RESEARCH: an Excerpt
LIGHTS on when AUDIENCE sits.
Enter LUCY and MODERATOR.
A long pause before LUCY speaks to indicate that they have been sitting there for a time.
So no, then.
Same brief pause.
Why would you think you could read in here?
The last woman read. Or she had a book at least.
The woman that was here before, I mean. Before me.
The woman whom was here before you, you mean.
LUCYThat’s what I said. Briefer pause. She had a book, didn’t she?
MODERATORShuffling papers. What makes you think there was someone here before you?
LUCYIt smells like paper. Like my mother was here. Sometimes the smell of books or libraries reminds me of my mother. Brief pause. Like, must, you know? Like bookstore mold. You know, you understand. Like a used bookstore’s moldy basement in rainy autumn. Southern Virginia, leaves ground into crackly floorboards, old copies of Walden, boots, Wellies--wellingtons, you follow? And beef Wellingtons. Cider apples, etc. LUCY holds her nose in the air for a long pause, cutting the MODERATOR off as he is about to deliver his next line. She is not instructive so much as sharing thoughts as they occur. Plus someone is always “here” before we are “here,” you know? What seems like first is never, really. To you at least. Not really. Columbus had to kill a lot of people to make believe—to make others and us, I mean—believe he was first.
MODERATORI was the only one here when you got here.
LUCYWell, I won’t kill you for it. Pause. LUCINDA enters stage right where JASON is already seated in dark. She is late, removes a coat, drops a purse, etc. She whispers something to JASON, probably “Sorry, I couldn’t find a cab.” He nods, whispers back something like, “No worries, we just started.” The lights remain dim on their side of the mirror.
MODERATORI appreciate that.
LUCYIt smells like she was reading a really old book.
MODERATORThe last woman who was here, was here yesterday. And she left yesterday. They’ve cleaned since then. He indicates trash bin. Whatever you smell isn’t her. It wasn’t her book. Brief pause I mean, that is, if there were, or if she had a book. Perhaps it is these papers. During the next lines LUCY unwinds her scarf from around her neck as she begins to feel more comfortable and in control. She uses the scarf and other accessories throughout the action as a way of indicating levels of stress or thought or intensity-of-memory. Tightening the scarf around her neck might be similar to the way a nervous smoker would light a cigarette in a police interrogation.
LUCYWhat was she reading? I only read new books. Fresh off the presses. So fresh there’s no smell.
MODERATORI’m sorry, Miss Pearle, but we really need to move on.
LUCYExcept warm. I’d say new books have a warmer smell. You know? You understand what I mean? Comprehend? Acknowledge? See? You see. You see, you do. Warm isn’t a smell. Not really. Not in the way we use the word. Not even as much as “cold” can be a smell. But you get the idea. I have an idea of it so you must have an idea of it. Is it a stretch to think like that? That because I understand, it follows that you should, too? At least vaguely understand. Is there a word for that? There must be. In this language or in another. There are words for everything. And different languages.
MODERATORWith all due respect, Miss Pearle, we must—
LUCYOh, of course you know. You see what I mean. You get it. “A new book can smell warm.” Just leave it at that. That’s the strange thing about new books. They are warm, then cool off after printing, but get warmer as they age, with all the handling. Even in the musty basement, the yellow pages. Warmer, not colder, not like—
MODERATORInterrupting. We really do need to move on.
LUCYWhy? Isn’t this— (indicates the space between herself and the moderator) —the point of all this? (indicates the mirror, rest of the stage).
MODERATORWe do have specific topics to cover. This, them, you. (indicates the same as LUCY) All of it has certain objectives.
MODERATORSuch as your father. The day he died. Brief pause. What he smelled like, if you prefer. Briefer pause. Warm. Or cold, you understand.
LUCYPutting her scarf back on. Okay, so, my father. I see what you mean. Talk about my father.
LUCYYes. Long pause. Are we going to talk?
MODERATORYour father was a veteran, wasn’t he?
MODERATOROf a war.
MODERATORHe knew his way around a gun, I mean.
LUCYIf one were on the floor, I’ve no doubt he could find his way around it, yes.
LUCYYou think guns are funny?
LUCYThere is nothing funny about guns, my father would have said. There is nothing funny about guns excepting cartoon guns which shoot out flags with messages instead of bullets, like the coyote and the bird.
MODERATOROkay, so let’s talk about how guns aren’t funny.
LUCYMakes a gun with her finger. BLAMMO! Now imagine an ad for a taxidermist hanging here. Indicates end of her index finger.
LUCYMakes gun with each hand now, like pistols. KAPOW! ZIP-BANG! BOOM-A-ZOOM! She laughs.
MODERATORAs to your father, Lucy. I have his last words to you here. Or what you reported were his last words.
LUCYBlows smoke off imaginary guns. What I reported.
LUCYIn cowboy voice, holstering the guns. What I done said to the sheriff.
LUCYRegular voice. It was very cold that night. I remember that. They had me in the paddy wagon, the police car. The lights were on, but no sirens. They brought me an uncomfortable blanket. You could put a fire out with that blanket it was so cold. Points imaginary gun. FIRE! FIRE!
MODERATORDo you know what it says here?
LUCYAbout the blanket?
LUCYAbout the fire, then.
MODERATORNo, about what you said your father said.