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March 9, 2009 / zanzi

Hitch 21: A One Act Verse Play (Excerpt)


Angus is in his early twenties and is driving along the west coast of India.

Odie hitches a ride with him. Even though they are of similar age, she looks older.

There is a non-speaking role: a Waiter at a motel.

Stage-light intensity and colour is to be varied gradually to suggest the change with passing hours of a day as they drive.

The stage setting remains constant throughout. While in the car, they occupy centre-stage. On each side of the stage there are a couple of seats and a table, which are used as a motel and diner later on.

Odie: Where you headed, north all the way?

Angus: Right along the west coast till Bombay.

Odie: Mind if I join you?

Angus: Hop right in!

Odie: Game for conversation?

Angus: I play to win.

Odie: Shall I ask your story before I tell you mine,

Or leave it to the to-and-fro of talk to divine?

For that matter – do you believe in high design-

Angus: The retail chain?

Odie: A man’s sense of humour! I resign-

Angus: Yourself to your fate? A deterministic plot!

Shall we then each stay loyal to a pre-consigned slot?

No, I don’t believe in God or a Greater Plan

Nor all that French talk about the Brotherhood of Man.

Odie: You sound a tad cynical…

Angus: Disillusioned, if you please

Idols, they say, have feet of clay and I’m weak at the knees.

Odie: No wonder! When your shoulders seem to carry such a load

And your feet accelerate and brake you on a God-forsaken road.

Angus: Don’t go “poor dear”ing me, there’s plenty I’m glad about:

A fuel tank that’s full, a heart that’s warm and stout.

But tell me your story – how came you to hitch a ride

Has life treated you wrong? Is there love at your side?

Odie: I’ve snapped ties with judgment calls on life since a while,

As for love, I’ll be no man’s wife – not my style

But there is a darling dog who’s happed to come my way,

A penchant for painting, passion for the music that I play.

Angus: Indeed! I hope your Bach’s not worse than your dog’s bite…

Odie: Stuck with your sense of tumour. Man, what a plight!

But your convertible is nice. I like the colour – red

So I’ll stay. Anyway, I have naught to do instead.

Angus: Such wanderlust in a woman in these parts is so unusual

I wonder. On this subject, may I subject you to perusal?

Odie: I was a photojournalist, worked in wars and things,

Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan – each day brought its own flings.

Angus: Oh, my! A freelancer? Embedded? Life at risk?

Hang on: I have to play you the perfect disk!

[Flicks on the music player and ‘Wish You Were Here’ is heard. He taps emphatically on the dashboard after the line “did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”. She switches it off with a gentle but firm movement.]

Odie (smiling): I like Floyd, too, but after drinks, and you have got to drive.

No, I didn’t chicken out. I’ve seen too much of strife

To lack the guts, or long for glory. But enough about me,

We haven’t heard at all of you. Pray, how are you to be?

Angus: Like a sandwich, I suppose – some this, some that and bread –

Life’s been a multi-coloured, thinning/thickening thread…

Odie: Well said, young man, but I do declare

Informative you are not!

There must be specifics to share

So tell me, whatcha got?

Angus: The odd heartbreak, happy nights,

Friends with whom it came to blows.

Meaning to life hid out of sight,

A sense that no one knows.

But I’m gonna be alright –

No career woes!

Odie: Mm hmm… you have it figured out?

Know what you want to do?

That wisdom shall suffice, no doubt,

I’m sure you will pull through.

Angus: Right now more like pull over, since I spy a small motel

Will you join me for a bite? I’m not feeling too well.

[They sit on the chairs stage left. The Waiter hovers nearby, often making funny little gestures and walking to-and-fro with abrupt turns, talking inaudibly to himself..]

Odie: Indeed I will, my pleasure, quite! It is a lovely day

Perhaps all you need’s some grub to stop feeling that way.

Angus: Mayhap, perchance, our lives are based in happenstances, no?

Sometimes vagueness can cramp one so much there’s nowhere to go!

Odie: Are you off your rocker, have you quite lost your mind,

Taken leave of your senses; shall I pay you back in kind?

Though my verse may be weak, my content is more refined

And, to your regret, I’m worse to contend with in rhyme.

Angus: Milady, ‘tis my pleasure, Lancelot had no better chance

Than this to use the tongue as sword in a battle of romance

No doubt you are sophisticated and sharper still of wit

But I have a few surprises that have made of betters twits.

Odie: Small wonder! You manage to talk in such twists and turns

Your advances may take longer to digest than to spurn!

But let me not eschew upon the merits of ruminating,

Order, dear man, the waiter is at hand – the man’s been waiting.

Angus: Ah yes, the business of eating is a serious proposition

It takes a worthy beast of prey of a chosen disposition:

Not too hasty in ordering, but too hungry to consider

Menus while the proverbial apple juice turns to cider.

Odie (aside): Oh, how this fellow loves to talk

(to Angus) Put your money where your mouth is!

I do not mean to mock, but don’t act choosy about choices.

Angus: Alright, khansamey, for the lady a Bloody Mary

The favoured mocktail, since of the cocky kind we are wary.

Bruschetta as hors d’oeuvre, BBQ samplings for entrée,

Skip mains right into dessert – cheesecake with blueberry-

Odie: Stop! You make my mouth water, but get a grip

This is a motel, not a country club, don’t take his trip,

The waiter, just like you and I, is entitled to respect,

And the poor chap’s a bit out of his depth, I suspect.

Angus: Ah, well. It was a thought-

Odie: A pleasant one!

Angus: But now it’s said I suppose the deed’s as good as done.

Can you whip up a gourmet meal for two, there’s a good man?

I say, he’s nodding dumbly – I do believe he can!   [exit Waiter

Odie: He’s nodding, sure, but I think it’s to show us he can’t hear

Perhaps the chef can’t cook. Now you’ve got me hungry; oh dear!

Angus: They don’t call it a dhabba for no reason, at any rate

It means ‘a dirty spot’ if you care to translate!

Odie: I’ll concede that was a good one; I’m inclined to be forgiving.

What is it you said you plan to do to earn a living?

[The Waiter reappears, bearing a tray with sandwiches, a pitcher of tea, utensils and cutlery. The ware, which he places on the table, is shabby-looking; the food causes Odie to grimace. The Waiter takes to his hovering routine again.]

Angus: I didn’t say, but now you’ve asked it would be as well to learn

That I don’t lay much store by clichés like ‘a man must earn’.

The little cash I need seems to drop in from here and there,

Thoughtful concerned relatives trying to show that they care.

Odie: It’s all very well to have enough to get by on for yourself,

But what about a tomorrow when there might be someone else?

What about kids, buying a house, painting the whole town red,

Touring the world or spending on having it visit you instead?

Angus: Too many ifs there, woman, do you see it happening?

The journalist inside you is giving my story your spin!

There’s no love coming to my life, nor inspirational dreams

That must be funded. No honeymoon worth a scream.

The only thing I’ll be sorry for is no philanthropy

Call it my ‘Bill-gate’ if you flip for senile similes.

Odie: What’s upsetting you, why are you getting on my case?

All I did was probe – does that destabilize the base

Of your happy dream world, where you fiddle without a Rome?

Really! I think you have an empty space kept in your heart as ‘home’.

Angus: So now you’re psychoanalyzing me, hmm?

Odie: No! I’m just talking like a friend-

Angus: Well, guess what, whatever-your-name-is: this is where that ends!

Call me touchy or selfish, turn your nose up in disgust,

But when I last checked, between strangers, some things aren’t discussed.

Odie: Very well. I’ll keep away from personal matters. No big deal.

Make mundane conversation about things for which neither of us feel

This way or that. Like your sandwich of this, that and some bread.

If you’re done, can we leave, with the car-roof up instead?

[Exit Waiter; Odie and Angus return to centre-stage. The lights have darkened to suggest evening.]

Angus: For someone so disgruntled with the one you sit beside

You seem eager nonetheless to carry on with this ride.

Odie: I’m used to it – the wars turned up many times like this,

Any man worth a ride amidst that ravaging was bliss.

Angus: And you slept with them-

Odie: Some. Others had little time for trivial needs.

Of course, there are pack-horses; then again, there’s purebred steed.

Angus: And what about the mules? Aren’t there any real losers?

Odie: As the old saying goes – beggars can’t be choosers –

You know, mules as pack animals outdo horses in their use.

[pauses] Such questions in an impersonal chat seem like abuse.

Angus: You, on the other hand, come across as well at ease

With using explicit terms often and being quite a tease.

Odie: Pardon me. This past year while I’ve painted, my stock

Company has been my dog. We seldom engage in talk.

I paint. Sometimes he watches. Mostly he sleeps. I sing.

He likes to listen (a connoisseur he’s not) to everything!

Angus: Sounds far more pleasant than the one relationship I’ve had:

All we did was calm each other down and then get mad.

No singing or dancing, we’d keep stepping on our toes;

Going up from bass to treble till we came to bellows [word-play: below, blow].

Odie: There’s the root of your embitterment with the sweeter side of life!

Now I see why you’re estranged from the concept of a wife.

Well, my dear fellow, if this doesn’t sound too preachy,

Not everyone’s a bitch – some women can be peachy!

Take me, for instance…

Angus: There you go, with your seductive ways,

Odie: What are you trying to insinuate?

Angus: Precisely what I say!

You’re inviting a move from me. Though I’m in the driver’s seat

You drive me down alleys wherefrom I beat hasty retreats.

Odie: Oh, sure. I’ve had so many men, what’s one guy less or more?

So because of my experiences you’ve nailed me as a whore?

Angus: Not at all. Of course I don’t- That isn’t what I mean!

It’s just that- put next to all the action that you’ve seen

I’m an incompetent nincompoop, feeling very much more so

Every time a new inadequacy’s revealed for you to know.

Odie: In-a-de-qua-cy? You dear fool, you darling child!

How much you have to learn, man-cub, of the ways of the wild…

Revealing your darkest secrets is a way of letting go of

What you hide so carefully that even you don’t know of.

Your shadows might be weaknesses but revealing them is not:

I for one have loved seeing every card that you’ve got.

Quite a hand you play, Mr.?

Angus: Just Angus.

Odie: Angie, then, if you please

It’s the kind of hand I’d like to hold if you went down on your knees.

Now don’t take that as meaning I want us to get hitched!

But I did hitch a ride with you – the first step across the bridge.

Angus: Let’s see – how shall I phrase this? – it’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever done

[aside] But what the heck, this day has been the craziest sort of fun!

[to Odie] Can I ask you out on a date, go to the movies and then dinner?

Odie (smiling): Of all the lines you’ve thrown at me, boy, that’s got to be the winner.

[They stop at a drive-in and are just in time for the evening show. The stage is dark except for a soft spotlight on the couple, who remain centre-stage.]

Angus: Line-throwing, is it? Like you’re a fish coming out of life’s lake-

Odie: Well! I was wrong, that last allegory truly takes the cake.

If anyone were to hear us they’d think our brains were flaking!

Angus: Oh, no. I’m sure we’re both normal, just very good at faking.

Odie: And rhyming-

Angus: And timing-

Odie: No two-timing!

Angus: On the double, now,

The popcorn’s over, movie done with, time for some good chow…

[They go in to a posh diner next to the drive-in. The lights brighten appropriately. They are seated stage right.]

Odie: As you were saying over lunch, some starters would be good,

And since we won’t be driving tonight, I think perhaps we could-

Angus: Old Scotch, double, on the rocks – works for me! How about you?

Odie: Domestic red wine with something to nibble on…

Angus: Cheese? Blue?

Excellent! Roquefort, and if not that, Stilton will have to do

Odie: Excuse me for a moment. I must visit the loo.


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