In The Arms Of Baby Jesus
(a two act suspense drama)

Writing Sample:
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Copy of entire play is available with consent of author and explicit arrangement.
Contact
michelerittenhouse@yahoo.com

INTO ACT ONE, SCENE ONE: 

                        (ACTION TO POINT.  Jenny, an elderly Italian woman, has allowed Scottie, a homeless Vietnam Vet, to come in and clean her apartment on a recommendation of a neighbor.  Scottie has dropped a hit of acid and called his buddy, Kenny over to bring a nickel bag of grass to take the edge off.  Kenny is starting to trip too.  It is the coldest day of the year and there are outside protests in Tompkins Square Park because of the removal of the homeless community.  Kenny is relaxing into the warm kitchen as Scottie vigorously washes the walls.)

KENNY

My old man liked to drive a hack. Only thing he did like. Only thing he could beat up that could take it. Tell me all the time about how to drive in the city. Like I don’t know. I drove a taxi for three years, cars eight before that, usually somebody else’s. I know on the streets it's all the same what you got to know. It boils down to the lights, the sequences.

(Nodding to the bedroom.)

I don’t see nobody back there.

SCOTTIE

(Knowing smile to KENNY.)

It’s fast. Good stuff.

KENNY

Yeah, it’s fast.

SCOTTIE

You getting off on the sequences, man.

KENNY

Yeah, shootin’ off on the colors. Like diamonds.

JENNY

And those holes. Anthony always complains about those holes on First Avenue. And on Fourteenth Street, Anthony says….

KENNY

Yeah, but those change. They get filled up. New ones break open. Gotta keep up. Like knowing a trail in the jungle. Know where the gook holes are. Don’t trip a wire. Watch the ground, the trees, the lights. Keep up. Know the streets or else….KABLOOIE!

JENNY

(Checking the boiling water for the macaroni.)

Oooh so many streets to learn to drive a cab.

KENNY

Yeah, yeah, but the secret's in the lights, the sequences, especially on the cross streets. You fuck up there and the goddamn tourists come down on you. You get caught and you might as well sit there and jerk off for all the good it does you. Red light, green light, that's what it boils down to. Red and green, all you gotta know. But sometimes it don't make a damn bit of difference if the fucking tourist come down on you. Burn it, just burn it. Red, green, makes no difference, burn it. That shuts 'em up. Better'n sitting there like a dog licking his ass waiting for your turn to die. Right, Scottie? Right. Waitin’ to die! Just burn it. Red, green, makes no difference.

JENNY

I don’t take cabs.

KENNY

Good. Cause I got no use for those people. All they do is criticize. Just like my old man. Always yapping 'bout what I should do. What I should do! What does he know! Just like those fucking tourists!

(Getting violent)

Sometimes I wanna take 'em by the neck and squeeze. Stop the yapping. Watch the air slip out of their bodies. Squeeze the blood from their lungs so they can't bitch about what I should do! They're not me! They don't know! They don't feel what I have in here!

(Looks off into another time.)

I had to shoot ‘em all . Even the old woman cooking rice. Take ‘em out. Stop the yapping. Stop the words and the screams and the …..

(Quiets down. Comes back to reality.)

Mind if I roll a smoke?

(Gets out papers.)

Scot, my man.

(SCOTTIE hands over the nickel bag of grass. KENNY starts to expertly roll a joint. JENNY hesitates, then bustles around the kitchen looking through cabinets. Finds an ashtray. Wipes it clean.)

JENNY

Is that foreign tobacco?

KENNY

All the way from South America.

JENNY

My son, Jimmy, God rest his soul, rolled his cigarettes too. Sam smoked cigars. God rest his soul too.

KENNY

Oh, so they’re both dead.

(JENNY freezes, then brings the ashtray to the table.)

Who’s the baby?

SCOTTIE

It’s a doll, man.

KENNY

(Gets it, sort of)

A doll!

(Laughs)

Your baby is a doll.

JENNY

No.

KENNY

Oh, I get it. Oh, okay. So you live here alone?

JENNY

Saint Anthony watches over me.

KENNY

I had a Saint Anthony medal once.

JENNY

Oh.

KENNY

See here, Jenny, this is how you roll the perfect…smoke. Make it even all the way across. Close both ends, almost. No loss.

(Hands her the joint. Flips the lighter.)

Here. Want to do the honors?

JENNY

(Holds it awkwardly. Smiles shyly, hands it back)

No….

KENNY

Scottie, my man.

SCOTTIE

Thanks, man.

KENNY

(Lights it for SCOTTIE)

Take it in, take it in, take it in. Whoa! Now is that good shit? Or is that good shit?

SCOTTIE

Tastes better’n it smells.

(SCOTTE coughs as he hands it back and continues to clean.)

KENNY

The elixir of the street. Right? Ain’t that what you call it?

(Inhales deeply. Coughs.)

Right? Elixir of the street.

SCOTTIE

Elixir of the street. I am part of the street.

KENNY

Jenny, you're a pretty cool old lady.

SCOTTIE

The street part of me.

JENNY

No.

SCOTTIE

I laugh in the face of granite….

KENNY

Yeah, you are.

SCOTTIE

… that pokes holes in the shell of democracy.

JENNY

Want to read the card my daughter in law sent me?

SCOTTIE

Who lasts longer?

KENNY

(Takes card, not interested.)

Sure.

SCOTTIE

The street, the smell, the toppled dreams?

JENNY

You don't eat meat either?

KENNY

Yeah, I eat meat.

SCOTTIE

Or the barred granite door?

KENNY

That's real nice.

(Hands card back.)

Don’t Bogart that joint.

SCOTTIE

(Gives the joint back to KENNY.)

Who laughs louder? I do. We do. To keep ourselves floating above the sidewalk that smells of me.

KENNY

I’d rather smell a good meal. Not that I’m hungry right now. Sequences, man.

(Both men laugh.)

JENNY

I make nice meatballs.

KENNY

I could eat some later on, sure.

JENNY

But I got no meat. Vincent, the butcher, was out of chopped meat yesterday.

KENNY

Give me some money and I’ll go get some for you.

SCOTTIE

Kenny, my man, you gotta split. I want to do the floors now.

KENNY

But the old lady’s gonna give me money for meatballs.

SCOTTIE

No, man, not today. Today…. I clean.

KENNY

But…

(SCOTTIE hands him the rest of the joint.)

SCOTTIE

For the road.

KENNY

I’m not finished here.

SCOTTIE

You’re warmed up, right?

KENNY

(Pulls SCOTTIE aside)

I’m gonna get the money from the old lady to get the meat!

SCOTTIE

No, man, ….

KENNY

I want some fucking meatballs and the money to get the meat!! Don’t you…

SCOTTIE

You got to get off the floor.

KENNY

You shittin’ me, right? Right?

(To JENNY)

Just a brotherly dispute.

(To SCOTTIE)

You are shittin’ me. You think I’m gonna rip off the old lady?

SCOTTIE

I think you’re gonna get off the floor!

KENNY

(Pulls him into a hug)

Badger-man’s talking now, Tripper. I’ll let go the money for the meatballs, man. But you got to come out of here with the ticket, know what I mean? All of the ticket.

SCOTTIE

You’re thinking in colors, but its only black and white. It ain’t real, man.

KENNY

You want black and white? All right. I’ll give you black and white. Badger-man says, the old lady could get hurt. It could get ugly.

(Pause)

Yes or no?

(SCOTTIE nods his head “yes.”)

KENNY (continued)

Ah, Jenny, nice to meet you.

(Lightly kisses her fingers, examines rings. Puts on his coat.)

You take it all and then we can….“Go West, young man.” I read that someplace hanging off this uptown building. A sign.

(Goes to door, grabs SCOTTIE’S hand and pulls him close.)

You gave me a future out there in the jungle. This one’s my jungle. I know where the wires are laid. Don’t trip up. Listen to me like I listened to you out there in the dark. A future, man, you hear me? You hear me?

SCOTTIE

I hear ya.

(KENNY exits.)

JENNY

He drives a taxi?

SCOTTIE

Not any more.

JENNY

I thought he said he did.

SCOTTIE

Maybe so.

JENNY

Did I show you the card my daughter in law, Beatrice sent me?

SCOTTIE

Yeah, uh…

(JENNY hands him the card.)

JENNY

She loves me very much.

SCOTTIE

Yeah.

(SCOTTIE hands her the card.)

Uh, Jenny, about that ticket….

JENNY

I think I’ll go to the front. I’m tired. Sam, I’m tired.

(Goes to bedroom.)

Sam, remember you used to do the floors?

(SCOTTIE watches her go into the bedroom, kiss the statue of Baby Jesus, cross herself, and lay down. He turns on the radio and scrubs the floors during this entire sequence. From the radio…)

RADIO ANNOUNCER

Mayor David Denkins has ordered police and park officials to remove the tent community in Tompkins Square Park tomorrow morning.

(Protest noise)

SCOTTIE

(Overlapping Radio)

There’s too much anger. Too much noise. Too much of nothing.

RADIO ANNOUNCER

Many homeless have refused to go to shelters stating they are too dangerous.

(Bulldozer noise.)

SCOTTIE

We’re tripping over the times. Falling out of a pace. Living in a hell of our own making. Pushed into a street of no more choices.

No help. No salvation. No…home.

RADIO ANNOUNCER

City workers are lining up the bulldozers….

(Fades to ‘white noise’)

(Lights come down on him as he works in a small area. The RADIO ANNOUNCER takes on a gravelly WHISPERED VOICE.)

WHISPERED VOICE

What price freedom?

SCOTTIE (continued)

(Stops mopping.)

What? What’d you say?

(Listens. Hears nothing. Goes back to mopping.)

WHISPERED VOICE

What price freedom?

SCOTTIE

What?

WHISPERED VOICE

What price freedom?

What price?

What price?

SCOTTIE (continued)

(Overlapping WHISPERED VOICE)

What price?

Where the hell are you?

What the hell are you?

Show yourself!

Where are you?

WHISPERED VOICE

What price?

What price? ….

(Continues in whisper.)

SCOTTIE (continued)

What price? What price is freedom? Huh? Freedom is tomorrow. What price for a…a science fiction future…. What price is the future? What price? What price?! What price?!!

(VOICE stops. All quiet. Looks around at the ‘air.’)

SCOTTIE (continued)

I’ll show you the price I paid. Here they are. On my arms and legs, in my blood, in my soul. Isn’t that enough for a place…to be…to live…a future? Answer me, damn you, answer me!

(Nothing)