Down By Swansea

 [Plays], [Poetry], The Maybe Plagues  Comments Off on Down By Swansea
Dec 152014
 

a play

SCENE
[describe waking town]

MRS 1
I am one missus, and she’s another. We keep the high secrets of the town to ourselves.

MRS 3
In the summer it’s packed with tourists.

MRS 4
In the winter its cold as ashes.

MRS 5
Empty as a milkbottle.

MRS 1
I like the winter sea.

MRS 3
All the cheap establishments jammed with commerce.

MRS 1
So little to do but keep our secrets from ourselves.

MRS 3
There’s Timmy.

MRS 4
And Billy.

MRS 5
My Marjorie and Alex.

MRS 3
And Doris and Alice my blessed twins.

MRS 4
All the boys and girls in their goings and comings tumble about the town today as everyday. All alive and alone in the holiday sun. All the boys and girls….

MRS 1
And my Shawn. [pause]

MRS 3
I never saw such a beautiful boy.

MRS 5
And there he is in the front door now. [Light appears on an empty doorframe.]

MRS 1
Mind yourself; you’ll bake red as a roast, your nose fat as a radish and your armpits still pale.

SHAWN
Aw, Mom.

MRS 1
Finn, who is in the stodgy process of owning half the sleepy seaside town— from the sky-stretching white of the sleepy church steeple to the rotted docks snoring in the deep blacks of the ocean water— keeps a canary by her bed by her window to sing her asleep and awake.

MRS 4
Pip, pipe! Oh, it runs like a zipper up and down my spine. Pip, pipe! By the grace of God, I can hear it in my own house plain as the telephone.

MRS 5
Pip, pipe! The mean spitting chatter that pings from the shrunken golf ball of its chest! I mean…. I’d sooner believe an oak exploding from a pea.

MRS 1
My little Shawn himself is attached to the wretched thing, for the sake of throwing rocks.

MRS 3
He dawdles to a stop under the sill.

MRS 1
He imagines the lilac skull in his hands. He examines the eyesocket and all the orbiting, rayed lines of its empty sight. He tries on the bone wings skinney as widow Maggie’s spinsterish fingers, and takes a quick, panicked flight around the room with the uncaged bird.

MRS 4
That wild boy.

MRS 5
That dear chimp.

MRS 3
Flying a skeleton around my good sitting room!

MRS 4
[correcting] Flapping the white hollow bones himself.

MRS 3
That wild boy.

MRS 5
That dear chimp.

MRS 3
…Babystrollers ominous as whirlybirds on the dank planks of the warped boardwalk resound to the strong march of his eleven-year-old heart. In the silk ash rags of dawn, floating on the female sea, Benny the town bounceabout is jogging against the light for the recuperating sake of his heart and thighs. He pauses on the thundering boardwalk to salute Shawn in his Raider’s cap while last night’s date still lies topseyturvey in his bungalow bed.

MRS 5
Over the dunes and down to the receiving sea progresses young Shawn, all cartilidge and sneakers, with his battlescarred knee— flips round the wide corpse of a dog examined on elbows all yesterday, curls across the scolding seashelf of small speckled rocks, talking in washes, leaps conspicuous spikes of dunegrasses, bristling in swishes on the white spine of the continent, and, removing carefully the blood dot of his red Raiders cap, tumbles sunlovingly into the blue mutable surf.

MRS 1
That’s how Shawn walked in the acres of his knowing. His eye was as tall as the clouds in the sky; and sweet and simple were his curses and wishes.

SHAWN
Look at me. I’m a rum-runner smuggler that has come to this pirate’s cove with a tasty blade in my teeth.

MRS 4
He emerges from the surf.

TIMMY
ARRGblabbldiiigrrrrahhhh!!!!

MRS 5
Shawn arranges the whirls in a winking pond full of the ghostly bodies of jellyfish panting beneath the swirled surface flaming in glitters.

SHAWN
Ghost! It’s a ghost.

TIMMY
The creepy spirit of dead Mr Finches.

MRS 4
The scolding schoolmaster of the ill-educated town drawn to a study of stamps and empty seashells.

MRS 3
Passed away with his snoot in his books. He bends like a weary reed, quiet as an indian ambush, and glares like the sun into the tidalpool full of stones and blotched coral. He paddles the water with his coin-enjoying palm ready to buy Tony Andagili’s icicle licks with the warm quarter his mom had outfitted him with among the hydrangeas at breakfast. Wet sands slither through his fingers and a sandy cloud opens under the smoked glass. And the pinkeyed jellyfish squishes past his angry hand and pumps into a little dark hole small as a pupil in skirted distress. Shawn is tired of playing with ghosts and turns tiredly away from the opaque pond.

SHAWN
O I am a pirate that’ll slit your gizzard!

MRS 4
He shouts, running like an alleycat to where Timothy Turves is whistling through grassblades in the windy lee of the bluff.

SHAWN
I am a pirate that’ll slit your gizzard!

TIMMY
Oh.

SHAWN
Prepare for a doom of ferret’s teeth and shark’s gullets.

TIMMY
I am prepared for my doom.

SHAWN
March to the plank. [Timmy marches to the nearest rock]

SHAWN
No, that rock. That rock.

MRS 3
Timothy scissors his yellow arms in the air, balletstepping to the flat rock that’s the plank in his duck jacket.

MRS 5
He believes in the eternal veracity of his demise.

MRS 4
His head is full of cowboys and heroes.

MRS 3
Samurais and sixshooters and noble endings.

MRS 5
He stands prepared.

MRS 4
He totters on the rock.

TIMMY
his hands go out before him.

MRS 5
His heart full of death, he hops in the water.

MRS 4
Dead as a doornail.

MRS 3
Extinguished as matches.

MRS 1
But like a seabird he gets up.

TIMMY
ARRBLBBLLRR!

MRS 4
He shakes his head like a fish. [pause, the boys pantomime burying treasure]

MRS 3
Boys bury treasure.

MRS 4
And dig it up in the dark.

MRS 1
Patrick Kinney and me in the nude snow past the harvest hills and farmers asleep in their coats, milking the moon-bellies of splaylegged cows, spent a heated evening in the blank, snowwhite, snowblind night of my first, and most silent, marriage. God, in the toasty loaves of his arms I felt somehow loved and listened to at once. He chest roared and rolled and yearned like a furnace while his sparking eyes stared and smiled under muddy brows thick as cigars under the star-stabbed sugar-dome of the seasprayed night sky swirling above midges and winter and our soldered embrace hid in the quiet dark of the bed. On that syrupy evening, above green thistles and below the timed departures of the sobbing stars, making one by one their queued exits, was the sweet sodden lump of my Shawn conceived. Time stabbed and passed. Patrick Kinney knew the child was made that night, that that was the night of creation. Dandelions and frostbite, whispers and kittens, the years themselves came rolling in and out and I heard not a word from that travelling man. Shawn’s shape by that time had changed and he’d grown into a fine young thing.

MRS 4
They rose to race on bicycles humming down to the drumming boardwalk. They were caught, for a moment, with the wheels and spokes like spiders, in the amber sunset before I lost sight of them.

MRS 3
They leapt, my Timmy and your Shawn, about the rocks all afternoon being pirates and werewolves as the sun fell in blazing licks and they ate their jam sandwiches.

MRS 1
They bulled about the foxtails in the tarry marsh and practiced their howls for the moon.

MRS 3
Which one grew fur?

MRS 4
Which one got big teeth?

MRS 2
Did their snouts stretch out long as foxes’?

MRS 3
Did their child’s ears tuft?

MRS 4
Pads harden over their palms?

MRS 2
Did their hearts shift in their ribs?

MRS 4
Did their howling bring down the moon?

MRS 5
Yes yes yes. All the magic happened. The crabs creeped sideways from the sea; they cooed to the moon as sister and mother, low and fat in the rum-black sky of summer. Their swift claws knew the sin of blood, and sandpipers and infants dripped from their fangs. The moonlight on the snow frail as eggshells.

MRS 2
Or ashes.

MRS 3
And pale and yellow as eyes, she listened to the high wild cries of their hearts.

MRS 5
But soon enough they all tumbled exhausted to home and their warm human beds after supper.

MRS 1
And there is Shawn’s burrow under the burying dark, under the burning sun, in the grave ground by the park where my people are.

MRS 2
The boys have come running over hills bunched as mittens, hunched against winds and wails and schoolmasters’ ghosts. And against the slap and sigh of the sea which buries us all they are hunched. In their shivvering boyskins bluecold under blankets they watch the clouds change shapes as they fall asleep.

MRS 1
Imagine my Shawn while the moon’s winking bone is still flying over marshes and midges, indulging our wishes, and the deep sea cradles up to the shore. Imagine my Shawn, boneweary eleven, closing his skyhigh eyes on the couches of heaven— after a day full of mysteries and spices and unassailable seas. Imagine my Shawn, in his britches and stitches, his brittle blood and rough laughs, climbing to sleep over pirate treasures in the feathered quilt we’d all sewn together.

MRS 4
All the world drowned in the sound of sleep.

MRS 1
And there’s my Shawn sleeping.

MRS 2
Dogs and fishes skip through his skull.

MRS 3
Trilled bug-thumpers fly east to west and spring to winter in his sloshing noggin.

MRS 5
A rubbed thumblestilskin unknown, unnamed.

MRS 2
He watches a bird with a clock in its belly.

MRS 3
He watches a clock with wings for hands.

MRS 4

He watches Mrs. Finn's blind canary, Sam.
Birdslayer.
Prestidigitator.
Jellyfisher.
Finch mincer.
Moonhowler.
Captain of tidepools.
King of green hills.
Prince of beaches.
Sweet as an apple.
Turned over in dreaming.
Crying in sleep.
As if wounded and bleeding.
Noseful of weeping.
Bleared eyes shut.
Sweet as an apple.
Pale and sleeping.

[END]