NOTE: This is the first half of Act I from a revised re-posting of “Harry Needs a Job.” The second half of Act I will post in a few days, followed by the first and second half of never-before-posted Act II of a three act play in progress. Phew!
HARRY: IN SEARCH OF A FATHER
CAST OF CHARACTERS
HARRY LOWERY: A young man, desperately in need of a job.
He wears a frayed sport shirt, faded
jeans and sneakers. His hair is scruffy,
his face weathered. A scar the shape of
California is above his eye and his nose
cants to one side.
MR. KINCADE: A fifty-year-old interviewer for the
Department of Employment. He wears a
tailored suit, crisp white shirt and
MARSHALL: One of the co-workers. He is a presence,
reacting to MR. KINCADE'S questions and
comments, but doesn't speak.
BETTY: Also, one of the co-workers and a silent
Gallery: People waiting for their interview. Could
be a painted prop.
A New York City employment agency. A desk sits center stage with a swivel chair behind it and a straight back chair to its side. The usual business accouterments are on the desk, including a large nameplate with ARTHUR KINCADE on it. Behind the desk are an indeterminate number of other "manned" desks, all but two of them always in complete shadow; those other two, more penumbral, are situated side-by-side, behind and a little to the right of KINCADE'S desk. Stage left, in shadow, a nearly full gallery of people await their names being called. On the wall behind the gallery, a door is "suggested" exiting outside by the occasional sound of blustery weather when it opens, followed by grumbling of people in the gallery. Alongside the "phantom" door a picture window reveals bitter cold weather outside.
SETTING: A New York City Department of
Employment. A desk, center stage,
with a straight-back chair to its
side. To the rear of that desk,
an indeterminate number of similar
"Manned" desks, all but two of
which may be props, since they are
always in "near-total" shadow.
The other two desks, a little to
the right of the center-stage
desk are more in penumbral. To
the left of center-stage desk, a
gallery, nearly full, stage left,
running front to rear. Large
picture window center-stage, rear,
showing continually blustery
AT RISE: HARRY LOWERY in a chair beside the
Center stage desk. MR. KINCADE
sits behind desk.
Spiritually defective, sir, I was born a gypsy with a limp. Being Castilian Spanish on my mother's side, I early longed for warm sands and siestas.
(MR. KINCADE shakes his head in disbelief)
My father? Father was always in the navy... somewhere.
Okay... Okay... Listen to me, Mr. Lowery, if I'm going to help you, you'll have to help me.
And I want to! Indeed! You see, I read early, sir. Before attending school I had already gathered words, raw or ripe and succulent... words which would prepare me, though I certainly didn't know it at that green age, for my first liberation.
What! My God! You're really not going to let me help you, are you?
Yes, but you must remember, wherever our travels took us, Mother had always retained a fatal memory of Spain. And, I was her Don Quixote.
And that was rich fodder for my vestigial spirit.
So, he was wealthy, your father?
Ha! Fodder--father... A bon mot it would take a saint to resist, sir! But, it is deserving of an answer. I'll try. As a child I did so love my mother, but--oh!--how I venerated my father who--
--was in the navy...
He was always on a ship on a sea, somewhere.
(With rising impatience.)
Tell me... Please tell me, Mr. Lowery, how I can use this? Can you tell me how? I find employment for deserving people. How's all that you're telling me relevant?
Why... why, it's relevant to the deepest level, sir! Just listen: while other children waited for their Christmases and played ever toward the sunset as sheriffs pounding the badlands on persistent ponies, I...
(Somewhat sadly subdued)
well... I was hunted down and captured by a different law.
A different law? A... different... law? You were captured by a different law?
Si, Senor. As an outcast, I sat, open book in lap, on a thousand divergent hillsides daily, numbering the grasses of Marseille, Berlin, Stalingrad, Barcelona. Countless lands and odors swept beneath my feet before I grew tired of these wanderings at last, and left home, primed and suffering for the real experience.
(Touching his fingertips as counting, eyes
At about... twenty, you might set it. Of course, at twenty, the vicissitudes of existence--
Oh, come on, Mr. Lowery! Vicissitudes?
Yes, vicissitudes of--of existence brought with it a sort of capriciousness. The universe, you see, even my thin sheet of it, was too vast a promise. How I would sweat and stifle under the thought of total embrace! A short stint in each place was my victory. Certainly, a continual change of employment was imperative.
Ah-ha! so, there it is! So obvious, how could I have missed it? Job instability!
I suppose, sir, by your defining system...
(Tapping the end of a sheaf of papers against
the desk, setting the stack neatly lined up at
That would be my defining system--job instability. Would you expect anything less than that being my defining system? Now, would you, Mr. Lowery?
No... to be sure, I would not. You were born for your chair and desk, no? You mastered numbers first, and only later the alphabet. Algebra was your glory. The geography of literature and art were your bane.
So, my soul has always been dry as crackers? Is that what you're saying, Mr. Lowery?
No, no, no, sir! I recant. I recant! Just now I detected your early resistance to that dryness. The use of that scintillating simile, "dry as crackers," is proof aplenty of that! There was a time, I reckon, you carried inside you a melody your soul hummed to--huh?--a melody that was not anchored to the demands of your watch or calendar?
You need to ask yourself, Mr. Lowery, if you really want a job.
(Long pause, looking down at his hands.)
(Fidgeting, then, speaking haltingly.)
Twenty-some years ago, fresh out of college, I was given the opportunity of being the historian for a confederacy of Indian tribes. The confederate chief, or medicine man or... whatever he was, had been given my name by my creative writing professor--
As I suspected! A writer!
It was agreed I would be taking my car. The chief--I'll call him Chief--was widowed. His teenaged daughter would be traveling with us. She was beautiful. The first time I saw her she was wearing a tan, buckskin skirt and her black-as-tar hair was pulled back in two braids. And, just as in Hollywood, she had feathers tethered to each.
You loved her.
Love! What did I know of love? I wasn't over twenty.
(Mr. Kincade clicks his pen's retractor against a paper.)
Besides, everything fizzled out, anyway.
But surely you went.
I told you it fizzled out! I was young. Impressionable. They could easily have killed me, stolen my car, money....
They could have, sure. It will always be a question mark, won't it?
Question mark... question mark...
(A long silence, uncomfortable for both.)
Let's see if we can put an answer to another question mark. Is there a job out there you are qualified for, Mr. Lowery?
I would relish that, sir!
Well... But according to my defining system, you suffer from a malady that we in this business call job instability.
I can appreciate that, sir. But I was just a youngster.
Yes, yes, yes, a youngster. I'll remember. I will remember that. But you're older now, aren't you? So...
And wiser, sir, older and wiser.
Still... we have these pesky vicissitudes--your lack of experience. It's just not as simple as--
But I am strong, sir. Years of work are still in me. Look...
(Flexing his bicep.)
Here, let me make a muscle. There must be something on the wharves for me.
Or sanitation? Or carpentry... building things. I'd like that. Building things. Yes...
No. And, no.
(Leaping to his feet.)
Ha! Of course! It's my nose, isn't it? You can't keep your eyes off its eastern cant and the scar the shape of California above my eye. You have me cast in the role of a troublemaker, don't you sir? A thug?
(Turning in his swivel chair to his co-workers
at the two desks behind him. As he addresses
them, their work areas are slightly illuminated.)
A thug? Betty? Marshall? Listen, will you? I may need you as witnesses. Tell me, would I call a client a thug?
(The two shake their heads.)
I assure you, I'm not a thug, mis amigos. I bow to the three of you and beg you to listen.
(With energetic pantomime.)
The scenario: A right cross flattened a very handsome nose. Then, when I dropped my guard, a left hook sent blood and cartilage spraying the corner post off which my head then rebounded. In merry old England, the venue. My take, five quid. To staunch the blood and suture the gash took six. But it wasn't thuggery, sirs and madame. The rules of Queensbury blithely presided. Prince Charles himself was ringside, I was told. That is, before he left to change his spattered shirt while I lay, taking the count.
(Smiling, as are his co-workers.)
It must have been quite an honor, though....
(Glances from one to the other, then smiling
broadly, he salutes each and sits down.)
To be sure it was an honor! Who wouldn't be thrilled to be courted by royalty? To be twenty-one and flattened by a burly Brit before his prince. Indeed, a high honor!
(Back in control. Not smiling. His
co-workers, no longer illuminated, have
sunk back into the shadows.)
So you were twenty-one. Your application says you're twenty-four. Between then and now?
How was I occupied?
Specifically, your employment.
A gaucho on the Pampas--that for a start. A solitary gaucho in Argentina, I herded the fattest and laziest cattle that ever nibbled the lush grassland at the base of the Andes.
You might guess, Mr. Lowery, there's little demand for cowboys in the city.
No surprise there. Still, only on the open sea is there anything approaching the profound vastness and solitude one experiences on the Pampas. The Pampas was my sea. My sea... Father would understand that. Which might have explained his choices.
Your father again! Why do I put up with this?
(To his co-workers behind him)
Marshall, you and Betty would have shown him the door already.
(ARTIFICIALLY TRUNCATED TO ACCOMMODATE FANSTORIANS’ NEED FOR BREVITY. PLEASE WATCH FOR PART II SOON.)