Dodge, in his seventies
Halie, his wife, mid-sixties
Tilden, their oldest son
Bradley, their next oldest son, an amputee
Vince, Tilden’s son
Father Dewis, a Protestant Minister
Dodge: (after pause) Sure is nice-looking corn.
Tilden: It’s the best.
Dodge: Some kinda fancy hybrid?
Tilden: You planted it. I don’t know what it is.
Dodge: (pause) Tilden, look, you can’t stay here forever. You know that, don’t you?
Tilden: (spits in spittoon) I’m not.
Dodge: I know you’re not. I’m not worried about that. That’s not the reason I brought it up.
Tilden: What’s the reason?
Dodge: The reason is I’m wondering what you’re gonna do.
Tilden: You’re not worried about me, are you?
Dodge: I’m not worried about you.
Tilden: You weren’t worried about me when I wasn’t here. When I was in New Mexico.
Dodge: No, I wasn’t worried about you then either.
Tilden: You shoulda worried about me then.
Dodge: Why’s that? You didn’t do anything down there, did you?
Tilden: I didn’t do anything.
Dodge: Then why should I have worried about you?
Tilden: Because I was lonely.
Dodge: Because you were lonely?
Tilden: Yeah. I was more lonely than I’ve ever been before.
Dodge: Why was that?
Tilden: (pause) Could I have some of that whiskey you’ve got?
Dodge: What whiskey? I haven’t got any whiskey.
Tilden: You’ve got some under the sofa.
Dodge: I haven’t got anything under the sofa! Now mind your own damn business! Jesus God, you come into the house outa the middle of nowhere, haven’t heard or seen you in twenty years and suddenly you’re making accusations.
Tilden: I’m not making accusations.
Dodge: You’re accusing me of hoarding whiskey under the sofa!
Tilden: I’m not accusing you.
Dodge: You just got through telling me I had whiskey under the sofa!
Halie’s Voice: Dodge?
Dodge: (to Tilden) Now she knows about it!
Tilden: She doesn’t know about it.
Halie’s Voice: Dodge, are you talking to yourself down there?
Dodge: I’m talking to Tilden!
Halie’s Voice: Tilden’s down there?
Dodge: He’s right here!
Halie’s Voice: What?
Dodge: (louder) He’s right here!
Halie’s Voice: What’s he doing?
Dodge: (to Tilden) Don’t answer her.
Tilden: (to Dodge) I’m not doing anything wrong.
Dodge: I know you’re not.
Halie’s Voice: What’s he doing down there!
Dodge: (to Tilden) Don’t answer.
Tilden: I’m not.
Halie’s Voice: Dodge!
(The men sit in silence. Dodge lights a cigarette. Tilden keeps husking corn, spits tobacco now and then in spittoon.)
Halie’s Voice: Dodge! He’s not drinking anything, is he? You see to it that he doesn’t drink anything! You’ve gotta watch out for him. It’s our responsibility. He can’t look after him self anymore, so we have to do it. Nobody else will do it. We can’t just send him away somewhere. If we had lots of money we could send him away. But we don’t. We never will. That’s why we have to stay healthy. You and me. Nobody’s going to look after us. Bradley can’t look after us. Bradley can hardly look after himself. I was always hoping that Tilden would look out for Bradley when they got older. After Bradley lost his leg. Tilden’s the oldest. I always thought he’d be the one to take responsibility. I had no idea in the world that Tilden would be so much trouble. Who would’ve dreamed. Tilden was an All-American, don’t forget. Don’t forget that. Fullback. Or quarterback. I forget which.
Tilden: (to himself) Fullback. (still husking)
Halie’s Voice: Then when Tilden turned out to be so much trouble, I put all my hopes on Ansel. Of course Ansel wasn’t as handsome, but he was smart. He was the smartest probably. I think he probably was. Smarter than Bradley. That’s for sure. Didn’t go and chop his leg off with a chain saw. Smart enough not to go and do that. I think he was smarter than Tilden too. Especially after Tilden got in all that trouble. Doesn’t take brains to go to jail. Anybody knows that. Course then when Ansel died that left us all one. Same as being alone. No different. Same as if they’d all died. He was the smartest. He could’ve earned lots of money. Lots and lots of money.
(Halie enters slowly from the top of the staircase as she continues talking. Just her feet are seen at first as she makes her way down the stairs, a step at a time. She appears dressed completely in black, as though in mourning. Black handbag, hat with a veil, and pulling on elbow length black gloves. She is about sixty-five with pure white hair. She remains absorbed in what she’s saying as she descends the stairs and doesn’t really notice the two men who continue sitting there as they were before she came down, smoking and husking.)
Halie: He would’ve took care of us, too. He would’ve seen to it that we were repaid. He was like that. He was a hero. Don’t forget that. A genuine hero. Brave. Strong. And very intelligent. Ansel could’ve been a great man. One of the greatest. I only regret that he didn’t die in action. It’s not fitting for a man like that to die in a motel room. A soldier. He could’ve won a medal. He could’ve been decorated for valor. I’ve talked to Father Dewis about putting up a plaque for Ansel. He thinks it’s a good idea. He agrees. He knew Ansel when he used to play basketball. Went to every game. Ansel was his favorite player. He even recommended to the City Council that they put up a statue of Ansel. A big, tall statue with a basketball in one hand and a rifle in the other. That’s how much he thinks of Ansel.
(Halie reaches the stage and begins to wander around, still absorbed in pulling on her gloves, brushing lint off her dress and continuously talking to herself as the men just sit.)
Halie: Of course, he’d still be alive today if he hadn’t married into the Catholics. The Mob. How in the world he never opened his eyes to that is beyond me. Just beyond me. Everyone around him could see the truth. Even Tilden. Tilden told him time and again. Catholic women are the Devil incarnate. He wouldn’t listen. He was blind with love. Blind. I knew. Everyone knew. The wedding was more like a funeral. You remember? All those Italians. All that horrible black, greasy hair. The smell of cheap cologne. I think even the priest was wearing a pistol. When he gave her the ring I knew he was a dead man. I knew it. As soon as gave her the ring. But then it was the honeymoon that killed him. The honeymoon. I knew he’d never come back from the honeymoon. I kissed him and he felt like a corpse. All white. Cold. Icy blue lips. He never used to kiss like that. Never before. I knew then that she’d cursed him. Taken his soul. I saw it in her eyes. She smiled at me with that Catholic sneer of hers. She told me with her eyes that she’d murder him in his bed. Murder my son. She told me. And there was nothing I could do. Absolutely nothing. He was going with her, thinking he was free. Thinking it was love. What could I do? I couldn’t tell him she was a witch, couldn’t tell him that. He’d have turned on me. Hated me. I couldn’t stand him hating me and then dying before he ever saw me again. Hating me in his death bed. Hating me and loving her! How could I do that? I had to let him go. I had to. I watched him leave. I watched him throw gardenias as he helped her into the limousine. I watched his face disappear behind the glass.
(She stops abruptly and stares at the corn husks. She looks around the space as though just waking up. She turns at looks hard at Tilden and Dodge who continue sitting calmly. She looks again at the corn husks.)
Halie: (pointing to the husks) What’s this in my house! (kicks husks) What’s all this!
(Tilden stops husking and stares at her.)
Halie: (to Dodge) And you encourage him!
(Dodge pulls blanket over him again.)
Dodge: You’re going out in the rain?
Halie: It’s not raining.
(Tilden starts husking again.)
Dodge: Not in Florida it’s not.
Halie: We’re not in Florida!
Dodge: It’s not raining at the race track.
Halie: Have you been taking those pills? Those pills always make you talk crazy. Tilden, has he been taking those pills?
Tilden: He hasn’t took anything.
Halie: (to Dodge) What’ve you been taking?
Dodge: It’s not raining in California or Florida or the race track. Only in Illinois. This is the only place it’s raining. All over the rest of the world it’s bright golden sunshine.
(Halie goes to the night table next to the sofa and checks the battle of pills.)
Halie: Which ones did you take? Tilden, you must’ve seen him take something.
Tilden: He never took a thing.
Halie: Then why’s he talking crazy?
Tilden: I’ve been here the whole time.
Halie: Then you’ve both been taking something!
Tilden: I’ve just been husking the corn.
Halie: Where’d you get that corn anyway? Why is the house suddenly full of corn?
Dodge: Bumper crop!
Halie: (moving center) We haven’t had corn here for over thirty years.
Tilden: The whole back lot’s full of corn. Far as the eye can see.
Dodge: (to Halie) Things keep happening while you’re upstairs, ya know. The world doesn’t stop just because you’re upstairs. Corn keeps growing. Rain keeps raining.
Halie: I’m not unaware of the world around me! Thank you very much. It so happens that I have an over-all view from the upstairs. The back yard’s in plain view of my window. And there’s no corn to speak of. Absolutely none!
Dodge: Tilden wouldn’t lie. If he says there’s corn, there’s corn.
Halie: What’s the meaning of this corn, Tilden!
Tilden: It’s a mystery to me. I was out in back there. And the rain was coming down. And I didn’t feel like coming back inside. I didn’t feel the cold so much. I didn’t mind the wet. So I was just walking. I was muddy but I didn’t mind the mud so much. And I looked up. And I saw this stand of corn. In fact I was standing in it. So, I was standing in it.
Halie: There isn’t any corn outside, Tilden. There’s no corn! Now, you must’ve either stolen this corn or you bought it.
Dodge: He doesn’t have any money.
Halie: (to Tilden) So you stole it!
Tilden: I didn’t steal it. I don’t waxt to get kicked out of Illinois. I was kicked out of New Mexico and I don’t want to get kicked out of Illinois.
Halie: You’re going to get kicked out of this house, Tilden, if you don’t tell me where you got that corn!
(Tilden starts crying softly to himself but keeps husking corn. Pause.)
Dodge: (to Halie) Why’d you have to tell him that? Who cares where he got the corn? Why’d you have to go and tell him that?
Halie: (to Dodge) It’s your fault you know! You’re the one that’s behind all this! I suppose you thought it’d be funny! Some joke! Cover the house with corn husks. You better get this cleaned up before Bradley sees it.
Dodge: Bradley’s not getting in the front door!
Halie: (kicking husks, striding back and forth) Bradley’s going to be very upset when he sees this. He doesn’t like to see the house in disarray. He can’t stand it when one thing is out of place. The slightest thing. You know how he gets.
Dodge: Bradley doesn’t even live here!
Halie: It’s his home as much as ours. He was born in this house!
Dodge: He was born in a hog wallow.
Halie: Don’t you say that! Don’t you ever say that!
Dodge: He was born in a goddamn hog wallow! That’s where he was born and that’s where he belongs! He doesn’t belong in this house!
Halie: (she stops) I don’t know what’s come over you, Dodge. I don’t know what in the world’s come over you. You’ve become an evil man. You used to be a good man.
Dodge: Six of one, a half dozen of another.
Halie: You sit here day and night, festering away! Decomposing! Smelling up the house with your putrid body! Hacking your head off til all hours of the morning! Thinking up mean, evil, stupid things to say about your own flesh and blood!
Dodge: He’s not my flesh and blood! My flesh and blood’s buried in the back yard.
(They freeze. Long pause. The men stare at her)
Halie: (quietly) That’s enough, Dodge. That’s quite enough. I’m going out now. I’m going to have lunch with Father Dewis. I’m going to ask him about a monument. A statue. At least a plaque.
(She crosses to the door up right. She stops.)
Halie: If you need anything, ask Tilden. He’s the oldest. I’ve left some money on the kitchen table.
Dodge: I don’t need anything.
Halie: No, I suppose not. (she opens the door and looks out through porch) Still raining. I love the smell just after it stops. The ground. I won’t be too late.
(She goes out door and closes it. She’s still visible on the porch as she crosses toward stage left screen door. She stops in the middle of the porch, speaks to Dodge but doesn’t turn to him.)
Halie: Dodge, tell Tilden not to go out in the back lot anymore. I don’t want him back there in the rain.
Dodge: You tell him. He’s sitting right here.
Halie: He never listens to me Dodge. He’s never listened to me in the past.
Dodge: I’ll tell him.
Halie: We have to watch him just like we used to now. Just like we always have. He’s still a child.
Dodge: I’ll watch him.
(She crosses to screen door, left, takes an umbrella off a hook and goes out the door. The door slams behind her. Long pause. Tilden husks corn, stares at pail. Dodge lights a cigarette, stares at T.V.)
Tilden: (still husking) You shouldn’t a told her that.
Dodge: (staring at T.V.) What?
Tilden: What you told her. You know.
Dodge: What do you know about it?
Tilden: I know. I know all about it. We all know.
Dodge: So what difference does it make? Everybody knows, everybody’s forgot.
Tilden: She hasn’t forgot.
Dodge: She should’ve forgot.
Tilden: It’s different for a woman. She couldn’t forget that. How could she forget that?
Dodge: I don’t want to talk about it!
Tilden: What do you want to talk about?
Dodge: I don’t want to talk about anything! I don’t want to talk about troubles or what happened fifty years ago or thirty years ago or the race track or Florida or the last time I seeded the corn! I don’t want to talk!