A Short Play.
© Sim Shattuck.
Used by permission.
All rights reserved.
- Carole: high school senior girl
- Bill: high school senior boy
- Hook Man: Buster Armentrout, an escaped mental patient
- Radio Announcer: Big Jeff, a disk jockey
- Time: any spring evening, 2011
- Setting: the front seat of a late-model car in the middle of trees, or something suggestive of them, Bill and Carole are extremely attractive high school seniors. They are parked in a wood, presumably before a body of water like a lake. Scene opens with light kissing and making out in moonlight. The car is aimed front end facing the audience. A popular love song is playing on the radio or sound system. Both principals wear preppy clothes. They seem much more humane and approachable than others of their attractiveness. They have a close emotional relationship but they are also in love with love as much as they are with each other. The front seat of the car they inhabit may be all of the car that shows but the audience should see the steering wheel (Bill is the driver) and trees near and behind the car. The overall stage lighting should be close to moonlight strength, but a regular spotlight, not too glaring, should be on the characters. During the course of the play they meet Hook Man.
[Carole suddenly seems uninterested in their activity.]
Bill: What’s wrong with you?
Carole: I was just thinking….
Bill: About what?
Carole: …that it might not get any better than this.
Bill: Hey, I know I’m a stud and all, but….
Carole: [annoyed] Could you be serious for a moment? Could you please do that for me? I’ve already said “I love you.” You know I mean it.
Bill: [chastened] Sure I can. I’m sorry, Carole. What is it you want to say to me?
Carole: What I meant was, just look at us here and now. Yes, I mean that, too. It’s like my uncle said, “You’re like a new penny when you’re young.” Untarnished. We’re young and beautiful. That should be good, right?
Bill: [wary] Where are your going with this? [sits up and studies Carole]
Carole: Bear with me, will you? I mean that, well, what do we have to look forward to after this? We go to college and then struggle, find someone to marry. At least that’s the usual script.
Bill: Sure, that makes sense…as long as it’s me.
Carole: [ignoring his joke] And I’m sure lots of good stuff happens to us in life, especially when you’re young, but it’s always some sort of struggle-not the way it is now.
Bill: [pulls back, examining her] I never know what to expect from you. Maybe that’s a good thing. [Sits up, rolls up his window].
Carole: What I mean is, I don’t think there’s any point in getting older.
Bill: Well, we can’t help that, can we? Unless you want to die. And I can’t believe that.
Carole: Sometimes you think I’m ditzy, but I do a lot of research. Statistics say that more than half of all men cheat on their wives, but I have the feeling that many, many more men do it. But then they lie, even to interviewers.
Bill: I’m not cheating on you.
Carole: Oh, Bill, it’s just a matter of time. You know, I used to think that if I bonded with a man who loved me and respected me that we would be so tied together that we’d be soulmates. We’d be mated for life.
Bill: I’d like to be that man for you, you know!
Carole: You think you do, but things don’t stay that way. Men change. They can change real fast. There’s something, well, unstable about them. It’s just not their nature to be that way, to be steadfast.
Bill: I think you’re being unfair. Look at my grandparents. They were together sixty-two years.
Carole: Fine, but the fact that they stayed together says nothing about their fidelity-or about how they did or didn’t enjoy just being around each other.
Bill: I don’t understand why you’re saying these things. Do you want to break up? I’d really hate that.
Carole: No, I don’t. I just told you yesterday that I love you. That’s not it at all. But I keep feeling we’re putting on a show for each other, that we’re preening like birds for mating. But you know, we’ve never really gotten down to it, down to basics. Having sex with you is easy, but it’s not communication, at least not the kind I need right now. We’ve never discussed serious things with each other.
Bill: I do know that. But I was afraid to. Like maybe if I said something political or philosophical that turned you off, you might get freaked out or something and drop me.
Carole: I didn’t know you thought about things like that. [checks her nail polish job on one hand]
Bill: Well, of course I do. I just don’t think about them when I’m with you. I want to be happy and think about happy things when I’m around you. Besides, I think we’re getting off the topic here: you said it’s not going to get any better than it is now.
Carole: [almost dreamily] Yeah, that’s what I said.
Bill: So explain.
Carole: Oh hell, why don’t we just keep making out? [puts her arm around his neck, then pauses] I feel the same way sometimes. I don’t want you to find out what’s really inside of me, either.
Bill: Well, Carole. Should I tell you what I think is down in there? [Taps her chest modestly, near the neck]
Carole: I guess so. Yes, go ahead.
Bill: I pretty much like you and everything I’ve noticed about you. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I do know you have fears and sorrows, but overall I’d say you’re a loving, giving, involved young woman whose own humanity scares her a little bit.
Carole: How do you know I have fears and sorrows?
Bill: Because everybody does. Nobody’s completely happy and satisfied.
Carole: Sounds pretty accurate so far….
Bill: And maybe you’re not sure about going steady with me. Maybe that kind of commitment scares you too much. So I think the philosophizing is — how can I put this? — a diversion away from what’s really eating at you.
Carole: And that is?
Bill: You think everything’s so good now, but, Babe, we have just begun making love, we haven’t begun careers, we haven’t even begun having kids-so much art and music and work and love and play are waiting for us just around the corner. We just can’t see them yet.
Carole: [patiently, even lovingly] Bill, I know everyone says those things. [Laughs] Makes me think about my mom’s Carpenters’ song, "We’ve Only Just Begun." But I also notice that when she plays it how sad her eyes look, as if…as if…
Bill: …as if there’s nothing left to look forward to but watch yourself get older every year? Waiting for betrayals by kids and family and husband and everyone else who wants a piece of you, somehow?
Carole: Yes. Exactly. Yes. And it scares me. It really scares me. Last Tuesday we went to the Cathedral downtown. We were practicing for Baccalaureate Service…
Bill: I remember. You told me. That’s only a week from now. I’m proud of you that you’re in the choir. You sing like an angel.
Carole: As we were singing the Mendelssohn thing, I was blown away by the beauty of what I saw and heard: the stirring music, the hushed echoes of the singers, the sheer-what’s the word? — grandeur of the cathedral interior. "What is better than this? I will never forget this day," I thought. When it was over and we were walking back to the bus, I felt so let down.
Bill: How come?
Carole: During the rehearsal I was sort of lifted out of myself. It’s strange, too, because you know I don’t have too many strong feelings about God. I don’t know if I believed the words we sang or not. No, it’s worse than that: it doesn’t matter if the words are true. It doesn’t matter in the here and now if goodness or kindness or ugliness is in the world. The only things that are real to me, the things that last, are struggle and disappointment and death. Only those things are certain. Only those.
Bill: Jesus, Carole! You sound like you’re depressed. My aunt Bonnie uses Paxil, and it’s helped her a lot. You don’t have to be sad like that. I had no idea this problem was going on inside you. Maybe you should…
Carole: How can you call it being depressed when I’m just responding to the truth?
Bill: [almost angry] I can’t think like that. I won’t. Life isn’t as terrible as you say. I think there’s plenty to be…
Carole: …No, I think you’re afraid to admit that it is. Don’t you get tired of all this shitting and pissing and pain and screaming babies and old people dying? It’s just…just…what’s a word I’m looking for? — the indignity of human life. And considering how the rest of the world lives, we’re two of the richest people in the strongest country of the world, but I think our life’s a hard go anyway.
Bill: [silent for a few moments] I’m going to get a coke or something from the snack place over there. Try to get into a happier mood, will you? Do you want anything?
Carole: No. [watches Bill walk away] Sure, just walk away. That’s what we all do when we can’t get down to the bottom of things.
[Carole drifts off to sleep, listening to the radio music. After she shuts her eyes,the stage should go much darker, signaling nightfall. A Radio Announcer comes on, much louder than the music had been.]
Radio Announcer: HEY GIRLS AND GUYS: GOT SOME NEWS FOR YOU KIDS PARKED AROUND PETE’S SNACK SHACK DOWN IN HOBBVILLE. A MENTAL PATIENT HAS ESCAPED FROM THE EAST LOUISIANA STATE HOSPITAL. HIS NAME IS BUSTER ARMENTROUT AND HE’S CONSIDERED DANGEROUS. HE HAS A HOOK FOR A LEFT HAND, THE RESULT OF A WOUND SUFFERED WHILE HE WAS IN THE GULF WAR. THOUGH THIS REPORT SOUNDS STRANGE, REMEMBER THAT IT’S IN EARNEST. PLEASE GO INSIDE AND LOCK YOUR DOORS UNTIL THIS DANGEROUS INSANE MAN IS TAKEN INTO CUSTODY. GO ON, NOW. BIG JEFF IS TELLING YOU TO DO IT FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.
[The music resumes, and Carole awakes, momentarily confused about where she is. She suddenly notices Hook Man looking at her thoughtfully through her open car window. She screams, looks around for Bill and simultaneously tries to roll up her window. She also looks down toward the ignition keyhole, but Bill has taken the key with him. Hook Man is dressed in blue jeans, an institutional khaki shirt and some kind of soft shoes. His hair and eyes suggest madness, but also a certain intelligence and even humor. He should be either white or Hispanic.]
[Hook Man clamps his normal hand over Carole’s mouth and poises his hook over her head.]
Hook Man: Shut up, damn it. Stop struggling. Ain’t gonna hurt you. Quit trying to scream, you stupid bitch, or I’ll put this hook through your eye.
Carole: [going still, mumbling through his hand] All right, all right! I’ll stop!
Hook Man: Your boyfriend back there near the road? He dead. I come back for you. I’ll get a lot more fun out of you. But I going to teach you a lesson. You not worth killing. Him? He struggle. He want to live. I hear what you said. You want to die when you got everythang.
Carole: I don’t want to die!
Hook Man: You try growing up with you stepdad rapin’ you and you drunk mama watchin’. I takin’ my hand away now. You scream and I will rip you throat out with this hook. I done tole you I ain’t gonna hurt you unless you keep screamin’. So, what you got to say?
Carole: You killed my boyfriend Bill? [thoughtful pause, gaze into the distance] Good. He doesn’t have to suffer any more. Bill was sweet but stupid as the goddamn day is long. His life was going to be hard, people taking advantage of him his whole life, I’ll bet.
Hook Man: People like you, you mean?
Carole: No, I loved him. But I always know and say the truth. You can kill me or not. I don’t care.
Hook Man: Never been near someone like you. What make you think Life supposed to be any better than the struggle? You scary, girl. I leavin’ now. [Exit]
Carole: Men! Even crazy ones! They never want to get down to it. They never want to call Life what it is. Lucky me. I get to live another day.
Text Prepared By
- Bruce R. Magee
Shattuck, Sim. Hook-Man: A Short Play. © Sim Shattuck. Used by permission. All rights reserved.