Safety (A One-Act Play By JRS)

 

[Two adult individuals share a room. One of them, MISTER, is large, and is wearing a gun in a holster. The other, JUNIOR, is much smaller, and is wearing a knife in a sheath. I imagine MISTER as a Caucasian, and JUNIOR as a Latin, but producers should feel free to make adjustments. MISTER and JUNIOR  are sitting down in chairs, reading newspapers. The chairs must be light enough to be easily moved. There may be other objects present. Among them should be a trunk which belongs to JUNIOR. And there ought to be an appliance - it could be a lamp, TV, or music player - which utilizes an extension cord. The cord is what is important.]

 

MISTER: [Looking up] What a world, huh?

JUNIOR: What?

MISTER: What a world. Such a crazy place. Such crazy people.

JUNIOR: Yeah?

MISTER: You didnít see the story - about the robbery - down on 48th Street?

JUNIOR: NoÖ No.

MISTER: They killed a man.

JUNIOR: Oh.

MISTER: Cut his throat. Just for the money.

JUNIOR: Thatís a shame. [Earnestly] Iím sorry. [Trying to concentrate, again, on his own paper.]

MISTER: What are you reading?

JUNIOR: What?

MISTER: What are you reading?

JUNIOR: Something about painting. This guy who goes around painting angels in the slums.

MISTER: He has an art gallery?

JUNIOR: No - well - sort of. He says his art gallery is the street. He paints on buildings and the sidewalks, and down in the subway stations.

MISTER: You mean, like graffiti?

JUNIOR: Well, yeah, I guess. Except that these are angels. He says [reading the paper], "The people have lost hope, because they feel alone, abandoned. Our society has driven the spiritual world so far away, made it invisible - the people need to see it again. Right now, all they see is that money talks, and they donít got it. A lot of problems result from that. Thatís why I draw the angels. So they can see."

MISTER: [Like artists are all nuts] Artists! You know, technically thatís graffiti. I mean, heís altering property that doesnít belong to him.

JUNIOR: O, come on!

MISTER: I mean, maybe his art is beautiful. But itís like heís forcing his own ideas on people. If his paintings were in an art gallery, people who wanted to see them could come in and see them, and people who didnít could just stay away. See what I mean? [No response] Drawing on somebody elseís property is just like stealing it! Maybe they donít want their wall to look like that. Itís like taking their wall away from them, and turning it into your own wall. [JUNIOR looks over at him, but saying nothing, finally returns to reading his paper. For a moment, they both return to reading, in silence.]

MISTER: [reading aloud] "They thought he had extra money hidden in the back. After rummaging everywhere, and still finding nothing, they decided to torture him. Video surveillance footage shows the assailants threatening to kill him if he does not reveal the location of the hidden money, and then, making good on their threatÖ"

JUNIOR: [Half looking up, and half listening, then going back to his article]

MISTER: "The victim leaves a wife and four children behind." - Bastards! Probably needed the money to get high - or to buy Air JordansÖ Whatís the world coming to? You work like a donkey, and then someone else comes in to take away everything youíve worked for, like they had a right to itÖ You go out in the morning, and you donít even know if youíll come back, if youíll ever see your home againÖ[JUNIOR, turning the page of his newspaper, finds a new article of interest. MISTER looks, for a moment, at JUNIORís knife, then begins turning the pages of his own newspaper. He looks back at the knife. He tries to find an article of interest, and seems to have found one for a moment, but then grows impatient, again. He looks back at the knife. Finally, he asks:]

MISTER: Say, JUNIOR, what do you have that knife for?

JUNIOR: What?

MISTER: That knife? Why do you have a knife?

JUNIOR: [Looks up] Well, you should know.

MISTER: O yeah? And why is that?

JUNIOR: I mean, with all the stuff you read, and tell me. Constantly. This cityís not easy. Especially at 4 AM, when I come back from workÖ I keep the knife visible, on the train ride home. A little like a cross, to keep the vampires away. [Reflects for a moment on what he has said, then tries to start reading again]

MISTER: What about the invisible angels?

JUNIOR: [Looks up again. Smiles] Well. What can I say? I think the robbers donít see them. And at 4 AM, in the city, I donít see them, either. All I see is the empty stations coming up, one after the other, while my imagination is struggling to picture who might get on next. Someone else, just trying to get home? Or the one I dread? Iím in my own world of fear, all the way. I donít even hear the sound of the train rushing through the tunnel, and the grating of its brakes as we slow down, about to pull into another station, another chance to die. All I hear is the sound of my heart pounding inside my chest. [Thinks more] And so, I stoop to ancient ways. [Looks at knife] I hope Iíll never have to use it. I hope it will deter anybody who might have ideas. I hope theyíll just move on, looking for something easierÖ Maybe, this knife is my angel. Maybe its wings have folded and taken the shape of this blade, to protect me in the night. In the night, when God seems as far away as the sun. [Reflects more] God help me! Forgive me for not knowing how else to defend myself, except with this bluff - which one day, might end up becoming more than a bluff!

MISTER: Thank God I have a day job. It sounds awfulÖ Coming home at night. [JUNIOR is staring into space. There is a long pause.] So - you would really use it?

JUNIOR: What?

MISTER: You would really use that knife? - I mean, if someone threatened you?

JUNIOR: Well - I honestly donít know. I suppose. [Thinking] I donít think you can really know that until the time comes. Will you be logical? Passionate? Afraid? Compassionate? For yourself, and for them? How is your economic situation at that moment? Are you feeling good about life, or donít you give a damn? What are you really made of? And do you have to prove it, or can you just believe in it? Can you have trust?

MISTER: [Appears to ponder for a while] So - you might use it?

JUNIOR: [Appears startled, snapped out of a trance] What?

MISTER: You might really use that knife, if it came to that?

JUNIOR: [Reflects] Yeah. If it came to that. I thinkÖ

MISTER: [After another pause] Letís see the blade.

JUNIOR: What?

MISTER: Let me see the blade.

JUNIOR: What for?

MISTER: Why not? [JUNIOR seems reluctant, but finally takes the knife out of the sheath, and holding it, shows it to MISTER] God damn! Thatís a big ass blade. [Touches its tip with his finger] And sharp as hell. You could slice a man open in a second with something like that.

JUNIOR: I guess thatís what itís all about.

MISTER: Just go right through his skin - and his coat if he was wearing one - even a heavy winter one - like there was nothing there - right into his guts. Into his heart, or lungs. Or you could disembowel him, move the blade around inside him, once you were in. Like hara-kiri. [JUNIOR is listening to all this with horror] Merciless. This blade - itís like a shark swimming in water. A cold, perfect killer. Optimum design - millions of years of evolution to reach this deadly, sharp point. [JUNIOR pulls the knife back from MISTERís inspection, and returns it to the sheath] A temple of death. Did you know that the ancient German barbarians who fought the Romans, used to worship a sword as their God? In its deadly form, they could sense divinity.

JUNIOR: OK, enough! Donít rub it in. Iím not happy about this knife. I like to think positive, and to see the beautiful things in life. But not at the price of sweeping the truth under the rug. And in this city, danger is one form of truth. But still - I donít know - it gives me the creeps - this knife. I carry it around everywhere I go, but still, I donít think I really know it. Would I carry it with me if I did? [Tormented, struggling] I want another answer! Another way! - But the days go by too fast. The sun shines down on the world, but not long enough for me to find my way. Then suddenly, itís gone, and the darkness has returned. In the absence of the light - I go out with this knifeÖ

MISTER: Itís sharp. Like a kind of genius. [JUNIOR looks at him, like Ďwhat?í So he explains] Like the mind of a geniusÖ That can figure out anything. With a sharp point, to cut into the unknown, to find a way. To pierce anything that gets in the way. Beautiful. Like Einstein. No - like Hitler. He was a genius, too, you know - and beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. His beauty just got lost - like a sailor on a cloudy night, in an unknown sea. He was sailing in uncharted waters. [Pauses] You would really use it?

JUNIOR: Well, maybe not! The way youíre talkingÖ

MISTER: But you carry it with you.

JUNIOR: Well, I already told you. I guess I would - but, Iím really just hoping it will scare off whoever might be thinking about jumping meÖ

MISTER: But you might use it? - If you were jumped, I mean? If they came at you?

JUNIOR: Yeah, I might. I donít know. Look, whatís up with all of this?

MISTER: And to use it means to take it out of its sheath. To reveal its naked beauty. Its deadly beauty. To take it in your hands, and fill your heart with enough rage and hate to be able to plunge it into another human being, and to feel it pierce him, and then to endure his screams, and his lifeís blood spilling out all over you, and covering you, staining you with his extinction - and the look of death coming into his eyesÖ

JUNIOR: For Godís sakes!

MISTER: It means being able to rape another human being - with a steel phallus, violating the sacred flesh God gave to a soul - feeling the warmth of another body in your arms, as you take the knife out, and watching it sink to the ground, lifeless, at your feet. - You could do that?

JUNIOR: For Godís sakes! Not thinking about it like that. - Only if I lost my head, and didnít think. Only if the fear blocked out everything else. God, could I be such an animal? [A long pause, as JUNIOR reflects on all this with horror, and MISTER looks at him with horror, also]

MISTER: You have that in you?

JUNIOR: [Not totally present, thinking] What?

MISTER: That savagery? That cruelty? That bestiality? [JUNIOR doesnít answer] You could stab another person, and just watch him die? Lose yourself like that? Kill another human being, in such a painful, brutal way?

JUNIOR: [Shakes his head] I donít know.

MISTER: [After continuing to stare at him] You know, that knife of yours makes me very uncomfortable.

JUNIOR: What?

MISTER: That knife of yours. It makes me uncomfortable. [JUNIOR looks at him] I donít feel safe around you.

JUNIOR: [Finally reacting] What?!

MISTER: I donít feel safe while you have that knife on. I mean, we both see how deadly it is. And to be able to use it - to be able to rouse up so much violence, anger, and cruelty in your soul as to be actually able to use it - I mean - what am I to think of you?

JUNIOR: Excuse me?

MISTER: Such a deadly weapon - and a heart capable of being overcome by the emotions needed to use it? Should I feel safe?

JUNIOR: Look, this knife is only for an emergency. For the unthinkable. What?! You think Iím crazy? Iíd use it for nothing? Are you telling me you think I might use it on you?!

MISTER: [Subtly, puts his hand on his gun. But JUNIOR notices] How can I be sure?

JUNIOR: What?!

MISTER: How can I be sure you wonít?

JUNIOR: But - but - youíre crazy! Weíve been sharing this room now, for a long time, and though we donít always get along perfectly, itís not like you or me are thieves, or muggers! Whatís there to be worried about? We split the rent, we do right by each other. Why, weíre almost friends - well, we would be if you werenít always saying such irritating things!

MISTER: You do get upset by them, donít you?

JUNIOR: [He looks down to see MISTERís hand is still on his gun] Well, how am I not going to get upset about them? I mean, you say a lot of crap about my people. About everybody who doesnít look like you. And some of your theories are just off the wall. I mean, if I said that Martians were running the country, and that sunspots made it snow, that would be nothing, compared to some of the stuff youíve said.

MISTER: BS, you know that everything Iíve told you makes sense. I see with my eyes, and think with my brains.

JUNIOR: What are you trying to say? That I see with my ass, and think with my feet?

MISTER: See, you get angry. Ugly.

JUNIOR: Arenít I entitled to have my own ideas? Isnít this a "free country"? What, is disagreeing with you a crime?

MISTER: Itís not about the disagreement. Itís about the passion.

JUNIOR: Oh, what, Iím supposed to disagree with you, without passion? Like [speaking in an exaggerated, cultured, English accent] ĎNo, I do not believe that the members of my race are less genetically endowed with intellectual ability than the members of your race. Nor do I believe that individuals who do not master the English language in three years should be sent back to their nation of origin.í How the hell do you want me to talk? Like that? [English accent again] ĎThe rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain.í Yeah, right! Disagreement without passion isnít disagreement! Itís just token crap, that makes free speech look alive, when itís really dead!

MISTER: [Seems he hasnít heard. A pause. Then] Your knife makes me very uncomfortable. [JUNIOR looks at him] I wish youíd take it off. [His handís presence on his gun, still in its holster, becomes increasingly obvious]

JUNIOR: Well, speaking of uncomfortable - what about your gun? I mean - why this big deal about my knife? Youíve got a gun!

MISTER: You know that I wear this gun for self -defense. This city is filled with crazy people, bad people, dangerous people. Every newspaper page, I see it. Every time I turn on the news: blood! And that blood could be mine. Youíve admitted it yourself.

JUNIOR: At 4 AM.

MISTER: It could happen any time, any place. Last week, a student was killed coming home from school. That happened at 3 PM. Then, what about that woman who was stabbed because she wouldnít give up her money? - right in the middle of a crowded subway car, in the morning. 10 or 11, I think. That was only a month ago.

JUNIOR: Fine. So youíve got a gun. Iíve got a knife. Weíre in the same damned boat. So if you donít like my knife, why should I like your gun any better?

MISTER: Passion. You know, youíre always getting upset.

JUNIOR: And what about you? The only reason you get upset at me less than I do at you, is because Iíve learned that itís no use to try to get apples from an orange tree. We share a room, thatís all. If we can have nice times talking about some things, why talk about things that only make trouble between us? Iíve learned your buttons by now, and try not to push them. But in you come, always starting up, always stepping on my toes, always dragging me into what should be forbidden territory - off-limits - whatever.

MISTER: See - just your tone of voice -

JUNIOR: You should listen to how you sound! And see your face, the way you frown and become all red, like a butt thatís just been spanked. I wish we had cameras and a tape recorder here.

MISTER: And your attitude. I donít have that. Thatís what Iím talking about. That awful attitude. Rude. Unreasonable. Always, the last word - youíve always got to have the last word - or else you just walk away, and who knows, then, whatís going on inside your mind? My gun - well, you know Iíd never use it in an irrational or vengeful way, only to protect myself. But that knife of yours. How can I be sure you just might not snap one day - or that you might not be hating me, all this while, and hiding it from me, while itís really there, building up inside of you, like a time bomb?

JUNIOR: Oh, come on!

MISTER: And, after all, youíre the one who said you could use it - the knife! That you could actually be possessed by the violent fury, the physical and emotional force of destruction, needed to wield a knife against another human being - to break through the barrier of humanity, the inhibitions, that keep us from becoming beasts.

JUNIOR: Woah, suddenly Iíve become Jack the Ripper? - You know, there is a story about a man who began to hear the most awful noises in his house while he was sleeping, until he finally became convinced that his house was haunted by the most terrible ghost imaginable. He called in the psychics; he called in a priest; he put crosses everywhere; he lit candles; he had people pray for him - and then, one night, in the hallway outside his bedroom, he finally discovered the ghost that had been tormenting him for all those months. It was a mouse! Nothing but a little, tiny mouse, creeping around, looking for a bite to eat! [MISTER looks at him, like ĎWhat does this have to do with anything?í] Anyway, so whatís that gun hanging at your side? A decoration? - I told you, I think Iíd use the knife if I had to, though I canít be sure Iíd go through with it. Are you telling me you wouldnít use your gun?

MISTER: A gun. A knife. Theyíre different.

JUNIOR: Tell me how. Donít they both kill?

MISTER: Theyíre completely different.

JUNIOR: Isnít their object, the reason for their existence, to kill?

MISTER: See? You arenít listening.

JUNIOR: Fine. Iím listening.

MISTER: Theyíre completely different.

JUNIOR: I already heard that part.

MISTER: That attitude of yours!

JUNIOR: Will you just go on?!

MISTER: You canít kill someone with a knife, without turning into a beast. Just imagine - with your own hand - sticking it into someone - twisting it around inside their wounded, bleeding insides - or stabbing them, over and over again, just to be sure -

JUNIOR: You have some thing about knives, donít you?

MISTER: But a gun. - Itís different. More civilized. More rational. You donít need to surrender your reason, to be flooded and swept away by primal feelings, in order to drive it home. You can just hold it up [he takes it out of its holster and points it at JUNIOR], point it at your adversary, stand your ground, and tell him, ĎDonít cross that line, or Iíll have no choice.í And if he does cross that line, then you just pull the trigger. [JUNIOR winces, as there is a click. MISTER, observing his reaction, laughs] Safetyís on!

JUNIOR: [Jumping up, not to threaten, but to displace his anger at this abuse] You son of a bitch!

MISTER: Woah [takes the safety off], stop right there!

JUNIOR: Are you for real!?? What the hell are you thinking?!

MISTER: Donít go for that knife.

JUNIOR: [He hasnít] What?! Are you crazy?! Donít play with me! You never point a gun at anyone youíre not ready to take out! Accidents happen all the time! You should know that - from the newspapers!

MISTER: Donít reach for that knife.

JUNIOR: Iím not, you bastard! Who do you think I am? Now put that damned gun away! - Hypocrite!

MISTER: Hypocrite?

JUNIOR: Yeah! Hypocrite! Thatís what I said!

MISTER: [Brandishing his gun] Donít you ever call me that! If thereís one thing I take pride in, itís my honesty. I live according to my beliefs. 100%, all the way. Nobody calls me a hypocrite!

JUNIOR: What? And all that crap about your Ďcivilizedí gun? And just squeezing the trigger? So, you donít have to stand in the blood. Or grunt, and grapple with somebody who wants to take your life. You can just stand back - and pull the trigger. Well, what about what happens to the personís body when your bullet hits it? Do you think their way of dying is as easy as your way of killing? Do you think your bullet doesnít blow into their body, and cut them open, just like a knife? Do you think it doesnít pierce their heart or lungs, or guts, or make them gasp for breath and groan, or rip away their life, just the same as a knife, or leave their mother crying, just the same as a knife? Do you think God will see you any differently, just because youíve got a gun in your hands, instead of a blade? ĎOh, heís got a gun, let him in the gates, he did it in a civilized way.í Maybe your damned gun is a curse, because it puts you further away from what youíre really doing. And that makes it easier to do. - Yes, I called you a hypocrite! This is a "free country", and Iím calling you a hypocrite!

MISTER: [Seriously] I think youíre going to have to give up your knife.

JUNIOR: [Delays, not believing this] What? Is that a threat?

MISTER: I said: I think youíre going to have to give up your knife.

JUNIOR: Will you put the god-damned gun down?! For Christís sakes! Weíre roommates! Calm down!

MISTER: I am calm. Youíre the one whoís lost it.

JUNIOR: OK - Iíll chill! But what do you expect? Youíre being totally unreasonable!

MISTER: No, itís you whoís being unreasonable.

JUNIOR: [Cynically] Why me, and not you? Because youíve got the gun? I guess that makes you right.

MISTER: That attitude!

JUNIOR: Will you cut the crap with ĎThat attitude!í What, you can insult me all you want, and you call that reasonable, but if it finally gets to me, and I become touchy, itís Ďattitudeí?

MISTER: I only say the truth, and if you canít deal with itÖ

JUNIOR: The truth? - Yeah, right. Because youíve got the gun.

MISTER: [Very serious] I need the knife.

JUNIOR: [Regards him] Look, if it makes you uncomfortable, Iíll take it off, and put it in my trunk [the trunk where he keeps his belongings] I wonít wear it around here, anymore. Iíll just put it on when I go to work, so Iíll have it on the trains. At night. [He turns around, and begins to walk slowly towards the trunk]

MISTER: Stop right there. [JUNIOR keeps walking] Freeze! [JUNIOR freezes in his tracks, without turning around to face MISTER] Thatís not good enough. [Slowly, JUNIOR turns around to face him]

JUNIOR: Not good enough?

MISTER: I want your knife.

JUNIOR: [Slow, deliberate, proud, but realistic] Iíll lock it in the trunk.

MISTER: I want the knife.

JUNIOR: Iíll give you the key.

MISTER: I want the knife. [JUNIOR, after a moment, begins to approach. He reaches for the knife, to take it off] Stop! Donít touch it!

JUNIOR: How the hell am I supposed to give you the knife without touching it?

MISTER: Are you contradicting me? [JUNIOR is silent] Put your hands on your head. [JUNIOR does so. MISTER approaches, to try to take the knife, but he becomes concerned about the risk. JUNIOR might attempt to grapple with him. He tries to figure out a safe way to do it] Go over to the wall. [JUNIOR does] Spread your arms and legs, just like they do in the movies, when the cops bust the drug dealers. [He is still uncomfortable trying to take the knife off, himself. It seems too risky. He finally backs off, his gun still pointed at JUNIOR] Take the knife off.

JUNIOR: You do know, Iíll have to touch the knife to do that.

MISTER: Donít be a smart-ass! - Slow, now! [as JUNIOR begins to reach for the knife] Real nice and slow.

JUNIOR: Doesnít that come from the movies, too?

MISTER: You know, I never met your mother, but Iíd like to, one day, just to tell her how she botched the job. My mother raised me right. She taught me to respect other people. They mustíve let you run wild, and hang out with all the wrong kinds. [JUNIOR hesitates, his hand on the knife. You can sense his rage. But finally, the knife in the sheath comes off, and falls to the floor] Now move over there - across the room, into that corner. [JUNIOR goes slowly] Whatís wrong, got cramps in your legs? [MISTER picks up his knife, and puts it on] There. Thatís it. You can go back to your paper, now.

JUNIOR: [Turning to face him] What?

MISTER: Go back to your paper. Go on - to the art AKA vandalism, or whatever. Itís all right, now. I feel better.

JUNIOR: What?

MISTER: Now that Iíve got the knife. I know youíre not a bad person, but youíre hot-headed. You know what I mean? Anyway, this works out for both of us. We split the rent. Itís good. [JUNIOR just stares at him] Go on.

JUNIOR: [Slowly going back towards his chair] So now, youíve got the gun, and the knife?

MISTER: Yeah. Itís better that way. You know that Iím fair. I have my opinions, but Iím fair, and level-headed. Right around my waist is the perfect place for all of this deadly stuff! I can be trusted.

JUNIOR: [Incredulous. Finally speaks] Well - what about when I go out at night?

MISTER: Yeah?

JUNIOR: Can I have my knife back then?

MISTER: You mean, have me hold it for you during the day, and let you take it with you when you go out, at night?

JUNIOR: Yeah.

MISTER: [Thinks about it for a moment] No. - No, I donít think so.

JUNIOR: Why not?

MISTER: Itís better that you donít.

JUNIOR: But - what about my safety?

MISTER: Well - youíve never been attacked yet, have you?

JUNIOR: No.

MISTER: Well, then?

JUNIOR: But maybe itís because of the knife. Maybe they saw the knifeÖ

MISTER: No, I donít agree with that assumption.

JUNIOR: But it could be true.

MISTER: Anyway - you had ambivalent feelings about it in the first place, didnít you?

JUNIOR: Yeah.

MISTER: Well - there you go - no more being torn two ways. Iíve just made life a lot easier for you. [JUNIOR just regards him] Besides - you talk a lot about God and angels. Doesnít it seem a little odd for you to be going around with a knife? Perhaps, this way, youíll be able to reach a higher level of faith.

JUNIOR: What about you? What about your faith?

MISTER: See! There you go again. Coming off with that attitude.

JUNIOR: Iím just asking a question. Maybe youíre right. Maybe itís time that I give myself completely to God, and leave myself in His hands. But if that is right for me, why isnít it right for you, too? Donít you want to be close to God?

MISTER: Are you trying to manipulate me to take off my weapons?

JUNIOR: Manipulate?

MISTER: [Stares at him, as though trying to read him] Yeah. Youíre smarter than you look.

JUNIOR: What? Should I take that as a compliment?

MISTER: [Not paying attention] Smarter than you look. If you can convince me to take off my weapons, the way will be wide open. You can just go right after me, then, with nothing to stop you.

JUNIOR: Nothing to stop me? What about your size?

MISTER: [Paying him no mind] Maybe you want revenge.

JUNIOR: [JUNIOR canít believe it. Finally he speaks] Revenge? - Revenge is what people want when theyíve been wronged, isnít it? If you believe you are so fair, why should you be worried about anybody looking for revenge? Maybe a part of you isnít fooled by the words coming out of your mouth?

MISTER: I am fair. Fairness is like a religion to me. I couldnít live with myself if I wasnít. But who knows whatís going on inside your distorted mind? You are always misinterpreting things and blowing them out of proportion. If I sneeze, you think itís because Iím trying to make you sick.

JUNIOR: That sounds like you. You think that way.

MISTER: If I turn the light on when youíre sleeping, itís like I just dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima. If I make a phone call while youíre praying, or whatever you do when you light that candle of yours -

JUNIOR: What do you think, that I have a birthday every day?

MISTER: - itís like I was the Storm Troopers, on the Kristallnacht, breaking all the windows of the Jews.

JUNIOR: Oh, come on, you know Iím not like that. I believe in consideration, and respect, thatís all. I know we live in a tiny roomÖ

MISTER: You twist things out of shape, all the time! You distort things. You try to make me feel guilty. - I just canít ever be sure whatís going on in your mind, or how you really see things.

JUNIOR: Youíve got it all wrong. Itís like you were describing yourself.

MISTER: See?, and you donít even know what youíre doing!

JUNIOR: Itís like, youíre making me into you. Why? So you donít have to be you?

MISTER: So erratic. Unpredictable. And that attitude!

JUNIOR: Fine! All right, fine! - So I guess that means that I donít get the knife back at night.

MISTER: I wish I could trust you enough to let you have it. I really do. - [Feeling guilty] Look, Iíll pray for you to be safe at night.

JUNIOR: Oh, thanks. Iím sure God will listen to you. You must be real buddies. Like twins.

MISTER: Go on. [Motions to JUNIORís newspaper, as though he is being generous] Read. [JUNIOR looks at him. MISTER says it again, almost tenderly] Read. If you already finished, you can borrow mine. - I also got something yesterday, while I was out. You know, one of those pamphlets that the ladies hold up by the train station. Itís got some interesting stuff in it, something about King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. - It looked interesting. - Want me to find it for you?

JUNIOR: No, thatís OK. [Takes his own newspaper, and sitting in his chair, begins to read]

MISTER: Sure?

JUNIOR: Yes, Iím fine. [As JUNIOR begins to focus, again, on his paper, MISTER, in his own chair, returns to his. Both of them seem a little restless, turning pages for a time, not finding anything to hold their attention. At last, JUNIOR discovers an article which seems to captivate his interest. MISTER, all the while, has been glancing over at JUNIOR frequently, almost as a mother checking in on a baby. It seems he wants to communicate, but does not know how. Finally, he begins to read something aloud from his newspaper]

MISTER: "The dictator is using his own people as human shields, in an effort to deter international action. He has withdrawn his tanks into the cities, and is said to be storing ammunition in hospitals." Coward! Can you believe it? [JUNIOR seems to want to concentrate on his own article] Can you imagine that? Using his own people as human shields? [JUNIOR is trying to stay with his own article] I hate unfairness so much! - Cowardice! Injustice! How I despise that crap! How could he do that to his own people?! [JUNIOR looks up at MISTER, with a somewhat cynical and cold expression, then returns to his paper] What, donít you think it sucks?

JUNIOR: [Again, that cynical expression] Iím trying to read. [Goes back to reading]

MISTER: And I suppose what youíre reading is more important? - Donít you care? [JUNIOR doesnít reply, and his contemptuous expression finally becomes too much for MISTER] What are you looking like that for?

JUNIOR: What?

MISTER: What are you looking like that for?

JUNIOR: Like what?

MISTER: You think Iím blind? Or stupid? That smirk. Like itís all some kind of joke. [JUNIOR is cold and silent] You know what that expressionís like? If you could hear it, it would sound like this. [MISTER hacks and spits. JUNIOR doesnít answer] Itís like I was a cockroach - or a clown! Listen, wipe that stupid-ass expression off your face.

JUNIOR: So what? Now you own my face?

MISTER: Youíre hostile. You hate me. For what? For nothing! You know Iím right.

JUNIOR: Listen. I didnít say a thing. Now leave me alone. No one has the right to tell me how to look. You want to control peopleís faces, get a piece of clay, and you can make it smile, or frown, or laugh, or be as serious as a death mask. You can add a body, and give it a big ass and teats if you want to. If something goes wrong - like the lips get too fat, or the cheekbones get too high, you can just rub over them with your thumb, and start all over. Same with the eyes. Do they see too much? Come down with your thumb, just like an airplane, erase the eyes, turn that face back into a featureless ball of clay. Sooner or later, it will come out right. Just the way you want it.

MISTER: Youíre one hostile bastard! - So you think itís OK that he uses his people like human shields? All his women and children, his schools, and hospitals and holy places? Do you like dictators? Well, I wouldnít be surprised. Anyone so in love with his knife.

JUNIOR: I wasnít in love with it! You know how I felt! Anyway, now itís your knife.

MISTER: Itís not my knife! I only have it to keep it away from you!

JUNIOR: And I donít like dictators! [Returns to paper, then looks up, looking right at MISTER] I hate dictators! [There is silence for a while. They both struggle to read their papers. MISTER, highly agitated, finally speaks up]

MISTER: I want you to move. [JUNIOR looks up] Over there. [JUNIOR looks at him] Take your chair, and move over there.

JUNIOR: Now what?

MISTER: Didnít you hear me?

JUNIOR: I heard you, but whatís up with that?

MISTER: Youíre too close to me.

JUNIOR: What? Youíve got a gun, and a knife, and if we were fruits, youíd be a watermelon, and Iíd be a grape. What are you worried about?

MISTER: Youíre too close. You might try to jump me.

JUNIOR: What, you think Iím insane?

MISTER: I need space. [JUNIOR keeps looking at him] Move over there. It will be better for both of us. Right now, the way it is, itís too tense. [JUNIOR keeps looking at him. Suddenly, MISTER draws the gun] I said, move over there!

JUNIOR: For Christís sakes, settle down!

MISTER: Donít tell me what to do! You hate me, and youíre too damned close! Now move over there! Iíve got a right to defend myself!

JUNIOR: Chill! Chill! Iím going.

MISTER: Donít make me shoot!

JUNIOR: Nobodyís making you shoot! [JUNIOR picks up his chair, and newspaper, and starts to go in the direction that MISTER has pointed]

MISTER: Pick up your chair and go! [JUNIOR stops for a moment, his pride kicking in. Nobody likes to be told to do what theyíre already doing] Go, or Iíll shoot!

JUNIOR: [Icily, but practically] Iím going. [MISTER watches him]

MISTER: There! Thatís good! Put your chair down there. Right there. A little to the left. No, more to the right, now. Thatís it. Perfect. [JUNIOR sits down there] Thatís perfect. [Reflecting, as JUNIOR looks around himself] Now Iím sure everything will be fine. [Laughs] How could we not get along, now?! [JUNIOR glares at him] Are you giving me the evil eye?

JUNIOR: Sorry. I forgot. You own my face. [MISTER points his gun that way, as though he was aiming, while JUNIOR looks in horror, then, finally, pans it away from him. Observing JUNIOR still watching him, with horror, he says]

MISTER: I was just checking the sight. You line up your eye with this little piece, here. Itís not always easy to fire a hand gun accurately. [Not wanting JUNIOR to get any ideas, however, he adds] Not that it matters, at this range. [Observing JUNIOR] What, you think I was threatening you? Why would I do that? You got out of my face. You moved over there, like I told you. You cooperated. Itís not like Iím out to get you, or anything.

JUNIOR: [He canít believe it. Shaking his head, he starts to try to read again. He looks around, looks back at his paper, looks around again. Something isnít right. Meanwhile, MISTER is watching him, alternating between reading his own paper, and looking over at him to check up on what is going on.]

MISTER: Is there some problem?

JUNIOR: Hell, yeah. The lighting. Thereís no light over here. Itís like trying to read in a cave.

MISTER: What do you mean? Thereís plenty of light.

JUNIOR: Yeah, where you are. Not where I am.

MISTER: It looks fine to me.

JUNIOR: What are you talking about? If you think itís so fine, why donít you come over here, and Iíll go back over there?

MISTER: No. No, thatís your place, now.

JUNIOR: What, Iím here for one minute, and suddenly, itís like my country?

MISTER: Itís your place.

JUNIOR: And why, may I ask, is that? I mean, what you want is space between us, right? Well, if we trade places, weíll have exactly the same amount of space between us as we do right now.

MISTER: Itís your place, now.

JUNIOR: But I canít see to read!

MISTER: Thereís nothing wrong with that part of the room.

JUNIOR: How do you know? Youíre there, not here!

MISTER: Look, I donít need any more of your bad temper. Weíve just agreed on an arrangement to keep the peace between us, and guarantee our mutual safety, and now youíre ready to go back on your word?

JUNIOR: What?! My word? Like, what did I promise? You pointed a gun at me, and I moved.

MISTER: So thatís all it is for you? You know, when I was a kid, my parents taught me that a promise is a promise. If you canít keep it, donít make it. But once youíve made it, stick to it.

JUNIOR: [Canít believe how MISTER is perceiving what is going on] Damn!

MISTER: Well, guess what? Youíve just convinced me, more than ever, that Iím right. 100% right. For you, the only thing that matters is force. Not your word. Not honor. Not integrity. [JUNIOR gets up, and MISTER puts the gun back on him] Just brute force. - If I were you, Iíd sit down. [JUNIOR, exasperated, does so] Now read your damn newspaper, and cut the crap about the light! Thereís plenty of light in this room! [JUNIOR is furious, but gradually, manages to look at his newspaper again. He canít see. Finally, he tries to move his chair a bit to get in range of more light. MISTER aims his pistol] Hey! What the hell do you think youíre doing?!

JUNIOR: Woah, chill! - Iím just trying to find a spot with some more light.

MISTER: What do you think, Iím stupid? Youíre violating my space. Get back to where you were! See?, I just canít trust you! [JUNIOR moves back to where he was, and sits down]

JUNIOR: [After a while] Look, Iím here! Right where you said! Can you finally put that gun down? Can you do me that little favor?

MISTER: [Doesnít like his tone of voice] Arrogant son of a bitch. I try to reason with you, and you just keep coming back with this attitude, like you were God. [JUNIOR shakes his head, then finally starts to look at his newspaper again] Well, youíre not! [JUNIOR tries to ignore] Look, I want you to turn around.

JUNIOR: What?

MISTER: You heard me. Take your chair, and turn it around. I donít want you facing me, anymore. I want your chair facing the wall.

JUNIOR: [Incredulous, but he knows he has to be careful] Since youíre the one who is so reasonable, would you mind explaining to me the reason for this?

MISTER: Because I said so.

JUNIOR: Woah. Wait a minute. Doesnít your gun represent something besides itself? I mean, arenít you the one whoís fair and just and honorable and all that stuff? So, there must be a reason besides ĎI said so.í

MISTER: Donít push me. [JUNIOR finally begins to comply and reposition his chair. MISTER, feeling guilty, says] Of course, thereís a reason. You canít be trusted, and facing away from me limits your ability to take me by surprise. [JUNIOR turns around to look at him] Donít think I didnít see you sneaking looks at me, while you were pretending to be reading the newspaper.

JUNIOR: I just wanted to make sure that gun wasnít pointed at my head!

MISTER: Yeah, right! I know what you were up to. Looking for an opportunity. Watching my every move. You know, I want to trust you, but every minute, youíre doing something new to shatter my trust.

JUNIOR: I donít get it! Look how far apart we are! How the hell was I going to jump you from over here? You think Iím a kangaroo?!

MISTER: Enough said. I want you facing the wall. [Waves his pistol, not directly threatening, but reminding JUNIOR that he has it] Facing the wall. [JUNIOR does so. Underneath his breath, he mutters]

JUNIOR: God-damned maniac!

MISTER: What? - Did you say something? [Pause, no answer] I asked you a question. Did you say something?

JUNIOR: No.

MISTER: I thought I heard you say something.

JUNIOR: I was talking to myself.

MISTER: In that case, Iíd have to agree with you. [JUNIOR mutters something again]

JUNIOR: Son of a bitch. [MISTER pretends not to hear, he just points his pistol at the back of JUNIORís head from across the room.]

MISTER: Pow! [He laughs] Boom! Boom! Boom! [Imitating screams] Ahhhhh! [Laughs again, then finally settles down, and begins to read again. They both read for a while, but JUNIOR finally lays his paper down in his lap, itís too hard to read in the dark. Heís just staring at the wall. Finally, MISTER speaks] You know, I can tell.

JUNIOR: What?

MISTER: I can tell.

JUNIOR: Tell what?

MISTER: Just how pissed off you are. [Pause] Just how much you hate me.

JUNIOR: What, can you read minds, now? Or is it that you know how I should feel?

MISTER: Should feel?.

JUNIOR: My bad. [Bitterly ironic] I should love you, shouldnít I? You havenít done anything wrong. No, not you. How could you ever imagine that I could resent you? Unless you know something about yourself that I donít knowÖ

MISTER: I can tell.

JUNIOR: Well - if you can tell that I hate your guts now, why couldnít you tell that I just wanted to live in peace, before you made me hate your guts?

MISTER: What?

JUNIOR: How can you be sensitive enough to feel my anger, but not my pain? To feel my resentment, but not your cruelty? You got one hell of a bouncer standing by the door of your mind, brother. You break like glass, but expect everyone else to be like a stone.

MISTER: There you go again. See? No one proves me right more than you.

JUNIOR: Whatever. Youíre just as right as the bullet in your gun.

MISTER: You were born angry. And nobody ever had the guts to teach you another path. It was easier just to move out of the way. Now, you want to pin your anger on me. Make it like I was to blame. Send me back to the beginning of time. Yeah, Iím the one who drove you out of the Garden of Eden, Iím the one who cursed you on the first day. Iím the one who got drunk and forgot to give you arms and legs. Youíre hate-filled, a whirlpool of anger that wants to suck the whole world down.

JUNIOR: Right. Right. [Getting up] Iím just angry, angry by nature, like a wild animal. I canít help myself. Iím a lion, a tiger. [He roars like a beast, and starts to approach MISTER]

MISTER: Keep your distance!

JUNIOR: [In a "fruity" way] "Lions, and tigers, and bears, o my! Lions, and tigers, and bears, o my!"

MISTER: Donít come any closer!

JUNIOR: The chicken or the egg? The chicken or the egg? Which came first? Well, thatís an easy one. In this case, anyone could see. Anyone but you. 1 + 1 = HATE! HATE! Congratulations! Itís a miracle of alchemy! You have succeeded in transmuting gold into lead!

MISTER: Youíre a dangerous type!

JUNIOR: Youíve got the gun, youíve got the knife, you outweigh me by a hundred pounds, and Iím the dangerous type!

MISTER: Go back, and sit down!

JUNIOR: [Throws out his arms, and exposes his chest] Maximilian! The one good thing he did!

MISTER: What?

JUNIOR: Not flinching before the firing squad!

MISTER: Go back, and sit down!

JUNIOR: Go on! Do it! That poor gun of yours must be in misery! With that bullet just sitting in it, like a shit that it wants to unload!

MISTER: Animal!

JUNIOR: Kill me! Go on! Itís what you want! Justice, honor, reason, bla, bla, bla. ĎBang! Bang!í Thatís what you really want to say! Say it! Youíll feel better!

MISTER: Go back, and sit down! [Raises gun up with both hands, about to shoot] Iíll shoot!!!! I swear Iíll shoot!!!! [JUNIOR snaps out of his trance. He Ďwakes upí with MISTERís gun pointed at his face. He slowly raises up his hands, and begins to back off]

JUNIOR: All right. [Trying to get his breath back] All right. Iíll go back. Iíll go back. Just like you say.

MISTER: Go back! Go back! - Sit down! - Sit down! - Bastard! [He stands there, exhausted from the stress, looking at JUNIOR, who is sitting up, straight and silent, in his chair, facing the wall. Somehow JUNIOR seems proud and unbeaten, in spite of everything. MISTER mutters] Bastard! Bastard! [Agitated, MISTER paces about, glancing constantly at JUNIOR] Angry bastard! [Finally, he needs to speak] You know - I just canít trust you. You have it in for me. If it wasnít for my gun, youíd have been at my throat a long time ago. [JUNIOR doesnít answer] Thereís just no safety here. I canít turn my back. I canít look away. I canít enjoy my paper. I canít daydream or listen to music. Not like this. You bastard - youíve taken over my sky. Youíve become the sun, the moon. I canít look anywhere without seeing you looking down at me. Hating me. Mocking me. How will I sleep? Itís like youíve taken over my life. Itís like, trying to protect myself, youíve conquered me. You bastard! What have you done to my world?!

JUNIOR: Youíve done it. Not me. [MISTER, angry, lifts up his pistol and points it at JUNIOR, across the room, saying softly to himself]

MISTER: Boom. Boom. Peace and quiet. God damn, why do I have to be so moral??? [Paces about more, is thinking. Pulls an extension cord out of the wall, examining it, experimenting with it] Look. Things still arenít OK, here. Do you understand?

JUNIOR: And how!

MISTER: Your anger today could become my blood tomorrow.

JUNIOR: I donít see how, unless you point your gun the wrong way.

MISTER: [Thinks a little more, then says] Iím going to need to tie you up.

JUNIOR: [Turns around] Say what?

MISTER: Turn around!

JUNIOR: Youíve got a cord in your hands?

MISTER: I said Turn Around! [JUNIOR does so] Iím going to have to tie you up.

JUNIOR: [Turning around, again] What, are you bugging?

MISTER: [Points his pistol at JUNIOR] Turn around! [JUNIOR does] Thatís right. Just keep looking at that wall like itís the best piece of ass youíve ever seen. - Thatís right, Iím going to tie you up. Itís the only way I can be safe. The only way I can be sure.

JUNIOR: You had a gun to start with. You took my knife. You set me on the other side of the room. You made me face the wall. And now youíve got to tie me up? What the hell do you think I am, a warlock?

MISTER: Get up, and move away from your chair. [JUNIOR has to look in order to follow his directions] Over there. Slow. Good - now kneel down.

JUNIOR: Tie me up?

MISTER: Kneel down.

JUNIOR: How can I trust you?

MISTER: What are you talking about?

JUNIOR: I mean, if Iím tied up, I wonít have a chance in hell.

MISTER: Thatís right. You wonít have a chance in hell to attack me.

JUNIOR: I wonít have a chance in hell to do anything. To run. To try to smash my way through the wall. To die on my feet.

MISTER: Get on your knees. [JUNIOR hesitates] ON YOUR KNEES! [JUNIOR gets down, his back turned to MISTER.] You can trust me. Iím a moral person. Iím only doing this because I have to. Everybody has the right to defend himself. Iím not filled with anger. Iím civilized. [Observing and studying JUNIOR] Youíll have to lie down.

JUNIOR: What?

MISTER: Youíll have to lie down. Lie down, and put your hands behind your back.

JUNIOR: Why lie down? Being on my knees is bad enough.

MISTER: [Gently] Lie down. Itís easier for me. We donít want any misunderstandings. Iíve got a loaded gun.

JUNIOR: Thanks for being so concerned

MISTER: [Gently, again] Lie down. [JUNIOR doesnít] LIE DOWN!!!! [JUNIOR does, when he feels MISTERís gun poking into the back of his head]

JUNIOR: Donít shoot!

MISTER: LIE DOWN!!!!

JUNIOR: I AM!!!

MISTER: SHUT UP!!! Shut up, you bastard! Why the hell are you making my life so complicated! Just lie down and let me tie you up! [MISTER surveys JUNIOR as he is lying down on his belly, hands behind his back. He begins to try to figure out how to tie up JUNIORís hands] Cross your hands. - No - put them together. Next to each other. Wrists together, palms out. Yeah, like that. - Like that. [MISTER kneels down over JUNIOR, and now struggles to tie his wrists, while still holding his gun. It isnít working. Finally, subtly, he slips his gun into his holster, to free both of his hands to tie up JUNIORís hands. JUNIOR, feeling both of MISTERís hands on him, suddenly reacts, hurling MISTER off him, freeing his hands, and leaping to grab MISTERís arm as MISTER attempts to draw his gun. A desperate struggle ensues, with biting, head butts, punches, low blows, efforts to scratch out eyes, and a battle for the gun, as the much smaller JUNIOR, transformed by his desperate situation, gives MISTER all that he can handle]

MISTER: You bastard!

JUNIOR: Son of a bitch!

MISTER: You damned treacherous bastard!

JUNIOR: Son of a bitch!

MISTER: Iím going to kill you!

JUNIOR: Goliath! Goliath!

MISTER: Iím going to kill you!

JUNIOR: Itís time to die!

MISTER: You dirty bastard! [Finally, MISTER draws the gun. JUNIOR knocks it out of his hands. MISTER, pushing JUNIOR away, recovers it, but JUNIOR manages to seize his own knife, out of the sheath which MISTER is now wearing. He plunges it into MISTERís body. A split second later, a bullet from MISTERís gun knocks JUNIOR backwards. Both are badly wounded. JUNIOR struggles to pick up his knife again, and starts to crawl towards MISTER, who is writhing in agony. But he still has his gun, and turns just in time to shoot JUNIOR again. And, as JUNIOR still show signs of life, again. JUNIOR seems dead, but then, unexpectedly, with another act of will, begins moving towards MISTER yet again. So MISTER shoots him one more time. Then to be sure, he goes over to JUNIOR, and putting the pistol point blank against his head, shoots JUNIOR one last time. MISTER is badly hurt, and groaning in pain] You bastard! You lying, cheating bastard! See? I was right. I was right all the time! You wanted to kill me! I should have killed you before! Damn, why did I have to give you so many chances? [MISTER begins to crawl towards the telephone] The worldís a jungle. But I wanted to believe it could be different. I wanted to believe in the beauty and honor of the human soul. In mercy, and life. Thatís why I gave you a chance, you bastard, thatís why I didnít put a bullet in your head on the first day I met you. And then - you betrayed me! You threw my kindness back in my face! O God, what a price to pay! Morality - how could you do this to me? [He reaches the phone, which is hard for him to use in his wounded state] Hello? Hello? 9-1-1. Yes. Iím hurt. Iím wounded. Badly wounded. [Groans and cries] Iíve been stabbed. I was attacked. He attacked me. Yes, my address. I live at 501 [gasping and groaning] O God! O God! What? Iím dizzy. It hurts so much. I tried to treat him right. And look what I got for it. O God! With a knife. Such a sharp blade. Such a big, big knife. O God! Yes? My address? 501Ö 501Ö [MISTER drops the phone and collapses]

THE END

 

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