The Star’s dynamic duo of José Amador and Nick Stokes joined forces to produce a fine version of Mr. Stokes’s play Duels. It’s rare to see such an intelligent script on stage. And to prove how intelligent, we’ve coaxed Mr. Stokes into letting us print his dramatic script here, so you can judge for yourself.
Note: John and Juan begin the play physically bearing their gunshot wounds through limps and pains. Each time they shoot each other, die, and rise, they lose a wound. In Scene 5 their bodies carry no wounds.
Setting & Time:
From now to the past. In front of a somewhat dilapidated farmhouse with a garden. The garden proceeds from lush to bare scene by scene. The house is located within:
Scene 0, Afterbirth: Suburban neighborhood.
Scene 1, Red: Suburban neighborhood.
Scene 2, Green: New semi-rural housing development.
Scene 3, Yellow: Semi-rural housing development under construction.
Scene 4, Orange: Rural land and apple orchard, recently sold.
Scene 5, Blackberry: Rural land and an apple orchard.
Suburban housefronts, orchard trees, For Sale signs, and garden elements such as raised beds or pots are stylized and mobile, easily raised or removed by Irene during scene changes. The garden plants may be stylized, but the fruit, vegetables, and soil are real.
Scene 0: Afterbirth
The front of an old farmhouse, flanked by two identical suburban housefronts. A lush garden of tomatoes, spinach, yellow zucchini, carrots, raspberries, and other plants.
Downstage, a newborn calf is hidden in a small wagon with sideboards. Irene cleans calf of afterbirth and herself of raspberry blood with an old white cocktail dress and a pail of water. Nearby is a plot of potato plants.
IRENE: See – Fresh air. A bit of blood, sure. But dirt under you nails, fresh vegetables – grass for you – sunrises. Standing on your own four legs. Wasn’t pretty, but you’re alive.
(indicating empty space near potato plot)
Had to cut too much of her to pull you out. That hole won’t heal. You’re gonna try to … use this to grow. You’d be better off forgetting. But I’d be better off not talking to a cow. You’re a good listener.
I’ll bottle-feed you. I’ll get pigs and chickens – already got a couple goats keeping the blackberry in check. A dog to chase rabbits. We have the last undeveloped forty in the county. You’ll eat grass and I’ll eat what I grow … and beef. When suburbanites stop to buy blackberries and strawberries and raspberries – Look a real cow! – you’ll chew your cud and stare back vacantly and raise your tail to make manure.
(She sticks dress in pail, holds it up as it sheds raspberry water, then lays it under potato plants. From the pail she pulls and repeats with a red dress, green dress, yellow dress, and orange dress. She pulls a blackberry dress from the pail, holds it up.)
None of these old rags fit anymore, in the rump, the flank. But they’re a help mounding up potatoes – keep them buried and damp, and potatoes keep producing potatoes.
(She lays out blackberry dress. John and Juan stand up out of the dirt.)
You’re supposed to be potatoes.
But I’m supposed to be content as a cow now. Cow now? Now cow? (to calf) They do this to me. Don’t worry, we’ll be alone again soon.
(The men brush dirt off each other kindly, considerately, lovingly, passionately, aggressively, antagonistically, then grab each other’s hand, shake, look at Irene and hold.)
I’d offer them a berry, but they’d make a waste of it. You’ll make me … fertilizer.
Listen to her bawl.
She’s saying goodbye. She deserves to not have a care in the world. I can take care of us.
(Irene draws gun, reluctantly points it at cow. John and Juan walk away from each other in step with her counting.)
1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5.
(Irene shoots cow as John and Juan draw and shoot each other without emotion. They bleed raspberry juice and clutch wounds without crying out. They fall, mirroring each other. The unseen cow bleeds dead.)
(Irene wipes up first the cow’s blood, then the men’s. She stands and looks to the sunrise.)
Sun’s up. Gonna be hot.
Well, got a long day of mounding potatoes and butchering your mama and … replanting.
(Irene exits, pulling off wagon and potato plot.)
Scene 1: Red
(The men revive. John stands, tentatively moves to Juan.)
JOHN: How do you do?
JUAN: How do I do?
JOHN: Do you do?
JUAN: I do do.
JOHN: Are you … all right?
JUAN: I think so. I had a start. How are you?
JOHN: I am … here.
JUAN: Me too. Where is here?
JOHN: We’re in someone’s yard. What happened to you?
JUAN: Nothing, and next thing I know I sprout up … here.
JOHN: Well, let’s get you upright. The morning air will vivify you.
(helps Juan up)
I just happened here, and found you on the ground like a euthanized mongrel.
JOHN: Yes, and like –
JUAN: A dog.
JOHN: I’m only telling you what I saw.
JUAN: You saw that I was relieved of being a dog.
JOHN: Transmigration of the soul, rebirth. Buddhist that’d be. If you were a dog, but now you’re a Buddhist, you’re a link up the chain of being. Congrats, you lived well in your past life.
JUAN: What about this life? We need –
JOHN: Nice houses. You came to in a lovely garden.
JUAN: We need the dirt on us.
JOHN: I could live here. No dog droppings. These people keep themselves up.
JUAN: We need the scoop.
JOHN: You must belong to this … (re: farmhouse) rundown affair.
JUAN: We need a shovel and a reason to use it.
JOHN: Who owns this place?
(Enter Irene, with shovel and hands still raspberry stained.)
IRENE: Good – you started without me. Good. I was at the old holdouts’ – the ones with the pregnant cow. Well, they’re not holding out anymore. I woke early and bid before the developers got out of bed. Then I walked my fenceline and that deer trail along the creek – stars dimming, sky bluing, birds waking. Got back and picked raspberries. (shows hands) Neighbors gave me the eye as they left for work, but they’re barely here. Always inside or at their jobs. Moved out for the fresh air, but they hire Mexicans to mow their grass. You two can make yourselves useful and help me dig a trench for planting potatoes – we’ll all enjoy your visit more if –
JUAN: Who are you?
IRENE: Frank as ever! I’m Irene.
JUAN: I’m … Frank?
IRENE: (giving Juan shovel) You’re Juan, and you know how to use this.
JOHN: The pleasure is all mine. I’m …
IRENE: (with endearment) So civilized, but not even the pleasure is yours John. We’ll find something to take your mind off it in the garden.
JOHN: Take my mind off what?
JUAN: (examining shovel) I am confused.
IRENE: That’s okay – so is everybody else.
JOHN: You do have a lovely garden Irene. Lots of plants. You must pay well.
IRENE: I tend it myself. I used to kill everything I touched, but now you should taste my produce: carrots, zucchini, tomatoes –
JOHN: Well then, I will.
IRENE: I always hope so. They’re to be enjoyed.
JUAN: Miss Irene –
JOHN: Enjoyed – like this suburb.
JUAN: What happened to me?
IRENE: Let’s live in the now, love. Do what you can.
JOHN: Yes – I could live here now … with a white picket fence.
JUAN: To know what to do I must know what I’ve done.
JOHN: A white picket fence, and a garage. A garage with a door that knows if I want it opened or closed and opens or closes accordingly.
IRENE: Be free. Enjoy the fresh air while you’ve got it – dig.
(She takes Juan’s shovel, sticks it in the dirt, and places his hands on it in a digging position.)
JOHN: And a car to fill the garage. A car with plenty of breathing room in her trunk and an engine that purrs.
JUAN: Was I a dog?
JOHN: And a dog. A dog who picks up after itself. No-no, a dog who doesn’t relieve itself at all.
IRENE: A dog? You are a gardener.
(extricating Juan from shovel)
Forget the digging, come have a tomato.
JOHN: A list of improvements that will augment my enjoyment, Irene. A white picket fence. A garage with a sentient door. A car with muscle. A dog who does not relieve itself.
JUAN: Do I like tomatoes?
IRENE: You love tomatoes.
JOHN: Maybe I live here already. How in God’s name could I live in a place like this?
IRENE: Except you say tomates.
JOHN: All the houses the same. All the yards – the same. So quiet. So dead. Everyday the same thing. I must have a flat in the city, with a dog who doesn’t relieve itself.
JUAN: Then I’ll have a tomate.
(Irene picks a large red tomato for Juan.)
JOHN: Irene. Where do I live?
IRENE: You don’t. Have a tomato, John.
JUAN: You said the tomate was for me.
IRENE: There are more than enough to go around. There’s no reason we can’t all enjoy –
JOHN: I hate tomatoes.
IRENE: I’ve never held that against you.
JOHN: Where is my flat in the city? Where’s my dog?
IRENE: Live anywhere you like. All the deeds have been annulled.
JOHN: I have nothing to my name?
IRENE: You have yourself.
JOHN: No – I have … this house.
JUAN: If you don’t like tomates, you should not live at the house of a grower of tomates.
IRENE: Please John, go and be happy while you have time.
JOHN: I have you.
IRENE: Have the tomato –
JOHN: I am not a whore!
IRENE: Nor am I.
JOHN: I’ll do what is right. This is my home.
JUAN: It must be nice to know what to do. I thought I was going to eat a tomate.
IRENE: Dig, or plant potatoes, or spread manure or … go away. I can do what needs doing.
JUAN: What did I do?
IRENE: You want to know? It won’t help.
JUAN: Yes, I do.
I do do. I do not repeat myself without reason. Do I?
IRENE: You shot each other.
JOHN: I feel pretty good for all that.
JUAN: Am I alive?
JOHN: You’re a Buddhist. You should be able to let these things go.
JUAN: Maybe I’m a Catholic.
JOHN: Yes, then you wouldn’t be able to let anything go.
IRENE: You are a pagan gardener whose family’s moved away because of the high cost of living.
JOHN: (saying tomato the same both times) It’s war. You say tomato, I say … tomato.
JUAN: I say tomate.
JOHN: Well, your name is Juan.
JUAN: The tomate is why we shot each other.
IRENE: I’m sorry. Let’s sweep the blood under the bushes. John, I’ll get you a bowl of raspberries before you die. They’re not the plumpest of berries, but –
(John takes tomato from Juan.)
JOHN: I don’t like that name, Juan.
JUAN: What have I done to you? I love tomates.
JOHN: This is where I live. I will defend its treasures to the death.
JUAN: I am already dead.
IRENE: (taking back tomato) Forget the tomatoes and save yourselves the pain.
JUAN: (taking tomato) I don’t need to be saved, I need the tomate.
JOHN: (taking tomato) I need something and this isn’t it.
IRENE: I don’t know why I try.
JOHN: (taking tomato) I would go to work for you everyday.
IRENE: (taking tomato) I’m not yours to work for.
JOHN: (taking tomato) Everyday, I’d take my stand.
JUAN: (taking tomato, presenting it to John) If you have a stand then take her tomates. Sell them and buy your heart’s desire.
(John doesn’t take it.)
Then I will do it and with the money I make selling tomates I will buy … more tomates.
IRENE: (taking tomato) I don’t grow tomates for profit.
(John takes tomato. Juan takes tomato. Irene takes tomato. John takes tomato.)
JOHN: I won’t make money off your tomatoes. But everyday I’d drive to my crappy job in the city and dream of a dog who doesn’t relieve itself and come home to your (throwing down tomato) shitty tomatoes, and be happy.
JUAN: I am a pagan gardener. Do not destroy her tomates. They are sweet.
IRENE: They are food. I’ll eat them myself.
(Irene picks another red tomato.)
JUAN: Be a decent man and say something nice about her tomate, so people will buy it.
IRENE: I’m not selling.
JOHN: It is mine.
IRENE: It’s my produce!
(biting wildly into tomato, juice everywhere)
And it’s delicious.
JUAN: Say something else nice.
JOHN: It is red.
(Both men draw their guns. Irene jumps between them.)
Shooting each other this way takes care of nothing.
JOHN: Please, Irene. This is silly. It has nothing to do with you. He wants your tomatoes.
JUAN: And he doesn’t. But Miss Irene, you can still enjoy a fruitful life.
IRENE: I will. But the two of you, spilling blood, when the garden is so … hungry – it’s a waste.
JOHN: It’s a crime of passion.
(She crushes the tomato, drops it.)
IRENE: I’m sorry, that moment has passed. Be civilized. Do something useful. Have a duel.
(She moves John into position.)
JOHN: You’re right. Duels are a civilized way to settle neighborly grievances. Duels allow everyone to maintain their pride.
JUAN: Yes, yes a duel will relieve our souls of their culpability.
IRENE: Here, by the raspberries. You can make them happy.
(She moves Juan so they stand back to back.)
I’ve learned how to channel passion. You can’t waste a drop.
JUAN: But I will only duel with him if he says something nice about your tomates.
JOHN: They’re to die for.
JUAN: Without a doubt.
IRENE: Five steps, turn, and … relish what you do. Ready Juan?
JUAN: Miss Irene –I am forever indebted to you. I live for the moment, and in this moment I have it all.
IRENE: Anytime, my love – I have my vegetables.
Plus some land now. And a pregnant cow, I guess. Anytime John.
JOHN: Excellent dear. It’ll get better. One of these days I’ll make Buddha and not have a want in the world.
IRENE: I’d miss you, love. It would be the end. Let us begin. I’ve raspberries to tend and potatoes to plant and a calf to … calve. Thank you for your help. On 5. 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 –
(John and Juan step away from each other in time and shoot each other on 4. They fall and bleed tomato juice.)
(With a cloth, Irene wipes raspberry off her hands, tomato off her face, and blood from the ground. She buries the cloth below the raspberries.)
Scene 2: Green
(Irene puts up For Sale signs in front of the two suburban houses, then hangs Sold signs on them. She removes raspberry vines, extraneous plants, and remaining tomatoes, but leaves tomato plants. She plants raspberries.)
(Juan rises. He shakes John awake. Irene sees them and hides not very well in the garden.)
JUAN: Hey man. Man. Man. Are you okay?
JOHN: I don’t feel bad.
JUAN: What happened?
JOHN: I’m relieved you’re here.
JUAN: You don’t want to be on the ground when the dogs come around.
(Juan helps John up.)
This looks like a neighborhood that’d have a leash law.
JUAN: Sí, the houses are all very new.
JOHN: Fresh as a new bride equipped with all the modern conveniences – like invisible fences and leash laws.
JUAN: Look past the backyards – smoke rising from shanties. Dogs –
JOHN: Not a bad development to escape to –
JUAN: A herd of cows –
JOHN: Out here among the farms and woods –
JUAN: Houses sprouting like mushroom colonies.
JOHN: That hill is going bald. We all get older, eh? I must be getting on. Thanks for your help.
(Steps one way, then the other, looking for a way out.)
JUAN: Dogs everywhich way. I’d bet a day’s pay one of those perros laid you out, and a day’s pay doesn’t come cheap.
JOHN: (still looking)
And what is your line of work?
JUAN: I take some cuts. I dig. I … don’t migrate. What are you looking for?
JOHN: I don’t know, I haven’t found it.
JUAN: Can I help?
JOHN: Please do.
(They look behind plants, pots, raised beds, housefronts, under garden implements, in the dirt, in the audience, etc.)
JUAN: This is very fulfilling.
JOHN: You must not be looking for what I’m looking for.
JUAN: I’m not even wondering what I’m looking for while I’m looking for it.
JOHN: Maybe if you wondered what you were looking for, you’d find it.
JUAN: Well, I’m looking for you.
JOHN: Then what am I looking for?
(They find Irene.)
JUAN: She is what.
JOHN: Is she what?
JOHN: You should be careful, I hear there are dogs.
IRENE: Sorry – I had some work to finish. Got quagmired in a Homeowners Association meeting earlier. Leash laws and lush lawns are all these larks lust after.
JOHN: You are a homeowner.
IRENE: This used to be my apple orchard.
JOHN: Nice improvement on trees.
IRENE: Well, houses grow more money.
JUAN: I used to like apples.
JOHN: I always liked the blush of the blossom better than the juice of the fruit …
IRENE: My husband was the adding machine. Now I have to go do his job.
(Irene tries to exit and is cut off by John.)
JOHN: But I am looking for a house.
(Irene tries to exit and is cut off by Juan.)
JUAN: I’d be good at picking fruit – it’s all in the hands.
(Irene tries to exit and is cut off by John.)
JOHN: Which one of these is yours?
(Irene tries to exit and is cut off by Juan.)
JUAN: Plant some trees … in a few years, the site will be light with pinky white blossoms that will solidify from the air to weigh your branches with red and gold fruit.
IRENE: Really, I should go … tomatoes … or something.
(She tries to get away from them; they follow her in, around, and through the garden.)
JOHN: You have a poetic side. Can I hire you to do that?
JUAN: Do what?
JOHN: What you just did. Bring natural beauty to this mundane development.
JUAN: I’m better with my hands. But I could use the work.
JOHN: And I’m married to mine. I need to hire this beautifying out.
JUAN: Where do I start?
JOHN: This one. The old farmhouse with a view.
(Irene turns on them; they all stop.)
IRENE: That’s my house.
JUAN: I’m sorry Miss. Have I done something wrong?
JOHN: We’ll landscape, put in a little ornamental garden.
IRENE: I have a garden, thank you. I grow my own vegetables and scrape by.
JOHN: Don’t worry – I’ll pay.
IRENE: You have no currency left but your knees, and last I knew you hated dirtying your pants.
JUAN: You don’t need my help.
IRENE: I could use it … I just can’t pay for it.
JUAN: Then I wouldn’t be your employee.
IRENE: If I could borrow you, we could share the vegetables – carrots, zucchini –
JOHN: What, out in the country you still barter?
IRENE: You can have some too, John. I have something we’ll all agree on.
(Irene picks spinach in garden.)
JOHN: You better give her something.
JUAN: I don’t have much.
JOHN: You have the shirt on your back. You won’t cheat her.
JUAN: Excuse me sir – John, she called you – this is between me and her.
JOHN: I just invested in you. You better be a profitable gardener.
JUAN: We can conduct our transaction in a civilized manner.
JOHN: Yes, that’s the word for what I’m doing – civilizing.
(Irene presents them with two bunches of spinach.)
IRENE: A bouquet for each of you.
JOHN: This is what we agree on?
JOHN: What’s that mean?
JUAN: I don’t know.
IRENE: Spinach. It means spinach.
JOHN: It’s green.
IRENE: And you can eat it.
JOHN: I don’t eat leaves.
(Juan eats a leaf.)
IRENE: I picked the slugs off by hand.
JUAN: That’s delicious.
IRENE: It takes forever, but it keeps my hands busy. Busyness conquers love.
JOHN: You don’t make friends with salad.
IRENE: You don’t make friends with money.
JOHN: You make money.
JUAN: Miss… Miss… Miss…
JUAN: Sí, Miss Irene. John reminded me, I have to give you something in return.
IRENE: No you don’t.
JOHN: No you don’t.
JOHN: Forget it. She gave you a leaf.
IRENE: Really, Juan. I just wanted to share it.
JUAN: No. I will not disgrace you. I only want to share you as well.
JOHN: Irene is not to be shared.
IRENE: Well I’m not to be bought.
JOHN: She’s buying you with a green leaf, Pablo.
JUAN: I am Juan.
JOHN: I’m John.
JUAN: And this is espinaca.
IRENE: Don’t waste it. My work’s in there. Give it to Juan.
JOHN: You’re fired Juan. You can buy this spinach by disappearing from my life.
JUAN: I only have one thing to give you.
IRENE: I’m not conducting a transaction –
(Juan kisses Irene on the cheek and steps back. Pause.)
JUAN: I’m sorry Miss Irene. Did it hurt?
IRENE: It made me tired.
I won’t kiss you back. Is it worth it? He’s going to shoot you. And you him.
JUAN: I love your espinaca – why didn’t I give you my hands?
IRENE: Because all I can give you is spinach.
JOHN: I always get better than fair market value, Juan. It’s because I have good karma.
JUAN: I don’t know what that means.
JOHN: Then say your prayers.
(Irene moves into John, gently force-feeds him spinach.)
IRENE: You don’t even want what you buy.
JOHN: No, I want what I get when I sell it.
IRENE: (force-feeding spinach)
There are healthier ways of making a living.
JOHN: Flipping real estate, high-risk loans, mortgage securities – Nothing stays on the hips.
IRENE: (force-feeding spinach)
What’s your passion John, besides consuming?
JOHN: (mouth full of spinach) Increasing, improving, creating –
IRENE: (force-feeding spinach) Choking. You’re too hungry.
(John chews and chews. Irene lays a spinach leaf on Juan’s tongue like a communion wafer. He chews, swallows.)
JUAN: I live with my family in a cabin by a creek, Miss Irene. My mother …
IRENE: (placing spinach leaf on Juan’s tongue) Is a maid for my neighbors.
JUAN: Mi padre …
IRENE: (placing spinach leaf on Juan’s tongue) Digs graves during the day and works the night shift at the drive-thru.
JUAN: You can visit. We’ll garden, then lie by the stream and wear the sun for a blanket.
IRENE: (throwing away spinach) I’m sorry I’ve done this to you.
JUAN: Done what? Being with you, I feel …
(Juan sighs. John finally swallows spinach.)
JOHN: I feel (picking spinach from teeth) … civilized. You look domesticated.
JUAN: You look like you don’t know if you should sing moooo-lah or keep chewing your cud.
JOHN: I feel like a duel.
JUAN: I cannot grow espinaca in Miss Irene’s garden if I am dead.
JOHN: She’s beautiful … and she has more than enough spinach. We have no choice.
IRENE: Yes you do.
JOHN: (drawing gun, pointing it at Juan) Your choice is between suicide and putting up a fight. Don’t be a cow. Have some pride. It’s a choice you have to live with.
IRENE: It’s a choice I live with.
(Pause. Juan stands in position.)
JUAN: Para mi flor de espinaca.
IRENE: I’m not your flower, I’m a gardener.
JUAN: I won’t forget you.
IRENE: You already have. You get to go somewhere new.
JOHN: I hope you know this is to protect our investment. We’ll see a return. Take it on faith.
IRENE: I do. It’s all I can afford.
(Irene moves John so they stand back-to-back.)
Here, by my tomatoes. They need more heat. There. On five. 1, 2, 3 –
(Juan and John shoot each other on 3. They fall and bleed spinach juice. Irene wipes up blood and buries cloth under tomato plants.)
Scene 3: Yellow
(Irene removes the two suburban housefronts, exposing their lumber, and pulls their Sold tags. The under-construction houses are For Sale. She removes tomato plants and most of the spinach and plants tomatoes.)
IRENE: (to her plantings) The sun comes up, so up with you.
JUAN: (waking) That was the sleep of bebés.
IRENE: Jesus, again?
JOHN: That where you wake up with a headache and don’t know how the hell you got here?
IRENE: I just put you down.
JUAN: No. It is a sleep without guilt.
JOHN: You a saint? Babies don’t sleep, they scream.
(Irene helps them up.)
IRENE: Come on, before the dogs smell you.
JUAN: Dogs love people.
JOHN: Dogs climb on the back of anyone. The have no shame. (to Irene) You’re bulldozing trees and pulling stumps – the least you could do is tame your mutts.
IRENE: They’re strays from the migrant camps.
JOHN: (hand to gun)
I’ll take care of them –
JUAN: (hand to gun)
I will take care of them –
IRENE: (stopping them)
Animal control will take care of them. Whenever they get here.
JOHN: What am I supposed to do until then?
IRENE: Don’t do anything. Be civilized.
JOHN: I, John, am compelled to do something.
IRENE: Then get it right this time.
JUAN: Whatever you need done, I am Juan, at your service.
IRENE: You could start by not shooting each other.
(Beat. John and Juan laugh heartily.)
JOHN: A pleasure. Dear ‘Rene –
IRENE: Never drop the I from my name.
JOHN: Right. Dear Irene, isn’t this house one of mine? Hell of a view.
IRENE: You gave it to me.
JOHN: That was generous of me.
JUAN: That casa was a gift? This land belongs to that house, ¿no? And the people who work it.
IRENE: I had to sell the land – but that’s nothing for you –
JOHN: It feels like something’s missing.
JUAN: A garden, sir?
JOHN: You think that could be it?
IRENE: I have a garden. Clearing the trees opened it to the sun. My zucchini are reproductive monsters – I force them on my neighbors, else they rot. In return, I get … looks.
JUAN: You are sola?
IRENE: Yes – No. Yes. Can we talk about something else?
JUAN: Then some animals, sir, with the garden. To keep the lady company.
IRENE: I don’t need company, I need you two to be better trained.
JOHN: You mean like pets.
JUAN: Sí, or domesticated animals. Sheep, pigs, goats.
IRENE: A cow. I could use milk and meat.
JUAN: Cows are a little … large, sir.
JOHN: What’s your name again?
JOHN: That’s just the name for the job. What are your qualifications?
IRENE: His family cleared the land for the developer, and now they’re building his houses.
JOHN: Ahh. Then why isn’t a fine healthy Mexican like yourself with them, working?
JUAN: I am Chicano. I’m a gardener.
JOHN: A gardener without a garden.
IRENE: I have a garden. There’s work to do right here.
JUAN: No garden … maybe I’m being punished.
JOHN: You should confess. That’s what you all do, right? Confess?
JUAN: For what?
JOHN: Whatever it is you’ve done.
JUAN: I think I have already. That is why I have forgotten it. I cleared my conscience.
JOHN: Bah – do it again. The repetition helps. That’s the idea behind Hail Mary’s, right?
IRENE: He’s not Catholic. He just needs to work so he forgets.
(Irene goes to collect zucchini.)
JOHN: Oh hell, I’m teasing. I don’t believe any of that bull. You die and get reincarnated as something else, a worm or a rabbit or a dog or a cow or a banker, depending. It’s called karma. There’s a formula: the input is what you do, the output is you.
JUAN: I work with my hands. It helps.
JOHN: Irene, help the man out. What this house is missing is a Buddha.
(Irene brings Juan a large yellow sunburst zucchini.)
IRENE: Here’s something for you to do. The zucchini’s your job – hold it, nothing else.
JOHN: Perfect. That looks good in your hands, Juan. Like you know what to do with it.
JUAN: Gracias, señor.
JOHN: What do you do with it?
JUAN: Cook it. Stir-fry, sweetbread, zucchini pie.
JOHN: Quite frankly Irene, a garden is not what’s missing from this home.
IRENE: What’s missing isn’t here.
JOHN: Though there is this development going in, eh? I don’t like to speculate, but a jag of houses would fill the bubble.
IRENE: And something for you to do: go. It’s hard to miss you when you’re always here.
JOHN: I could buy a flat in the city.
IRENE: You had a flat.
JOHN: Good. Sold it and made a killing, didn’t I? Real estate is a good investment.
(John takes zucchini from Juan.)
JUAN: That is the calabacín of Miss Irene.
IRENE: John, that’s Juan’s job.
JOHN: He was complacent as a cow. I could make a killing on token Buddhas in town.
IRENE: The zucchini was a gift.
JOHN: Thank you. Without Christmas, the economy’d collapse. Spend, spend, spend. Spread prosperity, profit, and joy. Don’t save a drop.
JUAN: Miss Irene gave me her calabacín to hold.
JOHN: Her zucchini wasn’t hers to give. Now get to work – there’s more where this came from.
IRENE: I grew those with my own hands.
JOHN: And who patented the plant the sun fell on?
IRENE: It was a seed –
JOHN: And who owns the rights to the water?
JUAN: My family lives up in the hills –
JOHN: And who bought this property?
IRENE: A real estate developer –
JOHN: And who took your hand?
IRENE: Who let it go?
JOHN: Yes, free the bird, and if it’s yours … What’s a bird in the hand worth? Nothing is free.
(Irene brings another zucchini to Juan. John takes it. She brings to Juan; John takes until his hands are too full to take. She brings more; Juan sets them on John’s pile until John can hold no more. Irene brings another for Juan.)
IRENE: There, are you happy?
JOHN: I’m happier.
JUAN: You’ll never use all that before it rots.
IRENE: He’ll use it to fill his hole.
JOHN: And you’ll use him to fill yours.
(Irene knocks John’s load to the ground.)
Stop this nonsense.
JOHN: (to Juan)
That Buddha makes you look guilty. I know what you’ve done.
JUAN: I don’t.
IRENE: Good. Time kills. We can get past all this if we forget –
JUAN: But I know my grandfather, in Méjico, was a professor of literature. My other grandfather, also in Méjico, was a professor of economics. They didn’t get along. They didn’t get along even though they both believed in the theory of limited supply, a theory which made them both very successful. In their day. They’re both dead.
IRENE: There isn’t a limited supply of zucchini.
JOHN: There are too many zucchini.
IRENE: The house going up next door will shade the garden. There’ll be less zucchini.
JUAN: We will live on calabacín alone. We need nothing more than agua, calabacín, y amor.
IRENE: That’s a dream. I want less.
JUAN: There is no betrayal in wanting –
IRENE: I want to hold the fruit of my labor. I want you to leave me alone.
JUAN: No puedo.
IRENE: Do it anyway.
JOHN: I won’t leave you alone. This stray wants to bury his bone. I’ll give you what you want.
IRENE: You can’t. I can.
JOHN: We’ll move far away from here. I love you.
I said –
JOHN: I love you.
JUAN: Te quiero.
No you don’t.
I get tired of saying goodbye.
JUAN: You only have to say it once.
IRENE: Please don’t shoot each other.
JOHN: But there’s a problem, dear, and we both have guns.
JUAN: There’s a deer getting into the garden –
JOHN: There’s so much space, and only a house for one stray –
JUAN: We have to shoot it.
JOHN: But we’ll build more.
JUAN: You’re building on workable land.
JOHN: I’m working it.
IRENE: (trying to move John into position, failing)
Goodbye. Stand here by the spinach. The heat – they’re going to seed. They need shade.
JUAN: Let me plant something of my own.
JOHN: My land is all I have and you can’t tend it.
IRENE: (trying to move Juan into position, failing)
Give them your shadow for a five count, and they might live. Don’t feel a need to come back and check.
JUAN: Tienes tanto calabacín –
JOHN: I’m not hungry and did you call my wife a zucchini?
IRENE: Goodbye. One –
JOHN: You’re fired.
IRENE: Two –
(Juan and John shoot each other and fall. They bleed yellow zucchini juice. Irene wipes up blood and buries the cloth by the spinach.)
Scene 4: Orange
(Irene puts on an orange summer dress and removes the zucchini. Zucchini vines remain with some other plants. The garden is nascent but has yet to bear fruit. Irene removes the under-construction houses. Irene goes to Juan and helps him stand. John stands; she holds up a hand to stop him.)
IRENE: One –
(John and Juan shoot each other and fall.)
(Irene goes to John and helps him stand. Juan stands; she holds up a hand to stop Juan.)
IRENE: One –
(They shoot each other and fall. Pause.)
(Irene puts on coveralls over her dress. She raises the orchard around the house. She removes one of the For Sale signs. On the other, she hangs a Sold. She kneels on a folded blanket and plants spinach seed.)
(John and Juan wake. Irene does not see them. They admire her working. They yip. They all hear coyotes yipping.)
JOHN: What was that?
IRENE: Christ! What … What are you doing here?
JOHN: This is my property, isn’t it?
IRENE: You … you said you never wanted to see me again.
JOHN: I was upset. It’s work … it’s stressing me out, and, and quite frankly leaving something to be desired. But some goods are more durable than my desires. Like my wife.
JUAN: Those are coyotes yipping.
IRENE: Fuck. Juan.
JUAN: ¿Sí Señora Irene?
IRENE: You moved on.
JUAN: No, we settle. There are more and more farms in the valley, and more land being cleared for more. There is plenty of work for us here now. We will stay.
IRENE: … That makes me glad.
JOHN: Who is this strapping young man, Irene?
IRENE: You don’t remember?
JOHN: Don’t look at me like I’m … bovine. You have to have known something to not remember it. I don’t know this man from any other migrant.
IRENE: His name is Juan. He’s … a good gardener.
JOHN: I can tell. (to Juan) You’ve done wonders with the place.
IRENE: I’ve done them – wait, you won’t believe it.
(Irene digs carrots in garden. John and Juan shake hands.)
JUAN: Mucho gusto.
JOHN: Juan. I never forget a name. It’s a business skill. It’s been too long since I’ve been out here, if you’ve had time to do this much work without me meeting you.
JUAN: I am ashamed, señor, taking all your compliments. I should have produced more produce by now, considering the materials. The sun, the earth, the water –
JOHN: Yes, I had all that in mind when I bought the place.
JUAN: And considering the help of Señora Irene.
JOHN: Been giving her the green thumb, have you? Good.
(Irene brings over five carrots.)
It’s good for you to have a hobby out here by yourself.
IRENE: They’re not hobbies.
JUAN: Son zanahorias.
IRENE: Two for you. Two for Juan. One for me.
JOHN: Just pull them out of the ground like that, eh? Like a rabbit out of a hat.
JUAN: Not like conejos, señor.
JOHN: Excuse me?
JUAN: Conejos eat zanahorias.
JOHN: Conejo. Conejo is a better word than rabbit. Conejo sounds more like what rabbits do.
JUAN: The conejos are kept down by the coyote, señor. But there are less and less coyote –
JOHN: Good. We like rabbits better than coyote anyway, don’t we Bunny? They’re fluffier.
JUAN: They eat the carrots, señor.
JOHN: If the carrots are so important, we’ll get a dog.
JUAN: Ya tengo un perro.
JOHN: English man, if you’re employed here.
Though you may use conejo.
IRENE: He already has a dog.
JOHN: Well we’ll buy a better one. One bred specifically for catching and killing rabbits. There’s a product for every niche. All you need to know is your niche.
IRENE: I’m now a carrot-producer. Are you a carrot-consumer?
JOHN: They’re a might … soiled. My niche is more sophisticated.
(Juan takes carrots.)
JUAN: A little dirt is good for the stomach, señor. It is why people have an appendix.
JOHN: They cut out appendices because they serve no function, get inflamed, and rupture.
JUAN: (stepping into John with carrots) I am sure, por lo menos, that a fresh garden carrot –
JOHN: I’m not hungry.
JUAN: Will make you feel better.
JOHN: I feel fine.
JUAN: No sé de eso.
JOHN: Are you speaking to me?
JUAN: No, señor.
JOHN: Why do you want me to eat a carrot so bloody bad?
JUAN: She wants you to.
JOHN: You have trouble thinking of more than one thing at once.
JUAN: I am el jardinero of Miss Irene.
IRENE: (breaking them up, to John) I thought you’d like them. There’s enough for –
JOHN: Why do I have to like them?
IRENE: I grew them.
JOHN: They’re carrots, Irene. Your self-worth shouldn’t rely on my estimation of your carrots.
IRENE: It doesn’t. They’re what I’ve been doing while you’ve been … wherever you’ve been.
JUAN: I will wash them for you señor.
JOHN: Fine, I didn’t come out here to fight. I’m here to lick my wounds and get some fresh air. Been hell in the office. My hedge funds are leashed to securities that pulled their horns in, tucked their tails between their legs, and stuck their heads in the sand.
IRENE: That means yes, Juan, wash his carrots.
(Juan exits with carrots. Pause. Irene tentatively removes the coveralls, exposing her orange dress.)
IRENE: I’ve missed you.
JOHN: I should spend more time here.
IRENE: You get antsy in your skin.
JOHN: Pshaw. I love walking in the orchard.
IRENE: You loved walking in the orchard once.
JOHN: You remember walking there … that day we appraised the sale …
IRENE: When we didn’t appraise.
JOHN: When we were thinking of purchasing this spread …
IRENE: When we didn’t think.
JOHN: We shook hands with a gardener and left him to garden.
IRENE: Before I gardened.
JOHN: It was spring.
IRENE: (spreading blanket) We spread a blanket.
JOHN: The orchard was in bloom.
IRENE: We spread out the picnic we’d bought at the produce stand along the highway.
JOHN: Pink and white petals blossoming on the web of leafless branches against the blue sky.
IRENE: We spread blackberry preserves and laughed at the thorns on the blackberry vines.
JOHN: Your face, against the bird blue sky.
IRENE: We spread …
JOHN: That day in the orchard sold me on the place. What was the slogan on the jam?
IRENE: “Una jalea de mora para chuparse los dedos.” Blackberry jam to suck your fingers.
JOHN: How do you remember that?
Ants crawled all over the jam. Fuckers spoiled the meal.
IRENE: Let’s walk in the orchard again.
JOHN: It’s not spring.
IRENE: But it’s fall. There are so many apples. And we don’t have to fight the blackberry bramble anymore. Juan’s family helped me clear it.
JOHN: You got the roots? You have to get every last root.
IRENE: It’s why you came back out here, isn’t it?
JOHN: Okay – I’ll change. My business attire would never make it.
IRENE: Fuck your clothes, John. Get them dirty.
JOHN: There’s some old work clothes in that trunk upstairs. From when we first bought the land and it was going to be our little escape and we were going to have a garden and –
IRENE: I have a garden.
JOHN: I have those grubby clothes in my trunk of good intentions – I’ll change.
(Enter Juan with washed carrots. Irene hurriedly puts coveralls back on over dress.)
JOHN: You can have all of them dear. They’re a bit … orange for me.
JUAN: Mierda. Shit. If you want him to not understand, that’s how you say it.
IRENE: I’m not trying to lie to him.
JUAN: He should change his shoes too. There’s a lot of mierda in the orchard now. As people move in, they push out the coyote and bring their perros.
IRENE: I’m talking about a figurative shit Juan, not a literal one.
JUAN: What is figurative shit?
IRENE: It’s not my orchard anymore.
JUAN: My family picked apples for the old owners every September. Detassle corn in July. Blueberries in August. Always moving. Always hot. Apples in September, October.
IRENE: You remember that, but not …?
JUAN: I try to forget but the stories come back and come back and come back the older I grow.
IRENE: What after the apples?
JUAN: Mushrooms. Pruning – that was cold. Then tree planting, or move south – orange groves.
IRENE: Sounds like a thin life.
JUAN: Es probable. It was life. Eat them, while you have them.
(She eats a carrot.)
IRENE: You don’t want one?
JUAN: I do not have much hunger these days. I need to work up an appetite. Is it good?
IRENE: Yes, very sweet.
JUAN: Orange is a good color for you.
IRENE: You’re very sweet.
JUAN: We will plant more. Mira, es fácil. A furrow in the earth. Sprinkle seed. Pile dirt. You try.
IRENE: I don’t –. Does this feel … familiar to you?
JUAN: Planting is a very satisfying time. Then when the first green shoots break the surface. And then, por supuesto, the harvest. It is all very, how do you say …
IRENE: And – and healthy.
JUAN: Muy bueno para la salud. Y no cuesta mucho dinero.
IRENE: Yes, it’s cheap. A garden is a good way to be self-sufficient.
JUAN: And you live in the changing seasons también.
IRENE: Yes, the weather.
JUAN: El tiempo. Won’t you join me?
IRENE: I don’t think I should.
But I’d like to not think.
(She kneels next to him. They both work the dirt.)
JUAN: You’ve done this before.
IRENE: Yes, and I thought I’d learned.
JUAN: No, no. You are very good. Your hands are strong.
IRENE: They didn’t use to be.
JUAN: Then you are improving. That’s good.
(Enter John, unchanged.)
JOHN: Look at you two, a couple of Catholics at the altar. What have you done wrong that you’re both performing such penitence?
IRENE: We’re working.
JOHN: I know what work is. This is labor.
IRENE: There’s nothing wrong with labor. It’s rewarding. Juan’s is a family of laborers.
JUAN: Did I do something wrong?
JOHN: Of course not Juan. It was a joke. I apologize. Religious humor is usually in bad taste.
(John sniffs the air; something stinks.)
JUAN: I am sorry.
(John looks at his shoe. Juan works in garden.)
JOHN: Goddamn coyotes. These are my only shoes. Irene, what happened to all the shoes I hoard here for weekend getaways?
IRENE: You never got away.
JOHN: My spare laptop? The flat screen? That robotic vacuum that crawls around the carpet and curls up on my feet. The Harley you can hear howl for miles. Those old work clothes –
They look good on you. You’ve done something so I wouldn’t recognize them.
IRENE: I’ve worked in them.
JOHN: I suppose you have the Harley squirreled away somewhere around here too.
IRENE: No. I …
I sold it.
JOHN: You what?
IRENE: I sold the orchard. I sold all of it except the house.
JOHN: You sold our escape?
IRENE: To a developer.
JOHN: I’m a developer.
IRENE: You are … fertilizer. You left it to me.
JOHN: My name is on the deed. It’s not yours to sell.
IRENE: Selling it was why you bought the place. I followed through on your desires.
JOHN: Where’s the money?
IRENE: There is no money. That’s why I sold it. Everything you left me was derivatives and mortgage securities and commodity futures. All you left me was air.
JUAN: My mother tells my sister her future is being a maid. I tell her to not believe in the future.
(John pulls a wad of dollar bills from his pocket.)
JOHN: We’re married. I always come back.
IRENE: I have my plants. Keep it. You must be hungry.
(John takes Irene’s hand. He forces money into it.)
JOHN: It’s to fill consumer holes. Growing the economy is good karma. It benefits everybody, and every morning I wake up carved another notch higher on the totem pole.
JUAN: What is at the top?
JOHN: You think there’s a top? How about one of those guys who sits all day in the lotus position completely … happy.
JUAN: Doing nothing all day is not happy.
JOHN: What do they call them … yogis. Or or Buddhas, in those robes. They’re a rung up. Ah well, always looking up somebody’s skirt, eh Irene?
IRENE: That’s where your passion is.
JOHN: Passion isn’t what’s up skirts.
IRENE: There’s a hole for you to fill.
JOHN: I’m just fooling around. I wouldn’t waste my money on a whore.
IRENE: Neither would I.
(Irene gives money to Juan.)
JUAN: Tu dinero es sucio.
(Juan drops bills to ground.)
JOHN: Are you still here, Jack? You must be part of the household. Just keep … digging. Maybe you’ll teach me later too. My hands have been itchy.
IRENE: Our walk will stay in the past then.
JOHN: It would be trespassing. It wouldn’t be the same.
IRENE: Yes, let’s look forward to new possibilities.
JOHN: Precisely. I’m going to take my new four-wheel drive and hunt coyote. This country will be civilized yet. Forget about the orchard. New opportunities crop up everyday. Eat those carrots why don’t you. Enjoy yourself. That’s why we’re here.
IRENE: But your clothes.
JOHN: I’m going to shoot coyote Irene, not retrieve them.
JUAN: I shouldn’t be here.
(Juan tries to go. Irene grabs his arm. Pause. She lets it go.)
IRENE: There’s so much work to be done. We’ve got to harvest and then get some plants growing in that plot, else it looks like a grave.
(Irene digs in garden. She pulls carrot after carrot, piling them on the blanket.)
JUAN: It is my fault. The coyotes did not make mierda in the driveway. It was the dog of my family. My family bought a little cabin, so they bought a perro. It runs wild.
IRENE: Dogs shit, Juan. It’s not you.
JUAN: You should keep John company. A man like that needs company.
IRENE: Let him breathe. What a man like that needs grows and grows and grows.
JUAN: I need to grow.
IRENE: I grow.
JUAN: I … have a gun. From when this land was peligrosa. You should wait inside.
IRENE: I’m not scared of the gun.
JUAN: Pero tengo un trabajo –
IRENE: I have work to do. Join me. Your muscles will remember.
JUAN: Yes, I … I think you should plant calabacín aquí. What do you call it …
IRENE: Zucchini. I planted them over there. The yellow kind – Sunburst.
JUAN: Bueno. You can never have too many suns.
(He kneels next to her. They dig carrots, piling a huge pile.)
You should really go inside. A woman as fair as you.
IRENE: Inside is no one. Outside is dirt and worms … and carrots.
(With dirty hand she touches his cheek, spreading soil.)
JUAN: I feel dirty.
(Irene moves away, collects scattered bills and plants them.)
That is not what I mean. You are jardinera. You throw away dinero on me. You don’t need me to grow vegetables.
IRENE: I don’t need you for a service.
JUAN: You are married.
IRENE: I was. Now I’m … my own woman.
JUAN: He supports you.
IRENE: Look at all my carrots.
JUAN: You owe him.
IRENE: I paid for my choices.
JUAN: There is no end to paying.
IRENE: We’ve been given a second chance Juan. To … have a picnic. It’s a miracle.
JUAN: I don’t believe in miracles.
IRENE: Confess later. Why are you here?
JUAN: I believe in things I can touch. Soil, water, vegetables.
IRENE: Touch me.
(She lifts his dirty hand to her face. He lets it fall. She turns away. As Juan speaks, Irene again removes the coveralls, exposing the dress.)
JUAN: I want to garden. And when I tire, I want to build a fire, and lie next to it, and sift your hair through my hands, and be warmed by the sun shining off your skin and with you grow the calor rojo de tomates and drink the jugo verde de espinaca and hold the amplitud amarilla de calabacín and taste the duro anaranjado de zanahorias.
JOHN: It’s a miracle – I found a coyote.
IRENE: It’s shit.
JOHN: I thought they always ran in packs, but this one was alone. Spotted it a ways off, and didn’t know what it was for the longest time. Dusky complexion, loped near to the ground, kept his nose low, sniffing.
Bam!, out shoots a rabbit, a conejo, out of its hole, a bullet across the hillside. The coyote chases. It’s a ballet. The rabbit pulls away and the coyote is almost lost, and then the rabbit stops and nibbles on some greenery until the coyote catches up and nearly pounces – then bang, off flies the rabbit again. Repeat.
Does the rabbit like being the carrot on the end of the stick? Does the rabbit not feel like a rabbit without a chase? Is the coyote that hungry, or just a little obsessive? It is a cute bunny. Fluffy, a pink nose, solid haunches. So I bump along, watching, curious to see who wins before I shoot the coyote.
They tend this way – the rabbit’s hungry for carrots, right? They leap and nip and soar over gullies and dive through brush, but I’m bound to the ruts. I pull into the driveway and they fly over the crown of the hill and slip down into the sun … and I lose them. But their trajectory would put them about … here. I couldn’t live without my bunny.
IRENE: I promised myself not again.
JUAN: There is no conejo aquí señor.
JOHN: You misunderstood. Are you the rabbit, or are you the coyote? I don’t want to mistakenly shoot the wrong one and come back a lower form of life.
JUAN: I will protect you, Miss Irene.
IRENE: Leave me alone.
JOHN: Whoever is the conejo, eat a carrot, I’ll shoot the other one.
JUAN: It is my fault. I am guilty.
IRENE: (to John) I’m guilty.
JOHN: (to Juan) Someone needs to eat all these carrots before they rot.
JUAN: I am the coyote.
IRENE: No you’re not.
JOHN: (picking up carrot) Eat the carrots.
JUAN: Yo soy el coyote.
JOHN: (in Juan’s face with carrot) Eat the carrot!
JUAN: I do not have hunger.
IRENE: Do it Juan, eat the carrot.
JUAN: Then he will shoot you.
IRENE: Good. I won’t start over.
JUAN: Put me in the ground. I will grow.
JOHN: I’m not a gardener. I know she’s a conejo. Now eat the carrot and save yourself.
JUAN: I don’t need to be saved.
JOHN: I’m trying make this better Juan – like it never happened. It’s my job to make quick decisions and live with them. I’m going to shoot somebody – I’ve decided. I won’t shoot my wife – I don’t shoot bunnies. Eat the carrot, and I won’t shoot you. Eat the carrot.
JUAN: (snatching carrot from John) Zanahoria. I grew these zanahorias –
IRENE: (snatching carrot from Juan) I grew the zanahorias. They’re all I have and –
JOHN: They are carrots, and nobody wants carrots but rabbits.
IRENE: (throwing carrot on pile) I don’t want them. I’m a coyote. Shoot me.
(John and Juan draw guns.)
JOHN: Say carrot.
(Irene tries to put herself between John and Juan.)
IRENE: Shoot me – by the zucchini on 5. One –
(Juan and John shoot each other around Irene. They fall and bleed carrot juice.)
IRENE: You shits, take me with you.
Scene 5: Blackberry
(Irene rips down For Sale / Sold sign, drags off blanket with carrots, disposes of remaining plants, and hauls blackberry vines into orchard. All that remains of the garden is a plot of bare soil. She puts on a black robe, takes off the orange dress underneath it, wipes up blood, and shoves the dress into the ground. She slams a shovel in the ground as if to dig, but stops. She closes her eyes.)
(Juan rises and digs in the plot. John rises, rouses Irene, and holds her.)
JOHN: There ‘Rene, the sunrise. This is why I bought this place for you. For us.
IRENE: The sun rises everywhere.
JOHN: But here you are in it, without distraction. For two minutes you can forget the indices and interest rates and consumer confidence.
IRENE: You can’t flip the sun, John.
JOHN: It flips itself, love. Rise, set, rise, set, rise, set. Don’t you find something in the sunrise that makes you whole?
IRENE: I see a hole of light.
JOHN: The red, orange, yellow rising over the green hillside.
IRENE: The purple welling.
JOHN: The last of the wolves howling.
IRENE: They found a calf. It makes me tired.
(Pause as they watch what remains of the sunrise.)
JOHN: Well, that’s that. Another day commenced. Time to make something of it.
IRENE: Time to make something of me. Maybe I’ll start gardening.
JOHN: I hired somebody for that, remember?
IRENE: What’d you hire me for?
JOHN: To do whatever makes you happy. Your choice.
(Pause. Without warning Irene kisses John.)
IRENE: You don’t always have to come and go so quickly.
JOHN: It’s my life’s work, love. I need to tend to it.
(Goes to kiss her lips; she turns away. He kisses her cheek.)
I’ll be back next weekend. Spending the weekends here vivifies me for the whole week.
IRENE: Don’t worry, I’ll tend myself, and grow, and happily … chew my cud. Goodbye John.
(Irene lies down and sleeps. John finds Juan in garden.)
JOHN: You’re a regular ball of fire, Juan.
JUAN: Repita por favor, señor.
JOHN: You’re always up with the sun.
JUAN: Sí, señor. It is quiet, nuevo, limpio. Work is what mornings are for.
JOHN: Those in your family’s line of work must have cause to rise early.
JUAN: Sí. When you are paid piece rate, you work as long as there is light.
JOHN: I like to help people move up in the world, Juan. Wolves migrate, men put down roots.
JUAN: I like to grow things, not only pick them. This is why I have become jardinero.
JOHN: Men need something to tend. Keep up the hard work, you’ll make something of yourself.
JUAN: Gracias, señor. I am always looking for work.
JOHN: Why don’t you start on those useless blackberry vines clogging the orchard.
JUAN: Bueno. Cutting down the woods too would make more space for farms. If there were enough work, enough crops to cultivate, my family could vivir aquí.
JOHN: I love giving people homes.
JUAN: Mi padre owned a house – no aquí. Era una tienda. He sold shovels. Everybody bought a shovel. Everybody had a shovel. Everybody stopped buying shovels. We ate rice. Until he mortgaged arms out of his store. Everybody had arms, but everybody bought another one. We ate meat. We ate strawberries. Until they returned to the store with their arms. Tenían tantos brazos. No los querían. They rammed all their arms into the mouth of my father. Brazo y brazo y brazo en la boca. Again we could not eat. We abandoned the store – our home – and moved north. He taught me the value of hard work. Señor.
JOHN: Juan … I fool around with financial tools, but developing real estate is my passion.
JUAN: You like to work.
JOHN: Yes, I like to work.
(Awkward pause. John looks at watch.)
JOHN: Well … make money while the sun shines. Enjoy the blackberry, Juan.
JUAN: Hasta luego, señor.
(Exit John. Juan returns to work. The noise wakes Irene. She watches him for a moment.)
JUAN: Es trabajo. My brother goes to school to be a mechanic, but I will not be locked in a garage all day.
IRENE: It just feels good to get out of the house.
JUAN: All animals like to breathe fresh air and work their muscles.
IRENE: You just called me an animal.
JUAN: You are a woman.
IRENE: You toil in a garden that’s produced nothing, yoked to the middle of nowhere, working soil with less worms than good intentions … where is your frown? Where’s your smile?
JUAN: They are still working on some never-ending farm, doing a job that a machine would not do and thinking of the next farm, siempre pensando en el próximo trabajo. But I am here.
IRENE: You never laugh.
JUAN: I laugh. After a day of much work. At the sunset. At a funny rock.
(Irene takes the shovel, playfully sticks handle in the dirt.)
IRENE: Is this what they call a spade?
First I was an animal, now I’m a funny rock.
JUAN: No señora.
JUAN: Sí, Miss Irene.
(takes back shovel)
Hay semillas ahí. Let them grow.
IRENE: What do you think about all day out here?
JUAN: I work. No pienso en nada.
(Pause. Irene takes back shovel, grips it tightly.)
IRENE: What would you think about hiring a companion?
JUAN: No comprendo.
IRENE: Do you want my help in the garden?
JUAN: No me molestaría.
IRENE: I’ve spent enough time where I’m not wanted.
JUAN: I have spent enough time where I do not want to be. Está bien si quiere ayudarme.
IRENE: (giving shovel back to Juan) You’ll have to teach me. I’m not good at … creative endeavors.
JUAN: Señora – Miss Irene. Tiene manos – rodillas – una espalda. The rest is easy.
IRENE: I don’t want easy. I have a lot of time to kill.
JUAN: (giving shovel back to Irene) Aquí – la pala. Break up the soil, work out from the edge. With two of us, we grow the garden bigger. We will mix in manure. Livestock give mierda for free.
IRENE: You smiled.
JUAN: I look forward to working on the garden.
IRENE: (giving shovel back to Juan) Let me change into some work clothes. I’ll be back.
(Exit Irene. Juan works, drags on planters/beds to increase size of garden/plot. The next weekend. Enter John.)
JOHN: It’s late …
JOHN: Right. Sun’s almost down and you’re still digging.
JUAN: It is my job, señor.
JOHN: The blackberry is as impenetrable as last week.
JUAN: Lo siento, señor.
JOHN: I’ve had a shitty week, Juan.
JUAN: Mierda helps things grow.
JOHN: If I can’t come out here to walk in my orchard and escape my other life … If I can’t wring value from this place, you won’t tend it. Or have you planted a money tree?
JUAN: Lo siento, señor. It is my fault. I expand el jardín para la Señora.
JOHN: What’s the garden have to do with Irene?
JUAN: Si me permite, the fresh air is good for her.
JOHN: Yes, yes. That’s why I bought the place for her. But she shouldn’t overexert herself.
JUAN: It is difficult to overexert while gardening, señor.
JOHN: I suppose.
JUAN: You will not buy as much food or pay for its delivery. She will grow more self-sufficient. And the taste – señor, have you ever had a fresh zanahoria?
JOHN: I don’t know.
JUAN: La más dulce. Y tomates frescos –
JOHN: I don’t like tomatoes.
JUAN: La miel roja de verano, jugo del sol. To eat what she grows, to be able to grow, to grow and –
JOHN: You have a one-track mind, eh? Fruit of her labor. Fine, Juan. If it makes Irene happy, she may garden. I spend so much time in the city. And for what.
JUAN: Your passion, señor.
Maybe in another life. There is pleasure in realizing it’s all built of matchsticks and money, and that money, when it’s not just a theory, is paper. There is pleasure in watching what you’ve built burn. But pleasure is not passion.
JUAN: Lo siento, señor. You should say Adiós, and build something new.
JUAN: And To God. A Dios.
JOHN: Are you a Catholic, Juan?
JOHN: I thought all your people were Catholic.
JOHN: You’d think there’d be comfort in knowing you were born guilty, and that all you need to go to heaven is to repent repent repent of what’s not your fault.
JUAN: I think there is more comfort in the ground, digging, and growing.
JOHN: Reaping and sowing. Your God’s tits up in the ditch, eh?
JUAN: The seed.
JOHN: You’re right, another man dying for me wouldn’t do it. I need a change of scenery is all. I get stuck in ruts. I’m a rabbit trying to squeeze into a snake hole with a coyote on its tail.
JUAN: It is not so bad if you are the coyote.
JOHN: I could stand to be somebody else every once in a while.
(John takes a handful of soil. Irene enters, separate from men. She finds John’s work clothes and holds them to her face, smelling them, burying her face in them as John crushes and then drops his handful of dirt. Irene holds.)
How about you, Juan? Can I be you?
JUAN: No es posible. Yo soy yo.
JOHN: Reborn as something new every week. From man to monkey to … protozoa.
JUAN: Nuevas variedades de verduras – tomates bred for different soils, for different sun, for –
JOHN: Not a new kind of tomato. I’ll be a whole new vegetable. Today I’m John, tomorrow …
JUAN: A carrot.
JOHN: Juan. What’s a regal animal?
JUAN: Un lobo.
JOHN: Perfect. Tomorrow I’m a wolf.
And the next day … look at me now Juan – a Buddhist. White collar to Roman collar to wolf collar to … lama robes. By next week, I’ll be a Buddha statue.
(John stares out as statue. Irene puts on John’s work clothes under her robe, then removes robe. Pause. She exits. Juan inspects John. John moves; Juan jumps.)
JOHN: Juan. Forgot you were here.
JUAN: I thought you had become a cow.
JOHN: Your work is done for the day. Don’t forget the blackberries.
JUAN: I have not, señor.
JOHN: And where is my lovely wife?
JUAN: Preparing lemonade.
(John howls like a wolf. Juan exits. Irene enters in work clothes, with a pitcher of lemonade, lowing.)
IRENE: You’re a new man.
JOHN: You’re in my clothes.
IRENE: I missed you.
JOHN: They’re all filthy, at the knees and elbows, and around the collar.
IRENE: I expected you last night.
JOHN: I worked all night straight through today.
IRENE: They’re work clothes, John. One gets dirty when one works.
JOHN: I feel like a million bucks, love. I don’t have a care in the world.
IRENE: You’ve matured into a fine capitalizing Buddha.
I’m sorry. I’ve taken up gardening.
JOHN: I know. Won’t you sit with me and watch the sunset?
IRENE: I made lemonade.
JOHN: Well, that sun’s a big goddamn lemon.
IRENE: Which makes it tough to juice.
JOHN: You don’t miss me too terribly.
IRENE: I am wearing your clothes.
JOHN: That’s sweet.
IRENE: And I’m gardening. I thought you’d like that I developed an interest.
JOHN: You’re right, good, something to occupy the mind.
IRENE: It occupies my hands.
JOHN: Won’t you sit with me and watch the sunset?
IRENE: Won’t you drink some of my lemonade?
JOHN: Juan’s priority now is the blackberry.
IRENE: I can garden without him.
JOHN: You and I might take a walk in the orchard next weekend, if he can clear it out in time.
IRENE: I’ll help him.
JOHN: You have delicate skin. Blackberry vines have thorns.
IRENE: I’ll soak your clothes in cold water so the blood doesn’t stain.
JOHN: He’s used to hard work. Alone.
IRENE: We hardly speak. We work alone together.
JOHN: There are wolves.
IRENE: Which is why he should accompany me.
JOHN: He carries a gun.
IRENE: So do you.
JOHN: That’s because there are wolves.
IRENE: Then maybe I need a gun.
JOHN: You need – a big dog. To scare off the wolves … they’re everywhere, circling, salivating. Yes, a herd of big dogs with some snarl. Then we’ll clear the brush, build a couple cabins, truck in some friends – you’ll have a lemonade stand.
IRENE: Or maybe what I need to fend off the wolves are wolves of my own.
JOHN: Just make sure Juan clears the orchard of blackberry vines by next weekend.
JOHN: Now, won’t you sit with me and watch the sunset?
(She doesn’t respond. He gives her money.)
For your lemonade.
(Irene dumps the lemonade over John’s head.)
JOHN: Now watch the sunset with me.
(He puts his arm around her. She doesn’t respond. He removes it.)
(The sun sets. They watch it set.)
JOHN: There she goes, set. Goodbye to today.
(The sun rises. They turn to watch it rise.)
JOHN: There she is popping out from behind her hill … poking her orange head from the dirt, and … risen. A new day. Anything is possible Irene.
IRENE: What about starting over?
(Pause. John makes to go.)
The rabbit never stops running, does it?
JOHN: I need to save our hides from the wolves.
IRENE: I don’t have a hide – I’m not a cow or a rabbit.
(Juan enters, sees them, hangs back. They don’t see him.)
JOHN: How ‘bout a big pile of thorny vines on the south field by Saturday. Let’s have a bonfire.
IRENE: They’ll be so green –
JOHN: I’ll bring some diesel and a sack-full of money. We’ll throw some carcasses on. It’s gonna be a good week. Goodbye, ‘Rene.
IRENE: John –
(John stops. She sees Juan.)
JUAN: Siento molestarla, Miss Irene. I cannot work on the jardín today. I go to –
IRENE: I’m coming with you.
JUAN: No, no. No es posible.
IRENE: You have a gun. And I have gloves for the thorns.
JUAN: I work better alone, and this is important to the Señor.
IRENE: It’s important to me.
You cut the vines, I’ll pile them. We planted seeds last week – we have to wait, but I’m done with waiting. Clearing the vines will be progress. We’ll be able to access the apples.
JUAN: The Señor said you should not work too hard.
IRENE: He’s not here.
JUAN: Manzanas. Venga conmigo.
(Exit Juan and Irene.)
(Juan and Irene enter orchard with loppers and buckets full of blackberries. They eat the blackberries and laugh.)
IRENE: I had no idea.
JUAN: ¡Sí sí sí – qué dulce!
IRENE: I mean my God. You know how much you’d pay for these in the store?
JUAN: No. ¿Mucho?
IRENE: Sí, mucho. Like a week’s worth of your wages.
JUAN: Lo siento, Miss Irene.
IRENE: ¿Por qué? It doesn’t cost anything.
JUAN: Nada es gratis. It is my job to clear the zarzamora.
IRENE: After we eat them all, we will.
JUAN: There will be no more.
IRENE: Then we’ll have apples. And one day … we’ll have a garden.
JUAN: No quiero el jardín, no quiero manzanas, no quiero … blackberries.
JUAN: Moras for short.
(Pause. Juan makes to go.)
JUAN: Our work is done for the day.
IRENE: Wait. There’s more to do.
I need the work.
JUAN: It is my job.
IRENE: Are you his dog?
JUAN: Soy jardinero.
IRENE: Or do you believe in amor y moras?
(She crushes blackberries against his face. She wipes her hands on her clothes.)
JUAN: Stains of moras do not wash, Miss Irene.
JUAN: This work gives me hunger. Do you know what tastes good with moras?
IRENE: A picnic.
JUAN: Roasted conejo.
(Holding six cocktail dresses: white, red, green, yellow, orange, and blackberry, John enters in a parallel scene to Juan. Irene is between them.)
JOHN: No wonder it’s not done, you’re doing it yourself. Where’s that goddamn Chicano?
JUAN: Conejos come and go, depending on the coyote.
IRENE: (to John) He’s … hunting rabbit. You weren’t supposed to be back until Saturday.
JOHN: That coyote. I’ll shoot him.
JUAN: When lobos are here, the coyotes move elsewhere. Coyotes will eat conejos, but lobos will not bother. Lobos want bigger meat, like deer.
IRENE: (to Juan) I want conejo.
JOHN: I have a man in the car waiting to look at the orchard and it’s as clogged with blackberry vines as downtown is with soup lines.
IRENE: (to John) What man?
JUAN: We will eat well tonight. The coyotes have not been near. Conejo es muy rico.
JOHN: He’s not going to see the money in building cabins in a blackberry bramble when there’s a clear quarter section next door.
IRENE: (to Juan) Is that a wolf?
JUAN: No tenga miedo de los lobos.
JOHN: Listen. A man. A man with money. A man who can save our hides.
IRENE: (to John) I’m not wearing one of those for “a man with money.”
JOHN: Irene – you were going to wear one for me.
IRENE: (afraid, to both) Will you stay here tonight?
JUAN: Sí sí – we will sleep in the orchard. We will show the lobos.
JOHN: I would but –
JUAN: Pero primero, los conejos.
JOHN: Shit! It’s all gone. I – I went up in a puff of smoke, and there wasn’t even a fire.
IRENE: John … (She takes the dresses, hangs them in the trees.) I’ll make blackberry lemonade … and try these on.
JOHN: He needs a product.
IRENE: I have buckets of blackberries.
JOHN: Blackberries aren’t product Irene, they’re produce. Land is the commodity. Blackberries are rabbit terds.
IRENE: (coming in to touch him) The orchard can’t be worth that much, John. Chump change.
JOHN: (avoiding her) We need everything we can get our hands on.
You’re right though, I may have to shed this whole place.
IRENE: They’ll build the same house over and over … a boring pleasure grove. The countryside will be stripped and manhandled.
IRENE: Along with the migrants.
JOHN: They’ll migrate. They’ll get better jobs. Maids, dishwashers, fast food, construction.
IRENE: And me?
JOHN: You’ll move back into the city. You’ll go to theatre again and … stare bovinely. You’ll shop – look what a mess I made of it. You’ll dress up. It takes your mind off things.
(Enter Juan in a parallel scene with a sack of rabbits and a white blanket. He spreads the blanket on the ground.)
IRENE: Sunrises and dirt under my nails and being worn out takes my mind off things.
JUAN: A mí también.
JOHN: I’ll find you a tub of dirt for the balcony. A sandbox.
JUAN: Mira. El sol.
(John hangs For Sale sign; Irene and Juan watch sunrise.)
IRENE: We made it through the night.
JUAN: Y los lobos did not get you.
IRENE: You don’t remember? He devoured me.
JOHN: We have a bigger carrot now. The whole shebang, on the market.
JUAN: It tasted so good last night, yo quiero conejo para el desayuno.
(Irene removes work clothes; John to hanging dresses.)
JOHN: Gotta take the man back to town. I’ll wave at the orchard and pretty it up with words. If he doesn’t bite, another one will. We won’t have much, but we’ll stay above ground yet.
You can keep all of these – bought them at Nordstrom and I don’t believe in returning purchases. But which do you want to wear for our bonfire tomorrow? You choose.
(Irene finishes undressing.)
JUAN: Tu piel … hielo blanco en un arroyo.
JOHN: Don’t want to choose? Well, decision-making’s my job … They’re all derivatives of the same thing really, different … colors. I’d just like to know what to look forward to. Feel like I’m playing Russian roulette. Okay … this one. What is it, purple?
(He gives Irene blackberry dress. Irene puts it on.)
JUAN: No no – sé quien eres.
JOHN: Tell that Chicano of yours he’s fired. I’ll drive out tomorrow to cut vines myself.
IRENE: This is the me I want to give you.
(Dressed, Irene displays herself as if in storefront.)
JOHN: (admiring her) Fuck, I’m a real cur. I’m not worth shit. Things’ll get better. I get so buried … I love you.
JUAN: Te quiero.
(John picks up a bucket of blackberries.)
JOHN: When was the last time I ate?
(John eats blackberries ravenously. He exits.)
IRENE: Te quiero. Wild conejo dressed in fresh zarzamoras, couldn’t buy a finer dish in town.
JUAN: This is only the start. Soy tu jardinero. Las cosas que puedo hacer con tomates y –
IRENE: John fired you Juan. For not cutting the blackberry.
JUAN: My family and I bought a small piece of land. You can visit. Tendré mi propio jardín.
IRENE: How will you –
JUAN: I will sleep better without your money. Mis abuelos are dead, and my relatives are lost. We stopped sending our dinero. My brother will stop drinking and work in a garage. My parents and sister will do migrant work while I build a house. Y después … we will farm.
IRENE: He’s going to sell. The house, everything.
JUAN: He will take you back.
IRENE: He’s not selling me.
JUAN: I’ll come too. There are jardines en su ciudad.
IRENE: You’ll cut grass.
JUAN: Grass is for cows.
For you I will do it.
IRENE: Passion dies.
JUAN: Everything dies –
IRENE: You’ll have to sell your place and go back to being a landless gardener.
JUAN: And then comes spring.
IRENE: Farmers in the city aren’t farmers.
JUAN: I can grow tomates in pots of tierra and sell them on the street.
IRENE: Affairs are transactions. I have something you want. You have something I want.
JUAN: This is more than business.
(Irene considers other dresses hanging in trees, caressing them. She then smooths the dress she wears over her hips.)
IRENE: If you believe that, then … I’m going to tell him I want a divorce.
JUAN: I stained you.
IRENE: I stained me. Tend my garden.
JUAN: I am a lobo in the clothing of sheep.
IRENE: Throw away the sheepskin.
(Pause. Enter John with loppers and sack of money.)
JOHN: Irene! … Sorry about yesterday.
JUAN: No vamos a tener mucho dinero.
IRENE: I just need a patch of ground to improve.
JOHN: You don’t have to be up slaving this early.
IRENE: Let him sell this place. Then he’ll be free to give himself to his … developments.
JOHN: ‘Rene! I’m going to be a better husband. A better … man. Starting right now, whacking these blackberries. We can work together.
IRENE: And I’ll be free to give myself to mine.
JUAN: What can I give you?
IRENE: Moras, para chuparse los dedos.
(They feed each other blackberries.)
JOHN: And when we get tired, we’ll sleep on the last of the money, in the sun, and then burn it.
(John dumps bills from his sack. Juan dumps out rabbits.)
(During the following, John builds small houses with bricks of bills. Juan skewers two rabbits, then collects sticks from vines and orchard trees for a cooking fire. Irene, between them, plants rabbits, bricks of money, and blackberries.)
JUAN: La vida que vamos a tener, con un trozo de tierra, y agua del río y todo el cielo y el sol –
JOHN: He didn’t bite yesterday, but there’s favorable indices this morning –
IRENE: The rest of our lives, working the land, working hard, self-sufficient –
JUAN: No eres demasiada vieja para estar embarazada y cultivar un bebe y dar a luz.
IRENE: Babies? How about cows instead?
JOHN: We’ll civilize this mess and turn a little profit and be fat and happy as cows again.
JUAN: Y a lo mejor mi familia puede vivir con nosotros.
IRENE: Your family is … a lot of people.
JOHN: Not that I was ever happy or you were ever fat –
JUAN: Podemos construir una segunda casa, al lado de la nuestra, para mis padres –
JOHN: Is it the gardening? The being in the middle of nowhere?
JUAN: Y tal vez una tercera casa al otro lado para mi hermano y su familia.
IRENE: How will we get the money for all those houses?
JOHN: Hell, let’s just burn it now and start over.
(John gathers sticks and vines, tosses them on his money.)
JUAN: Y vamos a cultivar verduras, y maíz, y trigo, y vamos a criar … vacas para leche y carne.
IRENE: I won’t be a milkmaid.
JOHN: We’ll stop chasing the carrot and figure out how to live together again right here.
JUAN: Como nuestras vacas, olvidaremos al resto del mundo.
IRENE: Forget it – we’ll provide for ourselves. We don’t need anyone else.
JUAN: Tendremos nuestra propia vida.
JOHN: Our life is what we make it and …and well, I’m investing in futures. What little I have anyway. Which is pretty much you.
(They all stop their work. Pause.)
IRENE: I’m hungry.
(She pulls Juan in. They kiss. John sees them.)
JOHN: Fuck. The doctor said buying this place would fix us.
IRENE: John – forget about him. It’s for the best.
JOHN: I agree. You got a dog.
JUAN: No soy un perro.
JOHN: You think I wouldn’t come this deep ‘cause of the thorns?
JUAN: She loves me.
JOHN: I love thorns.
IRENE: I want a divorce.
JOHN: That’s civilized, but you won’t need one.
JUAN: Lo siento, señor, you know you were not happy –
JOHN: Shut up finger licker.
JUAN: No soy un perro. Soy jardinero.
IRENE: You can buy a new wife.
JOHN: You know what this place cost me? Not money.
IRENE: I still love you John –
JOHN: I’ve always loved you Irene.
IRENE: But I love myself better.
JOHN: A man goes broke. His wife cheats him. His dog runs away. This is a sad country song.
IRENE: Life isn’t a song.
JOHN: I remember the last verse.
JUAN: Es su vida. She wants a second chance at it.
JOHN: She’s got it. You’re free Irene. I don’t want to see you anymore.
JUAN: Irina es jardinera.
IRENE: I’ll take care of it Juan, just let me talk to him.
JOHN: I don’t want to see you anymore, gardener.
JUAN: No me arrepiento de nada.
IRENE: (to Juan) I’ll take care of it!
Life can be more –
JOHN: I don’t want to see me anymore.
(John draws his gun to shoot himself.)
(Juan draws. John shoots Juan, who doesn’t get off a shot. Juan bleeds blackberry juice on the white blanket.)
JOHN: I am a … worthless animal.
(Irene kneels next to Juan.)
IRENE: I’m sorry.
JUAN: My blood will soak into the ground.
JOHN: Into the sheets.
JUAN: Mira, es amor y mora.
IRENE: I killed you.
JUAN: Sé jardinera. Lleva mi sangre al jardín y nunca me olvidaré de ti.
IRENE: I’ll never forget you.
JOHN: He and I are rotting vegetables. … Forget about me. Have some mercy and shoot his gun in the air and plant it in his hand. It’ll save our pride. … I wanted everything to get better. It will. It’ll be like this never happened. I’m sorry.
(John shoots himself, bleeds blackberry juice, and dies.)
IRENE: You won’t leave me alone.
(She picks up Juan’s gun. She points it at her temple.)
IRENE: 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5.
I don’t need you. I don’t need love. I can do better than this.
(She shoots at the sky. She puts the gun in Juan’s hand. She stares out vacantly as Juan and John rise, stained by blackberry juice. John hangs Sold sign over For Sale sign. Juan picks up a shovel.)
JOHN: This is the place Irene. Don’t you love it? You’ll be happy here. I see another life for you. Let’s take a peek at the orchard.
JUAN: Disculpen que los moleste, pero soy jardinero. ¿Quieren un jardín?