A BODY NOT GREATLY CHANGED
Gale tries to get her husband to understand that she has lost her will to live.
This morning when I started down the stairs,
I came to the landing and stopped. Stopped, Robert..
because I couldn't think of one reason to continue.
It was frightening.
I just stood there trying to figure out why I should bother to come down.
Concern myself with the automatic process of walking
down a flight of stairs. I couldn't think---it was as if my brain was dissolving inside my head and running out of my eyes. I was sweating so much I couldn't see. I just stood there, paralyzed---twenty minutes or
maybe thirty. At some point, Lady came up the stairs and nuzzled my leg.
I started to move. I had a purpose. I would feed the dog.
IALOGUE OF SELF AND SOUL
An n tells what it's like being interned in her own home by her father.
We camped there, my mother and I. Busied ourselves with books and magazines and when we tired of that, we listened to the serials on
the radio. We slept a lot. I don't remember relieving myself, what I ate, or whether my basic needs were met. I learned not to ask
questions. When the pains came, Mama left
me for awhile to have the baby...I hardly knew she was gone. Sometimes I told time by the different radio programs.
I was listening to Jug-Genie when mama
sneaked the baby in. She showed me all the cute baby clothes and let me hold her. I was afraid to breathe because I had been eating saltine
crackers and I thought my breath would form
saline crystals on her delicate skin. Mama told me that daddy was sick...he was suffering from nerve gas exposure. Exposure to war was what he suffered form, and that was enough to make anyone mad.
It would embarrass daddy, mama said to have
people learn he had to hide his wife and daughters... I said it didn't make any difference because I had disappeared for him about six months ago...faded like the grin off the Cheshire Cat.
Opal tells why she perpetrated the literary hoax on the Atlantic Monthly.
Why?---why? why? I'll tell you why Mr. Newspaper man, compiler of facts. The
diary is my only way out! The forest is thick
in this part of the country. A person can get lost here. Buried alive. Especially a skinny, half-breed daughter of a sawmill worker. I have something inside me that needs open sky to blossom, and we're in late
summer Mr. Meriwether; time is running out. If I don't leave now, the leaves will block the sun
and I'll decay in the forest dampness. The trees, flowers, shrubs, they all know this. It's written
in their cells. It's only the people; the mean little people of Sugar Pine who don't understand.
You ask for truth Mr. Meriwether. Look up into
the branches of that tree. There's your truth Sir. 200 feet straight up. And that truth whispered the poetry in the diary, and directed me out of the forest. I listened to it from the rust day I climbed into its branches, bleeding from the
birch cane mama applied to my back, and crawled in the only arms that ever offered love. I listened real hard to that truth Mr. Meriwether.
Why won't you?
TWO FIGURES IN DENSE VIOLET LIGHT
Red Twin---middle thirties Female---Serious
Red Twin tells Black Twin why she has resented her for so many years.
Let me tell you something, Black. Something I've never been able to admit before, not even to myself.
I'm not much. My only "claim to fame" as they say in the cheap tabloids,
is what I can preserve for a few more years. Ten at most. Until that time, I'll continue to "tan indoors or out" and settle for men who look for packaging and ignore content. I'll settle for that, because women like me filter reality
through false eyelashes and lighted makeup mirrors.
I can live with that because the alternative is to exist in a place where you monitor your rate of growth and determine age by your rate of decay.
Turns to Black Twin
You, there on the other side of the moon, prefer to live in the "real" world. A world of real lives and real deaths. It is your duty you say, to make an inhospitable environment habitable.
Sorry Black, it won't work anymore. Turn your violet light on someone else. I've surveyed your landscape and found it sadly lacking in creature comforts. Go there yourself, forge new pathways, find new trade routes, discover the mother lode, but for God's sake, leave me out of it. For your sake, leave me alone.
THE WAX CRADLE
Louisa May Alcottt---33 Serious
Louisa's birthday letter to her father in which she tries to write her
November 29, 1865 Vevey, Switzerland.
Dear Father: Today we celebrate our mutual birthdays--- your 66th and my 33rd. As I write this, I cannot help
but think of the great distance between us. A far country of disappointed hopes and sorrows separate us.
How is it? Father, that I am so lacking in the qualities of mind you indoctrinated...
Crosses out indoctrinated, writes:
...imbued in your daughters from the moment they
came into the world. You celebrated our birth with little Birth Day notes in which you referred to us as your "little Alcott plants" growing out of the fertile
soil of your spiritual guidance. A fanciful, though inaccurate metaphor. I am an over-ripe tomato rotting- brown in the noon day sun. Unworthy of the banquet table, but nutritious nevertheless.
A good fairy must surely have attended your birth 66 years ago. She smiled favor on your sleeping form and blessed you with good deeds and fine thoughts. I fear she turned her back on my fitful slumber. I was a cross brown baby crying out at the moment of my birth. No, before, in my mother's womb. I infected her with my dark moods.
You write that you enjoy my photographic pictures and that you are charmed by my powers
Of description. I am happy… Crosses out happy, writes:
...gratified that I give you pleasure with my travel
impressions. May I think of my descriptive correspondence as my special birthday gift to you. I am painfully aware, however, that my greatest gift would be that I be of humble nature and deny self. You once told
me that it is not enough to yield; I must love yielding Louisa presses so hard on her pencil that it breaks. She picks up another and continues to write. I am homesick, Father and if the old religions are right in calling homesickness the truest test of our virtue, your scribbling spinster is the most "virtuous” plant in the Alcott garden.
Sissy explains to audience how Geraldine is able to achieve metamorphosis.
You want to know how she got into such a pitiable state of inactivity. Adaptability. Ever since she was a tiny one, Geraldine got along by getting by. When
Papa was angry and focused his eagle-eye on her; she could do the most marvelous impression of music
Box dancer. Geraldine would stand on her little toes as dainty as a butterfly and whirl around the room in a blaze of color. It was really quite a sight. When
she finished her dance, papa forgot why he was angry with her in the rust place, and he would take her in his arms and give her a big squeeze.
Turns to Geraldine. She gently shakes her. Remember the dancing? Geraldine.
She danced a lot in those early years. And
when she began to grow, she had to develop other
talents of diversion. Papa had an immoderate fondness for tobacco, and Geraldine, in some strange way,
was able to...well, "manufacture" that scent. Papa
Tolerated her on the days she was able to smell like Old Velvet pipe tobacco.
How did you manage that? And she grew...a bit. But she never did achieve full height. And her basic
body structure didn't change. Geraldine looked pretty much the same way now as she did when she was in swaddling clothes. As I think of it, she didn't
change so much. She just darkened like an apple in the sun.
Molly-Ann--Late Thirties Serious LAST LIVE PERFORMANCE
Molly-Ann recalls the shooting of her husband, Buck.
Buck wanted to know what I did all day. That is when I wasn't listening' to records or starin'
In space. Back in '76', he started to drink. Buck. When I was clear---that is, when I wasn't thinkin' of how I could save money to catch a train to Seattle or Vancouver or Spokane---where- ever He was playing. I told him that the mill would start up again. Just like it did last time. And he said it would never start up again 'cause there was no need for sawmills anymore. We had to move, he said. I think that was last week he said that.
Molly-Ann takes the teddy bear. She holds it close to her heart.
I really can't remember. I can't seem to keep track of time anymore. I told him that I didn't want to move. "Move or die" he said. There's nothin' for us here in the coulee. I started to cry. I didn't want to live nowhere else. I'd lived here all my life and I was afraid. He accused me of being in a rut. "You know what a rut is? he asked. A
shallow grave he said, and then he raised his fist as if he would hit me. I ran into here, and slammed the door. He started to pound on the door until I thought he would break it in. I opened the door... he ran in here like a crazed animal..."Look at this junk! This place is a goddam mausoleum." And then he started to take down my pictures.
of him. Throwing them on the floor as if they were garbage. And then he went over to my vanity and started to throw the souvenirs of twenty years
in the waste basket. I screamed for him to stop. I got down on my knees and begged him, but he continued to throw my things away---tearing up pictures, place mats. napkins, magazines---everything that had his image on it. And then he went over to where I keep my 45's...1 have them stored in my hope chest, and he opened it, and grabbed a pile of them... he held them above his head---like Moses with the tables of stone...and I guess I just went kind of crazy...all I could think of was if he broke those records he would break His voice and I'd never be able to hear Him again. The next thing I remember is reaching into the dresser and taking out a service revolver...he keeps it by our bed in case of burglaries...1 had that in my hand and all I could see was those records above his head threatening to come crashing down any minute.
Teddy bear slips out of her arms and unto the floor.
He went down...just kind of collapsed at a heap at my feet. It reminded me of the time daddy took me deer hunting...1 spotted a doe in the
forest...one minute she was standing up looking
at me with wide eyes; I could see myself reflected in her pupils, and the next minute she was a crumbled pile of flesh and blood on the pine needle floor...1 don't pay no attention to doe season no more.
Maren---Middle Thirties Female--- Serious
Maren tells Nell that she is a writer.
I write for the little mag's; special fourth class manuscript, return postage guaranteed. Thank you for thinking of us. sorry full-up. Sorry, over-stocked, over-done. Sorry. Sorry Sorry.
Maren addresses Marsh as if she (Maren) were a psychiatrist counseling a patient.
But write you must, dear girl. For writing is the only way out of the labyrinth. Write your
thoughts into poisonous mushroom clouds falling
out inside your head. Write and perhaps some day
your writing will have value to others beside yourself. Write down the page, up the page, center page,
upper right, down left, right's right, right on. Write
it right. If you get my drift. My meaning's meaning. Eeny Meeny Miney Mo/Catch a Tigger by its toe if it squeals
Turns to friend
My God Kid. Let it go.
Darlene---30's Female--- Comic YOU ARE HERE
I never wanted kids. But then I never thought about not having them. Getting married and starting a family was the thing to do in Coulee City in
1958. Also I wanted to quit my job checking groceries. I got awfully sick of ringing up other peoples groceries. I had to remember to put the eggs and bread in last. I never could get that straight. Jeepers, I'd like to
have a quarter for every time someone would walk in the door with a loaf of crushed Wonder or a carton of half-broken eggs. I got so I could tell just by the
way the women approached that I had screwed up. They would walk in with the bread held out in front of
them like a banner or something, and when they got
next to me they would shove the bread under my nose
and ask if that was something I would serve my husband. I told them that I wasn't getting married. I would never marry and that all my sister could show for
ten years of marriage was stringy hair and a house
full of snotty-nose kids. I was planning on going to Hollywood and getting in the movies.
Her husband Buck wants to know what stopped her.
The back seat of a Chevie convertible and the front seat of Mama's livingroom. She couldn't imagine, she would say, a girl that "looks like you" wasting her
time in a food store. She would ask, seven times a
week, why didn't I marry young Buck Wharton? He had
a good job and would able to give me a nice home and kids of my own. Hollywood, she pointed out, was chock-full of pretty girls, and once a girl gets "ruined" no decent man would have her. I asked her what "ruined" was and she said sleeping on satin sheets until ten o'clock in i the morning.
Darlene pauses and reflects.
Don't know about the satin sheets, but I sure
would like to sleep in mornings.
God, when I think about it, I would like to
sleep ill the rest of my life.
Woman, 30’s BOUND IN SHALLOWS
Woman tries to find her real face behind the one she
is making up.
My mouth is considered my best feature. "Only when you keep it shut", he jokes. "I didn't marry you for your beliefs."
Marilyn Monroe was told to smile downward. A
smile that would bring the eyes to the pink sugar body down in the dark regions that shape the wet dreams of thousand celluloid-weaned youths. Tired old men who masturbate their way toward absolution. Your nose,
the dream merchants claimed, is a trifle too long. An upward smile would bring attention---orgasm comes best without knowledge of brain.
Woman puts lipstick on her mouth
M. M. an initialed toy she died. Even the scarecrow's request was not denied on the M.G.M. fantasy farm.
"If I have one vanity" my mother often said, "it's
my little girl's hair. Every morning the long, soft,
-~: sausage curls were brushed gold around her determined ~~7 finger. I sat the ordeal, statue-like as your preened me for the men who waited to squeeze my arms, scrape raw, prickly skin against my own. And your women. Cushion breast, mouth pursed in mock tenderness,
lavender scented hands, patting,
I recoiled under those caresses.
but the fingers
continued to seek out, until I grew
deep under those demanding hands,
and reached beyond my roots into
the neutral black. Then one moist
June day, you feared I'd smother, I rose
to his requirement, dropped one
play thing after another to take on the
role of a wife and then mother. You see,
mama, it's as clear as the nose on your
face, I was born before I became this
Nelly Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane) Serious
BREAD AND CIRCUSES
Nellie Bly explains why she no longer dreads the thought of marriage.
I was seventeen when I dreaded the thought of being supported by well-meaning friends and relatives. In a few short months I'll be thirty.The age when a woman becomes a joke. A pathetic burden on society. No, the thought of being supported is no longer odious. Perhaps I've reached a saturation point. I'm sick to death of meeting deadlines, running after trains,
sleeping in strange hotel rooms. I'm tired of interviewing men who dislike me merely because I'm not of their gender. Of the women who feel I betray them because if am of theirs. I'm sick of the pressures of the job; of feeing like a machine that grinds out words to feed a stunt-hungry public. This morning I asked myself a question that had been nagging me for the past year. What are you doing here? Nellie Bly. I had no answer. I knew only that I didn't want to be in a railroad station in the cold dawn light. I wished for all the world to be back in my mother's house. I wanted her to feel my head for a fever and ask where it hurt. I wanted her to call me Pinky once more.
Pinky, how strange, yet warmly familiar that name is to me.
Sally--40 Female--- Serious
Sally tells what it's like to be an aging entertainer.
I went from playing the star's best friend to playing someone's mother. Over night!
"Do I look different to you?," I demanded of my agent. "Where on my face am I told enough to have a 23 year old kid?"
He mumbled something about our "national
obsession with youth." I said that Mrs. Patrick Campbell played Lisa Dolittle well in her ilfties and he said that I wasn't Mrs. Pat and he wasn't George Bernard Shaw. And did I want the part or not?
Sally picks up make-up brush. She lightly strokes her cheek with blusher.
I quote George Eliot to him.
"A woman can hardly choose...she is dependent
on what happens to her. She must take meaner things, because only meaner things are within her reach."
"I'm not him either", he says.
I point out that George Eliot was not a him but a her. He said that he don't care if it's a speckled mongoose. He's scheduled an audition for ten o'clock and if I don't go home and get some sleep, I'd be able to read for the part of the grandmother.