Dramatic Texts >> William Saroyan >> THE HUNGERERS
THE HUNGERERS (1939) by William Saroyan
 
A Short Play
 
CAST
 
THE WRITER
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
THE GIRL
THE OLD WOMAN
THE STAGEHAND

 

 
A small room on a side street in Manhattan. The room contains a table with an old-fashioned phonograph and a pile of records on it, a chair, and a couch. At the table, typing, is THE WRITER. It is four oíclock in the afternoon of a day of heavy summer rain, in September, 1937. YOUNG CAPITALIST enters the room. THE STAGEHAND moves a wall back to make room for him. THE WRITER goes on typing. THE STAGEHAND goes away. THE YOUNG CAPITALIST walks around.
 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Would you care to subscribe to The Saturday Evening Post?

 
THE WRITER
Donít bother me.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST (To himself)
Whatís he writing? (To THE WRITER) What are you writing? (No answer.) Do you mind if I listen to some music? Itís raining.

 
THE WRITER
Donít bother me, I said.

 
(THE YOUNG CAPITALIST goes to the phonograph, puts on a record, and the music begins: it is ďDein Ist Mein Ganzes Herz,Ē sung by Richard Tauber. As the music gets going, a sad-looking young Mexican GIRL comes in, THE STAGEHAND moves the walls back to make room for all three of them, and THE GIRL listens to the song, while THE YOUNG CAPITALIST watches her. She looks a good deal like a saint.)

 
THE GIRL (Listening to the song)
I know. I remember.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
My name is John. Can I sell you something?

 
THE GIRL
Be still. My name is Dolores.

 
THE WRITER (Irritated)
Listen. Will you please let me get some work done? (He turns suddenly and sees THE YOUNG CAPITALIST and THE GIRL. THE YOUNG CAPITALIST is a shabbily dressed boy of seventeen or eighteen. The Mexican GIRL is very beautiful.) Whatís this? (To THE GIRL) Excuse me. Who are you?

 
THE GIRL
Dolores.

 
THE WRITER
All right. Thatís fine. Now, will you two sit down somewhere quietly and talk or look at one another, or go away, or die, or something? Iíve got work to do.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I will do anything but die.

 
THE WRITER
All right, then. First turn off that phonograph. If you insist, live; but donít bother me any more.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
You are so easily bothered. Whatís wrong with a little music?

 
THE GIRL (To THE YOUNG CAPITALIST)
Letís go away. He wants to be alone.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
No, letís stay. Itís raining outside. He said we could sit down and talk.

 
THE WRITER (Going back to the typewriter)
I donít know where all these amazing people are coming from all the time. If I had money or something, it would be different. Iíve nothing to give them. (He turns to THE GIRL) Hey, you. Are you hungry?

 
THE GIRL
Yes.

 
THE WRITER
Just as I thought. Well, Iím sorry. Iíve got nothing I can give you. Iím hungry myself. Are you very hungry?

 
THE GIRL
I havenít h ad anything to eat since yesterday.

 
THE WRITER
How about you, Sam?

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
John, not Sam. Iím hungry too.

 
THE WRITER
All right, John. How long since you had anything to eat?

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I donít remember. I know I had breakfast day before yesterday. I havenít kept track.

 
THE WRITER
Do you feel drowsy or ill or anything?

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
No, I donít. I feel sort of alarmed, thatís all. Nobody seems to want to subscribe to The Saturday Evening Post. I hear a lot of talk about a war, and I understand the worldís shot to hell. What Iíd like to know is, whatís it all going to come to?

 
THE WRITER
I see. Youíve got a good case of hunger fever. I donít suppose you could go out into the street and mooch a quarter or so, could you?

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Iíd be ashamed to be.

 
THE WRITER
Of course you would. Who wouldnít? If you donít beg, though, youíll probably lose consciousness worrying about the world, and die in your sleep. Unless, of course, somebody does something for you.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I donít want any charity.

 
THE WRITER
Of course not. Nobody wants charity. What do you want, sister? Love or charity?

 
THE GIRL
What?

 
THE WRITER
Nothing. Anybody can see you want love.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I donít know who you are, but your attitude is very vulgar. Are you a writer, or something?

 
THE WRITER
I was writing when you cam into this room.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I thought maybe you were practicing typing so you could get a job in an office somewhere. I know a college graduate who got a job in a grocery store because he knew how to type. Every evening after work he used to type a few letters for the boss.

 
THE WRITER
I am a writer.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
You ought to be rich.

 
THE WRITER
Everything Iíve got is right here in this room. Itís been this way seven years now. Do you want to eat?

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Yes.

 
THE WRITER (Putting cover on typewriter)
All right. Take this machine to the apartment house across the street and sell it to somebody. Iíd send you to town where you could hock it, but I havenít a nickel for subway fare, and itís too far to walk. This girl would probably die of hunger before you got back anyway. And so would you, most likely.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
No, I wouldnít, and neither would she. Would you?

 
THE GIRL
I donít know. Iíve been dreaming so long I donít know whatís going on. Iíd like to hear some more music. It makes me remember things that are more important than just not having --

 
THE WRITER (Puts on another record)
All right. Music for you. (Hands typewriter to THE YOUNG CAPITALIST). Run across the street and start ringing doorbells. Get as much as you can for the machine. It cost sixty-five dollars five years ago. Sell it for five dollars if you can. If you canít get five, get four; it you canít get four, get three; if you canít get three --

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Get two. Suppose I canít get one?

 
THE WRITER
Bring the God-damn thing back. We wonít take a penny less than a dollar for it. Iíve written some of the greatest unpublished stuff in the world on this little broken-down machine.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Iíve never tried anything like this before. (To THE GIRL) Goodbye.

 
THE GIRL
Goodbye.

 
THE WRITER
Be careful crossing the street. Can you see all right?

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I can see fine. What shall I do if I get a lot of money? Five dollars or so?

 
THE WRITER
Go down to the grocerís and get a lot of stuff.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
All right. I want you to know Iím deeply grateful to you.

 
THE WRITER
Never mind. Iím hungry. If I live, Iíll find time to go on writing. Iíd like something to drink, if you get some money. I mean whisky or something like that. They have small bottles, from ten cents to thirty-five. Get a fifteen- or twenty-cent bottle.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
All right. Goodbye.

 
THE WRITER and THE GIRL
Goodbye. (They listen to the record for a moment; it is ďThe White Dove,Ē sung by Lawrence Tibbett)

 
THE GIRL
I love bread. Donít you?

 
THE WRITER
Yes, I do. Are you fond of apples?

 
THE GIRL
Apples are lovely. Nothing is lovelier than apples.

 
THE WRITER
Iím very fond of grapes too. Grapes mean something.

 
THE GIRL
They do? I didnít know that. What do they mean?

 
THE WRITER
Wine comes from grapes, and you know what wine means.

 
THE GIRL
I wish I did. What does wine mean?

 
THE WRITER
Wine means life, now and forever. Everlasting life. Thatís what wine means. When you eat grapes, you feel how wonderful it is to be alive.

 
THE GIRL
Oh. Thank you.

 
THE WRITER (Taking care of the phonograph)
Where would you like to be?

 
THE GIRL
In the sun, I guess.

 
THE WRITER
Youíre hungry, thatís all. Rain is lovelier than any other kind of weather. Rain is weeping, and to weep is to be cleansed. Shall I tell you a funny story?

 
THE GIRL
I canít promise to laugh. Iím so sad.

 
THE WRITER
I myself canít promise to laugh. Itís a funny story, though. When I was ten years old, I went into the country one day and found a whole vineyard of beautiful purple grapes. I went from one vine to another looking at them, but not touching a single one. Then all of a sudden the farmer who owned the vineyard saw me and called me a thief. He chased me from the vineyard.

 
THE GIRL
Is that the story?

 
THE WRITER
Yes.

 
THE GIRL (Begins to weep)
Iím sorry. I told you I couldnít promise to laugh.

 
THE WRITER
I wish I could cry once in a while.

 
THE GIRL
You canít cry?

 
THE WRITER
No.

 
THE GIRL (Cries more bitterly than ever)
I can cry.

 
THE WRITER
I know you can. Youíre one of the finest weepers I ever saw. I once read about a girl who cried for eleven years. Her lover was killed in a war. Thatís why she cried.

 
THE GIRL
What happened?

 
THE WRITER
I donít know. I guess she stopped crying.

 
THE GIRL
Is that all?

 
THE WRITER
Yes, Iím afraid so.

 
THE GIRL (Bursts into fresh sobs)
Whatís the use to cry?

 
THE WRITER
I think itís healthful in some way or another. I think itís like being in love with somebody who doesnít love you. Itís supposed to make you finer or something.

 
THE GIRL
I donít believe it.

 
THE WRITER
Well, neither do I, exactly; but I once wrote that thatís what crying does.

 
THE GIRL
If you love somebody and she doesnít love you, donít you cry?

 
THE WRITER
No.

 
THE GIRL
You are very cruel.

 
THE WRITER
Cruel? Cruel to whom?

 
THE GIRL
To the girl. I love you. Why donít you cry?

 
THE WRITER
I thought you loved him.

 
THE GIRL
Him? Who?

 
THE WRITER
The boy. John or Sam or whatever his name is. He loves you.

 
THE GIRL
How do you know?

 
THE WRITER
I am a writer. I saw him looking at you. Heís as hungry as you are, and he loves you because you are so lovely. You remind him of something he canít remember. Grapes, or something. Heíll remember all of a sudden, and then heíll tell you he loves you.

 
THE GIRL
I love you.

 
THE WRITER
Thatís your imagination, and hunger.

 
THE GIRL (Weeping)
No. You are very cruel. You donít love me.

 
THE WRITER
But I do. I love you very much. Shall I kiss you?

 
THE GIRL
No. You donít love me.

 
THE WRITER
But I do. Iím as hungry as he. Iím hungrier. Itís only out of courtesy to him that I havenít told you you are lovely.

 
THE GIRL
You are talking, thatís all.

 
THE WRITER
Donít cry any more. Wait till you have had a little food. Do you see these pebbles? I have gathered them from the shores of the Pacific. I used to live in San Francisco. Each pebble is perfect. You are as lovely as each of these pebbles.

 
THE GIRL
You donít love me.

 
THE WRITER
What Iím worrying about is the boy. Has he sold the typewriter, or hasnít he? Thatís the question.

 
THE GIRL
I hope he hasnít. I hope he never sells it. I hope he steals it. I hope he never comes back.

 
THE WRITER
What are you saying? Iím dying of hunger, and so are you. What are you saying?

 
THE GIRL
If he comes back with food, I wonít eat.

 
THE WRITER
Oh. Oh, I see. Well, I will.

 
THE GIRL
You are very cruel. I will eat too.

 
THE WRITER
Youíd be crazy not to.

 
THE GIRL
Why do you live here? Whey donít you go somewhere where thereís more light?

 
THE WRITER
Thereís light enough here. Do you see these pebbles? You are as lovely --

 
THE GIRL
Why do you keep telling me that?

 
THE WRITER
These pebbles are the only things in this room that are mine, straight from God. You are as lovely as each of them. Look at them. What do you see?

 
THE GIRL
Nothing.

 
THE WRITER
My God, are you that hungry?

 
THE GIRL
Yes.

 
THE WRITER
Iím sorry.

 
THE GIRL
Why?

 
THE WRITER
Because I love you.

 
THE GIRL
Oh.

 
THE WRITER
Itís still raining. Perhaps he has fallen in the street. Are you still hungry?

 
THE GIRL
No.

 
THE WRITER
Neither am I.

 
THE GIRL
I love you.

 
THE WRITER
O.K. Forget it.

 
THE GIRL
I will love you forever.

 
THE WRITER
Thatís a long time for a girl your age. How old are you?

 
THE GIRL (Weeping)
Youíre making fun of me. Iím seventeen.

 
THE WRITER
Iím sorry. Youíre lovely.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST (Comes back with the typewriter. His face is wet. He is smiling.)
They donít want your typewriter.

 
THE WRITER
Well, I guess weíll have to figure out some other way to get a little money.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
They donít want to subscribe to The Saturday Evening Post either.

 
THE GIRL
We will all die. Iím glad.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Glad?

 
THE GIRL
Yes.

 
THE WRITER (To THE YOUNG CAPITALIST)
Donít worry. We arenít going to die.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Ií a high-school graduate, and I went to college a year.

 
THE WRITER (Takes the cover off the typewriter, puts the machine on the table again, puts a sheet of paper in the machine, and starts to type again. He speaks to THE GIRL)
If I had fifty cents, what would you like, steak or chicken?

 
THE GIRL
I donít want anything.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
If I had some money, what would you let me buy for you?

 
THE GIRL
I wouldnít care for anything, thank you.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Whatís the matter?

 
THE GIRL
You are so stupid.

 
THE WRITER (Jumping up - to THE GIRL)
Do you see these pebbles? Youíre not like these pebbles at all.

 
(THE GIRL begins to weep again.)

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Whatís the matter with her?

 
THE WRITER
Sheís hungry.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST (To THE GIRL)
Whatís the mater with you?

 
THE GIRL
He insulted me.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
He did? What did he say? (To THE WRITER) Look here, itís very kind of you to let us come in out of the rain, but you canít insult any lady in my presence.

 
THE WRITER
Sit down.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
You canít do it.

 
THE WRITER
Sit down. Play some music, or something. Canít you see Iím trying to get some work done?

 
(An OLD WOMAN with a sad smile on her childlike face comes in. THE STAGEHAND enlarges the room; takes the walls away.)

 
THE OLD WOMAN
May I stay here till the rain stops?

 
THE WRITER (Without turning around)
Of course you may. I have no food, though.

 
THE OLD WOMAN (To THE YOUNG CAPITALIST)
Is he your father?

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I should say not.

 
THE GIRL
Havenít you any place to stay?

 
THE OLD WOMAN
No.

 
THE GIRL
Neither have I.

 
THE WRITER
All right. You can all stay here. If youíll only be quiet a few minutes you can all stay here as long as you like. Itís not going to rain forever. When the rain stops, you can each go wherever you like. Youíll surely be able to find --

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST (To THE OLD WOMAN)
Would you like to subscribe?

 
THE OLD WOMAN
To what?

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
To The Saturday Evening Post.

 
THE OLD WOMAN
I should say not.

 
THE WRITER (To THE YOUNG CAPITALIST)
Iíll tell you what Iíll do. Iíll subscribe.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST (Leaping to his feet)
You will. Thereís nothing to pay for six months.

 
THE WRITER
Six months? What do you get out of it?

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I donít exactly get anything, at first. But if Iíve got some subscription forms filled out, I can get into the office and maybe somebody will lend me a half dollar or something.

 
THE WRITER
In that case Iíll subscribe eight or nine times, each time with a different name and address, of course.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Thanks very much. Eight forms filled out will make a fine impression. What did a kindhearted guy like you want to go to work and insult a nice girl like her for?

 
THE GIRL
Who insulted who?

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
You said he insulted you.

 
THE GIRL
Well, he didnít.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST (Getting forms out of his pocket)
Would you like to subscribe, too?

 
THE GIRL
Of course. Eight or nine times.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I donít know how to thank you.

 
THE GIRL
Itís all right. Do you still feel hungry?

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Not as much as before. I think somebody will lend me a little money. Iíll pay them back too. (To THE OLD WOMAN) Would you care to subscribe?

 
THE OLD WOMAN
Of course.

 
(THE WRITER, THE GIRL, and THE OLD WOMAN sign eight or nine subscription forms each and hand them to THE YOUNG CAPITALIST.)
 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I feel better about everything. I donít believe thereís any need to feel hopeless.

 
THE WRITER
Nor do I.

 
THE GIRL
Nor I.

 
THE OLD WOMAN
Nor I.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I think everything is going to be all right.

 
THE WRITER
So do I.

 
THE GIRL
Is it raining any more?

 
THE OLD WOMAN
I donít think so.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
Well, thank you. Thank you very much. Goodbye.

 
EVERYBODY
Goodbye.

 
THE OLD WOMAN (To THE GIRL)
Do you know him?

 
THE GIRL
No.

 
THE WRITER (To THE OLD WOMAN)
Weíre in love. Out of hunger, of course, but love is love no matter what itís out of.

 
THE OLD WOMAN
Then Iíll go.

 
THE WRITER
Donít hurry.

 
THE GIRL
Please do. I donít think I can last much longer.

 
THE OLD WOMAN
Goodbye. (She goes out. THE GIRL goes quickly to THE WRITER. THE OLD WOMAN returns.) I thought I ought to tell you. Heís dead, at the foot of the stairs.

 
THE WRITER
Who?

 
THE OLD WOMAN
The young man. Well, goodbye. (She falls down and dies.)

 
THE WRITER
Goodbye.

 
THE GIRL
Hello.

 
THE WRITER
Hello. (He embraces her. She dies.)

 
THE OLD WOMAN
I had no idea I was so close to death. Please forgive me.

 
THE WRITER
Itís all right.

 
THE GIRL (Weeping)
Do you love me?

 
THE WRITER
Youíre as lovely as the pebbles.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST (Comes into the room)
Did I leave anything here?

 
THE WRITER I donít think so, but you can look around.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST (Looks around the room. Suddenly he finds THE GIRL.) I knew Iíd left something. Wonít you come with me?

 
THE GIRL
Please go away and die.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
All right. Iíll go, but I wonít die. Iíve got a great future ahead of me.

 
THE GIRL
Goodbye.

 
THE OLD WOMAN
Goodbye. Donít forget to take your subscription forms with you.

 
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST
I wonít.

 
(EVERYBODY but THE WRITER dies again. THE WRITER goes back to his work. THE STAGEHAND comes in.)

 
THE STAGEHAND
Anybody alive around here?

 
THE WRITER
Iím trying all the time.

 
THE STAGEHAND
Good luck to you.

 
THE WRITER
Thanks.

 
THE STAGEHAND
Iíll clear away these bodies. (He lifts THE OLD WOMAN off the floor, carries her out, and drops her. There is a strange sound. He carries out THE YOUNG CAPITALIST too. He comes back to get THE GIRL and finds her dead in the arms of THE WRITER, also dead.) Theyíre all dead now. That makes it easier. I wonder what he was writing? (He goes to the typewriter and takes the paper out of it and looks at it.) Thereí s nothing on this page. (He looks at the other pages.) Nothing on this one either. Or this. Theyíre all empty.

 
THE WRITER (Whispering to THE GIRL)
How do you feel?

 
THE GIRL
I feel fine. How do you feel?

 
THE WRITER
I feel fine too. Do you remember anything?

 
THE GIRL
I remember pebbles and grapes. Do you remember anything?

 
THE WRITER
I remember you.

 
THE GIRL
Are you happy?

 
THE WRITER
Yes. Was there anywhere you wanted to go in particular?

 
THE GIRL
I always dreamed of getting to New York someday before I died.

 
THE WRITER
I went to New York once. Iíll tell you about it.

 
THE STAGEHAND
Well, I guess Iíll hear some music. (He puts on a record: ďOrient Express.Ē The light grows dim. THE STAGEHAND dies.)

 
THE WRITER
New York is far away, even when youíre there. It is also bigger than anything, even when you look at it. It is also the darkest and most silent place in the world. (The scene grows pitch dark. The music ends.)In the winter the whole city is covered with snow, and everybody dies, just like in the summer.

 
THE PLAY ENDS

 

 

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