GEORGE GARRETT | Garden Spot, U.S.A.
Act II, Scene 1
(JACK stands looking up. Addresses
Okay, guys, are you listening? You get no bedtime story tonight. I’m
too tired. Don’t take it personally, Herman. Night Ed . . .
Jack? . . . Jack?
(JACK reacts, turns away. She enters.)
Ah, Miss Worthy. May I ask how come you didn’t march in the big parade?
Sometimes you are just awful.
And that is the secret of my charm.
Here. I brought you that book by Henry Miller.
And I thought they had burned it. Any good?
I haven’t read it.
Not even a little peek?
And here’s . . . (produces a bottle of wine)
Ah, “Night Train.”
I don’t know the first thing about wines. Is it any good?
It will do very nicely. Jill, you are a complete mystery to me. One minute
you call me a public disgrace. Next here you come like the Goddess of Plenty
bearing gifts—pornography in one hand and hooch in the other. What’s
happened to you?
The Library is closed. You’re on your way home. What’s wrong .
. . ?
Jack, do you have any idea what it’s like living at Miss Ida Fishback’s
Friendly Boarding House?
Well, I can guess. I guess I can imagine.
I used to pretend that I was happy . . . happy just working at the library
and living quietly at Miss Ida’s. Tonight when I locked up the Library and
walked home, when I turned up the walk to that house, I felt my whole heart
sink, literally sink inside me . . . Have you ever felt anything like that?
Yes, I have. . . .
And the worst thing of all, I realized, is coming home in the evening to that
unfriendly Friendly Boarding House and being greeted at the door by that
horrible hat rack and the smell of cabbage cooking and the blare of bad news
from the T.V. in the living room. And then I go up the stairs to a room where
the wallpaper is ugly and the alarm clock on the dresser is ticking and ticking
and glaring at me like a moral owl . . . And tonight I knew that I just had
to get out, to go somewhere or just lie down there and die. . . .
JACK (mild sarcasm)
You must be in real trouble to come here.
Why do you always act that way?
Sarcastic and . . . defensive.
What do you care how I act?
Well, I do care. I guess I really do.
And I guess I always have. In spite of everything. In spite of that time you
clipped off my pigtail and put chewing gum in my desk in the third grade.
. . .
Oh, that. Well, I can explain.
And you gave me a live bullfrog for Valentine’s Day . . .
Oh, I was a naughty boy—I was a devil.
(They are now sitting side by side on one of the park benches.)
Remember the time you tied my clothes in knots at the Swimming Hole?
That was during my brief career as a Boy Scout. I went through a knot-tying
And when you took me to the Senior Prom on your bicycle. You were wearing that
I had to borrow it from Fatty Brown. I’ll admit it didn’t fit too
well. It was too big for him in the first place.
You looked like a fugitive scarecrow.
Like a giant three-toed sloth! We had fun together, didn’t we? Remember when
we played doctor? I was always the doctor and you were always the patient.
JILL (reacts with indignition—mild)
You would remember something like that! You were awful.
I still am.
No, not really. You just think you are. Oh, Jack, whatever happened to us?
We were in love . . .
I have always loved you.
Well! You never showed it.
Well, I never had a chance.
. . . lots and lots of chances.
Name one. I dare you.
I could name a thousand. Remember when I stood at the bus station in the pouring
rain without a raincoat or even an umbrella for an hour and a half just waiting
for you to come home from college?
The bus was late. I couldn’t help that.
Jack Peterkin, why do you think that day in and day out I’ve been coming to
the park to eat my lunch? Because I like fresh air? I have waited and waited
for you just to say something, something, for some kind of sign . . .
Let’s go away, Jill. Now. Tonight. We can have a wonderful life together. Anyplace
else but here.
We could have run away from all this—and each other—any time. But
we didn’t. Don’t you know why?
No, ma’am, I . . .
Garden Spot is not such a bad place. It could be a beautiful place. God knows
there is plenty of everything for a good life. And, you know, we can begin
right here and change the world!
(Sound of someone whistling, coming toward them.)
JACK (kisses her lightly on the cheek)
Guess we better wait ’til tomorrow to change the world. Right now you better
run on back to Miss Ida’s before they turn out the lights and lock the front
I don’t care. I . . .
(Sound of whistling, closer.)
(She exits. A moment later the COP enters)
Evening, officer. All quiet on this bright and starry night?
Same old thing. Not a creature is stirring, not even . . . (looks up at buzzards)
any of those beady-eyed bastards. Tell me something, Jack. How do you stand
it with them up there all the time?
Well, we have reached an . . . understanding.
Beats me how you do it. Night . . .
(COP exits whistling. JACK, who of course lives
in the park, produces a sleeping bag. Lays it out, fluffs it. Prepares
to climb in.)
(The STRANGER enters with a flash and puff of smoke, or equivalent
Good evening! Good evening, my good man!
Excuse me, sir, but do you smell something funny? Kind of like sulphur?
Could be. May I inquire who you are, young man?
Well, sir, a lot of people around here are convinced that I am the town bum.
But the unromantic truth is I’m the official custodian of this little park.
I am supposed to keep the place more or less clean and shaped up. And I do
that. But I spend a good deal of my precious time just hanging around and
watching this so-called world pass by.
Well now. Do you think you might be able to locate the so-called Mayor of this
town or anybody else with some authority?
Now? At this time of night?
I reckon I could.
Well, go and see. Tell them that the man with the answer, the man with the
answer to all your problems has arrived upon the scene. Here . . . (gives
him money) let this speed you on your merry way.
STRANGER (to statue)
Ah, General, you look ever so much better in bronze. It must be a little wearisome
just standing up there with life whirling all about you . . . an endless
cycle of seasons, sun and rain, dogs and cats, children and maids, birds
in the trees and lovers in the grass. And pigeons. The eternal occupational
hazard of all bronze heroes. (to audience) It’s great to be back in
the harness again. Frankly, I was becoming a little bored with my usual haunts
. . . the court rooms, corporate board rooms, the senate chambers and parliaments.
Even crisis can be monotonous . . . and travel is so terribly wearing. I’ve
lived out of a suitcase in Africa . . . and, believe me, the laundry service
in the Congo is absolutely abominable . . . Then on to Algiers, which I can
assure you is not what Charles Boyer cracked it up to be. And Berlin . .
. probably the coldest and draftiest little “hot spot” I found
this winter; except, of course, for the Kremlin . . . where I wore a fur
hat, had cold soup, warm liquor, and innumerable promises which fluctuated
the two. I have attended endless meetings . . . that Birch group, the Minutewomen
of NOW, your very own schoolboard . . . But to be here! Back to the grass
roots! Smell that air! I love simple people. And they need me. Isn’t
it wonderful to be needed by someone . . . ?
(Enter the MAYOR, PREACHER, and BANKER)
You wanted to see us?
Are you the duly constituted authorities of this place?
I was elected by the overwhelming majority.
I received the call on April Fool’s Day, 1934.
Let’s face it. We run this town. (apprehensive) Where’s Mabel?
Gentlemen . . .
What can we do for you?
Better to ask, what can I do for you?
Who are you, anyway?
My name and background are largely irrelevant. Suffice it to say that I have
come here to Garden Spot with the solution to all your difficulties.
Not another one!
Permit me to ask you a question. What are you doing about the problem?
Not a day goes by that the Special Subcommittee isn’t in Special Session.
I have ordered a marble statue of one for the church. There are those who persist
in referring to it as a graven image, but . . .
Let’s face it! The only practical step being taken at the moment is my
CRASH PROGRAM OF ADVANCED BUZZARD RESEARCH. I’ve got college professors
trying to figure out how to use them. Can we eat them? If so, what are best
Can we stuff pillows with their feathers? Can we see them as pets? And, if
so, who the hell would want one? That’s a job for Motivation Research.
I am firmly convinced we can not only lick this problem, but, while we’re
at it, we can make a buck.
Gentlemen! Gentlemen! It appears that you are approaching the situation negatively.
Wait a minute! I believe in the power of positive thinking as much as the next
In the Gospel according to Norman Vincent Peale it is written that . . .
You got a proposition?
I am not trying to sell you anything. The truth is, I have nothing to sell
you. But naturally I, too, am interested in turning what you may call a kind
of profit. But I promise it won’t cost you a red cent.
MAYOR AND PREACHER
The root of your trouble, I fear, is that you have been directing all your
efforts toward getting rid of the birds.
I think you can safely assume . . .
We have wept and prayed, prayed and fasted . . .
Let us suppose, just for the sake of argument, that we took the opposite view.
That we turned all our energy and attention to the business of keeping them
Would you say that again?
I don’t follow you.
Gentlemen! Learning to live with our feathered friends can be a valuable life
experience . . . (played to BANKER. BANKER with slow-dawning realization
and big grin.)
Valuable, now you’re talking!
Let me assure you, it is entirely possible to live with buzzards and love it.
If you will allow me to instruct you . . .
This is Real Life
(EARPHONES, a T.V. director with headset, clipboard,
and various materials, enters.)
Places, everybody! Stand by . . .
(Original cast, more or less, for “A Typical Day
in the Park,” Act I, Scene I, takes places.)
EARPHONES (to STRANGER)
We’ve got a few cuts and changes. Here. The Preacher’s sermon was a little
too downbeat last time. And we need a little more drama in the Bank. Bo and
Rod have come up with a nice little bit about a mortgage foreclosure. You
know, with a pretty widow begging and crying and all. Great stuff. Look it
over, huh? And listen, the rest of you, watch your feet this time. Try not
to trip over the cables.
(EARPHONES moves out as if to survey the set. Seems
to approve. Then turns and directs himself to the audience.)
Ladies and gentlemen. In just a couple of minutes
we will be on the air, live, from coast to coast. Some forty million
of your fellow Americans will be
watching this show. And it is being taped to be shown to untold millions
overseas. There will be four cameras working this set—two
there, one over there, and one right here. those of you who have never
had the honor and the privilege of being in the studio audience for a network
T.V. show, please remember to sit perfectly quiet and still at all times.
Look straight ahead and do not wave at the camera or make faces. Don’t cough
or sneeze, and if you itch, please do not scratch. And, above all, be responsive.
When I hold up this sign . . .
(He is carrying several large cue cards.
read: “APPLAUSE!,” “LAUGH,” “CRY,” AND “BOO!
HISS!” He holds up the “Applause” sign.)
When I hold up this sign, please begin to applaud and clap loudly and continuously
until I give you the wave off . . . Let’s try it now. Keep your eyes on me
and make it spontaneous. (He tries it a couple of times with sections of
the audience.) Come on! Let’s hear it! You can do better than that. Bruise
your palms! Make noise!
(He waves off the applause.)
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. You’re a great bunch, really. I mean it. Now,
then. T.V. is a mass medium of communication, so the basic human feelings
and emotions have to be simplified. Other than the basic applause signal,
we only use two other reactions on this show . . .
(He holds up the “LAUGH” and “CRY” cue
cards, appropriately laughing and crying as he does so.)
T.V.’s other basic emotion (hold up “BOO! HISS” sign) is never
ever used on a quality show like this one. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
(Turns back to cast.)
Are you crumbs ready? Take positions . . . (Now all actors take position.)
Places everybody! Places! Set? Hold it . . . All right, dolly in number one.
Gimme a long shot of the park . . . Now bring up the Garden Spot theme. That’s
it. Now. One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four
to go. Action!
STRANGER (as host)
Welcome! Welcome to THIS IS REAL LIFE. Brought to you live by the good, decent
people of Garden Spot, U.S.A. In just one minute we are going to bring you
a slice of real life, of life as it happens, life in the raw. But just a
word from our sponsors . . .
You’re off camera. Sixty seconds. Hold it, please, while they sell the
soap. Hey, you, put out that cigarette! . . . Okay, ready. Ten seconds. Action!
And now a word or two about Garden Spot. The whole world knows about the strange
and sudden visitation that has fallen on this town. What the world does not
know yet is that the people of this town aren’t letting it get them down.
Life goes on smoothly and proudly here in Garden Spot. Just as it always
has. And now let’s watch a typical day in the park . . .
Gimme the cricket noise. Now cut to the steeple and zoom in on the birds. Okay,
Joe, cut to the birds.
(BOY and GIRL in park)
You know how much I love you.
But how do I know you are really sincere?
Because I love you deeply and sincerely.
I hope so. I hope you really are sincere.
Well, I am sincere. I’m sincere all right. You bet.
GIRL (with a sign)
I admire a man who’s sincere.
Okay, gimme a long shot of the kids leaving. Now give me “Silver Threads
Among the Gold” and come in on the two old guys playing checkers . .
Nice day, huh, Pete?
Kind of warm for this time of year, Mike.
Personally, I prefer the warm weather, Pat.
Well, I like warm weather, too, Mike. I just wonder if it will hold out.
Maybe it will and maybe it won’t.
You never can tell.
Nope. You never can tell for sure about the weather.
You know what they say about the weather around here.
Yep. If you don’t like it, just wait a minute.
(They laugh loudly.)
Your move, Mike.
Okay, cut to the host . . .
STRANGER (stepping forward, as if addressing camera)
And now for a direct, person to person interview with one of the natives.
Cut to the friendly drunk.
Sir? I wonder if I might have a word with you.
Sure, sure. Why not?
Surprise! Surprise! You are on camera. And THIS IS REAL LIFE.
Oh! . . . Hi, mom! . . . Gee, I wish I had known I was going to be on the T.V.
I mean, I could have at least put on a clean shirt or taken a bath or something.
Don’t worry about that. On this show we present things as they really are.
We try to show the naked truth.
Man, you should have seen the big parade we had here awhile back.
I understand you were the first one to see them.
No, by the time I got there the parade was almost over.
I mean the buzzards.
Oh, yeah, sure. That’s right. I seen the very first one fly into town and perch
right over there on top of the Courthouse Clock. We used to have a real nice
clock . . .
How did you happen to be here at the time?
Well, actually I live here. I usually sleep over there under that bench.
Want to tell us about it?
I guess I have slept under all the benches in the park at one time or another.
But I have come to prefer that one . . .
What we are interested in is the arrival of the buzzards.
Sure. Well, one fine morning I looked up and there the son of a gun was. I
could hardly believe my eyes. You wouldn’t have either if you had been in
my shoes. I prefer going barefoot . . .
But what about the buzzards?
JACK (wiggling toes)
Kinda keeps me close to nature.
About the buzzards.
Just a typical buzzard. Your ordinary average buzzard. You know. Lucky for
me he turned out to be real. I almost went on the wagon then and there.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
STRANGER (as if facing camera)
In a moment we will take you to the heart of the downtown business section.
There you will see business as usual. You will see the world of free enterprise
and commerce going on as if nothing had
happened. As if nothing were wrong. Because . . . THIS IS REAL LIFE!
(As STRANGER speaks, EARPHONES has signaled to get the rest of the
cast back in place in the park for a final shot.)
Okay Jo-Jo, bring up the bank theme . . . (church music is heard) No! No! No!
You idiot! That’s the goddamn Church theme. Kill it! (now lively and
familiar show-biz music comes up) That’s it. Good. On the nose. Dissolve
through to the bank. Good. (turning to cast) Okay, everybody, that’s
it for today. Report to window 11 and pick up your checks.
(The park people go out quickly, all talking at
the same time.)
BOY and GIRL
When you get your money, buy me something pretty.
Buy yourself something. You make as much money as I do.
COP and MAID
Put all your money in Gaspe Oil Ventures. They haven’t found oil
yet, but when they do we’ll all be millionaires.
I believe in keeping money in circulation.
PAT and MIKE
When I get my money, I’ve got half a mind to invest in a new set of
I would use the money to buy myself a hearing aid. But there’s a whole
lot going on around here that I don’t much want to listen to . . .
ATHLETE (jogging, half-singing)
Money . . . money . . . money . . . money . . . money . . . money.
(Suddenly they are all gone and the
stage is empty)
(Lights up on the “Quartet”—MAYOR,
PREACHER, BANKER, CLUBWOMAN)
One thing I have learned from a lifetime of politcs. No matter what you fall
into, you gotta try to come out smelling like a rose. Well, folks, I am happy
to tell you that’s the way everything smells in Garden Spot—rosy!
Remember it is more blessed to give than to receive. Give freely as the collection
plate passes buy. Give thanks that these winged creatures have come here
to bring us joy and prosperity.
As it says in the Good Book: “Thou wicked and slothful servant! Thou
shouldst have put my money with the bankers, and then at my coming I should
have received mine own back with interest!” Who says that banking isn’t
a spiritual business? Garden Spot is booming! Garden Spot is blooming! If I
could sing and dance, you can bet I would . . .
Thank you very much for your most pleasant report, Madame Treasurer. And now
our guest speaker, Dr. Jerry Scrunch, who will speak to us on the subject
of “The Humble Buzzard and the History of the World.”
Now, now, now boys! Take it easy. You know I can’t say definitely and
unequivocably at this time that I will be a candidate for the office of Governor
for this state. But if it is the will of the people, well, I’ll sure
have to give it some serious consideration.
Only yesterday this Bishop said to me, “Henry, I do believe you have
the most generous bunch of contributing Christians in the whole entire diocese.”
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way . . .”
Our beloved and creative Treasurer has come up with a wonderful idea for the
forthcoming Rites of Spring Bazaar. We shall sponsor a good old-fashioned
Roman orgy. Bring your own grapes, girls!
This is Real Life?
(Lights up on the original “park
are now bored and weary. Either address the audience directly, or each
ATHLETE (to audience)
My feet are killing me. I am so bored and sore from running around this silly
park that I don’t care if I ever take any exercise again. (exit)
COP (to audience)
I wish they would at least put a bank robbery in script or something. Anything!
We don’t even have any crime around here any more. Nobody has time for it.
My baby carraige is broken. The Director promised to have it fixed and he promised
me a new doll for my carriage. He promised! Big Deal! At least he could find
a real baby for me to push around. (exit)
PAT and MIKE (to each other)
That young whippersnapper of a script editor told me to cut out my accent. “Get
rid of the phony Irish, Mac,” he says. Goddamn it, Mike, I am Irish.
And my name ain’t Mac.
You think you got troubles? The Assistant Director had the nerve to tell me
to quit acting so damned decrepit. As if I wanted to hobble around here like
an old scarecrow. Tell me something, Pat.
Do you ever get tired of playing checkers?
I’m sick of it.
I wonder . . . couldn’t we be playing some other game—like dominos maybe—next
I doubt it.
Cards, maybe. Gin rummy?
Because the script says that we are playing checkers.
I hate the script. And I hate checkers, too.
You know, it’s just the same as we used to do. It’s all the same thing we used
to say and do.
Yeah, only now we get paid for it.
Takes most of the fun out of things, don’t it?
Who said it’s supposed to be fun?
Well, it used to be, didn’t it?
(They go out. Leaving only the BOY and GIRL on stage.
They are sitting on a bench, evidently studying scripts. Abruptly,
he snaps his script closed and tosses it aside.)
What’s the matter with you?
Buzzards . . . I hate buzzards.
Oh, I thought maybe you were feeling bad about your crummy performance.
Listen, I am warning you. The next time you cut off my line right in the middle
. . .
Your line? Who cares? It’s my scene. Anybody could say your lines.
Well, you just try it with “anybody” and see what happens.
I may do that. I may get to play my scene with “somebody,” if you
know what I mean.
I don’t. And I couldn’t care less.
Maybe you will care when a real professional actor comes along and takes your
Who said anything about professional actors? They promised us.
Well, they can’t help it if some people in this town haven’t got an ounce of
What do you know about professional actors?
I just heard a rumor, that’s all. From a very reliable source. I feel perfectly
Girls like you are a dime a dozen. A dime a dozen. There’s thousands and thousands
of them. Do you know what they call them? They call them ingénues!
I hate you! You don’t really think . . . ?
That I could be, you know, like . . . replaced?
Baby, you will be among the first to go.
I hate you! You are horrible! I hate you!
(She runs offstage. BOY picks up his script and follows.)
Wait a minute, Princess!
(In the dark the sound of a phone ringing. Lights up
on the MAYOR talking on the phone. Or a toy phone . . . )
Hello? Who wants to know? Time magazine.
really from Time magazine? Well, this is him, I mean, this is
he, the Mayor, speaking. Well now, you know I’ve always been a firm and
dedicated believer in the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.
Yes, Siree! You want a picture of me. I’ve got a real good one taken
at the World’s Fair, 1939 . . . Go ahead. Ask me anything . . . What?
What’s that? Listen here, young fella, I don’t know where you dug up
dirt like that, but there’s not a word of truth in it. I deny it categorically
. . . Who’s word are you going to take—the Mayor of Garden Spot
or some dumb blonde by the name of Dreama, the Denver Bombshell? . .
. Oh yeah? Well, that’s what she says . . . Don’t you even want to hear
my side of the story? You don’t? . . . Listen, print one word of that
and I’ll sue. I’ll sue your ass off!
(He hangs up. Then dials. Phone rings. Lights up on the
BANKER also. Who answers the phone.)
Hello, it’s me again.
MAYOR and BANKER
Just be reasonable. All I am asking is a short-term loan. As soon as
I get re-elected, I’ll repay you in full.
Well, I’d like to oblige you, good buddy. But I can’t.
What do you mean? I’ve got a major political campaign to finance.
Maybe some other bank will help you out.
What other bank? You’re the only bank in town. Listen, you are planning
to support me, to vote for me, aren’t you?
When I stop to think of all the responsibilities and burdens, the grief, misery,
and woe that go along with high political office, I feel it’s my moral
duty, as an old friend, to try to spare you from all that.
You ungrateful bum! Remember all the times I bailed you out of trouble. Have
you forgotten that time you bet five hundred big fat bucks on a certain sway-backed
horse named “Lonesome Sailor”?
That was in my lost and impetuous youth.
And that five hundred dollars was somebody else’s money.
Now you are going to force me to remind you of a certain little event from
the past. Do you have any clear recognition of the Sate Fair of 1948?
What? I’ll admit I was drunk. Somebody put some whiskey in my sassparilla
. . .
No doubt it was a very blond, very entertaining young lady who went by the
name of Precious Diamond from Dubuque.
It isn’t fair to dig up a lot of ancient history like that.
I read all about it in Time magazine.
What is the Press trying to do to this country? They are attempting to undermine
all lawful authority and to destabilize the government. Don’t you realize
I have to uphold the banner of public morality?
(BANKER laughs loudly.)
Wait a minute! What’s so fucking funny about public morality?
(Ringing of phone. Lights up on CLUBWOMAN and PREACHER talking on
Reverend, I’m glad you called. Because I’m afraid we can’t
have a Church Rummage Sale this year. None of the ladies have any old clothes.
Anyway, who needs charity in Garden Spot any more?
What I really want to talk to you about, Mabel, is the Altar Guild. It’s
Oh! I never dreamed I would live to see the day when a word like that escaped
Defunct? What’s wrong with defunct?
There! You said it again. Twice!
What about the Altar Guild?
Oh, well. With Katie Everose gone to bask in the sun on the French Riviera
. . . Can’t you just picture Katie in a bikini bathing suit? No, excuse
me, I mean even if you can, you shouldn’t. Anyway, with Katie over
there and Lucy Fry over in Hong Kong . . .
What about you, Mabel?
Sunday is my only day to rest.
I’m surprised at you.
I have to do my nails sometime.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
Well, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, too. Browbeating and manipulating
a good and faithful member of your congregation like me. And then using words
like defunct . . . like that. Anyway, the last time I went to church there
were only two people there. I was one of them. And the other one wandered
in by mistake. A tourist or something . . .
I guess nobody needs me any more.
Don’t feel bad. Nobody needs any of us any more. We are all much too
successful for all that.
(Lights up on all four of them. All are shouting at each other.)
You couldn’t get elected County Dogcatcher, you old reprobate!
I would put my money in a Beautyrest Mattress before I’d leave it in
The women of this town are strutting and sashaying right down the primrose
path of perdition!
Defrocked! That’s what you ought to be—defrocked, destabilized
I never want to talk to you again!
(Lights up on JACK and JILL in the park. JILL enters, obviously in
Jill! Jill Worthy! Where are you going in such a hurry?
I am trying to get back to the Library. I still have to get ready for the show.
They always leave everything in such a mess . . . Oh, I finally found The
Joy of Sex for you.
Wonderful! Where did you find it?
Hidden right behind Doctor Spock. Who would ever think of looking there?
Whoever put it there. Say, somebody’s going to be mighty disappointed.
(Notices that she seems troubled, distracted.) What’s wrong, Jill? What’s
the matter? You can tell me.
This show has ruined my Library. Now they have decided that all the books have
to be pink. Looks better on T.V. Do you have any idea what kinds of books
come in pink? A whole generation is going to grow up thinking that there
aren’t any good books.
If they grow up thinking anything at all . . .
And now I have to wear glasses. I don’t need glasses. I can see just
fine without them. But the Assistant Director says I have to because all Librarians
are supposed to wear glasses. He comes from Hollywood. But I guess the worst
thing of all about the Library is that nobody reads anything any more. They
just pretend to when they’re on camera.
So what else is new? You weren’t under the delusion that people read
anything in this advanced civilization, were you? I mean, who’s got time
to waste on a book?
Jack, can’t you see what this is doing to all of us?
Why, we’re all in this together. We are a team. Even I have status in
Jack Peterkin—known to television audiences throughout the world as a
lovable town drunk.
Richest drunken bum this side of California. And you know what else? I haven’t
touched a drop in ages. Guess what I’ve got in my bottle. Cold tea. A
man’s gotta stay sober to remember his lines.
Then you are just pretending, too, like everyone else.
Well, I’m an actor now.
At least you had a certain kind of pride once—the pride of rejecting
I don’t know. I’m not sure about anything any more.
EARPHONES (off stage voice)
Hey, where the hell is the Librarian? Get the Librarian in a hurry. We got
the camera and lights all set up and we’re ready to roll. Tell her
to get the lead out!
Oh, God, I’m so confused . . .
(She runs off stage, forgetting her new glasses.)
Hey, Jill, wait for me! You forgot your glasses . . .
(He runs out after her.)
Where Do We Go From Here?
(Park scene. All present and apathetic. EARPHONES
enters as if late. Shouting and distracted . . .)
Places! Places! On the double! Places, damn it!
EARPHONES (to STRANGER, giving him script changes)
Coupla changes. We’re going to cut the church bit completely. Rod has
written in some kind of a wife-swapping party.
EARPHONES (hurriedly moving to address the audience)
Ladies and Gentlemen. We are like fighting the, you know, clock. Bear with
us, please. And, above all, remember that, no matter what happens, when I
hold up this sign . . . (Inadvertently he holds up the “BOO! HISS!” sign),
you do it. One time now for rehearsal. Let’s hear it everybody!
discovers he has got the wrong sign. Stuffs it in trash can.)
EARPHONES (to cast)
Are you creeps ready? Bring up the park theme, David. Okay, two to get ready
and four to go. Rolling!
(STRANGER enters, already in midst of his spiel . . .)
And now let us see a typical day in the Park.
(From beginning to end everything goes wrong.
ATHLETE trips and falls. COP drops his nightstick. MAID abruptly
bursts into tears and thrusts
the rag doll into the astounded COP’s arms. She runs off. He
looks around, confused, then chases after her, blowing loudly on his
police whistle . . .)
(Quick, David! Gimme a two-shot of the lovebirds.)
(BOY and GIRL enter, strolling, hand in hand.)
But how do I know you are really sincere?
You don’t. And that’s the beauty of it.
Well, I admire sincerity in a man.
Yeah? Well, all your stupid sincerity makes me want to throw up.
(She slaps his face. He slaps her back. She runs off stage. He chases
Cut to the two old crooks!
(PAT and MIKE at checker table.)
Nice day, huh, Pat?
Maybe you think so. As far as I’m concerned, it stinks.
Personally, I like the warm weather.
You would. “Personally, I like the warm weather. Personally, I like the
warm weather.” You stupid old goat!
You better take that back.
Why, you stupid old goat? What are you going to do about it?
(MIKE knocks over the checker table. They begin
to hit each other with their canes.)
(STRANGER steps forward as if addressing a camera.)
And now for a direct, person-to-person, live interview with one of the natives.
Gimme a tight close shot of the Drunken Bum!
JACK (to EARPHONES)
Don’t call me a drunken bum, you . . . drunken bum!
(STRANGER steps close, as if separating him from EARPHONES.)
I wonder if I might have a word with you, my good man.
JACK (shaking fist at EARPHONES)
(to STRANGER) Huh? What did you say?
Can we talk? Can we have a calm and rational conversation?
By all means. Be my guest. That’s what I get paid for, isn’t it?
Surprise! Surprise! You’re on T.V. “THIS IS REAL LIFE!”
Permit me to deal with your inane and inconsequential remarks one at a time.
In the first place, it is not in the least bit surprising to me to discover
that I am on television. I spend a good deal of my time these days performing
in front of your infernal camera. Secondly . . .
Thank you very much. And now . . .
Secondly, I am not all certain, myself, what real life is or may be. But whatever
it may be, it does not appear in any way, shape, or form on this incredibly
stupid and silly program.
Cut to the Bank! Bring up the Bank Theme! Idiots! You’re all fired! Fired!
(Park scene. All enter as if gathering for a town meeting.)
Well, now. I guess everybody knows why this emergency town meeting had to be
called. But before we get underway, I would like to take this opportunity
to say on behalf of myself and the Town Council that it is with a deep sense
of regret . . .
Get to the point!
Be more extinct, please.
And so, without further preamble or ado . . .
(STRANGER steps forward. Pushes the MAYOR easily aside and takes charge.)
Today you ridiculous people became restive and rebellious and ruined a perfectly
good show. Fortunately—and no thanks to you—it was only on videotape.
Do you know what would happened if this had been live? Do you have any idea
what would happened if something like this took place on the Broadway stage?
This ain’t no theater!
This is our home town!
This is off-Broadway!
And all the world’s a stage!
(STRANGER waves cane at them one at a time and all are silenced.)
Thank you . . . Thank you . . . Thanks very much. Now then, allow me to correct
your misapprehension. Once upon a time this place may have well been your “home
town.” But at the moment it happens to be nothing more or less than
a theatrical experience. Do you know why you stopped being typical and ordinary
people in an all-too-typical and ordinary town? Do you know why your lives
became a show? I shall tell you. In a word, ladies and gentlemen, the answer
is—money! Your lives may be empty, your souls may have diminished
to the size and significance of a single dry-roasted peanut, but all the
time your bank accounts have been growing and growing and growing.
If I may be allowed to speak for the entire populace here in the Garden Spot,
think that we all would have to agree that, all things considered, we never
had it so good.
Believe me, I hate to have to resort to threats and intimidation. Because,
when all is said and done, I much prefer to [conduct] my kind of business
cheerfully, with a firm handshake and a nice smile. But I am warning you
here and now. If this script has become, in the colorful jargon of our profession,
too “plain vanilla” for you, then we shall have to make it more
Just what do you have in mind, good buddy?
Consider. Consider that thus far our feathered friends have not been invited
to participate at all. Except, of course, passively. By just being there.
You don’t mean . . . that?
The public, the mass audience is so jaded nowadays. It takes something different,
and impressive, to attract attention and raise eyebrows. Well, I can easily
imagine some very unusual, not to say sensational, possibilities. Suppose,
for the sake of argument, we were simply to take full advantage of the natural
appetites and instincts of our visitors.
What are you talking about?
Perhaps we ought to give these buzzards something to do.
Anything but that!
Wait a minute, everybody! Hold it! He may have a pretty good idea there. We
could kill, if you’ll pardon the expression, two birds with one stone.
We could tighten up the show. And at the same time, we could get rid of a
whole lot of deadbeats, misfits, oddballs, radicals, and bums.
There is nothing very dramatic about a public execution. Seen one and you’ve
seen them all. Oh, of course, the first few times it would be a novelty. But,
then, the best part would be when these huge ugly birds came flapping and fluttering
down to do their part.
(He waves his cane and creates
To make it really work, to keep it interesting, we would have to have some solid
suspense. An element of pure, implacable chance. Perhaps some kind of a
BANKER and MAYOR
Surely not the ladies!
(STRANGER silences them with a cane.)
Everybody! Except, of course, myself . . . There is an alternative, however.
We can begin anew tomorrow and play our good old script as it has never been
played before. Put your hearts and souls into it, into every line, every
gesture, every movement. You are being given one more opportunity to play
life as it really is. Play it as if it really mattered!
(A conductor’s motion of the cane frees
them. And all cheer. Then another gesture of the cane cuts them off.)
Play your life as if it had meaning, as if it mattered. Whether it does or
not . . . Any questions? Does anyone wish to add anything?
Thank you sir. You won’t regret giving us another chance.
Speaking on behalf of you-know-who, I want you to know that we anonymously
agree that your important remarks were purely and simply superfluous.
I know I’m speaking for everyone here in Garden Sport when I say I’m
going right straight home and study my part like a madman!
(All start to leave. STRANGER freezes them one last time with cane.)
Remember, dear hearts, this my be your last chance to play comedy . . .
(Makes sign with cane.)
No, go. Go. Go!
(He laughs as they rush off. Then he notices that
JACK is still there.)
And why aren’t you rejoicing with the multitude? Why aren’t you
off and running with the common herd?
As you may have noticed, I am not much of a joiner. And, to be honest, I really
don’t feel much like rejoicing about anything. Besides which, and much
more to the point, the only thing I have to console myself with is this cold
(STRANGER points with his cane, like a magic
wand, at JACK’s
Now try it.
(JACK takes a swig and reacts.)
That’s hundred proof sour mash.
No. Actually it’s bourbon. If you prefer sour mash . . .
I’m not what anyone would call finicky. Anything alcoholic will do.
Not much. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, and I’m not. The thing
is, when I drink, I change, but the world doesn’t.
Oh dear, don’t tell me you want to try to change the world.
Afraid so. Even at this late and damn near terminal stage.
Well, you surely have your work cut out for you.
You know something? You were really something up there—waving your wonderful
baton around. Like an orchestra conductor. The Leonard Bernstein of corruption!
Not bad. I’ve never been called that before.
The Lawrence Welk of pure evil.
Now, I resent that. However, since you have chosen to mention corruption and
evil—subjects with which, may I say in all modesty and humility, I
have a more than passing acquaintance . . .
That’s it exactly—evil.
What have I done? I ask you. I haven’t created anything new. I haven’t
made anything happen that wouldn’t have happened anyway, one way or the
other. Now, you’ll have to agree with that.
And if I agree?
Why then it follows with the impeccable logic of an elegant equation that everything,
all that you call corruption, was already there, completely at home in their
own heads and just waiting for the appropriate occasion to be focused. Or,
as you say, conducted.
In that case, what about you, my friend?
Oh, I am merely another figment of the popular imagination. It is the cross
I have to bear. But I am available for all kinds of occasions—storm,
drought, flood, fire . . . I am here for a plague of locusts or . . . buzzards.
When, again, on the other hand, my proper occasion may be a very small one—a
flat tire, for example, or a slight increase in the pollen count, or maybe
a tummy ache, a little indigestion.
You really hate us don’t you?
On the contrary. I am often dazzled with admiration. You mortal men have somehow
mastered the secrets of stars and atoms. You can circle the earth in orbit.
Or you can blow it up if you want to, any time you feel like it. But whenever
the wholly unexpected event occurs, that thing just beyond your power to control
or understand, then I am here, ready to serve. Mankind needs me.
I don’t need you.
I’m aware of that. And I’m willing to concede that you are a difficult
All right listen. You may not be real. But they are!
(Points to buzzards.)
True, true, all too true. They are depressingly real. But then they are just
buzzards. For the Mayor and the Banker and the Preacher, for all the others,
these visitors have assumed a significance weighted with meaning and implication.
It is the natural propensity of these sweet and simple people, to whom, let
me assure you, I am completely devoted, to label anything and everything
they do not understand. And, my dear young man, the more redundantly profound
and opaque the label, the more satisfying it seems to be for them. Why, even
I have been assigned the deep significance of being a kind of symbol. How
Yes, it must be. And sad, too. I think it must be terribly sad not to have
any life of your own, not even to be able to waste it. Not to be able to
love and hate, to win and lose . . . .
Please don’t waste any sympathy on me. I may not have your freedom, but,
nevertheless, I have . . . the baton. I am a little like a genie in a bottle,
helpless until they pull out the stopper and make a wish. But once they call
on me, they belong to me. They are all mine.
We’ll see about that.
Yes, we will, won’t we. And soon enough. But now, the witching hour approaches
and it’s bedtime for me. Pleasant dreams . . .
(STRANGER strolls off. JACK takes a long pull at the bottle. Then
turns to address the buzzards.)
Friends, things seem to be going from bad to worse in old Garden Spot. But,
then, I don’t need to tell you, do I? I guess it isn’t news to
you. You have seen it all. You and I, we live in a bad world getting worse.
And there are times when a man can’t keep on laughing at everything.
I tell you there are times when it would break your heart to be a human being.
Times when I would trade places with you in a minute . . . But it doesn’t
matter, does it? I mean, there isn’t a whole lot that either one of
us can do at this point. Except say goodnight. Well . . . goodnight and sleep
. . . tight.
(JACK toasts the buzzards. Then he begins to prepare his sleeping bag.)
(Lights up on Park scene. JACK is asleep, but waking up. MAID and COP
Thanks a million for fixing my baby carriage. And thanks for the new doll,
You know I would do anything for you, baby.
I wish you and I had some real dialogue like everyone else.
We could make some up. You know, like . . . improvise.
Oh, he wouldn’t like that.
The hell with him.
Aren’t you afraid after what he said yesterday?
Baby, after last night, I feel like I could take on the devil himself.
(They embrace and kiss. During all this, unseen
or ignored by them, JACK has been waking up.)
MAID and COP (to each other)
Good morning, love . . .
Lemme see now. You be pushing the baby carriage. And I’ll be walking
across the park, whistling and all.
(They try it.)
No, no, Darlene. Not like that. Remember, we’re not even supposed to
know each other yet.
(JACK, stretching, looks up to where the buzzards
should be. Reacts to something.)
(They don’t see or hear him.)
I’ll be the one to speak first this time, okay?
(They pass again in the Park.)
Top of the morning, ma’am.
Darlene, you’re supposed to be friendly, too. We’re both like .
. . friendly people. Now all you gotta do is smile and . . .
Officer, they are all gone!
Hey, Jack, don’t interrupt right now, huh? Me and Darlene are rehearsing
a new scene.
They have all gone away.
What did you say? Who?
Look! Look! They’ve gone. There’s not a one of them left.
I guess they all just flew away.
Oh, my GOD! Help! HELP!
(He begins blasting on the whistle.)
Is all this
going in the scene too?
Honey, they have gone. The have really fucking gone . . .
(The Townspeople begin running on stage. Reacting.)
What hath God wrought?
Thousands and thousands of dollars! Just flying away in the sky.
Please come back!
Rally round the flag, girls! Anybody seen a flag we can rally around?
I’d be happy to lead a prayer if it would do any good.
(MAYOR enters and moves to take charge. It’s
another town meeting.)
Quiet . . . quiet, please . . . Shut up! Now then, what seems to be the problem
Your honor, the sons of a bitches have flew the coop!
Who? . . . Oh NO.
Don’t just stand there.
Do something about it.
What are you going to do?
I hereby declare this to be an official disaster. But try to remember, everybody,
there is no disaster from which some glimmer of hope cannot be salvaged.
(suddenly singing) “Every cloud must have a silver lining . . .”
Shut up, you old fool!
Girls! The least we can do is to demonstrate our feelings.
Mabel, please, for God’s sake. No more demonstrations. Please. We’ve
got enough trouble around here already . . . .
(Suddenly the STRANGER enters. Brisk and chipper and smiling.)
Good morning. Good morning, dear hearts.
What’s so good about it? We have just been ruined.
How can you stand there and smirk and smile at this tragic hour?
I haven’t been ruined.
Besides, you are interrupting.
Well, please don’t let me interrupt anything. Continue, if you please.
Go ahead and make complete fools out of yourselves, just as if I weren’t
here to laugh at you.
You can’t call us fools!
It’s all his fault. Everything was fine until he came along.
Let’s get him!
Make him pay!
(As a surge against him begins, the STRANGER freezes them in their
tracks with his cane.)
What is the meaning of this raucous and vulgar spectacle? Now, then, perhaps
you are ready to listen to the good news I have brought you. Ladies and gentleman,
I am very happy to be able to report that when the buzzards departed from
Garden Spot, they did not simply vanish into the empty air. And they didn’t
even fly very far. At present they are comfortably roosting in another town.
(STRANGER “frees” them with a
motion of his cane. And they react.)
You call that good news?
Where did they go?
The people of that little town are, frankly, degenerate. They do not know how
to cope with the situation. I have just been on the phone talking with the
Is he a Republican or what?
He would like to hire us, all of us, to come at once and perform our buzzard
script there. At least until his own local talent has acquired sufficient
training and experience and has gotten used to the birds.
Yeah, what do we do after that—go on welfare?
I have arranged a contract for us to continue as consultants, and there’s
a profit-sharing plan.
Just tell us where!
Do you promise to be very, very good? Do you promise to do exactly what you
are supposed to? And no ad libbing? No improvisations?
We’ll do anything!
I don’t know whether I should tell you people or not.
For God’s sake!
Pretty please with sugar on it!
Dear hearts, when the friendly buzzards left here, they flew directly to .
. . Centerville!
(Or he names the town where this play is being performed . . . )
(There is a momentary stunned pause. As if he had frozen them again
with his cane. Which he has not. The BANKER reacts first.)
Last one there is a rubber check!
(He runs away. The others, shooed now and
directed by the STRANGER’S
cane, follow after him. In their hurry, they leave odds and ends behind.
The MAID leaves the baby carriage. In a moment all are gone except
Pity. I would have enjoyed getting to know you better.
(JACK sits down on a bench, pulls hat over eyes.
After a moment JILL enters. She sits on a park bench, opens a book
to read. Sensing her
presence, JACK reacts, looks up, sees her.)
Well, well, well. Miss Worthy. Why aren’t you running off to Centerville?
Why aren’t you?
How long do you plan to stay here?
Oh, I don’t know . . . a while, I guess . . . as long as you’ll
Do you mean that?
I can’t believe it!
Dear old Garden Spot. Now we can start all over.
We can make something wonderful out of this old place.
And we can have fun . . . fun! . . . fun! I hereby declare every day a legal
holiday. We’ll ride the merry-go-round and eat cotton candy and go
to the zoo. We’ll play “Monopoly” with real money in the
bank. And I shall sit on the bench in the courthouse, oh very stern and solemn
like a judge, and sentence us both to years and years, a lifetime of joy!
Yes, of course, darling. We’ll have fun. But first . . .
JACK (rightly suspicious)
But first what?
JILL (cheerfully taking command)
First there are a few basic things that have to be done. You’ll need
a clean shirt and, yes, a necktie. I can’t remember seeing you with a
(JACK feels his neck uneasily, as if a noose were being placed around
it. JILL has begun to tidy up the Park.)
And we’ll fix up the park. We’ll plant flowers over there and maybe
a tree right there . . .
Not an apple tree?
And there’s the clock to be repaired. And so many, many things that must
be done . . . Come along, let’s go see if Miss Ida forgot to lock up
the Friendly Boarding House for once in her life.
(She takes JACK by the hand. Starts to lead him
away. Notices the baby carriage.)
Might as well bring that along. We’ll be needing it some day.
(JILL exits. JACK stands a moment with the carriage.
Smiles and shrugs and skips off behind JILL, pushing the carriage before
him . . .)
(Once they are gone, the lights dim and change
to suggest a vague, dreamlike quality. Then a single spot reveals the
Now, moving like sleepwalkers or zombies, directed and frozen in place
by his cane, all the others, except JACK and JILL, take their original
STRANGER (to audience)
Soon we shall be ready. And in just a moment our story will begin again. As
it must begin and end and begin again, world without end. And all this beginning
and ending takes place during that little wink of light that we call a life-time
. . . But I don’t intend to be gloomy and philosophical. It’s
not my nature. I have a real understanding, a deep sympathy for all forms
of human weakness. And, after all, our subject this time was only folly .
. . I won’t say good-bye. Farewells are always so depressing. And besides
I haven’t got the slightest doubt that I’ll be seeing you again.
(Pointing around the audience with his cane.)
And you . . . and you . . . and you, too. Oh, I am bound and determined
to see all of you lovely people sooner or later. Look for me when you
see me . . . Arrivederci, au revoir, auf wiedersehen . . . Lots of luck!
(He motions with his cane, unfreezing the
characters, as he briskly exits. The routine of the original Park
Scene begins. EARPHONES runs
on stage holding up the “APPLAUSE” sign.)