Desire under the big oak.., p.1
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       Desire Under the Big Oak Tree, p.1
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           Bernard Fancher
Desire Under the Big Oak Tree


  Desire Under the Big Oak Tree

  A play in one act

  by

  Bernard Fancher

  Copyright 2011 by Bernard Fancher

  All rights reserved

  ******

  Scene one

  Night

  A back porch, lit by a single bulb

  Marge sits on the open edge of the porch, her legs dangling

  Joe stands leaning against a support post, listening

  MARGE

  Wasn’t it good, Joe, to see everybody again? I thought Mae looked happy having the children around her. A little tired, maybe, at the end.

  JOE

  You looked happy too, Marge.

  MARGE

  Oh, I was. A little sad, though, knowing we’d end up as always, alone. I had hoped Alex and Jason would stay over.

  JOE

  I thought they would. But people have to get back. And they seemed tired.

  MARGE

  It’s not like there aren’t beds enough. (Looks to the right, and up)

  Both back bedrooms stand empty. Oh look, someone’s left a light on in the one.

  JOE

  (Shifting his weight) I’ll go turn it off.

  MARGE

  Joe, you forget.

  JOE

  Yes.

  MARGE

  It’s probably Denise. She and Peter are sleeping over tonight. Anyway, I’d prefer you stay. (Pause) Wouldn’t you?

  JOE

  Wouldn’t I what?

  MARGE

  (Waiting, as if lost in thought) Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if things had been different. What if we had never met and married and had children? Do you ever think about it? Do you think you would have been happy—happier?

  JOE

  Happier? (He looks up and considers the question) I don’t know. I never thought about it before. I guess I might have been. Maybe, who knows? I’ve been happy enough, though.

  MARGE

  You’re a good man, Joe. I don’t know what I meant, asking a thing like that. Maybe I just wanted to say I’ve been happy, too—happy enough, at least. I realized that tonight, somehow. (Pause) It’s lonely now, with everyone gone.

  JOE

  (Looking out from the porch) It’s still nice yet

  MARGE

  (Looks out as well) Oh, yes

  JOE

  (Looking up) There’s a man in the moon tonight. See him?

  MARGE

  (Looking up too) Yes, I can. There’s a face, clear as day. And look (Pointing) there’s Venus, too, out ahead.

  JOE

  The evening star.

  MARGE

  Until it gets far enough ahead.

  JOE

  Or lags far enough behind. Then it’ll be the morning star, rising as the moon descends on the far horizon.

  MARGE

  I still don’t know if the moon passes by Venus or it it’s the other way around. You’d think after all this time I’d have noticed such a thing. I just never paid enough attention.

  JOE

  Plenty enough people can say that, Marge. But you can now if you want. Nothing’s stopping you from sitting tight, right where you are, and noticing anything you want.

  MARGE

  I would if you would. But you won’t. I know you well enough by now. You’ll be wanting to go in soon, after checking out the barn, maybe. But what you’d go looking for in there, I don’t pretend to know. There aren’t any animals left in there—haven’t been any for years.

  JOE

  No, but there’s hay left. (Pauses) We could go up in the loft, just you and me, like we used to.

  MARGE

  (Sadly) Oh, Joe.

  JOE

  I know. I shouldn’t have said that.

  MARGE

  No, but not for the reason you think. I’d like to, Joe, but those days are gone forever. Neither of us is the person we once were.

  JOE

  You mean older and wiser.

  MARGE

  That’s part of it. But we’ve changed in other ways, too.

  JOE

  I guess that’s right. Still, we can remember how it was.

  MARGE

  Sure we can. But we can do that right here, Joe. We don’t need to go climbing up into a hayloft like a couple of lovesick kids. (Laughs, pausing) Remember the night Papa caught us? He’d come home just after we’d turned down the kerosene lantern, and he smelled it, thinking fire in the barn, and climbed the loft ladder to find us. Heavens Joe, I’ve never been so mortified.

  JOE

  (Laughing) I remember. He liked to near kill me. Not on account of you, mind, but for putting him in such a panic about losing the barn. (Pause) I guess I can’t blame him for that now. And he saw the humor in it, too, eventually. We shared many a good laugh over that one.

  MARGE

  I’m glad you both thought it so funny. (Stops, cocks her head to hear) Listen. (They both stop then to take note of the sound of voices approaching from inside the house, coming towards the back door) It’s Denise and Peter. And here I thought they’d gone to bed.

  (Denise and Peter, younger by some years, exit the house coming out to the porch, the back screen door slamming shut behind them.)

  DENISE

  (Stepping off the porch) Oh Peter, look at that moon!

  PETER

  (Following, looking up as he descends off the last step) Yes, it’s a nice one, for sure. Still, not as impressive as when first it came up over the hill back yonder. You missed it, girl, all big and orange, earlier. A half dozen of us stood out by the near side of the barn and watched it rising. Drew a crowd, it did.

  DENISE

  That’s what they call a harvest moon, right?

  PETER

  I guess. (Stops, looks at her and smiles) You’re the farmer’s daughter. You should know.

  DENISE

  I know I should. Makes me feel stupid admitting I don’t. (Looks back towards the porch) Oh papa, forgive me.

  JOE

  (Calling out to her, softly) I forgive you, dear.

  DENISE

  (Returning to observing the moon) It’s a nice one, for sure. You can see the man in the moon. (Pointing) See the eyes and the nose and the mouth crooked to one side? (Lets her arm drop) Still, it’s not as impressive as the moon we met going up with in Zion. Back when we were all younger. Mama woke all of us children to see it, floating between the shear stone walls of the pass so big and near it seemed only just beyond the windshield. I thought I could reach out and touch it.

  PETER

  I never saw a moon quite like that.

  DENISE

  Nor have I, ever again. (Pausing, she looks up beyond the moon)

  Mama, wherever you are, thanks so much for waking me that night.

  MARGE

  (Calling out softly) You’re welcome, dear. That’s what a mother does.

  (Long pause ensues, after which Denise takes Peter’s hand, pulling him along)

  DENISE

  Come on, Peter. Let’s go under the oak tree. I’ll sit in the swing and you push me.

  Scene two

  Night still

  A swing hanging on long ropes from an oak limb

  Denise sits on the swing, her legs dangling, toeing the ground

  Peter stands against the trunk, listening

  DENISE

  Wasn’t it good, Peter, seeing everybody again? Mae seemed so happy to have all her children around her, and the grandchildren, too.

  PETER

  Yes. You seemed happy, too, Denise.

  DENISE

  Oh, I believe I was! I hadn’t seen some of those people in years. Decades, even. You wouldn’t know, but I had su
ch a crush on Will Dougherty when we were younger. He came up to me earlier while I was sitting right here and said, “The last time I was in this yard must have been forty years ago. You were sitting here just as you are now when I came up behind and pushed you.” (She pauses, remembering) Finally he said, “Mind if I push you again?”

  PETER

  Where was I then?

  DENISE

  (Looking up, smiling towards him) Where were you then forty years ago? Or where were you while he was saying all that to me?

  PETER

  Where was I earlier just this evening.

  DENISE

  I don’t know, Peter. Maybe checking the fire, seeing to it the corn didn’t burn. (Turns to him, smiling again) Dear, the corn never tasted so good.

  PETER

  (Smiling) It was good, wasn’t it?

  DENISE

  And now it’s gone. The food is gone, and the people, too. Every one and every thing—all gone. (Stops, realizing the import of her words, becoming apologetic) Except you and I, of course. We’re still here.

  PETER

  Along with the man in the moon.

  DENISE

  Yes, the man in the moon. (Pauses, cocks her head, either looking or listening) Do you hear that? The dew is falling, dripping through the leaves all around us.

  PETER

  I know. I felt it earlier while standing out under the open sky. But this is the first I’ve heard it.

  DENISE

  I don’t know what to make of that sound. It makes me feel so empty inside and lonely somehow. And yet, it’s almost like another presence, as if someone is watching from just beyond the periphery of our knowing.

  PETER

  No one is watching. (Looks forward, towards the audience) Is anyone out there, watching? (Looks back to Denise) See? No-one is watching.

  DENISE

  Except maybe Papa.

  PETER

  (Agreeing) Except maybe your papa.

  DENISE

  Anyway, I like the other night sounds. Do you? They’re mostly crickets, I guess.

  PETER

  Mostly, I guess.

  DENISE

  Everything sounds different at night, softer. All those crickets participating en masse, and no individual standing out. They become as a choir, quieted, all voices hushed into one.

  PETER

  They sound different at night, sure.

  DENISE

  (Looking suddenly to him) Oh, Peter. I know I talk such nonsense sometimes. (Looks away, her voice softer) Such nonsense. (Pause) It was before I ever met you. We were mere children, playing kickball on the flat, just the way the children were doing, tonight, earlier. The ball landed beyond the electric fence that used to run along the edge of the yard there (Raises a hand as if to point) Will Dougherty crawled under to get it, grabbing onto the wire to pull himself up coming back. He told me tonight he remembered it like it happened only yesterday. I told him I remembered it too, remembered thinking he’d be electrocuted, not being able to let go. Oh, we laughed at that. And it was for a moment like yesterday, only tonight he told me he thought I was the prettiest thing and then he pushed me in this swing and I sat and let him, smiling.

  PETER

  All this while I was off making certain the corn didn’t burn.

  DENISE

  Oh Peter, it was innocent! Don’t be angry. We were just remembering how it was, being children.

  PETER

  I wish I could remember you then.

  DENISE

  You could push me now if you wanted.

  (After a slight hesitation, Peter relents, goes behind her and pushes. She lets out a gleeful laugh and the scene darkens.)

  Scene three

  The stage slowly lightens to reveal Marge and Joe under the same tree as before, with Marge sitting now in the swing and Joe leaning against the trunk.

  MARGE

  They are gone now. It’s so quiet. Listen. Quite, and so peaceful.

  JOE

  Yes. I could stay here like this forever.

  MARGE

  Could you, Joe? Here with me, forever?

  JOE

  Where else would I go?

  MARGE

  I don’t know. It just seems time is so short, no matter how long the moment.

  JOE

  We have all the time there ever was.

  MARGE

  And yet, isn’t it strange the way we sometimes think every second is forever?

  JOE

  A moment can be, I suppose, in memory.

  MARGE

  I suppose. But really, as you say, we have all the time we ever had. (As if in affirmation of the thought) Our forever is always right now.

  JOE

  I guess. (Looks up) The eastern horizon….

  MARGE

  (In some panic) You can’t see. It’s so dark yet.

  JOE

  It’s always darkest before the dawn.

  MARGE

  That’s always seemed such nonsense to me—like saying it’s coldest before spring, or warmest before the fall.

  JOE

  I’m neither cold nor warm, how about you, Marge?

  MARGE

  I’m the same as you, Joe. (Pauses, looks away, raising a hand up beseechingly) Oh, how I wish I could hold back the moon. But I know. Dawn is fast approaching. I’ve been in something of a state about it ever since the bedroom window went dark. (Pauses, looking that way) It feels good having someone at the house again, doesn’t it?

  JOE

  Maybe they’ll settle and stay.

  MARGE

  (With wistful certitude) They won’t. They never do, not for long. The world has changed, Joe. It’s just you and me now.

  JOE

  (Long pause) Did I ever tell you?

  MARGE

  (Looking towards him, suddenly interested) What?

  JOE

  You are the prettiest thing.

  MARGE

  (Smiles) You make me feel like a schoolgirl all over, full of innocence and eager expectations.

  JOE

  After all this time, that’s good. I guess.

  MARGE

  (Introspectively, looking down) Yes, after all this time. (A long thoughtful pause ensues after which, almost shyly, she looks up) Joe, you could push me if you want.

  Joe walks behind her and stands with his arms extended, waiting, as if hesitant to make contact. When he does, the scene goes entirely black, until, a few seconds later, a soft beam of moonlight breaks through the leaves, revealing only an empty swing. Whether it moves or not is left to intention or chance.

  ******

  If you enjoyed this work, please consider supporting the author by purchasing one or more of his other books.

 
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