The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry
The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry
Inside the trade store, Half George cans tobacco. She is a thick, handsome woman with hair white as George Washington’s wig. Enter Mary South with a fruit basket.
MARY SOUTH: Evenin Half George, how you? (time.) My, the trade store so pretty you’d think it was springtime in November. Is this new calico? I’ll take three yards of this and some red ribbon when it moves ya. Sweet Tea is due a new blouse though Lord knows I can’t afford it. May I also have some coal oil, a jar of molasses and powdered milk? (beat.) You lookin healthy t’day Half George. I likes that color on you, it brings out your womanly features. (time.) Yeh, well I was just passin through, plum pickin and carryin on. Thought you might be needin some fruit for your preserves.
HALF GEORGE: Who said I preserved. I likes my fruit to fit my nature: hard and rotten.
MARY SOUTH: Well I believe God makes us all different. Some of us is soft and peachy. Others are hard and rotten but we all got good centers. Sometimes ya just got to peel away the rotten parts to get at the sweet but we all good. And got good centers.
HALF GEORGE: You sound like you think you done made some golden discovery. I can look and tell folks got good centers. I figured that when I was five. You one dumb woman, Mary South.
MARY SOUTH: Awl go on …
HALF GEORGE: Fine I will. I wanted to tell you it before but didn’t care enough to make it plain. Guess I do now. Here it is: I thinks you the dumbest bell ever rung in this dust ball town. I thinks you hollow. Thick. Clangin. And if I had my way I’d silence your chime. I’d stick a nice size rock down your throat then stitch your two lips together to make a hem. And if you choked it would be an ‘oh well.’ Life is hard nough with a rooster’s cock-doodle wakin me every morn and sometimes sky thunder wakin me in the dead of night but havin to endure your empty talk, you comin here actin like we friends but needin somethin makes me want to beat ya. Knock ya down. Makes me want to stand on your head like a cliff to get a better view of the ocean.
MARY SOUTH: You seem in a mood. What’s say I come back once you had a breather?
HALF GEORGE: What’s say you buy or trade now? You look like you need somethin.
MARY SOUTH: Yeh. Well in truth I do need a thing.
HALF GEORGE: I don’t barter in fruit and cake. You can leave that basket for my Goodbird though. He’s got a sweet tooth.
MARY SOUTH: Your Goodbird, you say?
HALF GEORGE: Yeh. What you got he can drink, smoke or fuck with?
MARY SOUTH: You haven’t heard.
HALF GEORGE: Heard what? Nobody ever talks to a witch.
MARY SOUTH: Your boy … your boy is gone.
HALF GEORGE: Gone? (beat.) O. This bout your Sweet Tea ain’t it? Well, chicks come home to roost. What can I say that I ain’t thought before: my boy has a sweet tooth. Couldn’t keep him from your fawn. He’s sprung and so is his dickie. Did she run away with him? They’ll be back. Goodbird don’t stay gone long. He picky and don’t eat any woman’s bread. Plus, I heard yours don’t know how to knead. Where they run to?
MARY SOUTH: They didn’t. Though I wished they had. For he’s dead, Half George.
HALF GEORGE: Not dead. Missin. He flies ’way for long periods of time. His father does the same when he gets mad. Men. Always runnin. It’s cause they got fears of bein forced off land. It makes em antsy—
MARY SOUTH: —I saw the body. Had it. Brought it to the chapel myself. I even got some of his blood on my dress.
She shows a bloodstain.
I didn’t want to break your heart good woman. But no man was man enough to do it. He’s dead and twas his body that cursed the well.
HALF GEORGE: … my gut told me to keep him in. Told me to mind him.
MARY SOUTH: Take my time for his. What he would have givin you in love, I’ll give in labor—
HALF GEORGE: Why come?
MARY SOUTH: No reason. I just feel sorry for ya and wants to offer my hand.
HALF GEORGE: Hand for what? You ain’t never offered it before.
MARY SOUTH: You ain’t never needed it. But we the same. Outcasts in our own town. Folks looks down on me cause I’m fullblood Indian and married to a Negro. They look down on you cause you a Negro married to a fullblood. But we the same: two sides of the same hand. We got to help each other up—
HALF GEORGE: —Bullshit! I smell bullshit, Mary South. You been eating bullshit?
MARY SOUTH: Nawl ma’am but I will if it please ya—
HALF GEORGE: —IT WON’T! FEED ME TRUTH!—
MARY SOUTH: —It was an accident. Number Two stabbed him out of fear. He was drunk, angry but he didn’t mean it. Don’t hurt him, Half George. I know you have great power and I believe in it. I believe in the old way but our new God teaches us forgiveness. He teaches us mercy and I need yours. Let me work for you is what I’m sayin. I know your man don’t have time to since he gots to keep justice in the town. And now that your boys gone … Look, I got strong hands. I can till. I’ll sow so you can reap.
HALF GEORGE: Reap: Corn Harvest. (thinking) Summer: A swallowed sun. Winter: A dead Bird. Means: the spring of a new life. (beat.) Your Sweet Tea’s pregnant.
MARY SOUTH: Can’t be. Sweet Tea’s pure.
HALF GEORGE: Woman, you that dumb? They were rollin since your gal grew hills. I want the child: night of the birth. And I won’t harm yours. That’s our deal.
MARY SOUTH: But Half George, there’s no child, I swear—
HALF GEORGE: —He will be raised by my hand. And his heart will be dead to your kin. You came to seal it. Let it be sealed.
She burns a needle under fire.
MARY SOUTH: Yes’m.
Mary South offers her hand.
HALF GEORGE: The time has come for the old smoke, Mary South. Go, tell your man. The time has come for a little sweat.
She burns ‘the pact’ on Mary’s hand with a needle. Mary gasps!