ACROSS THE LAKE
By Johnny Culver
917 691 6884
Middle aged Man Ė apparently lower class, paranoid.
Middle aged Woman - upper class, kind, sympathetic.
Young Woman - peaceful, angelic.
A tattered, wooden elevated rail car, in a gritty collapsing city.
It is a cold, wet afternoon.
The rail car stops and the doors rattle open. A man and a woman get on, removing their hats and gloves.
You should have helped that poor woman carry her stroller up the steps. Itís slippery out there. You didnít have to ignore her. Poor helpless thing.
I know itís slippery out there. Dark, dirty, sooty, and slippery. †Thatís why I didnít help her. What if I slipped, carrying that stroller? The child falls out, down the steps, and onto the street? She wouldnít be a poor thing any longer. She would call the law on me and take everything I have!
Oh, please, that would never-
The woman screams, the officials come, she accuses me of injuring her child, and I am taken away to the stationhouse and miss todayís appointment with the jaw healer? I would be poor, out of work, and eventually drafted to fight in the Battle of the Lake, never to return!
I have waited for a week to see the jaw healer, lost wages from my job, because I was home in pain.
My supervisor at the factory is not too fond of me to begin with, and another day away would put him over the top. I would come back to my post and find someone had replaced me!
The doorman at the factory! He always looks at me in an odd way when I leave after my shift. He would certainly like to replace me, making ammunition for the BattleÖand I would be back on the streets, with my biography, looking for work!
But your pain would be gone.
But how would I pay the jaw healer with no job?
(The rail car begins to move)
Letís just sit down.
I hope the jaw healer takes a little bit off his fee when he sees how clean my teeth are. I scrubbed and picked my teeth, and rinsed with the strongest cleaner I could find.
I really donít think that makes a difference to him. Jaw healers see all kinds of teeth, in all kinds of mouths. Dirty and clean.
I wonder, when other people go to the ear healer, do they clean their ears? Use a cloth to clean them all out? Make the ear nice and strong?
Thatís silly. What if you were going to the eye healer? How would you clean your eyes? Make THEM strong?
I would think you would read a book, with small print, in dim light. That would make your eyes strong. Use all they eye muscles, so the eye healer wouldnít think poorly of you. †Think less of you, and they suggest you fight in the Battle of the Lake.
Thatís enough silliness. Just think about the pain going away, after the jaw healer removes that aching tooth. Son youíll be back at your post at the factory, making ammunition for the Battle. And I told you that you donít have to worry about the fee for the jaw healer. I will advance it to you, and you can pay me back. Later.
What a kind sister you are, finding me a jaw healer, accompanying me and-
(The rail car lurches)
Ow! Donít they care that I am in pain? This rail car moves so slowly. Everything moves so slowly!
We could have taken a street carriage. I offered-
Itís too late now.
(Patting her hand)
Donít be upset. I forgive you.
Ha! Forgive me? For what?
You could have offered a little more strongly, seeing how much pain I am in.
Quiet, you! Just sit and be quiet.
(They sit in silence, until the rail car stops and the doors open. A plain young woman enters and sits away from them She carries a large envelope)
That poor girl, she must be frozen, in that thin wrap. Look how plain she is, oh my. And odd lookingÖ
Plain is right.
And look at those teeth. They could easily put your jaw healerís eldest through many years at the university!
(The rail car begins to move)
You are right, what an odd looking girl.
(He starts to stand, and stretches)
Well, I think Iíll just look out and see where we areÖ-
You know perfectly well where you are! What are you doing? Sit down!
Just looking out the windowÖ
(Moves close to girl, spies envelope she is carrying, and goes back to seat)
What was that all about? You are the nosiest man I have ever met!
She is holding an envelope. On it is printed, ďMY BIOGRAPHYĒ in big letters.
Does that satisfy your curiosity?
Of course itís her biography. Why would someone carry around the biography of another person? Iíll just find out what is going on.
Hello, we have not seen you before.
I am new to this town. I come fromÖacross the lake.
From across the lake? How did you travel so far? I have never heard anyone-
Donít fool with us. No one travels across the lake. Youíre making that up.
Ölooking for work. I was told there could be work on this side of the lake.
(Looks at man closely)
Are you looking for work, too?
If this rail car does not start moving, I may beÖ
(Whispers to woman)
She is not telling the truth. I have never seen anyone from across the lake. Never have and never will? What do you think the Battle of the Lake is all about?
(Turns back to girl )
Now see here, young lady-
Leave her be.
You know, our mother once had a friend, who claimed that SHE was from across the lake, just like you. Mother told us about her long ago. Stories before we went to sleep. Told me about the crisp, clean air across the lake and green grass across the lake.
Really? I would like to meet this friend. Perhaps I could?
Well, thatís not possible, because, you see, she was put away, just as long ago. No one has seen her since. (The rail car begins to move)
Mother just stopped talking about her. The stories ended.
A little off, that friend of mothers was. I remember hearing about her very well. Always talking about this across the lake, that across the lake, the great glass and steel cities and the fast moving rail cars, made of silver. She is better off where she is. Put away.
Put far away.
We have to get to the jaw healer!
But there are glass cities across the lake! And crisp, clean air! And food for everyone, and places for everyone to learn! To be healed!
So, if things across the lake are all that you say, why are you here? Why did you Öcross the lake?
Thatís impossible. No one has crossed the lake, through the Battle.
I did not say I crossed the lake. I said I came from across the lake.
Whats the difference?
I traveledÖaround the lake. Not across. Others have done it, too. Gone all around the edge, to get to this side.
Around the lake? I have never heard of such a thing.
(The rail car jolts)
The rail cars, across the lake, do they run faster and smoother than ours? The rail cars made of silver?
Donít lead her on. Donít fall for her tricks.
If it is so wonderful across the lake, why are we fighting the Battle of the Lake, have been for generations now. Our factories make ammunition and weapons to be used in the Battle If you people across the lake are so smart, why donít you win the Battle of the Lake? Put us out of our msery?
(The rail car stops)
Ow! With your crisp clean air and cities of glass?
For my people, the Battle of the Lake ended long ago.† Too many lives were lost; too much was wasted in the fight. We donít fight any more. We build and learn and grow. We learned to go around the lake. Not across it.
(Goes to opening door)
The Battle is over.
Nonsense! Ever since I, we, can remember, our men have been sent into the lake to fight the Battle. They never return, because you have slaughtered them. Destroyed them and their weapons!
The Battle of the Lake has left behind widows, orphans, poverty and hopelessness. Our father left to fight the battle and never returned! What you say cannot be true.
(Almost frustrated by their close mindedness)
What I say is true. Your father and the men you have sent off to fight have become welcome guests of our cities. That is why I, and others, have come to this side, to tell you. To help you see.
(She steps off rail car and turns)
One day you may listen.
(The doors close on her and the rail car begins to move)
Utter nonsense. Letís be on our way.
(Looks across car)
Look, the girl has left her biography behind.
(He stands and moves to the envelope)
Should we read it?
And read her lies about across the lake?
We have to get you to the jaw healer.
(He puts down envelope and returns to his seat)
Cities of glass, ha!
Clean air, never!
(They sit, staring at the envelope. The rail car continues on its way)
END OF PLAY