Three Street Koans

by Merle Molofsky

CHARACTERS

DOUGLAS
DOREEN
MONA
FREDDIE
SHOGEN, A ZEN PRIEST
MUMON, A ZEN PRIEST
KAREN, MONA’s young daughter
FATBOY
CARLOS

SETTING

This one-act play takes place in 1970, in a drug-infested neighborhood at the edge of a river in a big city.  The primary action is in MONA’s apartment, a gathering place for a group of young drug addicts, essentially a drug den, and in the streets outside.

THREE STREET KOANS

A street near the river.  Down left, angling away into shadows, a storefront church on which a blond Jesus in white robes is painted and encircled with lights.  Right of center narrow wooden stairs lead to a small apartment consisting of a narrow room with a galley kitchen, kitchen table and utilities. The convertible sofa, one easy chair, end table with lamp and radio, and two wooden chairs dragged in from the kitchen area are huddled together, making the small main room cramped and uncomfortable.  No attempt at decoration, neither curtains nor pictures, is evident.  Up center is the pier, with steps leading down to the river.  In the distance a bridge spangled with lights spans the river.  This is not quite the lower depths but nothing is pleasant about it.  Everything is dismal, squalid without being obscene.  The time is late afternoon, shading into twilight.

In the apartment MONA is sitting at the kitchen table, looking at the pictures in a movie magazine.  Her daughter, KAREN, not fully visible to the audience, except perhaps for her feet, is sleeping on the  kitchen table, where SHE had been looking out the window. FREDDIE is sitting on the steps outside the building, thumping a knife listlessly into the decaying wood.  PABLO is leaning against the doorway of the storefront church, too ostentatiously cool to be cool.  Down left in the shadows of the buildings CARLOS plays  dominos with himself.  HE is almost a drag queen, his hair bleached, his face made up, but HE is wearing men’s clothes.  DOUGLAS is sitting down center facing the audience.  His pose is ambiguous, half nod, half meditative.  The opening scene  depends on varying rhythms of non-motion, from the lassitude of the waiting junkies to the passive awareness of DOUGLAS to the smug enlightenment of SHOGEN to the holy calm of MUMON.

SHOGEN ascends the stairs upstage center leading from the river.  HE is lighted by a pale golden spot, his robes the color of Jesus’ hair.  HE arises from nowhere, from walking on water, from an open sewer pipe, from absurdity.  HE focuses on the audience, paralleling DOUGLAS’s gaze.  HE walks to DOUGLAS, stands behind him, and places a hand on DOUGLAS’s shoulder. DOUGLAS looks up sleepily, recognizes SHOGEN, and with great alertness, as if SHOGEN were a cop, and to dispel any doubt that HE might be high. HE rises, then kneels and prostrates himself before SHOGEN.  SHOGEN laughs, lightly, shoves DOUGLAS flatter with his foot just as lightly, and then drags DOUGLAS upward.  HE then sits easily in the lotus position, and DOUGLAS does the same.  THEY both are facing the audience.

DOUGLAS

If only I knew the  answer to this one question I have asked you, Master, then would I find enlightenment.

SHOGEN

And what was your question?

(From down right MUMON enters. HE is a wreck of a priest, his saffron robe ragged and greyed, his shuffle a Bowery bum shuffle.  HE is bathed in a clear white light.  HE is carrying a scroll, the text of his sermon for today, which HE reads to the audience as if HE’s delivered the same lecture to the same unresponsive group many times before.)

MUMON

Shogen and Douglas, master and student, exist at different moments of space/time.  How then do they converse?  Could Douglas’s question be Shogen’s enlightenment?  Do any of us believe ourselves?  What am I talking about?

(MUMON rerolls his scroll.)

Snow falls into the center of the lotus, but the infant Buddha is not cold.  He is newborn.  The snow melts in the heat of his body.

(MUMON grins in approval as DOUGLAS rises and  shoves SHOGEN’s head with the flat of his palm.)

DOUGLAS

Shogen, you’re full of shit.  You, Joshu, Kyogen, Mumon, all you Zen masters, you’re all full of shit.

(SHOGEN exits, ruffled, down the up center stairs, while MUMON exits, cackling and mumbling to himself, stage right.  DOUGLAS moves  through the street to the church. The lights around Jesus, the halo of lights on the bridge, twinkle all the brighter.  A salsa band begins to play.  The tune is “Eli, Eli”.

DOUGLAS flicks his finger at the painted Jesus’ groin.  HE peers into the doorway of the church.)

Hey, Pablo.

(DOUGLAS begins to reach into his pocket as HE moves into the deeper recesses of the doorway. HE can barely be discerned in the shadows, making a transaction.

CARLOS, the man playing dominos, folds up his game and moves down the street to FREDDIE.  HE taps him, FREDDIE gets up, and follows him up the stairs.

As THEY enter MONA’s apartment SHE switches on the kitchen light.)

FREDDIE

You got any soda?

MONA

Just Kool-aid.  You want some?

FREDDIE

Whyn’t ya buy any soda?

MONA

Whyn’t ya give me any money?  Where’s Douglas?

CARLOS

(queening)

He’s coming, he’s coming.

MONA

What did you come up for, if he’s not here yet?  The baby’s still sleeping.  You guys go sit inside and be quiet.

FREDDIE

You’re the only one making noise.

MONA

Shut up.  You didn’t leave me any cigarettes.

FREDDIE

Shut up yourself.  Here’s cigarettes.

(HE tosses a pack on the table and takes her seat. SHE lights one up, and starts going through a series of meaningless motions, opening the refrigerator, looking inside, closing it again.  Until DOUGLAS comes, she will carry on this kitchen charade, opening and closing cabinets, turning the tap on and off, occasionally washing a dish from the pile in the sink.  FREDDIE begins his knife thing again, tossing it into the kitchen floor.  CARLOS begins playing with his domino set.

In the street, DOREEN enters.  SHE crosses to the church. FATBOY enters from an alley behind the buildings near the pier and enters MONA’s apartment.)

FREDDIE

You could knock.

FATBOY

Door’s open.

FREDDIE

You could still knock.

(DOREEN peers into the church door.)

DOREEN

Douglas?  You ready, man?

DOUGLAS

Get out of here.

(DOREEN and MONA go  through a curious parody of women meeting, gestures that THEY must have learned in the movies.)

DOREEN

(Seeing FATBOY, and gesturing towards him.)

Who’s that?

FREDDIE

That’s Fatboy.

MONA

Cause he’s fat.

DOREEN

Does Douglas know about him?

FATBOY

I know Douglas.

FREDDIE

He’s okay, baby.

DOREEN

I mean, I never saw him before.

FREDDIE

Yeah, well, now you saw him.  He’s cool.

DOREEN

I was jus asking.

(KAREN awakens, climbs off  the table, and tugs at her mother’s dress.  Her mother pushes her aside, gets a pitcher of Kool-aid from the refrigerator, and fills a baby bottle for the child.  KAREN begins to suck the bottle, grabs a piece of bread from the table, and moves around the room alternately sucking at the bottle and nibbling at the bread.  SHE stares into everyone’s face as SHE passes. Most of them either look away from her or give her a not too gentle shove.  DOUGLAS comes out of the church door.  HE looks up at the Jesus, gives it the same irreverent fillip to the groin, and crosses the street, climbs the stairs, and makes a flamboyant entrance. The room jumps at him.  KAREN is knocked down in the scuffle, and whines softly.)

MONA

No one even locks the door?  What’s the matter with you?

FREDDIE

Shut your face and lock it yourself.

MONA

It’s always me.  I got to do everything.

(FATBOY locks the door.  HE hangs back, shyly, while everyone else grabs for their junk.  There is a general move to the kitchen, where the gas jets are lit and a scramble for spoons takes place.  There also may be a few ritual complaints about the lightness of the bags or the quality of the stuff.  FATBOY snorts his stuff in the living room.  DOUGLAS holds DOREEN back when SHE heads for the kitchen with the others.)

DOREEN

What do you want?  Wait ‘til later, huh, Douglas?  Let me do this up first.

DOUGLAS

Stay here ‘til they’re finished.

DOREEN

What for?

DOUGLAS

Because you can wait.

DOREEN

Who says I can wait?  What am I supposed to wait for?

DOUGLAS

For them to finish.

DOREEN

Fuck off, man.  You wait.

(SHE breaks free and goes into  the kitchen.

The rest are in various stages of cooking, tying,  and shooting up. SHE waits impatiently for a spoon,  finally grabs one.

DOUGLAS crosses to where FATBOY is sitting.)

DOUGLAS

Hey Fatboy.  Good stuff?

FATBOY

I don’t feel it yet.

(CARLOS comes out of the  kitchen.  HE sprawls on the sofa.)

The stuff okay?

FREDDIE

It’s okay.

CARLOS

Dy-na-mite.  Very dy-na-mite, Douglas.

DOUGLAS

I wouldn’t sell you anything you couldn’t get off on.

FREDDIE

Yeah, well, it’s okay.

FATBOY

Oh, yeah, yeah, this is nice, man.  This is all right.

CARLOS

You’re not doing anything, lover?

DOUGLAS

Just thought I’d wait.

FREDDIE

Never wait, baby.  Never wait.

(DOUGLAS moves into the  kitchen as DOREEN and MONA come out.  HE prepares his stuff as FREDDIE sinks back into his kitchen chair and begins his knife play again, in a minor key.)

FATBOY

How come you never wait?

FREDDIE

Shut up.

CARLOS

No, be nice, Freddie.  He’s young.  You’re young, right?  What are you, fifteen, maybe sixteen?  Chicken, Freddie, plump juicy chicken.

(CARLOS caresses FREDDIE,  rumples his hair.

FREDDIE slaps the hand away, moves into an affectionate wrestling hold on CARLOS, but the play is incomplete, and HE gives it up.)

See, a kid asks a question, he should be answered.  Never wait, Fatboy.  See, if the Man comes down on you, one, you’re still holding, he got the evidence.  You gonna spend at least one night on ice.  Two, he’s got your stuff, so you ain’t high.  You gonna be in stir, and you gonna be sick.  That’s no good, you know, doll.

FATBOY

Yeah, right.

CARLOS

How come you don’t shoot?

FATBOY

I don’t want to get a habit.

CARLOS

That won’t stop you.

DOREEN

Yeah, a nose habit is worse.  Much worse.

MONA

You blow your nose one day and the whole lining of your nose falls out in your handkerchief.  The whole mucus membrane just lies there right in front of your eyes.

CARLOS

And you got a bigger habit with the nose.  Costs more.  You’ll find yourself out in the street selling your pretty ass to dirty old men.  Very bad news scene.

DOREEN

You really should shoot it, Fatboy.  If you’re gonna get a habit, you’re gonna get a habit.  I got a habit just from sniffing it.  I was getting nosebleeds and everything.  You really should shoot it.

CARLOS

It doesn’t feel like anything else in the world.  It’s like coming with your own cock shoved up your own ass.

MONA

Don’t talk dirty.  My kid’s right over there.

FATBOY

Maybe next time.  Maybe next time.

CARLOS

I’ll shoot you up the first time.

FATBOY

Okay, Carlos.  Thanks, man.

MONA

Put some real clothes on, Karen.  You’ll catch cold running around like that.

(MONA reaches under the sofa,  finds a pair of overalls, and tosses them at the kid.

KAREN sits down and begins to wrestle with the overalls, finally getting them on.

DOUGLAS stands in the doorway between the kitchen and living room. HE has the needle in his arm and is sliding it in and out of the vein, not quite getting off.  The room is very quiet.  Everyone is on the nod.  KAREN runs over to him and stares at his arm, at the needle, sucking on her bottle.  HE is smiling, not at the child, not at anything in particular.)

DOREEN

For Chrissake, Douglas, don’t do that.  Make your hit.

(DOUGLAS moves to a corner  of the room, staring out a window into the street.  SHOGEN appears from the steps to the river and MUMON enters at stage right.  The rest of the cast is nodding again, equivalent to a stage freeze.)

DOUGLAS

Shogen, have you answered my question?

SHOGEN

The answer was before the asking, Douglas.  You are all this time.  Why haven’t you heard my answering as you thought?

(MUMON unrolls his scroll.)

MUMON

Yeah.  Shogen is jiving with Douglas.  He knows but knows not, answers but does not give.  He has grown stale wandering in lives, in time.  Douglas is.  This is not Zen, this is life.  The wise man has not been born.  Does this suffice?

(HE rerolls the scroll.)

Like the jewels that rolled from his fingers, the Buddha lost his way.  He never sought ‘til he found, and then he did not seek.  I seek what I found, and Douglas is the jewel in the navel of the Buddha.  Contemplate!  For myself, I will seduce a virgin boy.

(SHOGEN and MUMON exit.

DOUGLAS turns from the window.)

DOUGLAS

I’m still taking notes, Doreen.  I’m still finding god for you.

FREDDIE

Why?  Is he giving smack away?

DOUGLAS

Is that god?

DOREEN

Hit it, Douglas.

DOUGLAS

Is that god?

FREDDIE

Yeah man, that’s god.

DOUGLAS

Heroin is god?

FREDDIE

Yeah.

DOUGLAS

I thought god is love.

CARLOS

God is shit.

DOUGLAS

God is love or shit?

MONA

What are you talking about?

DOUGLAS

No, dig it, I really want to know.

MONA

Make your hit, Douglas.  It’s bringing me down watching you play with that thing like that.

DOUGLAS

Why don’t you just look the other way.  Or nod out.

MONA

I can’t, I’d still know you was doing it.  It’s making me very nervous.  I can feel what you’re doing.

FREDDIE

Shoot up, Douglas.  Stop fucking around.

DOUGLAS

But I really want to know.

FATBOY

Doesn’t that hurt?

DOUGLAS

I don’t know.

MONA

Hit it!  Hit it!

DOUGLAS

Just give me the right answer and I’ll get off.  I just want a few answers, that’s all.

DOREEN

Ask your dumb questions, Douglas.  We all got answers for you.  Anything you want to know, you just ask.

DOUGLAS

Yeah.  Cool.  God is love or shit.  Okay.  What is god?

FREDDIE

God is shit, baby.  A lifetime of pure shit.

CARLOS

Yeah, Douglas.  The purest.  And it’s always coming on.

FATBOY

Yeah.  God is a rush, right?  He’s a rush.  You’re always feeling it.  That’s god.

CARLOS

What would you know about a rush.  You never shot it.  You’re not saved, honey.  You never felt god slide into you.

DOUGLAS

Mona?

MONA

I’m with everybody else.  God is shit, baby, and let the world know it too.

DOUGLAS

Doreen?

DOREEN

I don’t know.  Why don’t you get off now and let everyone relax, huh?  You’re a bring down.  Be cool.

DOUGLAS

You gotta give an answer too.

DOREEN

God is Jesus Christ.  Okay?

DOUGLAS

Sure.  Sure, that’s okay.  That’s okay with me.

CARLOS

Hit it, Alice.  Come to Wonderland.

DOUGLAS

No, wait.  Not yet.  Do you believe in god?

CARLOS

Me?

DOUGLAS

Yeah, you, all of you.

FREDDIE

There ain’t no god.  Why don’t you cut this shit out?

DOUGLAS

Please.  I really got to know.

FREDDIE

Take my word for it, baby, there ain’t no such thing as god.

DOUGLAS

Why not?

FREDDIE

Who are you kidding?  I mean, where you been?  You don’t have to leave this room to know there ain’t no god.  There just ain’t.  There can’t be.

MONA

That’s right.  There can’t be.  God wouldn’t let all this happen.

CARLOS

Maybe he likes it this way.  There is a god, Douglas, I’m telling you the gospel truth.  Only thing is, he’s a pervert.  A genuine cocksucking motherfucking pervert.

MONA

Hey, I said don’t talk dirty.  The kid’s listening.  She don’t gotta hear that talk.

CARLOS

And he talks dirty too.  He’s a dirty old man who got it up once, came green slime, and couldn’t ever come again.  It took him six days to come, Douglas, and on the seventh he rested.  But it wasn’t any good, amigo.  All that green slime made nothing but freaks.  All god’s children are freaks.

FREDDIE

But he made some medicine for all the poor freaks, Douglas.  He gave us all scag, and now we’re gods too.  And twice as good as he was.  We wouldn’t do half the things he’s done.  Suffering and all that, letting little kids starve and die.  Only god could do a thing like that.  We couldn’t.  That’s why with a little scag we’re better gods than he is.

DOREEN

That doesn’t make sense.

FREDDIE

Why not?

DOREEN

I don’t want to hassle it, Freddie.  It just doesn’t make sense.

FREDDIE

Maybe it doesn’t.  Neither does god.

DOUGLAS

Is god a good high?  Is heaven a good high?

MONA

Sure, baby.  That’s what heaven is.  A good high.  Look at him.  He’s junk sick.  Your nose is running, stupid.  Make your hit.

DOUGLAS

Is heaven an up head or a down head?

CARLOS AND MONA

(Together.)

A down head.

FREDDIE

Amen.

FATBOY

Both.

DOREEN

Douglas.  Baby.  Shoot.

DOUGLAS

Is heaven an up head or a down head, Doreen?

DOREEN

Neither.  Look at the way you’re sweating.  Hit.

DOUGLAS

Why do you use junk?

FREDDIE

Fuck off, Douglas.

CARLOS

Time to shut your mouth, man.  Shut your mouth and shoot.

FATBOY

Because it feels good, Douglas.  That’s why everybody uses junk.

MONA

You think so, Fatboy?  You really think so?

FATBOY

Yeah.  Yeah, I think so.

MONA

You’re a child.

DOREEN

Shoot.

CARLOS

Shoot, man.

FREDDIE

Shoot, Douglas.

DOUGLAS

Wait!  I want to know!  What is god?  Do you believe in god?  Why?  Why not?  What is ecstasy?  An up head?  A down head?  Is god shit?  Can you weigh god, sell god, cut god, shoot god?

MONA

(laughing)

Oh, he’s blown your cool, Freddie.  He’s really blown your cool.

(MONA and CARLOS begin to laugh.  FREDDIE turns away.)

FATBOY

I feel sick.  Does anyone else feel sick?  What did you cut this with, detergent?

(DOUGLAS shoots.  HE stiffens, plunges the needle in, leaves it there, dangling, empty.  Blood trickles into his palm.)

DOUGLAS

Okay, people.  No more god.  You’ve got all the answers.

(DOREEN sidles towards him, manoeuvers him into a seat, hovers protectively over him. HE allows her to remove the needle from his vein.  SHE begins to massage his neck and shoulders. Everyone lapse back into a nod. Every now and then someone eyes him uneasily.)

KAREN

Mommy?  I’m hungry.

(MONA sits up suddenly, then leans back again.  SHE beckons the little girl to her.  The child shrinks back, MONA waves impatiently, and KAREN comes timidly to her.)

I’m hungry.

(MONA hugs the child, pecks at her cheek.)

MONA

Later.  I’ll get you something later.

KAREN

Now.

MONA

No, in a little while.  Go look out the window.

KAREN

But I’m hungry.

MONA

Look in the refrigerator.

KAREN

Nothing there.

MONA

Nothing at all?  Oh Jesus, Karen!

(SHE sighs, rises, goes to the  refrigerator.  It is empty.)

Goddamn it, who ate the bread?

KAREN

Me, Mommy.

MONA

Well Christ, Karen, that’s why there’s nothing there.

KAREN

I want more bread.

MONA

I’ll go out later.  You have to wait.

KAREN

I want more bread now.

DOREEN

(clapping her hands)

C’mere, Karen.  Come on, honey.  Come sit on Doreen’s lap.

KAREN

I’m hungry, Mommy.  Mommy.  I’m hungry, I’m hungry, I’m hungry….

MONA

Drink your Kool-aid.

KAREN

I’m hungry, I’m hungry….

(The chant becomes a sob, then modulates to a long drawn plaint, wordless and rising.)

MONA

I can’t stand this.  She’s driving me crazy.

(KAREN continues to cry, rocking back and forth on the floor, banging her head rhythmically against a chair, heavy on the fourth beat.)

Christ Almighty.

(MONA gets down on the floor and starts searching until SHE finds the sucked heel of bread under the sofa.

SHE pushes it into KAREN’s hand. KAREN throws it away, still crying.)

God god god, why can’t I ever have a little peace?  First Douglas, now you.  I don’t need this shit, I can tell you.

(SHE reaches into her hip pocket, draws out her wake-up bag, pops it open, and goes into the kitchen to tap some into a spoon.)

DOREEN

Karen, leave your mother alone.  You’re making her nervous.  Go look out the window.

(KAREN trails after her mother into the kitchen.)

KAREN

Food, Mommy?

MONA

Medicine.  Douglas, give me your works.

(SHE draws the stuff up into the needle.)

KAREN

I’m hungry.  I’m hungry.

MONA

Hold her across her lap, Douglas, head down.  And pull the little bitch’s pants down.

DOUGLAS

(Talking as HE obeys her)

You’re going to spank her?

MONA

No, I’m going to hit her.  Muscle shot.  Make her shut up.

CARLOS

Very sexy.

DOREEN

You can’t.

MONA

Don’t be dumb.  I do it all the time.  Otherwise she’ll drive me nuts.

(KAREN continues to wail as DOUGLAS scoops her up, turns her over her knee, pulls down her pants.  MONA moves in quickly, slams the needle sharp against the tense buttock.  Simultaneously with the hit, DOREEN screams.)

DOREEN

Don’t!

MONA

Shut up, Doreen, you’re as bad as the kid.  There, that should do it.

(The child struggles away from  the circle of faces, hiking up her pants, rubbing her backside, still moaning.  SHE stops running, stops rubbing, sobs once and stops crying.  SHE stands in the center of the room, confused.)

Go look out the window, baby.

(The child, slugglish, moves obediently to the kitchen, where SHE climbs up on the table.)

DOREEN

Jesus Christ.

DOUGLAS

What’s the matter?

DOREEN

I was just wondering what it’s like for a little kid….  I don’t know.  I mean, what if my mother was giving me stuff….

CARLOS

It’s the easy life, Doreen.  Wish my mother would keep me stoned.

DOREEN

I was just trying to imagine my mother shooting me up.

DOUGLAS

But you can’t imagine it.

DOREEN

No, I can’t.

MONA

Well, I gotta do something.  She drives me crazy sometimes.

(FREDDIE tucks his knife into his boot and moves into the living room.  KAREN slumps onto the table, her finger in her mouth.  FREDDIE looks around for a chair, finds none, and stretches out on the floor.)

FREDDIE

That kid’s stoned out of her mind.  Gives me the creeps to sit with a little kid junkie.

(Universal nod, out of time. Night.  From very far away, the echo of a jazz band, “Eli, Eli”, very soft.  It makes a nice blues.  This is a transition moment.  As the hint of music dies away, MUMON shuffles on stage.  HE rummages around in a garbage can, maybe finding something HE wants, maybe not.  HE pulls a bottle from under his robe, takes a few nips, tucks it back under, pokes around in the garbage cans again, shuffles offstage. The stage is quite dark, very silent.

In the apartment, CARLOS yawns, stretches, simultaneously switches on the lamp and the radio.  The tag end of a disc jockey’s patter  is heard, and then a loud, innocuous rock song plays.  Motion ripples through the room.  MONA turns the radio down lower.  There is an edge, an embarrassment, evident in the apartment full of people beginning to come down.  There is no longer any reason for them to be with each other.)

CARLOS

Douglas, you gonna score again?

DOUGLAS

Not until tomorrow.

CARLOS

Then I’m gonna split.  Got some things to do.  Hey, Chicken.  You.  Fatboy.  Come on, man.

FATBOY

Me?

CARLOS

Come on.  We’re splitting.

(CARLOS and FATBOY exit.  No goodbys, but FATBOY looks back uncertainly, as if HE’s lost something. DOUGLAS and DOREEN curl together on the sofa, their faces turned from each other.  FREDDIE rises from the floor, groaning, rubbing at the angles of his joints. HE falls next to them, sprawling.)

FREDDIE

Ooh.  Ooh.  I wasn’t born to crash on floors, man.

DOREEN

I can tell you was raised in a palace.

DOUGLAS

If you was raised in a palace, amigo, you are a long long way from home.

FREDDIE

I am, man, I am.

DOREEN

You feel like a motherless child.  I can tell.

FREDDIE

I feel like someone’s been walking all over me.

DOREEN

We were.  You was just too stoned to know.

FREDDIE

I know now.  You coulda took your shoes off.

DOREEN

Mmm hmm.  We coulda done that.

(MONA has been pacing back  and forth during this exchange. SHE sits in a chair facing them and hunches forward.)

MONA

Douglas, listen.  I gave the kid too much from the bag.  I’m going to be short in the morning.  Lay a bag on me, huh?  I’ll get you the money tomorrow.

DOUGLAS

(Lying)

Sorry, baby.  I only got enough for me and Doreen.

MONA

Leave me a taste out of your bags?  Between the two of you I can get a little taste.  You won’t even miss it.

DOUGLAS

Tell you what.  Soon as I score in the morning I’ll bring you a bag.

MONA

No good.

DOUGLAS

No, dig it.  I’m going out first thing in the morning.  I got some people over in the Bronx, I already got them their stuff for today, they’re gonna be crazy by tomorrow.  I’m going out first thing tomorrow.  I’ll come by here on my way up to them.

MONA

Still no good.  I won’t sleep good tonight unless I know I got it for tomorrow.

DOUGLAS

You’ll sleep.  I’ll be here in the morning.  Don’t sweat it.

MONA

Shit, I shouldn’t a given her so much.  She didn’t need all that much to cool her out.  Oh Jesus, I hate being short.

DOREEN

Don’t be so nervous.  You won’t be short.  You can trust Douglas.  He’ll be here.

MONA

No, you just don’t know.  I’m like that.  I won’t sleep.

FREDDIE

The baby nodded out?

MONA

Yeah, she’s probably still out in the kitchen on the table.  She likes to sleep on that table.  It’s near the window.  You know.

FREDDIE

Man, don’t give me that.  If I don’t dig the floor, she don’t dig the table.  Hey you two, off the couch.  I wanna open it.  We’ll put the kid to bed.

MONA

No, It’s cool.  Let them stay there.  She digs the table.  Her bones are still green.

FREDDIE

Shit.  Off the couch.

(DOUGLAS and DOREEN rise, arms around each other, and stand, swaying.  FREDDIE dragsoff the cushions, starts unfolding the sofa bed.)

MONA

Come on, Douglas.  Leave me a little taste.  I’ll pay you for it tomorrow.  You know I’ll pay you for it.

DOUGLAS

It’s not the bread, doll.  You know it’s not the bread.  I just don’t have the stuff to spare.

FREDDIE

You could put a sheet on the bed, Mona.

MONA

Why?  It doesn’t matter.  She just wets them anyhow.

FREDDIE

Yeah, but she ain’t the only one sleeping here.  I like to sleep on a sheet every now and then.

MONA

Yeah?  Well, you better go back to that palace you was raised in, cause I ain’t putting no sheet on no bed that some kid’s gonna wet before morning.

FREDDIE

You musta been born lazy.

MONA

Maybe I was born in a palace too.  I’ll get the kid.

(SHE moves into the kitchen. DOREEN and DOUGLAS flop back down onto the bare mattress.)

FREDDIE

Jesus Christ.  What kind of woman is that, can’t even put a sheet on a bed.

DOREEN

You sleep here, you want a sheet, you put a sheet on.

MONA

Karen.  Karen honey, wake up.  Come on, baby, wake up.  Mommy’s gonna put you in the big bed.  Karen.  Get up, Karen.  Karen?

(SHE utters a sharp, choked cry.  SHE begins to smack the kid viciously.)

Karen!

(Thwack!)

Karen!

(Thwack!)

Karen!

(Thwack!)

DOREEN

(Cringing against DOUGLAS, her hands over her ears.)

What’s she doing?  Why’s she hitting her?  Why does she have to beat her like that?

(FREDDIE runs angrily into the kitchen and grabs MONA’s arm.)

FREDDIE

Are you crazy?  What kind of animal are you?  Leave the kid alone!

MONA

(Her voice has changed; it is high, frightened, the voice of a little girl.)

Let go, Freddie.  Let go.  I gotta.  She won’t wake up.  I can’t wake her up.

(DOREEN and DOUGLAS run for the kitchen.  All four stare down at the motionless child.  FREDDIE lifts the child in his arms, holds her out at arm’s length, looking at her.  Her arms and head dangle, her head lolls.)

FREDDIE

You’re hitting a corpse.

MONA

No!

(There is no way to describe the sound.  It is a primeval cry, the first “no” ever uttered.)

No.

(The sound of her voice moves  the others to act.  FREDDIE grabs MONA from behind, restraining her.  DOUGLAS straightens the dead child’s body, looking around, then covers her face with a dish towel.  DOREEN reaches into her pocket, draws out a bag, slits it open, begins to cook it down.  MONA struggles silently, crucified in FREDDIE’s arms. DOREEN fills a needle, and as FREDDIE continues to pin MONA, DOREEN hits her.  The stuff is more powerful than the stuff DOUGLAS sells, and MONA slumps in FREDDIE’s grasp. DOREEN and FREDDIE lead her into the living room, lay her onto the opened bed. DOUGLAS stays behind, his hand on the child’s hair.  On the bed, MONA tosses and moans, her fingers raking her hair, like a woman in childbirth.)

MONA

I can smell her, this bed stinks of her.

(SHE begins to weep, weakly, her hands clasped about her womb.

FREDDIE and DOREEN hover over her, watching her, until SHE nods out.)

          FREDDIE

She’s out.  She’s out for the night.  That’s nice stuff you keep for yourselves.

(THEY go back into the kitchen.  FREDDIE and DOUGLAS sit at the table, DOUGLAS still with his hand entangled in the child’s hair. DOREEN, sick, retches over the garbage pail.)

FREDDIE

We gotta do something bout that.

(HE gestures toward the corpse.)

DOUGLAS

Yeah.

(DOREEN stands with her face averted, unable to face the little dead thing on the table.)

DOREEN

Mona’s family… maybe they can pay for the funeral.

FREDDIE

What funeral?  This kid’s lying dead here with heroin all through her body.  That’s manslaughter, baby.  Mona don’t need no ten years on ice.  No funeral.  We gotta get rid of it, tonight, before Mona wakes up.

DOREEN

(On the verge of hysterics)

What do you mean, get rid of it?

DOUGLAS

Shut up, Doreen.  This ain’t no time for women to ask questions.

DOREEN

What do you mean, get rid of it?

DOUGLAS

Go inside, Doreen.  Go inside and be very very quiet.

(DOREEN wavers, then walks mechanically into the living room and sits on the edge of the bed. Without looking at MONA, SHE passes her hand over MONA’s head, over her eyes, her breasts, her belly.  MONA sighs and lets her hands fall away from her womb, where they were clasped.  DOREEN cups her hand over MONA’s womb, then draws her hand away.  SHE sits primly, her hands folded in her lap.  MONA turns over, curls on her side, a sleeping child herself.)

DOUGLAS

The river?

FREDDIE

Yeah.  I’ll carry it, you keep an eye out.

DOUGLAS

You gotta wrap it up.

FREDDIE

There must be an old sheet around here some place.  That pig musta kept some sheets around here once.  Or I’ll use the blanket.  She’s got this blanket.

DOUGLAS

Yeah, a blanket should do it.

(THEY sit a few moments, then FREDDIE gets up and starts rummaging around for a blanket.  HE finds one under the sofa.  HE brings it into the kitchen, hands it to DOUGLAS, who begins to wrap the child tenderly.)

FREDDIE

She’s a real pig, you know that, man.  I found the blanket underneath the bed.  Underneath the bed, for Chrissake.  What a pig.  You finished yet?

DOUGLAS

I’m finished.

(HE walks into the living room, reaches into his pocket, pulls out a bag.)

Doreen?  Listen, if she makes one move, hit her again.  Keep her stoned, you hear me?

DOREEN

Is that ours?  We got enough for tomorrow?

DOUGLAS

Plenty.

(HE reaches into his pocket, pulls out a handful of bags, fans them out before her, then shoves them back in, looking over his shoulder to the kitchen where FREDDIE is waiting.)

You ready?

FREDDIE

Yeah.  Hey Doreen, put the spikes and any stuff you got on you behind the Frigidaire.  Check out Mona’s pockets too.  If we get picked up with this thing here, I don’t want the Man coming back here and finding all this stuff too.

DOREEN

If you get picked up with that… that thing, it don’t matter much what else the Man finds.

FREDDIE

Don’t argue, huh?  Just do like I say.  Women.  Pigs, the whole bunch of you.  Come on, Douglas.  Let’s get it over with.

DOUGLAS

Check the street out, first.

(THEY both move to the window and look out.)

FREDDIE

Let’s go.

(HE picks up the bundle. DOUGLAS goes out first, FREDDIE follows.  As soon As THEY’re gone, DOREEN  goes through MONA’s pocket, draws out her wake-up bag. SHE rests it lightly on one finger, then opens it and begins tapping it out on the flat of her thumb, snorting it up.  SHE crumples the bag, then rushes to the kitchen and puts the needle and the bag DOUGLAS gave her behind the refrigerator.  SHE then searches the apartment, finding crumpled bags, cotton balls with blood stains, etc.  SHE builds a little fire in the sink and burns it all. The two men walk to the pier, DOUGLAS first, looking around furtively.)

FREDDIE

We didn’t weight her down.

DOUGLAS

So what?  By the time they find her she’ll be down river.  Her face will be gone.  The crabs’ll eat it.  They eat the face first.

FREDDIE

We should weight her down, man.

(DOUGLAS looks around, finds a garbage can, drags it over.)

DOUGLAS

Put her in this.

(DOUGLAS empties the  garbage can into the river. FREDDIE starts to unroll the blanket.)

What are you doing?

FREDDIE

I’m gonna save the blanket, man.  Shit, we need the blanket.

DOUGLAS

Leave it.

FREDDIE

It’s the only one we’ve got.

(THEY unroll the blanket,  stuff the child into the can, put the lid on, and drop it over.  It makes a dull splash. The two men watch it sink.)

Let’s get out of here.

(THEY head back to the  apartment.  When THEY enter, DOREEN jumps up guiltily, then sits down again. The two men also sit down, heavily.  There is a long silence.)

DOREEN

                             (weakly)

What do we do now?

(It is a bad question.  There is another long silence.)

DOUGLAS

There’s nothing for us to do.  We’re splitting.

DOREEN

Just like that?

DOUGLAS

Just like that.

(DOREEN goes into the kitchen, gets her stuff from behind the refrigerator.  As THEY leave, SHE looks back, sees FREDDIE climb into bed with MONA, putting his arms around her, pulling the blanket over them.)

DOUGLAS

                             (On the stairs)

Come on, Doreen, we gotta catch Pablo before he disappears.

DOREEN

I gotta talk to you.

DOUGLAS

Talk is just talk, baby.  We gonna get stoned.  We gonna stay stoned.

DOREEN

You believe in God, Douglas?

DOUGLAS

Oh, baby, what do you know about anything?  About God, about talk, about dying, about heroin?  Don’t talk, girl.

DOREEN

There are some things I need to know….

(DOUGLAS and DOREEN wait in front of the storefront church, doing nothing.)

DOUGLAS

There’s a picture of God, Doreen.  You believe in him?

DOREEN

I don’t know.  How could I?  He looks so kind.

DOUGLAS

Bullshit.  He looks like a fucking faggot.  A smiling sonofabitch faggot.

(DOUGLAS enters the storefront. DOREEN paces back and forth, slow but restless.  The score is quick, DOUGLAS reappears, and like flak THEY explode into the early morning light.)

Let’s walk down by the river, Doreen.

(At the edge of the pier, DOREEN sits.)

Listen, Doreen, the river is talking to us.

(DOREEN stares out at the river, at the rainbow of bridge in the sky.  As the morning dawns, as the following scene is played, the lights of the bridge, one by one, go out.  SHOGEN arises from his river home, moves down center, lies down, sick, moaning.  DOUGLAS kneels by the side of his master, mourning.)

You are dying, Master.

SHOGEN

Do not weep, Douglas.  You will live.  Tell me about the world.

DOUGLAS

Needle dreams shadowed and bare of color flicker through my nights.  They are cold dreams, scavenger dreams.  The hawk screams through city skies.  In my dreams I am being chased by spikes enormous as icebergs.  Paralyzed by fear I wait for the white death to fall.  The stars revolve in heaven; I am halfway through nothingness.  I beg for the needle; befuddled by pain I watch it recede into its own infinity.  I scream for a priest.  Running I stumble across his skirted body, dead of an overdose in the rooftop confessional.  His wounded vein swallows the needle, his body is chewing him up.  I am at the edge of the roof, a spike slams into the back of my neck… the dreams go on.  Needle dreams.  It’s getting so bad I’m afraid to shoot up, afraid to get high, afraid to nod into that amorphous world where menace and despair perform their classical charades.  I also am afraid to stop.

To all my charms add self-awareness.  I offer the deprecating grin, the scribble of irony my tongue etches in the air between us, between any you and cowboy me.  Insights, firm ripe insights, who will buy?  I offer variety, commentary, all that jive, I am the hipster, the jivester, the great white hope, my right eye squinted against the upward streaming cigarette smoke, rattling my small change and telling it ladies ‘n’ gentlemen boys ‘n’ girls, oh like it is.  Picture me and a shrink….

(MUMON enters, scroll in one hand, bottle in the other.)

SHOGEN

I am not a Buddha.

(HE laughs)

You are a Buddha, golden-faced one.  The world is waiting for you.

(He scrambles to his feet, heads back for the river.)

DOUGLAS

Wait!  I want to die with you!

SHOGEN

I have decided not to die after all, Douglas.  I have decided not to play, not to act, not to live, not to die.

MUMON

Shogen died as he lived.  Many have studied his words, the words of an enlightened one.  What was there to find there?  This dead man sent Douglas from the monastery into the world.  Douglas with his fists beat upon the locked gates of the monastery until the blood came.  He held his bloodied hands out for the dogs to lick.  Ah, this medieval monk, he was not a true teacher.  His words were written down for men to read.

DOUGLAS

Doreen, what does the river say?

DOREEN

Rivers don’t speak to me, Douglas.  They only speak to you.

DOUGLAS

Oh.  Know what the river told me?

DOREEN

What?

DOUGLAS

The river says it all sucks.

DOREEN

Yeah, well, the river don’t know anything I don’t know.  But we’re here, aren’t we?

DOUGLAS

Oh yeah, we’re here, sure as hell.

MUMON

Shogen presumed to teach Douglas about life and death.  Douglas is a reincarnated Buddha, an all-compassionate one.  He taught Shogen how to live in he world and die in the world.  Why then did an enlightened man like Shogen choose the cloistered life to die in?  This is not lightning Zen.  Is Jesus a faggot?  Is Saul become Paul a junkie?  A boozehound?  When Douglas said he wasn’t a Jew, was he being a Jew?  Why do we have words like faggot and junkie and boozehound and Jew?

(HE puts down the scroll)

For if I build again the things which I destroyed I make myself a transgressor.  For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto god.  What is law?  What does Doreen mean by God?  Is the story of Karen’s death all the news that’s fit to print?  Does it make for good theater?  Ask the questions and think about law.  Think of Douglas the golden-faced Buddha and stumble.

(HE takes a long swig from the bottle, wipes his lips, and sighs.)

I am afraid of this man.

END

Merle Molofsky is a psychoanalyst in private practice. She serves on the IFPE Board of Directors, is chair of the IFPE Ethics and Psychoanalysis Committee, and editor of Other/Wise. A former Associate Editor of The Psychoanalytic Review, she now serves on the Editorial Board. She trained at NPAP, where she serves on the faculty and supervises. Also, she is former Dean of Training of NPAP. At Harlem Family Institute she serves on the Advisory Board and is a faculty member and supervisor. She also served on the Board of Directors of NAAP, and is former Director of Training of the Institute for Expressive Analysis. She has published in psychoanalytic journals, and contributed a chapter to Religion and Psychotherapy: Many Paths, One Journey. Her poetry has been published in numerous literary magazines.

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