Retribution: A Radio Play

Part I Transcript

Scene 1: Town Square

 

(It is a dusty old western town, the hubbub of a slight busy day clatters on underneath the dialogue. The BUSYBODIES, a gaggle of old women and gossips, a greek chorus of sorts, linger around. MS. BETTY and CLETUS stand with them.)

 

BUSYBODIES

Sweet Lord above-

 

MS. BETTY

Sweet Lord in His eternal love-

 

BUSYBODIES

It is hot. Sweatin’ through my Sunday’s best. 

 

MS.  BETTY

And it’s only Tuesday.

 

BUSYBODIES

Hot enough to make the devil sweat. Hot enough to drive a man from his wife and into the arms of some lusty sinner. Hot enough to-

 

CLETUS

Hotter than a bitch-

 

BUSYBODIES

Cletus!

 

CLETUS

Sorry, Lord. But it is ain’t it? Ain’t never know it to be this bad an’ I lived here near my whole life. Nearly five whole families have fled the town. The heat killed their prospects and future hopes. What could have driven Him in His eternal kindness to this I’ll never know.

 

MS. BETTY

So you ain’t heard? 

 

BUSYBODIES

Heard what?

MS. BETTY

Well, I don’t like to gossip, but I think you oughta’ know since you’re a farmer and this drought and heat might just kill all your crop. It would only be good neighborly kindness. Willow Gravis-

 

CLETUS

The butcher’s daughter? 

 

BUSYBODIES

That little girl? What’s she got to do with anything? Why she’s so shy she once ran off stage right in the middle of the Christmas pageant. Baby Jesus had no mama for the rest of the show. 

 

MS. BETTY

She’s….in a family way. 

 

BUSYBODIES

That little girl?

 

MS. BETTY

Not little anymore. Her Daddy, when he found out, he was furious. Yelling and screaming all night. I just couldn’t fall asleep. That was six or seven months ago now. Course she never leaves the house, but I see her through my curtains every so often and she is very, very swollen.

 

CLETUS

Who did that to her?

 

MS.  BETTY

That’s the question of the century. She won’t say. A situation like that, a father who won’t claim his child, it just ain’t right. And when things ain’t right things don’t work….like the weather. Of course, that’s just what the pastor says. 

 

BUSYBODIES

Will the drought ever end if the child remains unclaimed?

 

MS. BETTY

I can’t say for sure, but I don’t see why it would start again unless the dog comes forward.

 

(TERRA enters carrying a bucket. She pumps the creaky water spout.)
 

BUSYBODIES

What is she doing pumping that water spout like that? Don’t she know there’s a drought? Ain’t right for her to be working. Look what she’s wearing. Dressing like a man. Who does she think she is?

 

MS. BETTY

How Terra McHale's parents simply haven’t keeled over and died from shame and disappointment I’ll never know. Why if my girl was 27, unmarried, and playing in the dirt for a living…. I could never be that strong.

 

TERRA

Hello there. Awful hot morning we’re having isn’t it, Ms. Betty?

 

MS. BETTY

Yes indeed, deary. You really oughtnt’ be working in this heat.

 

TERRA

I gotta. Otherwise, all my crops would die and we just wouldn't want that now, would we?

 

BUSYBODIES

What a girl. What a strange, vicious girl.

 

CLETUS

Why don't you let me pump that for you, Ms. Terra? Wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself, would you?

 

TERRA

I spend my days and nights toiling in the soil doing backbreaking labor to raise my crops. This is a pump. Sure to say I won't hurt myself, but thank you for your thoughtfulness, Cletus.

 

CLETUS

Course Ms. Terra. Just trying to lend a neighborly hand. (To the BUSYBODIES) Miserable girl. 

 

(CLETUS exits. IRVING, a charming, puppy-dog-of-a-man, enters.)

 

IRVING

Morning Cletus, looking as lovely as ever. Morning Ms. Betty. I thought the drought was causing this heat but it is clearly you. And you too Ms. Caper and you too Mrs. Donahue.  Maybe if we ran all you lovely ladies out of town we’d poor folk finally stand a chance. Course with none of y’all in town what’s the point of being here.

 

BUSYBODIES

Oh, Irving. You really are the most charming young man. Even when you were a boy your smile would send us all to pieces. How is it you haven’t been snatched up yet?

 

IRVING

I wonder that too.

 

BUSYBODIES

Oh, I see. You’re sniffing ‘round that girl again. 

 

IRVING

What can I say? I’m hopeless. Now, don’t mean to be rude, but my future’s calling.

 

(IRVING starts to TERRA)

 

BUSYBODIES

If I were younger…. If he were older-

 

MS. BETTY

If he weren't so stupid he’d almost be perfect. Let’s go, girls. Our bridge club is meeting soon. 

 

(The BUSYBODIES exit)

 

IRVING

Hello Terra. You are a hard woman to find. Been looking for you all morning. 

 

TERRA

Not now, Irving.

 

IRVING

I got you a present.

 

TERRA

Not now, Irving,

 

IRVING

Don’t you at least want to know what I got you? Never met a woman who didn’t like presents.

 

TERRA

Well, now you have. (IRVING sighs until TERRA stops pumping) Fine, what is it?

 

IRVING

Here.  (He hands her some seeds) We barely have enough water down at the flower shop to keep the flowers we already have alive. Figured these seeds might fare better in your mighty pretty….mighty capable hands.

 

TERRA

This is really sweet of you, Irving. 

 

IRVING

Sweet enough for you to rethink my marriage proposal?

 

TERRA

You do so well when you don’t talk. (TERRA turns back to pumping, but nothing is coming out.) Come on you stupid….just a drop. Can you do that for me? Just a…. (Terra kicks the pump). Dangit you confounded lump of metal. 

 

IRVING

Terra, I think you're beating a dead horse, so to speak. 

 

TERRA

What else am I supposed to do? I’m a farmer, Irving. I farm and farming needs water. It hasn’t rained in months and my reservoir supply is running dangerously low. If I don’t get water from somewhere my whole crop is gonna’ die.

 

IRVING

So you’ll just try again next year-

 

TERRA

Next year? Won’t be no next year. I can barely pay the mortgage now, and my parents hate that I’m doing this. They think I should be married off to someone I don’t love making babies I don’t want. Forced to spend my life pricking my thumbs with sewing needles to momentarily escape the cold numbness that exists there and dreading the day when that won’t be enough.  

 

IRVING

You’re so pretty when you talk. 

 

TERRA

I’m serious, Irving. 

 

IRVING

I know. 

 

TERRA

I’m getting desperate.

 

IRVING

How desperate?

 

TERRA

Irving, if you start talking all that nasty again-

 

IRVING

No. None of that this time. Listen, I heard from my Momma who heard it from Ms. Laureli who heard it from Ms. Betty who heard it from the pastor who heard it from God that this here drought is ‘cause something ain't right. I also heard Willow is eating for two now.

 

TERRA

Willow is pregnant? Willow Gravis? The butcher's daughter? I’ve never even seen her look at a man and she’s managed to go and find one to have her? Well, good on her, I suppose. But what’s a drought got to do with any of that?

 

IRVING

Ms. Betty says it’s cause God doesn’t like it when young girls and their children are left without fathers. Or that cause He’s a father and all, he doesn’t like bad ones. Something like that. The point is the rain won’t come because someone’s already come and gone.

 

TERRA

Irving!

 

IRVING

Sorry. It was too perfect. 

 

TERRA

That mouth’s gonna’ get you in trouble.

 

IRVING

Hasn’t yet. So, you believe it?

 

TERRA

Do I believe that Willow is gonna be a mother? No, but I could see it happening. Do I believe that one person could cause all this mess? Do I believe God Himself would stop the rain in order to drive out one man? Well, I don’t know, more unbelievable things have happened.

IRVING

Glad to be a help.

 

TERRA

Hey, Irving...if it’s not too much trouble-

 

IRVING

You’re the only trouble I ever want to be in.

 

TERRA

Nevermind.

 

IRVING

I didn’t mean it.  Thought it was funny.

 

TERRA  

I was going to ask if you could go to Willow’s and ask her to come over to my farm an hour or so after sunset. Don’t have time to go myself and I’d like to talk to her-

 

IRVING

Don’t even need to ask.

 

TERRA

Thank you. I really appreciate it.

 

IRVING

I appreciate that you appreciate it. 

 

TERRA

Bye, Irving.

 

(TERRA exits)

 

IRVING

I’m going to marry you one of these days, you know. We both gotta married some time, why not marry each other? We’re gonna have a family, Terra.

(To himself while exiting)

A big family. With a coupla kids and a home, we’ll be proud of.

 

(IRVING exits. )
 

Scene 2: Saloon

 

(BUSYBODIES, MS. BETTY, and CLETUS gossip as it is all they know how to do.)

 

MS. BETTY

You’ll never imagine what I saw today.

 

CLETUS

Did another family move out? Damn it. Without the rain who knows who’s next. 

 

MS. BETTY

No.

 

BUSYBODIES

What, Betty? Was it a rattler? 

 

MS. BETTY

No. Cornelius McHale.

 

BUSYBODIES

Terra’s brother? What’s so special about him. 

 

CLETUS

Never liked him. Always thinking he’s better than us.

 

MS. BETTY

He is better than you, Cletus. He’s young and rich and smart. He’s worlds better than you. But, it’s what he was saying-

 

CLETUS

No young upstart is better than-

 

BUSYBODIES

Shut up, old man. (To MS. BETTY) Saying what? Saying what?

 

MS. BETTY

He was holding a letter and muttering to himself. Violent whispers that whipped up gooseflesh on my arms. Talking something vicious about his sister. 

 

CLETUS

Don’t know why y’all all surprised. They both crazy. Sides you should never trust a man that only wears suits. Ain’t healthy.

 

BUSYBODIES

Oh, how I pity the McHale’s. Blessed by man and cursed by God.  Terrible people in terrible states. 

 

CLETUS

Acts of God. 

 

BUSYBODIES

Miserable states. 

 

Scene 3: Terra's Kitchen

 

(TERRA’s kitchen is a pretty simple place. It has a table, some chairs, and a nice homey feeling to it. NEIL, Terra’s older brother, is sitting at the table reading a letter. He’s a bigger ball of anxiety than usual. TERRA enters with her bucket.)

 

NEIL

And where have you been? Do you know what time it is?

 

TERRA

The time I wanted to come home. 

 

(TERRA places the bucket on the wooden table)

 

NEIL

It’s eight o’clock at night.

 

TERRA

I was trying to get some water, and I was selling off the last of my eggs and vegetables. Here. (TERRA places some money on the table) I don’t need to explain myself to you, you know. 

 

NEIL

This isn't enough to get you through a week let alone make up for the amount of produce you lost to the drought.

 

TERRA

I sold what I had. What’s wrong with you? You’re not this tightly wound, usually.

NEIL

Mother and Father have written me. Asking about you. Asking about your farm.

 

TERRA 

What are you planning to tell them?

 

NEIL

What can I tell them? I’ve been lying to them since I practically got here, saying that you were the best farmer in the county because you said you needed a little more time to get “the hang of things”.

 

TERRA

I did need more time. 

 

NEIL

Oh sure, growing a modest amount of vegetables is all well and good, but now there’s a drought and you’re selling a few dollars worth of food? How can I go from best farmer in the county to telling them you’re teetering on the bank of brinkruptcy. Brink of bankruptcy? Oh, who gives a cuss. Father thinks I’m doing such a good job watching over you. He thinks I’m practically a saint for leaving home for three years to watch over you in your….time of crisis. 

 

TERRA

I’m not in-

 

NEIL

He wants me to take over the printing business. He says that when you come to your senses and get married, I can start to run things. Thinks I’m suited for it. Wants me to move back to Boston. What will he do when he finds out I’ve been lying to him for months now? Bye Bye Boston. Bye Bye Future. Oh, I need a seltzer. 

 

TERRA

So, you are going to tell them?

 

NEIL

No. No that wouldn’t be right, would it? Would it? No, it wouldn’t.

 

TERRA

Thanks, Neil. That’s why you’re my favorite.

 

NEIL

Favorite what? Family member? Brother? Abused task monkey?

TERRA

You’re just my favorite.

 

NEIL

Tell me you found water, at least?

 

TERRA

No, but I think the drought may be kinda divine retribution of sorts.

 

NEIL

Did you get heat stroke while you were out?

 

TERRA

Talk of the town is that the butcher's daughter, Willow, don’t know if you ever met her but she's pregnant. 

 

NEIL

Pregnant?

 

TERRA

Yes. Apparently, it was the handiwork of some rogue gentleman caller.

 

NEIL

Oh.

 

TERRA

Stop blushing, Neil. I’d have thought you’ve never heard of these things before.

 

NEIL

It’s just so...untoward.

 

TERRA

Maybe in Boston, but things are different here, thank God. I think if I find the father then I’ll bring back the water. Bring back the water I’ll save my farm, I’ll save your skin with Daddy. I’ll save us both. Won’t that be nice? I’ll save us both.

 

NEIL

So what exactly are you going to do? Can’t make a man be a father. He might not even be in town anymore. How are you even going to figure out who it is? 

 

(There is a knock on the door)
 

TERRA

I’ll ask...and calm down. You’re liable to scare her.

 

(TERRA walks to the door)

 

NEIL

Her?

 

TERRA

(Opening Door)

Well, I’ll be. Come in. Come in.

 

WILLOW

Thank you.

(Willow and Terra enter the house letting the door close behind them)

 

TERRA

Must admit I didn’t think you’d come. 

 

WILLOW

Oh! I didn’t know that we wouldn’t be alone.

 

TERRA

Yes, I’m sorry. I should have mentioned. This is my brother…..Come on, introduce yourself.

 

NEIL

McHale. Cornelius Jacob McHale. Most people just call me Neil for short. Course some people call me Cornelius too. It’s all preference at this point. Nice to meet you.

 

WILLOW

Nice to meet you, Mr. McHale. 

 

TERRA

Neil, this is Willow.

 

NEIL

Yes, I ascertained. I should...I should leave you ladies some privacy. Some….Nice to meet you Ms. Gravis.

 

WILLOW

Likewise.

 

NEIL

Terra.

 

(NEIL exits)

 

TERRA

Forgive him. 

 

WILLOW

I assume things are different where you’re from

 

TERRA

No, that’s not Boston. That’s just Neil.  (Beat) So…..

 

WILLOW

I know what you’re going to ask about-

 

TERRA

No. No. I just want to see how you’re doing?

 

WILLOW

In the three years you’ve lived here we’ve exchanged maybe a handful of words. Now suddenly and without reason-

 

TERRA

I know I could be a better neighbor so I’m trying. I’m trying?  

 

(She means this as an adjective)

 

WILLOW

You are.

 

TERRA

Funny. I didn’t know you were funny.

 

WILLOW

Mmmm.

 

WILLOW/TERRA

So, Irving?/ How about this heat?

 

WILLOW

The heat?

 

TERRA

What about Irving?

 

WILLOW

I mean, he came to my house for you. Are you two tying the knot anytime soon? (TERRA laughs) No?

 

TERRA

No. I mean, Irving and I….that would be like oil and water. Or sawdust and water. Or sewage and water. Speaking of water, I…. um, you hear about this drought?

 

WILLOW

Of course.

 

TERRA

It’s about six or seven months long now.

 

WILLOW

Yes. 

 

TERRA

You know, droughts don’t really last that long round the territory, I heard. A month or two, sure. But seven….it’s almost supernatural. How many, uh, how many months are you along now?

 

WILLOW

Seven or….hold on now. What’s your meaning ‘bout this?

 

TERRA

Don’t mean to insinuate anything….except I do. You’re seven months along, the drought’s seven months along-

 

WILLOW

You think I did all this? You think I’m a witch or something else like that? A sorceress?

 

TERRA

No. No, I think that when you got pregnant something changed….shifted, because of the father-

 

WILLOW

What about the father?

 

TERRA

Well, who is he?

 

WILLOW

That’s none-

 

TERRA

People are saying that….that because of the father-

 

WILLOW/TERRA

This is no one’s business but my own and I don’t appreciate this at all/He’s not here and the rain won't come back until he claims his child. His actions.

 

WILLOW

I knew you didn’t invite me here because you wanted to be friends.

 

TERRA

Look, we can all be friendly when the rain comes down in spades but until then I need to start thinking about more than friendship.

 

WILLOW

Well, then we’ll never be friends because I’m not talking.

 

TERRA

Willow, think about this-

 

WILLOW

You can go back and tell your little town friends that as far as anyone is concerned, and they shouldn’t be because it’s not their business, there is no father. I did this by myself. I’ll raise it by myself and that will have to be enough for us both. 

 

(WILLOW exits)

 

TERRA

Well, this isn’t going to be easy.  (Beat) Of course, I’ve never liked easy. Someone has to know something and I know someone who makes it their business to know everything. 

 

(TERRA exits)
 

Scene 4: Ms. Betty's Porch

 

(TERRA is on the porch of MS. BETTY’S house in the middle of the night. It is simple yet it screams “anything you say on this property can and will be used against you”. TERRA knocks on the door. No response. She knocks again. No response. She knocks once.)

 

MS. BETTY

There better be a fire or a stroke. Otherwise, you’re just being a rather awful fool by interrupting my bridge game. (MS. BETTY opens the door) Oh.

 

TERRA

Evening, Ms. Betty.

 

MS. BETTY

Child, what are you doing on my porch at this hour?

 

BUSYBODIES

Who is it Betty?

 

MS. BETTY

Come see for yourself.

 

(BUSYBODIES enter)

 

BUSYBODIES

Miss McHale.

 

TERRA

Howdy, ladies. Sorry to bother you this late in the evening, course I wouldn't do it if it weren’t awful important-

 

MS. BETTY

Stop hemming and hawing and get to the point. I have tea in the kettle and money on the game.

 

TERRA

Bout the the drought. Bout Willow.

 

MS.BETTY

And?

 

TERRA

Since you know so much….I was just wondering if you could tell me everything about what’s happening’ with her. Course, I wouldn’t just bother you for no reason, but I think it’s real important to ending’ the drought and all, and, I mean you do know everything.

 

MS.BETTY

Stop flattering me, girl. Sit down, McHale. You look more uncomfortable than a Catholic at a Baptist revival. Sit. So what you want to know about little miss, over there?

 

TERRA

Everything. Everything, you remember. Anything that can help me find the father. 

 

MS.BETTY

The father? Why are you looking for him? 

 

TERRA

Irving told me-

 

MS.BETTY

You and Irving?

 

TERRA

It’s not like that. Jesus, Ms. Betty….Sorry. All I’m mean is that-

 

MS.BETTY

You’d better be sorry. You come around to my house. Interrupt my bridge. Raise your voice on my porch-

 

TERRA

I know. I’m awful. But please this is serious. 

 

MS.BETTY

Yes, and why is it so important to you? You always looked down on us for sharing our good information but here you are, begging. 

 

TERRA

I don’t beg.

(Beat)

Ms. Betty, please. Irving told me it was you who told him that the drought had to stop when Willow’s baby’s father claimed his child. I need to find that man.

 

MS.BETTY

Hmm.

 

TERRA

Haven’t you ever loved something? Loved it so much that you put your whole heart and soul in it. Wouldn’t you do everything to make sure it lives? Wouldn’t you do everything?  I love my farm, Ms. Betty. I’d do anything.

 

MS.BETTY

You think…You….I…..it’s the fifth.

 

TERRA

It’s….oh, it’s the fifth.

 

MS. BETTY

He turned 32 three hours ago.

 

BUSYBODIES

Ezekiel. A fine boy. Always there to help. A good boy.  May he rest and God bless the childless mother.

 

TERRA

I’m sorry Ms. Betty-

 

MS. BETTY

He, um, it…Gravis is…..I don’t….people don’t come by the Gravis house. 

 

BUSYBODIES

Gravis never lets anyone in. After his wife died that house became a fortress. A broken man is he. 

 

MS. BETTY

Course I think the only time anyone comes up to the house is when Gravis orders flowers to put out back on his wife's grave. I always know when that is cause I can see her grave from my bedroom window. Always the nicest red lilies. JR used to deliver but his son does now.

 

TERRA

Irving delivers the flowers now?

 

MS.BETTY

Hmmm.

 

TERRA

I gotta go, but….I’ll come back, maybe. If you would like.

 

MS. BETTY

I neither need nor want your pity, McHale. I’m not some sad old woman you have to care for to ease your guilt.

 

TERRA

Fine, then. Have fun with your bridge.

 

MS. BETTY

But you can’t just leave now either. The art of information sharing is an old-time honored one. I gave you got, now what do you have to give to me.

 

TERRA

I don’t have time for this.

 

MS. BETTY

Make time. 

 

TERRA

I...uh...Irving proposed to me. 

 

(TERRA runs off.)

 

BUSYBODIES

What? Wait, What? Why? When? Where? What? When? How? When? What? Girl!

 

Scene 5: A Field

 

(TERRA is pacing in the middle of an empty field. IRVING, in pajamas with a jacket, enters.)

 

IRVING

Why we stopin’ here? Why’d you drag me out of bed at three in the morning? I was having the nicest dream….you were there, but not like this. Ain’t even gonna hit me for making a crass joke ‘bout you? Must be bad….Hey. Terra-

 

TERRA

You...you and Willow. You two? The kid’s yours.

 

IRVING

The kid is….wait a minute-
 

TERRA

Asked Ms.Betty. She says you deliver flowers to them. You’re the only person who goes to their house.

 

IRVING

That doesn’t mean-

 

TERRA

Her father makes sure she doesn’t leave the house. You’re the only…. I thought….We’re friends, Irving, despite anything we might say we are. You could have told me. 

 

IRVING

Terra, think about what you’re saying-

 

TERRA

So, you’re telling me you and Williow’ve never done anything-

 

IRVING

Well, no. I mean-

 

TERRA

See! 

 

IRVING

But that was different. Me and Willow, it was like….we’re not in love or in anything.

 

TERRA

Who said you had to be in love? You’re a father now, Irving. Speaking of, your father know you been delivering seed with the flowers?

 

IRVING

That’s only a little funny and no, he don’t.

 

TERRA

You gonna tell him?

 

IRVING

No. I don’t know. I’m not married and he’s….he wouldn’t like what I’d done.

 

TERRA

But you did it. 

IRVING

I did it. You, uh, you think it’ll have my eyes. Maybe it’s a boy. Raising a boy’ll be fun, but I always really wanted a girl. 

 

TERRA

You need to go talk to Willow. Need to claim what’s yours. End the drought. 

 

IRVING

You think she’ll have me. 

 

TERRA

No, but you have to try. 

 

IRVING

You’re right I hafta’....I gotta’.....You’re a true friend, Terra McHale.

 

(IRVING kisses TERRA’S cheek and runs off in a frenzy.)

 
 
 
 
 

Scene 6: Terra's Kitchen

 

(NEIL enters the house. TERRA sits at the table tired but triumphant.)

 

NEIL

Terra, you look miserable. Did you get any sleep last night?

 

TERRA

Buck up, Neil, you old homebody. I’ve done you and me both a real favor. I stopped the drought. Rain should be coming any day now. 

 

NEIL

Come again?

 

TERRA

I stopped the drought.

 

NEIL

Terra, what did you do?

 

TERRA

I told you I-

 

NEIL

No, no, no. I mean what did you do to make you think you did what you think you did?

 

TERRA

I found the father. 

 

NEIL

Ms. Gravis’-

 

TERRA

Yes, Willow’s. Keep up, Neil. Usually, you’re so sharp.

 

NEIL

It’s just….how’d you even find any of this out?

 

TERRA

Irving told me.

 

NEIL

Irving!

 

TERRA

Calm down. Yes, Irving. Apparently, him and Ms. Willow Tree have been having an affair of sorts for the past couple of years. Well, he never told me how long it’s been going on, but he said it’d happened more than once, so-

 

NEIL

He and Ms. Gravis?

 

TERRA

No, him and Ms. Betty. Yea, him and Willow. Neil, are you feeling okay?

 

(WILLOW enters in a fury the door slams behind her)

 

WILLOW

Terra McHale!

 

TERRA

Damn, I need to reinforce that door.

 

NEIL

Miss, you need to le-

 

WILLOW

Would either one of you thick-headed beasts tell me why my father burst into my room today talking about how he was going to murder Irving?

 

TERRA

Oh, that’s bad.

 

WILLOW

Yes, it is, which is why I had to hitch a ride to get all the way out here. I figured you had something to do with it. 

 

TERRA

I may have had a hand, but everything else was all Irving. He told me how you two got to know each other in the Biblical sense-

 

WILLOW

Oh, Lord-

 

TERRA

And how the baby was his-

 

WILLOW

Oh, Lord-

 

TERRA

But he seems excited to be a father.

 

NEIL

That little boy couldn’t take care of a rock.

 

TERRA/WILLOW

He runs a flower shop, Neil/ He owns a flower shop, Cornelius.

 

NEIL

Ain’t the point-

 

WILLOW

No, the point is you’ve been diggin’ in my business.

 

TERRA

Your business is all of our business. My farm-
 

WILLOW

No one cares about your farm but you. You think your farm matters compared to this. I’ve got a whole new life to take care of, and it’s already been stained with tarnish. 

 

TERRA

Don’t talk about it that way!

 

NEIL

Terra-

 

TERRA

No, you can’t come in my house and talk about my livelyhood that way. Now, you best apologize or you better get out.

 

NEIL

I’m sorry, Miss. Could you just leave my sister and I for a quick minute? Take a seat in our parlor, it’s well furnished. This way, please. (WILLOW walk to the parlor.) Terra Anne McHale….now I don’t know exactly what you did and it doesn’t matter, either. You can’t go around talking to people like that. Treating them like that. I mean, she’s a lady-

 

TERRA

I’m a lady.

 

NEIL

Well, she’s a pregnant lady, and you can’t speak to her that way. Go apologize. You were wrong. 

 

TERRA

No one respects me. No one respects what I do. Farmin’ isn’t just putting seeds in the ground, Neil. It’s building a community. It’s making something more than yourself for people who need it. Farming is a kindness and I want to be kind…..Neil, I don't know what I’d do if I had to shut down the farm. It’s my gift. 

 

NEIL

You seem like you’re under an awful lot of stress here. Might it be better if you go back to Boston to rest?

 

TERRA

No.

 

NEIL

Terra-

 

TERRA

No, Neil. I can’t go back there. 

 

NEIL

That’s home, Terra. This...all of this isn’t anything more than a fantasy constructed in the middle of a three-year-long psychotic break. This obsession with the rain, that fake accent you seem to have put on, this farm...it’s all a dream, Terra. 

 

TERRA

And what do you know about my dreams, Neil? That place is bad for me. With mother and father….I hate that man, Neil. I’ll hate him forever. 

 

NEIL

That man is the one who paid for this house.  Lest you forgot, it’s his money you stole to buy this place. You’re lucky you’re his favorite and he didn't ask me to bring you back to Boston kicking and screaming. 

 

(Terra’s anger forces her out of her accent.)

 

TERRA

Favorite? I should…..don’t you ever, ever speak about that man like that to me again. I swear to God, Cornelius….. don’t pretend that he is some sort of saint when I’ve seen what he is. 

 

NEIL

And what is that?

 

(Beat)

 

TERRA

You wouldn’t understand. 

 

NEIL

How can I if you don’t tell me? It’s always secrets and lies with you. Terra only cares about Terra, yes? Well, I have a life too. In Boston. Where we belong. 

 

TERRA

Go back, then. 

 

NEIL

You know Father won’t take me back without you. 

 

(Terra finds her accent again.)

 

TERRA

Then I suggest you get comfortable. 

NEIL

Go to Hell. 

 

(WILLOW enters)

 

WILLOW

It’s getting awful dark, and I can’t stand to be in here for any second longer. 

 

TERRA

I’ll walk you-

 

WILLOW

I don’t want to spend a single moment longer with you either.

 

NEIL

I’ll walk you out, Willow. 

 

TERRA

Look Willow, I….

 

WILLOW

What? What’s wrong with you now?

 

NEIL

Terra, what’s the-

 

TERRA

You….you called her, Willow.

 

NEIL

What?

 

TERRA

You called her….Oh, Neil, tell me it’s not true. 

 

WILLOW

Maybe I should wait outside. 

 

(WILLOW quickly leaves the house.)

 

TERRA

You and Willow. Tell me that’s not true. 
 

NEIL

I….now, wait a minute-

 

TERRA

Oh, Cornelius. 

 

NEIL

I don’t-

 

TERRA

You called her Willow. Not Miss Gravis. Willow. You said it with such tenderness, I….you took her hand, you...when I told you about Irving, that wasn’t confusion, that was anger. When I told you about the pregnancy that wasn’t prudeness that was guilt. Oh, Cornelius, is that child yours?

 

NEIL

I…..I’m not….I…..I don’t know.

 

TERRA

Well, you’d better know. You and Irving are the only two men who’ve laid with her so the child must be one of yours. 

 

NEIL

What makes you think that we’re the only two?

 

TERRA

You know how many men are in this town, and now that I’ve seen what she fancies, there aren’t many like the two of you running around. Jesus, Neil. You had me going around looking like a fool when you were here the whole time.  Are you even gonna take care of her? I feel like I ought’ tell someone-

 

NEIL

Please, don’t tell father. Terra, I’ll be done for. He’ll never let me marry now that I’ve gone and ruined some girl. I’ll never get the business. Terra-

 

TERRA

And you shouldn’t. Cornelius, take some responsibility, man, if I can even call you that. Jesus, don't you have any standards-

 

NEIL

You sound just like him. 

 

TERRA

Do not do that. Do not compare me to Father. 

 

NEIL

What? You do. So judgemental. So high and mighty. So convinced that your way is the only way.  For someone you claim to hate, you’re a lot alike.  (Beat) You’re not gonna tell him. Are you? (Terra remains silent) Thank-

 

TERRA

Go home, Neil. I don’t want to look at you. 

 

(NEIL hesitates and exits)

Scene 7: Town Square

 

(BUSYBODIES, MS. BETTY, and CLETUS are beside themselves with excitement and a deep-rooted compulsive energy, as if the words are being pulled out of them)

 

BUSYBODIES

Two fathers. Two. One outsider. One who belongs to us. One child. Two girls. Too much to handle. Too much to know.

 

CLETUS

So much was had. 

 

MS. BETTY

Too much to know. 

 

BUSYBODIES

Yet the Lord without mercy won’t let the rain waters flow. The land is barren. Crops can’t grow. Just this morning another two families gone. Now the money’s run out, we’re a living swan song. 

 

MS. BETTY

Can’t believe the preacher was wrong. 

 

CLETUS

I can. No one with that much self-love can be right no way. 

 

MS. BETTY

Wonder how Willow is? Why I remember when she was small enough to hide behind her mother’s skirts and now she’s old enough to throw her skirt back for every man that walks by.

 

CLETUS

Mattress on her back. 

 

BUSYBODIES

Back to the sky. 

 

CLETUS

Open to every man who longs to pass by. Oh, what a girl. Miserable girl. 

 

BUSYBODIES

What a waste. 

 

MS. BETTY

What happened to that little girl?

 

BUSYBODIES

Her mother happened.

 

(MS. BETTY realizes the truth.)

 

MS. BETTY

Her father happened. 

 

CLETUS

What’s that?

 

MS. BETTY

Her father. The butcher. 

 

BUSYBODIES

Oh? (Everyone realizes the truth.) Oh.

 

(Beat. Denial.)

 

CLETUS

Right. Where were we?

 

BUSYBODIES

Which boy took her we’ll never know, but such salacious, licentious, delicious-

 

MS. BETTY

Do you think we must beg for forgiveness or do you think, like a curse, it will be given freely?

CLETUS

Betty, you’re throwing off our rhythm, Jesus.

 

MS. BETTY

Heavy souls we shall be, but hush up here comes our cast of players now. Caught in some living drama.

 

(IRVING, NEIL, and WILLOW enter. Things are not going well.)

 

WILLOW

Boys, please leave me alone. 

 

IRVING

I can not. I love you, Willow Gravis. I want to be with you. 

 

NEIL

I thought you loved Terra.

 

IRVING

I do. You can love more than one person at once. 

 

NEIL

Not legally. Willow, is this the boy you want to raise your child? Now, I know we're not sure if the child is mine, but if it is I will gladly send you and the boy up to some small town near Boston. Salem, perhaps. Medford has lovely autumns-

 

WILLOW

I don’t want to leave, Neil.

 

NEIL

And why not?

 

IRVING

Because you’re a sad man, Cornelius. 

 

NEIL

And what does that make you, flower boy? 

 

WILLOW

Boys stop being boys, and be the men you told me you were.  (The BUSYBODIES laugh.) And now you’ve got all these eyes on me….just go. Both of you. 

 

IRVING

I’ll check on you later. 

 

(IRVING exits.)

 

NEIL

We’ll talk. 

 

(NEIL exits. )

 

WILLOW

You too. All of y’all too. 

 

BUSYBODIES

Fine, Weepin’ Willow. But we know where you are. 

 

CLETUS

We know it all. 

 

MS. BETTY

We know too much. 

 

(BUSYBODIES, CLETUS, and MS. BETTY exit. WILLOW melts.)

 

WILLOW

Have I done something, God? Have I? Have I earned this? I’ve asked for so little for so long, how much longer am I supposed to wait? Or have I got it all wrong? Is this what I’ve asked for? Is it?  Because if it is, this is not what I want. If this is what I asked for, please take it back. You have to take it back. Let me try again. Let me try again. You….you owe me….I try so hard, you owe me. 

 

TERRA

(Distant)

Willow, there you are. I’ve been looking for you. 

 

WILLOW

Of course, she has.

 

(TERRA enters)

 

TERRA

I’ve been looking everywhere for you, Willow. 

 

WILLOW

What do you want now? Haven’t I been through enough? What else could you need to know?

 

TERRA

Willow, I’m sorry.  I am so sorry. 

 

(Roll of Thunder)

 

WILLOW

What?

 

TERRA

Yeah, I….this whole thing. I was just sitting at my table thinking. Remembering how I felt when someone did what I did to you. Stole my secrets and made them plain.  I’m truly ashamed of how I acted. Of how I treated you-

 

WILLOW

You want to apologize? Why no one has apologized to me since….well no one’s apologized to me. 

 

TERRA

Truly? Not even...Say your parents made a mistake. They wouldn’t apologize to you? 

 

WILLOW

No. I mean, my mother died too young for me to….and my father he….he’s not the sorry type. 

 

TERRA

Mine either. When he was wrong, he was always wrong, he’d just throw money at me. Like it was his money I wanted. Bull-headed man. 

 

WILLOW

I thought you would have liked your father. 

 

TERRA

You were right. We must not have talked much. 

 

WILLOW

But I mean, why wouldn’t you? He was rich-

 

TERRA

Money doesn’t have a single thing to do with it! You think Neil’ll be a good father just because he has money? Wait...that was….sorry….no, me and my father are...no. (Beat) He’s a fine man, I suppose. A man with friends who like him for more than his money. A kind wife…..Neil loves him too, so maybe it’s just me? But when he speaks, I... (Beat) You know, three years ago, before I moved here, I was twenty-four. There aren’t many unmarried twenty-four-year-old socialites in Boston, and the few there are have some pretty nasty rumors flung about. I had a pretty nasty rumor, and Father….oh, how he hated it. Wanted me to be married off to a stately respectable boy. I told him I didn’t want to marry. Wanted to travel and see the world and be a person, not a wife. He told me that I didn’t have a choice anymore. Of course, it didn’t matter that I was already in love. We courted each other in secret for nearly two years before he found out. Poor people and my Father never mixed after all. He was a farmer actually, my love. Wanted a farm out west. Said it would be his gift to the world. (Beat). When Father found out…. Father crushed his business. Told no one to buy anything even associated with…told ‘em to not even sell to….. I snuck ‘em money, but I was discovered, cut off, and sent to a convent for reform….. When father sent for me and I returned home, I found out she...I mean….It...I’m not….please don’t-

 

WILLOW

It’s okay. Who do I have to tell?

 

TERRA

She died. Maggie, she, uh, she died. She….she was twenty-three and she was so gentle with everyone, more than I could ever be, and she laughed with her whole body, like with her whole torso, and she could talk your ear off about everything you never even knew you wanted to know about and she just had all these….she had all these plans about how she was going help the world with her food and her farm and she just had so much she wanted to do, but, she died because my Father starved her out.  My Father. (Beat) Do you know he even orchestrated it so she couldn’t be buried in the church cemetery. Said he left her in the road to be picked clean. He looked me in the eyes and told me that she…..(Beat) My family said I had a psychotic break. Stealing as much money as I could from the family safe, packing a suitcase, and taking the first train out of Boston to travel as far as I could? Of course, it's psychotic. (Beat) Psychotic? It was perhaps the sanest thing in the world. (Beat) God, I hope she’s proud of me. (Beat) I must be talking your ear off. Sorry, I’ve just never told anyone about this before. 

 

WILLOW

You don’t have any friends, do you?

 

TERRA

I have Irving. 

 

WILLOW

Irving. Can I tell you a secret?

 

TERRA

I’ve told you all mine. 

 

WILLOW

I never much cared for Irving. 

 

TERRA

What? 

 

WILLOW

I know. Aren’t I awful? I know you're only supposed to share yourself with people that you deeply and truly love, but I never much believed in all that anyway. 

 

TERRA

No. No. I get it. He can be….unruly sometimes.

 

WILLOW

Always so pushy. So excitable.

 

TERRA

And he can never stop his mouth from running. 

 

WILLOW

Never! It’s just going all the time. Like, boy don’t you ever get tired with all that talking. 

 

(They share a laugh.)

 

TERRA

Huh?

 

WILLOW

What?

 

TERRA

Nothing. Nothing, I just don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile.

 

WILLOW

Course you don’t see me much at all. 

 

TERRA

Fair. 

 

WILLOW

You know, if someone told me I’d talk to Terra McHale this many times in one week, I’d think they’d have lost the best parts of their mind. 

 

TERRA

I know what you mean. 

 

WILLOW

I mean, after all you are the Terra McHale. Act of God. Vicious girl. Miserable girl. 

 

TERRA

Miserable girl. (Beat) Still, that was nothing compared to you. What was that rhyme I heard some kids singing ‘bout you? “Gravis’ so shy she never says a word. Locked up in her cage like a golden bird. As bland as flour and as smart as ice. She’ll leave her house once but she’ll-

 

WILLOW

“Never leave twice.”  I heard that one. 

 

TERRA

Never understood that ‘smart as ice’ bit. You know, you must be awfully famous to have songs written in your honor.  I’d never have a song.

 

WILLOW

Honor?

 

TERRA

I don’t think they describe you very well, though. I don’t know much about you yet, but shy is not the word I’d choose for you. Spitfire, maybe.  (WILLOW is silent.) What’s ailing you?

 

WILLOW

I wasn’t shy. 

 

TERRA

That it?

 

WILLOW

That it?  You teasing me, McHale?

 

TERRA

No. Obviously not-

 

WILLOW

‘Cause I’m not like you and all the rest of them. I got feelings. I’m not here to pretend and share with all town gossips-

 

TERRA

What’d I even do?

 

WILLOW

I wasn’t shy. I was scared. I was scared.

 

TERRA

Scared of what?

 

WILLOW

Scared of what! Scared of….of…..you don't know?

 

TERRA

I’ve never known less in my life.  Willow, what were you scared of?

 

WILLOW

You don’t know. I thought everyone knew. Cletus, Ms. Betty-

 

TERRA

Knew what?

 

WILLOW

What my daddy does to me. I don’t know how you couldn’t know. They talk about it. They think I don't notice how their conversation stops when I walk in. How they scan my arms for bruises. I know they know. Ms. Betty saw it happen. ‘Bout seven months ago I had upset daddy one day. Didn’t make him his breakfast like Momma used to, so he dragged me upstairs to his room….I can see Ms. Betty’s house from his window. She was there that day, staring at me. I watched her close the curtains.

 

TERRA

Oh, Willow. Oh, God, Willow. I….you must....I should have paid attention. I was just so wrapped up in my life I never even thought about …never tried to notice.....I could have-

 

WILLOW

What? Could have what?  Apologized? Make promises, then do nothing? 

 

TERRA

Willow, I’m sorry. 

 

WILLOW

You said. 

 

TERRA

How many people know?

 

WILLOW

Everyone knows.

 

TERRA

But Neil….Irving couldn’t-

 

WILLOW

Irving knows. 

 

TERRA

Irving…..I…..Willow, that’s awful….If I could-

 

WILLOW

I don’t need your pity. 

 

TERRA

It’s not-

 

WILLOW

I don’t want your pity!

 

TERRA

Willow-

 

WILLOW

Don’t touch me. Don’t….don’t.

 

(Beat. BUSYBODIES, MS. BETTY, CLETUS saunter back in.)

 

BUSYBODIES

We heard all the screaming. Just wanted to make sure it was...alright. 

 

TERRA

Ignore-

 

WILLOW

You knew. 

 

CLETUS

Speak up child, can hardly hear you.

 

BUSYBODIES

Ever since she was a girl she had the smallest voice. Why in the Christmas pageant-

 

WILLOW

He hurt me and you knew. You watched. 

 

MS. BETTY

What?

 

WILLOW

You. Watched. I cried for help and you heard me and you did nothing. I begged God that you’d save me and you did nothing. I pray you all feel a fraction of what I’ve lived through. 

 

BUSYBODIES

Now, don’t be hysterical. These things are delicate. They weren’t our business.

 

WILLOW

Not your business?

 

 BUSYBODIES

Girl-

 

WILLOW

I was a child. A child. Look at me when I speak to you. Look at me. Look at me! One of you….one of you….just look at me. God Damn you. All of you. Every single one.

 

(IRVING and NEIL run in, wildly happy.)

 

IRVING/NEIL

It was the most amazing thing. I could feel my skin prickle with the wind/ Terra Anne I don’t know what happened by it was a miracle. A bonafide miracle. 

 

TERRA

What’s going on? What’s happening? Why are you two together?

 

IRVING and NEIL

Rain clouds.

 

NEIL

Swirling rain clouds. 

 

IRVING

Over your farm.

NEIL

Looked like it would burst any minute. 

 

IRVING

Any second. 

 

NEIL

Any minute. 

 

IRVING

And it’s just over there. Just over your farm.  Not a cloud over the entire rest of the town. Not a cloud anywhere else. 

 

BUSYBODIES

Impossible.

 

MS. BETTY

Truly.

 

TERRA

It’s gonna rain? It’s gonna rain!

 

(NEIL and IRVING exit. TERRA starts to exit, but she suddenly stops and turns around.)

 

TERRA

Willow?

 

IRVING

(shouting)

Are you comin’ or what?

 

(TERRA and IRVING exit.) 

End Act I