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Feast or Famine

A one act play

Scene 2

Gary Beck
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink MapNew York City, Park Avenue
Murray Hill Hotel, from Park Avenue and 40th Street, Manhatt...
Evening of the same day. The first movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony is playing. The lights go up with Nancy curled on the couch. She remains in this position until she hears Tom coming, then she gets up and turns off the CD player. Tom has been drinking.
TOM. Did I hear the merry strains of Mozart? You turned it off so fast I couldn’t tell. (Yelling) Hide the Mozart, the barbarians are coming! Did you have enough time to set the scene? I can go out and come in again if you’re not ready.
NANCY. It’s after midnight.
TOM. It’s after midnight. Is that my loving wife, or the night watchman? There must be a million opening lines for an argument. You need a new ghost writer.
NANCY. I don’t want to argue.
TOM. You don’t want to argue. You’re not wagging your tail in ecstatic greeting, so what do you want? (Before Nancy can respond) I know! You want to offer a sacrifice to the gods for my safe return.
NANCY. I want to know where you’ve been.
TOM. (Viciously) I’ve been in the stews, rolling in bile and vomit, with whores and junkies.
NANCY. Don’t be disgusting.
TOM. Do I disturb your fairy-tale soul? Perhaps something prettier then. I was at the Hussar’s Ball. I knew you wouldn’t want to shame me in front of the regiment, not having a new gown, so I went alone. The champagne was cold and sparkling. The ladies were hot and sparkling. Waltzing on the moonlit terrace, I quite forgot the time.
NANCY. It’s a big joke to you. I’m waiting and worrying if you’re all right...
TOM. Waiting and worrying; the eternal whine of woman.
NANCY. And you say such filthy things. I’m your wife. I have a right to know where you’ve been.
TOM. Chapter seven of the marriage handbook: a wife is entitled to know her husband’s whereabouts at all times. Our portable home do-it-yourself tracking kit, only $89.95, is easily inserted in your husband’s rectum, providing instant location. No tubes or batteries. Complete instructions included.
NANCY. You make me sick
TOM. I do? Well I’ll make you sicker... Standing at the door, the righteous guardian of the home...
NANCY. That’s right, the home. You’d like to forget that responsibility, wouldn’t you?
TOM. No chance of that, the way you remind me day and night in your little fireside chats.
NANCY. And I’ll keep reminding you, until you decide to grow up and stop running away from everything unpleasant.
TOM. (Taken aback) Running away?
NANCY. Oh, you call it by a dozen lofty names, because you don’t want to admit that you’re afraid, but all it is, is running away. When something goes wrong you work yourself into a frenzy, then spew the dirt out all over me... I don’t want to be your dishrag.
TOM. That’s what you are, a limp, soggy dishrag.
NANCY. (Pressing her advantage) It would be easier for you if I believed that, but I know better. I’m not the child I used to be, dazzled by your clever words, accepting everything you say as true because you say it. When you felt good and there were no problems, you’d tell me how calm I was, how beautiful my sereneness made me... But let something go wrong and suddenly I’m a vegetable, or made of wood, sitting like a dummy, while you writhe in spiritual anguish. I don’t know from one day to the next which role I’m supposed to play for you.
TOM. I’ll write it into your programming instructions.
NANCY. Keep sneering. It’s easier to do that than to behave like an adult and face what’s wrong.
TOM. You talk about being an adult? The world’s a lollipop to you. You lick it when you feel like it, then you wrap it neatly in cellophane until you’re ready for it again. (Raging) You sit around in your squishy little soul, dreaming about a house in the country, with children tumbling all over the place...
NANCY. (Anguished) What’s wrong with that?
TOM. My guts are on fire. I don’t know what to do. My life revolves around a gaping void, waiting to suck me into nothingness, and you babble about your inane house and the vacuous little blobs you want to bear.
NANCY. (Taunting) So it’s the man oppressed by his environment bit: poor, bewildered visionary; nobody understands your lonely battle. Grow up! How many times do we have to go through this?
TOM. Why you sniveling cow. You retarded hope of swollen uteruses.
NANCY. Call me names. Go on. Curse me! Hide your inadequacies with filth.
TOM. Poor, abused Nancy. I won’t curse or call you names. I’ll just mention some of your inadequacies and we can discuss them like adults.
NANCY. Not this time! You twist away each time with words and at the end it’s my fault. I drove you to another woman; I forced you to drink; I kept you from coming home... You’re killing me!
TOM. (Grabbing Nancy by the shoulders) Nancy! Calm down!
NANCY. (Beating at Tom with her fists) Hit me! Hit me! That’ll be something new for you.
TOM. (Forcing Nancy to sit down) I wouldn’t hit you.
NANCY. Why not? You’ve hurt me every other way.
TOM. I didn’t want it to go this far.
NANCY. How far then? Until I wouldn’t ask where you’ve been? I’m so stupid... Seeker Tom’s Paradise... Women, liquor, coke, excitement, and always a sweet forgiving wife waiting at home to comfort you. (Yelling) No more!... I’ve been a little Japanese kneeling before you, slicing my guts open for you. No more!... I’m a woman and I need a man, and a home, and I want children!... I’m twenty-seven years old and my insides are crying for children.
TOM. I’m sorry Nancy. I don’t mean to hurt you.
NANCY. You got your venom out. What shall I do, bottle up my pain? Swallow it? I’m black and blue inside. I’m ready to explode into convulsions. I don’t want to be placid anymore. It hurts too much. When you lost job after job and took it out on me, I never complained. I knew you had a hunger that wouldn’t let you rest... You came home to me then...
TOM. I still do.
NANCY. Only when there’s nowhere else to go... It’s always been frantic with us: feast or famine. When you hurt and turned to me, everything else disappeared. I’d plead to love your hurt away. Now all I dream about is a grey, devouring fog to hide in.
TOM. I don’t want that.
NANCY. I always found excuses for you. I loved you from the first day we met and no matter what you’ve done it has grown and grown, leaving me naked and unprotected. I don’t want to conceal myself again.
TOM. Don’t talk that way.
NANCY. Shall I keep it inside? When I think of what I was like before we met I fade into a misty unremembrance. You gave me birth and now you want to take it back.
TOM. That’s not true... I make a mess of everything and then I take it out on you. I punish you for my failings.
NANCY. I’m your wife, not your psychiatrist. I can’t love you and psychoanalyze you.
TOM. I don’t want you to psychoanalyze me.
NANCY. (Anguished) Then tell me what to do.
TOM. I don’t know. I don’t know anything.
NANCY. No words? No clever explanations?... Say something!
TOM. I don’t want to hurt you.
NANCY. You do constantly.
TOM. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry... There’s no one else. Just you. And I keep tearing you apart. Sometimes I wonder why you stay with me.
NANCY. I must be crazy.
TOM. You must be. (They sit silently for a while, returning slowly from the extremity of arguing.)
NANCY. Was it so bad today?
TOM. I didn’t get the job.
NANCY. I know... That’s not what I asked.
TOM. No. It wasn’t bad. I made it bad. I always do.
NANCY. Did you eat anything?
TOM. No.
NANCY. Are you hungry?
TOM. I don’t feel like eating.
NANCY. (Risking a feeble joke) What will the spider do, suspend its operations? (Tom smiles weakly.) Put some music on. I’ll make something to eat.
Nancy exits to kitchen. Tom goes to the CD player and puts on the first movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony. The lights go down. Blackout.
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Copyright ©Gary Beck, 2006
By the same author RSS
Date of publicationSeptember 2006
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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