LOREEN HAGEN: age 43, intelligent, independent, never married, good-looking, desperate.
CLEONA JUDE: age 35, plump, earthy sweet, 35% con artist.
BILLY TUTON: age 31, handsome, not with us in the world.
Place: A house a hundred miles from anywhere.
(The scene reflects three different locations. The first is the inside of a house. Standing are two women, Cleona and Loreen. A man, Billy Tuton, leans against a back wall, in his own world yet entirely present. He speaks little, his body speaking for him, as perhaps does his silence. He has come in recently and is looking at something in his hands. There is, outside, from beginning to end, the escalating sound of thunder, flashes of lightning. Cleona is pointing to the ceiling.)
CLEONA. Whatís that?
LOREEN. (Looking.) Itís a crack, I guess. But it isnít going to break or anything. Itís not a support beam. See how everything is held up by that support beam there? Stable as iron. (She crosses her arms.) I donít care. Donít take it. Itís probably a bad idea anyway. Besides, I might have another offer.
(Cleona moves to another area, as if not hearing her, examining closets, drawers, etc.)
I canít guarantee anything, as I told you. As is, like I said.
CLEONA. Uh huh, I know.
LOREEN. (Looks at Billy Tuton, then back again.) Whereíd he go?
CLEONA. He was around somewhere. Could have been anywhere. He likes finding things, making things. Heís an artist, as I said. (Examines more things, then faces Loreen.) Iíd like to go down to the river again, if thatís okay. Have you point out the boundaries again, show me exactly. Thatís what I like best, I think. The river. Him too. (She hurries to add.) For me, of course.
LOREEN. Of course.
(They move toward the door, as the lights go down inside the house and up on stairs outside, where they are walking down, carefully.)
It needs new stairs, like I said earlier.
CLEONA. (Stumbles slightly.) Oh! (Loreen starts to say something.) I know, the flood.
LOREEN. Really, itís never been as bad. This one was unusual. It just never happens. A once in a lifetime thing. A freak storm. Honestly.
(Cleona stumbles past what looks as if it were recently someoneís fence or part of a porch. She is mesmerized by the river, however, and doesnít seem to take too much notice.)
CLEONA. Itís just so beautiful. (She points down, at a distance.) So, that tree there?
LOREEN. That cottonwood to that other one I showed you. You can just see the top of it. Then up in back of us behind the house all the way to the road. Itís a triangle, as we discussed.
CLEONA. Two and a half acres. And all that waterfront. Iíve never had anything like that in all my life.
LOREEN. Cottonwood to cottonwood.
CLEONA. How much of a river does a person own?
LOREEN. Halfway into it would be yours.
CLEONA. Half a river . . .
LOREEN. (Blurting.) He has beautiful hands.
CLEONA. . . . Yes.
LOREEN. Do you still want to do it?
CLEONA. Do you?
LOREEN. I donít know . . . itís so rushed. Maybe we ought to think about it. Itís a lonely house, I think I ought to tell you. Disclosure, you know, everything on the table. I wouldnít want to be sued or anything, as if I didnít tell you any flaw.
CLEONA. Itís been on the market two years, you said.
LOREEN. You donít love him, or what?
CLEONA. Itís just time to move on, is all. I need a home, and well, he and I couldnít get that part together . . . no blame on him or anything. When I saw your ad, we came up, and
afterward me and him went to have coffee and talk it over, and I this idea and he said okay . . . and we came back . . . and . . . well, thatís what happened . . . And he liked you. He said so right away. He really did.
(It begins to rain and they turn once more toward the house, where the lights come up again as they enter, shaking off the drops. Billy Tuton stands where they left him, his mind still completely absorbed with something it looks as though he has found, a piece of glass, or metal, or board we canít quite see. He will still not appear to listen to, or care about, most of the conversation taking place. Loreen, however, seems more aware of his presence than she has been. Cleona takes a crumpled piece of paper from her pocket.)
Why donít we sit down?
LOREEN. (Almost whispering.) Doesnít he ever say anything? Is anything wrong with him?
CLEONA. He can be real silent, I think I might have told you. He can go for days without talking, be gone for days looking for things too, stand like that forever sometimes. Makes you a little crazy. Sometimes youíll think heís never coming back. (Then she rushes to correct.) But he does, of course. Heís far from perfect, you know. As is, like you said. No guarantees. Disclosure, like you said too, everything on the table so weíll both be sure of what weíre getting. (She sees what might be Loreenís slight uncertainty.) He thinks youíre beautiful.
(Loreen looks back at Billy Tuton, who for the first time looks up, letting his eyes brush over her.)
LOREEN. Letís do it.
(Loreen sits, Cleona joining her, smoothing out the paper from her pocket.)
CLEONA. We could have an option period. Say two or three weeks . . .
LOREEN. How would that work, an option period? You are getting a bargain, you know, a wonderful alternative, if youíre not sure. Two and a half acres, and all that waterfront, half a river.
CLEONA. Cottonwood to . . .
LOREEN. . . . cottonwood . . . yes . . .
CLEONA. (Pausing over the ďcontract.Ē) . . . You canít go out where I live. You canít go out without worrying about getting shot or something, or having a million people everywhere you go. You canít turn around without bumping into someone. Have everyone know everything you do. Or not even seeing you. Thatís even worse. Or you have to lock your windows at night, bolt your doors. Itís so crowded. So dangerous.
LOREEN. . . . You have no idea what itís been like being alone here. For me of course. Not how it would be for you. Weíre all so different. Itís just been too long for me. Iíve been here alone too long . . . At first you see all the stars in the sky, millions of them, and you listen to the river . . . and you hear the birds at night . . .† and the animals . . . itís just so . . . peaceful, but itís just . . . been too long . . . (She steals another look at Billy Tuton, who has resumed looking at whatís in his hand . . . glass, metal, wood. She looks back at Cleona.) What about him? Didnít he protect you?
CLEONA. Of course, yes. He made it all not really matter. It was just me. (She touches Loreenís arm.) Heís . . . . wonderful. You wonít be disappointed. (Loreen reaches for the piece of paper, which Cleona holds onto for another moment.) Are you sure about the flood and everything?
LOREEN. Absolutely. (Reaches for a pen.) Definitely.
(Outside the rain can be heard coming down even more heavily, the thunder and lightning as if engulfing them. Billy Tuton looks toward the window and all the things the storm will be uncovering, as the women are busy signing the papers and glancing toward the windows themselves.)
. . . This will move south to Mexico by morning. It says so in the papers.
(Billy Tuton seems to be listening to them for the first time, following the sounds of the storm across the windows of the house as if following the storm to Mexico himself, as a slight light comes up on him . . .)
BILLY TUTON. The will go south to Mexico, uncovering all the things it can uncover there . . . pieces of glass and shard, old metals, silvers and irons . . . and then further down . . . South America . . . Honduras, Chili . . . the metal so beautiful . . . the silver . . . the white, gold furnace of light . . . equatorial light . . . so beautiful to work with . . . stones . . . cobalt . . . amethyst . . . malachite . . . old leather, nails, tools . . . so . . .many things . . .
LOREEN. (Putting the pen down uncertainly.) . . . How do we do it then?
CLEONA. Heíll come to you. Tomorrow if you want.
LOREEN. . . . I can be out of here by noon. And, heíll . . . come with me?
CLEONA. (Standing.) Of course. Definitely. Wherever you want to go. (Looks to Billy then back again.) Tomorrow at noon then. Itís a promise. Weíve got it in writing.
(She turns to go, Billy Tuton following. They hesitate at the door briefly, Cleona taking another look at the house before they duck out into the rain.)
LOREEN. . . . Creative financing . . .
(The lights go down on the inside of the house and up in the interior of a car where Cleona and Billy Tuton sit, Cleona at the wheel, driving, windshield wipers swiping madly. She stops the car and gets out suddenly to pull up and throw aside a FOR SALE sign, the rain soaking her. She gets back in.)
CLEONA. Tomorrow! Do you believe it? Can you do it?? Like we said??
BILLY TUTON. Of course. Definitively.
(He looks out the car window through the rain as Cleona maneuvers the road.)
CLEONA. You go with her for a minute, like we said, then at some point, when you fill up for gas, or get supplies or some-thing, you just get out and come back here to our house. Our house! I told her no guarantees. As is, I said. Itís all on paper. Complete disclosure. We have the house and the land and the river. Half a river, Billy. Everything together, like we said, like weíve always wanted, havenít we? Just think what we can do with that house. How we can fix it up and work on the fence and everything . . . how I could sew and things, plant, make a garden . . . like a little family, Billy. Iíve thought about all this, thought about where all of our things should go.
(Billy stares out the window.)
BILLY TUTON. Could you let me out for a second?
CLEONA. (Looking at him. Heís seen something, like always.) Of course, Billy. (She stops the car and he opens his door and steps out into the darkness . . . and is . . . gone. She sits for a moment then wipes the window with her hand trying to see past the rain . . . but there is nothing.) . . . Definitely Billy . . . (Frantic, she wipes at the window again . . . nothing . . . opens the door and tries to see . . . nothing . . .) Billy!!!
(Nothing . . . as the lights dim in the car and come up again in the inside the house, where Loreen is gathering up and packing her things for . . . tomorrow. Outside the rain now in thunderous, the very eye of the storm, the one she knew was coming down from the north, but expected it . . . later . . . as the news said . . . in two days . . . Lightning cracks. The windows shudder. And suddenly, the crack in the ceiling Cleona had pointed out earlier, begins to pour rain, a stream of it running freely across the floor as in the foundation has tipped . . . just a little . . . for now . . . a sound of the stairs outside giving way . . . as the lights flicker . . . and dim further . . . and then go . . . completely . . . definitely . . . OFF. End of play.)