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Ivy's Gone Now  Rate Topic 
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 Posted: Mon Dec 2nd, 2013 05:04 am
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John Watts
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Joined: Mon Jun 12th, 2006
Location: Newark, New Jersey USA
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Here is the latest on my play, which was called, Maggie and Latifah, but the focus seems to becoming Ivy.  I have therefore changed the working title.  It is still far from complete.  

 

           IVY’S GONE NOW                                                            

           A full-length play by John Watts 

 

            Synopsis:

Ivy was a foster mother who took in kids just for the money and treated them very badly.  Over the years she took in a great number of very troubled kids.  The welfare let her continue to do so even though they knew she was bad because she took the worst cases that no one else would take, maybe twenty kids over thirty years.  I have to find out what is really a feasible number.  The house, which she has owned outright for a long time is now worth far more than before the neighborhood was yuppified.  She made a will in which she has for whatever reason left the house to Maggie and Latifah jointly.  The funeral was arranged and paid for by her years earlier.  The lawyer was given the names and contacts for all the kids she had fostered over the years.  Only Maggie and Latifah have shown up for the funeral.

 

MAGGIE

White American, in her late thirties.  When she was sixteen she had a stutter but has learned to control it as an adult except when she gets excited.

 

LATIFAH

African American, in her late thirties.  She walks with a slight limp.

 

            IVY

African American, various ages, she sees Billy Holiday’s life reflected in her own.   At various times both Maggie and Latifah become Ivy especially when they sit in Ivy’s chair and her spirit overtakes them.        

 

Scene One

 

(It is the living room of a run down Edwardian Brownstone in a New York neighborhood taken over by Yuppie redevelopment.  The place is in total disarray.  There is a sofa and coffee table facing the audience with a quarter bottle of V.O. and a couple of glasses.  Two unmatched living room chairs are placed at odd angles stage left and right. There is a closet stage left and an entrance door to the house stage right.  A door way to the bedrooms upstage left and a door to the kitchen upstage right.

 

Whenever there is a flashback with Ivy, Latifah becomes Ivy with a clearly different voice.  On various occasions Latifah attempts to imitate Ivy and sounds only a little bit like her.

 

The stage is dark as a dim spotlight slowly brightens directly over the closet with the door wide open.  We see the ghostly silhouette of Ivy.  The rest of the stage is in darkness.  We hear the scratchy sound of an old LP playing Billy Holiday singing, God Bless The Child Who’s Got His Own, quietly in the background.  Latifah becomes the voice of Ivy’s speaking from the dim light of the closet as the music fades.)

 

LATIFAH AS IVY

Death is no dream, and love don’t matter now.   No more fighting for love that makes you do things that you know is wrong.  I spent my days longing for what could never be and then grew old.  But I’m still his, body and soul.  

 

(Spotlight fades as the dark stage brightens.  There is an old LP on a record player.  We hear Billy Holiday singing, God Bless The Child.  Maggie is busy cleaning as Latifah enters using her key to open the door.  Maggie is aware of her presence but does not look up.   Latifah shuts off the record player.)

 

LATIFAH

The key still works.

 

(There is no response from Maggie.)

 

I said the—

 

MAGGIE

Call me Snow White and I will punch you in your mouth.

 

LATIFAH

I’ll put my bag upstairs.

 

(Latifah exits upstage to the stairway for a moment then re-enters in a hurry.)

 

LATIFAH

What the hell?

 

MAGGIE  

Ivy was dead for three weeks.

 

LATIFAH

You’re still pulling the same—

 

MAGGIE

We both got to sleep right here till the smell goes.

 

LATIFAH

You’ve been here waiting, so you could set me up for this—

 

MAGGIE

I’ve opened all the windows and put the fans on three days ago. 

 

LATIFAH

Damn!! 

 

MAGGIE

Death ain’t pretty. 

 

LATIFAH

Neither are you.  What happened?

 

MAGGIE

I got older same as you.

 

LATIFAH

Well Snow White you’re not.

 

MAGGIE

Fuck off.

 

LATIFAH

Seems just like the day you left.

 

MAGGIE

We’ve got be together in this hole for a few days, so I will keep my mouth shut if you do the same. 

 

LATIFAH

You kept your mouth shut just to get me up those stairs. 

 

MAGGIE

I couldn’t help it, when you walked in it felt like I was sixteen all over again.

 

(Latifah puts her bag down, walks to the coffee table and pours herself a drink.)

 

LATIFAH

The last of Ivy’s V.O, thank god for small gifts.

 

MAGGIE

The lawyer gave me a key but I didn’t need it either.  Why the hell did I keep it all these years?

 

LATIFAH

The house looks the same, a little older maybe, more run down.

 

MAGGIE

You mean like us?

 

LATIFAH

We going to flip a coin for the sofa, or are you going to try and beat my ass if I take what you want, like the old days?

 

MAGGIE

Don’t push your luck.

 

LATIFAH

Ivy’s dead and she still stirs up trouble.

 

MAGGIE

It’s been a lot of years, maybe she changed.

 

LATIFAH

There’s got to be a catch, leaving this house to the two of us.

 

(Maggie laughs cynically)

 

MAGGIE

Maggie and Latifah in joint ownership, one can’t sell without the other.

 

LATIFAH

Of all the incredulous things in my life, this has got to be the most absurd.

 

MAGGIE

Oooh, big words Latifah.

 

LATIFAH

Is the kitchen usable or do we have to eat out?

 

MAGGIE

Where you been hanging?

 

(Latifah exits to the kitchen.)

 

The roaches in there were as nasty as ever.  I bombed the whole house right after I got here three days ago.  Nick’s Pizza is still down the block.  They’re open till nine—

 

(Maggie yells loudly)

 

And don’t open the fridge!

 

(Latifah yells from the kitchen.)

 

LATIFAH

Shit!!

 

MAGGIE

At least the fuckers are dead now.

 

(Latifah enters from the kitchen rubbing her body as though she can feel the roaches.  Latifah slowly looks at everything in the room, finally focusings on the door to the closet stage right.  She stands frozen, staring at the door.)

 

Don’t look at it.

 

(Latifah continues to stare.) 

 

I said don’t look at it.

 

(Maggie roughly turns Latifah away from the door.  Latifah sits in Ivy’s chair.)

 

We’ve got more to clean up.  You’re lucky, I’ve done bathroom already and vacuumed the carpet.

 

(Maggie holds out a broom.)

 

The corners need a broom.  You going to help?

 

(Latifah looks down at the chair.)

 

LATIFAH

It’s Ivy’s chair

 

(Latifah takes the broom and sweeps as they continue talking.)

 

We’re wiping away the remnants of a wasted existence.   

 

MAGGIE

Where’d you learn to talk so white?

 

LATIFAH

The University of Iowa. 

 

MAGGIE

So bad ass Latifah got an education.  I never had that chance. 

 

LATIFAH

You had it no worse than anybody else.

 

MAGGIE

I was the only white in this God damn house.

 

LATIFAH

And you acted like it.

 

(Latifah walks toward the kitchen.)

 

MAGGIE

Where the hell are you going?

 

LATIFAH

To clean the god damn kitchen!

 

(She exists then immediately reenters grabs the bottle of VO and exits again.)

 

MAGGIE

That’s a good move Latifah, you and me in different rooms.  When Ivy put us in that same bedroom room we nearly killed each other that first night till she came in with that old cane of hers and knocked the shit out of both of us. 

 

(Latifah enters, takes a broom and a pair of rubber gloves.)

 

LATIFAH

Only time in that room we didn’t fight was when it was snowing at night and we sat looking out that window.

 

 (Latifah exits into the kitchen again.)

 

MAGGIE

The minute it snows I still head for a window.  All the noises are gone and there just a few lights shining on streets clean with snow and I’m not angry at a damn thing.

 

(Latifah enters, with the bottle of V.O., and sits in Ivy’s chair.)

 

LATIFAH

I can’t face that mess tonight.

 

MAGGIE

Maybe we need a snow storm to—

 

LATIFAH

Ivy’s still here.

 

MAGGIE

You think this place is haunted?

 

LATIFAH

There are bad memories.

 

MAGGIE

You got that right.

 

LATIFAH

A confluence of the senses.

 

MAGGIE

What the fuck are you talking about?

 

LATIFAH

I touch this chair, see this room, and I’m back there.

 

MAGGIE

Let’s get something straight or we ain’t going to make it till the funeral tomorrow.  I hated everything about you.

 

LATIFAH

That was twenty years ago.

 

MAGGIE

Some things don’t change.

 

LATIFAH

So you just came back for the money.

 

MAGGIE

Same as you.

 

LATIFAH

I’ve got money.

 

MAGGIE

Bullshit or you’d be in a hotel till this is over.

 

LATIFAH

I have to be here.

 

MAGGIE

So where’s your Iphone?

 

(Maggie laughs.)

Rich bitch without her Iphone?

 

LATIFAH

It’s too much distraction.

 

MAGGIE

Right.

 

LATIFAH

I told you I have—

 

MAGGIE

How are we going to work the sleep thing?

 

LATIFAH

It doesn’t matter.

 

MAGGIE

Then I’ll take the floor like I did since I bombed this place.  The sofa don’t smell right and I won’t touch the blankets upstairs, so I’m sleeping in my clothes.

 

LATIFAH

What time are they picking us up tomorrow?

 

MAGGIE

Nine thirty, there’s going to be the two of us and the lawyer.

 

LATIFAH

Twenty three foster kids in thirty years and we’re the only ones going to be here.  

 

MAGGIE

The lawyer notified everyone he could find.  But we got the house. 

 

LATIFAH

I would have come anyway.

 

MAGGIE

After what she did to you?

 

LATIFAH

Because of what she did.

 

(Latifah stares at the closet door.)

 

MAGGIE

I am not going to get caught up in some kind of group therapy shit like in rehab. That door stays locked. 

 

LATIFAH

Rehab?

 

 

MAGGIE

There you go again, acting like a god damn shrink.  I got through last night alone here with no problem, didn’t think about nothing but cleaning till I couldn’t stay awake no more.  So I don’t want to hear any shit about—

 

(Maggie lines up pillows from the sofa on the floor for a bed.)

 

LATIFAH

Ok, ok.  So what are we’re going to do about this place?

 

MAGGIE

I’m staying here for now.  I’m tired of living in one fucking room.

 

LATIFAH

This place pulls you back in like a magnet. 

 

MAGGIE

Ain’t nothing pulling on me.

 

LATIFAH

At eighteen I was out of here.  She gave me fifty dollars and quoted Billy Holiday.

 

MAGGIE

A junkie.

 

LATIFAH

A singer.

 

MAGGIE

And a stone junkie.

 

(Latifah sits in Ivy’s chair.)

 

LATIFAH

Ivy would be sitting right here till four in the morning drinking V.O., her teeth in glass of water on the table, smoking Camels, and singing right back to Billy.

 

(Latifah sings the chorus line of Billy Holiday’s song, her voice changing, to sound somewhat like Ivy.)

 

God bless the child that’s got his own, that’s got his own.

 

MAGGIE

That is some weird shit!  You sound just like Ivy.

 

LATIFAH

It’s this chair.  I can feel her. 

 

MAGGIE

Now you’re a psychic, a college educated psychic.

 

LATIFAH

The day you ran, I saw you sneaking out the door.  Ivy grabbed me and said God bless the child. 

 

MAGGIE

That woman didn’t give a damn about—

 

(Latifah again sounds similar to Ivy.)

 

LATIFAH      

Leave her be.

 

(Maggie stares at her and freezes.  Then Latifah speaks in her own voice.)

 

LATIFAH

That’s what she said.  Then you were gone.

 

MAGGIE

D- d-Do-on’t do that shit.  Y- y-you sound just like her. 

 

(She pauses to regain her control, speaking a little more slowly at first.)

 

You sa-saying she saw me leaving with my things and d-didn’t try to stop me?

 

LATIFAH

That was the one time I wished I was you.

 

(Latifah suddenly spins around as though looking of something.)

 

You hear that?

 

MAGGIE

Hear what?

 

LATIFAH

A knocking sound, like someone tapping on a door.

 

MAGGIE

There’s someone tapping on your brain.

 

LATIFAH

There it is again.

 

MAGGIE

You are not going to spook me.  I have been clean for three years. I don’t hear noises, see spirits or—

 

LATIFAH

This wasn’t spirits.

 

MAGGIE

Well ain’t nobody breaking in this place.  The neighborhood’s all yuppies now.  In the old days I was the only white kid.  Now it’s all mixed up.  They even got Indians and Chinese living on the block.

 

(Latifah walks slowly toward the closet door staring intently.)

 

So what’s with the leg?

 

LATIFAH

IED.

 

MAGGIE

You were in the service?

 

LATIFAH

I was eighteen with nowhere else to go.

 

MAGGIE

I never figured you for the military.  Did you—

 

LATIFAH

They’ll have a closed casket if she was dead that long.

 

MAGGIE

Maybe they cleaned her up and pumped that embalming fluid—

 

LATIFAH

No way, I’ve seen bodies after three weeks.

 

(Maggie reaches for the V.O. and pours herself a drink.)

 

MAGGIE

Yea, well—it don’t matter now. 

 

 (Maggie toasts Ivy as though she was sitting in her chair.)

 

Thank you Ivy.

 

LATIFAH

At least she gave us a bottle to share.

 

MAGGIE

I’ve only been to one funeral.  It was for this old smackhead I knew.  He was a poet, wrote about the street, everybody knew him and they all came. The do gooders up front and the rest of us hanging as far back in the church as we could.

 

LATIFAH

I used to stay way in back whenever I went for somebody I knew in Iraq.  Till—

(Pause)

 

MAGGIE

Till what?

 

(Latifah lies down on the sofa.)

 

LATIFAH

Till I stopped going to funerals.

 

MAGGIE

Did you know guys who got—

 

LATIFAH

I need to sleep.

 

MAGGIE

Ok, I’ll put the lights out.  We both need to—

 

LATIFAH

Leave the lights on.

 

MAGGIE

I ain’t sleeping with the lights on.

 

LATIFAH

Well just leave that one on.

 

(She indicates the floor light near the closet door.)

 

MAGGIE

Ain’t nothing coming out of that closet tonight.  

 

(Maggie taps lightly on the closet door.)

 

Anybody in there?  See?  Nobody, only me and you in this house.  But I know Ivy’s figured out some kind of nasty shit to cause trouble even when she’s dead.

 

(Latifah stares at the closet door.)

 

LATIFAH

I could hear everybody, see light coming under the door.  But at night there was no sound, no light.

 

MAGGIE

If we’re lucky, by this time tomorrow we’ll have it all figured out and buried her ass for good.

 

LATIFAH

In the dark I would feel every inch of the walls and the floor.  There was a safety pin on the floor.  I opened it and stuck the point into my thumb.  At first it hurt but I kept doing it till I felt nothing.

 

MAGGIE

A needle in the arm works the same way, only it don’t last.  (Beat) Get some sleep.  We got to deal with Ivy tomorrow. 

 

(Maggie puts out the lights leaving only a small dim table lamp next to the closet door.  The stage is dark except for the closet door.  They both lie down to sleep.  There is an extended moment of silence and then a slight rattling as though someone inside the closet is trying to open the door.  Latifah immediately sits up.)

 

LATIFAH

Did you hear that?

 

MAGGIE

Ain’t nobody here but us.  Go to sleep.

 

(Latifah lies down.  The sound is heard again but louder and Maggie hears it too.  They both sit up.)

 

LATIFAH

It’s the door.

 

MAGGIE

This house is beaten up.  Some truck goes by and it rattles the door.

 

LATIFAH

There was no truck—

 

MAGGIE

There are no fucking ghosts in this house.

 

LATIFAH

I made that same sound over and over trying to get out of there.

 

(Maggie gets up, goes to the closet door and turns the key as Latifah tries to stop Maggie from opening the door.)

 

No!!!

 

(As she rushes toward Maggie she falls because of her bad leg.  Maggie puts the light on and kneels down next to Latifah.)

 

Don’t touch me!

 

MAGGIE

I was just trying to show you—

 

LATIFAH

Just shut up!

 

(Latifah gets up slowly with difficulty and sits on Ivy’s chair and touches her leg to check that everything is ok, while Maggie puts the lights back on.)

 

MAGGIE

Did you hurt your—

 

LATIFAH

What do you care?

 

(There an extended pause.)

 

MAGGIE

One time I snuck downstairs in the middle of the night to watch Ivy sitting in that same chair singing Billy’s songs.

 

(Lights fade to a spotlight on Latifah singing one of Billy’s songs as she gets up becoming Ivy and dancing as though she is holding someone in her arms.  A second spotlight comes up on Maggie laughing.  Ivy walks into Maggie’s spotlight.)

 

LATIFAH AS IVY

Sit on that floor Magpie!

 

(Maggie immediately sits on the floor in front of Ivy as though she is now sixteen years old again.)

 

You don’t know nothing about what’s out there.

 

YOUNG MAGGIE

Y- y-you just a w-w-worn out old rag.

 

(Ivy reaches down and smacks Maggie so hard she spins as her body drops completely to the floor.)

 

IVY

Nobody laughs at Ivy, You hear me Magpie?

 

YOUNG MAGGIE

Y-y-you ju-ju-just li-living in the past.

 

IVY

I’ve tasted more life than you’re ever going to have.  When I was sixteen if I wanted a man there’s no way he could say no.  You’ve got to know what a man needs and I had the magic just like Billy, turning a phrase into something more than the words.  

 

(There is a pause as Ivy sits back in her chair and lights come back up and she becomes Latifah.)

 

MAGGIE

We’re the same age Ivy was back in the day. 

 

(Maggie laughs.)

But she always looked old especially with her teeth out.  She always took them out before she started drinking, afraid of throwing up and losing them down the toilet. 

 

LATIFAH

Everybody wanted to flush them down that bowl but we were all too scared.

 

MAGGIE

She told me she lost her front teeth in a fight with a pimp when she was seventeen.

 

LATIFAH

Do you believe in spirits?

 

(Maggie takes a glass and pours herself a drink of V.O.)

 

MAGGIE

Only the kind I can drink.

 

LATIFAH

This chair, it feels like Ivy is still sitting here, like she’s inside me.  You ever feel like you could communicate with someone without saying a word, know what they were thinking, feeling?

 

MAGGIE

Go-away.

 

LATIFAH

I’m staying at least till the funeral is—

 

MAGGIE

Go-away, my dog’s name.  He sure could listen, but he’s gone now, just like Ivy.  

 

LATIFAH

You called him go away?

 

MAGGIE

That’s what I kept saying, laying there ready to die in a big old cardboard box.  But this mangy looking mutt wouldn’t move.

 

(Stage lights dim as a cold spotlight comes up on Maggie huddled on the floor facing the audience.  She speaks with a stutter as though directing her comments to Goaway sitting before her.  Actor should find her own pattern of stuttering beyond the opening sentences.  As she speaks Maggie becomes calmer and the stuttering slowly diminishes.)

 

YOUNG MAGGIE

G-g-go-away.  L-l-let me end this in peace.  G-g-go-away!

 

(There is a pause as Maggie curls into a ball on the floor looking at Goway as her body shakes.)

 

Stupid dog!  You think this is a f-fucking game?  Well it’s over.  I gave up, a long time ago.  (beat)  You know you are one ugly dog and you smell worse than me.  Leave me alone.

 

(Maggie turns away and there is a pause.  She speaks facing away from the audience.)

 

I can still here you panting, you mangy old mutt.

 

(Maggie unravels her body and turns to the audience as though facing Goway.)

 

Stay where you are.  Your breath could kill.  Why am I talking to you?  Get the fuck out of my cardboard box!  Go! That’s it.  Go away!

 

(Maggie watches as Goway turns and walks away.)

 

What’s the matter with your leg?  Wait a minute you stupid dog.  Why you limping?  Yea you. 

 

(Pause)

You can sit there if you want.  At least it’s warmer in here.  And don’t lick that damn paw.  It’s all infected.  I don’t know who’s more pathetic you or me.

 

(Maggie suddenly gets the shakes again and wraps her arms around herself, rocking her body slightly.)

 

I tried, I tried real hard.  But when rehab puts you back on the street you go not choice.  Ain’t no one out there going to listen to you.  (beat)  Don’t be looking at me like that, I got nothing to give you.

 

(Maggie suddenly remember a snickers bar in her pocket.  She takes it out.)

 

Wait a minute.  I got a snickers.  Here.

 

(Maggie reaches forward giving the snickers bar to Goway.)

 

That got your tail wagging.

 

(Maggie suddenly cramps over in ball with pain as the spotlight fades and the stage lights come back up.)

 

LATIFAH

So you and Goaway survived together?

 

(Maggie sits up.)

 

MAGGIE

Five years. 

 

LATIFAH

When I was six, we lived across the street from this junkyard full of old Chevys and Fords.  There was this big old dog who sat right in the middle of the driveway all day long.  He wouldn’t move or bark till you got out of your car to face him head on.

 

MAGGIE

Smart dog.     

 

LATIFAH

He understood what was going on the minute he got your eyes to fix on his.  He had this low growl that pulled you in just long enough to size you up.  Then his tail would wag or his teeth would show and you knew just where you stood.

 

MAGGIE

Now that I like.

 

LATIFAH

That’s going to be me one day, that’s what I told myself.  I’m going to have my own place where I make the rules and no one pushes me around.

 

MAGGIE

That’s going to be me in this place and if you got a problem with that, talk to my lawyer.

 

LATIFAH

You’ve got a lawyer?

 

MAGGIE

No, but I’ve always wanted to say something like that.

 

(Latifah laughs and gets up and looks around the room.)

 

 

LATIFAH

It would take money but this place could be fixed up.  You’d need a structural engineer to be sure the foundation and the roof are—

 

MAGGIE

This the first time I’ve felt good about something in a real long while, so don’t be bringing me down.

 

LATIFAH

Property development, that’s what I do.

 

MAGGIE

So you work for a real estate company?

 

LATIFAH

Look you want to live here that’s fine by me.

 

MAGGIE

What you think don’t matter.

 

LATIFAH

Joint ownership, remember? 

 

MAGGIE

So what are we going to do, draw a chalk line right through the middle of the house? 

 

LATIFAH

Negotiate, that’s what you do in these situations. 

 

MAGGIE

Negotiate what?

 

LATIFAH

I want to live here too. 

 

MAGGIE

What about all that money you got?

 

LATIFAH

This is not about money.

 

MAGGIE

Don’t scam me Latifah.

 

LATIFAH

Urban Redevelopment Inc., I own the company.  Here, check it out.

 

(Latifah pulls out her Iphone.)

 

I lied. I couldn’t get by without my Iphone.

 

 (Latifah brings up information about her company, handing it to Maggie.  Maggie looks through the information on the phone.)

 

MAGGIE

Shit!  You own that apartment building on Johnson Ave.

 

LATIFAH

It was a wreck, but two years later and we had full occupancy at market price.

 

MAGGIE

We?  You said you owned the company. 

 

LATIFAH

It’s been a while, I’m on my own now.

 

MAGGIE

So how’d you end up owning—    

  

(Latifah looks at mirror on the wall stage right next to the kitchen door. There are two small photos stuck into the frame of the mirror, one on the left and one on the right.)  

 

LATIFAH

Damn!

 

(She gets up, walks to the mirror and pulls the photos out.)

 

It’s a photo of me.  

 

MAGGIE

I want to know how you—

 

LATIFAH

And there’s one of you too.

 

(Maggie joins her looking at the photos.)

 

MAGGIE

Let me see that. 

 

LATIFAH

That’s you sitting right here on this sofa and that one is me standing outside by the front door.

 

MAGGIE

How the hell did she take those without us knowing?

 

LATIFAH

Hanging just outside that door, that was always me, looking down the street like any minute someone would be coming to take me away from this dump.

 

MAGGIE

No one was coming for me.  I had to do it for myself.

 

(Lights fade and spotlight comes up on Latifah sitting in Ivy’s chair becoming Ivy, talking to sixteen year old Maggie.)

 

LATIFAH AS IVY

All you got for sure in this world is the body and mind you came with.  I was seventeen with movie star dreams.  Derrick was tall and good looking with a honey tongue.  Before I could fix on what happened I was on my back making him money.

 

YOUNG MAGGIE

You get to keep some of that money?    

 

LATIFAH AS IVY   

Don’t you let no man take charge Magpie.  Don’t give a man what he wants till you get what you ask for. 

 

YOUNG MAGGIE

I don’t need no pimp.  I’m going to make it on my own.    

 

LATIFAH AS IVY

All I’ve got left are four walls, hiding behind all those things I got piled up choking me.  Don’t matter if it’s Cadillac’s or used clothes that stuff can still have you by the neck.

 

YOUNG MAGGIE

When I’m out of here ain’t nothing going to hold me back.

 

 

LATIFAH AS IVY

That sweet talking fool made sure I had nothing when he left me in a hotel bathroom, blood running down the sink from my wrist.  “I don’t need this shit.  You’re on your own bitch”, that was it and he was gone.  I looked in the mirror, my life looking back at me, while red was streaming down the white porcelain into that little black hole.  I decided right then, no man was going to hammer Ivy down that drain.

 

(Lights come back up.)

 

MAGGIE

Get out of that damn chair!  Ain’t no ghosts, ain’t no Ivy, just you, me and this god damn house. 

 

 (Latifah stands up.)

 

LATIFAH

She’s here.

 

(Maggie gets excited and begins to stutter again and struggles to control it.  Once again the actor must find her own pattern of stuttering within the dialogue as she gradually regains control.)  

 

MAGGIE

You’re f-f-fucking with my head. Y-y-you’ve got e-everything planned out, practicing your little act before you got here—

 

LATIFAH

I didn’t practice anything.

 

MAGGIE

Th-th-this whole spirit thing is like a Hollywood movie.  That education shit got you thinking ten steps ahead.  Well the street makes you think too.   

 

LATIFAH

I’m going to sleep.

 

(Latifah lies down on the sofa trying to ignore Maggie.)

 

MAGGIE

You wo-wo-wouldn’t survive a week out there.  You hear me?

 

(Latifah remains silent.)

 

You got me stu-stuttering like I was a kid all over again.  

 

LATIFAH

It’s not me, it’s this place.

 

MAGGIE

Ivy was drinking hard that night when she told me about Derrick like she knew I’d be doing the same damn thing. 

 

LATIFAH

I don’t know what you’re talking—

 

MAGGIE

I found Jason a week after I left here.  Good looking with a honey tongue, that was Jason too, he knew when I was ready.  He didn’t rush nothing, just let me talk, let me stutter, didn’t make fun of me.  Set me up with a room and came the same time every night like he really wanted me.  Then a week later there was a knock on the door.  Jason gets up and lets in this guy while I’m there on the bed.  This is my friend he said, and friends share everything.

 

(Latifah sits up.)

 

LATIFAH

I dress my fears in dead skin.

They take on a life of their own.

They yell at me and poke my chest and I’m finally not alone.

 

(Pause)

I would lie there in that hospital bed, bitter at the whole damn world, and Jeff would listen.  Write about it he said. Put it down on paper.  So I did.

 

MAGGIE

He was your man?

 

LATIFAH

Lieutenant Jeffery Lomback, not what you’d call handsome, but there was something.  In the VA hospital he put that artificial hand on my arm like he could feel me right through that cold steel. He kept it there for just a split second longer than needed.  “How you doing Corporal?” that’s all he said and kept walking.

 

MAGGIE

Well there ain’t no magic touch here.

 

LATIFAH

I kept feeling that metal pressing my arm and Jeff acting like it ain’t nothing special.  Figuring out what that meant kept me thinking for a week.  Then he came back and touched me again.  “What the fuck are you doing?”, that’s what I said.   “Working with what I’ve got”, that’s what he said, then walked away.   

 

(A pause and a beat, then as Maggie speaks her stuttering diminishes.)

 

MAGGIE

In re-re-rehab there was this old lady who worked with anyone that couldn’t speak right.  W-w-we’d sit in a room alone face to face, I mean real close.  Mrs. Kaminski would be inches from me moving her mouth real big while she talked.  I never looked at someone straight, like looking in their eyes.  But she took my face in her hands and made me.  You ever have someone make you feel like that, like you’re worth something? 

                                                                                                                   

(Lights fade to a spotlight on Maggie kneeling down facing the audience speaking to Goaway.)

 

YOUNG MAGGIE

Jason and you would have been something to see Goway.  He’d smile and you’d bite his ass.  Good looks don’t work with you.  Me, I got a weak spot for a gorgeous hunk that looks right at you so you gotta fight to keep his eyes from getting inside.  It’s like we know the same things Goway, what it’s like to hear someone laugh and know it’s nothing to do with you.  Or watch people touch, not even knowing their doing it, like they’re saying you belong to me. 

 

(Lights come back.)

 

LATIFAH

The lawyer said something about an open service for all faiths. 

 

MAGGIE

A service for two, and I don’t believe in nothing.

 

LATIFAH

You’ve got to believe in—

 

MAGGIE

The here and now, that’s all there is.

 

LATIFAH

My faith gives me strength.

 

MAGGIE

Well you better pray real hard or that door will open and you’ll burn in hell.

 

LATIFAH

Trust in God and he will bring you peace.  

 

MAGGIE

That’s how they keep you in line.  Everybody smiles and talks about heaven but

they make sure you know there’s a hell. 

 

(Latifah suddenly turns to face the closet.  Stage lights cut instantly to black as light emanates from the contour of the closet door.   Latifah screams in fear.

 

LATIFAH

NO!!

 

(Lights come up.  Latifah is on the floor covering her head in fear as Maggie rushes to her, kneeling down placing her hands on Latifah’s shoulders.)

 

MAGGIE

It’s ok.  

 

(Latifah does not move as Maggie stands between Latifah and the closet door facing the audience.)

 

Look I shouldn’t have said nothing.  It’s just a fucking closet.  Maybe sleep ain’t such a good idea.  We need some music in here.

 

(She puts more lights on and goes to the old record player and plays a record.  Laughing as she puts the record on the player.)

 

Now this was something.  Ivy’d be half drunk and we’d all be standing in line with her doing the Madison.

 

(Maggie dances to the music.  Slowly Latifah gets up and joins Maggie dancing.  Latifah dances awkwardly because of her leg.  Maggie shows some patience and waits when Latifah stops and starts to get her footing.  When it ends they both collapse on the sofa laughing.)

 

That leg don’t hold you back girl. 

 

LATIFAH

You got to work with what you’ve got, that’s what Jeff always said.

 

MAGGIE

So what happened?

 

(Latifah walks to the front door and looks out.)

 

LATIFAH

Did you notice that second step to the porch?  It’s got a crack running right down the middle.  If it isn’t fixed soon someone is going to get hurt.  I’m always looking down when I walk.  I notice things a lot of people would miss.  That’s handy in real estate.  I look at everything.  The door frame in the kitchen is slightly out of alignment too. 

 

MAGGIE

Yea, so am I. 

 

(Pause)

 

LATIFAH

It was three years ago.  I came home late and there he was at the kitchen table.  The note said I’m sorry.  He could have used his left hand but the gun was in that cold stand-in for a hand like he was trying to tell me something.  Where’s that V.O.? 

 

(Latifah walks to the table, pours herself a drink, and sits in Ivy’s chair.)

 

MAGGIE

Look if you can’t handle it tomorrow, I can go by—

 

LATIFAH

You’ve been right on that edge Maggie but you pulled back.  Maybe that’s what Ivy saw.

 

MAGGIE

Ain’t nothing about Ivy in me!  All I want is to be left alone.  

 

LATIFAH

That’s all Jeff wanted, then I came along.  It’s not like I tried to change things, just clear enough space to fit in.       

 

(Latifah holds her glass of VO in a toast.)

 

God bless the child, Jef.   I got my own now.  I’m just like you hiding in those cold shadows with memories that never die. Well I want warm shadows now.    

 

 

MAGGIE

Why you talking to him?

 

(Latifah is in a daze, sounding a little bit like Ivy.)

 

LATIFAH

Cause love makes you do things that you know is wrong.  

 

MAGGIE

Keep this shit up and you’re going to spook me too. 

 

LATIFAH

 I’ve spent my days longing for what I could never have and now it’s over.  My heart decided and death is no dream.

 

(Maggie shakes Latifah.)

 

MAGGIE

You’re too fucking intellectual. We’re in Ivy’s house, and that’s real.  I got to survive one day at a time cause tomorrow is for rich people and I ain’t rich. 

 

(Latifah becomes herself again.)

 

LATIFAH

You’re thinking about more than money or you wouldn’t be here.   

 

MAGGIE

You’ve got ghosts in your head. 

 

(Latifah faces the closet door.)

 

LATIFAH

Ivy’s here.  She’s been waiting for us.

 

MAGGIE

Enough with the god damn closet.  

 

(Maggie Grabs the end of the sofa dragging it upstage toward the closet.)

 

Well are you going help?

 

(Latifah grabs the other end of the sofa and they drag it upstage pushing it against the closet door.  Moving the sofa has revealed a large rectangle of carpet that has not been seen for more than thirty years.  The carpet is not worn and there a cookie tin with a lid sitting in the center of the rectangle.  Maggie sits on the carpet and picks up the tin.)

 

MAGGIE

It’s been a lot of years since this was opened.

 

LATIFAH

Maybe we should leave it alone.

 

(Maggie opens the lid.  There a note sitting on top of an object wrapped in cloth.  Maggie picks up the note and reads.)

 

MAGGIE

Pity me.  I need you.

 

(Pause)

You’re right.  Some things should be left alone. 

 

(Maggie puts the note back in the tin and closes the lid.  Then they both sit staring at the container.)

 

Maybe Ivy is still here.  

 

(Latifah sound a little bit like Ivy again.)

 

LATIFAH

Death is no dream for in death I’m caressing you.

 

MAGGIE

Stop doing that!

 

(Maggie stands up and shouts to the empty space as though Ivy is there unseen.)

 

Damn you Ivy! Damn you!  I been climbing out of my hole in the ground, not looking at those ghosts.  Now you come along throwing everything back in my face.  It’s like you know I’m here, like you planned this to bring me back to hell. 

 

LATIFAH

You’re losing it Maggie. 

 

MAGGIE

You and me both Latifah, we’re here cause we got nothing else.

 

LATIFAH

All I want is to make this place a marketable property.   If I live here I can—

 

MAGGIE

You’re as lost as me and Ivy knows it. 

 

(Maggie searches the room for Ivy.)

 

Ain’t that right Ivy?  You been slipping sliding through cracks in the walls, whispering in our ears, taking us back, making us remember. 

 

(Latifah picks up the box and places it back on the carpet exactly where they found it.  Then she grabs the end of the sofa pulling back toward the original position.  As she is about to cover the box with the sofa Maggie rushes over and picks up the box.  There is an extended pause as they both stand still and stare at the box.  Maggie puts the box exactly center on the sofa and grabs the other end of the sofa. Silently the both pull the sofa back to the original position.  They both sit at either end of the sofa staring silently at the fourth wall with the box sitting between them.  Both of them avoid looking at the box.)

 

This place has been in my head all these years, like some like an ache inside hurting for a long time.  Goway knew.  That mutt understood from the minute I looked at him staring back at me in that big old cardboard box.

 

LATIFAH

Jeff wanted to be there, but wall was too high.

 

(Maggie calls out to the room.)

 

MAGGIE

You listening Ivy?  At least her man tried.  Jason just set me like a juicy big Mac special.  But it don’t matter, Latifah and me, we both still right back where we started.

 

LATIFAH

What’s the difference if I say I’ll go away when I know I’ll come back on my knees someday?

 

MAGGIE

I ain’t on my knees.

 

LATIFAH

Those nights by the window watching the snow stayed with me, quiet fluffy white shimmering in lamp post beans, dissolving shadows, caressing the unloved.  When that IED hit, my mind went there, a place to rest where the world can’t touch me.

 

(Latifah turns to the sofa, picks up the box and places it on the coffee table then lies down on the sofa

 

MAGGIE

Those moments are long gone, so is Ivy and that box don’t matter. 

 

(Maggie sits in Ivy’s chair staring at the box.  She picks it up for a brief moment then puts it back on the table.)

 

I buried Goway with love cause that’s how he always looked at me and that’s how I put him in that hole I dug in Central Park on a cold Sunday morning, before anyone came walking along.  I still go there but now the grass and weeds act like it belongs to them. 

 

LATIFAH

Whoever’s on top owns the place while they can, but nesting on Ivy’s grave is not what I had in mind.       

 

MAGGIE

You conjured her up, got me believing she’s still here. You been messing with my head since you walked in that door.

 

LATIFAH

The smell of death was already here.

 

(Maggie laughs.) 

 

MAGGIE

Over thirty years and I still got you shaking.

 

LATIFAH

You been waiting all these years for that?

 

MAGGIE

Don’t falter yourself Latifah.  I’m here for the house, but somehow it ain’t enough.  Maybe being here will set off a firecracker in my head and boom, there it is, what makes me a loser right back where I started.

 

 

LATIFAH

If that’s what you think, then that’s what you’re going to be.

 

MAGGIE

Don’t act up, you need answers just like me. 

 

LATIFAH

“Pity me I need you”.  Maybe the answers are in that box.   

 

MAGGIE

Your man’s dead and mine’s long gone.  Maybe that’s what the box is about.  Ivy sure knew about losing a man. 

 

(There is a long pause as they both stare at the box on the coffee table.  Suddenly Maggie reaches for the box removes the lid then places the box back on the table with the lid sitting next to it. Then leans back in her chair and continues to stare at the box.)

 

It’s wrapped in one of those lace doily things she used to put under the glass vase with the plastic flowers right here on this coffee table.  She put clean water in that vase, changing it every day.  The house looked like shit and she’d be changing the water for plastic flowers. 

 

(Latifah laughs.)

 

LATIFAH

And singing, God Bless The Child, with her teeth in a glass, and drinking V.O.  

 

(Maggie walks toward the kitchen.)

 

Where are you going?

 

MAGGIE

The kitchen.

 

(Maggie exits into the kitchen.)

 

LATIFAH

See if there’s anymore V.O.  She always kept an extra bottle on the top shelf to the left over the sink.

 

(Maggie speaks from off stage.)

 

 

MAGGIE

How’d you know about that?   

 

LATIFAH

I was here two years after you left, saw a lot of things she didn’t want anybody to know.  Sometimes I think she knew I could see but went ahead anyway like she wanted me to watch.

 

MAGGIE

You’re right, a full bottle.

 

LATIFAH

Told you.

 

(Maggie enters with the vase half filled with water and two plastic flowers in one hand and a bottle of V.O. in the other.  She puts the bottle on the table and places the vase down, carefully arranging the flowers. Latifah takes the bottle and proceeds to pour two drinks.)

 

MAGGIE

Now this is the way Ivy had the table.  Changing that water was a ritual every night. 

 

(Lights fade and a spot comes up on Latifah as Ivy and another spot comes up on Maggie as herself at sixteen.  Ivy picks up her V.O. takes a big swig.)

 

LATIFAH AS IVY

Imitation flowers Magpie, that’s all you see, but to get passed the smoke and mirrors you got to take your time. 

 

(Ivy picks up the vase and holds it high, as though it is a ceremonial vessel.)

 

You’ve got to hold the moment, a resting place between the hell you came from the hell you’re going to. 

 

(Ivy removes the flowers with one hand and presents the vase with the water to Maggie with the other hand.)

 

Drink Magpie, take in the moment, hold it deep inside. 

 

(Maggie does not move.)

 

You satisfied with this hell, or you want other ways of seeing?

 

(Maggie reaches out for the vase then pulls back.  Latifah waves the flowers in front of Maggie.)

 

Real flowers promise beauty then die, but these keep their word, a resting place between what’s gone and what’s going to be, no hidden plan, no schemes.  Tomorrow they’ll be here, same as today. 

 

(Latifah holds the vase out to Maggie again.)

 

Drink.

 

(Maggie takes the vase and drinks the water.  It to overflows pouring down the front of her clothes.)

 

That’s it Magpie, wash out all that time spent thinking about what was and what could be.  Ain’t nothing but the moment.

 

(Maggie continues drinking as full stage lights come up, water running down her chin onto her clothes.  Latifah becomes herself again and grabs the vase from Maggie, placing it on the coffee table.)

 

LATIFAH

What the hell are you doing?

 

(Maggie speaks in a daze.)

 

MAGGIE

Ain’t nothing but the moment.

 

(Latifah pushes the glass of V.O. into Maggie’s hand.)

 

LATIFAH

Here drink this.

 

(Maggie lifts the glass to her mouth.)

 

Go ahead, drink it all down.

 

(Maggie does so.  The liquor makes her cough, bringing her back from her vision as she feels her wet clothes.)

 

You better put on some dry clothes.

 

(Maggie gets up and walks upstage to her suitcase.  She takes out a large sweatshirt that she pulls down over her neck but not the arms so she can remove her blouse without revealing her body. Then she puts her arms into the sweatshirt.)

 

Back in the day you never gave a damn who saw you.

 

MAGGIE

All I’ve got left are scars. 

 

(There is a pause as Latifah hands one of the plastic flowers to Maggie.  They both sit there holding a flower each, facing the fourth wall.)

 

When you’re sixteen, if you’re lucky, the mirror lets you know you’re looking good even if the world around you is shit. 

 

LATIFAH

The mirror wasn’t smiling at me, but my legs still worked.

 

(Maggie puts down the flower on the sofa and hesitantly reaches into the box to touch the wrapped object, feeling the shape of what is inside, then sits back.  Latifah puts her flower down on her side of the sofa.)

 

LATIFAH

Well?

 

MAGGIE

It’s a roll of dimes, it’s not big enough for quarters.  You know how she would sit at the table with those coin wrappers sorting out—

 

LATIFAH

You didn’t even pick it up.  You can’t tell what’s in there without holding it in your hand.

 

MAGGIE

Go ahead then.

 

LATIFAH

I don’t want to.

 

MAGGIE

Why not?

 

 

LATIFAH

Because all that’s in there is trouble.   

 

MAGGIE

We both took the bait, she sucked us in with the promise of a house.

 

LATIFAH

That’s not it, not for me.

 

MAGGIE

Oh, I forgot, money don’t mean shit to you, you’ve got so much.

 

LATIFAH

Recognition, maybe not love, but recognition, that’s what it is.

 

MAGGIE

You think I give a damn what Ivy felt?

 

LATIFAH

Yes.

 

MAGGIE

We got to get some sleep.

 

(Maggie leans forward and puts the lid back on the box, takes the back pillows from the sofa and puts them on the floor downstage of the coffee table.  Latifah continues to stare at the box as Maggie lies down on the pillow on the floor facing the audience.  While Maggie attempts to sleep Latifah leans forward, picks up the object, feeling it with both her hands, then puts it back into the box.)

 

MAGGIE

I know you picked it up. 

 

LATIFAH

I didn’t open it.

 

MAGGIE

So what do you think?

 

LATIFAH

I think you’re right.  We should get some sleep.

 

 

MAGGIE

A twenty-year old candy bar, a pocket knife, a real gold chain, maybe the one she always wore.

 

LATIFAH

I don’t want to know.

 

MAGGIE

Sure you do.

 

(Latifah lies down on the sofa without responding.  Maggie sits up.)

 

It’s like she set this up.  Somehow she knew we’d end up finding that box.

 

LATIFAH

They’re picking us up at nine oclock we need—

 

MAGGIE

Ok, we do it.

 

(Maggie opens the box and takes out the object holding it for moment, then she puts it down on the table.)

 

It’s not heavy enough for a roll of coins.

 

LATIFAH

We both brought too much baggage.  You see one way I see another, either way it’s still Pandora’s Box.

 

MAGGIE

You talking educated again. 

 

LATIFAH

I’m just explaining—

 

MAGGIE

So what is Pandora’s box?  And don’t tell me it’s her pussy. 

 

LATIFAH

It was a gift to Pandora, the first woman on earth, from the Greek god Zeus. The box contained all the evils of this world.   Zeus told her never to open it.

 

MAGGIE

She didn’t listen right?  Tell a woman not to do something and you know what’s going to happen. 

 

LATIFAH

When she opened it all the evils in the world escaped.

 

MAGGIE

Told you.

 

LATIFAH

One thing remained at the bottom of the box.

 

(Maggie waits for Latifah to tell what remained but Latifah does not speak.)

 

MAGGIE

Ok, so you going to tell me what was still in there?

 

LATIFAH

Elpis.

 

MAGGIE

What the fuck is—

 

LATIFAH

The spirit of hope.

 

(Maggie laughs.)

 

MAGGIE

So what do you think we got here, evil or hope? 

 

LATIFAH

Depends on what it is.

 

MAGGIE

I’ll go for the gold chain.

 

LATIFAH

Is that evil or hope?

 

MAGGIE

It don’t matter to me.  I just figure I could sell a gold chain to get by for one more day.

 

LATIFAH

What if it’s only a doily wrapped really tight with nothing inside?

 

MAGGIE

This box ain’t going to change nothing.  We got the fucking house and that’s what’s going to make the difference.

 

LATIFAH

Then why are you so interested in what’s in there?

 

MAGGIE

I need some sleep.

 

(Maggie lies down on the cushions.)

 

LALTIFAH

What if there was genuine evil wrapped in that doily?

 

MAGGIE

Like what?

 

LATIFAH

How would I know?  We need to unwrap the—

 

MAGGIE

Go to sleep.

 

(Pause)

 

LATIFAH

Maybe it’s his finger.

 

MAGGIE

What the fuck are you talking about?

 

LATIFAH

A mummified finger, I’ve known guys who brought back stuff like that from Iraq.  Sometimes it’s was their own damn finger.

 

(Maggie sits up.)

 

MAGGIE    

Latifah you got a way of making everything suck.

 

LATIFAH

I’m just playing devil’s advocate here.

 

MAGGIE

There you go again.

 

LATIFAH

How about if it’s a letter to both of us rolled up on a piece of paper?

 

MAGGIE

I want to know about the devil’s advocate and that damn finger.

 

LATIFAH

The devil’s advocate offers an alternative view of something.

 

MAGGIE

Well your alternative sucks big time.

 

LATIFAH

What about a letter?

 

MAGGIE

That better unless she’s got something nasty to say. 

 

LATIFAH

Ivy wouldn’t leave us the house and then write something negative.   

 

(Maggie opens the box and takes out the object holding it for moment, then she puts it down on the table.)

 

MAGGIE

It’s not heavy enough for a roll of coins.

 

(There is an extended pause as they both look intently at the object.)

 

LATIFAH

We’ve got to—

 

MAGGIE

That woman owes us, and all the kids she kept in this hole.  It’s payback time.  I want to take her house and bury everything about her tomorrow.

 

(Latifah reaches for the object.  Maggie grabs it first slams it back in the box and closes lid.)

 

You don’t need to know any more than me. 

 

LATIFAH

The truth is in that box.   

 

MAGGIE

The truth is if we find out more than we want there are going to be more decisions to make.  Do we keep a secret or get authorities involved, which means the house will not belong to us for a long time.  

 

LATIFAH

You can’t ignore—

 

MAGGIE

You want to start digging up floor boards?  Maybe there’s something a lot bigger than a finger under there. 

 

(Lights fade and a spot comes up on Latifah as Ivy sitting on the sofa looking at the box.)

 

LATIFAH AS IVY

Would the angels be angry if I thought of joining you Derrick?  There’s nothing left here but shadows.  For all we know this may only be a dream.  Maybe that’s all we are, slipping from one place to another, but in my solitude death is no dream and I’m traveling all alone.  The memory of your touch, that’s all I have. 

 

(Lights come up to full stage.)

 

MAGGIE

So what’s it going to be Latifah?

 

LATIFAH

Tomorrow.  We open it tomorrow after the funeral.

 

(Maggie stands up and walks downstage turning her back to Latifah.)

 

MAGGIE

That Greek god, and devil’s advocate stuff, sometimes I wish I could talk like that.  I’m not saying you know more than me.  It‘s just that you’ve got a way with words that comes from being out there where you can learn that. 

 

LATIFAH

I got lucky.  That’s what it comes down to a lot of the time, like us getting this house.

 

MAGGIE

Yea, well, sometimes you make your own luck, and this time that’s what I’m going to do.   

 

LATIFAH

Good, I mean that.  If we got to share this place, it’s going to be a lot easier if you want to improve yourself.

 

(Maggie turns to face Latifah becoming angry.)

 

MAGGIE

Improve myself?  You think I got to improve myself to share this fucking hole with you?  I breath, eat, love, hate, and fuck, same as you.  Maybe I’m still on the bottom but you ain’t climbed up that far and the system’s rigged.  Foster kids get locked outside that happy ever after shit.

 

LATIFAH

Locked out, that’s what connects you, me, and Ivy.

 

MAGGIE

All three of us wishing we had that mommy and daddy shit?  Well that makes me feel a whole lot better.  My daddy left when I was five and my mom got put away in a drug bust when I was seven.

 

LATIFAH

I was eight when he beat her till she stopped breathing. 

 

(There is a very long pause as Latifah picks up both of the flowers and slowly places both of them into the vase on the coffee table arranging them carefully.)

 

LATIFAH

I saw the whole thing. 

 

(Pause)

I still see it. 

 

(Maggie laughs to cover her emotions.)

 

 

MAGGIE

You know what’s weird?  I dream in color, except when I think about these two women coming to school to take me to family services.  “Where’s my mom?”, I keep saying, “Where’s my mom?”.  All this time it’s still in black and white and then I wake up.

 

(Lights fade and a spot comes up on Latifah as Ivy speaking to Billie.)

 

LATIFAH AS IVY

We’re connected Billie, you and me. I hear you sing, and I am twelve years old, doing what mama said, turning tricks for five dollar a pop.

 

(Ivy sings the following lines.)          

 

I’m a fool to want you.  To want a love that can’t be true.  A love that’s there for others too.  To share a kiss the devil has known.  Pity me, I need you.

 

Despair is your soul Billie, in every note and between words, the way silence tells truth.  Your voice makes my heart weep, but you hold back enough to go on.  You make pain a bitter sweetness, no hiding, no pretending.  Let it in, that’s what you sing.  You can’t feel joy if you don’t feel pain.  That’s a hard road Billie.  I got the pain but joy just don’t seem to come. 

 

(Lights come back up on full stage.)

 

MAGGIE

After the funeral we come back here, shake Ivy’s ghost right out of these walls and claim this house for ourselves once and for all.

 

LATIFAH

You never can shake her out of this place.

 

MAGGIE

You want to bet?                                 

 

LATIFAH

One night after you left, a guy came to the door real late.  Ivy told us all to get out, pushing us passed him, then closed the door.  We stood on the porch trying to listen but we couldn’t hear a thing. 

 

MAGGIE

I don’t want to hear this shit.

 

 

LATIFAH

He left an hour later.  Then Ivy sat in that same chair with her V.O.  She got drunk for days just sitting there.  She kept saying Derick—

 

MAGGIE

I said I don’t want to—

 

LATIFAH

Like it or not we share something nobody else can.  

 

MAGGIE

You’re still searching for spooks behind every wall.  

 

LATIFAH

The truth is always hidden.

 

MAGGIE

Well take your choice, the box or the closet, which hidden truth do you want?

 

(Maggie picks up the box and walks to the closet.  She holds the box in one hand and puts her other hand on the key to the door.)

 

That’s the difference Latifah.  I face shit head on, while you sneak around analyzing everything.

 

(Maggie unlocks the door.)

 

Maybe the best place for this box is inside the closet. 

 

(Maggie turns the key in the lock.) 

 

LATIFAH

You don’t frighten me.

 

(Maggie teases Latifah by slowly turning the knob of the door and pulling it slightly open, then closing it.)  

 

MAGGIE

It’s ironic.  I end up in a cardboard box with a mangi dog, you get your own business and still end up back here, the same as me.

 

(Maggie opens the door just far enough for her to look inside without Latifah or the audience being able to see inside.)

 

Anybody in there?

 

(Maggie looks back outside at Latifah.)

 

Last chance, you want to see what’s in the box? 

 

(There is a pause as Maggie waits for a response which does not come.)

 

In that case I’ll lock it away for good.

 

(Maggie opens the door a little wider and steps inside the closet.  As soon as she disappears inside the closet Latifah slams the door shut and locks it.  Maggie yells from inside the closet.)

 

What the fuck are you doing?

 

LATIFAH

Locking it away for good. 

 

MAGGIE

Open the god damn door!

 

LATIFAH

Why?

 

MAGGIE

Don’t play games Latifah.

 

LATIFAH

I thought you liked games, teasing me, just like the old days.

 

MAGGIE

This is no joke.

 

LATIFAH

The first hours are not so bad.  You keep watching light under the door as someone moves passed.   

 

(Maggie bangs on the door.)

 

MAGGIE

Let me out of this fucking place!

 

LATIFAH

Not even a minute gone and you’re getting frantic.

 

MAGGIE

Ok, ok, I shouldn’t have teased you with the box. 

 

LATIFAH

The voices outside filter through your heavy breathing until night comes.  Then no more light seeps under the door, no sounds sift through blank air until—

 

MAGGIE       

I apologize.

 

LATIFAH

At four in the morning you can hear your own heart beat.   

 

(Pause)

 

She didn’t know I’d been there many times. 

 

(Latifah imitates some former foster parent.)

 

“This’ll learn you.  You stay there till you do what you’re told.  Ain’t no talking back in this house.”

 

That was my first foster hell at eight years old.                                                                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

 

 

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