A Pawn Piece (1978 play): Act III
(The curtain comes up on yet another area of the forest. Two characters, PAUL and TREE, are engaged in an animated conversation. PAUL is wearing a full-blown green dress, with dark tan stockings; TREE is wearing a green sport shirt with dark brown pants. They are both over sixty years, very tall in height. The stage lights are now orange.)
PAUL: But you said last night that we were going to do something different today.
TREE: Now, don’t go and get yourself all in a dither over nothing. I thought we might branch out today and see what’s going on in the world.
PAUL: Really? It’s about time: getting you to move is almost as rough as having root canal work done.
TREE: It is not. Didn’t you have enough excitement when we grafted a twig onto your body last week?
PAUL: A twig is right! It probably won’t amount to anything: your seeds died years ago. Let’s face it, you’re over the hill.
TREE: I am not: I never went anywhere.
PAUL: See, getting you to move is impossible.
TREE: You’re the one who’s impossible. Wouldn’t you like to see something different?
PAUL: Sure, like what?
DEREK: Pardon me.
TREE: (to Derek) Don’t interrupt. (to PAUL) Like our neighbours on the other side.
PAUL: They’re boring. They don’t talk about anything else but what darling little grandchildren their samplings are.
TREE: Saps is more like it.
DEREK (louder): Pardon me.
PAUL: (to DEREK) Look, young man, it’s very rude to interrupt your elders while they’re discussing something that’s important to them. Please wait until we’ve finished our discussion, or invite you to join in. (to TREE) Now, where were we?
TREE: I was about to suggest some more interesting things we could do, today.
PAUL: Right; go ahead.
TREE: How about meeting new people? Some of them can be real characters.
PAUL: That’s not a bad idea. Where should we start?
TREE: How about this young sprout?
PAUL: Okay. (to DEREK) Young man.
DEREK: Yes, ma’am?
PAUL: We want to meet new people today. May we start with you?
DEREK: I guess so.
TREE: Ah-hem! My name is L.M.N. Tree. You can call me L.M. for short; and this is my companion, May Paul.
PAUL: Miss May Paul.
TREE: Right, sorry.
DEREK: How do you do, my name is Derek.
PAUL My, what a nice name. What does it mean?
DEREK: I think it’s Germanic for “folk” or “rule”, I’m not sure.
PAUL: Mine is a Hebrew derivative of “Mary”, meaning “wished-for child”; and I have (glaring a TREE), oh, but I have.
DEREK: Mr. Tree…
DEREK: L.M., what do your initials represent?
TREE: I’d rather not say.
PAUL: Go ahead, L.M., it won’t hurt you to explain.
DEREK: Yes, please do.
TREE: Oh, all right. I think my parents wanted a girl when I was born, because they named me Leslie Merle Noel, in spite of the fact that I was a boy. As I’m ashamed of those name, I use my initials instead.
DEREK: i think they’re rather nice.
PAUL: See, I told you they weren’t so bad.
TREE: But they’re so unmasculine.
PAUL: Do you think a last name like Paul is any better? People think they’re referring to a man, when they’re talking about me.
TREE: It could have been worse: it could have been “Pole”.
PAUL: May Pole? Yuch! I see what you mean.
DEREK: It seems to me that your names represent the Androgynous aspect that’s inherent in each of us.
DEREK: Yes, the fact that you have within your natures both masculine and feminine characteristics.
PAUL: Androgynous, eh? Now I know why we haven’t had any offshoots, yet; after all these years, I find out you’ve been doing it to yourself.
TREE: May! Hold your tongue: we have company.
PAUL: So you’re not denying it, eh? Ah-ha!
TREE: We’ll discuss this later.
PAUL: That’s what you think. Maybe I’ll just pack my trunk and leave.
TREE: No, you won’t: your bark is worse than your deeds.
PAUL: So you want my deeds? If so, just say the word, and you’ll see if my bark’s worse or not.
DEREK: (to TREE) What’s the word?
TREE: What word?
DEREK: The word you’re supposed to say if you want Miss Paul’s deeds.
TREE: You sound like you’ve been talking to Colonel Klunk.
DEREK: As a matter of fact, I have. Do you know him?
TREE: Only slightly. I ran into him, once.
PAUL: That’s not true: he ran into you. (to DEREK) Klunk caused a lot of damage; L.M. hasn’t been right since.
TREE: After bumping into him, I mean, him bumping into me, I haven’t been sure who was in the right. Naturally I assumed I’d made the mistake of being in the right place at the wrong time. Or was that the wrong place at the right time? It’s so confusing.
PAUL: Anyway, the policeman who investigated the accident wasn’t too pleased.
TREE: He said that he’s been hot on the trail of this ex-con who talks to strangers about Police corruption.
DEREK: Just a minute! Was the policeman’s name Watson?
PAUL: Yes, Sgt. Watson. Do you know him, too?
DEREK: I had a run-in with him. Actually, it was more of a run-out. A run-out of town. Did he mention the ex-con’s name?
TREE: I think he called him the “Flying Frenchman”.
DEREK: Yes, that’s how Watson referred to him, when we had our little misunderstanding. His real name is Jean Claude Scolder.
TREE: So you got to meet him, too.
PAUL: Anyway, Sgt. Watsonb was quite abrupt; I don’t think he likes us.
DEREK: What did he do?
PAUL: It’s not what he did but what he said.
TREE: It was quite a mouthful.
DEREK: He has a tendency to run off at the mouth. What did he say this time?
TREE: You tell him, May. You know how I hate to swear.
PAUL: When we asked him if he could help us clean up the mess, he said, “Piss on you; do it yourself.”
TREE: Needless to say, we didn’t ask who was going to pay for the surgeon. He certainly showed us his prejudice against senior citizens.
PAUL: Yes, his zipper was undone.
DEREK: How could he be so crude?
PAUL: It’s easy for him; he acts like a real dog.
TREE: I was going to complain, but didn’t know with whom to get in touch.
DEREK: You should have complained. I was always under the impression that the Police are there to help people.
PAUL: Their uselessness costs the taxpayer valuable money. They’re stealing their monthly paycheque for the third-rate service they provide.
TREE: Speaking of stealing, do you realise how little a reward we’re given for sticking around?
DEREK: No, I don’t.
TREE: It’s so little that Miss Paul and I had to share our resources to make ends meet.
PAUL: We’re living in sin, because we know that we’d get even less if we were joined together…
DEREK: Living in sin?
PAUL: Without benefit of clergy. You know: what God has joined together, let no man pull asunder.
DEREK: Oh, I understand now, without getting legally hitched. My grandfather used to be a minister.
TREE: What happened to your grandfather?
DEREK: He was defrocked.
PAUL: Sounds sinful.
DEREK: Not really, just drastic. They didn’t want him around anymore.
TREE: It’s terrible what people in authority think they can get away with.
PAUL: Take the Old Age Pension system, please. As it stands now, or should I say, leans, it’s outmoded.
TREE: It’s so obsolete, it requires root and branch reform.
DEREK: Root and branch reform?
TREE: I forgot you were younger. “Root and Branch” means “radical, drastic or extreme”.
PAUL: Anyway, now we share everything: shelter; water; food.
DEREK: How did you meet?
TREE: I realise that I’m going out on a limb to say this, but, although we’ve been close neighbours all our lives, we were strangers.
PAUL: Yes. It wasn’t until we’d each had our roots traced, for our separate family trees, that we discovered that we had a common background and grounds for a lasting relationship.
DEREK: How did you finally get together?
PAUL: As a matter of fact we didn’t get together until the heavy snowfall of ’67.
TREE: It was then that I got up enough nerve to drop May a few lines to see if she’d like to curl up with me for warmth for a few days.
PAUL: (to TREE) You were too scared: standing there shaking like a leaf. I had to make the first move.
TREE: No, you didn’t.
PAUL: I did, too. Remember when I asked you for some sugar? (to DEREK) I was starting to make some maple syrup, to keep my body busy during those cold winter months.
TREE: Oh, right; I forgot.
PAUL: Anyway, we’ve been together ever since. For the most part it’s been good; the bad times are when I’m trying to get some sleep.
DEREK: What makes sleeping a bad time?
PAUL: L.M. snores.
TREE: That’s not fair: it’s the wind whistling through.
PAUL: You should try to control it.
TREE: Why should I? You’re always swaying and shaking when I try to sleep.
PAUL: The wind makes me do that.
DEREK: Since you’ve both blamed the wind, why don’t you let it blow its illness elsewhere?
PAUL: Maybe Derek’s right. I don’t want us to split up.
TREE: Maybe I would! It might be fun taking some sweet young thing off her limbs with my sweeping bough.
PAUL: (to DEREK) I’d better nip this thing in the bud. (to TREE) Look here, no youngster is going to want a doddering old fool hanging about. You’re past your prime, way past.
TREE: May, you’ve been petrified that you could go from the grove to the grave, without having a younger one to carry on after you.
PAUL: And have her carry on with you? No, thank you!
TREE: All right, you’ve had your chance.
PAUL: But it was wasted on you. You’d love to strut your stuff for someone else, wouldn’t you? All I can say is, don’t ever try with me around.
TREE: I can still look, can’t I?
PAUL: But don’t touch. (to DEREK) Sorry, we didn’t mean to exclude you.
DEREK: That’s okay, I understand. My mom and dad used to fight like that all the time until they got divorced.
TREE: Marriage breakups can do a lot of damage. That’s another reason why we won’t get married. It would be too painful to break up later.
PAUL: L.M., you’re kindling a flame in my heart.
REE: Don’t let it engulf you.
DEREK: I just remembered that I came here to ask you directions.
PAUL: Is that why you were interrupting our conversation?
DEREK: Yes, I’m looking for a friend to play with.
TREE: Just a little further down the way you were headed, you’ll find a real “cool cat”. I think she’s near your age.
DEREK: What’s she like?
TREE: She’s a bit contradictory in nature.
DEREK: In what way?
TREE: She’s a philosopher who questions everything about life.
DEREK: Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?
PAUL: If you meet up with Regent Roxy, be gentle with him; he’s had a rocky time.
DEREK: Is that all?
PAUL: Yes, you’d better get going as this act’s about to fall.
DEREK: Thanks you. I’ll slip out by this fore stage.
(The curtain falls as DEREK exits. This time it’s for a regular-length intermission.)
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