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The Missing Link

The Missing Link by Robert Plowman

Robert Plowman © 2014

See the Fall 2014 issue of Southern Theatre magazine to read Act I.
For more information or for production, email Robert Plowman.

ACT II.

SCENE I.

(Thomas’s bedroom. Thomas and Marie. They are laughing.)
MARIE: The frog got away.
THOMAS: No!
MARIE: It’s true
It got away.
After all that.
THOMAS: Ribbit. Ribbit.
MARIE: Stop.
(Slowly, the laughter dies off. Thomas is winded.)
THOMAS: Tell me, are the crowds still lined around the block?
(She nods.)
THOMAS: Jeepers. It’s practically the eighth wonder of the world.
(She shrugs.)
THOMAS: What?
MARIE: It’s like the gypsy woman told me
(The Fortune Teller appears.)
FORTUNE TELLER: Great things… and terrible things….
Happiness… and misfortune…
Laughter… and sorrow…
Birth… and death
Love… and fear…
(The Fortune Teller vanishes.)
MARIE: Everything is coming true.
THOMAS: No kidding.
MARIE: Things are getting worse.
It’s that creature that’s doing it.
THOMAS: The Missing Link?
MARIE: Uh-huh.
Every day there’s a woman who faints
And has to be carried away.
What do you think of that?
THOMAS: Jeepers!
MARIE: Jeepers, is right.
THOMAS: Every day!
MARIE: Yesterday, an old man waiting in line
Had himself a heart attack.
(Thomas gasps.)
MARIE: Keeled over on the sidewalk.
THOMAS: Right there.
MARIE: Right there.
THOMAS: Did he die?
MARIE: He may have died. It’s possible.
THOMAS: Right on the sidewalk.
MARIE: What do you think of that!
Do you want to know what it is?
THOMAS: What?
MARIE: Bad. Luck.
THOMAS: Oh.
(pause)
Ribbit. Ribbit.
(They both giggle.)
THOMAS: How does it work?
MARIE: How does what work?
THOMAS: The Fortune Teller.
MARIE: How does it work?
THOMAS: You know! The fortunes.
MARIE: Oh.
She takes your hand.
(So give me your hand.)
(Mesmerized, he extends his withered right hand. She takes it. In lights: A SHRIVELED LIMB.)
MARIE: She takes your hand.
And she stares…
And stares…
And stares at the lines on your hand until
She sees into your soul…
And she knows everything
Everything
That will ever happen
To you.
That’s what she tells you.
THOMAS: Jeepers!
What do you see in my hand?
(Pause. Marie looks.)
(End of scene.)

II.

(That night. Marie is in her room. Giant shadows of the grown-ups on the wall: His and hers. Them laughing and celebrating. Them arguing. Her taunting. Him threatening. Her attacking. Them dancing. It goes on and on. Marie is biding her time. Waiting to climb out that open window…)
(End of scene.)

III.

(The Man — who we’ve never seen before, and never will again — screams his lungs out.)
THE MAN.
IT AIN’T GOT NO HEAD!
(Sure enough, the Missing Link has been violated. Its head is nowhere to be found!)
(The Man has saved his farmhand’s wages all week and even dressed up in clean clothes in order to come see the Missing Link… and now this! For the rest of his days, the Man will be haunted by this horrible vision. He breaks down and cries for two minutes straight. Pointing, he continues to mutter gibberish words to the rhythm of “it ain’t got no head”.)
(End of scene.)

IV.

(Old Marie cradles the Missing Link’s head in her arms. Smiling. In lights: ALL THE MISFORTUNES WILL END. One by one, the light bulbs of the sign start to explode. Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!… until, at last, the sign shorts out. Darkness.)
(End of scene.)

V.

(Thomas’s bedroom. Dusk. Thomas and Marie.)
THOMAS: Imagine!
MARIE: Imagine!
THOMAS: Where did it go?
MARIE: That’s what everyone’s asking.
THOMAS: Who coulda took it?
MARIE: No one knows.
THOMAS: Imagine!
Is there a search party?
Is there a reward?
We could go find it and claim the reward!
Imagine!
MARIE: How are you feeling Thomas?
THOMAS: Oh, it’s not so bad.
MARIE: Do you think it’s possible everything’s getting better?
THOMAS: Well
MARIE: Do you think it’s possible the bad luck is over?
THOMAS: What bad luck?
MARIE: The bad luck.
All the bad things that were happening.
Everyone who came in contact with
The Missing Link
Caught it like the influenza.
You and me and Uncle
And everyone
All those people fainting
Everyone who saw it
All of them
They all caught it just like the influenza.
THOMAS: Jeepers!
MARIE: Do you think it’s possible?
THOMAS: Take my hand!
(Thomas seizes Marie’s hand. He is wracked by a wave of pain. He squeezes.)
THOMAS: … get my mother…
MARIE: What will your mother do?
THOMAS: … a green glass bottle…
… medicine cabinet…
… a teaspoon in a glass of water…
(Without moving, Marie goes and returns: she has a glass in her hand that she stirs.)
MARIE: I’m right here, Thomas.
Drink this.
I’m right here.
(He drinks. She takes the glass.)
MARIE: I put an extra teaspoon in
To make sure you get better.
THOMAS: You’re awful smart, Marie.
MARIE: Call me Queen Marie.
THOMAS: Very pleased to meet you, Grand Duchess.
MARIE: You better finish your medicine.
(She hands him the glass and he drinks. Perhaps Thomas is simply, finally, dying and there’s nothing that could fix him. Or perhaps Marie has just overdosed him on Morphine.)
THOMAS: If you’re a Queen
Then what am I?
MARIE: Do you know what a dolphin in?
THOMAS: In the sea?
MARIE: No, silly, not in the sea.
It’s the name of a boy king.
THOMAS: A dolphin!
MARIE: A boy king.
That’s what you are.
When a dolphin is born
Everyone gathers around
And pays it all sorts of attention
Because they know
One day the dolphin will rule the land.
THOMAS: That’s what I am!
MARIE: But sometimes people are jealous of the dolphin.
THOMAS: Why?
MARIE: Because —
They wish they were
The dolphin.
(pause)
Because when the dolphin grows up
It can do anything it wants. Do you see?
THOMAS: Yes.
MARIE: Sometimes they’re jealous of the dolphin
And they pretend to take care of the dolphin
And they give him all sorts of bad advice
So the dolphin will give them his power.
THOMAS: Oh no.
MARIE: But everything comes out in the end.
THOMAS: Is that what happened to me?
MARIE: That’s right, Thomas.
That’s why you have the withered hand
Because they kept you in a tower
And said it was for your own good
But it wasn’t
And you escaped
And now we have all sorts of adventures.
THOMAS: Will everything come out right in the end?
MARIE: It already has.
THOMAS: Marie?
MARIE: Yes, Thomas?
THOMAS: It’s past my bedtime.
(She turns to go.)
THOMAS: Marie.
MARIE: Yes, Thomas?
THOMAS: Thank you for the story.
MARIE: Did you like it?
(No reply. She turns to go.)
THOMAS: Marie.
MARIE: Yes, Thomas?
THOMAS: What did you do with the head?
(He is sleeping. Or he is dead.)
(End of scene.)

VI.

(The Fortune Teller’s tent. Marie runs on. She is frantic.)
MARIE: If I did —
FORTUNE TELLER: And you did.
MARIE: You said, if I did —
FORTUNE TELLER: Liebling.
MARIE: Is it over?
FORTUNE TELLER: Thank you.
MARIE: The misfortune!
FORTUNE TELLER: Is it over?
MARIE: Yes.
FORTUNE TELLER: Give me your hand.
(She takes Marie’s hand and reads it.)
FORTUNE TELLER: You have a long, long Life Line —
(Marie pulls away.)
MARIE: Is it over, or is it only beginning?
FORTUNE TELLER: Quiet yourself, child.
MARIE: Is the Mermaid safe?
And Thomas?
Am I safe?
And Uncle?
And no more death?
You promised!
FORTUNE TELLER: Liebling
MARIE: YOU PROMISED!
(The Fortune Teller laughs. The sound of hammering.)
MARIE: You said everything would go back
The way it was before.
FORTUNE TELLER: Only twelve years old.
And so serious.
Well, life is quite a serious matter.
And there are answers in the cards.
In the lines of your hand.
And in my crystal ball.
But the answers will change, day by day.
MARIE: (deflated) You’re meant to tell my future.
FORTUNE TELLER: Oh, but I do.
MARIE: So?
FORTUNE TELLER: Here.
The truest fortunes
Are rarely understood.
Brace up, liebling.
Your hand says
A long life.
You will have to be made of sterner stuff than this.
(Hammering.)
(End of scene.)

VII.

(Outside the Sideshow of Wonders. Fletcher is nailing up a hand-painted sign that reads: CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS. Marie runs on. Increasingly frantic.)
FLETCHER: We’re closed.
MARIE: … why?…
FLETCHER: Just the way it is.
MARIE: … but…
FLETCHER: The way it always is.
MARIE: Uncle!
FLETCHER: Some people have got to go and take a thing of beauty
And spit on it.
MARIE: Why can’t —
FLETCHER: Take a thing of beauty
And make it ugly
On account of all they see is ugly.
Can you explain human nature to me?
MARIE: Uncle
FLETCHER: I sure wish someone would explain it.
I keep turning it around in my brain.
MARIE: Uncle
FLETCHER: But no matter how I think of it
It makes no sense at all.
MARIE: Uncle
FLETCHER: None at all.
(pause)
But this I do know.
(pause)
This I do know:
If I catch them
I could catch them
I’d like to get my hands around the scrawny little necks of
Of whoever did this
Whoever did this to my home.
That’s been my home
That’s my home in there
I open up my home to other people
And this is what I get in return
(pause)
If I could catch whoever
(Pause.)
MARIE: Why can’t it go back to how it was before?
(Pause. Fletcher is composed.)
FLETCHER: They ruined me.
Now I’m ruined.
(He pats her head. He goes.)
(End of scene.)

VIII.

(Marie’s bedroom. Marie stands holding the hacksaw that did the deed. Weeping from off. A shadow of Fletcher is huge on the wall. He sits and rocks back and forth, his head in his hands. The shadow of Helene looms.)
HELENE: (off) Girl?
(Marie hurriedly hides the tools of her guilt. Helene comes into Marie’s room. She carries a box, as from a department store.)
HELENE: Now I think this should be your size.
(Out of the box comes a simple black dress. Helene holds it up to her.)
HELENE: Hm, I may have to hem it.
Off with them.
(Obligingly, Marie takes off the dress she’s wearing. Sobs from the next room.)
HELENE: You’re not to talk around him, you understand?
You’re not to say anything about the Sideshow.
Especially not to say anything about the You Know What.
Not a peep.
(Marie has stepped into the new dress. Helene gestures and Marie turns around.)
HELENE: Tsk, I’ll have to take it up.
(Helene pulls up a chair and gestures for Marie to stand on it. She does.)
HELENE: Now the funeral is at two
MARIE: What.
HELENE: and we
MARIE: No.
HELENE: This is not a time for any of your
MARIE: I don’t believe you.
HELENE: That boy practically worshipped you and
MARIE: It’s not true.
HELENE: the very least you can do is to look smart and
MARIE: Liar!
HELENE: Now, listen, girlie.
(Helene grabs Marie by the wrist. Sobbing, off. Pause. The shadow of Fletcher sits up and raises a bottle to its lips in one long swig. Helene releases her hold on Marie.)
HELENE: Now, listen.
Stand still while I pin your dress.
The least you can do is try to look smart.
(Fletcher howls, off. The shadow flings the bottle. Shattering glass.)
(End of scene.)

IX.

(The Wax Museum. John Wilkes Booth and Marie, still in her black dress. She has run away and is now in hiding. The power for the building is still turned off. Marie lights an oil lamp.)
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: When you’re an outlaw, as you are now,
You best be cautious
Your campfire don’t give you away.
MARIE: Is that what I’ve become?
Am I an outlaw, John Wilkes Booth?
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: I reckon you are, Miss Marie!
MARIE: An outlaw!
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Around these parts, near as I can figure,
Ain’t nobody half-ways so notorious
As the one what stole the head of that ape-beast.
(From her makeshift hobo’s sack, Marie takes out the head of the Missing Link.)
MARIE: Notorious!
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Not half!
MARIE: It’s wearisome though
This life of a fugitive.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Myself, I live for adventure.
I’d even say I have grown accustomed to it.
I believe I have. The sleeping out of doors
Or in the hay loft of a barn.
Give me a feather bed? Why I wouldn’t know
What to do with such a thing!
I’d shoot a man soon as sleep in some old feather bed.
MARIE: Beds don’t bother me.
In fact, I quite like them.
I didn’t choose to walk outside the law
Because of beds.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Well, far as I recollect, why it is I’m on the run,
I reckon I believed in things.
MARIE: Convictions, yes!
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: I said, the state of things in the world
Just ain’t what it ought to be.
All around me I see problems
I intend to fix ’em!
MARIE: We’re very much alike, you and I,
John Wilkes Booth. Have I mentioned —?
I’m quite fond of the way you wear that moustache.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Oh! Are you, indeed?
That is kind. Very kind, miss.
Kind of you to say.
(Pause.)
MARIE: Are you blushing, John Wilkes Booth?
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Never. No. No.
MARIE: I believe you are blushing.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: I am an outlaw.
There are wanted posters posted
Far and wide
With a reward for my capture.
Dead or alive.
Is there a reward for your capture?
MARIE: Not… as yet.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Aha!
I am a spring that’s wound
That’s ready to pop
My eyes are scanning the horizon
I am looking all around
I avoid capture
You try to come upon me unawares
You’ll see what kind of man
It is I am. You’ll see.
MARIE: Perhaps I will.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: You ought to!
MARIE: I will.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: You should try
Because then you’ll see!
(Pause.)
MARIE: I’m hungry.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Me too.
What you got in there?
MARIE: Split you a piece of Salt Water Taffy?
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Uh-huh.
(They split a piece of salt water taffy. It’s old. It tastes terrible. They both try to hide how bad it tastes. John Wilkes Booth suddenly leaps to his feet, gun drawn.)
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: I think someone’s coming!
(Marie looks in the direction he points. He covertly spits the salt water taffy out into his hand.)
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Nope. False alarm.
(He sits back down. Marie, as outlaw-ish and unladylike as possible, spits out the salt-water taffy.)
MARIE: As you are my witness
My intention is to become
Quite a successful outlaw
So I can live my notorious life in comfort.
And eat fine things
And sleep in fine beds dreaming fine dreams.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: As I am your witness.
MARIE: And sooner rather than later.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Throw me over that half-man-half-ape decapitated head you got there.
(Marie passes it to him.)
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Not speaking precisely from any sort of
Prissy book-learning paleontological know-how…
But this smells fishy to me.
MARIE: The smell is terrible.
I thought for sure it would give me away.
I washed my hands till they were raw.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Nuh-uh. You mistake my meaning, Marie,
For I speak in a figurative manner.
“Fishy” as another means to say “suspicious”.
MARIE: I’m not sure I —
(The sound — KA-DUNK, KA-DUNK—- of the breakers being turned. And the Sideshow lights come back on. Someone else is in the building! In lights: UH-OH!)
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Uh-oh! I got a bad feeling about this.
MARIE: “Fishy”. I don’t know what you’re —
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: What I’m saying is this:
Ah, have you ever seen a
Missing Link
Prior to just recently?
No, you haven’t. So —
(Nor have I.) So —
(Or, anyone for that matter.) So —
(Footsteps echo through the halls.)
MARIE: Please, John Wilkes Booth, tell me, hurry!
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: Don’t rush a man.
So my point now —
No one has any sort of verified configuration
Or true vision to which
The Missing Link
Must, of necessity, hew, do you see?
MARIE: You’re very convoluted for a villain of the ages!
What are you saying, man?
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: It ain’t real!
It’s hoo-haw!
Bull puckey!
Stuff and nonsense, girl!
(Footsteps. Pause.)
MARIE: What do you mean it isn’t real?
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: This is the sort of setup that carnies play on
Rubes. And that is all you are now.
Is a rube. And here I thought you was an outlaw.
(Fletcher comes in. There is fire in his eyes.)
JOHN WILKES BOOTH: See, there! What did I tell you!
I know when danger is afoot.
(John Wilkes Booth returns to being simply a wax figure. In lights: THE CULPRIT. CAUGHT RED-HANDED.)
FLETCHER: (to Marie) You.
He sees the head of the Missing Link.
FLETCHER: It’s true then.
(The hack saw that did the deed is in Fletcher’s hand.)
FLETCHER: I didn’t want to believe it.
I said, no way this is true.
There is no way that girl
Would go and do something like —
(pause)
You pulled the wool over my eyes
That’s for sure. You sure did.
MARIE: Uncle —
FLETCHER: Quiet.
MARIE: Uncle, I —
FLETCHER: Don’t test me, girl.
(Fletcher picks up the head of the Missing Link, gingerly.)
MARIE: It’s not real.
FLETCHER: You don’t even know what you think you know.
And that’s a fact.
(A change: They are in the basement. Fletcher opens the door of the furnace. The molten glow plays on his face. And he casts the Missing Links’s head into the flames. Marie gasps. Fletcher mourns for it. In lights: CAN A MAN HIDE FIRE IN HIS BOSOM AND HIS GARMENTS NOT BURN? Pause. Marie’s confession comes tumbling out:)
MARIE: It was misfortune
And nobody knew
More and more misfortune
And nobody knew
I was the only one
And more and more
And what if no one stopped it?
And terrible things
And sorrow and death
I was the only one who knew
And she said
If the bad luck doesn’t end
Like an influenza!
If the bad luck doesn’t end
It will spread
She said, it will —
FLETCHER: She said.
MARIE: Oh.
FLETCHER: She said.
MARIE: No.
FLETCHER: She said?
Who?
(Pause.)
MARIE: — like an influenza
If the bad luck doesn’t end
It will spread
It will —
FLETCHER: No.
She said.
Who?
(Pause.)
FLETCHER: I know who.
Of course, I do.
Don’t I know it!
MARIE: She said, if I told anyone
It wouldn’t work.
(Fletcher clutches his niece fiercely in an embrace.)
FLETCHER: The Wax Museum.
The Hall of Mirrors.
The Penny Arcade.
The Palace of Science.
This old dump!
What do you say?
Why don’t we burn it to the ground?
MARIE: No!
FLETCHER: Come on, there’s nothing left here!
I think it’s terrific! Terrific idea!
Let’s burn this place down!
Come on, what do you say?
(Fletcher picks up a tank of gasoline, with a glint in his eyes.)
MARIE: No!
This is the best place in the whole entire —
You can’t be serious!
FLETCHER: This old dump! I built it from nothing
And I think I’ll leave it as nothing!
MARIE: You can’t be serious!
FLETCHER: Give me one reason, any reason,
Just one good reason why not. Huh?
Hm? No? Can’t you think of —
MARIE: The Mermaid!
(Pause.)
FLETCHER: Oh that’s right I forgot! The Mermaid!
Let’s save the Mermaid! Come on!
Come on! How could I forget!
We’re saving the Mermaid right now
Right this minute, hurry up!
We can’t burn the place down
Until we make sure the Mermaid’s safe!
So long, Wax Museum!
See you later, Hall of Mirrors!
Bon voyage, Penny Arcade!
And farewell to you, Palace of Science!
(He is half-dragging, half-carrying her through the Sideshow — up flights of stairs, down corridors, through doorways — to the Mermaid’s Grotto. All the while, he is pouring a trail of gasoline after them. Without hardly moving, they arrive.)
(In the Mermaid’s Cave, they gaze through the porthole… but the Mermaid cannot be seen.)
FLETCHER: Hello! Anybody home? Huh! Anyone there?
No? Where is she? Where could she be?
Where do you think she is, hm?
By this point, Marie is starting to break down.
FLETCHER: What? I can’t hear you?
MARIE: (sobbing) I said, I don’t know.
FLETCHER: Should we dive down to the bottom of the ocean
And find her? Do you think? I think we should.
Let’s dive down to the bottom of the ocean
And find the Mermaid.
(A ring of keys unlocks a door, and Fletcher drags Marie through it.)
(A change: They step inside the world behind the aquarium window. It is not, in fact, underwater. It’s all an illusion. Like stepping backstage at a play. Both magical and tawdry. There’s the Mermaid’s coral reef that she likes to sit on. It’s just cardboard, painted on one side. The underwater plants are just crepe paper. Marie marvels, sniffling away her tears.)
MARIE: Wh-wh-where did all the water go?
H-h-how does she breathe in the air?
She’s, she’s a sea creature.
(And then Marie sees the costume of the Mermaid’s tail. Lying there like a dead thing. Marie screams.)
MARIE: Did you murder her?
Did you — Did you murder her?
FLETCHER: Go on. Try it on.
Go ahead. It won’t bite.
(Tentatively, Marie picks up the costume piece. She holds it in front of her. She moves around, imagining herself as the Mermaid. Methodically, Fletcher finishes emptying the gasoline can. Then tosses it away. His actions have their own logic and their own momentum now.)
MARIE: Do I look like a Mermaid?
Do I look like I’m under the sea?
On the bottom of the ocean?
(In lights: SWEET SIREN OF THE WAVES.)
FLETCHER: You look like a vision.
(He pats down his clothing, looking for matches. If he found matches, they would both be on fire now. In lights: FOR WANT OF A MATCH!)
MARIE: Where did the Mermaid go, Uncle?
(All these contradictions live together in her mind. The Mermaid is real; the Mermaid is a costume. Her mind is like a house of cards that it’s hard not to want to topple.)
FLETCHER: You don’t even have a clue. A sweet clue!
You don’t even have any idea.
Do you? No, you don’t!
Do you want to know the truth about the Mermaid?
(In lights: OH, THE NAIVITÉ OF YOUTH. Pause. He searches for a match. Doesn’t find one.)
FLETCHER: She’s a creature that comes from the bottom of the ocean.
Her mind is the mind of a fish
Thinking fish thoughts of plankton and such and
All she wants to do is lure sailors to their death.
Sailors gaze at her and say,
(he whistles)
Not such a bad way to die
But they’re wrong. It’s like being eaten by the shark
You thought was your best friend. It’s like having a shark
CHOMP — take a bite out of your belly
And the whole rest of your life all you do is walk around
With this hole in you
With this hole in your belly still bleeding
In the shape of the bite it took from you
And your whole life long is
A long time to die, let me tell you.
(pause)
Is that what you want to be?
(pause)
A Mermaid?
(pause)
Is that what you want to be?
(pause)
A Mermaid!
(pause)
Is that what you are?
(He grabs her wrist.)
FLETCHER: Why did you cut off his head?
MARIE: … you’re hurting me…
FLETCHER: Why did you drag me to the bottom of the ocean?
(He isn’t setting them afire. He isn’t demolishing her beliefs. This is the greatest kindness he can conceive in the moment.)
FLETCHER: I have to punish you now.
You’ve been bad.
I have to punish you.
MARIE: Why?
FLETCHER: For what you’ve done.
(In lights: JUST DESERTS.)
FLETCHER: Now, I’m going to put you over my knee
And punish you.
(He yanks the Mermaid’s tail from her grasp, and tosses it away. Marie obeys, weeping.)
FLETCHER: It was wrong what you did.
MARIE: It wasn’t real
FLETCHER: It was wrong!
Bad!
Bad girl!
Bad woman!
Very wrong!
To my home?
You broke me!
(He puts Marie over his knee and spanks her. He spanks her. She sobs. It goes on… He finishes. Helps her up. Neither of them can look at the other.)
FLETCHER: That was your punishment.

Now that you’ve been punished
(pause)
Now that you’ve been punished
Things are forgiven
Things are as they were between us.
(pause)
You’re forgiven.
Do you understand?
(pause)
I’ve forgiven you.
MARIE: Where did the Mermaid go?
(pause)
Where is Thomas?
(pause)
It was a curse.
There was bad luck
And what if no one stopped it?
And terrible things
And sorrow and death
And
I was the only one who knew.
(pause)
What if I talk to the Gypsy lady?
She could tell me the truth.
She’d stare at my hand and tell me
This is your future! Or
That is your future!
I want to see her now please
And she’ll say to me what to do to make
All the misfortune stop.
FLETCHER: The Gypsy lady is gone now.
(Pause.)
MARIE: Then let me talk to the Mermaid.
Yes, let me talk to the Mermaid
And ask her how to live underwater
And ask her how to breathe through my gills
So that I can live as she does.
So that I can live as she does and
Never walk on land. Never again.
(pause)
And ask her how to take great
CHOMPS with my sharp, sharp teeth
From the bellies of men
Foolish enough to offer their bellies,
Let me ask her that!
FLETCHER: The Mermaid is gone now.
(pause)
She is gone now too.
MARIE: Then why don’t you go?
Why don’t you go?
If everyone has gone why don’t you go?
Go live on the surface world
And gaze at the ocean
And wish that you could live there
Among the fishes but always be too afraid
Always be too afraid of the fishes…
(pause)
Why don’t you?
FLETCHER: …
MARIE:
(He throws up his hands. He starts to go. He stops. It feels foolish, but he stops anyhow.)
FLETCHER: In all of everything that’s happened
I forgot:
(pause)
This letter came for you from your daddy.
(He sets the letter down for her to pick up. He disappears. She picks up the letter.)
(End of scene.)

X.

(Old Marie holds the letter.)
OLD MARIE: My father was always a particular man.
He was an accountant by profession
And exacting in all of his actions
His personal habits most of all.
I remember him now with his green visor
Adjusted just so.
Or: Sitting at his great desk
Sharpening pencils with his penknife.
Shavings landing on the window ledge
Later to be swept into the cup of his hand.
And perhaps his attention to detail
Accounted for his economy in words
The letter read, in its entirety:
Arriving Thursday.
It was now Thursday.
This would have seemed enough
But in what I imagine was a passion of exuberance
He added, Hope you are well.
And his initial. “H”.
He might as well have smothered me
In kisses.
(End of scene.)

XI.

(Marie stands with her suitcase packed. Her Father gets out of his car. In lights: THE LONGED-FOR REUNION. They are beyond delighted to see each other again.)
FATHER: How was your summer?
MARIE: My summer was fine.
How was your summer?
FATHER: Adequate.
Are you ready to go?
MARIE: I have everything here.
FATHER: It’s a long drive.
You know what I always say:
The sooner departed —
MARIE: — the sooner arrived.
FATHER: That’s a girl!
(A change: In lights: OBITUARY.)
OLD MARIE: After that summer
He no longer lay his head in his hands over dinner.
After that summer
I never again saw his vacant stare at the breakfast table.
Never again
Did I wake in the night to hear his footsteps
Pacing back and forth.
He was a new man, as they say.
Or he was his old self.
In any case he was my father.
He walked briskly.
He disliked lateness, exaggeration, and informality.
He would add great columns of numbers in his head
And tsk tsk if the grocery clerk arrived at the wrong sum.
He lost his hair but walked every day and stayed slender
Till well into his seventies
When he died one day
Of no good reason at all.
(A change: In the car. Going home.)
MARIE: It smells of new leather.
FATHER: It ought to!
That’s what you pay good money for, the smell.
(That is the most inventive, whimsical thing the man has ever said. She know how much he loves her.)
MARIE: Oh daddy!
(She rests his head on his shoulder. They drive, unhurried.)
MARIE: And is it true that I’m a Queen?
(He tsks.)
FATHER: Who put these ideas in your head?
(End of scene.)

XII.

OLD MARIE: After that summer
The universe ran
By clockwork
Once more.
(In lights: THE UNIVERSE.)
(A mechanical marvel. The clockwork universe unfolds. It resembles Dr. Varanasi’s Sideshow of Wonders. All the Mermaids and other royalty dance on the bottom of the ocean. The Kraken frequently peeks out, but always retreats. Monsters — such as the Yeti and so forth — prowl. Comets shoot across the sky. John Wilkes Booth shoots varmints. Every hour, on the hour, Queen Marie and Dolphin Thomas emerge to mark the event. Everything goes up in flames, but is unharmed, and the flames always go out. Emperor Nero fiddles. And there is the Man in the Iron Mask! And there is the Princess Anastasia! They have the love of the century! The planets revolve! A Gypsy sees it all in her crystal ball. It cycles, on and on and on and on…)
(In lights: ALL HAIL THE DOLPHIN! ALL HAIL QUEEN MARIE! INSERT ONE PENNY TO CONTINUE. And the sound — KA-DUNK, KA-DUNK — of the breakers being turned off. The sizzle of electricity in darkness.)
(End of play.)

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