dance of the holy ghosts
Enter the Temple
Dark as hell. A shaft of light pours where autumn leaves fall. It is the moon. She moves, squats over OSCAR, 72 who sits in a park, his makeshift table and chess pieces faced toward us. More leaves fall from an unseen tree. Oscar moves his black queen. It is 2005.
OSCAR: God … I miss you.
He waits for some force to move the other piece. Nothing. He moves a white pawn.
It’s so hard for me to keep track of you—your coming and going, moon and half moon. When you please, how you ‘apparition.’ It’s hard on a man’s mind to member you this way.
He sits, moves his own black knight.
I wish you could be more like the sun. He comes in the same shape every dawn—just as bold, just as big. A man can clock his rise to him. But you—you got phases. You got moods.
Oscar rises, moves a white pawn.
I wish you’d at least leave me a piece of yourself, Viola. Something I could conjure you with.
Enter MARCUS, 27 out of darkness.
MARCUS: Pardon me. I’m lookin for an Oscar Clifton.
OSCAR: Oscar Clifton’s dead.
MARCUS: Dead? Can’t be. I was told he lived in this retirement facility. He’s 72, round—
OSCAR: —Nope. Choked on a pork chuck and went out like the disco era: hella quick. I should know I was there. Was sometime last year in the mess hall when he croaked. One minute he was finger lickin, suckin the shit out of a neck bone. Next minute neck bone was suckin the life out of him. I call it irony.
MARCUS: But the lady at the front desk said this was his place. Said he hardly comes out.
OSCAR: She’s an ha-bitch-able liar—lady at the front the desk. A Bernadette. Plastic tits and a nappy weave: even her body’s a tall tale. The man’s dead. I should know. I was there.
MARCUS: Well, when did he die?
OSCAR: When most folks die. When their time comes.
MARCUS: Was there a funeral? Did somebody call his family?
OSCAR: Man didn’t have no family. He was a wolf without a pack. What you want him for?
MARCUS: Nothin. I’m just an old friend.
OSCAR: Man didn’t have no old friends. Didn’t have no new ones either.
MARCUS: Funny. You sort of seem to have his face—Oscar’s.
OSCAR: What’s funny about that. He was Belafonte fine—what’in he? All us fine men favor. I like to think we made in God’s image.
MARCUS: And that voice. You croon like him. Like your mouth is full of … no disrespect but bullshit.
OSCAR: It’s my breath. I ain’t brushed. Yet again, he was quite a man to resemble me, to have my tenor. Shame I didn’t know him well. Shame really only knew he choked on a neck bone and went down like the disco. You have a good day.
Oscar tries to close the door again but this time Marcus shoves it open.
MARCUS: And who might I be speaking to for the curiosity?
Oscar gives him a dangerous look.
OSCAR: Willie. That’s what the old bodies here call me. Big ass Willie Smalls.
MARCUS: I see. Well, it’s been real, Willie. Be well.
He offers Oscar his hand …
OSCAR: No need. I don’t sleep.
They shake. Oscar pushes Marcus back and slams the door shut. Oscar locks the door then leans against it—shaking. He puts a candy into his mouth to calm his nerves.
OSCAR: You almost had me muther fucker. You almost had the wolf. Full moon and an itch behind my ears—I almost split skin. Would’ve wolf you down and ate you crown to toe. Somebody should tell these niggas—there’s a howl lyin deep inside me. You wake it, you gotta put me down. You wake it, I’m gone feed my appetite. Best let this sleepin dogs ‘lie.’
Oscar calms, feels the skin of his palm where Marcus left his touch.
Alright get it together Oscar. Puzzle your thoughts piece by piece. Somethin’s recollectin, somethin … brought on by the touch of that man’s hand, that stranger who felt or read the story of my palm with his own. Hm. How’d he dig up …
Suddenly there is a knock at his window.
… this memory?