L’Ape musicale  

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Scene 7

[Wedding dress shop interior. Because it serves a rural area there are also ordinary dresses, shoes, stacks of jeans. The wedding dresses are few, segregated to a single rack. Alma, her mother and the saleswoman are clustered at the wedding dress rack. The saleswoman has a modified beehive hairdo, wears an out-of-fashion dress with an air of misplaced confidence. Alma and her mother are both dowdy. Alma, who has been trying on dresses, is in her slip.]

MOTHER

(pulling out a dress after checking the price tag.)

Alma, now try this one. (Holds up a rather homely long cotton dress with eyelet embroidery as its only decoration.)

SALESWOMAN

[correcting the rubes]

That’s one of our bridesmaid dresses.

(Pulls out and holds up a cheesy rayon dress with a lumpy train and plastic seed pearls.)

This is a bridal gown.

MOTHER (looks at the price tag)

We’re only ranch people. That’s a lot of money for us.

SALESWOMAN

It’s on sale. And it’s a girl’s Big Day. Try it on.

[Alma disappears behind the dressing room curtain.]

SALESWOMAN

Is she marrying a local boy?

MOTHER

A nice young man. Ennis Del Mar.

SALESWOMAN

What is his profession?

Is he a lawyer?

The son of a rancher? College student?

Does he work for the state?

Will they live in town?

MOTHER [dodging]

He comes from ranch people. Like us.

ALMA [behind the dressing room curtain.]

This is the one I want. I will marry Ennis in this dress. [Emerges, wearing the wedding dress.]

Only a few more months now—after he comes down from that mountain.

[Trio]

SALESWOMAN

Just lovely on you. The perfect bride!

MOTHER [clutching ratty purse]

I don’t know—.

ALMA

I want this dress.

SALESWOMAN [closing in for the kill]

I wish I had a camera to take her picture. And you won’t get it cheaper.

MOTHER. [Wishing she could sink through the floor.]

I don’t know. It’ll take all the money I’ve got.

ALMA

I want this dress! Please, Mama.

SALESWOMAN

I’ll throw in a veil. [Pulls a crumpled veil off a shelf.] Just dip it in warm water and let it dry overnight hanging up.

MOTHER

It’s a lot of money.

ALMA [near tears]

I never get nothin nice.

SALESWOMAN

You want to do the right thing for your girl. [Unzips wedding dress, hands Alma her street dress which Alma pulls on.]

MOTHER [Alma’s mother rummages in her purses, carefully counts out and lays the money on the counter.]

That was going to buy new tires for Dad’s truck.

ALMA

I got to have that dress.

SALESWOMAN

The beautiful bride.

MOTHER

This was for the vet’s bill.

ALMA

I want that dress.

SALESWOMAN

The happiest day of your life!

MOTHER

This was for new jeans for the boys.

SALESWOMAN [putting dress into plastic bag. Speaks to Alma with professional syrupy tone.]

I wish you a sunny wedding day.

[MOTHER and ALMA exit, but stand outside the shop.]

MOTHER

That was embarrassin. What was wrong with the first dress? It was only forty-five dollars. It was pretty and youthful.

ALMA

It was ugly. I want somethin nice. For the start of my new life. Mrs. Ennis Del Mar. For my escape from the ranch.

MOTHER

That ranch has supported you for eighteen years.

ALMA

I sure didn’t pick to live there. I hate it! I want to live in town. I want to have a phone. A princess phone.

MOTHER

How does Ennis feel about town?

ALMA [disparagingly]

He wants his own ranch. He wants to raise horses. On that we don’t see eye to eye. I will change his mind. He will give in.

MOTHER

You’ll find out. You can take the boy out of the country…

ALMA [interrupting]

You wait and see. I won’t get stuck on any ranch.

MOTHER

It’s late. Come on. [Exits]

ALMA [increasingly rapid-fire delivery, works herself into a fury.]

I grew up on that ranch, seven boys and me. Men get to be the heroes.

Women pay the bills,

Cook for roundups.

Dishes three times a day.

Tend the garden. Can tomatoes, dig potatoes.

Chickens, eggs!

Blizzards and mud.

Laundry for ten and then start again.

And who gets the ranch? Not the worn-out wife.

The oldest boy inherits it all.

That’s a life I am leavin.

MOTHER

[off stage]

Alma!

ALMA

[exits]

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