L’Ape musicale  

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Scene 11

1967

[Interior Alma and Ennis’s apartment in Riverton. There is an outside stairway with a landing in front of the kitchen door. The place is a mess. There are dirty dishes in the skink, a laundry basket full of clothes. We can see into the back bedroom where a baby bawls and a toddler calls “Mama.” Alma is ironing.]

ALMA [irritably]

Where is he? [Looks at her wristwatch] I’m goin to be late to work. [Goes to pink princess phone, dials] Bill? It’s Alma. I’m waitin for Ennis to get back and take care of the girls. As soon as he gets here. Uh-huh. Yes. Well, that’s how he is.

[We hear a truck drive in. Ennis appears, climbs the stairs. The kitchen door opens.]

He’s comin in now. See you in ten minutes.

[Ennis comes slouching through the door, disheveled, dusty, hat mashed, shirt torn. He is holding his right wrist. Alma is tight-lipped.]

What kept you so long? I’m late for work.

ENNIS

Ah hell, I got in a fight with the new guy. I think I sprained my wrist.

ALMA [coldly]

Always fightin. You need a different job. A real job, not a ranch job. Baby needs changin and there’s hot dogs in the ice box for supper. [pause] There’s mail for you. On the bed.

[She goes out, slamming the door.]

ENNIS

Dammit.

[Goes into bedroom, source of the crying. Sings his old song with words for the babies.]

Daddy’s girls, pigtails and curls,

Daddy’s girls, rubies and pearls.

[The babies are quiet. Ennis comes out of the bedroom, sorting through the mail.]

ENNIS

Big sale at the feed store. Ain’t that great.

Telephone bill. I don’t know why in hell we need a telephone.

Water bill. On a ranch you got your own water.

A letter from[a pause as he tears the envelope open, reads quickly and silently] Christ, it’s from JACK TWIST!

[He reads it aloud, slowly, grinning, savoring every word.]

FRIEND THIS LETTER IS A LONG TIME OVERDUE. HOPE YOU GET IT.

[Cross-fade to Jack’s voice]

I’M COMIN THRU ON THE 24TH ON MY WAY TO CODY RODEO, WILL VISIT YOU AND BUY A SHOT OF WHISKEY. DROP ME A LINE, GIVE YOUR ADDRESS. YOUR OLD PAL JACK

ENNIS

Twenty-fourth! That’s next week.

[He is happy and grinning. Whirls in a tizzy, bumps into ironing board, seizes the iron, pulls his best shirt out of the basket and begins to iron it. He puts the iron aside, looks for paper and pencil, finds them and begins to write a reply.]

ENNIS [aloud, as he writes.]

Dear Jack. I will sure be glad to see you again. Hurry up!’

End Act I


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