a play by Bishop & Fuller
based on improvisations by
The Independent Eye Genesis Ensemble
students of Towson State University
Sophia Weatherlee — Heiress. Mid-50’s. Energetic but arthritic.
Chuck Ratowitz — Carpenter. Mid-20’s.
Dee — Waitress. Mid-20’s. Chuck’s girlfriend, then wife.
Marty — Carpenter/foreman. 40’s. Artificial leg. Married.
Tour Guide — Late 50’s. Uniformed. Black glasses.
Tourist Trio — Dad, Mom, and Teenage Daughter, in masks.
The play begins in 1999. It spans 38 years, ending in 1999.
Unit set: small rooms formed by walls of bare 2x4 studs, no wallboard. At right, Sophia’s living room. At left, Chuck & Dee’s kitchen, later Chuck’s office. Upstage, work area with sawhorse.
During the action, 2x4 studs and joists are added, progressively expanding it into a complex spider web of architecture.
The sounds of construction are under most of the scenes. Music themes underpin the monologues of the Tour Guide and Dee, and other sequences that extend beyond realism.
A score by Elizabeth Fuller for the Philadelphia production is available.
© 1998 by Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller. All rights reserved.
For production information, contact WordWorkers, 800-357-6016 or E-mail.
The characters are seen dimly. Dee sits at the kitchen table. Chuck stands at a distance. Three Tourists are huddled in the background. Sophia sits in her chair, Marty waits in the doorway.
The Tour Guide appears. He reaches to a light switch, flips it on: light on Dee.
DEE: We were in high school.
I guess everything’s bigger in high school, cause it’s the whole world shrunk down into Abraham Lincoln High.
So you see this guy coming out of shop class, old Mr. Killian’s class, he’s like a god, or a movie star. I noticed his walk, like there’s no hurry, but he’s going someplace and why not come along?
Oh did I want that close up.
We could have nice kids together. Nope, hey, I thought, don’t think about having kids, think about passing English, go to college, maybe. Me in college, wouldn’t that be a trip!
Wrote your name all down the side of the test. Chuck. Ratowitz. My mom said, “Is that Polish?”
Mom, Dad, what I ever got from them. Families, heck, you don’t expect love, I guess, if people got that they wouldn’t have to make movies about it. “Hey guys, if you can’t give me love, at least could you give me the waffle iron?”
Waffle iron says home to me. I wanted that so bad, and my sister got the waffle iron.
Chuck, could we get a waffle iron?
Tour Guide flips a switch.
Sophia sits in the rocking chair. She holds a glass bowl containing seven marbles. She stirs them into motion with her finger, lets them roll and settle.
Marty knocks on the doorframe.
SOPHIA: Marty? Is that Marty?
MARTY: Morning, Miss Weatherlee.
SOPHIA: Come in please.
He approaches.
Our sunrise was lovely this morning.
MARTY: Yes it was.
SOPHIA: You saw it?
MARTY: No ma’am.
SOPHIA: You’re very trusting. How are your little ones?
MARTY: They’re not so little now.
SOPHIA: Oh dear. What are these keys?
MARTY: Ma’am?
SOPHIA: We have keys, and they have become unidentified. I have never seen these keys.
MARTY: These here?
SOPHIA: I don’t want keys that have no locks, nor locks that have no keys. How do you rationalize these keys?
MARTY: I couldn’t say.
SOPHIA: Of course you can’t. I want these keys tagged. See to that, please.
MARTY: Right.
SOPHIA: Go to the window, please. If it’s good weather, you could work on the roof.
MARTY: The roof’s done.
SOPHIA: What about the weather?
MARTY: It’s fine.
SOPHIA: I lose track.
MARTY: We’ve got the lumber for the porch.
SOPHIA: So much tumult.
MARTY: Just hammers.
SOPHIA: Well then.
MARTY: I brought Chuck Ratowitz here, ma’am. He’s all set.
Marty gestures. Chuck appears in the doorway.
SOPHIA: It’s a question of the pipe. What about our pipe?
MARTY: That’s our problem right now. We’ve had trouble getting galvanized. They’ve only got the black in that dimension.
SOPHIA: Why can’t we use black?
MARTY: We can certainly go with that.
SOPHIA: Otherwise?
MARTY: Otherwise we’re delayed.
SOPHIA: It’s under the ground?
MARTY: It’s under the ground.
SOPHIA: If it rusts in thirty years, no matter, so will I. That breezeway must be locked and secured by the time the rains come. There was a vagrant found in there the other day, do you know that?
MARTY: I know.
SOPHIA: You know. And he had a name.
MARTY: Smoky.
SOPHIA: That’s horrible. You know I rely on you, Marty. I won’t have it!
MARTY: Yes, ma’am.
SOPHIA: And so?
MARTY: Miss Weatherlee, I’d said we’d lost the two boys that went off—
SOPHIA: Where?
MARTY: They joined the army.
SOPHIA: Peter and Clyde.
MARTY: So I said I need help.
SOPHIA: Is this the young man?
MARTY: This is Chuck.
SOPHIA: Come here.
He does.
What’s your name?
CHUCK: Chuck.
MARTY: Chuck Ratowitz.
SOPHIA: Is he Jewish?
CHUCK: No. No, ma’am, I—
SOPHIA: That’s no concern of mine. Is he trustworthy?
MARTY: I got his references.
SOPHIA: He’s extremely young.
CHUCK: I can’t help that.
SOPHIA: Strong-willed. Do you have a family?
CHUCK: Girlfriend. Brother. And my dad’s dead. My mom’s a bookkeeper in Arizona. That’s all.
SOPHIA: They keep books in Arizona. Are you strong?
CHUCK: Oh yeh, I’m strong. I do this work all my life.
SOPHIA: Why are you looking for work?
CHUCK: Well I need the money. I been out of work for a while, I—
SOPHIA: This is carpentry.
CHUCK: Well I’m a carpenter. Sure.
SOPHIA: Why do you hide your hands?
CHUCK: No, I’m—
SOPHIA: Are you afraid of me?
CHUCK: No. . . no. . .
SOPHIA: Then why are you rocking? Do you have to urinate?
CHUCK: N— No, ma’am, not at all—
SOPHIA: Pick up one of those.
Indicating the bowl of clear glass marbles.
Put it in your mouth.
He hesitates, looks at Marty, who nods. Does so.
Now spit it out. Just directly down there out of your mouth please.
He stoops, lets the marble drop back into the bowl. Looks at her, waiting for an explanation. To Marty:
Will that pipe be delivered tomorrow?
MARTY: Yes ma’am.
SOPHIA: That’s all, thank you. And a report on those keys.
MARTY: Right.
SOPHIA: Well, he’s fine. He’ll do. (to Chuck) You’ll get used to me.
MARTY: Is that it?
SOPHIA: How’s your leg today?
MARTY: Shot off.
She laughs quietly. To Chuck:
SOPHIA: We joke about this.
They go out. Sound of hammers.
The Tour Guide rings a small bell. Tourists turn front, gape. Guide speaks.
TOUR GUIDE: The structure you are entering was built by Miss Sophia Weatherlee over a span of thirty-eight years. Miss Weatherlee was heiress to the Weatherlee fortune, involved in the defense industry.
Miss Weatherlee’s spiritualist advised her that she would live only as long as she heard the sound of hammering around her. And so she continued construction on Weatherlee House all her life. Until her death. Despite the oddities, the quality of craftsmanship is very high.
Please stay together. People do get lost.
Lights up in the kitchen. Chuck sits, reading newspaper. Dee enters.
CHUCK: Hi. How was work?
She turns, gives a roar through clenched teeth. Then she puts grocery sack on counter, comes to him, kisses him.
That’s pretty good.
DEE: How bout this?
Embraces him, kissing him on the back of the neck. He reacts.
CHUCK: That’s good too.
DEE: I been thinking all day about that.
CHUCK: (joking) I know why those guys come into the diner.
DEE: What?
CHUCK: Food’s for shit. They like what they see back of the counter.
She bites him, pulls away.
DEE: That’s not funny.
CHUCK: I’m sorry.
DEE: I feel like shit.
CHUCK: You feel pretty good to me.
He hugs her. She shrugs, irritably.
DEE: You know what I caught myself today? Talking to myself. Totally nuts, like my mom. We got the rent coming up. Nobody’s tipping. This guy in a suit tells me a joke, goes off, no tip. Big one-dollar joke. I’ll call up the landlord, tell him a joke.
Didn’t you say you were gonna check on a job today?
CHUCK: I did. Let’s get married.
DEE: Lemme get supper on.
DEE: Fried chicken ok?
CHUCK: I got a surprise.
DEE: You won the Lottery. I’m glad.
CHUCK: I said I checked on the job.
DEE: I’m not in the mood for jokes. I’m tired and I feel really mean.
CHUCK: So I got it.
She looks at him.
They’re adding onto this house. Couple rooms. Some old lady, kind of a nut. Foreman’s ok. He’s married to a friend of my cousin or something.
DEE: What does it pay?
CHUCK: Six hundred a week.
DEE: Come on.
CHUCK: No shit.
DEE: Six hundred?
CHUCK: I ain’t seen that in a while. Like never.
DEE: For how long?
CHUCK: I don’t know. It’s a big job. Quite a while.
DEE: Oh honey.
CHUCK: Right.
DEE: Oh!
She embraces him, overjoyed.
Oh God, oh, why didn’t you tell me? Here I am being a bitch. I’m sorry— Oh Chuck, even if it doesn’t last, it’s— Just for you to be doing something that makes you feel good, and—
CHUCK: Let’s celebrate. Put on your blue dress, go out and eat, then a movie?—
DEE: Time you gotta be up?
DEE: I don’t want to get you too sleepy before we come back here and . . . celebrate. . .
CHUCK: Put on your blue dress.
Swats her on the butt. She hugs him.
Hey, I was— We oughta think about— We could buy some rings?
DEE: Rings. What kinda rings?
CHUCK: Gold rings.
DEE: Just like that?
CHUCK: Yeh. Just like that.
DEE: Ok.
CHUCK: Ok? Just like that? Ok?
DEE: Ok!
They embrace, laughing.
CHUCK: This is a pretty intense person to be married to.
DEE: Careful, I’ll get you pregnant.
CHUCK: If you think you can do the job.
DEE: How many you gonna have?
DEE: I don’t want no stretched-out husband here.
CHUCK: Hey, come on, I’m hungry, let’s eat. Put on your blue dress.
DEE: So you can take it off? (fondling one another) Chuck?
DEE: Could we get a waffle iron?
Light on Tour Guide. Tourists study a brochure, never looking up.
TOUR GUIDE: The house contains one hundred sixty rooms. The building continued steadily, twenty-four hours a day, for thirty-eight years, engulfing a number of outlying structures until Miss Weatherlee’s death.
There’s a lot of history here. Of course there’s history in your kitchen, knives and forks, dinner plates, many tales one might tell, if you knew them.
Although she was eccentric, those closest to her said she was quite sane. Her servants were very loyal. One carpenter stayed with her for thirty-seven years.
Sophia, talking to herself. Marty appears.
SOPHIA: Thursday we went to the beach. My hair was so beautiful. Susan was quite jealous.
MARTY: Ma’am?
MARTY: Sorry.
SOPHIA: I can’t see. There is lint everywhere. We need a skylight.
MARTY: You have the new blueprints, Miss Weatherlee?
SOPHIA: Well it’s not working out. I seem to be building these corners. I was terrified of corners, you know, where things accumulate.
Hands him the blueprints. He unfolds them, studies them as she continues talking.
Dead souls. The first, I was five, they killed Mary. The Virgin Mary, you know. Broke her legs.
Of course not really. I just misunderstood the words of the priest. But I never forgave them.
And then in the course of time, it came clear to me that my father, lovely man, was guilty of so much. All the young boys in the wars, and that made us our money.
How easy was it, you think, for a girl to reconcile that? How easy, Marty?
MARTY: How easy was it?
SOPHIA: Very. But my father was strongly opposed to war. He spoke on the subject. Spoke out against it. What are we doing?
MARTY: We finished the breezeway. Flooring, Chuck’s doing that. He’s a good worker. And we finished sanding the stairs—
SOPHIA: Did you see the sunrise this morning?
MARTY: Yes I did.
SOPHIA: What were you doing up?
MARTY: Ruth and I were having a discussion.
SOPHIA: Fighting about your boys? They’re good boys.
MARTY: Yes ma’am.
SOPHIA: How would I know?
MARTY: Now I’m trying to figure here, you’ve got these notes. Miss Weatherlee, does this mean this wall goes out? That can’t be done. That’s a weight-bearing wall.
SOPHIA: We’ll discuss it.
MARTY: It can’t be done, Miss Weatherlee.
SOPHIA: Otherwise, you see, there’s a miscalculation, and the window will look directly into the wall.
MARTY: We could take out the window, but—
SOPHIA: I’m used to the window. I have lived in these rooms.
MARTY: That room hasn’t been built.
SOPHIA: I have lived in these rooms!
Pause. Marty rolls up the blueprints.
Would you call Chuck in here, please?
MARTY: (not understanding) Chuck?
SOPHIA: Louder, please.
Marty goes to the door, calls out:
MARTY: Chuck! Would you come in here a minute?
SOPHIA: We’ll discuss this another time. One cannot enlarge a room and keep the walls where they are. There are limits to illusion.
After a moment, Chuck appears.
CHUCK: Sorry, I was. . .
SOPHIA: You laid the black pipe?
CHUCK: What? Oh. Yeh. While ago.
SOPHIA: Thirty-five years, you say, then, and what happens to that pipe?
CHUCK: It starts to deteriorate, ma’am.
SOPHIA: Is that correct?
MARTY: Yes ma’am.
SOPHIA: And what happens to the water in the pipe?
CHUCK: It can seep into the ground table, ma’am.
SOPHIA: Seep. Do you think it will seep?
CHUCK: It might seep.
SOPHIA: You have experience with seepage?
CHUCK: Oh yeh. My brother, he had seepage, we had to dig out the basement.
SOPHIA: So you will see that a plan is made so that in thirty-five years, before those black pipes rust, when it seeps we will have a plan? Will you take care of that?
CHUCK: Uh, sure, yeh. . . Yes ma’am.
MARTY: I’ll have him take care of it.
SOPHIA: Well do. (to Chuck) Have you taken out walls?
CHUCK: Walls? Sure. Walls, yeh, I took out walls, but you gotta know what you’re doing with that. . .
SOPHIA: You are so young.
MARTY: Miss Weatherlee—
SOPHIA: Come round, Marty, and pick this up please.
Indicating a large box. He does so.
Look inside.
He does: a compound mitre saw.
MARTY: Fine piece of equipment, ma’am.
SOPHIA: Give it to Chuck, please.
He does. To Chuck:
Do you know how to use it?
CHUCK: Oh sure— yeh, I— ma’am. That’s a Porter-Cable 10-inch right there. That’s a very nice piece of—
SOPHIA: Would you like to have it?
CHUCK: Well yeh, that’d. . .
CHUCK: Why? Well you know the corners you can cut on that, that’ll give you angles like butter.
SOPHIA: Imagine that. Now I would like for you two gentlemen to work out between you which of you this is for.
Pause. They look at each other.
I’ll ask to know tomorrow how you decided which of you owns this. I’d like a report on that please, Marty. And the wall. A plan for the wall.
MARTY: Yes ma’am.
Chuck hands the box to Marty. They go out.
SOPHIA: I am acquainted with walls.
Dee looks at a book of baby names. Tourists stand behind her.
DEE: If it’s a girl. . . What about Esther? Esther. Heather. I don’t like Pam or Sue or Joan, or Dee. “Dee-e-e.” Maybe Heather.
Or a boy. Chuck. Charles. I don’t know. Don. Don Ratowitz. Ron Ratowitz. Arthur Ratowitz. Gerard Ratowitz. What goes with Ratowitz?
Tourist reaches out.
TOURIST: I touched her.
Alarms. Blackout.
Sophia in her chair, drinking tea, Tourists behind her. Chuck in doorway.
SOPHIA: We have business here.
CHUCK: Yes ma’am?
SOPHIA: We have several developments. First, that Marty is no longer your foreman. We disagreed in regard to walls.
He will continue here as a carpenter, he’s a good carpenter, and he conveyed desperation in terms of livelihood, so that is the way it will be. What do you say?
CHUCK: He, uh, seemed upset about the wall. . .
SOPHIA: And so you are to be foreman.
SOPHIA: With a rise in salary. I won’t ask if you’re capable, because of course you are. You’re qualified by virtue of your salary increase.
CHUCK: Sure, I guess, I mean— The only thing is, I don’t know I’d be as good a foreman as Marty, I mean he hired me, he’s got a lot more experience—
SOPHIA: Did you see the sunrise this morning?
CHUCK: Sunrise? Nope.
SOPHIA: You must in the future. It begins the day.
CHUCK: So. . . I’m gonna be foreman, is what you’re saying?
SOPHIA: (looking into tea cup) This looks like urine. I never look at my urine. (vehemently) Yes of course!
A Tourist takes teacup. They pass it about.
CHUCK: Yes ma’am. The only thing is, I mean, how is Marty gonna feel about that? Is what I’m wondering. . .
Tourists pass the teacup to Sophia. She takes it, startled. Sets it down, deeply disturbed.
So, yeh, so. . . Thank you, ma’am, and for the saw, you remember when you— Marty said go ahead take it, “You want it, take it,” but I never had a chance to say that I . . . so I appreciate it.
SOPHIA: I do this, all this, to stay alive, they say. But I have no earthly idea why it’s so important that I stay alive. Can you think of a reason?
CHUCK: Well, no, yes, I mean, yes, ma’am—
SOPHIA: What is it?
CHUCK: Well we all do. All gotta stay alive. Long as we can.
SOPHIA: Whatever your politics, it is historical fact that a country is in grave danger when its upper classes are discontent. I have a very great deal to say.
But it can wait.
He goes. A Tourist reaches to touch her. Loud alarms. Tourists scatter.
Who are all these people!!!?
Tourists cower before Tour Guide.
TOUR GUIDE: We would ask that nothing be touched. We often have more people than this. We’re very popular.
Now if I could have your attention. The house contains one hundred sixty rooms—
Dee, sewing baby clothes, laughs at a thought. The Guide pauses.
Forty-seven fireplaces, ten thousand windows, two thousand doors—
A Tourist groans. Guide pauses.
Fifty-two skylights, forty staircases, three elevators, six kitchens and thirteen bathrooms. The number thirteen appears frequently throughout the house.
TOURIST: Excuse me. Were there murders here?
TOUR GUIDE: Not as such.
Checks his flashlight.
Let me repeat. Do not wander off. People have heard voices.
They move off. Fade. Dee continues sewing.
Marty sits on a sawhorse, drinking coffee. Chuck appears,with lunchbox.
CHUCK: Mind if I sit down?
MARTY: Lose your ticket?
CHUCK: What?
MARTY: You look like you won the Lottery but lost your ticket.
CHUCK: Marty, I. . . really. . . I just really appreciate the work you did this week. Kinda helping me out.
MARTY: Well I try to make the foreman happy, you know me.
CHUCK: Dee wanted me to ask if you’d like to come over for dinner sometime.
MARTY: No, but tell her thanks.
CHUCK: She’s got these books with baby names. She doesn’t like Charles. She says who ever heard of Doctor Chuck, or Senator Chuck. . .
She says it kicks like a boy. Second trimester. She’s damn glad to quit her job. I bought her this waffle iron. She’s always carried on about having a waffle iron, like now we’re a real family cause we got a waffle iron. She’s funny.
No, I just want you to know, Marty—
MARTY: No sweat. I still got a paycheck. Not as big as yours, but I got it.
CHUCK: I appreciate your feedback on the job, you know, I—
MARTY: Feedback. I told you if you did what you were gonna do, the damn roof was gonna fall in. I don’t know if that qualifies as feedback.
CHUCK: Did I have a choice? How many jobs are out there, Marty?
MARTY: Weight-bearing wall, I’m telling you this is dangerous stuff. Look, you don’t know shit about what you’re doing, you’re gonna get somebody hurt—
CHUCK: Marty, we took the wall down, no sweat, and we both got paychecks today.
MARTY: How’d you get this job?
CHUCK: You hired me.
MARTY: How come?
CHUCK: Cause you needed a good carpenter.
And my wife’s mom is a friend of your sister-in-law, and she said you needed a good carpenter.
MARTY: My take on you is, you’re the nicest, most honest, loveable kinda guy in the world. That’s my take on you.
CHUCK: You don’t make that sound too good.
MARTY: Don’t I?
Silence. Chuck eats. In the kitchen, Dee clears table, starts to set it for dinner.
CHUCK: Any idea how long it’s gonna last?
MARTY: What?
MARTY: What, you get married, put a kid in the oven, buy a big TV, and then think about, “Hey I wonder if I’m gonna have a job.”
It’s gonna be a while. She’s got this architect, I never saw him. Then she takes the blueprints and writes all over it. Ask what it means, you get this life history.
Who knows? Maybe it won’t stop. Do they stop building shopping malls?
CHUCK: She’s a character.
MARTY: “Character.” That’s one way to put it. She’s ok. Anybody with money is either a nut or a sonofabitch. I got no problem with nuts.
Sophia, distant, screams.
SOPHIA: Stop it!
MARTY: She does that.
CHUCK: Marty, she’s nuts, ok, but I don’t know, maybe you don’t need this job so bad, so you can afford to—
MARTY: Right, I don’t have a cute young wife. What’s her name, Dee-Dee?
MARTY: High school sweethearts?
CHUCK: So what?
MARTY: So what? That means you think you know everything about her, and you don’t know nothing. That’s what that means.
No, I don’t need it. You go home to your little cutie, have her make you some waffles. I got a mortgage, two kids, one’s in college who’s gotta drop out, and a wife who’s so pissed she won’t even look at me—
CHUCK: That’s not my fault—
MARTY: Eventually that whole section’s gonna collapse, all right? I could not in good conscience put my men at risk. And that’s your decision, but if someone’s hurt on this job, you’re gonna have to live with that the rest of your fucking life.
CHUCK: Look, I’m sorry I—
MARTY: You know why I hired you? Not because you know somebody. I checked up. I know why you lost your last job. Cause you wouldn’t follow orders. You wouldn’t use warped lumber. You wouldn’t set studs too far. You wouldn’t build a piece of shit, so you got fired. That’s why I hired you.
CHUCK: My dad taught me.
MARTY: You telling me there’s nobody on this job knows it better than you? She took one look at you, tell me that, she took one look at you, she said this guy’s incredible, I can feel it, all that energy, the way he spits out a marble. Tell me that.
CHUCK: You resent the fact I’m foreman.
MARTY: Oh, you notice that? Did you finish that job the way I told you to? Did you put in those beams?
CHUCK: The job site’s the same as it was—
MARTY: You can’t leave it like that. Christ, you’re the foreman. You tell me you just walked off cause it was time to eat lunch? Ah Christ!
CHUCK: Listen, somebody’s gonna do this fucking job, and as long as I’m on the scene I’m gonna try to the best of my ability—
MARTY: You sound like the President.
CHUCK: Right, whatever! Fuck it! Ok!
Gets up, very angry, stops.
You coming on Monday? You gonna show up and work?
MARTY: When I show up I work. I show up if I got a job. Do I got a job?
CHUCK: Of course you got a job.
MARTY: Well if there’s a house here I’ll be working on Monday. Otherwise, no sweat.
Chuck starts to go.
Hey, what kind of a name is Ratowitz? Puerto Rican?
Check goes out. Marty corks thermos. Fade.
Dee, setting table, speaking to an absent Chuck. Tour Guide and Tourists, frozen.
DEE: That credit card bill came, I haven’t checked it, I think they made a mistake on that, that can’t be right.
Roof needs fixing. They tell you, buy a house, you’re gonna love it. Boy.
It wasn’t your fault. You did what you were told. And those guys, sure, they were hurt, I’d be sorry too.
But nobody knew why they were under there. And she said it wasn’t your fault, you did what you were told, and she took care of those families pretty good, they’ll never have to worry. Honey. . .
TOUR GUIDE: In the thirty-eight-year span of the project, only six workmen were killed. A remarkable safety record.
Tourists applaud limply. Fade.
The Tourists tap a soft rhythm with brochures. Sophia is untangling yarn. Chuck enters.
SOPHIA: Marty?
CHUCK: Chuck.
SOPHIA: Of course. Chuck. You left early Thursday.
CHUCK: Sorry. The baby was sick. Lloyd took over ok.
SOPHIA: We can’t have that.
CHUCK: Right.
SOPHIA: How was the sunrise this morning?
CHUCK: Way too early.
SOPHIA: Marty, we need to explore the options here—
CHUCK: Chuck. My name is Chuck, Miss Weatherlee.
SOPHIA: I am aware of the fact!
We’ve gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Let’s start over. How is the work?
CHUCK: Fine. We’re on that stairwell. I found the heating problem was one of the ducts. Raccoon had snuck in there. But it’s fine now, the heat’s coming.
SOPHIA: Are you working too hard?
CHUCK: Well, matter fact I was going to ask if I could have some Saturdays off. It’s hard being away from the family, it’s hard on Dee, and the baby’s teething, and—
SOPHIA: Your problem with the truck. Lloyd came to me for your problem with the truck.
CHUCK: No, that’s ok. What I was gonna say—
SOPHIA: I’m worried about the truck.
CHUCK: The truck’s fine. Miss Weatherlee—
SOPHIA: Would you like a new truck? Would that make it easier?
CHUCK: Well it’s the transmission, but it’s not a big problem. What is, sometimes, is I get a set of blueprints, something’s brand new, it’s hard to—
SOPHIA: I have relieved Mr. Osborne, who is a fine architect, but he has indicated that my plans are incompatible with his standards, and that my moods are difficult, for which I am profoundly sorry, Marty. Is that a baby?
CHUCK: Scuse me, Miss Weatherlee. I’m Chuck. You called me Marty. I’m Chuck Ratowitz.
SOPHIA: Well, decide.
How is your family?
CHUCK: Fine. Dee’s kinda upset about me working so much, we got plans, maybe, to go out dancing or something, then the phone rings, and—
SOPHIA: I lost mine, you know.
CHUCK: No. Family?
SOPHIA: What do they say about me?
You go to town, and you say you work for Sophia Weatherlee, and then what do they say?
CHUCK: Well. . .
Tourists tap more rapidly.
SOPHIA: That I was married, and had a child, and my child died, as did my husband. Yes?
CHUCK: Yeh. . .
SOPHIA: That I was advised there was a curse from the sins of my father, my father’s rifles, his artillery, and his firebombs and his many appliances which produced several millions of dead.
Who have no home. So I am giving them a home, you see. That’s what they say. And that I’m crazy. So perhaps you should go.
Tourists stop tapping.
CHUCK: I don’t— You got people working for you. Nobody takes orders from a crazy person.
SOPHIA: Imagine that. Is your wife . . . perky?
CHUCK: What? Dee? I guess. So is there blueprints?
SOPHIA: I don’t want to discuss the blueprints. I want to discuss the situation. I’m giving you this truck, and your perky wife can use your little car, for the baby, and you will never have to worry. And this is the right time for you and your family to move into this house.
Silence. Tourists start tapping.
It’s not generosity. It’s a question of need. The crews are scattered with their little hammers, and the security men, and the raccoons. But I sense that things are very very wrong, and I need you to be here. We’re working on the sixty-sixth room, and this is a dangerous time, we cannot live with sixty-six.
I hear things. They get in the foundations. I hear them in the basement. In the walls. Night and day, I hear it—
CHUCK: You’re hearing the hammers, ma’am. We got three shifts.
SOPHIA: You know the odd thing—
Tourists stop tapping.
It wasn’t really my father’s murders. It was Tigger, my kitten, her name was Tigger. I didn’t give Tigger her pills.
And so she died. I put her in my closet, I thought she would dry up and fade away. But of course she stank. So what would you do? If you were nine years old.
You’d cry. You’d lie, you’d tell them that Tigger got better and ran away. You’d stop up your nose from the stink. You’d take a salad fork and stab her so she’d appear to have been killed by a rat with a salad fork.
It was an education. More vivid than statistics of many millions dead.
She reaches out. Chuck pauses, confused. At last he gives her his hand.
Marty— Chuck. Yes. Chuck.
I would like to ask you to move your family to this house. There are working bathrooms, kitchens, plenty of light, wouldn’t it solve your problems? You need time with your family, and I am very very sorry about that, I know I make demands that are absolutely insane. And I’m calling you Marty. That’s insane.
I need the energy of young people in this house. We build ballrooms where people don’t dance, dining rooms where no one eats, nurseries without babies, and bedrooms—
You have a wife, a beautiful child, you have needs, your family needs you, and there must be energy in this house, where the energy doesn’t die every day at sunset and the soldiers die in these wars that go on and on and on—
Stops. Lets go his hand. Long pause. Recovers.
I think that’s what you should do.
CHUCK: Where?
SOPHIA: Well choose. There are sixty-six rooms.
She tries to untangle the yarn. In the kitchen, Dee enters, begins angrily restacking the dishes, clearing the table.
CHUCK: Ma’am, I don’t think Dee would want to. . . I don’t think my wife would want to do that. She likes it where we are. I don’t think she’d be too happy to do that.
SOPHIA: Of course not. It’s absurd. I’m having trouble. Would you—?
She hands Chuck the wad of yarn, then grabs it back, tries to untangle it, throws it down. To herself:
“Lloyd, take care of this? You know she’s a fruitcake.” Never mind!
Dee sits at the kitchen table. Sophia rises, turns away from him. Tense moment. He shifts, anticipating the worst.
Well that was one idea. But you should select a room, for your own, and have your towels and a change of clothing when you need to stay over. Not on the west wing. You need the sunlight.
And we will see to the truck, and additional compensation. Could they hammer more quietly at night? I can’t sleep.
Sophia gives him blueprints.
CHUCK: Ma’am, I was asking about maybe I could get some Saturdays off? Lloyd knows the job, and he could take over then, cause it’s getting a little hard to. . .
SOPHIA: That will not be convenient.
Long silence.
CHUCK: Yes ma’am.
He goes out. Tourists creep forward slowly. She speaks to herself.
SOPHIA: I rely on you, Chuck. Chuck. “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!”
I don’t want to be this . . . character!
They raise their cameras. Flash. Blackout.
Tour Guide alone.
TOUR GUIDE: There are days we have only the stragglers. Not easy. They’re embarrassed for me and for themselves. But I fill the hour, make it interesting. For example, the house is made famous in part by its many tourists. Gives them a sense of self-worth, which is very popular now.
And a sense of mystery. We don’t find much mystery under fluorescent light, but there is a longing. You read about sacred groves.
It’s up and down. A woman asks where the horses drank. “They had horses, didn’t they? It’s historical.” Outdoors, I suppose. They had people to care for the horses. It’s not necessary to live your life in every detail. You live the highlights.
I did have a tourist who said that his wife had died at Mt. Rushmore. I said, “Really?” thinking this would be an interesting story. But that’s all he said.
It’s one day at a time. Once I start the tour, it always times out the same, and I have coffee before the next tour, and a good pension plan. So there’s no earthly reason why I should have the urge to come in some night and shit on the rug.
Sophia alone, Tourists surrounding her. Dee sits in the kitchen. Chuck enters.
DEE: Don’t even say it.
CHUCK: Look, Dee, we’re at a point where the supports are going in, and I find out that it’s all changed and—
DEE: We were going out.
CHUCK: I know.
DEE: Dinner’s cold. Babysitter’s come and gone.
CHUCK: Sorry.
DEE: Why didn’t you call?
CHUCK: Last time you said don’t call, you said what’s the difference?
DEE: What’s that shirt?
CHUCK: What?
DEE: You wore your blue shirt this morning.
CHUCK: It got dirty. I got a couple shirts there. I got a room there. For when I need it.
DEE: You got a room. I don’t remember I signed a contract for single motherhood. See you standing there I think, “Hey, maybe we could get together, my husband’s away a lot.”
CHUCK: What, you think I got somebody on the side, is that the deal?
DEE: I wish you did. If you were cheating, at least I’d know what I was up against—
CHUCK: How the hell am I finding time to cheat on you when I’m working fourteen hours a day?—
DEE: Well how bout you work eight hours, and then fuck around for two, and I’ll still have four hours of you that I don’t get now?
Why are you standing? Sit down. Get comfortable.
The Tourists flash.
SOPHIA: Chuck?!
Chuck grabs a chair, bangs it violently.
DEE: Go ahead. Wake up Joey.
CHUCK: I’m just trying to keep the job. I’m working my ass off. I don’t know where the hell the money’s going—
DEE: Babies cost money.
CHUCK: Babies cost money, that’s why I’m trying to make money, but it’s going out so damn fast. I come home, you show me a necklace you bought, it’s cute, you oughta have a necklace, but we’re owing a couple thousand bucks on credit cards—
DEE: So it’s my fault.
CHUCK: You’re asking why do I gotta work.
Tourists flash.
SOPHIA: Chuck?!!
Sophia picks up telephone, hangs it up.
CHUCK: Dee, I don’t want to fight. If I had a choice I would spend every damn minute with you and Joey. But it’s not like I can go someplace and get a job that pays this well. She’s paying three times what I’d make.
DEE: He cries when you pick him up.
CHUCK: Once.
DEE: So Joey’s a year and a half old. When’s he going to have a little sister? Did we talk about that?
CHUCK: We said that if—
DEE: Did we talk about that?
CHUCK: I don’t think the timing is good.
DEE: I’m talking about having a baby.
CHUCK: I’m talking about reality.
DEE: You go ahead and keep that job and see how long you keep me.
Look, we stay with this a while, what we talked about, we stay with this a while, and save up, and then I start my own company — isn’t that what we talked about? But, I mean, the experience — I was in way over my head— I’m telling you, the chance for craftsmanship— hardwoods, mahogany, teak, Japanese cherrywood, you wouldn’t believe it, ceiling panels, inlaid floors—
Now she’s got this idea for this dome, you know, and I didn’t think it was possible, but I found something in a book like in 1832, and what they did was—
As soon as it’s more stable. This wing we’re working on, then the west wing, when that’s finished— I talked to her Monday for some time off, and I’m working on it, but I can’t push it, cause Lloyd can do most of what I’m doing, and then maybe all of a sudden Lloyd’s the foreman. Same thing happened to me.
Oh, we’re getting a new pickup. And I can use that, so you can use the car whenever— Hey, did you get Joey the toy pickup? Red Ranger pickup truck?
DEE: And a toy telephone.
Tourists flash.
She reaches for the phone, dials.
CHUCK: I love you.
DEE: I love you too.
Phone rings. He answers it.
SOPHIA: Chuck?
CHUCK: This is Chuck.
SOPHIA: There are noises here.
CHUCK: Yes ma’am, well—
DEE: “Yes ma’am.”
SOPHIA: You think I’m hallucinating?
CHUCK: No ma’am. Couldn’t that wait for morning, ma’am?
SOPHIA: No it could not.
DEE: “No ma’am. I’ll be right there, ma’am.”
CHUCK: Well, I’ll be right there. Just—
DEE: “Yes ma’am.”
SOPHIA: Please hurry.
CHUCK: Yes ma’am. (hanging up) Dee—
DEE: “Yes ma’am!”
CHUCK: I’ll be about an hour—
DEE: “Yes ma’am!”
CHUCK: She’s my boss! What you want me to say: “No, bitch, I’ll be there tomorrow.”
DEE: “Yes ma’am!”
CHUCK: Stop it, for chrissake.
DEE: “Yes ma’am!”
CHUCK: You didn’t complain about having Christmas presents and new dresses and a car that runs. You didn’t complain about the living-room set—
DEE: “Yes ma’am!”
CHUCK: (starting to go) Oh hell—
DEE: I spent eighteen years watching my dad walk out the door, if it wasn’t to work it was to drink, and I’m not gonna watch you! You walk out that door and I’ll go out and get laid by the first guy I meet!
CHUCK: He’s welcome to it.
Enraged, she rushes at him, strikes at him. He hits her. She collapses, weeping.
Oh honey. . . Oh God, honey. . . I just reacted. . .
I just reacted, I wasn’t trying to hit you, I would never do that, I would never do that, I just automatically put my hands up and. . .
The thing is, we gotta save some money, and then I’ll have my own business, then I’m the boss and I make the phone calls. And all these guys working their asses off and we’re on a Florida vacation.
Is that gonna. . . Yeh that’s gonna be kind of a bruise there. I’m sorry, my hand just came up automatically, and you were coming forward, and I kinda lost balance. . .
Look, I’m going, I’ll be back, and ok, let’s talk about a baby, maybe that’d work out. . .
So I’ll be back and we’ll talk about a little sister for Joey, ok, and if I get tied up out there I’ll give a call, but I think it’s just windows banging. You know how many windows they got there?
She pulls herself up into the chair. He puts on his jacket. Dee speaks quietly:
DEE: I want you here. Just think about that when you’re out there working tonight.
CHUCK: (subdued) I can’t offer you any more than what I’m capable. I’m doing the best I can. That’s all I can do.
He goes out. Dee weeps. Sophia sits rigid.
SOPHIA: No. No weeping. No no. . .
Tourists enter, scatter, flashing photos.
TOUR GUIDE: The Mystery House. What secrets does it hold?
Stairs that lead to a ceiling. Doors to blank walls. Doors into air. The thirteen bathrooms, thirteen-candle chandeliers, thirteen-panel walls, thirteen coat hooks, stairs with thirteen steps—
They coalesce around the Tour Guide, exhausted.
And then some with ten, or fourteen, or six.
At times I’ve thought she did not build at the direction of spirits. Out of guilt for the killing that made her fortune. Out of terror, no. She built it, simply, as a tourist attraction. And built it very well.
I like to think that. Imagine her sitting in the sun. Satisfied. Serene.
He goes. They follow. Fade.
Sophia alone. Marty at worksite with a bottle.
SOPHIA: I was there when my mother began to scream in church. In the middle of church. I was there. Do you understand me?
MARTY: (toasting) Fuck you.
Dee is seen in the kitchen. Sophia eats from a plate of celery sticks. Chuck enters, wearing a suit and tie.
CHUCK: Ma’am? Did you say something?
SOPHIA: I was talking to my cat. I had a cat, her name was Tigger, and I talked to her. Now I talk to walls. Does it fit?
CHUCK: Fits fine.
SOPHIA: I have always had an eye for fit.
CHUCK: Well ma’am, do you want to tell me what—
SOPHIA: Did you see the sun this morning?
CHUCK: Yes. Yes I did.
SOPHIA: That side of the house was lovely. Were you there overnight?
CHUCK: Yeh, we’re finishing the elevator shaft, that’s gotta get done.
Dee takes pills, then a swig of beer.
DEE: Gotta get done, Chuck.
SOPHIA: You know, a mythological king violated Demeter’s sacred grove. She condemned him to perpetual hunger. But I find celery sticks are helpful.
How is your little boy?
CHUCK: Well he’s not so little now. He’s in school you know. That’s good for my wife, gives her more time.
DEE: Lot more time.
CHUCK: We want to have another one.
SOPHIA: I’m sorry.
CHUCK: Ma’am, I. . . The suit’s great, but I wondered what I’m doing with a suit on. . .
SOPHIA: (vehemently) I said I’m extremely sorry.
MARTY: Tell you what, Chuckie. I’ll build a real house. Got some wood here, hammer, nails. . . No nails. I could build if I had nails.
SOPHIA: The suit. The suit is yours. This is your proper attire. I expect to see you in proper attire.
MARTY: Build a preacher’s pulpit, big fat preacher.
SOPHIA: The project is too large for a single foreman. There will be a foreman each shift. Lloyd will be a foreman. You will select two other foreman, perhaps the previous man, if he’s still here, and you will supervise.
MARTY: Build a birdhouse. How bout some walls, we’re damn good at walls.
SOPHIA: Your title is Project Manager. Your salary will be commensurate. You may arrange more flexible hours. This should help in regard to your wife.
DEE: Helpful. . .
MARTY: Hey, Chuckie, a gazebo! “Bring me a julep, Butler.” Hire a butler named Butler.
SOPHIA: Is that agreeable?
CHUCK: Well yes ma’am. . .
DEE: Yes ma’am. . .
Dee gets up, goes to the phone, dials, waits.
CHUCK: The thing is, with foreman I do get a chance to actually get my hands on stuff, do some work, and I enjoy that, especially that inlay work, I learned a lot from Tomaso, the Mexican guy. I’d miss that.
DEE: (on phone) Hi. Wanta come over? Joey’s at school till three. I’m here.
Hangs up.
CHUCK: But sure, It’d be great to have some time off, although Dee and I’ve kind of adapted. Not sure what we’d do all evening. But yeh, and we do fine, but— The truck’s great, it gives us a lot of flexibility—
But I don’t know, I really feel funny wearing a—
SOPHIA: Now we discuss the window.
CHUCK: Ma’am?
SOPHIA: I want it done today.
CHUCK: Well, the wall, if that’s what you’re—
SOPHIA: Today, thank you.
CHUCK: Ma’am, whatever you say, I just need to—
SOPHIA: I’m aware of your feelings. I’m trying to take them into account. And now you have no excuse, because I’m not asking you to do it, other people can supervise it, you just have to see that it’s done.
CHUCK: Ma’am, that wall is going to cut off the sun in there and that’s a Tiffany window, you spent a lot of money on that, and that woodwork, that’s cherrywood, and the wall cuts that off.
The guy that put that window in, that was Marty, you remember Marty? He’s raising hell, he comes in drunk so he can’t work on the wall. Can’t hammer a nail straight.
MARTY: Fuck you!
CHUCK: And he’s my best man. I understand what you’re saying, but my job is to make sure the work is the best craftsmanship that— And that window is so beautiful, I was thinking, those stairs, we could take those the other way, then you wouldn’t have to wall up the window, and we’d have the sunlight in there—
SOPHIA: The stairs are there for a reason.
CHUCK: Miss Weatherlee, they go up to a ceiling and stop. They don’t go anywhere.
SOPHIA: I have nowhere to go.
MARTY: How bout a house with fifty rooms, stairs go up to nothing, so nuts you need a map to find your way—
SOPHIA: You are under stress. Perhaps your home life, that’s not my business. I’m sure you have considered quitting. I can’t imagine what would keep you here. To deal with the daily rants of a woman they say is directed by spirits of the murdered dead, this requires forbearance, to say the least.
You will go or stay. You will wear your new suit, or no. The wall will appear there in any case, the walls have a will of their own. Whether your man can’t hammer his nail or you have a beautiful baby daughter or I decide, “No, there will be no more walls,” there will be walls.
You know I rely on you, Chuck, but we are all so replaceable.
You don’t know how to tie a necktie. Here.
She beckons. He approaches, leans over. She ties his tie.
MARTY: (subdued) But what you could do. You could live there. Friends, family, kids in every room, “Hey! How’s it going! How you doin here? Come on in! Hey man, I can’t stand that music, can you turn it down? But I love you, man, we’re neighbors, ok? Crazy house, but we’re all alive, you wanta get a pizza?” Fifty rooms, hundred rooms, all fulla people, all alive and flying high. . .
SOPHIA: Much better.
MARTY: We could build that, and not be total fools.
Sophia holds the tip of Chuck’s necktie. Fade.
Tour Guide, standing behind Sophia.
TOUR GUIDE: In my experience with monuments, what attracts you is the insanity. Why do all that? A creation without function, expanding upward, outward, taking, taking, sucking the energy of lives and giving back what? Your cancer, you know, becomes the object of devotion but not the object of delight.
SOPHIA: I was a good shot with a gun.
My daddy was very good with guns and taught me.
I pulled the clay pigeon for him, and then he’d shoot. Pull. Bang. Pull. Bang.
And then I shot the clay pigeons, and I was good.
And my father went off hunting, and took his hunting dogs. And when he came back, he brought a bag of birds.
The shot in the birds, it’s what we shot the clay pigeons with.
And the room was full of dead birds.
And I have dreamt about guns for many years, the sounds of hammers, you know.
And I never dream about birds.
TOUR GUIDE: In my dreams, this house expands to blanket acres, many square miles, and millions of rooms, some for the servants, carpenters, and others given to the business of the cancer, the daily sustenance. But no one dances in the ballrooms. At night the planes flying, coast to coast in the black, look down at the millions of lights, and the flyers whisper, “Melanoma.”
Still, the gardens are lovely.
Chuck and Dee stand on opposite sides of the kitchen table. Tourists in one corner of kitchen.
CHUCK: I thought we might work this out.
DEE: That’s good.
CHUCK: You sure that’s what you want?
DEE: Yes.
CHUCK: Should we sit down or something?
DEE: Have a seat.
They sit. Tour Guide addresses Tourists.
TOUR GUIDE: What we don’t see is the human dimension. These people who die, what evidence do they leave?
TOURISTS: Shut up.
Chuck takes out a notebook.
CHUCK: So ok, the idea is we work this out before the lawyers get their teeth in it, ok?
DEE: Ok by me.
CHUCK: Savings.
DEE: Is there any?
CHUCK: Some. Even split?
DEE: Fine.
CHUCK: Except for Joey’s bonds. That’s his.
TOUR GUIDE: If we could ask what we really want to know. It’d be like seeing babies born.
CHUCK: The car, you should take that. You need it.
DEE: It needs some work.
CHUCK: Well. . .
TOUR GUIDE: Are there questions?
TOURISTS: What happened? Don’t you love him? Wby do you need the car?
CHUCK: And the house, I guess—
DEE: Sell it.
CHUCK: It’s not gonna sell for much. Nice yard. What about the stuff?
DEE: I can make a list. Have you told your mom?
CHUCK: I wasn’t sure we were actually gonna do something.
DEE: I like your mom.
TOURISTS: Do you have a job? Are you upset? What are you asking for the house?
CHUCK: I’ve got some stuff on the health insurance. You can stay on the group for three months, and then shift over. I’ll send you the papers.
Child support, whatever you think is reasonable. I want to be a good father.
DEE: What you want for visitation rights?
CHUCK: Well I’ll do my best. This is pretty complicated. Could we just talk a little?
DEE: Talk about what?
CHUCK: Well how are things going? I’m worried about you.
DEE: Well the only pills I’m taking now are vitamins. And I haven’t cheated on you for quite a while, so I’m doing ok.
How bout your power boat? Storage bills are coming here.
CHUCK: Powerboat. . . Boat. . . It’s not mine, it’s ours. I named it after you. . .
TOURISTS: How about the snapshots? How old is your son? Where’s the bathroom?
CHUCK: Dee, Christalmighty, I just wanta say, can you just look at me and—
TOURISTS: Shut up!
Chuck tries to speak: nothing.
CHUCK: Say goodnight to Joey.
He goes out. She hesitates, then rushes to the door. Stops. The Tourists draw closer. She moves through time.
TOURISTS: What happened then? What do you dream about? What happened then?
DEE: Well, we split. I thought that would kill me. But it didn’t. I found a job. And Chuck was ok on child support, he was good on that. I made a new life.
TOURISTS: What time is it?
DEE: April. I studied computers, I changed apartments. Very straight: no pills, no sex. Easter I even went to church.
TOURISTS: What time do you have?
DEE: October. I decided to have a daughter. Thought, hey, you don’t just decide to have a daughter. But I did. Her dad’s a good friend of mine.
TOURISTS: What is the time?
DEE: June. I found another guy, two guys in fact, would you believe it? That’s a very long story.
TOURISTS: Quelle heure est il?
DEE: September. Joey’s starting his senior year. Millie’s two. What a trip.
TOUR GUIDE: Questions?
DEE: What happens now?
TOUR GUIDE: You sat down and finished crying.
Dee laughs.
DEE: The first thing we ever got. We got a waffle iron. We never made a waffle.
Tourists circle her, in a dance, as she laughs.
Tour Guide sits, head in his hands. He slowly takes off his glasses, wipes his eyes, then opens them, unseeing. Puts on his glasses.
Sophia sits in her chair, in dressing gown, feet on hassock. She has an IV tube in her hand. Chuck enters, carrying folders.
SOPHIA: You’re late.
CHUCK: Yes ma’am, I am. Medication all right?
SOPHIA: I feel this thing in my hand.
CHUCK: Well that’s what keeps us going. Nurse says you’re stable. Now the paperhangers are coming in today, in here, so I thought you’d want to go out to the sun room.
SOPHIA: For the pink.
CHUCK: Pink wallpaper, yes ma’am.
SOPHIA: Did you know it’s my birthday, Chuck?
CHUCK: Yes ma’am, I do.
He brings a small cake from behind his back.
Happy birthday.
She stares at it a moment.
SOPHIA: That’s clever.
He puts it on a side table. Tourists appear.
CHUCK: Yes, ma’am. So here’s the report on last week. Some photos of the South Complex. Plans for the extension. Based on your plans.
SOPHIA: These are my plans?
CHUCK: Based on your plans. These are faithful to the spirit of your plans.
SOPHIA: There are no doors to this room.
CHUCK: That appears to be true.
SOPHIA: There are other people here.
CHUCK: Paperhangers are coming.
SOPHIA: The maids were speaking of derelicts.
CHUCK: There have been derelicts.
SOPHIA: How many?
CHUCK: A lot.
SOPHIA: What are you doing about it?
CHUCK: More security.
SOPHIA: But what about the people?
CHUCK: We deal with’em.
CHUCK: Different ways.
SOPHIA: There are people in this room. Who else is in this room?
TOURIST: (from the doorway) We kinda got lost.
CHUCK: Paperhangers.
TOURIST: Could we have cake?
SOPHIA: And a foreman, they said, has an alcohol problem. What is happening in this house?
CHUCK: That’s taken care of. He was fired.
SOPHIA: Don’t they have treatment plans for things like that?
CHUCK: Yes they do have.
SOPHIA: I make donations for things like that.
CHUCK: Could we start the paper-hang? You wanta go to the sun room?
SOPHIA: Put your hand on the back of my neck.
He does.
You’re not afraid of me now.
CHUCK: (to Tourists) You can start.
They festoon the room with party decorations.
SOPHIA: Who are these people?
CHUCK: Paperhangers. Dennis, Arturo, Reggie. You wanted the pink.
SOPHIA: Are these people dead?
CHUCK: No, they’re not dead.
SOPHIA: Did I kill them?
CHUCK: No, Miss Weatherlee. That was the box hedges we killed. They’ve been replanted.
SOPHIA: Make them stop. Chuck, I’ve been good to you.
CHUCK: Yes you have.
SOPHIA: I gave you a saw.
CHUCK: Good saw.
SOPHIA: Why are we buying land?
CHUCK: Well that is—
SOPHIA: Leave your hand!
He puts his hand back on her neck. Tourists freeze.
That’s enough.
He removes his hand.
CHUCK: Well that is one of the things that I want to speak with you today . . . about the land acquisition. Now I’ve ordered some Italian marble for the—
SOPHIA: I want to know why we are buying land. I don’t need more land. It only takes six feet to bury me. Don’t touch the needle!
Tourists coalesce around Sophia.
I don’t want land. I don’t want to expand beyond our boundaries. We displaced the people to the southwest, that was necessary, I made my donations, I have tried to atone, but there are limits. I will not displace more people.
CHUCK: We’ve made provisions.
CHUCK: Lotta things.
TOURISTS: I need to pee. When does she die? Could we have some cake?
He spreads new plans.
CHUCK: Now here’s the present structure, and here’s the projections. We’ve reached the perimeter here. So what we’re doing is, we’re acquiring, here, the west half of the northwest quarter and the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 33; also all south of the center of Darwin Road in the Southeast Quarter of Section 28, all in Township 12 North, Range 13 West. Right there.
SOPHIA: You used to live there.
CHUCK: Matter of fact I did.
SOPHIA: Darwin Road. You lived in that neighborhood.
SOPHIA: Where is your family? What’s happened to them?
CHUCK: Well, my wife, ex-wife, I haven’t seen her, she lives a kinda funny life. She’s got a daughter. And my son graduates, I think, this year from high school. He might go into the Air Force.
SOPHIA: There will always be wars.
CHUCK: And rumors of wars, don’t they say?
SOPHIA: Not only rumors. I want it to stop. We don’t need more land. We can continue building on the land that we have.
CHUCK: It’s taken care of.
SOPHIA: I don’t want it to happen.
CHUCK: It’s happening.
SOPHIA: I forbid it.
CHUCK: This is important for the town. We’re providing jobs.
SOPHIA: Jobs doing what?
CHUCK: Building.
SOPHIA: Building what?
CHUCK: Building the future. Miss Weatherlee, we’ve donated money for a civic center, there’s gonna be a gym, a swimming pool. There’s a new wing on the library. There’s all the things that there wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for this investment.
SOPHIA: People are being evicted.
CHUCK: Nobody’s going to be homeless. Nobody’s gonna starve.
SOPHIA: There are derelicts.
CHUCK: Those are homeless people. I’m talking about people who’d have homes if they did, but they don’t.
SOPHIA: I want it to stop. My signature is required for that purchase. I absolutely refuse.
CHUCK: Everything’s under control.
TOURIST: Could we ask questions? Are these antiques? Could we take souvenirs? How much does it cost? Were you ever pregnant? What do you dream about? Do you believe in heaven?
SOPHIA: There is only hell.
Silence. Weakened:
Chuck? Do you still remember how to frame a roof?
CHUCK: Yes ma’am, I could frame a roof better than anybody here. But I don’t do that now.
SOPHIA: You look good in your suit.
CHUCK: I like it.
SOPHIA: I need to increase the level.
CHUCK: I’ll ask the nurse.
TOURISTS: (pointing cameras) Could you smile?
SOPHIA: Stop them! Stop them, Chuck! Get away! Go out! You’re gone! You’re dead!
CHUCK: Miss Weatherlee, there’s nobody here. They’re finished. It’s five o’clock. How bout the cake? Seven candles, for good luck. You taught me that.
No response. He sets the cake beside her, lights the candles, sets it before her, induces her to smile for the cameras. The Tourists snap photos. She is weeping.
If you’ll check over the plans at your convenience. No hurry. We’re pretty much under way. They’re very faithful to your intentions.
TOURISTS: My feet are killing me. I’m hungry. You know the way out?
SOPHIA: No way out.
TOURISTS: We’ll keep looking. Follow the hall. Here’s a map.
They pick up blueprints, folders, cake, rip down decorations.
They scatter. Chuck and Sophia remain.
SOPHIA: The suit makes such a difference.
Tour Guide alone.
TOUR GUIDE: What I can’t say is that I do hear the voices. Thin, mostly, whining, or blunt, abrupt. One comes from closets. Confused. I’ve thought of speaking back, to see if I get an answer, but that might open a door, and I’m close to retirement.
I can’t say it. I say, “People are said to have heard voices.” And I imagine the love that was not made. The song no one sang. The absence of pets. I’d like to buy her a pet. It wouldn’t be expensive, since it wouldn’t exist. There are some excellent bargains if you don’t insist on reality.
I do remember realities. I remember Stonehenge, the Pyramids. I remember hammering nails. I remember a woman speaking to me, enraged, and my thinking this was someone I loved. I remember when I was so happy I cried, and could not remember why.
Marty, in a distant, confined area, lays out a sleeping bag, arranges a duffel as a pillow.
MARTY: I build this wall? Built my own retirement home. Luxury apartment. Private entrance. Master bedroom. Room service. Now just figure where to piss.
TOURISTS: We had to wait for the toilet.
TOUR GUIDE: It’s well worth it.
Marty nods off. Sophia, in her chair, attached to monitors. She gestures as if trying to speak to someone unseen.
Dee stands waiting in Chuck’s office, a small room with a desk. She looks at a blueprint. Chuck enters. Sophia picks up the phone receiver, hesitates.
CHUCK: Oh. Hi.
DEE: Hi.
CHUCK: Get you some coffee?
DEE: I’m a little pressed for time, but you said it was really important.
CHUCK: So how are you?
DEE: Better.
CHUCK: You changed your hair.
Phone beeps.
Scuse me. (answering) Yes?
SOPHIA: Chuck, the pink is wrong.
CHUCK: Which pink?
SOPHIA: All over. It’s too strong.
CHUCK: Too strong?
SOPHIA: It’s digestive.
CHUCK: I’ve got an appointment right now.
SOPHIA: I’m sorry. Chuck, I know you’re busy, but can you look out the window?
CHUCK: What?
SOPHIA: The seepage. You mentioned seepage.
CHUCK: I don’t know—
SOPHIA: Are we expecting rain?
CHUCK: They said no rain.
SOPHIA: Did you listen to more than one station?— I’m sorry, I’m terribly sorry, could you just see if you see any clouds. I’ll wait.
CHUCK: (to Dee) Be right with you.
He holds receiver a moment, then speaks.
It’s clear.
SOPHIA: Thank you, Chuck.
Hangs up.
CHUCK: So. So you’re ok.
DEE: Well. Last week gave, what, a sense of closure?
CHUCK: I don’t know if it’s closure. It was good to see you.
DEE: I was glad the Air Force took care of stuff, mostly. They do funerals very well. It was hard on Millie.
CHUCK: She’s what, five?
DEE: Six. She really loved Joey. He was like a dad.
CHUCK: Anything I can do?
DEE: Like what?
Phone beeps.
CHUCK: Scuse me.
SOPHIA: Chuck, you have your appointment, I’m very sorry, but there are squirrels.
CHUCK: What?
SOPHIA: There are squirrels on the bird feeder. Can you please get one of the men to take care of it. I don’t mind feeding squirrels but they have their own place, and they don’t belong on the bird feeder.
CHUCK: I think they’ll go away.
SOPHIA: Somebody needs to go down there. Not you, you have things to do, but get somebody to do it.
CHUCK: Hold on.
To Dee, as he punches button.
Hold on. (on phone) Bob? Chuck. Go out back, there’s a squirrel problem, shoo away the squirrels, ok?
Punches button.
It’s fine.
SOPHIA: Is the door lock working?
CHUCK: We have lots of doors.
SOPHIA: The one I’m thinking about. I had the recollection that there was something wrong.
CHUCK: It’s been fixed.
SOPHIA: You tried the keys and they work?
CHUCK: Right.
SOPHIA: Which door?
CHUCK: The one you’re thinking about.
SOPHIA: There’s a draft.
CHUCK: Ask the maid to close the window.
SOPHIA: Someone’s opened something that should be closed. Find out what’s opened, and close it. Don’t you do it. Have your people do it. Do you like squirrels?
CHUCK: Sure.
SOPHIA: I’m sorry.
Hangs up.
CHUCK: Sorry. I remember you told me how to deal with squirrels on a bird feeder. I remember we had a bird feeder.
DEE: Joey built it. It was all rickety. You were gonna help him, but you didn’t.
CHUCK: Is that what you come here to say?
DEE: No, I figured since you called me you wanted to talk to me. Not a whole lot’s changed. I opened a door back there, there was a brick wall. Just like old times.
CHUCK: Dee, I saw you the other day, I realized—
Phone beeps. They stand looking at one another. At last he answers.
SOPHIA: Chuck, this is intolerable. I saw your man duck out to the bird feeders without a jacket. It’s cold and he’s going to get sick. We’ll be short people on the job, and I’m sure he has loved ones.
CHUCK: Miss Weatherlee, I’m in the middle of a—
SOPHIA: I’m terribly— Sorry, I’m sorry, I’m very sorry, I’ll get off the phone, but I can’t have that on my conscience, do you understand me? I won’t have it!
Pause. Tourists appear, watching Sophia.
You sound upset.
CHUCK: No problem.
CHUCK: My son.
SOPHIA: Is he in trouble again?
CHUCK: He was killed. In the war.
SOPHIA: Is there a war now? I lose track of the wars. My father spoke on the subject. He was against it.
CHUCK: Yes ma’am.
SOPHIA: Well it happens. Who are all these people?
Hangs up. Tourists vanish. Chuck puts down the receiver. Silence.
CHUCK: I get lonely sometimes. When you and Joey left, at least that was one thing off my neck. But then being out there the other day, and seeing you, and your little girl, and your . . . boyfriends, I just. . . Joey. I never knew him.
DEE: I knew him. He was kinda wild, but he was all right. He’s dead, you know.
CHUCK: You got a cute little girl. Does her father pay child support?
DEE: Never did.
CHUCK: I always did. More than my share.
DEE: That’s right.
CHUCK: I fulfilled my responsibilities.
DEE: Yes you did.
CHUCK: Doesn’t that count for something?
DEE: It ought to.
CHUCK: I worked. I provided. I stayed sober. I did productive work.
DEE: Hammering—
CHUCK: I was faithful. I never played around—
DEE: Well I did. Maybe you missed something.
The first times I cheated on you, I felt real bad, but I thought, hey, it’s his fault, so it’s not cheating, it’s just lying. And I messed myself up every way I could, diet pills, Twinkies, I thought, Who am I? Just three layers of fat with some guy lying on top of it? And living my life like a really stupid, sappy movie, and I kept sitting through it again. But I thought, I gotta hold onto Chuck, I gotta keep Chuck, I can’t lose Chuck, I’ll die.
I wouldn’t live that time over, but I will say that I learned a few things. About building what’s worth building.
I’m sorry I’m being mean to you, Chuck. I had in mind, I guess, maybe we could be friends, that wouldn’t be so bad, I remember he’d say funny things, why hold grudges?
My friends, they do things just as crazy as this. The one guy paints these pictures, I don’t understand’em, nobody buys’em. The other one’s a machinist, he talks the way you used to, how you’d love it when you did the job perfect, and it worked.
I keep trying to pull back from hurting you. You can’t help it. You just walked into it and put on the suit. You look really awful in that suit.
Phone beeps. Chuck sits, motionless. It continues. Dee answers.
SOPHIA: Hello?
DEE: Is this Miss Weatherlee?
She turns, looks across the space directly at Sophia. They see each other.
SOPHIA: I don’t think so.
Sophia hangs up, screams. Dee rises.
DEE: I have to go.
CHUCK: Could we keep in touch?
DEE: I doubt it.
CHUCK: If I could say what I wanta say. . .
Dee goes to the door.
DEE: If you could say what you wanta say, you’d have said it.
CHUCK: If there’s anything I can do. . .
DEE: You’d have done it.
She goes out. Chuck remains.
Marty, befuddled, stands, wedges himself into a narrow airshaft, drops his pants to shit. Tourists appear with screw guns and a sheet of drywall.
TOUR GUIDE: Thirteen bathrooms. Many more toilets than that, of course. There was a study done. The number of times one defecates, over a lifetime, is divisible by thirteen.
Use is restricted, of course. Only taxpayers may defecate. The dispossessed must control themselves.
Tourists turn on screw guns. He starts to pull up his pants.
MARTY: Hey, it’s ok. I’m goin! I was lookin— I had a thermos here, aluminum thermos—
The Tourists wall Marty in.
Whatta you doin? Hey! No! This is a union shop! Get me outa here! This is nuts! I’ll die in here. I’ll stink! You’ll smell me in every room! Stinko!
I’m not gonna die! I’m gonna file a grievance! I’m here! I’m gonna make a stink!
Chuck looks around, confused.
CHUCK: Marty?
Tour Guide speaks directly to us.
TOUR GUIDE: This is the tour. This is part of the tour. This is the world you pay to touch when you take the tour.
It’s entertaining if you wear the right shoes.
Did you wear the right shoes?
Did you keep your ticket?
Have you said your prayers?
Sophia is stretched on a bed, propped up, on life support, feeble and blind. Faint hammers.
SOPHIA: This is the house. This is the house that...
It’s that time in the afternoon. They should be lighting the lamps.
Was it Susan said, “Don’t cry when you look at the lamp, your eyes run out, like silt.”
This is the house, and the hammers, and the weeping — the Weatherlee house!
Sunrise...? We need a skylight.
Tourists appear, in surgical garb. They move very slowly around the room, tapping lightly with hammers. Marty shouts, muffled, under the floorboards:
SOPHIA: Something stinks.
SOPHIA: When will I die?
MARTY: Sunday.
SOPHIA: Yesterday was Sunday. Who is it?
Chuck appears.
SOPHIA: What is that smell? Chuck? This is intolerable. We need windows.
CHUCK: Might be the fumigation.
SOPHIA: Stifling—
CHUCK: Infestation. Stuff in the walls.
MARTY: I’m here!
SOPHIA: Who is it?
CHUCK: Me. Chuck. I’m here.
MARTY: I’m in here!
SOPHIA: She’s in the closet?
SOPHIA: Tigger.
CHUCK: Not Tigger.
MARTY: Marty!
CHUCK: No problem with Tigger.
SOPHIA: I didn’t give her her pills. She died. I hid her in the closet and stabbed her with a fork so it looked as if rats killed her. Every night she stank.
There were others. There were millions.
CHUCK: Not directly.
SOPHIA: You understand.
CHUCK: Quick report. Things are on track. We’ve started the sun deck.
SOPHIA: What is the odor?
CHUCK: Could be fumigation. Maybe the treatment plant. Food service, the cooking oil. Bathroom freshener. Dead rats. Lotta stuff.
SOPHIA: It’s time to stop. It’s time enough. It’s finished. We have the rooms. They’re satisfactory. We can stop now.
CHUCK: I have a number of things to do now, Miss Weatherlee—
SOPHIA: I’m sure there will be minor elements to complete—
CHUCK: Excuse me—
SOPHIA: But you will develop a plan for phasing out the work crews, and select a maintenance staff—
CHUCK: I understand your concern, but there’s no problem.
SOPHIA: It’s done. It’s finished. It’s done.
No. Our current phase is over the next three years, and there’s a ten-year projection—
MARTY: Help!
CHUCK: I have to go, Miss Weatherlee. Lotta work.
MARTY: I’m still here!
SOPHIA: Your neighborhood, your family, your son, the dead boys, where are they? The stench is pervasive—
MARTY: That’s me!
SOPHIA: Stop it.
CHUCK: We can’t.
SOPHIA: We have housed our dead. They are accommodated.
Tourists stop hammering.
I’ve done my share, but I can’t be responsible for housing the full population. One hour at Chancellorsville would fill the West Wing. And they come to the door, and they say, “We’re here from Gettysburg, from Verdun, Sand Creek, Okinawa, from Dresden, from . . . oh, where they came into that village, and they lined them all up, we’re from there.”
I can’t house them all. They wander about and have babies. In my rooms they have babies. They have names.
CHUCK: We are not stopping and you are going to be fine. You will be fine. Everything here is fine. It’s got a life of its own. Your orders were that the hammers should never stop, and they are never gonna stop.
SOPHIA: They have names!
The Tourists kneel in prayer, speaking names: “John, Sandra, Anthony, Laura, Adam, Timothy, Karen” etc. Sophia starts to raise herself in bed, entangling her hands in tubes.
SOPHIA: What are these tubes?
CHUCK: Miss Weatherlee— We’ll have to get the nurse. Now relax. You’ll have your headaches.
MARTY: Out! Out! Out!
Chuck tries to restrain her. She stares at him, mute. Hammers are louder.
CHUCK: You’re ok. You’re feeling fine. You’ve got a lotta years. Dozens of people depend on you. Hundreds. Thousands, maybe. You with me? Miss Weatherlee?
She is silent, with a mad stare through tears, grasping the sleeves of his suit.
Don’t start that with me now. Cut it out. Didn’t we start here together? Haven’t I been good to you? I did it for you. You owe me.
Hammers are louder.
Stop that! Stop it! There’s nothing to cry about! You got what you wanted! Everything you said! You’re happy!`
CHUCK: I built this house. You wanted this house and I built it. That’s what the job is. I do the job.
CHUCK: You can’t make it stop. They’ve got power of attorney and they can do anything they damn please. It’s a major enterprise. We’re talking the Economy. We’re talking jobs. It’s bigger than people. People don’t mean shit.
Chuck’s pent-up grief and rage erupt.
You don’t have enough corpses to fill the fucking rooms, we’ll order’em. I knew it a long time, and I kept right on because the fucking money’s good, and I had a family to support who are now gone and dead, but I have a coat and tie and I look good in a coat and tie, and stop staring at me. Stop it! Stop it!
SOPHIA: Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!
Tourists rise, in extreme confusion. Sophia turns, rips tubes from her nose and arms.
TOURISTS: Stop it!
Tourists rush to the bed, suffocate her under pillows.
It’s ok! We’re here! Stay calm! Don’t cry! Hush now! Smile!
Table saw rips. Tourists freeze. They turn very slowly, terrified, begin to sneak off. Sophia’s body remains, covered.
MARTY: It’s quiet. That’s nice.
The Tourists disappear.
Chuck remains, dumbstruck. He consults his clipboard.
CHUCK: I was saying. . . So we’re waiting on a shipment of mahogany before we finish the atrium. . . But the expansion is pretty much. . . My take on it is. . .
Tour Guide appears beside Chuck.
TOUR GUIDE: You can take it from here.
CHUCK: Sure. Well. . .
TOUR GUIDE: At the end, you do a recapitulation.
Tour Guide exchanges jackets with Chuck, hands in flashlight. Near us, Dee appears.
CHUCK: Right. Ok. Well, recapitulation. I got a job here, good job, good pay. And then I was foreman, and that was pretty much round the clock. And my wife left me then, we had a son, my son was. . .
You need a map. You could get lost in here. That’s the hallway to the south section. No, we changed that. I built that.
This was a stairway, very low steps because of her arthritis. Thirteen steps here.
DEE: That was September, I think. Just after Millie’s birthday, and I was flying high. Then bam: found out I had breast cancer. And I thought, should I call Chuck?
Chuck wears the Tour Guide’s black glasses. Now he’s blind.
CHUCK: What happened was, this guy, my mother’s friend’s cousin, I guess, I got this job. And we had a son, Joey, I think, yeh, Joey—
Chuck moves into the distance, through a labyrinth of stud walls. His figure is reflected multiply in the black.
DEE: And both my boyfriends — what, “lovers,” “significant others”?— Both my friends. Were so great. Took care of me. Took care of Millie. Put their hands where the breast was.
CHUCK: I thought there was a door there. Go through there, you’re in thirty rooms. Is that south? No, sunrise.
And then a number of years. I remember I put on a suit, and that was the end of the marriage, bye bye. And the boy died, he was killed. And we expanded. Which way’s north?
Like with Stonehenge, did they know they were going to build all those stones? Did they ever wanta stop?
DEE: And then I saw a photograph. This woman, somebody, she’d lost a breast, and she’d had a tattoo. This wonderful feathered dragon, flying out of her chest, so beautiful. Colors.
CHUCK: Isn’t that funny? Don’t worry, I built this, so who should know better than me? I built all this.
DEE: Tattoo. I’d like to do that. I think I will. For spring.
CHUCK: We need a map. I think we’re lost. We need a map.
He turns about, trying to find a way among his reflections. Black.