a bird sitting on top of the Courthouse?
What kind of a bird does it look like?
Looks kinda like a buzzard to me. What do you say, Pat?
(PAT produces some glasses and puts them on for a better look.)
Yep. It’s a buzzard all right.
Don’t you think that’s a little bit strange?
Yeah, strange. Odd, unusual, curious, crazy, weird. Have either one
of you ever seen a buzzard up there before?
Now that you mention it, can’t say as I have. How ’bout you, Mike?
You know, I can’t recall ever seeing a buzzard up there either.
Well, like the fella says, there’s gotta be a first time for everything.
Sonny, you see all kinds of unusual things nowadays.
(They return to the checker game.)
Look! There’s another one! There’s two of them now!
(The YOUNG MAN takes one more look. Takes
the bottle from JACK for one last drink, grabs his attaché case
and closes it.)
YOUNG MAN (giving JACK his apple)
Here, you take it. I don’t feel hungry any more. (to JILL) Pleasure to have
known you, ma’am.
Where are you going?
Home! I’m a stranger here, remember? I’m just a traveling salesman
and I don’t have to stay here, thank God!
(With one last look at the birds, and a shudder, he is gone.)
(JACK sits down on the bench beside JILL. He smiles
and wiggles his toes.)
Well, I hope you’re satisfied!
I didn’t do anything. Will you just go up there and see for yourself
and admit for once that I’m right?
JILL (rising, carefully depositing
her trash in the trash can)
I simply do not care if you are right or wrong.
Never mind about me. You do care, don’t you, if there are two—no!
there’s three of
them now!—three buzzards sitting up there.
If there are any up there, I don’t want to know about it. As far as
I am concerned, they simply do not exist. Just like you! Goodbye!
(She exits quickly, very angry.)
JACK (hesitating, then following after her)
Wait just a big minute! (shouting) You think you can close your eyes and pretend
things don’t exist?
(But she has gone. He shrugs and then exits, performing his duty
as trash man.)
PAT (looking up from the checker game to the Courthouse)
How many do you count now, Mike? How many do you count up there?
’Bout a half a dozen. Course I wouldn’t swear to it. My eyes ain’t what
they used to be.
What do you make of it?
Nothing . . . How about you?
Well, I’ll tell you the way I figure it.
There’s gotta be a reason.
Got to be a reason for everything.
The question I ask myself is what are they after? What do they want?
You got a point there.
Those buzzards are sitting up there looking right down at . . .
us . . .
You don’t think . . . ?
Yes, sir, that’s exactly what I do think. They’re just sitting there
waiting to see which one of the two of us dies first.
What do you mean—us? If they are waiting on me, they might as well
give up and go home.
That’s what you think.
Remember old Happy Ferguson?
Sure I do.
Now, he was what you’d call a healthy old man. Hale and hearty; lively,
wouldn’t you say?
I’d say so.
He ate what he pleased and ran around doing what he felt like
and everybody said he was going to live to be a hundred.
Right up to
the day he just
fell over dead in front of the Luxuria Beauty Parlor. He stopped
one minute to
wink at the manicurist. Looked in the window and winked at
Happy Ferguson had a way with the ladies.
And, the next thing you know, he was dead as a mackerel.
Well, it don’t worry me. I’ll be here long after you’ve gone.
The hell you will!
I plan to attend your funeral.
You won’t be here to attend my funeral.
Oh, I’ll be there all right. You want to know why? Because
I take care of myself. I never get excited.
I never lose my temper!
I don’t lose my temper either!
And I promise you, you’ll have a real first class
Your move, Mike . . .
(They bend over the checker board again.)
(A crowd gathered. They stand silently facing
a small podium. All the people from Scene 1—except the TRAVELING SALESMAN—are
there. Plus the BANKER, the PREACHER, and a young stranger with a
pocket notebook—a NEWSPAPER MAN. Also the CHIEF OF POLICE.
The PREACHER, the BANKER, and the CHIEF OF POLICE are like figures
out of an animated cartoon. The PREACHER wears a black, full-length
cassock and carries a large Bible. The BANKER is in striped pants,
frock coat, homburg hat, and carries a brief case. The CHIEF OF
POLICE is as resplendent as a Field Marshall in full dress.)
(After a moment the MAYOR enters, nodding and smiling,
and mounts the small podium. He is folksy, with a broad brimmed Stetson
hat, a string tie, etc.)
Good evening, everybody. I guess all of you know why we had to call this
meeting tonight. I’m sure everybody will agree it’s just a
whole lot easier to conduct this particular bit of business in the dark,
speak . . . I think we can safely assume that they’re all sound asleep
now . . . Or, even if they aren’t asleep, they probably can’t
see us . . . Or,
if you have to take the most pessimistic view of the situation, let’s
say they aren’t asleep and they can see us—well,
at least the main thing is we can’t see them. Right?
VOICES FROM THE
That’s a blessing!
What are we going to do about it? Yeah, what are we going to do?
Now then, now then, everybody. Let’s try and keep our heads . . .
With those ugly things just sitting up there?
Let us try to conduct ourselves in a decent, civilized manner. I hereby
call this meeting to order. First things first. The first thing we have
is agree on the facts . . . Now, the fact is that a few days ago those
birds, for reasons of their own, settled down here in Garden Spot. Since
and more of them have shown up. I think it is safe to state that there
has been a steady and continuous growth in our—buzzard population.
Chief of Police, what is the latest official count?
Your Honor, distinguished dignitaries, ladies, and gentlemen. As of sunset,
which occurred officially at 6:43 P.M. tonight, we had counted approximately
323 buzzards in the area of Garden Spot proper.
Where are they presently located?
Well, your Honor, so far they have been sticking pretty close to the
center of town. What you might call the main body is at present situated
on top of the Courthouse. There are smaller groups on top of the Bank and
City Hall and the County Jail. Just before sundown, a couple of new ones
flew into town
and lit on the Church steeple.
I deny that allegation! . . . They wouldn’t dare . . . I haven’t seen
I’m sorry, Reverend, real sorry. But me and my men actually seen them
Chief, have you and your men been carefully observing their activities?
That’s what you told us to do and we done it, your Honor.
Would you venture a generalization upon the nature of the activities
you have observed?
What the hell are they up to, man?
Oh, nothing much. Mostly, they just sit there and look at us.
Thank you, Chief. And now that we are all agreed on the basic facts .
. . . we can proceed to . . .
I’m not agreed.
The chair recognizes Miss Mabel. What seems to be the problem?
We still have to determine what they are.
Why, honey, they’re just buzzards, aren’t they?
Not exactly . . .
What are they?
Well now, what are they—exactly, Miss Mabel?
If someone will be kind enough to hold a light for me . . .
(The POLICEMAN comes forward and holds a light for her. CLUBWOMAN
opens a dictionary.)
Let me quote to you directly from the dictionary.
The Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, to be accurate: “Buzzard,
spelled B-U-Z-Z-A-R-D, pronounced Buzz-ard. Old French Busard,
French Buison (whence
come the French Buse). Latin Buteo. One: Any of numerous heavy,
slow-flying hawks (Buteo and other allied genera). Two: Any
of various other birds of prey, especially the Turkey Buzzard. See
Turkey Buzzard. Now, you will have to admit that is a very broad and
general definition . . .
If you will just allow me to . . .
Thank you very much, but I don’t believe that will be necessary. Time
is pressing, so if you will just tell us briefly what you are driving
at . . .
I just want it clearly established right at the outset that strictly
speaking the creatures in question are not buzzards.
Well, if they aren’t buzzards, what the hell are they?
Permit me . . . Would you please hold that light for me again?
(Again the POLICEMAN holds the flashlight for her. Again she reads
from the dictionary.)
The bird in question is more properly defined
as follows: “Any
of certain large raptorial birds of the temperate and tropical regions,
allied to hawks, eagles and falcons, but having weaker claws, and the
head is usually . . . uh . . . naked. They subsist chiefly on carrion.” (She
slams her dictionary shut for emphasis.) Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen,
the birds we are dealing with, the birds we are discussing tonight
are, strictly speaking, vultures!
I say they’re buzzards and the hell with them!
That’s the ticket!
Down in front!
Quiet! Quiet please! Miss Mabel here has been trying to make a point.
An interesting point, a valid point, a viable point. After all, we’ve
gotta agree on what
they are before we can get down to any concrete thinking.
They are vultures.
Yes, ma’am, I’m sure. Well, whatever they are, we have to agree on what
to call them.
Throughout the entire English-speaking world they are called vultures.
Miss Mabel, you are a real nice lady. And I don’t want you to think
for one minute we don’t appreciate your point of view.
Put it to a vote!
Let’s vote on it.
Do I hear a motion?
I move we vote.
All right! All those in favor of calling the said birds in question buzzards,
signify by saying aye!
No! Jill Worthy, how can you stand by and allow another woman to be voted
You mean unanimously.
Very well, the ayes have it. Be it therefore known that hereinafter and
evermore, in the precincts of Garden Spot, that said birds will be officially
But they aren’t buzzards.
Now look here, Miss Mabel. This is a democratic country. Be a good loser.
Now then, I take it that we are all . . .
Brothers and Sisters, I take this strange and sudden visitation for a
Sign. A Sign of all the hidden sinfulness here in Garden Spot. Now, we
all know that
the wages of sin is death!
Amen! You can say that again, Reverend. Spiritually speaking. But let
me tell you, as the President of the Bank, that the only kind of wages
I am worried
about at the moment, is cash wages. Cold, hard cash. If the word about this
ever gets around . . .
What are we going to do about it?
Let’s all get drunk and forget about it!
Kneel! Kneel and pray!
Thank you for the suggestion, Reverend. And, believe me, we may just
try a little praying if nothing else works. Meanwhile, the floor is open
I have a suggestion. I suggest that we ignore them. After a while, if
they see that we don’t care about them one way or the other, maybe they
True, Miss Worthy. Very true. But once again I would like to point out
a few hard, cold pertinent facts from the world of commerce. This town
falls on business and trade. If we wait around and meanwhile the news gets
out that we have a . . . that we have a kind of a . . .
Plague! A Plague upon us like the Plagues of Egypt!
Damn it, Reverend, it ain’t reached plague proportions yet. It’s a problem.
It’s a plague!
Ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you on the basis of my not inconsiderable
experience in the business world, that business is inevitably going to suffer.
And, if business suffers, then the whole town will suffer. Before you can say
Karl Marx, Garden Spot will be a ghost town.
It would be different if it was just pigeons or something.
I mean, pigeons, all they do is fly around and shit all over everything.
What’s the matter with all you people? What have you got against pigeons?
Act now! Strike while the iron is hot!
Whatever we do, let’s do it anonymously!
Let us all gather at the church and pray together!
I understand that, Reverend, but me, I always try to look at the sunny
side of things if I can. We don’t have any evidence yet that these birds
us. This might even turn out to be a friendly visit.
Who needs them?
Who wants them?
Get those birds out of here!
Another thing. Please sit down. While they are here—and I want
you to know I don’t feel any better about this thing than the rest of
as I say, as long as they are here, maybe something good will come out of it.
Who knows? They might simplify the whole problem of garbage disposal. And if
it works out that way, why the next thing we might even have a tax reduction
or refund or something . . .
(LADY FROM SCHOOLBOARD waving papers aggressively)
Your honor! I want to register a serious complaint on behalf of the schoolboard.
Now wait just a minute! Before you say a word, I just want to remind
you that education-wise we run a clean town. If you’re talking about
. . .
We don’t allow a book of any shape, kind or color in the Bank!
We have completely revised the Bible. All the offensive passages have
CLUBWOMAN (reacting to “expurgated”)
You mean “extirpated.” Reverend, please. I am proud to report
that the last meeting of The Golden Penwomen of Garden Spot we publicly
a copy of that awful book that all the young people are reading.
What book is that, Mabel?
You know the one I mean—THE RAPTURE IN THE RYE.
I’m not complaining about books this time. I simply want to report
the undeniable fact that there are already buzzards roosting on the
not let the youth of our town suffer from P.B.E.
Premature Buzzard Exposure.
The very least we can do for our young people is to make sure that
they suffer posthumously.
She means vicariously.
We expect action! I don’t have to remind you, do I, that there’s
an election coming up one of these days?
No, ma’am. You don’t have to remind me. And that’s
CHIEF OF POLICE
Your honor! I think I’ve got an idea. That is, if we still want
to get rid of them.
Of course we do. That’s the first order of business.
Well sir, I think maybe we could scare them out of town. I was thinking if
we could get all the bells ringing at one time and all the cars horns tooting,
and the radios and record players going . . . if we could shoot guns in the
air and the ladies would beat on pots and pans . . . if we could fire off
the old cannon in front of the Armory . . . if everybody in town will get
together and make as much noise as humanly possible . . .
Chief, that’s a wonderful idea.
We’ll try it.
Praise the Lord!
Yes, sir, we’ll give her a try right after this meeting. I’m
glad I thought of that.
Mr. Mayor! Mr. Mayor! One moment please!
(All turn to him, suddenly aware of a stranger in their midst.)
Yes, what is it?
If you don’t mind taking a word of advice from a stranger.
Speak up, young fella.
Well, it’s this way. From my point of view, it kind of looks like
you are going at the thing ass backwards.
From your point of view? Just what is your point of view, young fella?
Well, I’m a newspaper reporter, your honor. I . . .
A newspaper reporter? Oh my God!
Quick, don’t let him get away!
(Exit the REPORTER at a dead run, pursued by all
except JACK and JILL. JACK has settled down at the base of the statue
for a snooze.
JILL, thinking herself all alone, sits down on a park bench and
What’s the matter with you?
Well, why don’t you just shut up then?
(JILL begins to cry louder than ever.)
Something has got to be the matter. (he turns to
buzzards) Friends, allow me to extend my sincere apologies
for the way my fellow creatures just behaved. I’m afraid they don’t
Jack, who in the world are you talking to?
Isn’t that typical? Here the whole town is nervous—the whole town
is scared to death—everything is a complete mess—everybody is going
crazy. And you decide it’s a fine time to talk to the birds.
Have you condescended to look at them yet?
They are rather hard to avoid seeing.
Have you seen them yet?
This afternoon, I just happened to glance out of the Library window. All I
wanted to do was to check my watch against the Courthouse Clock . . .
And there they were. There they were!
You don’t have to act so happy about it.
I am happy. Charmed and delighted! Those birds is the best thing that’s
happened around here since Miss Mary Beth Birdsong ran off with a traveling
That whole episode was tragic. She ended up being shot out of a cannon every
night. It made her a very nervous woman, poor thing.
They really are kind of special. They have character. Look, there’s a
fine old fellow. Enormous natural dignity. There’s a pompous fool. Thinks
he’s too good for the rest of them. Part eagle or something. There’s
a shy one. Doesn’t know what he’s doing here. Just followed the
crowd. And, look! There’s a little baby one. Kitchy, kitchy, koo . .
. (to JILL) Oh, Jill, you’re really missing something.
There are a great many unpleasant things in life.
But if the Preacher says they’re a plague, and the Banker says they’re
a problem, you can’t ignore them completely.
I just think people should tend to their own business.
JACK (a parody of a hardworking cleanup man)
By all means. Business before pleasure.
Just look at you!
Aside from the fact that there may be some room for minor improvement,
wrong with me?
You’re a disgrace, that’s all. A public disgrace! Oh, Jack,
you used to have such promise.
Once upon a time, when we were all in school together, they elected me
the most likely to succeed. I’m simply trying to prove how wrong
You certainly have proved your point admirably.
What do you care?
I did care once, very much, and you know it. Before you threw up a good
job and everything else and settled for—this!
What about you? Is it so wonderful, is it so satisfying to be a nice, respectable
small town Librarian?
It’s . . . it’s enough.
Very well, now that we have disposed of our little problem, tell me, Miss Worthy,
what do you make of all this other excitement?
Why should I want to make anything out of it?
Everybody else is. The Preacher says it’s a Plague. And the Banker says
it’s a Problem.
They are upset. When people get upset they are not reasonable. They do and
say silly things.
And you never get upset, do you?
I try not to. A disciplined life is a happy life.
Are you happy?
I am trying to be emotionally mature about . . .
(They kiss. When they break, JACK can’t
resist the temptation to joke.)
Thank you, Miss Worthy, for that little demonstration of emotional maturity.
You are always making fun of me. I never want to see you again!
(NEWSPAPER MAN enters)
Nice little town you’ve got here. Yes, sir, a real nice friendly
little old town.
Oh! What did they do to you?
They were going to hang me. But I managed to convince them that it’s
bad publicity to lynch a newspaper man. So they just tarred and feathered me
I’m so sorry. Please try to understand. Everybody is terribly upset
by all this.
So am I. But I want you to know I’m going to be big about it. I
am not going to be bitter.
That’s the spirit!
(a bugle call offstage)
(a loud explosion)
(a gradual accumulation of noises)
Here we go!
From now on it’s going to be real simple. It’s us or the
(The siren comes on. Now they have to shout to be heard.)
You know what?
I’m betting on the birds.
(The noise reaches a peak)
(The Park as before. Spaced around the stage
are four principal figures—the MAYOR, the BANKER, the PREACHER,
and the CLUBWOMAN. The CLUBWOMAN should be so placed that she can
make a costume
change. Perhaps near the statue of the GENERAL. As one speaks,
is on him alone. Transitions from speakers are accomplished by
means of lights. The rather swift moral disintegration of the
should be indicated visually by a gradual dishevelment of all
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sorry to have to report to you that the plan
suggested by the Chief of Police didn’t work out too well. The
Chief, in an excess of public zeal, in a desire to make a real big
noise, a memorable bang so
to speak, over-charged the cannon. When it went off, it went up. And unfortunately
he went up with it. (solemnly, removing his hat): Now he has gone to the
place where the good Chiefs of Police go. A place where, let us hope, there
will be no more birds to trouble him. Rest in peace. And silence. . . . So
much for the Chief of Police. Meanwhile those birds are still up there. And
we are now entering into a difficult period in our lives, a time of “agonizing
reappraisal” where we . . .
Brothers and Sisters, I stand before you this morning with a heavy heart.
Our town, our pretty little town with its wide streets and shady lawns,
people and contented pets, Brothers and Sisters, our town is suffering
under the dark shadow of a curse. I take these birds . . . . . so naturally
associated in our minds with death, decay, corruption and so forth and
so on—I take them to be the outward visible sign of the curse. Brothers
and Sisters, these birds have been sent
here to remind us, to warn us, to awaken us. So that we may repent and
be ready. And in that sense our curse may be a blessing in disguise.
Listen, I’ll tell you what I think. Those birds have already had a serious
effect on the local economy. Business is practically at a standstill. The plain,
unadorned truth of the matter is people just don’t like having to come
downtown and conduct their daily affairs with buzzards watching them all the
time. And a man can’t do a whole lot of business in the pitch dark, at
least not banking business. Some people are already packing up their stuff
and taking their families and moving away. Now, you want to call them rats—rats leaving
the sinking ship. But let me tell you I don’t blame them a bit, not even
a little bit. If we don’t take firm, practical steps to deal with the
situation, this town is going to dry up and die on the vine. I propose that
a survey be run . . .
Before we begin the session today, I have an important announcement to
make. The committee on gardens and the committee on the Better Homes
Tour met in
special session yesterday at Katie Eversoe’s house—and, by the
way, weight-watchers, Katie served a delightful, up to date refreshment,
Metrical and vanilla ice cream; she calls it “The Plump Girl’s
Surprise”—anyway the two committees met and decided that under
the present circumstances it would be unseemly to go ahead with our regular
plans. So we are going to have to postpone the annual Magnolia Meander. I’m
sure you’ll all agree that with conditions the way they are the Clubwomen
of Garden Spot have more important things to do. Think of our pioneer ancestors.
Now then, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you our guest speaker
for today, Professor Elwood P. Funk, PhD, the distinguished bird watcher,
who will address us on the subject “Know Your Enemy—For What
It’s Worth.” Professor Funk . . .
. . . Personally I don’t have anything against buzzards. I feel the same
way about animals as I do about people. Even though animals don’t have
the vote yet. (ha ha) My philosophy is I try and get along with all kinds.
I always try and consider the other fellow’s point of view. Now, I’m
sure there is some reason why all these birds have come here. Maybe they like
it in Garden Spot. So do I. So do I! I only wish we knew what that reason was.
And I wish we had some way to get our point of view over to them. If there
just weren’t so damn many of them! What I mean is, we could probably
assimilate a few of them into the community without any noticeable effect on
the general. . . .
The text this morning refers to the angel of death. Notice that the angel
of death is dark; he isn’t white, he isn’t tan or pink or anything
else. He’s dark. Now, as we all know, dark is what night is. Dark is
what hell is. But I say unto you, fear not. Look them straight in the eye.
Hold up your heads and lift up your hearts. And I say take heed, lest some
of you be tempted to fall down on your knees and worship them. That is idolatry.
I have heard rumors that some members of this congregation . . .
I have the information from a very reliable source. And I am convinced beyond
the shadow of a doubt that this strange visitation is not an accident.
It is part of the vast monolithic Communist Conspiracy. They are just testing
it out on us here in Garden Spot. If it works here, who knows what will
happen? We may live to see the day when swarms of buzzards will be roosting
of all the great public buildings of New York City, Chicago, Detroit, San
Fransisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Miami Beach
and Washington, D.C.! The whole economy of the nation will come to a screeching
halt. The Capitalistic System of Free Enterprise will be the laughing stock
of the whole world. We must hold our ground. We must fight and win the
battle here and now in Garden Spot or . . .
CLUBWOMAN (now in black, like a widow)
Girls, it has been proposed that the best thing we can do to help the
situation is to make some kind of public demonstration. To show that
we, the amalgamated
Clubwomen of Greater Garden Spot, are solidly, one hundred percent behind
the Mayor’s policy—whatever it may be. Lucy Fry has come up with
what I think is a simply marvelous idea. Beginning tomorrow we will all wear
black until further notice. May I suggest Ye Olde Spinning Wheel has some
very nice creations in all sizes . . .
I don’t say we haven’t had our problems. We have called on
(Enter F.B.I. AGENT wearing trenchcoat, snapbrim hat,
with magnifying glass.)
You got a problem here all right. The whole thing is, it’s kind of out
of our jurisdiction. I mean, if you could prove that the birds came across
a state line or something . . . I’d like to help you. If it would be
any use, we could run a picture of a buzzard in the Post Office.
(He exits. These characters enter and exit quickly,
crossing the stage.)
We called on the Army.
(A GENERAL enters. Comes to
stage and center and salutes the audience. Comes to “Parade Rest.”)
Re: your request for aid and comfort, filled out on a Form 1094631-C in triplicate
and passed through proper channels, has come to my attention this date at
0945 hours. Whereas, it would appear that some exercise or show of force
may be necessary to alleviate your position, I am instructed that under circumstances
which may possibly have socio-political complications, all action falls under
the provenance of the Department of State, or Interior, or Health and Welfare,
or one of those other Goddamn civilian offices. Bearing all this in mind,
I have forwarded your request through channels, to the Library of Congress.
P.S. Next time, try the Air Force. Birds are more like their responsibility
the way I look at it.
(He comes to attention, salutes and
marches off stage.)
We even went to the top of the intellectual heap—we called for
(Enter the PSYCHIATRIST. Speaks with German accent
and is a caricature of the comic psychiatrist and the absent-minded
professor. He wanders in vaguely, smiling at the audience. A painful
Oh, yeah, that’s me! Yes, what is it?
Have you reached any conclusion?
About our problem.
Problem? What problem?
Oh yes, the buzzards. (fumbles through papers) Buzzards, buzzards, B,
B, B . . . here we are . . . (reads) “This syndrome, being based primarily
on pseudo-socio—economic and anal-erotic mass and halfmass delusions,
is not unknown historically though it is relatively rare in recent times.
Group or mass syndromes of this nature, no doubt primarily paranoiac in origin,
appear to have been commonplace during the so-called Dark Ages. According
to Rabunus Marus . . .”
I’ll skip the next part. It’s in Latin. “Furthermore in the remote
fringes of the Fiji Islands, it is reliably reported by an early traveler
that . .
I’m sorry, but time is of the essence.
It’s very rude to interrupt someone like that.
We are paying you fifty dollars an hour and all you can talk about is Fiji
You’re a sick man. You need help.
Then help us, Goddamn it! Tell us what we can do. Tell us what’s
You want to know what’s wrong?
You want it straight?
Straight and simple, please.
Well, ordinarily, my individual best judgment would be you people got
a condition like bats in the belfry. But that won’t apply in
this case. I mean bats is one thing and buzzards is another. The way
I see it, and this is
my personal prognostication right off the top of my head: you got buzzards
on the courthouse! (laughs)
(The PSYCHIATRIST runs off stage.)
I keep thinking maybe it’s all some kind of a great
big practical joke. I can take a joke. Everybody knows I can take a
joke as well as the next guy. But what I can’t figure out is
who would want to pull one like this on me . . . ?
PREACHER (in prayer)
. . . O Dark Strangers, we beseech you to open our eyes to the meaning of your
truth. Fill out hearts with your continual and brooding presence. Teach us
to fly high and soar into . . .
You know what I call it? CREEPING VULTURISM! That’s what I call
it . . .
And I say if Lady Godiva could do it, so can we!
(She rapidly begins to undress.)
(The Three Confidence Men and the girl in the harem
costume enter quickly and look around. One is dressed as a classic
BUM, with a bundle tied in a bandana on a stick. The second is dressed
in a long robe and wears a turban and is accompanied by the girl
in the belly-dance harem costume. The third is a TRAVELING SALESMAN
with a sample case.)
Hey, this must be the place.
Who are you?
(The MAYOR, BANKER and PREACHER come to meet them)
We heard you got—like a problem.
I read about it.
In the papers?
In the stars.
We’re here to help you.
You’ve been going at it like all wrong.
You can never get rid of a bunch of buzzards that way.
What you need is experts, specialists.
Are you people buzzard-removal experts?
Man, I wouldn’t know about these guys. I mean, like we just happened
to meet up the way here.
I come to you with a wealth of experience.
I run into tougher deals than this all the time . . .
What is it you propose to do?
If you really want to get rid of them birds.
He means if you care enough.
What they both are trying to say is that for an adequate renumeration . . .
Fifty Thousand in cash if you can just get them to go away.
He means to say that it may be possible to get them to leave town, but
we can hardly guarantee they won’t come back.
Unless, maybe, you were willing to make a guarantee . . .
Fifty Thousand in cold cash plus a regular retainer on a permanent annual buzzard
I understand the man.
He rather interests me.
Buddy, you’ve got yourself a deal.
We will draw for high card to see who goes first. (to PREACHER): Here, you
hold the cards.
Ordinarily, I don’t approve of gambling. But, under the circumstances
. . .
(The three men draw and the ENTERTAINER wins.)
Ah-ha! Gentlemen, consider yourselves lucky. Your problem is practically a
thing of the past.
What are you going to do?
Get rid of the birds—what else?
Easy . . . I’m a magician.
But magic is superstitious!
You see how you feel after I’ve made those buzzards vanish forever.
It’s worth a try. We’ve got nothing to lose.
That’s right. Nothing to lose (aside)—except your shirt.
Darlene, the watch, please.
(Darlene reaches in her bra and produces a large pocket watch on
a chain. He takes it and holds it up by the chain.)
What’s she going to do?
Nothing. She’s just decoration.
(JACK enters with his stick and trach
bag. He concentrates on the girl during all of this.)
Now, gentlemen, I want you to look closely at this watch
and concentrate with me. Think of the great, empty, windblown spaces
of the North Pole. Now think of a lovely lake, picture it, a lovely
lake as smooth as a mirror, without even the ghost of a breeze. All
smooth and shining and clear like a mirror . . . Now you are looking
into the mirror and nothing is reflected there. Nothing, nothing, nothing
at all . . . You look up-up-up into the sky and the sky is like the
lake. It is an empty, blue, cloudless sky, a sky as wide as a prairie,
a sky as pure and cold as spring water, a sky all blue and filled with
sunlight like the eyes of a beautiful girl in love. You see that beautiful
sky. Can you see it? Do you see it now?
Yes, yes, yes!
And now if you will just walk over there and turn around and look, you will
notice that all the buzzards have flown away.
Praise the Lord! The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.
I’d call that pretty quick work for Fifty Thousand Bucks.
Wonder where they went to?
You dumb squares! (He claps his hands.) I don’t know what you’re
looking at, but I see like multitudes of buzzards roosting all over the place.
I thought you guys were my buddies.
Don’t take my word for it. Get a witness. (to JACK): Hey you! Come
here! Are those buzzards still up there?
Damn right they are!
MAYOR AND BANKER
All right, so all right! I hypnotized. So what? I can’t make those buzzards
fly away. Nobody can. But at least I fixed it up so you wouldn’t have
to see them any more. It’s an illusion, I’ll grant you that. So,
what isn’t an illusion?
(A POLICEMAN enters and quickly collars
the ENTERTAINER and the HAREM GIRL. Throughout all this, the HAREM
GIRL has been
exchanging shy and sly glances with JACK. When she is led away,
she blows him a kiss and for the first time smiles brightly.)
ENTERTAINER (continuing under duress)
Life is an illusion, gentlemen! I ask you, wasn’t that a wonderful moment
when you looked up there and there wasn’t one single buzzard on the whole
horizon? Wasn’t that worth something?
POLICEMAN (shoving him)
It’s worth about ninety days in the County Jailhouse, buddy.
ENTERTAINER (waving the watch as he is pushed off stage)
Officer, officer, officer, I want you to start concentrating on wide open spaces,
the prairie, the Sahara desert . . .
Well, if that’s the best kind of service you montebanks have to
offer . . .
Montebanks? Sir, I’ll have you know I do not now nor have I ever
depended on magic tricks and illusions. My methods are like strictly
(He opens his bandana and removes a pair of canvas
wings and begins to strap them on his arms.)
Now then, what I plan to do is
to fly up there and frighten them away. I mean, what would you do if
you were a buzard and saw
a man circling and soaring all around you? They are bound to realize
that, as far as the birds are concerned, the jig is like up. No doubt
they will depart at once. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want
to go over there where I can get like a good running start . . .
(He dogtrots off the stage.)
So long, sucker!
(All are looking in the direction he has gone.)
Look! He’s running!
He’s taking off!
Praise the Lord!
BANKER (flapping his arms in sympathy)
Wh—oh . . . . .
ALL (in unison)
Oh . . . . . .
SALESMAN (setting down sample case, dusting off his palms)
Well, like they say, that’s show business.
He got off the ground, anyway.
Man should not aspire to rise beyond his natural place in creation.
The son-of-a-bitch was really flying! You’ve gotta give him credit
(The BUM is carried back across the stage by two white-coated
Pretty good, huh? Maybe I didn’t get rid of any buzzards. But I
flew. I really flew!
Young man, I like your ambition and your energy. I think—after you—uh—recuperate—we
just might be able to work out something or other. I can visualize huge rolls
of tickets—two bits a head.
Thanks just the same.
Aren’t you even interested? I mean, you’ve got a real unusual
Honest to God, that’s the first time I ever tried it. And it scared
the living bejesus out of me . . .
(He is carried off by the Stretcher
Now we get down to brass tacks.
Well now, I’m not so sure . . .
I wash my hands of the whole affair.
What can you do?
SALESMAN (in the rapid manner and style of a pitchman
or carnival barker)
All right, now, gentlemen. Tell you what I’m going to do. I’m not
agoing to try and sell you no illusions or hallucinations. No, sir! I’m
not in the show business. I’m a business man, a thinking business man.
And the thing I’ve got to offer is an idea. A brand new idea! And, naturally,
along with this brand, spanking new idea comes a little proposition. What good
is an idea without a practical way of using it? An idea with a means of implementing
it, a way of putting it into practice, why that idea is worth the weight of
this whole town in gold and jewels and precious stones! Yes, sir! Observe .
(He opens the sample case and takes out and proceeds
to assemble a submachine gun.)
Just what is your idea?
Kill the bastards!
All of them?
Suit yourself on that.
What’s so special about that idea? We could have thought of that.
Exactly. You could have but you didn’t. I did. And that, gentlemen,
is precisely what distinguishes The Great Thinker from The Common Herd.
Socrates! Aristotle! P.T. Barnum! Horatio Alger! Henry Ford!
But what would we ever do with all those dead buzzards?
SALESMAN (fast-talking pitchman again)
I’m glad you asked that question. Now, I could say to you, if I was a
cynical no-account kind of fellow, I could say that’s your problem, couldn’t
I? But I’m not agoing to say anything like that. No, sir! You may wonder
why. Well, you won’t have to wonder long because I’m going to tell
you why. You’ve got a problem here. To me it’s a challenge. What’s
life without challenge? I could probably go around the countryside solving
problems right and left and raking in the dough. Raking it in! I could accumulate
an enormous fortune. I could mingle with Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. I could
rub elbows and noses with movie stars! I could be on the cover of Time magazine.
But, gentlemen, fame and glory are fleeting. A man has got to grow—tall!
It’s the challenge that counts! Tell you what I’m going to do.
I’m not going to kill those buzzards. I am simply going to show you how
it’s done. Then you can do it all by yourselves. At your own leisure
and convenience. Yes, sir! You can get it over with. You can have yourselves
a real old-fashioned buzzard massacre. Or, you can knock them off one at a
time. Whenever you feel like it. And, if you don’t like killing, well,
look at it this way: maybe you won’t have to kill but a few. Maybe the
rest of them with catch on and fly away of their own free will.
But what if they come back?
Well, in that case, your honor, all you’ve got to do is to keep right
on shooting them. Take a look at this little product I got here. This here
is a really first-class buzzard exterminator. The best of modern science and
modern engineering have joined together to come to grips with your problem.
It’s simple. It’s effective. It does the job! And it’s easy
to use. Any man, woman, or child in the community can learn to operate one
of these buzzard exterminators safely and efficiently with just a little basic
instruction. But, I ain’t going to talk to you about it. I’m going
to prove it to you. Like it says in the Bible, a good picture is worth a hundred
and fifty words. You just watch and see what happens here.
(He fires a burst)
For Heaven’s Sake!
You hit the clock!
You destroyed the Courthouse Clock!
SALESMAN (faster than ever)
Wait! Wait, wait just a minute, gentlemen. Don’t let’s get excited!
Don’t let’s lose out heads! “If you can keep your head while
all about you . . .” What’s a minute or two? What is Time? Why
should all men be slaves to the clock? Now then, all I did here was to fail
to compensate for the windage.
(He raises the gun again and aims.)
Don’t let him shoot again!
He might hit the steeple!
Or the bank!
Okay, okay. I’m going. I just left . . .
(He exits on a dead run. The POLICEMAN enters and pursues.)
(The three leaders of the town are thoroughly dejected.)
Well, what do we do now?
We might as well. We’ve tried everything else.
I’m thinking of forming a committee.
I pray for the arrival of some wise stranger . . .
(The PREACHER and the BANKER exit.)
The life of a public servant these days is strictly for the—pardon the
expression—birds. Used to be kind of fun, just hanging around, slapping
people on the back, shaking hands, kissing babies, cracking jokes and exchanging
clichés with my colleagues. Freeloading, figuring out ways to spend tax money.
Figuring out new ways to raise taxes. It beat working for a living. But now!
Sometimes I think I’m losing my mind. I have bad dreams . . . Sometimes
I even see things . . .
(at the four corners in a dreamlike illumination, four
young ladies: a BEATNIK, an EXOTIC DANCER, a GIRL IN A BIKINI WITH
A GLOWING SUNTAN, and a WITCH):
Do I know you from somewhere?
Why don’t you just let everything go and grow a beard, baby?
Hello, doll. Remember me?
Oh no! Dreama the Denver Bombshell.
I knew you wouldn’t forget. The State Fair of 1948.
Listen, Dreama, you gotta be reasonable. I’ve got a wife and three
kids. I have to uphold the standards of public morality. More or less.
. . .
BIKINI (French accent)
Come weeth me to ze Riviera, where ze sun she is always shining and ze wine
Did somebody mention bad dreams?
Are you what I think you are?
That depends on what you are thinking, darling.
What do you all want?
Nothing much . . . a thing of no importance . . . only your immortal soul.
Come with me and be my dad
And we shall share a grubby pad . . .
Let us develop a suntan together. Brigit Bardot, Francoise Sagan . . .
Nothing much . . . just your immortal soul.
Come live with me and be my dad
And we shall share a grubby pad . . .
Remember . . . Remember . . .
I think I shall turn you into a toad . . .
Come with me . . .
I saw him first . . .
He’s all mine . . .
No! No! No!
(Lights out on girls. MAYOR left dazed. POLICEMAN enters.)
Your honor! Your honor!
What is it?
It’s the ladies, your honor, the Clubwomen . . .
Don’t just stand there. What are they up to?
Marching. They’re marching on the Courthouse.
(drums are heard)
Well I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about it. It’s
a free country, isn’t it? (becoming Senatorian): The right of free assembly
is a Constitutional guarantee, set down in ineffaceable language.
In the nude?
. . . and procured for us and future generations for our Founding . . . What
did you say?
The ladies are marching on the Courthouse without no clothes on.
Buck naked, your Honor.
(The sound of women singing “The Battle Hymn
of the Republic” grows louder.)
Oh my God! Call out the Fire Department! Call out the National Guard!
Call out . . . ! (a slow grin) On second thought, the hell with it.
just wait and see what happens next!
(“Battle Hymn of the Republic,” sung
by the ladies, gets louder and louder . . . )