Dramatic Texts >> William Saroyan >>ACROSS THE BOARD ON TOMORROW MORNING

ACROSS THE BOARD ON TOMORROW MORNING by William Saroyan

 

THE PEOPLE

JIM, a bartender

THOMAS PIPER, a waiter

JOHN CALLAGHAN, a proprietor of Callaghanís

HARRY MALLORY, a young man

HELEN, a hat-check girl

PEGGY, a young woman

R.J. PINKERTON, an elderly man from Wall Street

LOIS, a young woman

PABLO, a Filipino dish-washer

PANCHO, a Filipino dish-washer

SAMMY, a Union man

CLAY, a Negro doorman

RHINELANDER 2-8182, a mother

FRITZ, a taxi-driver

CALLAGHAN MALLORY, a recent arrival


THE PLACE

Callaghanís on East 52nd Street, New York


THE TIME

Continuous, for the duration

 

 

A portion of Callaghanís Restaurant-bar in New York. THOMAS PIPER, a waiter, is seated at a table reading a newspaper. He turns a page, notices the audience, goes on reading, remembers the audience, studies the audience, folds the paper, gets up, and moves forward.

 

PIPER

Ladies and gentlemen, before you is an illusion of a restaurant-bar in New York City: the bar, the bartender, a few tables and chairs, entrances, exits, Menís Room, Ladiesí Room, kitchen, a cook and two Filipino boys in the kitchen, a hat-check girl out there near the door, a doorman on the sidewalk, a couple of cabs in the street, New York all around, the world everywhere else.

Before I noticed you, I was seated there at the table, as you saw, reading the paper. I looked up a horse I bet on last night and discovered that it ran fifth. A horse named Tomorrow Morning, which of course is beside the point. I lost two dollars. Itís no matter. I read about a man who died, too. He was pretty well along in years. Seventy-one years old. He was a scientist of some kind. Left a large family. Never heard of him before.

(JOHN CALLAGHAN, the proprietor of the restaurant-bar, emerges from the Menís Room)

You feel sorry for people who donít stay alive to see whatís going to happen. How things are going to turn out. A lot of things are going on in the world. Theyíre all in the new style, too. Swifter.

CALLAGHAN

What do you think youíre doing?

PIPER

My boss, John Callaghan. He owns this place. Excuse me. (To CALLAGHAN) There was nothing to do. No business. I happened to notice the people. I was chatting with them.

CALLAGHAN

What people?

PIPER

The people. Out there.

CALLAGHAN (Noticing the audience)

Now, go on, get about your work. (Noticing the audience again, unable to believe his eyes)

What happened?

PIPER

I donít know, but there they ar. I didnít want to be rude. Under the circumstances they donít talk, you see, so naturally weíve got to. I was telling them I noticed where a man died. I was saying I feel sorry for people who donít stay alive so they can find out what happens. (CALLAGHAN is nervous and embarrassed. He whispers in PIPERíS ear) No, no. Just act natural. Youíve seen people before, and theyíve seen you. Now donít be shy. Just go about your business as if nobody were looking. Iíll talk to the folks until we get a customer. How do we know somebody interesting isnít going to come in here and order the dollar dinner? Do you want to say a few words? Introduce yourself or something like that? (CALLAGHAN whispers) Oh, sure. I think that would be very nice.

CALLAGHAN

(With great effort, embarrassment and confusion) Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to Callaghanís! (Pause, confusion)

PIPER

Go ahead, donít be afraid.

CALLAGHAN

Ladies and gentlemen!

PIPER

Thatís it. Loud and clear, and political. Give it flowers.

CALLAGHAN

(Softly) Welcome to Callaghanís.

PIPER

Theyíre here. Theyíve got nowhere to go, or they wouldnít be here. (CALLAGHAN whispers again) Now youíre talking. (To the audience) Since Mr. Callaghan canít talk, he wants to dance. (CALLAGHAN goes) While heís getting his derby, Iíll say a few words about him. Ladies and gentlemen, the proprietor of this establishment, by name John Callaghan, is sixty-two years old. Not so very long ago Mr. Callaghan operated a speakeasy. He is the father of two sons, one a lawyer and the other a doctor, both married, both fathers; and two daughters, both married, and both mothers. (CALLAGHAN returns wearing a derby and carrying a stick) Mr. Callaghan is now going to dance.

CALLAGHAN(Whispering)

O.K., Tom?

PIPER

Iíll count three, and then break right into it. Ready? One. Two. Three. (CALLAGHAN lifts one leg and stops)

All right. Again. One. Two. Three.

CALLAGHAN

I canít move

.

PIPER

Take it easy, boss. You want to dance? All right. Iíll dance first. (He starts to dance) You see? Nothing to it. (He stops ) Are you ready now? O.K. One. Two. Three.

 

(CALLAGHAN canít dance. PIPER refuses to help him any more. CALLAGHAN in desperation begins to sing ďThe Harp That Once Through Taraís Halls.Ē He does a very heroic job. PIPER applauds)

 

CALLAGHAN

I thank you. (He bows. PIPER applauds some more; he bows; more applause; he bows; PIPER stops applauding)

PIPER

O.K., boss. Now, let me get on with my lecture.

 

(HARRY MALLORY, a swift-moving young man of twenty-seven or so, comes in, followed by HELEN, the hat-check girl)

 

HELEN

Your hat and coat, sir.

HARRY

Iíll put them on a chair. Hereís a dime. No, wait, that was a quarter. Thatís all right. Keep it.

HELEN

Thank you, sir. (She goes)

HARRY (To PIPER)

Get me a glass of water, will you please?

PIPER

Yes, sir.

HARRY

Whatís on the dinner? O.K., medium rare. (To CALLAGHAN, who has been watching, with his mouth open)

Have you looked at this afternoonís paper yet? (He sits down, gets up)

The whole place is on fire. Get me something to drink. A pleasant wine of some kind. To hell with it. Get me a Scotch. Have you read the paper?

 

(He sits down. PIPER returns with a glass of water which HARRY takes and gulps desperately, spilling quite a lot, which he wipes off with his hand. PIPER opens a bill of fare and offers it to HARRY)

 

Iíve ordered.

(

PIPER

The New York cut, sir?

HARRY

Thatís fine. You got the time? Ten-thirty, is that right?

PIPER

Ten thirty-five

.

HARRY

Thanks. Never carry a watch. Donít need to. Bores me. Always know what time it is anyway. Got more time than I can use. Who am I to know the time right down to the last minute? Now, if youíll excuse me, I want to finish this paper. Workers are the luckiest people in the world. Got their time regulated for them. Safest way to live. The only way. Iíd be a waiter myself if I could do it. You belong to the union, I suppose. Make a fair living. Nice atmosphere. (Suddenly shouting) Where the hell is that drink?

PIPER

Right here on the table, sir.

HARRY

Who put that there? (He drinks the whole thing down) What kind of Scotch was that? O.K., let me have another.

PIPER

Yes, sir. Anything else, sir?

HARRY

Yes. Thanks for reminding me. (Gives PIPER a nickel) Get me Rhinelander 2-81282. (Suddenly notices the audience) Who are those people?

PIPER

New Yorkers, for the most part. A few out-of-towners.

HARRY

Rhinelander 2-8182. What are they doing out there?

PIPER

Watching us.

HARRY

People stink. I avoid them. O.K., get that number. Any music in this place?

PIPER

Only the nickel phonograph.

HARRY

Well, donít let anybody put a nickel in it.

(CALLAGHAN leads a beautiful young woman into the dining-room. PEGGY. HARRY stands)

Cancel that call. (The young woman sits down) Ask the young lady what sheíll have.

PEGGY

Nothing, thank you.

(PIPER goes)

HARRY

Have you looked at this afternoonís paper yet?

PEGGY

Yes, I have.

HARRY (To PIPER)

Is that girl a shill? Does she work here?

PIPER

I beg your pardon, sir?

HARRY

I never saw anybody take up with a stranger so swiftly. Itís O.K. As a matter of fact, Iím fond of people who are professional in all things.

PIPER (Bringing another drink)

Yes, sir.

HARRY

Iím an amateur myself, always have been, always will be. Donít know the first thing about anything. Donít want to learn. (Sips) Despise everybody. (To PEGGY) Do you live in New York?

 

(PIPER takes away one glass, puts down another)

 

Rhinelander 2-8182.

PIPER

Shall I ask for someone in particular?

HARRY

Just say Harry Malloryís calling and ask her to hold the line.

PIPER

Harry Mallory. Yes, sir.

 

(PIPER goes. HARRY returns to the paper. A dignified gentleman of sixty or so, accompanied by a beautiful young woman, comes in. R.J. PINKERTON. LOIS)

 

HARRY

Good evening.

LOIS

Is he talking to you?

PINKERTON

I donít believe so.

LOIS

We mustnít be seen. You promised we wouldnít.

PINKERTON

Nobody comes here, and the foodsí very good.

HARRY

How are things down on Wall Street?

PINKERTON (Irritated)

I beg your pardon, have you been speaking to me?

HARRY

)

Unless itís to the girl. I donít know her.

PINKERTON (Angry)

Are you under the impression that you know me?

HARRY (Slowly)

Thereís a war in the world. Youíll be dead in ten years. Site down and go on with whatever it is youíre going on with. (To PIPER, returning) Did you get that number?

PIPER

Thereís no answer, sir.

LOIS (To CALLAGHAN)

What kind of a place is this, anyway? (She suddenly notices the audience and gasps) Hurry. Letís get out of here.

HARRY

Sit down and eat your supper.

PINKERTON (Noticing the audience, to CALLAGHAN)

I had no idea.

CALLAGHAN

Iím sorry, sir. Itís not usually this way.

PINKERTON (To LOIS)

Do you want to go?

LOIS

Whatís the use going now?

HARRY

Have you looked at this afternoonís paper yet?

PINKERTON (To CALLAGHAN)

I would rather not shout across the dining-room.

CALLAGHAN (To HARRY)

Excuse me, sir. Weíve all been young and troubled.

HARRY

Whoís young and troubled?

CALLAGHAN

The gentleman would rather not shout with you.

HARRY

Who?

CALLAGHAN

The elderly gentleman with the young woman.

HARRY

Oh. Well, thatís all right. Young and troubled? I suppose you think Iím a little crazy, too.

CALLAGHAN

No. I donít believe I do.

HARRY

Well, as a matter of fact I am, but so are you. And so is he, too. Some people have sensibility and some havenít. Some have a little and some have a lot. I have a lot. If it were money Iíd be a millionaire. (To PINKERTON) How are things down on Wall Street?

PINKERTON (With anger and great aloofness)

What things?

LOIS

Donít answer him. Heís drunk.

HARRY

Drunk? Iíll drink everybody in this place under the table and still be more sober than a man about to be electrocuted for a crime he didnít commit. (To CALLAGHAN) What do you want to run a restaurant for? People are no good. What do you want to feed them for?

PIPER

Your steak, sir

.

HARRY

Is it medium rare?

PIPER

Yes, sir.

HARRY

O.K. Try that number again. Iíd be a waiter myself if I could do it. (Going to PEGGY) Donít you see they keep doing things over and over again without thinking, and without ever doing anything right. Naturally they never catch up with whatís right. What are you doing, eating alone? (Shouting suddenly) Somebody put a nickel in that phonograph, will you?

PEGGY

I wanted to be alone for a change.

HARRY

(The music begins. PEGGY stands; he holds her as if to dance) I hope you donít mind. Iíd like to be unalone for a change. I have not yet met an honest man. Iíve found men honest for a moment, but only for a moment. I myself have been dishonest, and am still. How is anything good eve going to come about if a man who wants to be honest, canít? I donít mean small honesty, the kind that goes in ledgers, the honesty of poor intimidated workers who ought to be dishonest. I mean broad generous reckless deep honesty. Thereís no one to talk to, and it gets very lonely.

PEGGY

I think I know what you mean.

HARRY (Pause, slowly)

Thanks for the dance. (They have not danced. He seats her) How is that you are able not to talk?

PEGGY

Thereís so little to say.

HARRY (Amazed, slowly)

Oh. (He just misses his chair and sits on the floor. CALLAGHAN comes running over to help him) Whereís my coffee? (He remains on the floor, looking at the paper. PIPER arrives) Did you get the number?

PIPER

Yes, sir.

HARRY

Tell her to get in a cab and come right down.

PIPER

Yes, sir. (He turns to the audience) Whatíd I tell you?

(The stage lights go down. THOMAS PIPER, the waiter, comes out from the wings, and stands in a spot of light)

PIPER

You will forgive me, I hope, for coming out here for a moment before we go back into the restaurant.

As I began to say before the good customer arrived, you feel sorry for people who donít stay alive, since they can never again find out what happens.

But a lot of people who stay alive never find out what happens. They never find out what happens even to themselves. Some of them have good educations, too.

Already some of you may be asking yourselves, for instance, whatís this stuff mean? Well, all I can say is, Iím glad you came tonight instead of last night because what happened last night wouldnít make anybody ask, Whatís this stuff mean? A few people came and ate and paid their checks and went. Before you arrived tonight, it was the same here as last night. Around five oíclock a few people came for drinks. A young fellow I know who writes for The New Yorker flirted with a young woman who turned out to be from his home town, Pasadena, California, and they went to the theater together. Around six a few people came for dinner. By half-past nine the place was empty.

I would have tried to entertain you tonight myself, but Iím glad the people came, especially the young fellow. Once we get back into the restaurant, chances are I wonít have time to do anything except wait table. Thatís why Iíve come out here now.

Even though Iím a waiter by profession, I find casual talk easy and effortless for me, although I can sing and dance a little, too. Consequently, in the absence of someone more suited to the workówhich is a pleasureóI shall try to keep direct contact with you.

Callaghanís isnít exactly Jack & Charlieís or The Stork Club, so naturally when unusual people come here I feel grateful and a little happier about my humble position in the American social world. Most of you have been to Jack & Charlieís or The Stork Club anyway, and I dare say a good many of you have sat at tables near the people you read about every day in Walter Winchellís column, or the column in The Post by Leonard Lyons, or in the news sections when they get married or divorced. I myself, I suppose, have waited on everybody who goes to Jack & Charlieís at one time or another, and on the whole theyíre no different from anybody else. On the other hand, some of the people who come here sometimes are, in my opinion, characters out of fiction.

There was a man came in here one night, absolutely unknown, never gossiped about in newspapers, personal life unrevealed, about a hundred and thirty pounds in weight, a little bald, at four thick steaks one after another and wanted to box Callaghan and me put together. Wasnít drunk, had no hard feelings, only wanted to box Sang three songs, paid his check, and we never saw him again. He might have been the vice-president of a bank somewhere. Mild, courteous, worried-looking.

What I mean is, a restaurant may very often be the scene of great anonymous events. Especially a restaurant in New York, the biggest city in the world. A place where people eat and drink is more likely to witness the emergence of the flamboyant from ordinary human beings than a place where people do not eat and drink. But not necessarily the flamboyant alone. Such a place might witness the arrival in human lives of nobility of one sort or another, or a delicate synchronization of wisdom and mischief, or even a delightful balance of irrelevant truth and irrelevant error.

It may seem odd to you that a waiter can throw about such language as the language I have been throwing about, and to others of you it may seem, in our time, perfectly natural. There are no doubt waiters at Jack & Charlieís who, owing to the people they serve, are capable of wit far surpassing anything I shall ever be likely to amaze myself with.

Henry, for instance, whom many of you know. I have heard that some of the finest minds of this country have asked questions concerning food or drink. I mean questions of some esthetic significance. And well they might, from what I hear of the intelligence operating in Henry.

As for myself, away from the more heightened atmospheres of gracious living, such as Jack & Charlieís, I believe I can explain my occasional use of the expressive work and phrase by revealing that, for many years, I have read The New York Times. As well as magazines and books published in this country, in the English language, which are available to all. Life Magazine, Time, Newsweek, The New Republic, The Nation, The New Masses occasionally, The Racing Form every day, and a wide variety of contemporary writers, including, at random, George Santayana, John Dewey, and, I say this with no embarrassment, William Shakespeare. I listen to the radio: symphonies, and other programs, especially broadcasts from Europe. With all that is happening in the world, including what I myself witness here at Callaghanís, I am sure you understand a little better why I feel unhappy about the people who die every day, who shall not continue to witness the further unfolding of whatever drama this is that is taking place. You may understand a little better what goes on here tonight, which is, at best, I might say, not altogether unrelated to what goes on everywhere else every day.

Iím delighted youíve come, and hope you will forgive me for having taken advantage of this opportunity to say these things.

HARRYíS VOICE (Shouting)

Where the hellís my waiter?

PIPER

I must go now, but Iíll be seeing you again as soon as possible.

(The stage lights go up)

PIPER

Yes, sir.

HARRY

Here. Read this pamphlet sometime. It was given to me by an elderly lady in Central Park.

PIPER

Thank you, sir. I shall read it at the very first opportunity.

HARRY

Iíve been carrying that pamphlet around for over three years. I remember the old lady very clearly: she was angelic and unbalanced. About sixty-seven years old. Smiling, brittle and efficient. I watched her hand out eleven of the pamphlets. No one refused. No one dared. (Pause) Have you had your supper? All right, sit down and I will bring you your supper. No. Please. I insist. You must not deprive me of the privilege.

PIPER

Thank you, sir, but I canít.

HARRY

Why not?

PIPER

Itís against the rules.

HARRY (Angry)

Rules? (Pause, standing) Le me tell you, there are no rules. None whatsoever. Honor, none. Grace, none. Truth, none. Therefore, rules, none. Where in this configuration of error and crime which is called contemporary history, may we find one rule in operation? (Pause) Nowhere. (Taking off his coat) Let no foolish rule, therefore, operate here, in this sudden accidental moment of religion. Let no bluff of map or chart, measure or theory, impurify my compulsion to exchange places with you. My coat. Kindly give me yours. (He hands PIPER his coat. PIPER gives HARRY his coat. CALLAGHAN comes over. To CALLAGHAN) He is to dine and I am to wait upon him.

CALLAGHAN

Please.

PIPER

Yes, sir, please.

HARRY

I insist. This is, thank God, still America. I am still a free man. Sit down. (PIPER sits down, wearing HARRYíS coat. HARRY hands him a bill of fare) Your pleasure, sir?

(HELEN comes in)

CALLAGHAN

Donít order, Tom. Itís a violation of union rules. Weíll be picketed in ten minutes. You now who the hat-check girl is going around with.

HARRY (Defiantly)

Who?

CALLAGHAN

Sammy, thatís who. The biggest organizer in the Waitersí Union.

HARRY

You have swords?

CALLAGHAN

No, sir.

HARRY

Pistols?

CALLAGHAN

No, sir.

HARRY

Banana knives?

CALLAGHAN

No, sir.

HARRY

Then he and I shall duel with salad forks. (To PIPER) I repeat: Your pleasure, sir.

PIPER (To CALLAGHAN)

Maybe Helen wonít notice.

HELEN

Wonít notice? I shall telephone Sammy immediately.

CALLAGHAN

Helen, please donít. Heís not really waiting table. The manís a Democrat, donít you see? Why bother Sammy? This manís not a professional waiter.

HELEN

Heís wearing a waiterís jacket, and heís waiting table.

HARRY (Proudly)

I am. (To PIPER) Your pleasure, sir.

PIPER

All right. To hell with it. Iíll start with a chilled Dubonnet cocktail.

HARRY

Dubonnet cocktail.

PIPER

Blue point oysters on the half shell.

HARRY

Theyíre very good, sir.

PIPER (Shouting)

Whereís my drink? (To PEGGY) I beg your pardon.

PEGGY

Oh, thatís all right.

PIPER

Onion soup, a la carte.

HARRY

Onion soup, a la carte. Your drink, sir.

PIPER (Sipping)

I suppose, at work like this, one cannot help meeting occasionally, interesting, or at least fairly interesting, people.

HARRY

Yes, sir.

PIPER (To PINKERTON)

Hath made battleships?

PINKERTON (To CALLAGHAN)

Thatís your waiter, isnít it?

CALLAGHAN

It is, and by God I wash my hands of the whole thing.

PIPER (To LOIS)

Art negotiating?

LOIS

Art nothing, and mind your own business.

HELEN

Sammyís coming right down. Heís bringing six picketers with him, too.

CALLAGHAN

To hell with Sammy and to hell with the picketers, too. (He sings ďThe HarpĒ etc. again, while HARRY waits on PIPER. After the song HARRY applauds)

HARRY (To PIPER)

The two Filipinos in the kitchen are shooting craps.

PIPER

Instruct the little brown brothers to cease. If they invite you to enter the contest, refuse. If possible, confiscate the dice.

HARRY

Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Did you enjoy the cocktail?

PIPER

Never ask questions. Do you want to be a waiter, or nuisance?

HARRY

A waiter, sir. Thank you. I meant no offense.

PIPER

And never apologize. To anybody. Nothing is more offensive to those who enjoy an advantage than to be apologized to by those who enjoy a disadvantage. Having become humble, do you wish to become superior, too? Or are you already weary of the exchange?

HARRY

Weary? Oh, no, sir.

PIPER

Very well, then. Get me another drink.

HARRY

Yes, sir.

 

(He goes. PIPER opens the little pamphlet and studies it)

 

PIPER (To PEGGY)

Can you guess what the message here might be?

PEGGY

Only vaguely.

HARRY

I canít, even vaguely. Therefore, I shall turn the page and read. (To PINKERTON) Hear this. (To LOIS) You, too.

LOIS

Heís a waiter. How dare he talk to me?

PINKERTON (Angry and loud)

Mr. Callaghan!

 

(PABLO, one of the Filipino boys, appears, holding a head of lettuce and a knife)

 

CALLAGHAN (Humbly)

Mr. Pinkerton.

PINKERTON

Your waiter must be asked to stop this foolishness, this mockeryó

 

(He stands eloquently)

 

This fantastic disregard of moral order.

PABLO (Going to PINKERTON)

Shut up.

PINKERTON

I beg your pardon?

PABLO

Sit down. What do you know about the Philippine Islands?

PINKERTON

Not very much, Iím afraid.

PABLO (Standing over PINKERTON)

Have you studied the situation, imports and exports, sanitation, public schools, free clinics, agriculture, mining and manufacture of the Philippine Islands?

PINKERTON

No, I havenít.

PABLO

Have you had the honor of an audience with the President of the Philippine Islands?

PINKERTON

No, I havenít.

PABLO

Do you know the problems of the people of the Philippine Islands?

PINKERTON

Not insofar as they differ from the problems of people everywhere else.

PABLO

Is the situation of the Filipino boy in America something you have put on the scale of justice?

PINKERTON

Iím afraid not.

PABLO

Do you know the cultural, racial, and religious background of the Filipino people?

PINKERTON

Yes. That is a field I have investigated.

PABLO

Shut up. You know nothing. You do not know anything.

CALLAGHAN

Pablo, whatís all this talk?

PABLO

Mr. Callaghan, in spite of the fact that my position is a lowly one, I have no protest to make. I am satisfied with the salary. I prefer the hours, which leave me time during the day for tennis. My countryman Pancho is also my friend, and it is a pleasure to work with him. It is also a pleasure to help you maintain the excellent service for which Callaghanís is famous. However, the situation of the Filipino boy in America is such that, in the presence of speech-making which misrepresents the truth, the Filipino boy who has been educated in the American schools of Manila is not so stupid as to allow such misrepresentation to go unchallenged.

(PANCHO appears)

CALLAGHAN

All right, but put away that knife, at least.

PABLO

The knife is for the lettuce. I am making a salad for Pancho and myself. (To PINKERTON) Have you had the honor of an audience with the President of the Philippine Islands?

PANCHO (In Filipino)

Pablo, what are you doing out here in the dining-room? Get the hell back into the kitchen where you belong.

PABLO (In Filipino)

This man has been making false remarks about the Philippine Islands. (To PINKERTON) Excuse me just a moment. (In Filipino, to PANCHO) He is an ignorant man, but very rich.

PANCHO (In Filipino)

Whoís the woman with him?

PABLO

Some chicken he picked up somewhere.

PANCHO

Not bad, is she?

PABLO

Sheís sitting down. What would she be standing up?

PANCHO

Very nice, I believe.

PABLO

You are probably mistaken.

PANCHO

No, I believe sheís got quite a carriage.

PABLO

In my opinion, I believe it is not possible to know unless she stands.

PANCHO (In English, to LOIS)

Excuse me. Would you be good enough to stand? (LOIS looks around, terrified, but stands. In Filipino) You see?

PABLO

No, I donít. (To LOIS, in English) Would you please step away from the table? (LOIS does so) Thank you. (In Filipino, his eyes brightening) You are right, for once in your life. How would you like to engage that in a little nighttime contest?

PANCHO

I would like that very much.

PABLO (Very dramatically, to PINKERTON)

The situation of the Filipino boy in America. (To PANCHO, in Filipino, with anger) Iíll take care of this. (To PINKERTON) In Manila the boys go to American schools. They learn to speak correct English. They read good books. They see American moving pictures. They come to America.

LOIS

May I sit down?

PANCHO

They apply for a position in a bank.

PABLO

Just a moment, Pancho. (To LOIS) Please sit down. It is not your fault. Our quarrel is not with you. (To PINKERTON) In Manila there are Clubs, progressive and patriotic.

PANCHO

They apply for a position in the capitol of the United States: Washington, D.C.

PABLO

Just a moment, Pancho.

PANCHO

They apply for a position in the moving-pictures.

PABLO (In Filipino)

Donít lose the thread of the thought. (In English) In Manila the Filipino boys take pride in their kinship with the American people.

PANCHO

In Honolulu, the girls dance the hula-hula. (He demonstrates)

PABLO

Never mind Honolulu, hula-hula. The boys come to America. They are American citizens.

PANCHO

The work is hard, the wages are low. In Honolulu they dance the hula-hula.

PIPER

Sit down, Pancho. I hear you and Pablo have been shooting craps.

PANCHO (Sitting down)

Pablo is not a good gambler.

PABLO

One minute please.

PIPER

Quiet, everybody.

PABLO (To PIPER)

Have you studied the situation in the Philippine Islands?

PIPER

All right, Pablo. Sit down.

(PABLO sits down)

PABLO (To PINKERTON)

In the future, before you talk, investigate your subject. Go ahead, Tom.

PIPER

Listen. All of you. (Reading) Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3.

PABLO (To PINKERTON)

In Manila the Filipino boysó

PIPER

Wait a minute, Pablo. (Reading) There is not a just man upon earth. Ecclesiastes 7:20.

 

(PABLO goes to PINKERTONíS table)

 

PABLO (To LOIS)

May I have the honor? (He bows very low)

PINKERTON

I beg your pardon?

PABLO

(Lifting his head, but not the rest of his body) I spoke to the young lady, not to you. (To LOIS) May I have the honor? I am waiting.

LOIS

Thank you so much. Iím really too tired. Really.

(PABLO comes up briskly)

PABLO

(Bowing to PINKERTON) May I have the honor?

 

(PINKERTON leaps to his feet, outraged)

 

PANCHO (To PEGGY)

In Honolulu, hula-hula.

 

(HARRY looks around. He takes off PIPERíS coat)

 

HARRY

My coat, please.

PIPER

Yes, sir.

HARRY

(Getting into his coat, while PIPER gets into his) One thing is obvious. The insanity of the world, or the art of the world, the grace thereof, or the foolishness thereof, must touch all who live therein, and all live therein.

HELEN (Coming in)

Here comes Sammy.

(SAMMY comes in briskly, a small, energetic fellow)

SAMMY

Stop in the name of Local 1!

HARRY

Take it easy. This is not local. Have a drink. (To JIM, the bartender) Give him a drink.

JIM

Yes, sir.

HARRY(Looking around)

The world, we know, is amok. The realm of all reality, therefore, is now also amok. The world has always been uninhabitable, but every man alive has been himself a place of refuge from the worldófrom its murder, its spiritual pestilence, its adultery, its false-witness, its contempt, its treachery, its perjury, its whoring, its mean streets, its rotting cities, its diseased governments: all the things which engage in contest with the free spirit of a man. The world has always been unworthy of that free spirit, but now also the body of each man in the world has lost its base, its location, its position, its security, its relation to God and grace, its source, its power, its youth and form, its blood and ensemble, its beginning and continuity: the things which combine miraculously to make of it a refuge. And now, therefore, like the world, the body of every man in uninhabitable. Life is on fire; caught in hurricanes; submerged in deep and blind waters; bitten by insects; eaten by microbes; broken by shell-fire; driven made by machines; pushed down by heavy things on wheels; spit upon by the radio; and confounded by all the other absurd things that happen every day. (He pauses, looking around) Unless next you want to murder one another, for whatever humor there may be in it, each of you go back to his place and person, and another drink for me. (He watches everybody straighten out. He sits down and picks up the paper again) This may be the last day of reality. We had better try to be human while there is time.

 

(Excited voices from the street. HARRY puts the newspaper aside, and looks toward the entrance)

 

PEGGY

What is it?

LOIS

I wish I knew whatís going on.

PINKERTON

Something new has happened in Europe, thatís all.

 

(CLAY, the enormous Negro doorman, in uniform, comes running in)

 

PEGGY, LOIS, PINKERTON and CALLAGHAN

Whatís the matter?

HARRY

Whoís being murdered?

CLAY

On the contrary. A cab just came up with a lady. Sheís having a baby. Itís too late to take her to a hospital.

 

(Excitement and talk: A baby? Here? This is a restaurant. Bring her in. Donít bring her in. Who is she? What are we going to do?)

Anybody around here know anything about having a baby? (He turns and runs)

 

HARRY

This is no year in which to be born, and no world to be born into.

 

(Voices from the street. PABLO and PANCHO come out of the kitchen)

 

PABLO

Whatís the matter with everybody?

LOIS

Somebodyís having a baby.

PABLO

A baby? (To LOIS) Go in the kitchen and get some hot water.

(LOIS goes, followed by PABLO)

PANCHO(To PEGGY)

You, too.

 

(PEGGY goes, followed by PANCHO)

 

(CLAY returns with the young woman on his arm. Supporting her also is a small taxi-driver named FRITZ)

 

FRITZ

A Scotch and soda, please!

 

(Everybody stands around nervously, confused and helpless)

 

(To the young woman) Hold on, lady. Hold on.

 

(HARRY gets up and is walking to the young woman as the stage lights go down)

 

(Again THOMAS PIPER, the waiter, comes forward and stands in a spot of light)

 

PIPER

The time required for the making of one human life is, for all I know, probably closer to nine thousand years than to nine months. In view of the incredible amount of time and effort involved, and the astonishing ineffectuality of that which comes into being, the transaction must be regarded as a swindle.

I speak on this melancholy theme, inasmuch as only a few minutes ago, by the grace of God, another nine thousand years achieved its wholeness in the arrival here of one more human being. The infant, I am pleased to report, is all right, and so is the mother. A little over seven pounds in weight, the new inhabitant of the world has been named Callaghan, after Mr. John Callaghan, whose son Dr. Neal Callaghan reached the mother four minutes after the birth had taken place. Mother and son have been transferred to a nearby hospital.

For the record, I think you might like to know who helped most t make the birth as success. It was Pablo. I myself, ordinarily not very much amazed by anything, was very much amazed at the superior poise and control with which Pablo met the emergency, while almost everybody else stood around paralyzed and eager to take orders from him. No doubt a savage at heart, the situation, although unfamiliar, was one he could cope with instinctively, as he did, with perfect timing, magnificent calm, considerable humor, perfect English, and not the slightest abandonment of his own ego.

Nine thousand years: one human being. Anonymous at birth, nobody knows who heís liable to turn out to be. He is the most imaginative of all creations, and yet what happens, as his own years come to him, is usually ordinary, dull, and for the most part boring. We can predict for the man just born anything we like, but the truth is he is not very likely to grow into anything extraordinary. His father, at the age of twenty-seven or so, is in many ways special, in many things admirable, but on the whole nothing more than a good-natured, loud-voiced, intelligent, angry, sensible, absurd, and heroic young man. Callaghan Mallory, the new arrival, is breathing, and here to stay. If we are honest, we must admit with regret that he is here to no availóother than perhaps that ultimately he shall enjoy good company, good food, good drink, and the several other things of this sort which are, in one degree or another, the compensations for all who have been swindled, and are breathing in the world.

Critics of art, of music, of cooking, of manners, and of all other things, are men and women who want to know what goes on, why, and what it means. As I myself am a critic of all things, from the behavior of the common fly to the shape of the great fable, so, too, is each of you such a critic. Now, more than ever, you are wondering, What is this about? I donít blame you. Finding little or no meaning in the world, you insist upon unmistakable meaning in created things, in things of illusion, of which this is, good or bad, an example. Is anything here intended to be taken seriously? Are you expected to understand any of this?

The answer is, courteously, No more than you would be apt to understand anything else. No more, and no less. Neither I nor you are the same as we were when we met an hour ago. One hour from now we shall be a little different from what we are now. I am, here, the illusion of an American waiter in New York. You are, each of you, the illusion of the person who owns your name, your past, your years, your belongings, and so forth and so on. Each of us was once placed at the center of the universe as Callaghan Mallory has just been placed. Each of us has been, once, in his own personósmall and helpless and charged with an infinite variety of compulsionsóthe substance, but not the explanation, of the great mystery of mortality. It appears to be our destiny that as long as we live we shall be only the substance of that mystery, and that as soon as we die there is no telling. In the meantime we are allowed to endure the interlude as pleasantly as we are able to manage. Outside of this restaurant is the illusion of the world. Here, in this restaurant, is the illusion of our realityó

(The stage lights rise)

ówhich we shall proceed to explore, while there is still time, and no deaths among you.

(The place is empty except for FRITZ, the taxi-driver, and JIM, the bartender. They are drunk, but they are still drinking. They speak softly, almost whispering)

 

FRITZ

Do you want to know why?

JIM

I want to know why she came here in a cab.

FRITZ

Because I brought her here in a cab, thatís why.

JIM

Why did you bring her?

FRITZ

Because she was going to have a baby, thatís why. You want to know why?

JIM

Why?

FRITZ

Because youíve got to have a lot of babies.

JIM

Why?

FRITZ

To keep the cabs going, thatís why.

JIM

Why?

FRITZ

So the cab-drivers can keep going.

(Pause)

JIM

Oh.

FRITZ

I want to shake your hand.

JIM

Why?

FRITZ

Because youíre a gentleman. (They shake hands) You want to know why?

JIM

Why?

FRITZ

Because you want to keep the cab-drivers going, too, thatís why. You want to know why?

JIM

Why?

FRITZ

Because I want to keep the bartenders going.

JIM

Oh. I want to shake your hand. (They shake hands) Because youíre a gentleman, too. You want to know why?

FRITZ

Why?

JIM

Because you donít ask questions the way some people do.

FRITZ

What questions?

JIM

The kind of questions people are always coming into a place and asking a bartender all the time. Why this and why that and why this and why that.

FRITZ

I want to shake your hand again. Do you want to know why?

JIM

Why?

FRITZ

Because youíre intelligent. Do you want to know what that means?

JIM

Yeah. What does it mean?

 

(FRITZ looks around, as if he were about to utter a great State secret. He discovers the audience. He gets off the stool)

 

FRITZ

Just a minute.

JIM

Whatís the matter?

FRITZ

Somebodyís listening. Somebodyís been eavesdropping.

JIM

Who?

FRITZ (Indicating audience)

The people.

JIM

Oh.

FRITZ

Have I said anything Iíll regret?

JIM

Whatís it mean to be intelligent?

FRITZ

Nothing. Just forget I brought it up. Do you think I want to lose my chauffeurís license? Iíve been drinking a little, thatís all. Give me one more drink.

 

(A young man comes in)

 

THE YOUNG MAN

Give me one, too.

JIM

Scotch?

THE YOUNG MAN

O.K.

 

(JIM places a drink each on the bar, and makes one for himself)

 

Your health, gentlemen.

FRITZ and JIM

Yours, too.

 

(They drink)

 

THE YOUNG MAN

Have you seen tomorrowís paper yet?

JIM

No, I havenít.

FRITZ

Well, I guess Iíll get back to work.

THE YOUNG MAN

Itís too late now.

FRITZ

What do you mean?

THE YOUNG MAN

Have you seen tomorrowís paper yet?

FRITZ

No. Why?

THE YOUNG MAN

Well, if you had seen tomorrowís paper, youíd know.

FRITZ

Know what?

THE YOUNG MAN

That itís too late to get back to work.

FRITZ

Why?

THE YOUNG MAN

Because the news in tomorrowís paper.

FRITZ

What news?

THE YOUNG MAN

That for over one thousand nine hundred and forty-one years the world has been inhabited by the dead, not the living.

FRITZ

You mean weíre dead?

THE YOUNG MAN

According to tomorrowís paper

FRITZ

You mean you and me and the bartender? Weíre all dead?

THE YOUNG MAN

I believe thatís the message in tomorrowís paper.

FRITZ

You mean the lady who had the baby? And the baby? And everybody in the world? And everybody who ever lived in the world since one thousand nine hundred and forty-one years ago?

THE YOUNG MAN

That is the impression tomorrowís paper seems to give.

FRITZ

What edition?

THE YOUNG MAN

The edition that came off the press at midnight.

FRITZ the bartender)

Run out and get a later edition, will you, Jim?

THE YOUNG MAN

There arenít any later editions.

FRITZ(To JIM)

Well, run out into the street and ask somebody.

THE YOUNG MAN

Thereís no street out there, and no people, either.

FRITZ

What do you mean?

THE YOUNG MAN

I mean the illusion broke at midnight tonight.

FRITZ

What illusion?

THE YOUNG MAN

The illusion of reality. Consequently, ever since midnight the dead have been truly the dead, and the unreal has been truly the unreal. There is nothing any more anywhere.

FRITZ

On the level?

THE YOUNG MAN

Itís in tomorrowís paper and it appears to be on the level.

FRITZ

In that case, Jim, give me another drink.

JIM

In that case, I think Iíd better have another myself. How about you?

THE YOUNG MAN

Thank you.

FRITZ (Looking around)

Well, what do you know? This is a surprise. I always thought something was phoney around here. Well, now Iím glad I know. I donít have to get back to work any more, is that it? Iím through, hey? (THE YOUNG MAN nods) Well, thatís fine. Give me another drink, Jim.

JIM (Getting the drinks)

Well, this beats everything.

FRITZ(To THE YOUNG MAN)

What about those people out there? (He indicates the audience)

THE YOUNG MAN

What about them?

FRITZ

Dead or alive?

THE YOUNG MAN

Officially? Dead. Theyíll last as long as we last.

FRITZ

How long is that going to be?

THE YOUNG MAN

Not very long.

FRITZ

Well, give me another drink, then. No more living. Thatís all right. No more world. Are you sure? What about this money in my pocket? This seven dollars and forty-seven cents?

THE YOUNG MAN

You can give it to charity for all itís worth.

FRITZ

How much more time we got? An hour? Ten minutes? Fifteen? Five minutes? Half a minute? Or what?

THE YOUNG MAN

Oh, no. Infinities, if we have any time at all.

FRITZ

Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Thereís a catch here somewhere. What do you mean, infinities? How much more time we got before weíre dead?

THE YOUNG MAN

All the time in the world. Weíre dead now.

FRITZ

Jim, just for the devil of it, run out into the street and take a look at things.

JIM(Going)

Sure.

FRITZ

Fond of drinking?

THE YOUNG MAN

Extremely.

FRITZ

Loaded to the gills, at the moment?

THE YOUNG MAN

At the moment, no. Sober as a judge.

FRITZ

Sober as a judge. Everybody dead. No world. Well, thatís all right. (Louder) How about it, Jim?

JIM(Returning)

Heís right, all right.

FRITZ

What do you mean?

JIM

Thereís no street out there and nothing else, either.

FRITZ

You know what street that is out there, donít you?

JIM

I know it used to be 52nd Street, East.

FRITZ

What is it now?

JIM

On my word of honor, nothing.

FRITZ

Isnít my cab out there in front of the place?

JIM

No street, no cab, nothing.

FRITZ

Give me another drink. (To THE YOUNG MAN) No more illusion and stuff?

THE YOUNG MAN

No more.

FRITZ

Nothingís going to happen any more?

THE YOUNG MAN

The same things are going to be repeated, and I might say theyíre going to be repeated more or less endlessly, but outside of that everything is ended.

JIM

Why?

FRITZ

Why? What do you mean why, Jim?

JIM

Why is everything ended? What happened to 52nd Street, East?

FRITZ

Explain that to the bartender.

THE YOUNG MAN

The illusion broke at midnight. It was an accident, most likely.

FRITZ (To JIM)

Does that explain it? (Suddenly) Whereís my cab? Youíre drunk, thatís all.

THE YOUNG MAN

Everythingís ended. The glueís run out.

JIM

What glue?

FRITZ

Yeah, what glue?

THE YOUNG MAN

The glue that held the illusion together.

FRITZ

Well, give me another drink anyway. You may be right, you may be wrong. For all I care, you may be sober, you may be drunk. Whether Iím alive or whether Iím dead, all I want is a drink. If itís ended or if itís just begun, a Scotch and soda, please. Illusion or reality, no illusion or no reality, one drink more before I go.

JIM

My own words. (Drinks all around) My very own sentiments. (To THE YOUNG MAN) You a native of California?

THE YOUNG MAN

No. New York.

JIM

My nameís Jim. (He offers his hand) Iím pleased to meet you.

FRITZ

My nameís Fritz. (They shake hands) Iím pleased to meet you, too.

THE YOUNG MAN

Itís a pleasure.

FRITZ

Whatís your name?

THE YOUNG MAN

Callaghan.

FRITZ

Callaghan. Isnít that the name they gave the baby that was born here tonight?

JIM

Thatís right. Callaghan. Callaghanówhat was that young fellowís last name? Harryó

THE YOUNG MAN

Mallory?

JIM

Yeah, Mallory. How did you know?

THE YOUNG MAN

A man usually knows his own name.

FRITZ

Youíre notóCallaghan Mallory, are you?

THE YOUNG MAN

I am.

FRITZ

How come? Callaghan Mallory was born right here in this restaurant less than an hour ago.

THE YOUNG MAN

I entered the world just as the illusion broke, consequently I was here all the time the illusion was unbroken, as well as all the time thereafter.

HARRY MALLORYíS VOICE (From the street)

Whereís that door? Open up, let me in, Iíve been here before. (He breaks into the place) For a while there I was afraid Iíd lost the place. Give me a drink, boys.

FRITZ

Whoís that?

THE YOUNG MAN

Myself. My father. My son. Yourself. Each of us.

HARRY(Delighted)

I suppose you guys are wondering where I came from, at a time like this. Well, let me tell you, there have been a lot of things hold me back, but, by God, one way or another, Iím here. Iíve brought six or seven diseases with me, but Iíve got good news, too. Give me another drink.

FRITZ

We heard the good news, if you want to call it good. The illusionís broken or something. Everybodyís dead or something. Is that right?

HARRY

Take it easy, boys. Take it easy. (To CALLAGHAN) Whoíre you?

THE YOUNG MAN

Callaghanís the name.

HARRY

Oh, yes. I thought so. Iím your father, I believe. Well, thatís fine. If you lie, I apologize. She had a kind of helplessness that was irresistible. I liked her voice, the way she mispronounced words, the freckles on her feet, and a few other miscellaneous things like that. I am speaking, I hope you understand, of your mother. Rhinelander 2-8182. I never intended my affection for the freckles to set in motion energy endlessly deep in the past, and consequence far removed in the future, but, as you yourself by this time know, the order, or disorder, which governs this reality allows no alternative. Hence, yourself at this bar, by name Callaghan, a memorial, perhaps, to my eagerness and her freckles I hope you have a pleasant visit. To the day after tomorrow, gentlemen.

FRITZ

I donít get it, but to the day after tomorrow.

(They all drink)

JIM

What about tomorrow morningís paper?

HARRY

The message there is one that has been in every paper, morning or afternoon, since the beginning.

JIM

Some illusion or something is supposed to be broken or something, and five minutes ago when I went out to the street there was nothing there. What about that?

HARRY

An improvement in optics, which was, perhaps fortunately, temporary.

FRITZ

What do you mean?

HARRY

Simply that, for a moment, for magnificent reasons, the eye was blind to the irrelevant and open to everything else. 52nd Street is again only 52nd Street.

FRITZ

Weíre alive again?

HARRY

If you choose to call it that.

FRITZ

Is my cab out there?

HARRY

Unless itís been stolen, or borrowed.

FRITZ

This is a hell of a note.

JIM

Everythingís the same again?

HARRY

The same? Itís worse, getting worse every minute. But itís so in a way thatís irresistible to me, like her freckles. And, for one reason or another, irresistible to you, too.

FRITZ

Weíre right back where we started from?

HARRY

Nobly, and with that delicate balance of despair and delight which glues all unrelated things into the continuity and architecture which are the fable and fantasy of this world and life. It took a lot of glue to bring your cab together; a lot of dying to make your Scotch; a lot of freckles to name you Callaghan.

FRITZ

Well, in that case, I guess Iíll get back to work.

 

(Music beginsóImpromptu for Harp, by Gabriel Faure, Op. 86, part 2. Everyone moves slowly)

 

THE YOUNG MAN

Itís been pleasant drinking with you, gentlemen. (He moves to go)

FRITZ

Can I drop you somewhere?

THE YOUNG MAN

Itís not far. Iíll walk. Thereís no hurry. Iíve got all the time in the world.

FRITZ

Youíve had a few to drink. Let me take you. Whatís the destination?

THE YOUNG MAN

No. Thanks. Iíd rather take a little time. (He goes)

FRITZ

Whereís he think heís going?

HARRY

To his motheróto himself. To a little over seven pounds of something or other that breathes. To about an hour and a half of infinity.

FRITZ

Well, so long, Jim. (Pause) Who do you like in the sixth at Saratoga tomorrow?

JIM

The big race?

FRITZ

Yeah, who do you like?

JIM

There was a jockey in here day before yesterday said a long shot might do it. A three-year-old named Tomorrow Morning.

FRITZ

Tomorrow Morning. The names they give them nags is something I canít figure out. Iíll bet him two on the nose, three to place, and five to show. Iíll lose, but I like the name. So long.

JIM

So long.

 

(HARRY stands alone, listening. JIM changes his coat and goes. HELEN and SAMMY go. PABLO and PANCHO, carrying tennis rackets, go. CALLAGHAN and PIPER go. CLAY goes. PEGGY comes in. HARRY turns. He stands looking at her a moment. He goes to her, takes her by the arm, and they go)

 

CURTAIN

 

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