PLAY #331: FLAGS ARE FANTASIES THAT BURN LIKE FIREWORKS (NOV 20)

New Orleans, 2015.

An abandoned house: garden full of weeds.

FAITH (60s; black; female) sits sewing in the garden.

EBONY (late 20s; black; female) enters, holding a box.

 

EBONY

Mama? Mama, are you here?

 

FAITH

I’m here, baby.

 

EBONY

I thought you’d be here.

 

FAITH

You should be wearing a coat.

 

EBONY

Don’t be worrying about me.

 

FAITH

It’s December.

 

EBONY

I just got back from New York, so this is nowhere near cold.

 

FAITH

As you wish. That’s how you always do.

 

Pause.

 

EBONY

I was visiting Joshua.

 

FAITH

Oh.

 

EBONY

We had Thanksgiving together.

 

FAITH

That’s nice.

 

EBONY

He misses you too, you know.

 

FAITH

I’m sure.

 

Pause.

 

EBONY

Are you cold?

 

FAITH

It’s a fine December day.

 

EBONY

No, wherever…

 

FAITH

These aren’t the kinds of questions I can be answering.

 

EBONY

No.

 

Pause.

 

EBONY

I knew you’d come back here.

 

FAITH

Longest home I’ve ever had.

 

EBONY

I’ve been worried about coming back.

 

FAITH

No need to fear the place: no weeds going to bite you.

 

EBONY

No: I’m afraid that it won’t be like this. That it’ll be developed. Some clean shopping mall or some crumbling coffee shop and I’ll want to scream and say that’s where your porch was where you’d sit and sew and this was the garden where I did my first tumble and this was the roof that we all climbed up on and cried and prayed and held each other so tight that we might have squeezed out the life but I know that I’ll say none of these things and just nod my head and leave, so I can’t go back.

 

FAITH

Don’t be upsetting yourself: I hate to see you worked up.

 

EBONY

Sometimes I imagine that Josh will get his Delicious kit on and fly down here and scorch away all the change with her breath until everything is perfectly preserved, not a weed in sight, and we’re all together again.

 

FAITH

Too many comic books: I should never have let him read those comic books.

 

EBONY

She’s doing well: Delicious has lots of shows in the city. Some of them even have audiences! Joke.

 

FAITH

The two of you fooling around: I could never keep up. You’ll see one day, I’d think, when you both have young ones of your own running around your kitchens, but…

 

EBONY

You’re going to be like this, even now?

 

FAITH

Death doesn’t change a person’s character: hardens it, that’s all.

EBONY takes out a piece of white cloth from the box.

 

EBONY

There’s something I wanted to ask you about.

 

FAITH

You’ve never been shy of questions.

 

EBONY

You never told me about this.

 

FAITH

What would I be talking to you about tablecloths for?

 

EBONY

It’s shaped like a star.

 

FAITH

Not so useful, then.

 

EBONY

I never saw it in our house. Or in your place in Florida.

 

FAITH

What use would I be having for some dirty old piece of cloth that doesn’t even cover a table? That thing’d be better off in some trashcan.

 

EBONY

Or a museum.

 

Pause.

 

EBONY

Why didn’t you tell me?

 

FAITH

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

 

EBONY

You kept it with the family documents: they were even wrapped inside it.

 

FAITH

Well, good to use something to keep things safe: no point minding it.

 

EBONY

I’ve been doing more research.

 

FAITH

You were always one for questions: it’s no wonder you don’t have kiddies of your own when your nose is always poking into books or business that you shouldn’t be minding.

 

EBONY

It’s the fifteenth star. From the Star-Spangled Banner. The missing one.

 

FAITH

You’re in fantasy land now.

 

EBONY

It’s been missing as long as the flags been on display in the Smithsonian, longer. People say that it was cut out for some famous person. Or blown off in the Battle of Baltimore.

 

FAITH

And you’re saying that it’s been sitting under my bed for all these years?

 

EBONY

Grace Wisher was the indentured servant who helped sew the flag. You had information about her wrapped up in this cloth.

 

FAITH

This is your evidence?

 

EBONY

How did you get this star?

 

FAITH

Maybe I traveled back to the 18whatevers and snatched it: that’s about as much sense as you’re making.

 

EBONY

Why didn’t you tell me about it?

 

FAITH

Why would I be talking about that thing?

 

EBONY

Because it’s huge – enormous – as big as an actual star in the sky! Something from the most famous flag in the country in our house, cut out not for some President but by the forgotten slave girl that sewed it.

 

FAITH

You don’t know any of that, baby.

 

EBONY

Because you never told me.

 

FAITH

I’ll tell you this: it’s what your feet stand on that matters, not what’s up in the sky. No point clutching some star to your chest. Not when men with guns will shoot you off a bridge. Not when you’re crammed into a Superdome like your life doesn’t mean nothing. Not when everything you own can be swept away, you too, no space for you anymore in the city that your feet always stood on. What use is a star in times like that?

 

EBONY

How did it survive Katrina? Did you have it then?

 

FAITH

No point looking for miracles: it’s just a piece of old cloth is all.

 

EBONY

No! You’re just a figment-

 

FAITH

That’s what you’re calling me now?

 

EBONY

I can’t trust what you’re saying.

 

FAITH

Because I’m a ghost? A phantom? A, what was it, a figment? You say that like you have any idea what other people think even when blood runs through their veins.

 

EBONY

I know what I think. This is real.

 

FAITH

Think what you like: you always did as you wished. But I’m telling you, baby, there isn’t any star worth believing in.

 

EBONY

Then why hold onto it?

 

FAITH

Some things are too heavy to shed.

 

EBONY

I’m keeping it.

 

FAITH

As you wish, baby. As you wish.

 

FAITH continues to sew.

EBONY holds the star.

Sun starts to go down, FAITH, her sewing, the house and the garden all lost as the light leaves, until it’s just EBONY holding a star on an empty stage.

Advertisements