Through the Yellow Hour
(Ellen stands over the bathtub, uses dishwashing detergent to scrub blood out of the shirt she was wearing when the man broke in. She is wearing another shirt, an old tank top. Her face, her arms, her neck and chest are clean. We now see that she wears a makeshift necklace containing a key. The water runs as she scrubs the shirt clean with a heightened intensity.)
In the corner, just upstage of the fireplace, the Man sits, his legs outstretched. His body trembles. He is still alive, but barely.
Ellen has blocked the upstage right window with a large piece of scavenged plywood. In the bathtub, she scrubs her shirt.
A knock on the door. Ellen stops the water, drops the shirt.
ELLEN: Who’s there.
VOICE (from off): Maude.
ELLEN: Maude who?
MAUDE (from off): Just Maude.
ELLEN: Am I supposed to know you?
MAUDE (from off): China sent me.
ELLEN: China the Country?
MAUDE (from off): China from Third Street.
ELLEN: I need more than that.
MAUDE (from off): Funnyface China with the bad leg.
ELLEN: She sent you for what?
MAUDE (from off): What do you think?
ELLEN: What do I fucking think?
MAUDE (from off): I have what you need.
ELLEN: I need a lot of things.
MAUDE (from off): Yeah, you and me both.
ELLEN: Are you alone?
MAUDE (from off): Sort of, yes.
The Man continues trembling in the corner.
ELLEN: Is what you have bigger than a breadbox?
MAUDE (from off): It still might actually fit inside a breadbox.
ELLEN: How much does it weigh?
MAUDE (from off): Eight pounds, seven ounces.
Ellen grabs the gun, which had been set at her feet.
MAUDE (from off): I think there’s a wild dog out here.
ELLEN: It’s not a dog, it’s a boy.
The Man in the corner expels white material from his mouth, dies.
MAUDE (from off): Jesus. He sounds like an animal.
The sound of the boy from the hallway.
MAUDE (from off): Can you hear that?
ELLEN: Don’t touch him, he’s septic. He has abscesses.
MAUDE (from off): Please…
Ellen approaches the door, looks through the peephole, opens the door. The hallway is dark.
Maude stands in the entrance, wearing a blue bonnet on her head, as well as a gas mask, a large backpack worn in the front, boots. She also wears a dress over jeans, boots. She is covered with what appears to be ash, a white, filmy soot.
The sound of the sick boy is almost overwhelming.
ELLEN: Stay there.
Ellen steps into the hall, unseen.
The sound of the suffering boy ceases.
Maude remains in the doorway.
Ellen (still in the hallway): Get in.
Maude enters the apartment. Ellen follows her in, closes the door behind her, bolts it shut.
ELLEN: Go stand in the box.
Maude crosses toward the fireplace, stands inside the taped-out box.
ELLEN: Take your bonnet off.
Maude does so.
ELLEN: Your mask too.
Maude does so. She is white, American, youthful, dirty.
ELLEN: Do you have any weapons?
Maude reaches into a pocket of her backpack, produces a small retractable knife. She undoes it, shows the blade, returns it to its safe position.
ELLEN: Slide it over.
Maude does so. Ellen retrieves it, puts it in her pocket.
ELLEN: I’ll give it back when you leave.
MAUDE: Was that boy from the building?
ELLEN: He wandered in off the street.
MAUDE: How long had he been there?
ELLEN: A few days.
MAUDE: It’s a miracle he made it up here. That stairwell’s blown to shit.
ELLEN: You obviously managed the ladder. Let’s see it.
Maude opens the backpack, reaches into it, removes an infant secured in cardboard, its face covered with an infant’s gas mask.
MAUDE: Of course.
Ellen takes the infant to the area upstage of the typhoid wall.
Ellen (turning back): Don’t leave the box.
Ellen places the infant in an unseen sterilized incubator bin. She removes the cardboard, the small gas mask. The infant cries. She produces a pediatric ear thermometer, takes the infant’s temperature.
MAUDE: She’s in perfect health.
ELLEN: It’d certainly be in your best interest.
ELLEN (entering the downstage area): Take off your dress.
ELLEN: Because I want to see if you’re infected.
MAUDE: I’m not.
ELLEN: Take off your fucking dress.
Still in the box, Maude removes her dress. She wears no bra. She is filthy dirty. There is a growth of hair under her arms.
ELLEN: Turn around.
Maude turns a circle.
ELLEN: Slow down.
Maude does so, completes the circle.
Maude removes her boots, her jeans, her underwear, her socks. Ellen gestures for Maude to turn another circle. Maude does so. Ellen points to the back of Maude’s leg.
ELLEN: What’s that?
MAUDE: A bruise.
ELLEN: From what?
MAUDE: I probably bumped into something. It’s not exactly Swan Lake out there… (lowering herself carefully to retrieve something from her backpack) I have diapers.
Ellen nods. Maude tosses her a bundle of three or four cloth diapers.
MAUDE: I have tampons, too. You want some?
Maude tosses Ellen a Ziplock bag containing tampons.
ELLEN: Stay there.
Ellen crosses upstage of the typhoid wall with the diapers and tampons, puts them away, examines the baby.
ELLEN: Has she been fed?
MAUDE: Just now. Changed her diaper before we set out.
ELLEN: Set out from where?
MAUDE: Delancey Street.
ELLEN: Delancey and what?
MAUDE: Willett. There was a small group of us hiding in a tunnel under the Williamsburg Bridge. Or what’s left of it anyway.
ELLEN: How many were you?
MAUDE: There were four of us. But we had to get out. We all went our separate ways this morning. Can I put my clothes back on?
Ellen nods. Maude dresses.
MAUDE: That’s some door.
ELLEN: Definitely a door you can trust.
MAUDE: You’d probably have a better chance busting through the wall… What’s up with that window?
ELLEN: It’s a work in progress.
Maude points to a rectangular vented unit over the cupboard.
MAUDE: What’s that thing?
ELLEN: Air cleaner.
MAUDE: Where’d you get it?
ELLEN: Traded for it.
MAUDE: What’d you have to give up?
ELLEN: A roundtrip vacation to Tahiti.
ELLEN: My recently reclaimed virginity.
MAUDE: Is that even possible?
ELLEN: At times of chaos you can reclaim just about anything, right?
MAUDE: You have electricity?
Ellen enters with a milk crate, starts taking down her dry laundry.
ELLEN: There’s a group of Egg Heads occupying a building down the block. They figured out how to turn the electricity on, so there’s juice between First and A, from here to Seventh Street. I figure if I keep the lights off, maintain a low profile, they won’t bother.
ELLEN: None yet today.
Ellen crosses upstage of the typhoid wall with her dry laundry, starts to put it away.
MAUDE: You got any clean water?
MAUDE: Can I have some?
Ellen crosses to a kettle, pours water into a bowl, hands the bowl to Maude. Maude drinks it voraciously, finishes, hands the bowl back. Ellen crosses upstage of it, places it in the sink.
MAUDE: You forget how good it tastes… That burner works, huh?
ELLEN: It flushes.
MAUDE: Who’d you have to fuck for these digs?
ELLEN: My husband. It was our home.
MAUDE: Where is he?
ELLEN: He disappeared a week after the worst of the bombing stopped. Went out to get food, never came back.
MAUDE: How long has it been?
ELLEN: Fifty-two days.
MAUDE: What was his name?
MAUDE: You run into people.
ELLEN: His name is utterly forgettable.
MAUDE: When the shit hits the fan you’d be surprised at what your memory is capable of.
MAUDE: What did he look like?
ELLEN: Six-one. Medium build. Long brown hair. He was growing a beard. Blue Eyes. Scar under his lower lip.
MAUDE: Were things good between you?
ELLEN: Yes, why.
MAUDE: It’s not uncommon for people to use times like this as a means.
ELLEN: A means to what.
ELLEN: He wasn’t fleeing. He was going out for food.
Ellen crosses to the door, looks out the peephole.
MAUDE: What happened to all your stuff?
ELLEN: I traded most of it away. There was a guy who used to come by with nine-volt batteries, iodine pills.
MAUDE: What’d you have to give up for the gun?
ELLEN: A case of canned sardines, a DVD of Last Tango in Paris, our flatscreen TV, my engagement ring and some tasteless sexual acts.
MAUDE: You mention sardines and my stomach moans like some lost mammal in a cave. What I would kill for a tin of sardines.
Ellen crosses to the cupboard, removes a can of peaches, opens the top. Maude steps toward the peaches.
ELLEN: Back to the box.
Maude takes the peaches back to the box, eats them ravenously, gulps the syrup. Ellen takes the peaches away before Maude can finish them, crosses upstage with them, sets them near the sink.
The baby cries. Ellen moves to it.
Maude points to the skylight.
MAUDE: Don’t you worry about them coming in from the roof?
ELLEN: It’s a clusterfuck of razor wire and broken glass up there. Besides, this building means nothing to them. It’s in the middle of the block.
MAUDE: Eventually they’ll take it.
ELLEN: Eventually the sun will explode and we’ll all turn into elegant intergalactic sludge.
Maude points to the Dead Man on the floor.
MAUDE: What happened to him?
ELLEN: He had a bad day.
MAUDE: You knew him?
ELLEN: He broke in. Came at me with a crowbar and I shot him. The shame is he still had his balls. If I would’ve known that I would’ve made him jerk off into Dixie cup, and then killed him.
MAUDE: Maybe he was from Belleview? I heard how the last wave of male patients weren’t castrated.
ELLEN: I suppose the Egg Heads theorize the crazies’ psycho sperm will weaken the gene pool.
MAUDE: You’re just gonna leave him there?
ELLEN: He adds texture to the room.
MAUDE: What happened to the crowbar?
ELLEN: I swallowed it.
MAUDE: So do I sleep in the box too?
ELLEN: Come here.
Maude crosses upstage of the typhoid wall, looks toward the sleeping area.
MAUDE: It’s not the Hyatt but it’s more comfortable than it looks. China from Third Street said I get three days.
MAUDE: She said three.
ELLEN: China from Third Street’s a deluded menopausal part-time heroin addict and she’s been known to be frequently full of shit.
MAUDE: I need three.
ELLEN: And I need a fucking root canal and a bikini wax. Two is all I can do.
MAUDE: You have no idea what I’ve been through.
ELLEN: If you don’t like it you can take her and leave.
The baby cries. Maude doesn’t move. Ellen moves to it, stares down at her in the incubator bin.
Maude (referring to the infant): What are you going to do with her? …You gonna farm her?
ELLEN: Do I look like a fucking farmer?
The baby makes a sound.