A Fairly Freezing Friday Afternoon at the Haikulodeon

Here’s this week’s heap of haikus:
A doormat thrown in
the trash has obviously
worn out its welcome.


They say that I am
hopelessly optimistic …
I just hope they’re right.

tanka haiku:
I think to myself,
I could have done much better
if things were diff’rent.

But what I did’s all there is
and besides, what do I know?

I was a child for
most of my life … apparently
that’s not a parent.

When you are acting,
you may, at times, forget it’s
only
make believe.   

Coffee from my cup,
splashes on the floor as I
hurry to breakfast.

They soon fell asleep
in a field of bluebonnets
his head in her lap.

She pined for a lad
who lived quite far away, and
yearned to be with him.


Only-in-NY-ku:

Twice weekly, I watch
cars do morning do-si-dos
for the street sweeper.


Mom’s gold charm bracelet,
clanged against the banister,
as she climbed the stairs.


tanka haiku:

When our old dog died,
There was no reason for us
to keep his chew toys.

But we did. And even now
they lie on the floor … waiting.


A butterfly lands
on a small patch of flowers
and the world’s re-made.


This is the Future
that you dreamed about while you
sat in Study Hall.

She whispered to him,
‘I’ll fulfill all your dreams’ … But
he’d dreamt of Pirates.


Geisha on a bridge,
watches the swans, then hurries
off to serve the tea.


 
His toy soldiers were
lying in the lawn; battle
called due to bedtime.



My wish for you; May
your quest never end, and your
heart ever widen.


Pancakes for dinner …
because I’m an adult and
I’ll do what I want.

The fabric of Life;
From order to chaos, we
slowly unravel.


I whisper, I pray,
I wish, I implore, I beg …
I cry for justice.


Suddenly you’re back,
a silly grin on your face,
in my arms once more …


A wistful wimper,
then a sympathetic sigh,
Love keeps leaking out.


Our creaking bedsprings
notify nosy neighbors
of our love-making.

The radiator
sputters back to life … But the
toaster’s on the fritz.

Fog on the shore road.
A man on a bicycle
appears lost in thought.


The lush foliage
of autumn, clings to trees like
lots of Seurat’s dots.

With hands o’er hearts and
eyes on the flag, a bugle
plays a mournful “Taps”.

( Photo courtesy of Kristina Rebelo)

He sits quietly
with a small flag in his hands
thinking of foxholes.

( Photo courtesy of Kristina Rebelo)

With each sun rise,
the dramas of Life resume
and we step onstage.


Bleeding hearts mixed with
bloody ignorance will
make a mess of things.

Empty flower vase
sits on an antique dresser
not needing water.


The burdens of Life
matter little to a child
on joy-filled Spring days.

I start to shiver
as a frigid wind blows through
the open window.



On the crosstown bus;
Daddy carries their infant,
Mommy pays their fare.

My nose still clogged up
As the snow-storm approaches
I search for my gloves.

Jane and her Tarzan,
were seen swinging in a tree.
All was not divine.


Jane had discovered,
Tarzan’s loincloth may be hot,
ah, but underneath …


Putting his head down.
leaning into the cold rain,
give Tarzan headache.

Treating infections
with rhetorical questions,
is asking too much.



A tree on my block
stubbornly refuses to
admit winter’s here.

(Photo taken by me on 11/12/2014 on W. 108th St in NYC.)

****

This week’s bonus play:  

In the early ’80’s, I had an idea to write a full-length play about the Homefront during WWII and women working in a munitions factory.  I started reading and doing research and just as I got going, I read a press release about an upcoming Goldie Hawn movie called Swing Shift, which while it wasn’t the exact same idea was close enough to discourage me from continuing to write my full length play.    Since I had already roughed out a few scenes, I decided to throw what I had together and try to make a one-act out of it.  (The old lemonade from lemons theory.)  This is the result.  My playwrights’ group later produced it off-off-off Broadway as part of an evening of one-acts, entitled War and Pieces.

 
Doin’ It for Defense  

by Michael Tracy Smith – c 1984
                                                                                                                    I-1

At Rise: In the darkness, we hear the crackle of a radio, and the voice of Franklin Delano Roosevelt saying: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself …”  This is followed closely be the sound of a bomb dropping and exploding, which in turn segues into the sound of a female singing:

        “Mr. Jones get this right,
I’m your date for tonight,
But when I hold you tight,
I’m doin’ it for defense.

        Don’t get hurt, don’t get sore,
I’m a pal nothing more,
This ain’t love, this is war,
I’m doin’ it for defense.”

The song fades out as the lights come up to reveal the employee’s cafeteria of a munitions factory outside Hartford, Connecticut. The walls are painted in shades of tan with brown accents. Patriotic posters are prominently displayed. One reads, “Absenteeism aids Adolph”. Another reads, “Loose Lips Sink Ships”. Sophie is seated at the table. She is eating out of a lunchbox. She takes out her lunch; a sandwich, a thermos of soup and an apple. As she is unwrapping her sandwich, Charley enters.

                         Charley
Hiya doll. What’s that? Tuna Salad?

                         Sophie
Chicken. Wanna Bite?

                         Charley
Sure…Thanks. There’s a new girl that’s supposed to start work today. Have you seen her?

                         Sophie
Nope. Are you growing a moustache?

                         Charley
Yeah …This homemade?

                         Sophie
Yup.

                         Charley
What do ya got on here, pepper?

                         Sophie
Uh-huh. So what made you want to grow a moustache?

                         Charley
I don’t know, nothing. You like it?

                         Sophie
On you? I can’t tell. I mean, come on, it’s only been, what, a day or two?

                         Charley
A week.

                                                                            I-2

                         Sophie
Oh. Well, I’m sure it’ll fill in…Wanna another bite?

                         Charley
Nah. Too much pepper. Besides, I gotta find this new girl. I bet she’s not going to show up. Wouldn’t that be just like a dame…

                         Sophie
What?!

                         Charley
Nothing, I just meant…

                         Sophie
I heard you.

                         Charley
Hey, I understand. You gals always have to fuss with your hair and play with your make-up and clothes, so naturally you lose track of time.

                         Sophie
Charley, have I ever been late? Even once?

                         Charley
All right, so, you’re the exception.

                         Sophie
Look around, Charley, all the girls you’ve got working here have turned out to be pretty darned responsible, if you ask me. Haven’t we lowered your absenteeism?

                         Charley
Oh, I don’t know, I’d have to look it up. But you can’t really compare the figures. It’s like apples and oranges. Before the war this plant made trumpets, and tubas. Now we make bombs. It ain’t the same thing, Sophie. Come on, I know you’re pretty hepped up about being made shop steward and all, but try to control yourself, huh?

                         Sophie
Fine. Just admit that you’re wrong.

                         Charley
Whatdaya mean, wrong? You’re saying women don’t fuss over their hair and stuff like that?

                         Sophie
Sure, they do. But not when they have to work. Besides, there’s no reason to fuss with our hair. Who would we be trying to impress? There ain’t nobody here but us chickens, right?…

                                                                           I-3

                         Charley
Are you somehow referring to me?

                         Sophie
Oh heck, Charley, relax, I was only kidding…

                         Charley
I’m not a chicken. I wanted to fight.

                         Sophie
I know, I was just teasin’ you, all right?…You’re a lover, not a fighter. So what.

                         Charley
I’m doing important work for the war effort here.

                         Sophie
Sure you are. We all are…aren’t we?

                         Charley
Yeah…Dammit, I hate to admit it, but you and the other girls have been doing a good job, lately. We’re gonna be meeting our quota again this month.

                         Sophie
I told you we can be just as capable as men, once we learn the job.

                         Charley
Aw, come on, let’s not turn this into some kind of battle of the sexes.

                         Sophie
What’s the matter, am I beginning to act like Atalanta?

                         Charley
What? Who? Atlanta?

                         Sophie
No, Atalanta. She was a princess. Didn’t you ever study Greek Mythology in school?

                         Charley
Are you kidding? Any time one of my teachers even mentioned ancient history, I’d start to nod right off.

                         Sophie
Say, wait a minute, that reminds me…I found a guy sleeping in the storage room, yesterday.

                                                                                I-4

                         Charley
Yeah? What about it?

                         Sophie
Well, he wasn’t on any kind of break. He was in the middle of his shift. I’ve noticed him before. He was always acting suspicious. So, yesterday, I followed him. After he clocked in, he went to one of the line bosses and told him he’d been transfered to another section.

                         Charley
That happens all the time.

                         Sophie
But then he snuck off to the storage room, laid down and went to sleep.

                         Charley
How do you know he does that every day?

                         Sophie
I don’t, but…

                         Charley
What would you like me to do?

                         Sophie
Fire him.

                         Charley
I can’t fire a man without a good reason.

                         Sophie
But I saw him sleeping on the job.

                         Charley
Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t. It’s your word against his.

                         Sophie
Why are you protecting him?

                         Charley
Y’ever hear the expression, “A good man is hard to find”? Well, right now ANY man is hard to find.

                         Sophie
How can you condone some guy slacking off, while some of us are working double shifts?

                                                                            I-5

                         Charley
This really is none of your concern. Oh, I know what you’re going to say, you’re shop steward now, but I don’t need you to tell me how to run things around here. Why don’t you just stick to doing your job and leave the management details up to me.

                         Sophie
Aren’t you going to do anything about that guy?

                         Charley
Sure I will. IF I find him, I’ll warn him not to do it again.

                         Sophie
Well, I’m kinda new at all this, so don’t make me have to file a greivance against you right off the bat.

                         Charley
A grievance? Sophie, what am I gonna do with you?

                         Sophie
With me? What are you going to do about that guy?

                         Charley
I told you, I’ll look for him.

                         Sophie
Well, make sure you look for a guy who’s limping. Because I kicked him squarely in his manhood, if y’know what I mean.

                         Charley
I’ll figure it out. Maybe I should look it up in the union handbook.

                         Sophie
Okay, so maybe I got carried away, but I can’t help it. Being a crusader runs in my family. My mother was a Suffragette.

                         Charley
So what does that prove? My mother was one, too. What a load of horse manure. My God, what could be more ridiculous than a bunch of women sitting around sipping tea and talking about politics and free love?

                         Sophie
I don’t know. A bunch of guys drinking beer and bragging about what they got some dumb broad to do on their last date?

                         Charley
Ha, ha. Very funny … Say, how’d you like to see what you’re missing?

                         Sophie
What? Go on a date? With you? I can’t. You know I’m married.

                                                                          I-6

                         Charley
So what? Free love, here it is, “Miss Emma Goldman”. Besides, if I recall correctly, isn’t your husband overseas?

                         Sophie
You know he is.

                         Charley
Thousands of miles from here. Tell me again, how long is it since you’ve been with him?

                         Sophie
Two and a half years.

                         Charley
Well then…Think it over, okay? I mean, what harm could it do?  You’re a cute kid, I like you.

                         Sophie
What ya like isn’t always what ya get…

                         Charley
Come on, do us both a favor…Who’ll know?

                         Sophie
Charley, how many times do I have to tell you …

                         Charley
Aw, come on. Be a sport. I’ve got tickets for Artie Shaw. He’s playin’ in New York next week.

                         Sophie
No. I’m sorry. I can’t. You’re a very nice guy, but I’m married.

                         Charley
Yeah, Well, I think you’re nice, too.  What say I pick you up right after work on Friday.

                         Sophie
I’m not gonna do any two-timing on my husband.

                         Charley
Why not? He’s probably doin’ it on you.

                         Sophie
You’re a dirty skunk.

                         Charley
Not me. I’m just a regular guy, layin’ all my cards on the table.

                         Sophie
Well, it’s too bad you didn’t get dealt a better hand.

                                                                            I-7

                         Charley
Oo, now that hurt. But I’m sure in time you’ll change your tune. So long, cutie.

(Charley begins to exit)

                         Sophie
Wait a minute. There’s one more thing I have been wanting to talk to you about.

                         Charley (Turning back)
Then I’m all ears.

                         Sophie
It’s about getting a second ladies room.

                         Charley
Oh, jeez, you’re not going to keep harping on that are you?  I thought we decided…

                         Sophie
Charley, you’ve got three men’s rooms. The only ladies room is way over in the Southeast corner of the plant. If you’re in section one, it takes eight minutes just to walk over there.

                         Charley
That’s what breaks are for.

                         Sophie
The breaks are only fifteen minutes long. Even if you only take one minute in the john, you’re still two minutes late getting back from your break.

                         Charley
Men need to go to the john, too. And right now there are just as many men working here as women.

                         Sophie
For how long? This war may last a decade.

                         Charley
I doubt it.

                         Sophie
Who knows? I hear next year they might have to draft guys over forty. I suppose the year after that, they’ll take the deaf, dumb and blind. Heck, they may even get around to drafting you.

                         Charley
That was uncalled for. You think I like being stuck on the homefront with a bunch of women? What do you think, I’m a coward? I’ll tell you why I’m not over there. When I was a kid, I had an accident while riding my bicycle. I got thrown over the handlebars. I ruptured my spleen, and they removed it. So that makes me ineligible to go and fight for my country.

                                                                           I-8

                         Sophie
I’m sorry. I didn’t know that.

                         Charley
Did you think I liked it? When my brother, Albert enlisted, the day I put him on the bus for boot camp, was the day I got my 4-F papers in the mail and y’know what I did? I hid them in my socks, I was so ashamed. Then the Defense Department called and wanted us to convert the plant, and I thought that at last, I could make a real contribution to the war effort. But what happens? I end up working side by side with a bunch of housewives, like you, most of whom, have never even driven a car before.

                         Sophie
Well, I am so sorry that you feel like less of a man because you have to work with a bunch of girls.

                         Charley
Y’know, you’ve got a smart mouth, and that is not going to get you a second john.

                         Sophie
Maybe this petition will. I’m going to get all the women to sign it.

                         Charley
Then what are you going to do with it? I suppose you’ve got plans.

                         Sophie
That’s right, some of which are already in the works. But you’ll find out soon enough.  

                         Charley
You better be careful. You got a helluva lot of moxie, and if you don’t watch out, it’s gonna get you in trouble…Now, would you like to see what I think of your petition? Here’s what I think. (He rips it up) Don’t let me see any more of these things floating around, because if I do, I don’t care how good a job you’re doing, or how good looking I think you are, I’ll fire you on the spot. Do I make myself clear?

(Sophie nods. Flo enters carrying a small box)

                         Flo
Hello, Mr. Rosedale.

                         Charley
Hey, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?

(Charley exits)

                         Flo
Hi, Sophie.

                                                                               I-9

                         Sophie
Hiya, Flo. You goin’ on or comin’ off?

                         Flo
On. You?

                         Sophie
Off. But they’re putting me back on the graveyard shift next week. Just when I got used to coming in at 4 in the afternoon. It’s very confusing to my stomach.

                         Flo
I see you were talkin’ with the boss, again huh?

                         Sophie
Yeah…That man is such a…

                         Flo
I know, I think he’s kind of dreamy…And did you notice he’s growing a cute little lip-warmer? What’s this?

                         Sophie
The petition I told you about. He tore it up. And he threatened to fire me if I circulate another one.

                         Flo
I told you not to rub his nose in it…

                         Sophie
I can’t help it. I wouldn’t have said anything, but he got me mad. Now I don’t know what to do.

                         Flo
Well, if you make another one, don’t let him catch you. I couldn’t stand it if you got fired.

                         Sophie
Me neither. (Sophie puts the petition away) What’s in the box?

                         Flo
Not while you’re eating … You look tired.

                         Sophie
I am. I didn’t get much sleep last night.

                         Flo
Why not?

                         Sophie
Promise me silence?

                         Flo
Complete and utter.

                         Sophie
You won’t say anything? I mean it’s top secret.

                                                                           I-10

                         Flo
A matter of National Security? (Sophie nods) My lips are sealed.

                         Sophie
All right. (Pause) I had a date.

                         Flo
Is that all?

                         Sophie
What do you mean, is that all?  Flo, I’m married.

                         Flo
Oh my God, Sophie, you’ve committed adultery!

                         Sophie
Stop it! Do you want to hear this or not?

                         Flo
Who was it with?

                         Sophie
Frank Baker.

                         Flo
The one with the killer smile and the great shoulders? How was it? Was it ecstasy?

                         Sophie
Shh. It was a disaster. I’ve never felt so humiliated.

                         Flo
Why? What did he do?

                         Sophie
It was what I did. To begin with, I made the first move. I don’t know why … I guess I was just feeling incredibly lonely. So I asked him out. Is there something wrong with that?

                         Flo
I think it’s completely un-natural.

                         Sophie
Yeah, he didn’t like it, either. But of course, he accepted. Then, after the movie, when he put his hand where it didn’t belong, I let him. Then I put my hand where it didn’t belong, and he got all upset. He started to rant and rave about how the war’s really turned things topsy-turvy and that women were beginning to act like men, and if we did the deed, I’d probably want to be on top.

                                                                           I-11

                         Flo
Ooh Gee, I wonder what that’s like.

                         Sophie
Do you mind if I finish the story before I’m completely embarassed? Now, somewhere in all this, something must have gotten his motor running, because he actually took me to bed. Only he couldn’t…

                         Flo
He couldn’t? Frank Baker? Are you sure?

                         Sophie
I’m sure.

                         Flo
Poor Frank … What did you do?

                         Sophie
What any woman would do. First, I tried to act soothing, then I tried being crude. Then enticing, then motherly, then dead. But nothing worked. The irony of it is, I really didn’t want to go all the way with him. I just wanted him to hold me. But he was so wound up that he wouldn’t. He had something to prove I guess. When I accidentally fell asleep on him, he started yelling at me. It’s four o’clock in the morning and he’s waking up my whole neighborhood, calling me all kinds of names…

                         Flo
Like…

                         Sophie
Flo…

                         Flo
You better tell me. Otherwise, you’ll force me to use my imagination.

                         Sophie
He kept calling me an inconsiderate bitch. I could hear his voice echoing through the streets. I was so embarassed, I almost threw up. Instead, I took a deep breath, and I grabbed a broom and shooed him out of the house. Then I locked the door and stood in the darkness. And eventually I heard him get in his car and drive away. But, wouldn’t you know it, there he was this morning waiting for me at my work station. So we “talked” things out. He actually apologized, in his own way. He said that I was both abnormally agressive and sexually frigid and he was very sorry … that he ever went out with me … Oh, Flo, I’ve made some big mistakes in my life, but this was a real humdinger.

                                                                           I-12

                         Flo
How can a guy which such great shoulders turn out to be a dud?

(Diana enters wearing a tight sweater.)

                     Diana (Stepping forward)
Excuse me? Is this the cafeteria?

                         Sophie
Well, it ain’t exactly the Oyster Bar.

                         Diana
Where can I get a cup of Joe?

                         Sophie
Right over there. (Sophie crosses to Diana) I’m Sophie. That’s Flo.  

                         Diana
Diana Willis. Pleased to meet you.

                         Sophie
You’re the new girl, right? (Diana nods) The Foreman was just here looking for you.

                         Diana
I know. But I just can’t deal with men until I’ve had my first cup of coffee.

                         Sophie
There’s hot food back there if you’re interested.

                         Diana
Well, I am a bit early, maybe I could eat a little something.
Save me a seat, all right? (She exits)

                         Flo (Getting up)
(Imitating Diana) Save me a seat, all right?

(Flo crosses to coffee urn)

                         Flo (Continued)
I gotta have another slug of this stuff. I’m workin’ a double shift. I’m filling in for Margy. She called me this morning. She’s got cramps like crazy. I got about half an hour before the shift starts to wake up. I’m exhausted. I can’t keep working this hard. I just don’t have the strength. How do guys do this their whole lives? Y’know, maybe this whole idea of women working is actually a plot hatched by Nazi spies to undermine the war effort.

                         Sophie
You’re nuts.

                                                                           I-13

                         Flo
Yeah? Maybe they want to tire us all out so they can sneak in and conquer us while we’re asleep.

                         Sophie
You’ve been reading too many comic books.

                         Flo
I don’t read comic books. I heard this on the radio.

                         Sophie
Flo…

                         Flo
Hey, I almost forgot! Let me show you what that nutty brother of mine just sent me. I don’t know how he did it, but look at what he smuggled me from the South Pacific. You’re not going to believe this.  (She opens the box she has been carrying and takes out a human skull.  It’s kind of creepy, isn’t it? He says it’s a Jap skull. Some  souvenir, huh?

                         Sophie
What are you going to do with it?

                         Flo
I don’t know. Use it as a paper weight, I guess.

(Diana re-enters with a tray with nothing on it.)

                         Sophie
It’s depressing.

                         Flo
I know. (She sighs) Jeez, I can’t imagine Billy killing anyone. But I guess he has to. (She puts the skull back into the box.)

                         Diana
Every war has casualities, my dear…I didn’t see anything I liked.

                         Sophie
Why don’t you sit down and finish your coffee?

                         Diana
Well, I guess I still have a few minutes. (She sits)

                         Sophie
Where are you from?

                                                                            I-14

                         Diana
North Carolina.

                         Flo
That’s a long way from Connecticut.

                         Diana
I was working in Winston-Salem, but I got laid off, so I thought I’d try my luck up North.

                         Sophie
What did you do down there? Defense work?

                         Diana
I put together what-do-you-call-em … detonation mechanisms. What do you girls do?

                         Flo
I run a drill press.

                         Sophie
Me? I take the bombs off the line and load them for transport.

                         Diana
By yourself?

                         Sophie
No, no, I’ve got two assistants and a huge block and tackle.

                         Diana
That must be strenuous. How many bombs do you load in a day?

                         Sophie
I don’t know, why?

                         Diana
Just curious.

                         Flo
Sophie’s the best in the plant. She’s been promoted twice. She’s just being modest. We even elected her shop steward the other day. She can load more in one shift than almost anybody.

                         Sophie
Actually, it depends on what shift I’m working. Mornings seem to be my most productive.

                         Flo
Y’know, sometimes they let me re-set the Drill Press.

                                                                           I-15

                         Diana
That’s nice. (To Sophie) Does it ever bother you, knowing where all the shells are going?

                         Sophie
Sure, but I try not to think about it. Sometimes, to get my mind off it, I’ll write little messages to the bombardiers.  I’ve got a piece of chalk that I use to mark the bombs, see. And I’ll jot down things like, “To Hell with Hitler!” and “Pearl Harbor’s Revenge”. I know its kind of corny, but it makes me feel better.

                         Diana
Well that’s what’s important in life, isn’t it?

                         Sophie
Is it?

                         Diana
Oh, yes.I think that for a woman, looking good, feeling comfortable and being secure are what’s important. Now, can I ask you something? What are the men like here? Are they friendly? I’ll be very upset if they’re not friendly.

                         Sophie
You’ll have to judge for yourself.

                         Flo
Confidentially, they love our butts, but hate our guts.

                         Sophie
She means the men like being around us, but they hate actually havin’ to work with us.

                         Flo
It’s like we’re beneath them or something.

                 Sophie (Under her breath)
They wish. (Flo and Sophie crack up laughing)

                         Flo
Hey, hold on a second, where’s your security badge?

                         Diana
I didn’t get one yet…

                         Flo
That’s always the first thing the Foreman gives you, Diana, if that’s your real name…

                         Diana
I haven’t seen the Foreman yet … Oh, for God’s sake, if you don’t believe me, here’s the papers that got me in the front gate.

                                                                           I-16

                         Flo
Sorry. Didn’t mean to jump all over you.

                         Sophie
I’m afraid Flo’s imagination is tuned in to Nazi spies at the moment.

                         Flo
Ya gotta keep your guard up. We can’t afford to lose this war.

                         Sophie
She has three brothers in the Army.

                         Flo
And I know what sacrifices they’re enduring so that the world will remain free. Ordinarily, I don’t believe in women working, thank God, but this is different, I mean, the world has gone absolutely crazy, and we’ve got to get it back to normal.

                         Diana
And bring all those men back home.

                         Flo
You said it. Maybe then I can find myself a good husband.

                         Diana
Yours or somebody else’s? (To Diana) You’re not laughing, dear. I take it you’re married?

                         Sophie
Three years. He’s in the navy, somewhere in the Pacific.

                         Diana
So tell me, seriously now, what are you girls really here for?

                         Sophie
What do you mean? For the work.

                         Flo
Yeah. We’re makin’ great money in this job. Especially with all the overtime.

                         Diana
Oh sweet child, there’s more to life than that…I don’t know about you, but I’m here strictly to meet men. As many as I can. I wouldn’t be working here at all if I didn’t have to. But I’ve got a five year old to support, and by God, I’m gonna find her a new daddy or die tryin’.

                         Flo
I’m sorry, was your husband killed in the war?

                         Diana
No such luck. We’re divorced.

                                                                           I-17

                         Flo
Oh.

                         Sophie
It must have been very hard travelling all the way up here with your daughter.

                         Diana
Oh heavens, I didn’t bring her with me. I left her with mother in Greensboro. Now, is there somewhere I can go to freshen up?

                         Flo
Yeah, it’s down the hall. About half a mile.

                         Diana
I don’t get it. What do you mean?

                         Flo
Southeast corner. Section 23.

                         Diana
There’s only one ladies room? For the whole plant?

                         Sophie
That’s right. A couple of years ago, when we all first got hired, they tacked a small sign up on one of the men’s rooms, that spelled out, “L-A-D-Y-S”. That’s us. The room itself has a fifteen watt bulb inside, it hasn’t been cleaned since Coolidge was in office, and the walls are covered with a lot of crude descriptions and drawings.

                         Diana
Oh my…

                         Flo
It’s true. And we still haven’t figured out what to do with the urinals.

                         Sophie
That’s not all. The smell is enough to kill most lower life forms, and in the third stall, the one where the door actually works, there is a phrase scrawled on the wall, which personally, I find so damn offensive…

                         Diana
Goodness. What does it say?

                         Sophie
It says, “Why aren’t women ever unmasked?”

                         Diana
Why aren’t women ever unmasked? What in heck does that mean?

                                                                           I-18

                         Sophie
I don’t know. But it always stares me in the face when I go in there, and I hate it.

                         Diana
If it offends you, why don’t you get some paint and cover it up?

                         Sophie
I tried that, but it was scratched in so deeply, you can still read it. and so I always sit there and think, you bastard, women will be unmasked, when men like you stop forcing disguises on us.

                         Diana (To Flo)
Do you know what she’s talkin’ about? Cause I don’t understand, what are you talkin’ about? What disguises?

                         Sophie
You know, all the different types of women you have to pretend to be when you’re with a man. You have to be his mother, his wife, his cook, maid, whore, and inspiration all rolled into one.

                         Diana
But what’s wrong with that? I kinda like it. It’s interesting to me, and it’s part of being a woman.

                         Sophie
But then when do we get to be ourselves?

                         Diana
That is being ourselves. Women are chameleons. We always have to adapt to the men we’re around.

                         Sophie
I’ve never done that.

                         Diana
To the great disappointment of your husband, No doubt.

                         Charley (Re- entering)
Hiya, doll.  Hello, ladies. (To Diana) Wait, don’t tell me, you must be the new girl.

                         Diana
Yes, I am. I was a little early, so I thought…

                         Charley
Early? Are you kidding? Ah, never mind. Right now, I’m in a bit of a rush, so let me explain things to you as quickly as possible. I’m the foreman. We are extremely proud of the work we do here. But, bear in mind, it is also extremely dangerous. You’ll have to concentrate and follow instructions. Now, have you ever had a job before?

                         Diana
Yes, I worked the swing shift at the Remington plant in Winston-Salem.

                                                                           I-19

                         Charley
Hey, that’s right, I forgot, you’re the one with the experience. I liked your application. I’ve seen to it that you’ve been assigned to do the exact same thing here. So you can skip the usual orientation procedures. The line boss will look over your shoulder the first couple of days, and I’m sure the girls here, will help you find your way around. And if I can be of any help, my door is always open.

                         Diana
Why, thank you.

                         Charley
Here’s your security pass for the front gate, Miss Willis.

                         Diana
You can call me Diana.

                         Charley
All right, fine. Oh, and I’m Charley. So. In twenty minutes, Diana, report to the lineman on section fourteen. That’s it. I gotta get back to my office. Welcome to the job…

                         Diana
Thanks. Bye, Bye…

(Charley exits)

                         Flo
Cool off, sister.

                         Diana
What’s the matter?

                         Flo
I think your feminine charms just kicked into overdrive.

                         Sophie
You gonna flirt that hard with all the guys?

                         Diana
I might. Does that make you jealous?

                         Sophie
No. Why should it?

                         Diana
Well, I noticed he was attracted to you at first. Maybe you’re afraid of a little competition.

                         Sophie
I’m married.

                                                                           I-20

                         Diana
So you said…I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to point me towards that ladies room, I have to do some sprucing up.

                         Flo
Out the door, turn left, turn right, straight, straight, straight for about eight to ten minutes. It’s the second door on your left.

                         Diana
Thank you.

                         Sophie
Wait a minute…How would you like to sign our petition to get a second ladies room?

                         Diana
No, I don’t think so. But thank you, I must admit you did pick a perfect time to ask me.

                         Flo
Why won’t you sign it?

                         Diana
I do not want to upset the apple cart. I want the men here to like me. You can understand that can’t you?  You two may not care about impressing that foreman, for instance, but I do. If I go taking away his toilet he might not be in the greatest mood for romance.

                         Sophie
That’s very true, I suppose.

                         Diana
Thank you for understanding. Well, it was nice chatting with both of you. Vee for Victory. (She exits)

                         Flo
She’ll probably make three dates on the way to the can. What made you decide about doin’ the petition?

                         Sophie
We need it. And I guess there are times you have to fight for what you need. Besides, Lately I’ve been thinking about a story that my dad used to read to me. It was about a young princess named Atalanta. She was the fastest runner in the whole kingdom. Her father, however, wanted her to give up running and get married. “All right,” she said, “I’ll get married, but only to the man who can beat me in a foot race.” Many men tried, but they all failed. And then one day, a prince saw her and fell in love with her. He went to her father for help in winning her hand. Before the race, the king gave the prince three golden apples, and told him to drop them along the way. Each time he did, Atalanta slowed down a little bit to pick them up. The prince took advantage of this and won the race, so she had to marry him.

                                                                            I-21

                         Flo
Married to a prince, what a tragedy.

                         Sophie
Don’t you see? The point is, she was happy being the fastest runner, but the men couldn’t stand losing, so they tricked her so she’d do what they wanted her to do.

                         Flo
That’s just a fairy tale.

                         Sophie
It’s not a fairy tale. It’s a myth. But whatever … it still makes me sad.

                         Flo
Look, if you make me a copy of the petition, I’ll help sneak it around to the girls in my section.

                         Sophie
Thanks, Flo.

                         Flo
Why don’t you go home and get some sleep?

                         Sophie
I’m o.k. I’m gonna wait around for the next crew to come on.

                         Flo
Well, be careful.

                         Sophie
I will. See you later.

(Flo exits. Sophie is alone for a moment, working on her petition.)  (Charley enters)

                         Charley
Sophie, we have a few things to discuss.

                         Sophie
Charley!

                         Charley
What’re you doing?

                         Sophie
Nothing.

                         Charley
I just received a long distance telephone call from Washington, D.C. It was the director of the National Labor Relations Board. He said he was calling in response to a complaint from one of my workers. Guess which one.

                                                                           I-22

                         Sophie
Me.

                         Charley
That’s right.

                         Sophie
You should have listened to me about the ladies room.

                         Charley
When are you going to learn that I don’t have to listen to you about anything?

                         Sophie
Well then, you’ll have to excuse me, I’ve got some things to finish up.

(She starts to exit, inadvertantly dropping the petition)

                         Charley
Hold on a minute, I’m not finished with you…What’s this?

(Charley picks the paper up)

                         Sophie
I started a new petition.

                         Charley
You what!?

                         Sophie
Charley…

                         Charley
I told you what would happen if I saw another one of these god-damned things…

                         Sophie
I know that, but let me explain…

                         Charley
There’s nothing to explain. God damn it, you’re fired!

                         Sophie
You can’t do that. I’ll go to the union…

                         Charley
Don’t bother. They won’t back you up. It’ll be a waste of time. Y’see, I’ve been tryin’ to track down a rumor that’s been going around the plant all day about a European Invasion. The guy I talked to in Washington says the scuttlebutt is true. It happened just a few hours ago somewhere in France, and that means it’s only a matter of time before the war will be over. Then the men will be back, and you’ll be out of a job anyway.

                                                                           I-23

                         Sophie
What do you mean?

                         Charley
Pink slips. Mark my words, all the other girls can start looking for them within two months. And I don’t mean under their dresses.

                         Sophie
You’re going to fire all of us? That’s not fair.

                         Charley
Tough luck. But with no war, there’ll be no more bombs to make. And then we’ll be back to making trombones full time.

                         Sophie
A lot of the women could be trained to do that.

                         Charley
Why should we do that? When our soldier boys come back, how many of you girls will still want to work?

                         Sophie
I will.

                         Charley
Who needs you?

                         Sophie
Damn it. Ive been doing the same work the men have been doing, and just as well, you said so yourself.

                         Charley
Yeah, but, it ain’t right.

                         Sophie
Why? For the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve been doing something that mattered.

                         Charley
You have your job. God gave it to you. It’s at home. Why don’t you leave me to mine?

                         Sophie
Why shouldn’t I have your job, if I want it?

                         Charley
Hey, what’s going on? All of a sudden, the hand that rocks the cradle wants to build it too.

                                                                                              I-24

                           Sophie
Do you really think that after working here, I’m gonna be happy to go back to just making toast for my husband?

                         Charley
You’ll go back. Nothing will change. You’ll see. Your hubby will come home, you’ll have a baby, and you’ll forget all about becoming a man.

                         Sophie
I don’t want to become a man. This war gave me a chance to see that I’m capable of a lot more than I ever imagined. You can’t go and fire up a person’s dreams like that and then throw cold water on them the minute it’s convenient. Come on, Charley, won’t you even consider keeping me on?

                         Charley
If I did, what would you do for me?

                         Sophie
I’d be a damn good worker.

                         Charley
You’d still be a god-damn troublemaker!

                         Sophie
I’ve been a loyal, faithful employee…

                         Charley
Which brings us to my second topic. Faithful. Now if there is one thing I do remember about ancient times, Miss Atlanta-or-whatever- the-name-is, it was that women that were unfaithful while their husbands were at war, were put to death. Isn’t that interesting? Thank God, we’re living in the modern world, huh?

                        Sophie
What are you getting at?

                         Charley
You and Frank Baker last night. I know all about what happened.

                         Sophie
That’s none of your god damned business.

                         Charley
Isn’t it? Frank just told me everything.

                         Sophie
Don’t be too sure.

                         Charley
Come on, I know Frank. He was on the level. That guy’s a regular Romeo. He’s had half the women in this factory. But what I want to know is, how come you play so pure and faithful with me? That was a load of crap you gave me about your husband.

                         Sophie
I’m getting out of here.

                         Charley
Oh no, we’ve got a lot to talk about!

                                                                           I-25

                         Sophie
Let go of me! Leave me alone!

                         Charley
Don’t you like me?  What makes you think you’re better than me?

                         Sophie
Stop it!

                         Charley
No!

(She slaps his face)

                    Flo (Beginning Offstage)
Sophie? Can you believe it? I left my … (Flo enters)

                         Charley
You always come barging in where you’re not invited?

                         Flo
No, but I …

                         Charley
Sophie and I are in the middle of a very important meeting. Come back later.

                         Flo (Offstage)
I can’t I …

                         Charley
What?!

                         Flo (Offstage)
I left my package …

                         Charley
She’ll bring it to you later.

                         Flo (Offstage)
Oh … Okay. Thanks. Vee for victory.

                         Charley
Now, Sophie, I’m gonna show you how things work in the real world.

                         Sophie
If you hurt me, my husband’s gonna come looking for you…

                                                                          I-26

                         Charley
Let him. You tell him about me, I’ll tell him about Frank Baker. In fact, if anything about you and me ever leaves this room, the whole county will know about you and Frank. And I’ve got the connections to do it. But stop worrying. I’m not going to hurt you.

                         Sophie
What are you going to do with me?

                         Charley
I’m going to give you an opportunity. I’m going to let you help me make a decision. Isn’t that what you want? Now, you’ve just been fired. I could tell you to pack up your things, turn in your security badge and get the hell out of here right now…Or, I could forget what I just did and let you work here for the duration of the war. Then, when the men come back, you’ll get your pink slip with the rest of the women. And in return for this act of charity…and silence in regards to your activities, all I ask is for you…to go out with me…

(He holds up the two tickets)

                         Charley (Continued)
Artie Shaw … Saturday Night. The Big Apple. Your choice.

(Sophie quietly walks over to Charley. They stand facing each other for a moment. Then she takes one ticket and walks out the door. Charley remains for a moment, standing center-stage holding the remaining ticket in his hand and smiling. Music begins to play, quietly at first. Charley turns and exits. The skull and the apple lying on the table are all that remain.)

                    (Female Singer)

“Kiss me once, and kiss me twice,
and kiss me once again,
It’s been a long, long, time,
Haven’t felt like this my dear
since can’t remember when,
It’s been a long, long, time …”

(The lights fade quickly to black.)
                         CURTAIN

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