© 1991 and 2011 by R.M. Usatinsky
All rights whatsoever in this play are strictly reserved and applications for permission to perform it, etc., must be made in advance, before rehearsals begin to firstname.lastname@example.org
DANTE. Riffraff; streetkid. Morose and monotone. A leader.
VENUS. His friend. Riffraff; streetkid. A follower.
PRIMO. Dante’s cousin, a beat cop. Earnest.
The first performance of Happy Man
was given at The Chicago Dramatists Workshop,
December 9, 1991, with the following cast:
The play was directed by Kevin Ferguson;
the stage manager was Kimberly Wetherell
Scene One: August, 1955. Dusk. The alley behind the old tannery. From opening curtain DANTE slowly rides his bicycle constantly and continuously, clockwise. VENUS occasionally dribbles his basketball or tosses it up in the air. At DSL, behind some garbage cans, is the partially visible body of a deadman.
VENUS.You really gonna keep it?
DANTE. Not sure.
VENUS. I’d get rid of it. [pause] So what are you gonna do?
DANTE. Not sure.
VENUS. You just gonna leave it at that, not sure.
DANTE. Why not?
VENUS. Don’t seem right.
DANTE. What would you do with it?
VENUS. I’d get it off the street that’s for sure.
DANTE. Oh, yeah? And where would you take it?
VENUS. Well, you could take it home.
DANTE. And when my ma sees it?
VENUS. I didn’t think about that.
VENUS. You could take it to the empty lot.
DANTE. I don’t think so. Someone could see it.
VENUS. You can’t keep it here forever. Someone could come.
DANTE. Let ‘em come. It’s a nice bike. I found it. I like it…I just might keep it, that’s all.
VENUS. [pause] So you gonna ride around all night?
DANTE. What else?
VENUS. You could take that stupid bike home and we could go down to the CYO.
DANTE. I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.
VENUS. Why not?
DANTE. My ma gets awful suspicious, you know.
VENUS. Why don’t you take it to your grandfather’s farm?
DANTE. I thought about that, but you know what happens when you leave stuff
sitting around in a barn.
VENUS. No. What happens?
DANTE. It gets all rusted up and the wheels get all hard. Next thing you know some dumb kid finds it next to a hay stack and he calls out “hey paw, look-a-what I found in the barn, an ol’ bike, can I keep it, huh paw?”
VENUS. You’re right, farm’s a bad idea. What about your uncle Lou’s warehouse?
DANTE. Thought about that, too.
DANTE. Bad idea.
VENUS. How come?
DANTE. Just is.
VENUS. [looking at the body] Suppose anyone else knows?
DANTE. About what?
VENUS. You know, him.
DANTE. No, I don’t think so, not yet anyway.
VENUS. [pause] Hey Dante, do you think he was a happy man?
DANTE. A happy man?
VENUS. Yeah. I mean do you think he was happy before he died?
DANTE. How do you know if someone’s happy?
VENUS. Well you can tell by the expression on his face.
DANTE. Well, I guess he was happy then.
VENUS. Yeah, but how do you really know?
DANTE. He had a smile on his face.
VENUS. He had a smile on his face?
DANTE. And he had this old bike, didn’t he?
VENUS. Yeah, but…
DANTE. Then he must have been happy, right?
VENU. But now he’s dead.
DANTE. We all have to die sometime.
VENUS. I know, but do you think he’s still happy when he’s dead?
DANTE. I doubt it.
DANTE. Just look at him. He’s all blue, and he made in his pants.
VENUS. So. Haven’t you ever made in your pants?
DANTE. That’s none of your business.
VENUS. Well, did you?
DANTE. Well, yes, once.
VENUS. And how’d it feel?
DANTE. Gross, what do you think! Do we have to talk about this any more?
VENUS. Well I don’t think he was very happy.
DANTE. And why not?
VENUS. Well, just look at his clothes for one thing.
VENUS. They’re like second hand or something. Look how baggy those pants are.
DANTE. He’s old. Old people shrink. The body that probably once fit those clothes good once probly just shrinked up on him one day.
VENUS. [pause] What do you think they’ll do to him?
DANTE. They’ll probably put him in a bag and take him away.
VENUS. Take him away? In a bag? Where will they take him?
DANTE. To the basement in the hospital.
VENUS. What’ll they do to him there?
DANTE. They take the blood and guts out and stuff it all up with some kind of jelly so when you touch him he still feels real.
VENUS. That’s really weird.
DANTE. They did it to Fabian’s brother. He was just a baby. They kept it in the attic for a while until one day Fabian’s mother took it to the store in a buggy.
VENUS. What happened?
DANTE. The police came and took her away.
VENUS. What about the baby?
DANTE. Oh, they gave it a real funeral and put it asleep in the ground.
VENUS. What happened to Fabian’s mother?
DANTE. She hanged herself up with a lamp cord.
VENUS. Wow! Guess she was crazy.
DANTE. Guess she missed her baby.
Fade to Black.
Scene Two: An hour later. DANTE slowly rides his bicycle constantly and continuously, counter-clockwise. VENUS plays with his basketball. Enter PRIMO, a beat cop.
PRIMO. Hi, guys.
VENUS. Hey, Primo!
DANTE. Hey, Primo. Any news?
PRIMO. No. Nothing yet. He hasn’t called?
PRIMO. None of his pals seen him?
PRIMO. How’s your ma takin’ it?
DANTE. She’s okay, I guess. You kinda get used to it after a while.
VENUS. Sure. Dante says his pop takes off for sometimes two, three days. Never even calls.
PRIMO. How are you doin’ Dante? Getting along?
DANTE. Sure. Ma’s cryin’ a lot. Anything a guy could do about all that cryin’?
PRIMO. Just be a good kid, that’s all. Say, Dante, when was the last time you saw your father?
DANTE. When was the first? I’m sure it’s been just as long.
PRIMO. Mr. Smoller, the shoe man, said he saw you two arguing yesterday morning. Did you see your father yesterday morning, Dante?
DANTE. Mr. Smoller?
VENUS. Mr. Smoller’s a Jew.
DANTE. So yesterday was the Jewish Sunday, you know, Saturday. That’s why they close up the stores on Saturday, it’s their Sunday.
VENUS. So Mr. Smoller had to be lying.
PRIMO. Mr. Smoller was on his way to church when he said he saw Dante and his old man arguing.
DANTE. It’s not a church.
DANTE. Mr. Smoller’s a Jew.
DANTE. They don’t go to church. They go to a temple.
VENUS. They go to a synagogue.
PRIMO. How do you know so much about Jews anyway, Venus?
VENUS. My old man works for the Rabbi, he turns on the lights in the synagogue on Saturday, cause the Jews can’t, cause it’s their holy day.
PRIMO. So you’re saying Mr. Smoller didn’t see you arguing with your old man yesterday.
DANTE. I’m saying Mr. Smoller didn’t see anything yesterday.
PRIMO. And how’s that?
VENUS. Mr. Smoller’s blind as a bat.
DANTE. He’s got a white stick with the red tip, too. Never uses it.
PRIMO. Well maybe he heard you, then.
DANTE. I doubt it.
PRIMO. Why do you doubt it?
DANTE. Cause me and my old man wasn’t arguing.
PRIMO. But you were with him.
PRIMO. What, uh-uh. Look Dante, I know you and your father don’t get along, but if you were with him yesterday, and you know where he might have gone, I got to know, it’s my job.
DANTE. Okay, let’s suppose I do know where he went. What happens then?
PRIMO. We’ll know where he is and we’ll know that he’s okay. Your ma’s at home worried sick.
DANTE. She’s sick alright. But it ain’t cause of him being gone. [pause] You know, if I was you I wouldn’t even bother. If ya ask me, I happen to think that this time he won’t be comin’ back.
PRIMO. And what makes you think that?
DANTE. I know my old man.
PRIMO. And so do I. He’s my uncle remember. And he’s been my uncle longer than he’s been your old man.
DANTE. I wonder if he knows that.
PRIMO. If he knows what?
DANTE. That you’s his nephew.
PRIMO. Sure he does.
DANTE. And what makes you so sure?
PRIMO. He came to my communion.
DANTE. Mine too.
PRIMO. Always sends a birthday card.
DANTE. That’s my ma. She signs his name.
PRIMO. Well let’s just hope he turns up soon.
PRIMO. Because I don’t want to see you grow up like I did. I never even got meet my old man. He died in the war.
DANTE. My old man says he went batty and blew his brains out.
PRIMO. Well your old man’s a liar.
DANTE. Yep. I know.
Fade to black.
Scene Three: DANTE slowly rides his bicycle constantly and continuously, clockwise. VENUS occasionally tosses his basketball.
VENUS.Think he noticed?
VENUS. I think he noticed.
DANTE. So, maybe he did. What about it.
VENUS. He’s a cop.
VENUS. It’s his job to notice stuff like that.
DANTE. I don’t think he noticed. Besides, what’s so weird about seeing a kid on a bike?
VENUS. Well for one thing, he knows you ain’t got no bike.
DANTE. He does now.
VENUS. What if he tells your ma?
DANTE. What if?
VENUS. She’ll know it ain’t yours.
DANTE. Primo won’t snitch.
VENUS. How can you be so sure?
DANTE. I just know.
VENUS. Right, like you know that your old man won’t be comin’ home?
DANTE. Yeah, like I know my old man won’t be comin’ home.
[The sound of sirens can be heard approaching. A flashing light is seen in the area just behind the dumpster. The body of the deadman is seen being slowly dragged off stage. The flashing light diminishes as the siren sounds and becomes faint in the distance. Enter PRIMO]
PRIMO. We’ve found your father.
VENUS. Dante. Did you hear that? They found him.
DANTE. Yeah, I heard.
PRIMO. You can go and see him.
VENUS. Did they put him in a bag?
PRIMO. No, the back of the squad car.
VENUS. Where is he now? In the basement of the hospital?
PRIMO. No. We got him at the station. We’re trying to get more out of him.
VENUS. That’s gross. Why can’t you just leave him be? Didn’t he suffer enough?
PRIMO. Maybe. But so did the guy he bumped off.
VENUS. What guy? What do you mean bumped off?
DANTE. My old man killed him.
VENUS. Killed who? What are you talking about?
DANTE. Remember the guy back there, your happy man? He’s the one in the bag. He’s the one in the basement of the hospital. He’s the one they’re gonna stuff up with jelly.
VENUS. You mean your old man ain’t dead?
DANTE. No. He ain’t dead, just in jail. Right, Primo?
PRIMO. I still can’t believe it. He was waiting for me at my place when I got home. He confessed to having a confrontation with the guy on Saturday morning, but said that was all he could remember. He woke up later and found his hands and clothes soaked in blood.
VENUS. He confessed?
DANTE. He’d been drinking.
VENUS. But what about the dead guy?
PRIMO. What about him?
VENUS. Why’d he do it? Why’d he bump him off?
DANTE. He had a big mouth, and he owed my old man some money.
PRIMO. We found the murder weapon in the glove compartment of his car. He really did the old man in, knifed him seven times, right in the heart.
DANTE. He still had a big mouth, and he still owed my old man money.
PRIMO. That still don’t make it right.
VENUS. Who was he, Primo?
PRIMO. One of the local merchants.
DANTE. It was Smoller, the shoe man, wasn’t it? Go ahead and tell him. It was Smoller.
PRIMO. Come on Dante. I’ll take you downtown now.
DANTE. No thanks, Primo. I think I’ll hang out around here for a little while.
VENUS. Yeah, me too.
PRIMO. Okay. But Dante, get home early, huh. Your ma’s gonna need you tonight. See you Around Venus. [Exit PRIMO ]
VENUS. Sure is a good guy that Primo. [pause] I can’t believe your old man killed Smoller.
DANTE. Why not?
VENUS. It’s just weird, that’s all.
DANTE. Not so weird.
VENUS. [pause] One thing I don’t get.
DANTE. What’s that.
VENUS. I wonder what Smoller was doing with that old bike anyway?
DANTE. Said it was for his grandson. A birthday present.
VENUS. For his grandson? A birthday present? How do you know that?
DANTE. Cause he told me so.
VENUS. Cause he told you so? You mean you saw Smoller before your old man knifed him?
DANTE. Before my old man knifed him? Who said my old man knifed him?
VENUS. But he confessed.
DANTE. He confessed to a shoutin’ match. He blacked out remember.
VENUS. But the blood. What about the blood?
DANTE. Blood is blood. [Pause. He stops riding] Still think he was a happy man?
Fade to black.