”THE HOUSE ON THE HILL”
A play in one act
By Johnny Culver
2273 43rd Street
Astoria, NY 11105
917 691 6884
JERRY ANDREWS- writer, early twenties, in step with today, sarcastic, driven, a little sneaky.
RALPH HOLLISTER- office clerk, early twenties, an unfit mama’s boy. Paranoid, nervous, new to town, and overwhelmed.
WANDA GRISBY – early twenties, goofy, pudgy, the girl you avoid eye contact with for fear she may strike up a conversation.
The large balcony of a Brooklyn apartment during the summer of 1977. An electric typewriter and radio sit on a glass table. There are a few chairs. A door leads to the rest of the apartment. There is a window which looks into the kitchen. The radio is slightly out of tune, floating between stations.
It is early morning, the start of another dirty humid day.
(Sneaks on porch, and slowly closes door behind him. He sits in front of his electric typewriter at a glass table, food wrappers and foam cups strewn about. A table fan blows hot air) Was the radio on all night? (Turns radio down)
Ow! You could fry an egg on that!
He takes his notes-crumpled napkins from his pockets, arranges them and begins to type. Suddenly a car horn is heard. Jerry runs to the railing and looks out)
That’s my car! No! Stop! Don’t tow it! I’ll get you the money….Ahhhhh, what’s the use…
(He turns and goes back to his typewriter)
No job, up to my ears in debt, and now no car…I am NEVER playing cards again!
(He pats typewriter)
You are gonna be my ticket outta this mess. “The House on the Hill” by me, Jerry Andrews!
(He resumes typing after a few moments; Ralph enters closing the door behind him, ready for work. He is overdressed for this hot weather)
I think I overslept…You’re up early. Well, today’s the day…I’m all packed…
(Stuffs napkins under typewriter)
Up? I never went down.
(Looks at watch, sees it is not on his wrist)
I get the feeling you’re running late. Did you eat breakfast?
I don’t have much time, so I just drank that can of orange soda that was on the kitchen counter. Hope you don’t mind.
Soda? Ralph, that was a can of orange juice, concentrated orange juice that I was thawing out!
Oh, sorry. It was a little…pulpy. Oh well, since I‘m moving out today, that’ll never happen again.
You’ve been out here all night? In this humidity? That fan isn’t going to help you too much.
(Hands him watch)
Oh here, I guess I borrowed your watch yesterday. It was on the floor by the couch. I bet it fell off when I was sleeping. I don’t remember.
No problem, thanks
Did you know that the garbage is picked up at 3:45 AM? And the Goldfarb’s upstairs fight til long after Johnny Carson is over? And the noise! How can anyone sleep with all that noise?
I didn’t hear a thing. I was out like a log.
It’s out like a light. And no wonder you didn’t hear, with that electric substation of an air conditioner you put in the living room window. I swear the lights on the Brooklyn Bridge flicker whenever you turn it on.
Do you get your electricity directly from the third rail on the Lexington Avenue line?
Quit it. I like to be cool at night. I deserve it. And it’s good for my…condition….
Cool is one thing. But cryogenically preserved is another. Are there wooly mammoths under the couch?
Leave me alone…well; Wanda Grisby should be here any minute. It’s so nice that she goes out of her way to give me a ride to work. When I move into the spare room in her apartment today, she won’t have to go out of her way. Did you know we both work in the same supply room? Did you know that her apartment building has central air conditioning?
You’ve told me that, Ralph, several times.
(Rustles through papers and finds a message)
Oh, you got a phone call a few minutes ago. They said for you not to come in to work.
Why? Am I fired? I’ve only been there for a month. What am I gonna do? Wanda will be all alone in the supply room! And mother! She told me I could never move back home! I’ll be on the streets…me and my air conditioner…foraging for food, and electricity…
No, no, calm down. The city is asking businesses to cut power, so a lot of companies are closing til this heat wave passes. Maybe you can catch your little girlfriend before she leaves home and let her know. Although I would like to meet her. I’ve heard so much-
She left her house already. I know her pretty well by now She is very punctual. I’ll just stay out here with you for a while. And I bet Wanda’s never met a real writer before!
(Undoes clip on-tie)
My gosh, it’s humid out here.
(Takes off jacket)
I don’t want to have to pay to get this suit pressed again for no reason…
(Goes to railing)
It sure has been nice living here in Brooklyn for the past month, Jerry. It’s been nice, spending time on this balcony…what a great view you have I’d never been this high up – five floors! Oh, don’t mind me; you just go back to your writing. I know how important it is for you.
The submission deadline is noon today. I just have to get it in by then. Imagine my first, um-! That 1000 dollar prize isn’t too bad either. I’ll finally be able to pay off –
My car’s in the shop. I guess I’ll have to walk to midtown.
Too bad you can’t write for television…I’d be a real fan of yours then…
Ralph, you don’t have a television, how could you-
I read the TV Guide listings, Jerry, that’s good enough for me. If you need any help with your writing…maybe I could take a look at it…I’ve written things before you know.
(Hiding pager in typewriter)
No! I mean, it’s not ready for anyone to look at just yet. I want to go though it a few more times. Before this typewriter overheats!
I like the title “The House on the Hill”. Sounds like where I lived, growing up…
There’s nothing to do out here and I‘m hot!
Go inside with your air conditioner and finish packing.
I have to wait for Wanda. And I’m done packing. How’d you learn to be a writer?
(Holds up book)
I read it in this book. It’s been pretty useful.
(Glances at book)
“Writing for Beginners” Well, I was in a play in grammar school…and I wrote my own lines…
It was all about the hazards of picnicking outdoors…some of the other kids were ants, some were bees…Wilma Frankwurst played one of the picnickers…some kid from another class was a bottle of Catsup. He wore a red ski mask…he lived at the bottom of the hill…
(Begins to fade away)
…the girl who sat in front of me played a ham sandwich…
(Giving in) Ok, what were you in this theatrical extravaganza?
I…well…I played…the grass that the others had a picnic on….a non speaking part…but I wore my green Robert Bruce hooded sweater. The bottle of catsup spilled all over me…
Ralph, this says a lot about your personality. At that age, letting others walk all over you, spill on you, and in front of an audience at that! And you said you wrote your own lines! How could it be a non speaking part?
The teacher cut them. I stuttered so much I couldn’t get the words out. The play was kind of unmemorable…but during the performance, Wilma Frankwurst caught me mouthing her lines as a picnicker…
”My, that potato salad looks good…those ants aren’t getting any of THIS Duncan Hines cake, even though it is moist and delicious…”
You had advertising in your school play? Product placement?
After the performance, Wilma Frankwurst chased me out to the playground, and ripped the hood off my new Robert Bruce sweater! Ripped the zippered hood right off! Ripped!
Maybe she liked you. Girls have a funny way of showing their affection.
I guess so. In the lunchroom that afternoon, she passed a little too close when I was sitting…alone, as usual… and spilled hot chicken soup down my back!
Maybe she wanted to make you forget about your ripped hood.
I was taken to the nurse’s office, where I was told to wait for someone to pick my up. I waited until after school was out and my mother came to take me home…on her way home from work. Over four hours! Boy was she mad! Madder than a room full of Wilma Frankwursts!
You could have taken the school bus…
(agitated) And let Wilma Frankwurst get me again? Not likely.
(Door intercom buzzes)
I’ll get that…
(He jumps and heads into the kitchen)
I don’t know why you’re so afraid of this intercom anyway.
(We see him thru window at intercom)
(Goes to window and looks in)
I bet its Wanda.
Who is this?
It must be Wanda.
Is this Ralph Hollister?
No, this is Jerry Andrews.
Oh sorry, I musta pushed the wrong button. This pencil keeps slipping, ‘cause my hands are so sweaty.
It sounds like Wanda. Tell her to come on up.
Why is she using a pencil to push the intercom button?
For your information, I am using this pencil to push the button so I don’t get shocked. Electricity and me don’t get along so well.
Wanda, come on up.
To a strangers apartment? I’m not that kinda girl, Mr. Andrews!
(Calls out) It’s OK. Wanda, he’s not that strange. Come on up.
Is that Ralph? What are you doing in a stranger’s apartment? I’ll be right up!
She’d better hurry before they turn the elevator off. To save electricity.
The elevator is being turned off? She wouldn’t use the elevator anyway. It’s electric. She got stuck in the elevator at work a few weeks ago. For two hours!
So she uses the stairs at work. I can’t take the stairs. With my condition, and all. And these boxes I have to move, and my air conditioner…did I tell you about my condition?
You have been talking about your condition since the day I met you.
You didn’t meet me, I met you. I remember it very clearly. I remember you asked me so many questions…
I wanted to find out a little about you.
Never been a roommate before. Always lived at home with mother…with my condition and all.
(Pokes thru trash)
What’s this part about a family gathering? The mother is talking about things she did at family gatherings?
(Comes out to balcony) Enough about your condition, for Pete’s sake…
(Yanks sheet from Ralph)
What’s so unusual about family gatherings? The mother is simply relating what she remembers about them. The games they played and how they entertained each other.
When I was little, the rest of our family - aunts and cousins- used to put on little shows about important events in our family’s history. When they would come to visit mother and me. Like a few of them would get together and act out when my grandmother met my grandfather at the shore, or when my cousin graduated from college.
Whats wrong with that? It sounds fun.
Mother wouldn’t agree with you. She never participated. If she did, I’m sure she’d recreate some less pleasant things….me being kicked out of cub scouts because I forgot to bring the cookies and apple juice…Mother slipping under our lawn mower and almost losing her hand….then taking my cat away from me because I failed Chemistry…
Did she ever give the cat back?
No. I never saw Toodles again…it ruined my senior year in high school…
This heat…I bet Wanda will want something to drink.
Tell her we’re out of orange soda.
That’s not funny. I said I was sorry about the juice…
Funny thing, Mother and I lived in a big white house that sat on top of a hill in town. Mother’s family had lived there for generations. She said it was part of the Underground Railroad. Mother used to tell me about the secret passageways and tunnels. I never looked for them though. What if I got stuck in one of them? I’d be trapped, with no air
It was the biggest house in town.
(Straightens up porch)
Mother said her family used to have a lot of money. Don’t ask me where it all went. Mother changed jobs so much, we could have lived anywhere
I don’t think we were poor; it just seemed that Mother never had any money. I would ask her for something, and they would say they couldn’t afford it. She always had money to go out at night with her friends, though.
Well, it’s all different now, Ralph. You have a job; you earn a good salary
Just let me get back to work. Play cards or something. There are a few decks by the kitchen window. I don’t use them anymore.
(Ralph goes in to kitchen window. We can still see him)
Should I use the every day playing cards or the special occasion playing cards?
Use the good ones, heat waves like this don’t come along every day.
I used to sit in the front yard, under these old trees, after school, playing Go Fish for One. It’s not easy playing Go Fish all alone…
(Looks at playing cards)
Oh no, not these playing cards! I‘m going to use the other ones.
(Goes back into kitchen)
What’s wrong with those playing cards? They’re in great condition. I’ve had them for years.
They’re the Titanic playing cards! They’re depressing.
You are having a grand time, playing “Go Fish for One”. Then you ask your opponent – yourself - if they have any threes. Then you say “Go Fish” and you reach down in the grass for a new playing card, and you see…the sketch of the Titanic sinking on the back of the cards and you think of all those lost souls…men women and children…and suddenly getting any more threes doesn’t seem so important any more.
I don’t believe you, Ralph. You’re too much sometimes.
Here we go! These cards are much better.
(Comes back to porch)
The TWA playing cards. No depressing thoughts there…except if they assign you the middle seat. Not that I’ve ever been in an airplane before…oh, we’re out of paper napkins again…I’ll bring more home from the break room tomorrow.
(Takes final page out of typewriter)
Done! The House on the Hill is complete! Hello 1000 dollars!
(Puts script into envelope)
Speaking of cards, I don’t think you’re playing with a full deck!
(Puts down cards)
OK! That’s it. You’ve done nothing but pick on me this morning. And now you’re picking on my playing cards! I’m going inside, sit on the couch by my air conditioner and..
(The large fan and the radio suddenly stops)
You may want to rethink the air conditioner part of that. A brownout! Great! I hope I can get this delivered by noon!
The elevator must be out! I’m trapped here. On this sun baked, hot porch. And with my condition! The paramedics would never get here in time!
(He has had it)
Enough about your condition!
(Goes to Ralph)
Ralph, lot of people talk in their sleep. Millions of people do. It‘s not a big deal. It’s normal.
(There is a door knock from inside)
That must be your little friend. I’ll let her in. Then the two of you can turn around and leave me alone for the rest of the day! Maybe her mother will let you move in early…
Oh yea? Well…
I haven’t had good nights sleep in weeks, with my condition, and all…
(Looks around porch)
I’m not carrying my boxes down all those flights of stairs…the elevator better be back on soon.
(Is a little frazzled)
This heat, it’s not good for someone with my condition to be out in this heat.
(Looks at trash)
What a waste of good typing paper. He could have least used the other sides for notes or list making or scratch paper.…
.Cut it up…to make small shopping lists or wrap gum in - what is this?
(Ralph reads aloud what is typed on the sheets of paper)
When are you going to stop stuttering, Mortimer? When are you going to stop making a fool out of me with your stuttering/?
(Looks through trash)
Mortimer, I forbid you to stay overnight with those boys. What if you start talking in your sleep and say something about… me? Do you want the whole town will know what a drunk your poor mother is?!
(Getting more angry)
What? Stuttering? This Mortimer sounds just like me…little Ralph, back home, with Mother… but no one knows this, any of this…
(Takes out another sheet from the trash)
Mortimer, run down the hill and get your mother a bottle of wine…tell them I’ll pay them next week and don’t talk to that boy at the bottom of the hill!
How could Jerry have known all of this-?
(Wanda enters. She perspires heavily and is out of breath. She goes right to the chair and collapses onto the typewriter)
Wanda, are you allright? I’ll get you some water!
(Calls out to Jerry)
(Shoves paper back into trash can)
Five flights a stairs! Five flights!
(Jerry enters with a pitcher and a glass of water. Wanda grabs the glass, drinks, then takes the pitcher from Jerry and drinks from that)
(Puts down pitcher, and wipes her mouth with her sleeve)
You must be the strange guy, Jerry. You got nice sets a stairs there, Jerry. But did’ja need all five flights of em?
(Jerry takes envelope from the table)
Why didn’t she just call you from the pay phone on the corner?
(Upset by Wanda’s condition)
She’s afraid of pay phones, too. A few weeks ago, she got her finger stuck in the dial of one when she was at Gimbel’s. They had to use a jar of Norrell Fountain of Youth cream to get her finger unstuck. (consoles Wanda)
Calm down there, Wanda. Catch your breath…
Hmmm, good thing she used the pay phone in the Norrell section…
I went to Gimbels to pick up a bottle of Norrell perfume fer my Aunt Muriel. I didn’t know what size bottle ta get so I tried ta call her on the pay phone…long story short, Gimbels ended up giving me the rest of the jar of Norrell Fountain of Youth cold cream; so I gave that to Aunt Muriel instead. She uses it every day. Three times a day! Geez, look at me, I’m sweating bullets…
(Sits up and points to typewriter)
…you may want to unplug this thing, so I don’t get shocked…they don’t let me near them typewriters at work, either.
(Put down manuscript and yanks plug from the wall outlet)
There. That’s quite a purse you have there…
You shouldn’t pull plugs out like that, you can get shocked that way too…this purse?
(Pulls purse close to her)
Used to be my aunt Muriel’s. You can’t have it.
(Sees playing cards)
Playing cards? Are these the ones you were talking about at work? Those Titanic ones? These give ya the heebee jeebees?
I was just about to play a hand of Go Fish for One. With the TWA cards. Since the office is closed.
I was just gonna tell ya that, Ralphie, the office called me too. Aunt Muriel picked up the phone. It was nice a them to do that. Whet if we was there – at the office and the electricity went out…
(Slides chair over to sit next to him)
Get ready for a few hands of Go Fish for Two, Ralphie, and cause after walking up all them steps, I –and my purse- are not moving for the rest of the day!
(Wanda fans herself with the manuscript envelope)
Count me out of your little poker game, Wanda; I have a manuscript to deliver!
I’ve got three hours, it’s such a nice day, I think I’ll walk….I’ve got plenty of time. See you two later! (He yanks the envelope from her, thoughtfully pats it and heads out the door, not closing it behind him.)
Hey! Whatever’s in that envelope must be pretty important, More important than keeping me ventilated. I had the top down in Aunt Muriel’s car all the way here! That’s why my hair is so messed up.
(Tries to fix hair)
(Gets up and closes door)
Keep the cool air inside! It’s a writing thing he has been working on, for quite a while now. Today is the deadline.
He’s entering it into some kind of writing contest. The deadline is noon today. The first prize is 1000 dollars.
That’s a lotta money! You don’t sound too happy about it, Ralphie.
You wanna deal?
I’m not touching those Titanic cards. I’m upset enough already without having to think about all that tragedy. You can deal.
I feel like I haven’t had good nights sleep in weeks. It’ll be nicer when I have my own room; a month of sleeping on that couch is a month too long! I feel like the whole world is watching me…
Where ya gonna get your own room? Whatta you so upset about? You don’t look too good, either. Why do you look so pale?
And why do yer teeth look all orange? Don’t you brush? Aunt Muriel has an electric toothbrush, but you know me and electrics…
I’m a little upset, I think.
Wanda, I’m moving into the spare room in your apartment with central air conditioning, remember? You offered! Today’s the day!
Oh yea, well, Ralphie, there’s something I gotta tell ya. We don’t got a spare room…yet.
I’m all packed. Except for my air conditioner, that is. I can get that later. No spare room?
Well, ya see, my Aunt Muriel, well, she’s not dead yet.
What does that have to do with anything?
Well, when she was gonna die; her room would turn into the spare room. And I was gonna rent it out to ya…
I guess that jar of Norrell Fountain of Youth cream I gave Aunt Muriel really did the trick…got any threes?
What? I’m all ready to move out! I can’t live here any more, Wanda, what am I gonna do? And now this? I can’t take any more.
(He turns away from the table)
I’m not feeling so good. And with my…condition and all…
I only asked fer a three, Ralphie. And will ya turn round and look at me? They just playing cards.
I don’t feel like playing cards any more, Wanda. It’s too hot…
(Slumps in chair)
I know, Ralphie, its pretty hot out here.
(Puts away cards)
Let’s talk then.
What’s eating ya? I’m sure that Jerry guy will let you stay here a little longer, since he’s done with his writing. He may be strange, but he seems ok to me.
All I have to do is hide Aunt Muriel’s Norrell Fountain of Youth cream. You know, I could get some library paste from the supply room at the office, she’d never notice the difference, and you’ll be living the high life in our spare room in no time, Ralph! Central air! And a place to hang your own toothbrush...if you DO use one that is.
(Ignores her )
Wanda, Jerry’s writing…The House on the Hill is about the house that mother and I lived in, and it’s about…me.
That’s great, Ralph. When they make a movie outta it, maybe you can get my ticket for half price. And maybe Aunt Muriel, if she’s still kicking, which she will most likely be. May we can put her on a cot in the mud room…
It’s not great. Somehow Jerry found out some things about me…things I did and said, used to say used them in his writing. I just don’t understand. Has he been talking to my mother? Why would she talk to him…and not me?
Maybe it’s like on TV. What they say at the end of Barnaby Jones. “Any similarities to any person living or dead are purely coincidental” That’s Aunt Muriel’s favorite part. She hates Barnaby Jones. And that Lee Merewether…she was better on Batman…
(pokes thru paperwork on table)
I have no idea what any of that means, Wanda.
All I know is that Jerry knows a lot more about me than I thought he knows…I think. And now everyone who reads this writing thing will think they know about me and my mother and…other stuff...and think other stuff, and…
(Goes to Ralph)
What other stuff?
(Ralph points towards the table)
These Titanic playing cards? That’s nothin. I used to be afraid of that Advent calendar at Christmas time, Ralphie. I thought all those little people were trapped in those little windows all year long, and could only get out at Christmas time.
That’s not it….
So one summer, I snuck into the hall closet with the pinking shears, took out the Advent calendar and pinking sheared off all the windows…Aunt Muriel was not too happy about that…
(Goes to trash, pulls out papers)
Here Wanda, look!
(He puts the notes he found before in Wanda’s face)
Who’s Mortimer? This is about you? You’re Mortimer? You said these things? You did all this?
(She eyes him)
What was wrong with the boy at the bottom of the hill? I once knew a boy, who chased squirrels, right into the street. Is that what that boy at the bottom of the hill did?
No more questions! How could Jerry…does he hear me talking my sleep? I never realized I was so loud. Mother never heard me unless she was right in my room…
You got that condition too? Aunt Muriel’s got it really bad. Sometimes she talks in her sleep so loud I can hear in the next room, so I gotta turn up Barnaby Jones on the TV to just drown her out. Lee Meriwether at high volume is not nice. The wacky stuff Aunt Muriel’s says in her sleep, Ralphie, you could write…
RALPH AND WANDA
Or a writing thing, if you didn’t how…
(Picks up book)
“Writing for Beginners!”
Jerry has been listening to what I say in my sleep at night. , and putting it in his manuscript. He must sit by the couch all night, watching me, waiting for me to say something. No wonder his wristwatch was on the floor by the couch this morning. He was sitting there all night!
I bet he sure likes your air conditioner too.
(Begins to clear his head)
He lied to me. He said the garbage is picked up at 3:45 AM! And the Goldfarb’s fight til long after Johnny Carson is over! I haven’t seen the Goldfarb’s all week!
(Goes to railing and looks out)
And the garbage hasn’t even been picked up yet! Is that your Aunt Muriel’s car? You got a good parking space. Right in the shade.
I kept the top down, so the seats don’t get too hot. If ya see any pigeons, let me know.
(Goes back to table)
Jerry’s not a very good writer, if he can’t make up his own stuff.
(Rustles through papers on desk)
He is going to win the writing contest, and everyone will know…everything about me! Mother is going to think that I told Jerry everything about-
(collapses in chair)
I never should have left home. Left mother! My house on the hill! I wanna go home!
Hey, I got a question...how do you know he is gonna win the contest with that?
What do you mean? You don’t think my life is interesting? That it wouldn’t make a good story?
No, Ralphie, I said how do you know HE is gonna win the contest with that story.
(Pulls sheaf of papers from the desk)
The House on the Hill by Jerry Andrews! That’s the extra carbon copy!
Not for long!
(She takes cover page off, and replaces it with a blank sheet)
Now it’s the original of MY House on the Hill by Ralphie Hollister! I didn’t get all A’s in penmanship fer nothing. Aunt Muriel was so proud…
(Writing neatly on cover page)
Now all we gotta do is get this to the writing contest people before he gets there and we’ll have it made!
It’ll never work.
Oooh this heat, I don’t feel too good, Wanda. Too much orange juice, and this heat, and this stress…Wanda, I need to go inside with what left of my conditioned air…
He goes in)
Never say never, Ralphie…
(Finishes hand lettering cover)
Tada! Not too bad, if I say so myself. Now we seal the envelope…nice and tight...and right into the front seat a Aunt Muriel’s car. Perfect!
(Looks thru papers)
Now where would the address be? Where is he gonna take this to?
(Pulls out card)
Here we are! You stay here, Ralphie, and I’ll be back in no time.
(She finishes drinking pitcher of water, picks up car keys from table jingles then, and drops them and the card, bending them over to pick them up)
(Stands and reads, mumbles name on card)
555 East 34th Street New York.
(She writes the address on her palm)
I could be there in no time!
Be where in no time?
He went into the living room to lie down a bit. He wasn’t feeling too good.
With this heat and that orange juice…I’ll bet he isn’t feeling so well.
What are you doing here? I thought you had a writing thing to deliver!
(Stuffs carbon copy into her purse)
I forgot the address of where I was going to. It’s on a card somewhere on the table. It’s pretty important, so if you would excuse me.
(Tries to get around Wanda).
Could you get out of the way, please?
You know, Ralphie is my friend, my only friend. How could you do this to him?
Maybe this is the card you’re looking for!
(She takes and rips it up and tosses it over the balcony)
And how about this?
(Tosses purse over the railing)
You’ll never get my purse now!
(Tries to catch pieces of paper)
You’re crazy, you know that! You’re just as crazy as that guy in there!
What’s crazy is what you did! Spied on poor Ralphie, listened to him when he was talkin in his sleep. Then writing it all down and making money out of it!!! That’s crazy. But you ain’t gonna win at this, strange guy.
(Heads to door)
Nobody messes with Wanda Grisby OR her friends…or friend, cause I only have one…Ralphie. Have a nice day!
(She goes out)
(Starts after her)
Hey, wait. You got his all…Wanda! Whats the use…
(Bends over to pick up pieces of address)
The address is everywhere!
(The power comes back on and the table fan comes alive, blowing his copy off the balcony. He tries to stop then, but gives up. My writing!
(He rustles thru papers on table looking for copy)
Where is that carbon copy?
(Entering, Jerry turns off fan)
Wanda? Whats going on? Oh Jerry, you’re back. Where’s Wanda? Back to listen in on me some more, Jerry? Didn’t get enough secrets outta me? Need more to write about?
(Pulls notes from trash)
Want me to sleep some more? I’ll bet you put sleeping pills in that orange juice! You knew I was going to drink it! I’ve been drugged! I feel so sleepy…woozy…
Drugged? What are you talking about?
(Sees notes in Ralphs hands)
Ralph, you have to listen to me, there’s been a mistake! Whatever you’ve been thinking, well, don’t think it. I can explain everything. Now, have you seen the copy of my manuscript? A white envelope?
(Looking over balcony)
You mean the envelope that Wanda’s waving in her hand from her car?
(We hear a car start)
Bye Wanda! Good luck!
(The car speeds away)
(Going to the railing)
My manuscript! No!
(He sits and puts his head in his hands)
Oh no, I’m ruined, Ralph. If only I could’ve explained. Why did you do this? Let this happen?
You listened in on me when I was talking in my sleep, Jerry. You stole my family secrets and put them in your writing. 1000 dollars worth of secrets!
What? No I didn’t. Ralph, your secrets, well, they’re trash. That’s why they’re in the trash. I didn’t want them, didn’t need them.
But “The House on the Hill” is about my family, and my mother and me and all the terrible…
“The House the Hill” is about the HOUSE on the hill And the HILL itself, not the people inside the house. It’s about the history of the house, and its place in the history of the Underground Railroad. What’s underneath the house…
Huh? The tunnels and secret passages? You wrote about them. They’re not real! I never saw them! How did you know about them?
Remember the boy who lived at the bottom of your hill? The boy who played the bottle of catsup in the red ski mask?
That was me!
I thought you looked familiar. Even without the red ski mask. What a small world!
When you answered my ad, everything about the tunnels came back to me. I crawled through all passages when I was a kid. They ran under your house, and around the hill. I spent hours exploring them.
I never knew. I was too afraid to go in them! Mother told me about them, stores from her family from a long time ago, but I never believed her. She told me to never talk about them to anyone.
Then one day, your mother caught me in one of them. She told me never to go in them again. Told me never to talk about them. I never forgot about them, though. Always wondered.
And now, years later, wrote about them…that’s kind of spooky.
You talked about those passages and tunnels in your sleep. All the stories your mother told you. You filled in all the blanks for me, Ralph. I had a great piece for the Historical Society. I was sure to win that prize of 1000 dollars. I really need the money. I owe everybody in Brooklyn! Never play cards for money, Ralph, believe me. I’d have better luck with those..Titanic cards!
You need money? Jerry, you could have just asked me! I would have given it to you! I’ve…known you for so long!
That’d be great, old friend!
And if I win the 1000 dollars from writing “The House on the Hill”, you won’t have to pay me back!
What are you talking about? You win? Go inside and turn on your air conditioner. Take a nap. Don’t worry about the electricity.
During this electrical crisis? And get fined? I can’t take a nap during the day, and then I won’t sleep at night.
Read your book.
I loaned it to Wanda-Wanda! I’ll explain everything to her when she gets back from….uh, wherever she went. Then we’ll find something to do for the rest of the day.
Go to the movies. Bargain matinees?
Too many little kids. They won’t let us bring outside food in. Wanda hates the sticky floors.
Go to Gimbels.
Wanda’s not allowed in there anymore.
Her Aunt Muriel said so.
Go to the gym. Go to the museum…
And sweat? I’d rather sit here! Plus I ran out of free passes. How much money do you want to borrow?
Well, there’s the money for the car, and I owe Mrs. Goldfarb part of the rent, and there’s the man at the deli…
Remember, I paid you my share of the rent! I don’t want Mrs. Goldfarb going after me… I hear she fights a lot…see, Wanda thought you were going to take what you wrote and…let me turn on the air conditioner, it’s just too hot for someone with my condition…
(The power air conditioner roars back to life as the play ends)