Sistahs (1)


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Sistahs (1)

  1. 1. sistahs, a love story By Harrison David Rivers Harrison David Rivers 400 W. 119th Street, Apt. 2V New York, NY 10027 Cell: (347) 432-3534 Email:
  2. 2. dramatis personae. RETHA BAKER 20, female, black, the older sister, always doing something with her hands NINA BAKER 16, female, black, the younger sister, compulsive truth teller, teller of convenient lies GEORGE ROBINSON 21, male, the boy next door, libido kept in check by his indefatigable romanticism setting. Summertime. Not so long ago. Near Nicodemus, Kansas. The dusty front yard and porch of a farmhouse. 2
  3. 3. “me and you be sisters. we be the same. me and you coming from the same place. me and you be greasing our legs touching up our edges. me and you be scared of rats be stepping on roaches. me and you come running high down purdy street one time and mama laugh and shake her head at me and you. me and you got babies got thirty-five got black let our hair go back be loving ourselves be loving ourselves be sisters. only where you sing, I poet.” -Lucille Clifton, sisters “To my thinkin’ mourning oughtn’t tuh last no longer’n grieft” -Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God 3
  4. 4. prologue. The front yard and porch of a Kansas farmhouse. It is summer. And stinkin hot. Lights reveal THE SISTAHS, RETHA, 20, and NINA, 16. They melt. NINA reclines with her feet in RETHA’S lap. They fan themselves with vigor. A game is initiated. THE SISTAHS Mama says RETHA Wash yr face NINA Yr hands RETHA And yr feet before you go to bed NINA Say yr prayers RETHA Kneel down Fold your hands NINA And close yr eyes Tight RETHA Tight Close ‘em tight NINA ‘Cause GOD knows When you peek RETHA He always knows NINA Ask him for grace 4
  5. 5. RETHA Ask For Forgiveness THE SISTAHS Be polite NINA Mind yr p’s and q’s and h’s RETHA Say please and thank you and pardon me NINA Use missy ma’am and sir RETHA Comment on the Weather “Does it look like rain to you?” NINA On the décor “What a lovely credenza” RETHA WEAR CLEAN UNDERWEAR NINA And don’t you EVER let the hem of yr dress drag in the dirt RETHA Don’t you let yr hem drag NINA NEVER soil yr hem RETHA Eat yr vegetables NINA And chew with yr Mouth closed, RETHA 5
  6. 6. RETHA Elbows OFF The table, NINA NINA STOP yr Fidgeting RETHA STOP IT NOW NINA Sit up straight RETHA Sit up straight NINA I said, SIT UP STRAIGHT RETHA Remember yr a lady NINA So remember to act like a lady RETHA Remember that ladies act a certain way THE SISTAHS Ladies cross their Legs Like So. NINA crosses her legs at the knees. RETHA crosses her legs at the ankles. It is too hot to sustain these poses. THE SISTAHS melt. The game continues. Mama says RETHA Yr sistahs/Take care of each other NINA Yr sistahs/Be good to each other 6
  7. 7. RETHA Stay together NINA Want together RETHA Need together NINA Don’t let nothin come between ya RETHA Don’t let NOTHIN come between ya THE SISTAHS Mama says RETHA Yr sistahs NINA That’s right, sistahs RETHA And yr exactly the same NINA Exactly RETHA There ain’t no difference between ya NINA Ain’t no difference at all They stand. They speak simultaneously. RETHA NINA She says She says You have the same nose You have the same legs The same eyes The same arms The same mouth The same belly The same fingers The same breasts The same The same They briefly reference their genitalia and move on. 7
  8. 8. Toes Toes THE SISTAHS look each other up and down. Fanning. RETHA How are we the same again? THE SISTAHS look each other up and down. Still fanning. NINA We’re both melting in this heat RETHA I know that’s the truth They fan themselves some more. THE SISTAHS Our mama’s dead/Funny how she keeps right on talking… Lights fade on THE SISTAHS. 1. Early morning. Still dark. Lights reveal RETHA dressed in black. She stands in the yard looking out. She hears something. RETHA Mama? RETHA moves toward the sound. Silence. Mama, is that you? More silence. Then RETHA speaks. I need to strip the beds soon/Strip the beds and flip the mattresses/What was it you useta say/Care for it and it’ll care for you…/I’ll have to get Nina to help me… …Or George… 8
  9. 9. He’s back you know/George/Got here yesterday/Nina says he probably brought some girl with him/He’s probably engaged, she says/She says, you know how those big city girls are…/But I don’t know…/I’ve never been to the city… It seems like if George had gone and fallen inlove… he’d’ve said something Beat. I’ve thought on it a little/Love, I mean/Just a little/Everyone makes such a fuss over it/Nina for one/Chasing after this boy, then that boy/Did you see his eyes/Did you see his mouth/Did you see his…/Such a big world, she says/So many pretty boys/I said to her, yeah, but you only need one/And she said, what do you know, Retha What do you know…? NINA appears on the porch. She is dressed in black. What I know is that love is best in the winter/When its snowy and cold/Cause that’s when you want another body around/That’s when you want a body for warmth/But it’s too hot now/August/Seems like the sun’s already up and burning no matter what time you get outta bed…/No matter what you do can’t never seem to beat the heat Summer is no time for love… NINA Retha? A change. …What are you doing out here? RETHA Nothing just…/I ain’t doing nothing NINA moves to her sister. NINA I can’t sleep… They look out. You okay? RETHA Yeah… 9
  10. 10. Beat. Hey do you remember how we useta run around the yard catching fireflies? NINA Fireflies? RETHA Yeah, I was just thinking…/Remember/In the evenings/We useta catch em in our hands/In jars/And you useta scream whenever one of em would light on yr arm NINA I didn’t scream RETHA You were like… She demonstrates. NINA I never did that RETHA Yeah you did/Useta scream like a crazy person She demonstrates again. NINA Retha! RETHA What? NINA Stop! RETHA Oh come on/I’m just playing with you/…And yeah you did NINA Yr always playing/Always teasing/You think yr so funny RETHA I don’t NINA Yeah/You do 10
  11. 11. NINA sulks. RETHA Oh come on, Nina/Don’t be such a baby NINA Just cause yr the oldest RETHA (mocking her sister) “Just cause yr the oldest” NINA Doesn’t make me a baby/And it doesn’t mean you get to make fun RETHA I don’t NINA Yeah you DO/ALL the time RETHA Not ALL the time NINA Yeah/ALL the time RETHA scoffs. See? A long pause. RETHA softens. RETHA Fine She acquiesces. I’m sorry, okay? Beat. Nina Beat. What? Now yr not gonna talk to me? 11
  12. 12. NINA turns away from RETHA. A moment and then… RETHA takes a deep breath. I remember you always useta catch more fireflies than me NINA perks up. NINA I did? RETHA You know you did NINA turns around, smiling. NINA Yeah, I know/Mama useta say it was because I was so sweet RETHA That was bees, Nina/Mama useta say you were sweet and that’s how come you got stung all the time NINA No/That’s not what she said RETHA Yeah/It is/You got stung cause you were sweet/You caught more fireflies cause…/Well, who knows why/You were eager NINA That’s not the reason! RETHA If yr not going to tell the story right, Nina, then-- NINA --I WAS telling it right-- RETHA --No/Yr remembering it wrong/It was bees/Not fireflies/Bees-- NINA --Anyway! I don’t see why you’ve gotta be such a perfectionist about everything/It’s just a story, Retha-- 12
  13. 13. RETHA --It’s not just a story Beat. NINA Yeah/I know… Beat. I hate funerals I hate that people die… RETHA Yeah well so does everyone, Nina Ain’t nothing special about despising death Beat. NINA …Remember how mama useta sit up on the porch/We’d be running around with our jars and she’d be laughing/Remember Retha? Retha? A slow smile. RETHA With her sweet tea NINA Yeah/I don’t think I ever saw her drink anything but sweet tea RETHA That’s cause she never did/…We musta looked ridiculous/Chasing bugs in the dark NINA Aren’t any out tonight… RETHA It’s morning now/They’ve already gone… They look out. Long long silence. Then RETHA imitates MAMA. Watch it girls/Watch where yr running 13
  14. 14. NINA smiles. NINA If y’all run into each other I don’t wanna hear no crying RETHA Not a sniffle NINA Not a one THE SISTAHS Or I’ll give you something to cry about Long beat. NINA I keep thinking she’s working late at the store RETHA pulls NINA close. RETHA I know/I thought I heard her snoring/Woke me up, the thought NINA God, mama could snore RETHA Yeah/Like a tractor NINA Like ten tractors… Beat. I miss her snore Beat. Why is it that when people die we always remember the things about them that useta annoy us the most? A change. George is home/Can you believe it/Sleeping right over there 14
  15. 15. Beat. Georgie Porgie…/Home at last… Beat. That’s a nice thought at least… RETHA Yeah, it is… Lights fade on THE SISTAHS. 2. A car door slams, an ancient noise. Lights reveal GEORGE, 21, standing in the yard. He is dressed in a near fitting white dress shirt, dark slacks and dress shoes. He stands in the yard, hands pocketed. He waits, but nothing happens. He moves toward the porch then changes his mind. He exits. A moment and then a car door slams shut, louder this time, more deliberate. A moment and then a car horn blares. GEORGE returns. RETHA appears on the porch, holding a laundry basket on her hip. RETHA I thought I heard something GEORGE Yeah, I honked the horn. RETHA Is that what that was? I was wondering… GEORGE Yeah, I bet you were. RETHA breaks into a smile. GEORGE does as well. RETHA 15
  16. 16. Hey, George GEORGE Hey, Retha. It’s been awhile. RETHA Yeah, it has GEORGE Did you miss me? RETHA Please/You know I’ve been busy… More smiles. GEORGE Yeah, me too. A childish standoff. Who will be the first to move toward the other? RETHA Okay fine you win/Get over here and give me a hug They move to each other and embrace. Welcome home GEORGE Thanks. Sorry I’m so early. Overexcited I guess. My foot just… He laughs to himself. Well let’s just say it’s a good thing the speed limit is sixty-five. RETHA I know I don’t drive, George/But it seems to me that one should only go sixty-five miles an hour in times of emergency/You know, fires, accidents, getting a pregnant woman to the hospital…/Sixty five is not for visiting yr neighbor GEORGE I know. I do. But I… Well, I just couldn’t help it. I’ll go slower with you and Nina. 16
  17. 17. RETHA Uh huh… GEORGE I swear. … I cleaned out the cab. Mama said, “You can’t expect those girls to ride with you in that truck as filthy as it is.” So I vacuumed it out and waxed the interior. It looks loads better. I think you’ll like it. RETHA We appreciate the ride GEORGE It’s nothing. I mean, I was planning on going same as you. Well, not the same as you exactly, but I was gonna drive anyway so it works out perfectly. Besides how else were you gonna get to the church? RETHA God gave us feet for a reason, George GEORGE Yeah well I doubt God intended for you to walk to yr mama’s funeral. RETHA begins to fold laundry. I’m sorry about that, by the way. About yr mama. I don’t know if mine told you that I said-- RETHA --Yeah she sent word GEORGE She’s not always the best messenger-- RETHA --She sent a card/It was real sweet of you both GEORGE Well, good. GEORGE takes a breath. It’s nice being home… I mean, outside of mama constantly hugging me and kissing me and feeding me and talking about how much she missed me… RETHA 17
  18. 18. Well, you can hardly blame her for that, George/Four years is a long time to be away/To stay away GEORGE I didn’t stay away. RETHA Well, you certainly didn’t visit GEORGE I wrote. And I called every week. Didn’t she say? I swear it flew by. RETHA For you maybe/For you it might have flown by/But time passes differently here/Things move slower/You know that GEORGE Yeah, I guess… RETHA … You know, we were starting to think you weren’t ever coming back GEORGE You thought what…? RETHA …It’s just that New York…/Well, if it’s as exciting as people say it is, I don’t think anybody’d’ve blamed you for staying/I wouldn’t’ve blamed you … (curious) Was it as exciting as people say? GEORGE I dunno. I guess it was all right. RETHA You guess it was all right? You stayed away four years and all you’ve got to say is New York was all right? George Robinson you should be ashamed of yrself! GEORGE I just meant-- RETHA --If I was yr mama and you said those words to me after being that far away for that long, I’d knock you upside yr head 18
  19. 19. GEORGE Well then I guess it’s a good thing yr not my mama. RETHA Yeah, good thing…/Cause you know I’d wear you out A shared smile. GEORGE New York’s a lot different than here. It’s faster. And loud. And you can’t see the sky… I missed the sky. And the wind. The way it talks to you out in the tall grass… And the people. Well, some of them. You. And Nina, of course. She in the house? RETHA Yeah, she’s in there/Probably in front of a mirror/She spends an awful lot of time looking at hrself these days/She fancies hrself some kind of tragic beauty GEORGE I heard she graduated. RETHA Yeah, same weekend as you GEORGE Right. That’s what mama said. What’s she gonna do now? RETHA I dunno/She talked about college before, but now…/Well, things’ve sorta lost their surety GEORGE Yeah… RETHA …How bout you? You gonna stay put for a little while? GEORGE I dunno. A friend of mine says he can get me some freelance work back on the coast if I want it, but uh… I’m not sure. RETHA What’s there to be unsure of? You want to be a writer… GEORGE Yeah, I know I do. It’s just… Well, I guess I’d just as soon write here… … 19
  20. 20. You know people in the city would always joke about my being from Kansas. They’d make cracks about Dorothy and Toto. Asking me if I knew them. If we socialized. And I’d always be like, oh yeah, Dorothy’s my next-door neighbor. Her dog’s always digging around in my mom’s garden. … That always got a laugh in New York. … I guess folks around here aren’t really the target audience for that one. GEORGE watches RETHA fold. You look good, Retha. I mean--Not that you didn’t always look good before, you did--It’s just--Well, I haven’t seen you in a minute, you know? And I wasn’t sure how you were going to look exactly. You know, how you might have changed and well… He takes a breath. (a high compliment) You haven’t changed. RETHA blushes, she swallows a smile. RETHA You look good, too, George GEORGE beams. GEORGE You think? RETHA Yeah/All growed up GEORGE Yeah, I guess. I guess that’s what we are now. RETHA is looking at something. GEORGE tries to pinpoint her focus. It’s his shirt. Oh, I know, the shirt’s a disaster. RETHA It’s not that bad-- GEORGE --No, it’s awful. Go on and say it. Yr not gonna hurt my feelings. Mama bought it for me. She asked me what size and I didn’t know what to tell her. Medium? I said. Large? 20
  21. 21. It doesn’t really fit. RETHA It’s all right… RETHA moves to GEORGE. She runs her hands along the contours of the shirt, assessing the fit. He is nearly overwhelmed by her touch. GEORGE It’s cause my arms keep growing. Nothing else grows, mind you. I don’t get any taller. And I don’t gain any weight no matter what I eat. It’s just my arms. They get longer by the day. They’re a full six inches longer than I am tall. I measured them. Is that normal, do you think? RETHA You can barely tell/Just stop tugging on the cuffs GEORGE It looks a whole lot better with the jacket. I found it in the attic with the rest of my dad’s things. Mama always useta say, yr father may be a farmer, but he has excellent taste in clothes. RETHA Yeah/I remember… GEORGE Yeah… Hey. Hold on. GEORGE moves toward his offstage truck. RETHA Where you going? GEORGE To the truck. I’ll be right back-- RETHA --George-- GEORGE --One second! He exits. The sound of a door opening, then closing. RETHA smoothes her hair. She adjusts the waist of her dress. GEORGE returns pulling on a black suit 21
  22. 22. coat. What do you think? RETHA I think it’s just like a man to try and cover up the problem instead of dealing with it GEORGE Nah, that’s not--I just thought you could take a look-- RETHA --Putting on a jacket’s not gonna make yr shirt sleeves longer, George/It’s not gonna stop yr arms from growing GEORGE stops fussing with the jacket. He has one arm in and one arm out. GEORGE …I know that…I just wanted to show you… RETHA I’m sure we’ve got something here you can wear GEORGE Something here? RETHA You heard me RETHA moves to the basket of folded laundry. GEORGE Nah Retha, I can’t be wearing someone else’s clothes. RETHA Why not? RETHA continues before GEORGE can protest. We can’t have you tuggin on yr shirtsleeves during the whole service/It’ll be distracting/If not to you, then it will be to me RETHA looks through the basket, checking tags. GEORGE pulls on his shirt cuffs. He scoots dirt around with the toe of his shoe. Then thinks better of it and brushes them off. RETHA pulls out a shirt. This oughta do 22
  23. 23. She tosses the shirt to GEORGE. He catches it. Holds it. Well, don’t just stand there/Put it on GEORGE Out here? RETHA Where else you gonna change? … Don’t tell me you ran off to the big city and got all self-conscious/You useta run around here half naked all the time GEORGE That was a long time ago, Retha. I was a kid. RETHA What, you got hair on your chest now? Is that it? Acting all shy cause of a little chest hair? How many you got? One? Three? RETHA playfully attempts to count the hairs on GEORGE’S chest. GEORGE keeps her at bay. GEORGE You better leave me alone, Retha Baker. RETHA Oh yeah? GEORGE Yeah. RETHA Or what, George? What you gonna do? GEORGE What am I gonna do? RETHA That’s what I’m asking, city boy/What are you gonna do? GEORGE I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna pull yr hair like I used to. Yr mama’s not sitting up there on the porch no more. Ain’t nobody to stop me from-- 23
  24. 24. The words escape before he can stop them. He immediately regrets them. Oh God, Retha. I’m sorry. RETHA I’ll turn around if it’ll make you feel more comfortable GEORGE Retha-- RETHA --I’m turning around now She does. GEORGE Retha, I-- RETHA --Put on the shirt, George GEORGE But-- RETHA --Just put it on A moment and then GEORGE removes his shirt and slips into the new one. It don’t make no sense for a grown man with an Ivy League education to be wearing ill fitting shirts/It don’t make no sense at all GEORGE finishes buttoning. GEORGE All done. RETHA turns around. GEORGE presents himself. How do I look? RETHA Like a New Yorker 24
  25. 25. GEORGE I didn’t before? RETHA It’s all in the cuffs, George/It’s all in the cuffs RETHA begins to button GEORGE’S cuffs. A moment and then… GEORGE …Retha…? RETHA I’m right here, George GEORGE I swear I didn’t mean that bit about yr mama… I wasn’t thinking and-- RETHA finishes with GEORGES’ cuffs. RETHA --There you go/Now all you need is a tie-- GEORGE --Will you let me apologize? RETHA There’s no need-- GEORGE --Retha, please-- RETHA --I said there’s no need, George…/Just let it alone, okay? A moment and then GEORGE acquiesces. I think we’ve got a black tie inside somewhere.../It’ll just take me a few minutes to find it… RETHA moves toward the door. GEORGE I have one… actually. It’s in my… GEORGE searches for his tie. He finally locates it. I couldn’t tie it. I never learned how. 25
  26. 26. A moment and then… RETHA Give it here GEORGE hands the tie to RETHA. She loops it around his neck. GEORGE Sorry. It’s one of those things my dad sort of didn’t get around to teaching me. I’m hopeless, I know. RETHA manipulates the tie with speed and skill. RETHA You’d be amazed how many men don’t know how to tie their own ties/Grown men/They come into the shop/Slip into these beautiful shirts and don’t know how to tie a tie/I mean, a beautiful shirt is a beautiful shirt, but a tie…/That’s what draws attention to the shirt/Without the tie… Well, without the tie it’s just a shirt plain and simple GEORGE Maybe they just prefer that you tie them… RETHA Don’t be fresh, George GEORGE I’m just saying, men are-- RETHA --Men should know how to tie their own ties/Not knowing… Well, there’s just no excuse for not knowing/…It’s an epidemic really A moment while RETHA cinches up the knot. GEORGE Is there a cure, d’ya think? They are close. Anything could happen. … … … It doesn’t happen fast enough. NINA appears on the porch. NINA 26
  27. 27. Georgie Porgie! GEORGE and RETHA quickly separate. GEORGE Hey, Nina. NINA runs to GEORGE and wraps herself around him. He holds her awkwardly. NINA Yr mama said you were coming over/I thought for sure she was telling stories…/Retha, why didn’t you tell me George was here? RETHA I-- NINA --Keeping him all to yrself like always-- RETHA --I wasn’t keeping him to myself-- GEORGE --I just pulled up, Nina, honest-- NINA --Don’t you go making excuses for her, George-- GEORGE --I’m not making excuses-- RETHA --You heard the horn same as me-- NINA --Honestly Retha, I don’t know what yr talking about-- RETHA --Don’t know what I’m talking about!-- NINA --George Robinson, you look positively grown up/Doesn’t he look grown up, Retha? RETHA sighs and then humors her sister. RETHA 27
  28. 28. Yeah, he does NINA It must be the shirt NINA runs her hands over the fabric, clearly an attempt to illicit a response from GEORGE. It fits beautifully GEORGE and RETHA exchange a look. You know, George, I’m grown now too/I’m all done with school GEORGE Retha was just telling me. Congratulations. NINA Thank you/You shoulda seen me/I wore this cute little sky blue dress for the ceremony/And I let my hair down/And everybody said I looked just like I stepped out of the pages of a magazine GEORGE Well that’s… that’s great, Nina. NINA George, I want you to promise me something… GEORGE Uh well that depends… NINA If you go back east, promise you’ll take me with you RETHA Nina!-- NINA I just know that if you introduce me around I’ll fit right in GEORGE Honestly, I don’t think I know anyone worth meeting-- NINA --There’s no need to be modest, George/Yr mama told us how well you did in New York/And I don’t doubt that you made some connections-- 28
  29. 29. RETHA --That’s enough, Nina-- NINA --I’ll just die if I don’t see New York RETHA You ain’t gonna die NINA What do you know, Retha? RETHA I know melodrama when I hear it-- NINA --Anyway/Everybody says that’s where I belong/New York/Nicodemus is just too small/I mean, there’s nothing here but dirt and sky and…/Well, I need to be surrounded by people and activity/So it’s just essential that I go/I mean, just imagine it/Me in New York! NINA hugs GEORGE, hard. She doesn’t let go. GEORGE Uh… GEORGE doesn’t know what to say. Retha? RETHA Nina, let go of George/Yr hurting him NINA I am not RETHA Yeah you are/Yr hurting him and yr making a fool of yrself/Get off NINA George is a grown man/If he wants me off he can tell me himself GEORGE Actually, Nina-- 29
  30. 30. RETHA --Nina/That’s enough! RETHA and NINA struggle. RETHA is victorious. NINA All right/I’m off/God! You don’t have to be so mean about it A moment and then… (a performance) Our mother is dead, George GEORGE is unsure how to proceed. GEORGE Yeah, um… I know, Nina. NINA begins to cry. She hugs GEORGE again. RETHA Jesus, Nina! RETHA reaches for her sister. NINA Don’t you touch me! A moment and then… GEORGE Nina, I understand yr sad. I know when my dad… Well when he passed I… I didn’t know what to do either. NINA cries louder. But Nina it’s just that the funeral-- RETHA --Nina-- NINA --Why won’t you just let me be! RETHA We’re gonna miss the service if you don’t stop this foolishness-- 30
  31. 31. NINA --Anyway/Yr just saying that so I’ll let go-- RETHA --I am not-- NINA --Yeah you are too-- RETHA --George/Tell her-- NINA --George… Both girls turn to GEORGE. GEORGE Um well actually… He doesn’t want to ally himself with either girl. …It’s almost ten so… we should probably be getting on-- RETHA --See there? NINA I didn’t realize it was so late I’m not ready yet RETHA You look ready enough to me NINA (to RETHA, short) Well, I’m not Zoe Samuels…/You remember her, right, George? She says her aunt and uncle met at a funeral/They didn’t plan for it/They didn’t mean to fall in love, but they did/She said that he was tall and shy and that they fell in love over fried okra at the reception after the service/And I couldn’t help thinking that maybe, maybe that could happen to somebody else/Like maybe to me RETHA begins to speak, NINA continues. And I don’t say it to be inappropriate or disrespectful or nothing/It’s just that mama’s dead and I never knew my daddy and slowly the world is changing/And I’m tired of being alone/And maybe… if I think of today as the beginning of something/The potential beginning of something/Then I won’t feel so much like it’s the end… 31
  32. 32. So I’ve got to look my best/Cause you never know who might be at the service/I could meet my forever today/Cause I want a forever/And I’m not ashamed to admit it/I want a forever/And I don’t see why I should have to wait forever for forever to start NINA exits into the house. RETHA I’m sorry about that-- GEORGE Nah, it’s okay. She’s sad. I get it. RETHA She likes attention is more like it… Realizes how awful she sounds. And she’s sad/Mostly she’s sad A moment and then… GEORGE I drove past the church earlier. There were already a lot of cars. Yr mama knew everybody. RETHA Yeah well Nicodemus is a small town GEORGE It is, but that ain’t it. Yr mama was a good woman, Retha. Word travels fast about the passing of a good woman. Beat. RETHA Thank you, George GEORGE Sure… You know, I was thinking on the way over-- RETHA --While you were speeding? A smile. GEORGE 32
  33. 33. Yeah, while I was speeding. I was thinking that you and Nina have been my best friends since I can remember. RETHA Well, we were born neighbors, George/We didn’t have much choice in the matter GEORGE I know, but… well I like to think we would’ve been friends even if we hadn’t lived right next door to each other. I like to think that someday, even if we had lived in different places, led different lives, that we would’ve found each other eventually. RETHA Maybe so… RETHA folds. GEORGE It’s good to see you, Retha. RETHA You too, George GEORGE I mean it. RETHA So do I… GEORGE takes a deep breath. RETHA takes a deep breath. GEORGE I thought about you in New York. RETHA Seems to me there’d be better things to think about in such a big city GEORGE It wasn’t on purpose. I mean, I didn’t intend to… It was just… well an inclination, I guess. A natural sort of… Like I’d see something at a museum, a painting or a sculpture. Or I’d be at a play and the first thing I’d think would be, I wonder what Retha’d say about this or what Retha’d think of that. I remember I always liked hearing what you had to say about things. …Retha-- RETHA 33
  34. 34. --I should probably put these clothes away RETHA doesn’t move. GEORGE crosses to her. A moment and then… He leans in. NINA appears on the porch. She is crying. Nina, what is it? NINA I couldn’t remember where I put my gloves/You know the black ones with the little bit of lace on the back? Well, I looked everywhere/The front hall table/The kitchen counter…/These are all I could find… She holds up a pair of gloves. They’re mamas/They were in her sock drawer RETHA comforts her sister. RETHA Come on now/Come on… NINA She had such little hands A moment and then… GEORGE I’ll just go start the truck. RETHA We’ll be right there GEORGE looks back at RETHA before exiting. Come on now/Stop yr crying/Mama wouldn’t want us to cry anymore than necessary NINA I can’t help it/I’m not like you/I can’t hold it inside/I cry when I’m sad RETHA I don’t hold it inside all the time NINA Oh yeah? When’s the last time you cried? 34
  35. 35. RETHA Nina, that’s not…/Crying doesn’t have anything to do with-- NINA --You can’t even remember, can you? You can’t remember the last time you cried because you haven’t RETHA Everybody’s different/Just because you haven’t seen me cry doesn’t mean I’m not sad/She was both our mamas, Nina/Yours and mine/How could I not be sad? NINA I dunno/I dunno how/But I know what sad looks like/I know what it looks like and you don’t look it/Not at all A moment and then… RETHA Better put yr hat on/George is waiting RETHA and NINA put on their hats and gloves, a choreographed ritual. A deep breath and then… Okay… The lights fade as they exit. 3. Later. After the post-funeral gathering. Laughter. Lights reveal GEORGE and NINA drinking beer on the porch. NINA She was the fattest lady I’d ever seen! I don’t even know how she got herself out of bed in the morning GEORGE Remember how at church it would take three men to get her up out of the pew after the sermon? Two to pull from the front and one to push from the back? They’d be like, “You got her? You sure you got her?” NINA 35
  36. 36. When I was little I thought she was a giant pink balloon/Honest, I did! I remember I asked mama, “If I stick Ms. Sullivan with a needle, will she pop?” GEORGE And what’d she say? NINA “Probably” GEORGE Probably is right More laughter. NINA Mama had a wicked sense of humor GEORGE Yeah, I remember. A moment and then… The service was nice. NINA Yeah it was GEORGE Short. NINA Mama was always saying, “More people would find the Lord if more ministers would shorten their sermons” GEORGE There’s definitely some truth in that. Beat. NINA …I miss her GEORGE puts a hand on NINA’S shoulder. GEORGE Course you do. She was yr mama. A moment and then… 36
  37. 37. NINA You know what? I’ve been sad all day/The last thing I want to be tonight is more sad NINA turns to GEORGE. Tell me something funny, George/Make me laugh GEORGE What? Make you--? NINA --Make me laugh/Tell me a joke/Anything/Just-- GEORGE --I don’t really know any jokes-- NINA --A funny story then… A moment and then… Hurry, George/Make me laugh before I cry again-- GEORGE --Um okay just give me a second-- NINA --I don’t have a second, George-- GEORGE --Christ, Nina-- NINA --Hurry!-- GEORGE --Uh-- NINA --Come on, George-- GEORGE --Ms. Sullivan wears a girdle! NINA What? 37
  38. 38. GEORGE Uh… Ms. Sullivan wears a-- NINA --Yeah I heard that part/How do you know that she… GEORGE Well… NINA (scandalized) Oh my God/George Robinson, did you--? GEORGE Did I--? God no! NO Nothing like that, Nina! How could you even--See what happened was Tom Cooke and I were walking by her house one night. This was years ago. We must’ve been what? Twelve? Thirteen? It was junior high. And her curtains were open. And she was sitting at her dressing table in nothing but a girdle. NINA She wasn’t! GEORGE Yeah she was. And while we were standing there she stood up and unlaced it. NINA No! GEORGE Oh yeah. NINA You didn’t watch though! GEORGE Are you kidding? We couldn’t look away! NINA George Robinson, yr making this up! GEORGE I’m not, I swear. I wish you could’ve seen her. She took off that girdle and literally doubled in size! I mean, it was unbelievable. Me and Tom couldn’t keep our eyes in our heads. We didn’t know what to do. Go? Stay? I mean, we were just kids… NINA 38
  39. 39. Nasty kids/Boys! GEORGE I guess. That was the first time I ever saw a naked woman. NINA A lot of naked woman/You saw a whole lotta naked woman GEORGE Yeah, I did, didn’t I? NINA Enough for two firsts maybe even GEORGE Yeah. Funny I wasn’t put off women in full after that… You know, I hate funerals. I mean, death in general just… Well… it sorta freaks me out, you know? I mean, it’s not like anyone gets jazzed about dying, but well… Today turned out okay. Thanks for sitting with me. NINA Course, George/Yr good company GEORGE blows across another beer bottle. You know people talk about you all the time GEORGE People? What people? NINA What people? Everybody George/Don’t tell me you don’t remember how it is in a small town/People are always speculating about the one’s who go away/And you went a lot farther away than most/I mean, people go to Denver or Kansas City/But you took off outta here/Like a shot/Off to a city no one here’s ever been to/A kind of mythical place/Like OZ or something/Only on the coast/Given that, people can’t help but make up stories GEORGE I ain’t done much. NINA Doesn’t matter/Honestly, it wouldn’t matter if you never did a thing with yr life/It’s enough that you left 39
  40. 40. GEORGE I couldn’t stay around here with the cows. New York would’ve been hard thing to turn down. NINA I’m not faulting you for going, George/I’m not saying you shoulda chosen something different/If I could go somewhere else, I would GEORGE Retha said you were thinking about college. NINA Thinking yeah/But not about any place like Columbia… GEORGE It doesn’t have to be Columbia. There are good schools in Kansas… NINA It doesn’t matter anyway/Mama got sick and now she’s dead and I didn’t apply so… She turns to GEORGE. We sure did lose something when you went away/Yr the best man to come out of this town in a long time GEORGE Well, thanks Nina. Though I’m not sure that’s altogether true. NINA Course it is/I probably wouldn’t be saying this to yr face if I hadn’t had one of these already…/But it’s true all the same … You know, sometimes I would wonder what you were doing in New York/Like I’d be sitting in my room and I’d think, I wonder what George Robinson is up to this very minute GEORGE …Probably homework… NINA I’d wonder if you were seeing a show or riding in a cab/I’d wonder if you were out with some girl… GEORGE Some girl…? 40
  41. 41. NINA Yeah, you know/Just silly thoughts/A way to pass the time here in the middle of nowhere GEORGE I guess it’s nice to be on people’s minds… NINA …You know what else I’d wonder, George? GEORGE I’m sure I have no idea-- NINA --I’d wonder if you’d kissed anybody/And where you kissed em/On the cheek/The mouth-- GEORGE That’s an awful particular thing to be wondering about, Nina… NINA Is it? I didn’t mean it in any particular way They both look out. You know, I went with Lucas Brown for awhile/You remember Lucas, don’t you? He asked me to go with him/And he’d always been nice and sorta sweet/And I’d always liked his eyes/So I said yes/But it turned out he was only interested in--/Well, he was only interested in the same thing all boys seem to be only interested in/I said to him, Lucas Brown, you can hold my hand, but no more/He’s going with Molly Bradshaw now/She puts out I ain’t kissed nobody else though/Just you… GEORGE Nina-- NINA --George, can I ask you a question? GEORGE I think it might depend very much on the question... NINA Do you think I’m pretty? 41
  42. 42. GEORGE Do I think--? NINA --It’s just that Retha’ll laugh at me if I ask her/She’ll say it doesn’t matter one way or the other and that I’m just being vain/And I can’t ask a boy, cause boys’ll say anything if they think they have a shot at--well you know/But yr different, George/I trust you/I know you’ll tell me the truth/Do you think I’m pretty? GEORGE Sure you are, Nina/You know you are NINA What part do you think is the prettiest? GEORGE Oh God, I don’t know-- NINA --Is it my hair? Cause lots of boys say they like my hair GEORGE You do have nice hair NINA Yeah? GEORGE Well sure, if people are telling you-- NINA --No, not people, George/You/What do you think? GEORGE Honestly, Nina-- NINA --Cause I think yr handsome/I think yr probably the most handsome boy in town/Even when yr not here/It’s like even the idea of you is handsomer than the reality of everybody else/And I’m not ashamed to say it either GEORGE Now that’s the alcohol talking… NINA I’m not too young, you know/I’m not too young to know things/To know how it works/I know about the world of men and women and politics 42
  43. 43. GEORGE (Trying to make it a joke) Well, you’ve got me beat then. NINA I could teach you… NINA moves in. GEORGE shifts. GEORGE You know, I think maybe one of us should go in and check on Retha. NINA Retha’s perfectly content washing dishes and sweeping floors/You stay right here with me …You’ve got big hands GEORGE Do I? NINA Uh huh/Good for all sorts of things… NINA plays with GEORGE’S hand. Then guides it to her breast. GEORGE Nina-- NINA --A lot of boys say they like my breasts/Do you like my breasts, George? GEORGE They’re… A moment and then… Look, Nina-- NINA interrupts him with a kiss. A moment and then GEORGE pulls away. Okay. I’ve… definitely had too much to drink. NINA (With a smile) Yeah, me too… 43
  44. 44. NINA moves in for another kiss. GEORGE Wait, Nina… NINA What is it, George? GEORGE I… Well, it’s just that… What I’m trying to say is-- NINA --Here, let me help… NINA moves in once again. GEORGE No. Nina. Stop. NINA Why? There’s no one around… GEORGE It’s not that. It’s just… Look, Nina. Yr a good girl. NINA A good girl? GEORGE Yeah/Yr like a sister me. And brothers and sisters they don’t… Well, yr old enough to know what brothers and sisters don’t do. NINA But George I don’t wanna be yr sister-- GEORGE --I’m sorry. I mean… I should go. Thank you for a lovely evening… I’m real sorry about yr mama… NINA Wait, George GEORGE I’m sorry, Nina. 44
  45. 45. GEORGE exits. NINA George--! Lights fade on NINA. 4. The next day. Lights reveal RETHA hanging white sheets on a clothesline. NINA fiddles with a radio. Static. Static. RETHA Nina, come on now NINA Hold yr horses She fiddles some more. RETHA You’ve been fiddling with that thing for ten minutes/There’s nothing on the radio but static “Day Dreaming” by Aretha Franklin begins to play. NINA (Does) That sound like static to you? Told you I’d find something NINA starts to sing along. RETHA Well, now that you found it you might as well turn it up They enjoy the music. They dance with laundry, using shirts as male dance partners. Perhaps some of their dance is choreographed. The dancing continues until NINA gets a little too freaky with her partner. RETHA puts an end to NINA’S display. 45
  46. 46. Nina! Stop that! Somebody might see you NINA So? RETHA So that’s not how a lady is supposed to act NINA Well, maybe I don’t want to be a lady NINA absentmindedly drops her end of the sheet. RETHA Nina Baker, I’m gonna pretend you didn’t say that/And hold up yr end/It’s dragging in the dirt (scolding) Acting like you ain’t got no sense/Like you ain’t got no home training/What would mama say? They fold laundry. NINA You know, he kissed me once RETHA Excuse me? … Nina Baker WHO’D you let kiss you? NINA …Never mind… RETHA Never mind? You better unbutton those lips of yrs and tell me Nina! NINA! RETHA pinches her sister. NINA OW! God, Retha! RETHA WHO’D YOU LET KISS ON YOU? NINA 46
  47. 47. WHO DO YOU THINK? A long moment. RETHA …You mean, George… Beat. I… Beat. When? Nina, when did you…? NINA Before he left for school…/He came by the house one day/I don’t know where you were/At the store probably/And he asked me if I wanted to go splorin/Splorin? I said/Splorin where? And he said, down by the river/And I told him, I’m not going down there and ruining my dress over some stupid frogs/Cause I thought he wanted to catch frogs…/But he had this look on his face like his asking me to go down to the river didn’t have nothing to do with frogs/So I went/And it didn’t/And he kissed me NINA goes back to folding. A moment and then… RETHA But you never said anything… NINA He made me promise not to tell anyone/Said it was between him and me/He’s very… discreet NINA continues to fold. RETHA You told mama for sure though…/I bet she laid into you real good-- NINA --Mama can’t be bothered with things that mama don’t know RETHA You…/You mean you didn’t tell her? NINA I promised, George… 47
  48. 48. RETHA …But mama-- NINA --But mama nothing, Retha/Mama didn’t have all the answers/Mama didn’t know everything RETHA I know/I know that/I just… I just thought we told her things/I thought we told her everything NINA Maybe YOU did Beat. RETHA Nina… NINA Retha! The sheet! RETHA picks up the sheet she’s let drop. Telling me to focus… They continue to fold in silence. RETHA Nina…? NINA What? … WHAT? RETHA What’d it feel like? NINA What’d what feel like? RETHA Kissing somebody… /Kissing George… Cause, you know, I’ve thought on it/Not a lot, but some/On how it’d be/How it’d feel… 48
  49. 49. …I’ve brushed my lips against the back of my hand/I’ve held them there against my skin/And felt wetness and warmth/I’ve licked and sucked and tasted soap and salt/I think my lips are soft…/But a hand can’t kiss back… A moment and then… What does it feel like to kiss someone? NINA thinks and then. NINA You can’t explain something like a kiss, Retha/You just have to feel it for yrself NINA takes the basket of clothes inside the house. Lights fade on RETHA. 5. Lights reveal GEORGE. GEORGE I think Freud had it wrong. Boys don’t want to sleep with their mothers. They want to kill them. They dream of hitting them over the head with blunt objects. A tuba. Some… garden tool. Or slitting their throats. Gutting them with a butter knife over toast at the breakfast table. Slipping poison into their nightly glass of Metamucil. They find themselves pondering the inappropriate because mothers never shut up, because mothers always have something to say. Mama says, “I wanna hold my grandbaby before I die.” Mama says, “Find a nice girl and bring her home so I can meet her.” Mama says, “Don’t you want to get married?” And she’s surprised to find that when you finally do come home after being away for so long that yr alone. Because she thought that that was the point of going away… to find something, that thing you had to leave to find. But the truth is that the thing you wanted was here all the time. And you’ve been thinking about it, about her, since before you left. And you’ve only come back to… Well… You’re not quite sure about that part yet. The thing is, you want something so badly for so long that you don’t know what kinda person you’d be without the ache. It’s like, if you ever got what you wanted, you’d lose yrself entirely. 49
  50. 50. Lights fade on GEORGE. 6. Later that afternoon. THE SISTAHS sit on the porch. They fan themselves with vigor. There is an abandoned basket of laundry nearby. NINA God, it’s hot RETHA Don’t you go blaming God for the warmth of the day NINA I didn’t say warm/I said hot/It’s nigger hot out here RETHA Nina! NINA What? You know I’m not saying nothing that ain’t true RETHA Well, you don’t have to say it like that NINA There’s no one here but us, Retha/No one else can hear what I say RETHA All the same NINA (mocking her sister) “All the same” They fan themselves. RETHA attempts to initiate the game. RETHA Mama says wash yr face… NINA doesn’t respond. Nina/Mama says… 50
  51. 51. NINA Mama useta say nigger hot RETHA Yeah, well, mama is mama is different/Are you gonna play or what? NINA Mama’s dead, Retha/And I don’t think she cares a lick what we say now that she’s gone … This fan is doing absolutely nothing RETHA There’s lemonade in the icebox if you want some NINA Only way lemonade’ll do any good is if I pour it on myself/Besides, it’s too hot to move RETHA smiles. RETHA Maybe it’ll snow later… NINA Yeah and maybe all the Robinson’s cows’ll sprout wings and fly away… She has an idea. You know what we should do? RETHA What? NINA We should go swimming/We should go down to the river and go swimming RETHA Is there any water in the river? NINA Why wouldn’t there be? It rained last week remember? RETHA Was that last week? NINA You know it was 51
  52. 52. Come on, Retha/We haven’t gone swimming in ages RETHA I’d have to dig for my suit… NINA What are you talking about? We don’t need suits RETHA Don’t need…/Nina, we can’t go down there without any clothes on/Someone might see NINA Who? Who’s gonna see? RETHA I dunno, Nina/Someone/George could be down there NINA So? RETHA So what if he saw us…? NINA So what if he did? RETHA Stop that, Nina! It’s indecent thinking that way/Mama would never approve NINA Yeah, well, mama doesn’t make the rules around here any more/And I don’t think it’d be such a bad thing to be seen by a boy/Naked or otherwise RETHA NINA! NINA We’re not old maids, Retha/We’re young and healthy and in the middle of nowhere and it’s hot/Stinkin hot/Nigger hot … Just think how nice it’ll feel in the water/How much fun it’ll be to splash around…/You could use a good splashing RETHA Excuse me? NINA 52
  53. 53. You could and you know it! Come on, Retha/Let’s go! GEORGE appears. GEORGE Where y’all headed? NINA Well look who it is… George Robinson/What do you want? RETHA Nina! NINA Oh calm down/I’m just playing… We were just talking about going down to the river for a swim, George/You wanna come? GEORGE You going, Retha? NINA It was my idea/Retha’s being a stick in the mud RETHA I am not being a-- NINA --You are too/Apparently it’s not hot enough for her RETHA That wasn’t my objection and you know it NINA Maybe if you come George, Retha’ll change her mind RETHA Nina-- GEORGE --It is awful hot… NINA 53
  54. 54. See there/Two against one/That means yr coming/It’ll be better with three people anyway/We can play a game! Remember how we useta play Marco Polo? RETHA Yeah/And how you would cheat and open yr eyes NINA I did not! RETHA You did so NINA George, did I? GEORGE I’m sorry, Nina, but Retha’s right. GEORGE imitates NINA playing Marco Polo, eyes wide open. RETHA laughs. You never did play fair. NINA Whatever/Y’all are just sore cause I was good RETHA Like you were good at Hide and Seek? RETHA imitates NINA playing Hide and Seek, eyes wide open. GEORGE joins in. NINA I didn’t do that! And it’s no fair you two ganging up on me! RETHA You useta say that too/You’d be standing in the yard crying and screaming about how me and George weren’t playing fair/And mama’d come down off the porch and help you look/But of course, she’d had her eyes open the whole time too so it didn’t really matter if we’d hidden cause mama already knew exactly where we were NINA Well, I don’t remember that RETHA Course you don’t/You only remember winning NINA 54
  55. 55. I needed extra help/Y’all were older than me RETHA By four years, Nina/Four years/And it’s not as if there was anything malicious about our play/It was Hide and Seek/We were supposed to hide/And you were supposed to try and find us/It wasn’t supposed to be easy NINA You don’t have to school me on Hide and Seek, Retha/I know how to play Hide and Seek RETHA Now maybe, but then… forget it/I remember I hated playing games with you A long moment… GEORGE So… My mama wanted me to invite y’all to dinner tonight… That’s why I’m here, to invite you. Both of you. I’m supposed to come right back and let her know what you say. All I know is that she’s making potato salad. She shooed me out of the kitchen before I could see much else. But my mama makes a real good potato salad. Beat. RETHA We’d love to come, George/Tell yr mama thank you for the invitation-- NINA explodes. NINA --What do you know, Retha? What do you know about anything? Hide and Seek or potato salad or anything? RETHA Nina-- NINA --You ain’t never even been kissed by nobody/Never/You ain’t never been kissed by nothing but the back of yr hand NINA kisses the back of her own hand, mocking her sister. A long moment and then… RETHA I think I…/Um…/Excuse me RETHA exits. GEORGE watches her go. 55
  56. 56. GEORGE You didn’t have to do that. NINA People who don’t know what they’re talking about shouldn’t say anything at all GEORGE Nina, she’s yr sister. NINA I know she’s my sister, George/Just because we’re from the same mother, doesn’t mean we’re the same person GEORGE is quiet. He absentmindedly starts to fold laundry. …I see the way you look at her GEORGE I look at her the same way I look at everybody. NINA No/You don’t… A change. But that’s all right/I can live with that, George/I can NINA touches GEORGE’S hand. GEORGE GOD! I always end up doing chores when I come over here. NINA …She doesn’t want to get married, George/Did you know that/She told me so hrself/She’s completely uninterested in marriage/Me on the other hand… GEORGE Nina, I told you-- NINA --I’m not yr sister, George/I don’t never want to be yr sister NINA kisses GEORGE. A moment and then GEORGE kisses her back. Those city girls can’t make you happy/They don’t know you like I do/They don’t know what you need/Not like I do 56
  57. 57. NINA moves in for another kiss. George stops her. GEORGE Nina…I’m gonna go see about, Retha. NINA Why? Why you wanna to go see about her? I already told you-- GEORGE --I just want to make sure she’s okay, is all. NINA YOU KISSED ME/Remember? Down by the river before you left/ME/You kissed me on the mouth GEORGE Nina, that was like four years ago. We were kids. NINA Do I look like a kid to you, George? Look at me/I’m all grown up/Don’t you like what you see? A long moment and then… GEORGE Nina… A change. NINA You know, you can tell a lot from the way a boy says yr name/What he wants/How he feels/What he doesn’t want/What he doesn’t feel…/You always say my name like…/Like how I imagine a brother would say it…/Nina… GEORGE Nina… NINA See? There it is again … Mama always said men were trouble/She always said, do without, girls, do without/Cause there ain’t no kinda trouble like the trouble a man’ll bring on ya/No kinda trouble/She knew, my mama/She knew about men/And she knew about you/I didn’t know it then but she was talking about YOU … 57
  58. 58. I shoulda listened NINA exits at a run, crying. GEORGE Nina! Nina wait! NINA! Goddammit. GODDAMMIT! He tosses a shirt to the ground in frustration. RETHA enters. RETHA I hope that wasn’t clean… GEORGE Oh sorry... I was just… trying to finish up. Turns out I’m a hopeless folder. … Listen, about before-- RETHA --Nina needs more than I do/More attention/More… well more everything/She’s always been that way/I don’t know why I fight her, it’s… well, it’s silly/Mama wouldn’t like it GEORGE Retha… RETHA I’m fine, George/I’m fine just…/Let it alone… Beat. You know, mama useta say there were only two reasons why a person couldn’t fold clothes properly/Either they were thinking too much/Or they weren’t thinking at all/Which one are you, George? GEORGE I dunno. Both maybe. RETHA smiles. RETHA Give me yr hands RETHA begins to show GEORGE how to fold. She doesn’t need words. Nina hates laundry/She always has/But me… I can’t think of anything more relaxing than folding/I have all my best ideas while I’m folding shirts and underwear/The thing 58
  59. 59. is… You do it long enough and you develop a sense, a kind of natural rhythm/Yr hands just know what to do/And yr mind is free to wander wherever… I think-- GEORGE kisses RETHA. The kiss breaks. A moment and then RETHA goes back to folding. Mama taught me how to fold/Me and Nina both/She worked in a K & D Clothiers for twenty years/Everything in our house gets folded up just like in the shop-- GEORGE --Retha. RETHA Uh huh GEORGE I just kissed you. RETHA Yeah, I know GEORGE And? RETHA And what, George? GEORGE Well, don’t you have anything to say about that? RETHA’S face spreads in a slow smile. RETHA You could do it again if you wanted to GEORGE smiles. GEORGE I want to. RETHA Well then… They kiss again. GEORGE touches RETHA’S hair. 59
  60. 60. GEORGE I remember once, I was thirteen and I came over to ask if you wanted to catch frogs down by the river. Only you were busy doing chores and your mama wouldn’t let you go anywhere until you were done. I remember I had my heart set on catching frogs with you cause you were the only girl that didn’t scream when they squirmed in your hands or jumped up your dress. So I said I’d help so you could finish faster. You tried to show me how to fold then too. But I couldn’t concentrate. All I wanted to do was kiss you. RETHA Why didn’t you? GEORGE God, I dunno. I guess I was afraid you wouldn’t kiss me back. RETHA You shouldn’t have been so worried about that GEORGE Well I was. You know, everyone assumes that boys… that we know things. You know, what we want and how to go about getting it. People think there’s like this big plan, but… there’s not. Boys get scared the same as girls. I think yr mama would have killed me. RETHA George no-- GEORGE --She could be scary sometimes, yr mama. RETHA She wasn’t scary GEORGE You didn’t see the way she looked at me sometimes. Like… Like I can’t even describe it… I’m seven years old and she’s looking at me, looking right through me, like she’s seeing straight into my heart. RETHA That’s just what mama’s do/They see things we don’t see/Things we can’t see 60
  61. 61. GEORGE It’s like she knew how I felt before I did. Like she knew someday I’d grow up-- RETHA --Of course yr gonna grow up, George/We all do-- GEORGE --Nah, I don’t mean that. It’s like she knew I’d be a threat. RETHA What do you mean threat? What kinda threat? GEORGE I dunno. It’s like she knew I’d take you away. RETHA Away… GEORGE Yeah, away. RETHA To New York? GEORGE To wherever you want to go. Yr mama wouldn’t’ve liked that. RETHA Well maybe not at first/But that’s only cause mama’s have to be protective/It’s their job, George/They don’t mean no harm/Mama’s want their children to be happy GEORGE Nah Retha, mama’s intrude. They forget to let us make our own decisions. Mama’s don’t let us live our own lives. RETHA I woulda kissed you that day/I woulda-- GEORGE --Not if yr mama hadn’t given you her blessing, you wouldn’t’ve. … We’re better off without them. Something changes. RETHA 61
  62. 62. My sister likes you/She’s liked you for a long time GEORGE I like YOU. RETHA You kissed her GEORGE I kissed YOU. I’m here with YOU, Retha. I want YOU. RETHA gives GEORGE a look. It was four years ago. It didn’t mean anything. RETHA A kiss always means something to somebody GEORGE Retha, how was I supposed to know-- RETHA --Mama says nothin should come between sistahs GEORGE Your mama’s not here, Retha. It’s just us. You and me. RETHA Not a kiss/Not a man… GEORGE It doesn’t matter what she said. A change. RETHA gathers up the laundry. RETHA I need to fold the rest of these clothes GEORGE Retha… RETHA Change the sheets on the beds/Flip the mattresses… GEORGE Retha, please don’t… RETHA 62
  63. 63. I need to do the little everyday things that people forget to do/Mama useta say we’d forget to breathe if it was left up to us GEORGE When I close my eyes at night I see you. RETHA When I close my eyes I don’t see nothing but the backs of my eyelids/It’s awful dark when I close my eyes GEORGE I imagine what it would be like to touch you. To taste you. RETHA I ain’t made of chocolate, George GEORGE I don’t believe you. He moves to her. RETHA No, George…/I can’t/I’m sorry RETHA moves past GEORGE. He catches her from behind and holds her. His hands travel the length of her body -- her neck, breasts, belly, up her dress. RETHA responds to his touch. They move to the ground. GEORGE works to unbutton his pants. Seduction turns to adolescent frenzy. RETHA panics. “Georgie Porgie puddin' and pie/Kissed the girls and made them cry…” GEORGE Retha… RETHA scoots away from GEORGE. Retha, I’m… Please-- RETHA --Better pull up yr pants/Yr mama’s right next-door/She’s liable to see RETHA exits into the house. GEORGE pulls up his pants. A long moment. 63
  64. 64. GEORGE moves toward the porch then changes his mind and moves to exit. He almost runs into NINA. NINA Oh/It’s you… GEORGE Nina… NINA I thought you’d be gone by now/I thought by the time I counted to a thousand forwards and backwards/By the time I cooled off in the river you’d’ve left/Gone home/Back to New York or wherever But no/Boys just don’t know when to get gone NINA moves past GEORGE. GEORGE Nina… She continues. NINA! NINA turns. NINA WHAT George? What you got to say? A moment and then… GEORGE takes a deep breath. GEORGE Wanna go splorin? Lights fade. 8. Night. Lights reveal RETHA. She stands in the yard looking out. 64
  65. 65. There are lightning bugs everywhere. The effect is magical. RETHA hears something. RETHA Mama? RETHA moves toward the sound. Silence. Mama, are you there? A lightning bug lands on her arm. She catches it. Peeks at it through her fingers. “Watch it girls/Watch where yr running If y’all run into each other I don’t wanna hear no crying Not a sniffle/Not a one” RETHA opens her hand. The lightning bug flies away. “Or I’ll give you something to cry about…” NINA appears. Then GEORGE. They are both disheveled. GEORGE Nina, I-- Are you okay? Nina, are you okay? Did I hurt you? Did I--? Cause I didn’t… I didn’t mean to… NINA doesn’t look at GEORGE. It’s just… I’ve never done that before. Not with anyone. So I’m not sure if… I mean… I guess, that’s how it’s supposed to... How we’re supposed to… NINA doesn’t look at GEORGE. Only-- 65
  66. 66. Only I didn’t expect the crying Nina, please stop crying. Nina, please. NINA doesn’t look at GEORGE. I thought this was what you… Wasn’t it? NINA doesn’t look at GEORGE. Should I go get someone? Do you want me to get Retha--? NINA looks at GEORGE. NINA No RETHA George likes me, mama/He likes me NINA I’m fine GEORGE But yr crying. RETHA And I like him NINA I don’t want my sister RETHA I like him back, mama GEORGE It’s just that usually when a person cries-- NINA --Go home, George. GEORGE But Nina-- 66