This was written as a short, experimental stage play using the same, or similar characters and the same setting as the Summer Romance story to attempt an American idiolect.
Medium: Play for stage
Title: Goodbye to Ouray
Cast list: Mary-Lou Ellis – AKA DISH: Early thirties; waitress in Ouray restaurant.
Łyżka Sobieski – AKA WHISKER: Late twenties; Polish; Tall, thin
Peter Manzini – SHERIFF of Ouray County: Short: Sensitive about being fat.
Set: Proscenium arch stage.
Restaurant above a bar on Main Street, Ouray, Colorado. The door from the stairs are SR. The swing door from the kitchen is SL. A table with two chairs is DCS. Other tables are scattered US. The rear of the set has a window showing a mountain scene with different lighting depending on the time of day. When the door from the stairs opens, the buzz of conversation from the bar downstairs can be heard. Occasional sounds of Harleys riding up and down Main Street.
Running time estimated at approx.16 minutes.
Scene 1 The restaurant, a Tuesday evening in August
Late evening. A half moon can be seen through the window. The restaurant is nearly empty, the few people left are finishing up and leaving. The door from the stairs, SR, opens and the conversation from the bar below can be heard. WHISKER comes in through the doorway carrying a beer and walks over to the table US. A spot on the table comes up as he sits down. A few seconds later DISH comes out through the kitchen door SL, sees him, stops short and then walks over to him.
Dish: Hi Whisker, I wus starting to think ya wus gonna be a no show tonight.
Whisker: Would that have bothered you?
Dish: Of course, you’re a regular customer now, I never like to lose a regular.
( laughs ).
It’s good to see ya.
Whisker: You too, Mary-Lou.
Dish: There’s not much food left and the chef is fixing to leave but there are still some fries on the go and it would only take me a coupla minutes to get a steak sorted. That OK?
Whisker: Yeah, that’d be great, thanks.
( WHISKER sits, drinking his beer. Dish lights a candle for his table, a spot brightens on him.The last of the other customers leave.
Dish: Mind if I join ya?
Whisker: Yeah sure. Have —/
( A police siren sounds in the street below. Whisker jumps up )
Dish: Don’t worry, that’s just one of the police deputies driving up main street playing with his siren.
I didn’t mean that the way it sounds. Did ya think they wus coming for ya?
I’ll go and see if ya chuck’s ready. Jest sit yerself down and enjoy it.
Whisker: Oh, OK, (pause, sits down) it just sounded strange is all. You having something?
DISH brings his meal from the kitchen and sits opposite him at the table. )
Dish: No, serving food all evening kinda snuffs ya appetite.
( The spot widens to include DISH )
Whisker: So, tell me Mary-Lou, why do the customers call you Dish and why’s it printed on the front of your t-shirt?
Dish: When the bikers come in here they often ask if I’m the dish of the day and they all talk to my chest. You’re the only guy who looks me in the eye and calls me by my real name.
An’ what about you? I know your name’s Whisker but you’ve never said why. Is it ‘cos ya got a beard?
Whisker: I guess it could be but it really is my name. It’s Polish for spoon, it just looks different when it’s written down – like this.
(Whisker writes his Polish name, Łyżka, on a napkin )
Dish: Does that really sound like Whisker?
Whisker: Sure does.
Dish: How long have you lived in Denver?
Whisker; ‘Bout five years, since I came over from Poland with my parents.
And what about you, d’ya come from Ouray?
Dish: No, Ridgeway, up valley. My folks still live there but it was too stuck in the past for me so I moved here. Ouray’s just right for me, small and friendly enough for me to know plenty of people to say Hi to.
I wouldn’t have known ya was from Poland, you sound real American.
Whisker: Well, I guess I worked hard on learning the language as I wanted to fit in real quick.
(Whisker finishes his meal and pushes the plate away from him. )
Whisker: That really hit the spot, thanks
Dish: Good, I like cooking for ya.
Whisker: So tell me, with all these handsome young bikers around every night, how come one of them hasn’t scooped you up?
Dish: I’m not interested in those guys, even tho’ they’re always hitting on me.
Err, well, I’ve got a boyfriend anyways.
Whisker: Oh. OK.
( pause )
Why didn’t you tell me in these last coupla weeks? Where is he, he’s never around
Dish: I didn’t tell ya ‘cos we’ve been getting on so well. He works as a tourist guide around the mountain trails. I think he likes the mountains better than me. I ain’t seen him in a while even though we’re s’posed to be getting married soon but it jest ain’t gonna happen. I need to finish it now.
Dish: It’s my day off tomorrow so, after I’ve seen Mr Clayton, I’m gonna drive up and tell him we’d mebbe best each go our own way.
Whisker: Who’s Mr Clayton?
( DISH looks away and hesitates )
Dish: Uh, err, well he’s sorta my doctor. I check in with him once a week now after my time in hospital. I guess I just forget to call him doctor.
Whisker: You were in hospital?
Dish: Yes, down valley, in Durango.
Whisker: Are you OK now? What was wrong?
Dish: Err, well now, that’s kinda private. Mebbes I’ll tell you sometime.
Is that OK? I’m fine now but Mr Clayton worries and likes to keep an eye on me.
Whisker: Yeah, that’s cool. You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to. Just means I can keep a few secrets from you an’ all.
(Both laugh )
How’s your boyfriend going to take it?
Whisker: He ain’t gonna like it ‘cos of the usual man ego thing.
Whisker: You’d better be careful, shall I come with you?
( DISH laughs )
Dish: I don’t reckon that’s a good idea somehow. I can look after myself.
( beat )
Dish: I think we’re done here ain’t we?
Whisker: It’s a beautiful night, can I walk you home?
( DISH puts her hand over WHISKER’S on the table )
Dish: Perhaps ya might stop over and fix some of the loose shingles on my roof in the morning.
Are ya still thinking about the weather or what you want me to cook fer your breakfast?
( WHISKER leans forward and kisses her gently on the lips.
Whisker: Neither at the moment and I’d be happy to fix your shingles.
( DISH and WHISKER stand up and walk slowly over to the door SR, holding hands. The spot follows them and slowly fades as they walk through the door.)
CURTAIN / Lights down
Scene 2 The restaurant, Thursday the same week.
Mid afternoon. A bright blue sky can be seen through the window. The restaurant is empty apart from DISH and WHISKER who are sitting at the table DCS. The restaurant is quiet, there is no noise from the bar downstairs. The stage is brightly lit.
Whisker: Man, that was some great breakfast this morning, thank you.
( DISH laughs )
Dish: Is that all you remember? Do ya only think of your stomach?
Whisker: We’ell, other things come to mind from the last couple of nights. If you come over here, I’ll show you what I mean.
( silence )
( DISH and WHISKER link hands over the table and look into each other’s eyes. )
Dish: You’ve got beautiful brown eyes.
Whisker: Uh, thanks.
( pause )
Whisker: We didn’t talk much last night. How did your trip into the mountains go and where did those bruises come from?
Dish: You mean my chat with Rick?
Whisker: That’s his name?
Dish: Yeah. I took some chuck up with me, thinking we could have summat to eat and a civilised talk and just be friends, ya know?
Whisker: Didn’t it work out like that?
Dish: Nope, I just said that we hadn’t been getting along too well recently so mebbe we should take a break from each other.
Whisker: How’d he take it?
Dish: His buddies had been ribbing him about letting his girlfriend go whoring around town while he was working his butt off so I said he’d been seen getting a little too close to some of his female clients. That riled him some so we got into an argument. He said he would end it when he decided, not me, so I took a swing at him. That’s how I got these bruises.
( DISH holds up her right hand to show him.)
Whisker: Then what?
Dish: I knew there was no point talking no more so I got back in my car and drove home.
( pause )
Whisker: Should we cool it for a while so as not to give him anything to talk about?
( DISH grabs WHISKER’S hand quickly )
Dish: No, no, we don’t need to do that. We’ve seen the last of him, he won’t bother us now.
Whisker: How do you know, he could cause a lot of trouble around town, especially for you?
Dish: Err, well…
( beat )
I guess I just know what he’s like so I know it won’t be a problem.
( silence )
I’d really like to come and live in Denver with you. Could we go soon?
Whisker: Why do you want to leave Ouray if you know Rick won’t be a problem? I’d rather stay here for a while.
Dish: After this hassle with Rick, I guess I just want a new start somewhere else – with you.
Whisker: Well, as I say, it would be better for me to stay away from Denver for a while.
Dish: Why? Have you got some problems you left in Denver?
I guess that counts as my secret, just like yours about your time in hospital.
( laughs )
Dish: Yeah, I guess that makes us evens but what—/
The door SR opens with a crash and a short, fat man in Sheriff’s uniform marches in and
crosses to their table. He is followed by a taller man in a deputy’s uniform. The SHERIFF
speaks to DISH.
Sheriff: Miss Mary-Lou Ellis?
Dish: Yeah, I sure am, why?
Sheriff I’m Peter Manzini, Sheriff of Ouray County. I need to ask you some questions.
( Thrusts his badge out aggressively towards Dish and then towards Whisker.)
This my deputy Mike Harrison.
( WHISKER stands up and looks down on the Sheriff )
Whisker: What’s going on Sheriff?
Sheriff: Just you set yerself down and hold your peace Sir. This has got nothing to do with you at the moment, it’s between this young lady and the law so please go and sit over there with Deputy Harrison while I ask Miss Ellis a few questions. I’ll likely have some for you later.
(Whisker walks over to US with Deputy Harrison, they are both in semi darkness )
Now then, Miss. I’m sorry to have to tell that the body of a man, identified as Richard Garcia, has been found in the mountains just off the Black Bear trail this morning by one of his workmates.
Dish: WHAT? No, that can’t be right. There must be some mistake…I…are you sure it’s Rick?
(DISH starts crying, dabbing her eyes with a tissue that SHERIFF hands her. )
Sheriff: His mother identified the body.
( pause )
I believe he was your boyfriend?
Dish: Well yes, he was but I broke it off
It was last Wednesday, my day off.
Sheriff: Was that the last time you saw him?
Sheriff: Now please think carefully Miss Ellis. This is very important. Are you certain you haven’t seen Rick since last Wednesday?
Sheriff: Where were you yesterday?
Dish: Well, err, around what time?
Sheriff: Just tell me where you were and what you did all day
Dish: I was around town with Whisker
Sheriff: Is that Whisker, sitting over there with the Deputy?
Dish: Yes, that’s him, why?
Sheriff: Thank you Miss. That’ll do for now. Please change places with Whisker.
( Dish and Whisker change places, looking at each other as they pass )
Sheriff: Now Sir. Who are you?
Whisker: I’m Łyżka Sobieski from Denver but originally from Lezajsk in South East Poland.
Sheriff: OK, thanks for that. You speak English real good. I’m an immigrant too. I came to the States thirty five years ago from Italy. Looks like you grew up while I grew out.
Whisker: Yeah, I’ve heard how the American police like their doughnuts.
( Short pause while the SHERIFF writes in his notebook and then looks through his notes )
Sheriff: OK, now that we’re buddies an’ all, I need for you to answer some questions.
Whisker Err, OK Sheriff.
Sheriff: How long have you known Miss Ellis?
Whisker: A couple of weeks I guess.
Sheriff: You’ve known her for just two weeks?
Sheriff: And in that time would you say you have become friends, or perhaps more than friends?
Whisker: More than friends. We’re gonna move to Denver to set up home together.
Sheriff: Hmm, I don’t think that’s gonna happen somehow.
Sheriff: Just answer me this question, Sir. Please think about it very carefully before you answer.
Whisker: Um, OK.
Sheriff: Were you in town with Miss Ellis all day yesterday? Was there anytime during the day that you were not together?
( A long silence develops while WHISKER stares across at DISH who sits with her head down, crying quietly)
Whisker: I didn’t see Miss Ellis at all yesterday until about seven in the evening, when I went around to her place and we spent the evening together.
Sheriff: So you have no idea where Miss Ellis was for all of yesterday until seven in the evening?
Whisker: That’s right. She told me that she was going up in the mountains to meet Rick to tell him it was over between them.
Sheriff: Did she mention the bruises on her right hand?
Whisker: Yes, she said that Rick had called her a whore so she punched him and gave him a black eye.
Sheriff: Thank you sir. Now Miss Ellis, I have some more questions for you if’n you’d like to come back over here.
( A pause as the SHERIFF writes some more and then flicks back through his notebook while DISH walks over, takes a chair and sits at the table with SHERIFF and WHISKER. The spot widens to light the three of them)
Sheriff: We seem to have two versions of your whereabouts yesterday Miss. You told me that you haven’t seen Rick since last Wednesday but you told Mr Sobieski here that you saw him yesterday and that you hit him when he called you a whore. Which version should I believe?
Dish: ( Inaudible)
Sheriff: Can you speak a little louder please Miss Ellis.
Dish: Yes, I saw Rick yesterday. I did hit him but I didn’t kill him.
Sheriff: Why didn’t you tell me the truth the first time?
Dish: I thought I would get the blame if you knew that I saw Rick yesterday.
Sheriff: Why would you think that?
Dish: Because of what happened ten years ago.
Sheriff: OK, I did a bit of checking today. Is it true that you spent the last ten years in the secure mental hospital wing in Durango jail after being convicted of the manslaughter of your previous boyfriend and that you are now on probation under the supervision of the Ouray Probation Officer, Mr Clayton?
Whisker: Why didn’t you tell—/
Sheriff: Please be quiet, Sir
Dish: ( Whispers )
Yes. But I am OK now, those ten years were enough to get me sorted out. Anyway, it was an accident, I didn’t mean to kill him.
Sheriff: Just like you didn’t mean to kill Rick?
Dish: I didn’t kill Rick, I just punched him once.
Sheriff: And what about the hammer you used to smash in the back of his head?
Dish: I didn’t do anything like that.
Sheriff: Miss Mary-Lou Ellis, I hereby arrest you for the murder of Richard Garcia at an unspecified time during Wednesday 22nd August 2012. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present now and during any future questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you free of charge if you wish. Do you understand your rights?
Dish: Err, yes, I guess so. But I, I haven’t done anything wrong.
Sheriff: My deputy, Mr Harrison, will now put you in handcuffs and take you to the sheriff’s office for further questioning.
Dish: Whisker, please help me…
Whisker: Goodbye Mary-Lou, you shouldn’t have done this.
( The Deputy leads DISH away in handcuffs. DISH looks back at WHISKER but he ignores her. )
Sheriff: I think you had a lucky escape there Sir, you could have been next on the list of Miss Ellis’s dead boyfriends.
Whisker: Yes, seems that way Sheriff and I —/
( A call comes through on the Sheriff’s radio. He listens carefully. )
Sheriff: Yeah, Sheriff Manzini speaking. ( pause ) OK, ( pause ) Yeah, ( pause ) OK, You sure about that? ( pause ) OK (beat ) I’ve got all that. Thanks.
( SHERIFF thinks for a moment and then turns to WHISKER and takes his gun out )
Sheriff: Now Mr Hooker. Would you care to explain to me why you didn’t tell me how it is that you were seen riding up Black Bear Trail yesterday afternoon and also perhaps how my other deputy found a blood stained hammer, covered in your fingerprints, wrapped up in the pannier on your Harley?
Whisker: What, what are you talking about? Why did you call me Hooker? I’ve never been up Black Bear Trail and I certainly didn’t kill Rick with no hammer. If I had, why would I leave it on my bike?
Sheriff: I don’t pretend to know the whys but I am sure of the facts. Now just you come with me if’n you don’t want your butt shot off.
CURTAIN / Lights down
Scene 3 The restaurant, Wednesday the following week.
Mid afternoon but dark clouds can be seen through the window with an occasional lightning flash. The restaurant is empty apart from DISH who is sweeping and generally tidying up after the lunchtime rush.
The door SR opens and the sound of distant thunder is heard. The SHERIFF walks in dressed in a slicker which drips rainwater onto the floor. He is carrying a slim document case.
Dish: Hi Sheriff, have you come to arrest me again?
Sheriff: No Miss.
Dish; Would you like something to eat?
Sheriff: No but a coffee, no cream or sugar, would be very welcome. I’ll get this slicker off before I soak your floor.
Dish: OK, Sheriff, coffee coming up for a refugee from the storm. No doughnuts?
Sheriff: Well, you know mountain weather. Will you join me and set a while? I have some things I need to say to you? Forget the damn doughnuts.
DISH walks to the kitchen door SL and after a pause, comes back with two cups of coffee. Sits at the table DCS
Dish: There ya go, one mug of our best Java.
Sheriff: Thanks. First of all I want to say sorry that we got it wrong last Thursday and you had to spend some time in our jail. That must have been very difficult for you after just hearing that Rick was dead and with your,
(…)history, an’ all.
Dish: You mean after my ten years in the Durango nut house?
Sheriff: Well, yeah, I guess so, if you want to call it that.
Dish: Well, I’m out now with no harm done so I guess that’s all behind me but I appreciate you coming here to tell me that Sheriff – even if you really came in here just to get out of the rain.
But, talking of prison, what’s going to happen to Whisker?
Sheriff: That’s the other thing I wanted to talk to you about. Whisker and Sobieski ain’t his real names and he’s never been to Poland as far as I know. His name is Charles Hooker, he was born and grew up in Denver. He escaped from prison six weeks ago and has been on the run since.
Dish: What was he in prison for?
Sheriff: He picked a fight with a guy in a bar. When the guy stood up to him, he killed him there and then with a knife. This was in Denver but he was caught by the FBI in Virginia so, after the trial, he was sent to the Colorado ADMAX in Florence. He is the only one ever have to escaped from a Supermax prison. We still don’t how he did it.
Dish: So what will happen to him now?
Sheriff: He’ll go back to Florence to serve out his sentence with a ten year addition for escaping.
( Pause )
Dish: I really loved Whisker.
Sheriff: But you gotta realise that the Whisker you loved didn’t exist. He was only a character invented by Charles Hooker and he is one bad-ass muth…..excuse me, but you know what I mean.
Dish: I guess you’re right but I never met this Charles you talk about, I only knew Whisker and he was a lovely guy.
Sheriff: So now you know what the guy you were getting close to was really like. Seems to me you had a lucky escape. What with this and the other guy in Durango, I think you need to change your choice of men.
Dish: I think you’re right Sheriff
I’ve always been attracted to men in uniform…
Don’t even think about it, I’m too old, too fat and too married for you, young lady.
I think the storm has passed so I’m gonna leave now before I get into trouble.
(pause He turns towards the door, hesitates and then turns back to face Dish.)
There is something I need to ask you before I go.
Dish: What’s that Sheriff?
Sheriff: Whatever you tell me won’t change anything because, as far as I can see, it is a good thing that Charles Hooker is back in jail where he belongs and I think you’ve done your time already so it’s just curiosity really.
I got to wondering if someone planted the hammer on his bike after getting Whisker’s fingerprints on it. I also wonder if the same person dressed up to look like him and then took his bike for a ride up Black Bear Trail. This person would be the one who killed Rick.
Do you have any views on that?
Dish: Why would you think things like that sheriff?
Sheriff: I’ve just this morning got the report of the autopsy on Rick from my medical examiner.
( He gets out the report from the document case and puts his glasses on)
It says here that that the cause of death was a blunt force trauma to the back of the head resulting in a fractured skull, massive brain damage and exsanguination from the wound. While there is some evidence of contusion damage around the right optical orbit, there is no sign of bleeding or incipient bruise formation.
Now, putting all that medico jargon to one side, what she is saying is that Rick was killed by the blow to the back of the head with the hammer. The punch to the eye took place after death.
Sheriff: It means that the person who killed Rick with the hammer was almost certainly the same person who punched him in the eye after he was dead. If anyone else had found the body, they would have reported it.
When you put this together with your neighbour’s account that she saw Whisker on your roof nailing down some loose shingles and the fact that people in the town know that you enjoy riding Harleys, I think it all hangs together
Dish: I don’t see how ya can prove any of that sheriff. All ya have is some medical stuff, a guy fixing my roof and the fact that I like riding Harleys.I think they call that circumstantial evidence, don’t they?
Sheriff: Yes, which is why you ain’t in my pokey now and also because we are grateful for getting Whisker’s fingerprints on the murder weapon. When we ran those prints through the data base, it was the first hint of where Charles Hooker was in the six weeks since he escaped from prison.
I just wanted you to know that I know what you did and so as you don’t get any funny ideas, I’ve tipped off Mr Clayton as well.
You should know that if I could prove it I would charge you with murder and throw you in jail to rot.
You should be on your best behaviour from here on in. Are we clear?
Dish: Crystal Sheriff
Sheriff: That’s OK then. So long now Miss Ellis.
Dish: S’ long Sheriff.
Sheriff collects his slicker and exits SR.
CURTAIN / Lights down
© Richard Kefford Eorðdraca
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