Stage Directions Reader (00:00:00):

Lincoln Center Theater presents The Forbidden City by Bill Gunn, directed by Seret Scott, performed by James T. Alfred, Spencer Scott Barros, Derrick Baskin, Kyle Beltran, Ato Blankson-Wood, Jason Bowen, Alfie Fuller, John Benjamin Hickey, Roscoe Orman, Brenda Pressley and Ray Anthony Thomas. The following audio play is brought to you by Lincoln Center Theater. We encourage you to support your local theater wherever you may be listening. To support Lincoln Center Theater, please visit our website at

Stage Directions Reader (00:00:46):

Philadelphia 1936, August. A middle-class Negro home on the edge of the suburbs. A two storied house, a living room, a dining room, the kitchen, a child's room and a master bedroom. The front door opens to a porch, the back door opens to a neat little garden void of flowers. Dawn is beginning to break just below the horizon. Nicholas Hoffenberg, a 16 year old Negro boy, lights a candle in a hurricane lamp. He is staring at a picture of his grandfather, holding the light up to see his pale gray eyes.

Nick, Jr (00:01:25):

Consider the lilies, how they grow. Consider the lilies, how they grow. Consider the lilies, how they grow. Look at granddaddy's eyes. They move wherever I move, like spies spying on me. In the light he moves and smiles and they do too. The Southernaires. Moving. Always just before the sun comes up, I get scared and wet the bed.

Stage Directions Reader (00:01:52):

Nick moves from his room, leaving the lamp near his bed. Dawn is just beginning to redden. Molly, Nick's mother, a pretty, stylishly dressed 40 year old woman in a cocktail dress arrives home.

Molly (00:02:08):

What are you doing on the stairway this time of morning? Get up, you libel to kill me. What are you doing?

Nick, Jr (00:02:15):

The pictures were moving.

Molly (00:02:17):

What pictures? Don't ever sit on the stairway like that. Now, don't stand there like something's got a hold of you. Fix the table. Your daddy up yet?

Nick, Jr (00:02:26):

He's moving around his room. I think he's praying. Ms. Hoag’s sister, Deany, got her head banged in by the bus again. Her groceries are all spread out on the road.

Molly (00:02:35):

Is she dead?

Nick, Jr (00:02:36):

No, she ain't dead, but Kinkaid is dead.

Molly (00:02:38):

What? Whew, it's going to be hot. I can feel it.

Nick, Jr (00:02:45):

Ms. Hope says it was pneumonia.

Molly (00:02:47):

Did you wet the bed?

Nick, Jr (00:02:49):

Yes ma'am.

Molly (00:02:50):

Don't call me ma'am, sounds old.

Nick, Jr (00:02:53):

Yes, mama.

Molly (00:02:54):

Don't call me mama. It's mother and mother dear when there's company. You know better.

Nick, Jr (00:02:59):

How come when daddy cuts his lettuce with his fork, you don't fuss at him?

Molly (00:03:03):

Cause it don't do no good to fuss at him.

Nick, Jr (00:03:04):

Why don't it do no good?

Molly (00:03:06):

You can take the boy out the country, but you can't take the country out the boy. Sit down. Did you wash?

Nick, Jr (00:03:12):

Yes, mother dear.

Molly (00:03:14):

Don't be funny, you'll get slapped. Call your daddy.

Nick, Jr (00:03:17):

Daddy, breakfast is ready!

Nick, Sr (00:03:20):

Go ahead and start, I'll be there.

Molly (00:03:22):

We're not going to start, Nicky, until you get here. You're not out on South Street.

Nick, Sr (00:03:27):

Now, your grandmother, she called meal the time at six o’clock or breakfast at 6 am, everybody was there. When she called you out, you'd better not be late. That old lady be standing there when you do come with a stick big as your arm. And when you come in late, you got knocked upside your head. But see, your mother's a lady. She don't do that sort of thing. But them old sisters where I come from, they'd just assume bust your lip as praise you. Am I right, Miss Molly?

Molly (00:03:57):

You're right. Eat your eggs before they get cold. You talk so much. For the food which we are about to partake, we thank thee, Oh Lord, for Christ's sake, amen. Eat.

Nick, Sr (00:04:09):

You see Mrs. Jefferson last night?

Molly (00:04:12):

She was there.

Nick, Sr (00:04:13):

Did you tell her what I told you?

Molly (00:04:15):

I don't know what you're talking about.

Nick, Sr (00:04:17):

The game.

Molly (00:04:18):

What game, Nicky?

Nick, Sr (00:04:20):

That you said we could have the game here tonight.

Molly (00:04:23):

I didn't say that. I didn't say any such thing.

Nick, Sr (00:04:26):

She don't remember.

Molly (00:04:28):

You didn't ask me about no game. You can play cards here, but what was I supposed to say to her? She don't talk to me.

Nick, Sr (00:04:34):

That we don't have to have it at her house.

Molly (00:04:36):

Well, why should she offer her house to a bunch of men? She don't have a husband. I don't want you near her house. This is Nick's first day swimming at the Y. Scottie's taking him. Is that why you sat up on the stairway? You scared?

Nick, Jr (00:04:51):

I'm nervous. We saw that drowned lady in Atlantic City.

Nick, Sr (00:04:55):

Well, I'll call her myself from work. Shoot. Now I don't think Mr. Candy can make it tonight. His wife's got him.

Molly (00:05:02):

Then you have to choose between Mr. Candy and the house, because you waited until the last minute to ask me. Now I'm supposed to change my plans. What's wrong, you can't eat nothing but bread? Eat those eggs.

Nick, Jr (00:05:13):

You got egg shells in them again. I can't, I throw up.

Molly (00:05:17):

Then don't eat them and don't talk that way at the table.

Nick, Jr (00:05:19):

Yes, mother. Can I have some more sausage?

Molly (00:05:23):

You go backward. Help yourself. You sit there like you're helpless. If you want something, take it. I hope you all cut for the house.

Nick, Sr (00:05:31):

Well, we always cut the game for the house. You know I always give you some.

Molly (00:05:36):

Irene's coming tomorrow to cook and look after him and I have to pay her. And nobody's given no freebies.

Nick, Sr (00:05:42):

How much are you going to pay her?

Molly (00:05:43):

Three dollars.

Nick, Sr (00:05:43):

Here. And I'll cut the game for the house.

Molly (00:05:47):

You such a nice man. What are you staring at?

Nick, Jr (00:05:51):

You're all dressed up, you look nice.

Molly (00:05:53):

Thank you.

Nick, Jr (00:05:54):

Don't she looked nice, Daddy?

Molly (00:05:55):

Like your father don't notice like that.

Nick, Sr (00:05:58):

Oh, I notice how nice you look. Didn't I tell you last night when you went out? You just getting home?

Molly (00:06:05):

I told you I'd be staying if it got late. You weren't coming to get me, you were asleep when I left.

Nick, Sr (00:06:11):

I was awake, Ms. Molly. You want them rags I got down there to take to the dealer? They worth 15, 20 cent and you can take Loretta to the movies and buy some chocolate. I see you all out there playing together. What, you sweet on her?

Nick, Jr (00:06:28):


Molly (00:06:29):

I'm going to tell her he pees the bed. Nobody wants a piss pot for boyfriend.

Nick, Sr (00:06:34):

Oh, boy, she's a pretty girl. She's bold, too. Saw her the other day dragging Herbert all up and down Yeadon Avenue. You sure you can handle her? It's about time you swung out with the men. Hey, you want to help me with my poker club tonight? Can you make some sandwiches and open some beer?

Nick, Jr (00:06:54):

Yes, daddy.

Nick, Sr (00:06:55):

Well, you could make yourself a dollar. You better get some sleep because you going to be up half the night, if it's all right with your mother. And it's time for you to take off them knickers, now, put on some long pants.

Molly (00:07:07):

It ain't all right. He don't have no business being around all that loud talk. Nothing wrong with them knickers. You stop wetting the bed, you get long pants.

Nick, Jr (00:07:15):

Mother, please let me help?

Nick, Sr (00:07:16):

Now, Ms. Molly, I'll be here, the boys don't disrespect the house. They may talk loud, but what they say can be said at a Bishop's funeral. They my wife's brothers. Now, he can sit in the kitchen, listened to his radio, and whenever we need something, I'll call him.

Nick, Jr (00:07:33):

Mother, please?

Molly (00:07:35):

All right. If I hear any vulgarity to come out of you, I'm going to whip you.

Nick, Jr (00:07:40):

Thank you mother, dear.

Nick, Sr (00:07:41):

Oh, now that sounds nice. Mother, dear. Now, always respect your mother, boy, and make sure everybody else does, too. When a man talk about your mother, he'd just as soon talk about your God or your country. Like... Ooh, Ooh. I got to go to work. 10 years, I ain't never been late or absent. Now, how many of them leave home in the morning after breakfast like this? Some of them don't even eat. Wives drink like fish, running all up and down the street, cussing like they from the boondocks. But we got it good. There's nothing like a good mother and a good wife. Good mother comes first, now. A lot of half baked women make good mothers, but they horrendous wives. Bye, Ms. Molly. See you for dinner.

Molly (00:08:33):


Nick, Sr (00:08:33):

What we having?

Molly (00:08:34):

Roast pork.

Nick, Sr (00:08:35):

Oh boy, I know it's going to be good.

Nick, Jr (00:08:40):

I had a dream last night.

Molly (00:08:42):

Did you look it up in the dream book?

Nick, Jr (00:08:44):

I couldn't find it.

Molly (00:08:45):

It's there in the drawer. What did you dream?

Nick, Jr (00:08:48):

I dreamed I was old like you and daddy.

Molly (00:08:52):

I am not old. You are very young, which everything seem old to you.

Nick, Jr (00:08:56):

Yes, mother.

Molly (00:08:58):

Go on.

Nick, Jr (00:09:00):

I lived in a big house, as big as the church on the corner. And my room at the top of the house had a glass floor and I could see everything that was below me, everything. But I had a golden roof and I couldn't see nothing that was above me. I was scared, I felt like I was going to die.

Molly (00:09:20):

Is that what made you pee the bed? Now, how am I supposed to look that up? A house as big as a church, glass, gold. Narrow it down to one word so I can look it up. You might've dreamed some money. I still got time to play a number with Mrs. Sydney Rosemont. If I hit, you get a new watch.

Nick, Jr (00:09:39):

You hit for all that?

Molly (00:09:40):

Now, I always hit big, or else I don't play. You can penny pinch your way to the poor house, or you can just as soon drive a Hudson. Give me a word.

Nick, Jr (00:09:50):


Molly (00:09:52):

Good fortune or disappointment. Turn away desire when he comes, 766. Now, what in the deuce does that mean?

Nick, Jr (00:10:02):

It means we're going to have luck if we play the number, and misfortune if we don't.

Molly (00:10:08):

What's the number?

Nick, Jr (00:10:09):


Molly (00:10:11):

I'll box it. Do you want a Bulova?

Nick, Jr (00:10:14):

ID bracelet.

Molly (00:10:15):

That's foolishness. I'm going to buy you a real watch. Here, run this over to Mrs. Rosemont's and come straight back, I need you. Here's 50 cents, box it. Run.

Nick, Jr (00:10:26):

Am I going to the Y?

Molly (00:10:27):

I misjudged the date, it's next week. Just as well. Go on, hurry up. Did you put those wet sheets up to soak?

Nick, Jr (00:10:34):

No, mother.

Molly (00:10:36):

Pour some Clorox and some pine oil in with them.

Nick, Jr (00:10:38):

Yes, mother.

Molly (00:11:10):

Hello? Verline?, I couldn't wait for you to call. Who sponsored her? The mother. None of those girls would do a thing like that. No life. Ms. Neddy told her it was a tea and wear something dressy, but cool. And she came like that, and handed out her phone number and address to some of the men. One doesn't solicit their trade at a tea. Yes, for the old folks home. Every year. No, it wasn't at the home, we moved it to Belview Stratford Hotel. Mrs. Roosevelt spoke. We couldn't have that at the home. Or Mr. Rosemont dies, yes. He finally got his money. She's been waiting him out for 40 years.

Molly (00:11:52):

Yeah, she's taking numbers. I saw him, he was with her at Sandy's lawn party. You thought it was her nephew? Maybe it's her nephew, too. Girl, don't start me laughing. No, I'm up, I got a house to clean. No, he was asleep. Well, he works hard, he's had a hard life. I got to go, the fat's frying. Yeah, 766. I put 50 cents on it. If it hits, I'll take you to the post office and buy you some stamps. Bye.

Nick, Jr (00:12:25):


Molly (00:12:26):

I told you about shouting.

Nick, Jr (00:12:28):

I'm sorry.

Stage Directions Reader (00:12:29):

Nick Jr. goes to the kitchen, gets Molly's brandy bottle, drinks from it, puts it on a silver tray and takes it upstairs to Molly. She pours a drink.

Nick, Jr (00:12:41):

That smells sweet, like Pine-ex.

Molly (00:12:44):

It doesn't taste like Pine-ex. Why aren't you out playing today? I don't want you up under me all day.

Nick, Jr (00:12:50):

Nobody wants to play with me.

Molly (00:12:51):

Why, what did you do?

Nick, Jr (00:12:53):

They say because my grandmother died, they were afraid to play with me.

Molly (00:12:57):

That's ignorant.

Nick, Jr (00:12:59):

It doesn't matter. There's colored cowboys playing at the dump.

Molly (00:13:03):

You stealing pennies out your Esso bank to go to the dump.

Nick, Jr (00:13:06):

I got 10 cents from going to the store three times for Mrs. Glover. All I need is a penny.

Molly (00:13:11):

I'll give you a penny, leave your bank alone. You better save your money. You won't always have me giving you everything. Your father ain't going to take care of you, he can't take care of himself. Come scratch my head for me.

Nick, Jr (00:13:24):

Can I brush your hair?

Molly (00:13:25):

Use the stiff brush on the table. I bet you didn't do any of the things I asked you to do yesterday, did you?

Nick, Jr (00:13:32):

Yes I did.

Molly (00:13:33):

Yes, what?

Nick, Jr (00:13:35):

Yes, mother. Mother, you ever sleep?

Molly (00:13:40):

Never. The devil plays when you sleep. Mrs. Leda Jefferson, the lady I introduced to you on the phone yesterday, you had a conversation with her.

Nick, Jr (00:13:49):

Yes, mother.

Molly (00:13:50):

If she calls again and it's your misfortune to answer the phone, tell her I am not at home.

Nick, Jr (00:13:56):

Suppose she asks for daddy?

Molly (00:13:57):

If she asks for your father, then you are to tell me. Then you tell her he is not at home, whether he is or not. What did she say?

Nick, Jr (00:14:07):

She said the Spriggs sisters said, "Daddy's come a long way from the tobacco field to the Philadelphia main line." She said a niece used to clean out here. She said nothing but hinktys live out here. I said, "We're hinkty.”." She said she was going to tell you I was a smart ass.

Molly (00:14:22):

What else did she say?

Nick, Jr (00:14:24):

She knows Mr. T. Minlin, president of the First Negro National Bank. He lives out here, some show business people, a whole bunch of Baptist ministers and some post office handlers. Did daddy pick tobacco?

Molly (00:14:39):

Somebody had to pick it. Your father's from North Carolina, what else was he supposed to do? He's always loved hard work, and there's plenty of that for Negroes. Your father made a clear decision to better himself. You better thank God he did.

Nick, Jr (00:14:55):

Does doing better come like hot and cold water?

Molly (00:14:56):

Is that a smart remark?

Nick, Jr (00:14:58):

Everybody I know, their mother and daddy came to Philly from somewhere looking to do better. Daddy says Philly's no prize horse.

Molly (00:15:06):

Better than beer and broadcloth. Back to the subject, what did you tell her?

Nick, Jr (00:15:11):

I told her I was aware that all the members of my mother's club were the wives of Pullman porters, postal workers, doctors, lawyers, undertakers, dentists and liquor store owners. I didn't need schooling on that account. That I was very proud of my mother and her club, that yours was the most aggressive woman's club in Philadelphia. Daddy said that my mother wasn't the sort of woman that any man worth his salt could stand to see cleaning somebody's house. He said he'd see himself dead first. So she needn't wonder at us being on the main line.

Molly (00:15:42):

It's good to know you appreciate your mother. You seem to be the only one that does. And thank God you're not a girl. You don't have to be dependent on a man, at least not a colored one to raise you out the gutter. If you were slick like your uncles Peter and Harold, handsome boys. But they look just like white. Both of them married white women and that's why we don't see them anymore. I still get a card now and then from Harold, he wants me to tell him if anybody dies.

Nick, Jr (00:16:10):

It's not anybody's passing away that'll bring Uncle Harold back. It'll most likely be your spare ribs. Uncle Peter speaks French, so there's no telling where he might be. Do you care?

Molly (00:16:22):

Two less funerals to go to. Let the crackers have them, they deserve them.

Nick, Jr (00:16:27):

Was Granddaddy white?

Molly (00:16:29):

He was not white, he was light. There's a difference.

Nick, Jr (00:16:33):

In his picture he has light eyes.

Molly (00:16:34):

There are dogs with light eyes. Light eyes don't signify you're one thing or the other. Except my grandmother says it means you have to keep a closer watch on them because they have no compunction against murdering you. But we don't have any of that in the family. We all went by the book, and that's why we didn't have nothing. You have what you have because of the way I am with money. If it was up to your father, we'd still be sewing it up in the mattress. If it ain't about hard work and sleep or Satchel Page, he don't want to know.

Nick, Jr (00:17:04):

What else is there?

Molly (00:17:06):

What else is there? You're joking. But that's not a serious question. We can catch up on our rest in the hereafter.

Nick, Jr (00:17:14):

Can I stay up until 11:00 from now on, then?

Molly (00:17:18):

You so clever when you want to be. You can stay up all night, long as you don't come out of that room. I don't want to see your butt after 10:00. Now, be up bright and early for school. When are you going to graduate? You've been there an awful long time. You're 15, you should be out of there.

Nick, Jr (00:17:35):

Excuse me, mother, I'm 16.

Molly (00:17:37):

Don't correct me. You're 15. Wait a minute, you were born... Oh my goodness, you are 16. Well, good Lord, when did that happen? I lost you for a whole year. And then I suppose you feel you should stay up and out until 11:00?

Nick, Jr (00:17:55):

Yes, mother.

Molly (00:17:56):

You may stay out until 10:00. You may be on the porch until 11:00, and then you can be in bed by 11:15. Maybe I should have a party for you, that would be nice. I'll invite your friends, that's the only way I'll get a good look at them. I remember my 16th birthday party. It was in Rosedale, Maryland, in the back of a jewelry shop. And the boys in the band played because every one of them was sweet on me. They used to call me show girl, because I was cute. I danced with all of them. And one boy was rich and his father always joked that he was going to marry me, but I didn't love him.

Molly (00:18:34):

I loved the thought of sailing away from there. I wanted a man who could give me New York, not Rosedale, Maryland. And when I met your father, he acted like he was going to set the world on fire. You see, your father spent the first part of his life on his knees. Now he's tired and comfortable. One thing you have to say about white men, they can move mountains for their women. But what do you know, right? You think dry sheets and a spiked lemonade is a night on the town. Well, it's not. Get yourself a glass, you'll have your first real taste for your 16th birthday. Get a Coca-Cola. I'll put some strawberry liqueur in it.

Stage Directions Reader (00:19:13):

Nick runs downstairs to the kitchen.

Molly (00:19:16):

16 years old and still peeing the bed.

Stage Directions Reader (00:19:19):

Molly has turned the radio up a bit. She dances around to the window that gives her a view of an immaculate tree lined block of perfect houses.

Voice (00:19:30):

Peaches, peaches, ripe peaches! Peaches, peaches, ripe peaches!

Stage Directions Reader (00:19:37):

Nick takes a glass and empties a Coke from the ice box into it. Nick runs back upstairs.

Molly (00:19:43):

Have you noticed the white people moving out? There's hardly any left.

Nick, Jr (00:19:48):

Mr. Carter said living around us makes them feel poor.

Molly (00:19:51):

Mr. Carter should know. He'd follow white people back to Africa if they led him, but I'm not one to be led. Most colored people, their circumstances lead them around by their nose. It's because of my hard work and imagination that you're not out on the street, all snotty nosed with your heels run down, trying to find something to eat. You don't have to do that because your father working two jobs, and my caring one way or the other what becomes of you. And no one else will care about you. None of these little girls you running around the streets with.

Molly (00:20:21):

You think that little girl across the street will care about you? You don't have any money, she don't want anything to do with you. They all alike, jealous. "What you got? Well, I have to have more than you." I know when they come in this house, their eyes pop out because a colored woman isn't supposed to have what I have. We spent two weeks in Atlantic City every summer, every summer. Most Negroes, if they get two hours in Fairmont Park, they stole it. Nobody's giving you freedom. What happened the other day when you said to me, I hurt your feelings?

Nick, Jr (00:20:54):

You slapped me.

Molly (00:20:56):

Yeah, and I'll slap you again. You don't have feelings, children don't have feelings. When you can make a living and pay rent, then you buy freedom and feelings. That's how you get it, you pay for it. You'll be bringing one of those little nappy head bimbos from Ridge Ave, telling me she's pregnant. You do that, you just pack your bags because both your behinds are going in the street. What is this class you have to go to in the fall?

Nick, Jr (00:21:22):

OB class.

Molly (00:21:23):

What's that?

Nick, Jr (00:21:25):

For children that can't learn.

Molly (00:21:27):

Why are you going there? You can learn.

Nick, Jr (00:21:30):

My teacher says I can't, and she's right. My mind wanders. I told you last spring when I was thrown out of Mr. Hawkins class, you beat me for it already. I still have the welts.

Molly (00:21:40):

Well, you better do better or I'll have your father whip you. He ever whip you?

Nick, Jr (00:21:45):


Molly (00:21:46):

Why has he never hit you?

Nick, Jr (00:21:48):

He says he's never been mad enough to hit me. He says his hands are too big, he'd kill me.

Molly (00:21:53):

I want to see an improvement. It's time for your first drink. That's a lie. You and your friends drink at those little punch parties down in them cellars. I don't want any of that fast behavior in this house. This is my house. Now here, give me the Coke. Here's to 766, may it come out. You boxed it?

Nick, Jr (00:22:13):

Yes, mother. Daddy's in a good mood today.

Molly (00:22:16):

Your father's happy as a clam. Give him a bed, a hot meal and his own room, he'll work his fingers to the bone for you. He'd kill himself for you. Do you mention him into your prayers?

Nick, Jr (00:22:28):

Yes, mother.

Molly (00:22:29):

Do you mention me in your prayers?

Nick, Jr (00:22:31):

Yes, mother.

Molly (00:22:32):

God listens to children pray. His loyalty is divided with grownups between what they say and what they do, and grownups lie.

Nick, Jr (00:22:40):

Children lie.

Molly (00:22:42):

Not when they pray. Grownups lie in their prayers. Remember that. Well, drink up. What you need, blue lights and the National Anthem for you to have a drink?

Nick, Jr (00:22:51):

No, mother.

Molly (00:22:52):

Then drink. You already drunk? Now see, you the first one in the house to finish school. Your father didn't even go. His grandmother taught him to read and write. Now, I don't know where she learned, down home as she was. She was born a slave. She used to sit, look out the window, just like you. Staring at ghosts. All she wanted to do was talk about her wedding. That's all she ever thought about. Children screaming, messing all over the house, she's sitting on the porch, having sassafras tea, talking about her wedding. I thought she must have been a rich white woman in another life. She looked like Queen Mary.

Molly (00:23:36):

Anyway, we all had aspirations which have ended in your hands. And I'm very sorry to say you were a disappointment. You're dumb as dishwater. Did you see that boy at church, Sunday? The way he got up and sang and spoke so beautifully? Now, don't that make you feel shamed to see a nice, well-spoken boy like that who's getting good grades in school? I know his mother's proud, I could just see it. I guess I'll never see you up there, will I? We've given you everything. I guess you should have had it like your daddy, following mules for what they drop, and just to put food on the table. You're going to have roast ham tonight. You a lucky boy.

Nick, Jr (00:24:16):

Yes, mother.

Molly (00:24:18):

Get on your knees.

Stage Directions Reader (00:24:19):

Nick Jr. kneels, Molly puts her hand on his head.

Molly (00:24:22):

Oh almighty and most merciful Jesus, of thy bountiful goodness, keep us from all things that may hurt us, that we being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things which thou commandest. Amen.

Nick, Jr (00:24:37):


Molly (00:24:40):

Answer it. If it's the vegetable and fruit man, I don't want any. Wait, if he has ripe peaches, get four pounds. And don't pay him more than 10 cents. More than that, I'll go to the A&P. I'll make your daddy a peach cobbler for his game tonight. Well, I know him. He'll put out a dish of hard candy and call it quits. You'd think he'll know how to entertain by now, old as he is. You'd think he was still down on the farm. But don't stand there, answer the door. Why are you so much trouble? I have to run a house full of dumb clucks. Answer the door! I tell him to answer the door, he standing there staring at me. Am I crazy or was this a mistake? I should've never had a child. I should never have got myself into this. Stand there, people waiting at the door. Who is it? Nick, who is it?

Stage Directions Reader (00:25:33):

Molly goes downstairs to find Nick Jr. standing in the kitchen with three shabbily dressed Negro men. One man carries a battered saxophone in a case.

Molly (00:25:43):


Ivan (00:25:44):

Excuse me, ma'am. My name is Ivan Trumbull. This is my son Cupid and my grandson Abel. We be from the railroad out near city line.

Molly (00:25:55):

Yes, you all working over there?

Ivan (00:25:57):

Well, we were, ma'am. They lay us off yesterday. Then today they tell us no more work. They had us sleep in the railway cars, got them lined up out in the swamp. Skeeters are mean as hell. They tear you up. We got enough between us take the Greyhound as far as Richmond, and then we walk to Garden City. Done it many times myself, when I didn't have to. Walked to Richmond for my haircut. We was wondering if you had a few slices of bread that you was going to throw out to the birds? Not to deprive the birds, they have to eat, too. But I swear we could make it back home if we had a little bag of something.

Molly (00:26:47):

Sit down. Wash your hands at the sink. Did they have any facilities over there where you were?

Ivan (00:26:54):

There's a stream, runs behind the cars. It's green and smells bad. We have to wash in the tap room on the avenue. Sometimes they frog up and say no. We appreciate this.

Cupid (00:27:10):

Thank you, ma'am.

Abel (00:27:11):

Thank you, ma'am.

Molly (00:27:12):

This is my son, Nicholas the third.

Nick, Jr (00:27:15):

How do you do, sir? How do you do, sir? How do you do, sir?

Ivan (00:27:19):

A very mannerly boy. All my boys was raised with good manners. How do you do?

Cupid (00:27:27):

How do you do?

Abel (00:27:28):

How do you do?

Molly (00:27:29):

Well, sit down at the table. Nick, put some bread and butter on the table. I have some succotash and some kale from last night. Which you liked some with knockwurst?

Cupid (00:27:38):

Yes ma'am, anything will do.

Abel (00:27:40):

We don't want you to go to no trouble. Just the bread will do.

Molly (00:27:44):

Oh, it's no trouble. Colored men have to eat. I know you all love to eat, because you look like it. You from Virginia. Well, when you on your feet, send me one of those Virginia hams. I had some once when I was passing through, going to Georgia. I'm from Maryland, myself, but my people come from North Carolina. So is my husband, he's from there, too. Do you know a town called Department, North Carolina, down there in the tobacco belt?

Ivan (00:28:10):

No, ma'am.

Molly (00:28:11):

I'd never heard of it, either. I still haven't, except when my husband complains about it. He never wants to see it again, so I guess that's that. Do you have a family?

Ivan (00:28:21):

Well, these boys here are my family, except for the three girls and my dear wife back in Garden City. Cupid's got four more besides Abel here. Abel's a bachelor.

Abel (00:28:34):

I'm engaged to a sweet girl named Olive.

Molly (00:28:38):

That's nice. Well, I must say you've got gumption, traveling for work. I admire that in people. I had an uncle lived in Vienna.

Ivan (00:28:47):

Is that so?

Molly (00:28:48):

Oh yes, traveling has always been in my family. It's told my grandfather walked from North Carolina to Maryland. He was obsessed with the thought of New England, but he only got as far as Maryland. That's where he met my grandmother. So I very much admire gumption. I don't know anybody who's got any, at least until you come by.

Cupid (00:29:06):

A lot of good it's done us, ma'am.

Molly (00:29:09):

It seldom does colored men good. It'll most likely get you killed. Lunch is ready. Let's say our prayers. Almighty Lord and everlasting God, vouch safe, we beseech thee to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies, and the ways of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments, that through thy most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in both body and soul through our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, amen. Eat.

Stage Directions Reader (00:29:43):

Molly gestures for Nick to sit in a chair away from the table.

Molly (00:29:47):

Many people, colored and white, out on the streets, aren't they? No work. The young boys go out to the CC camps, thank God. The back door bell rings all day, people begging. I usually keep some wrapped jelly sandwiches ready to go, but I was too busy to make them this morning. Any of you railroad men have your families with you?

Cupid (00:30:06):

Yes ma'am, quite a few.

Molly (00:30:08):

Where are they? They don't sleep in the railroad cars? I hope women aren't living in those cars.

Cupid (00:30:13):

No ma'am, they mostly down on Gerard Avenue on the slave block during the day, and at night they have rooms down on Lumbar Street. Only us loners in the railroad cars. They got a lot of Mexicans they shipped in down there.

Ivan (00:30:25):

The women couldn't stand the rigors of sleeping on the ground. They need beds.

Abel (00:30:32):

What is the slave block?

Molly (00:30:34):

The slave block in the park where colored women stand all day, if they have to. Until a white woman or man comes down from those apartments on Girade Avenue to pick them out to work all day for something to eat. My club of Negro women, Mr. Trumbull, goes there with as much food as our carts will carry. We pass it out and send them home. And sometimes we don't have enough because there's so many, and they're whisked off to do housework and mind white children, and are paid in tomato sandwiches, one sandwich for one day's work. We helped one woman who had three children. She used to cut her tomato sandwich into four parts, each one had a quarter. That's all they had all day. They had no leftovers to steal because the white people are almost as poor as they are, so nobody affords anybody any favors.

Abel (00:31:19):

They must be very grateful to you, ma'am.

Molly (00:31:21):

They hate our guts. Can't stand us. You can hear them calling to each other, "Here come the toasties." And then he gobble down what we have. At least we send them back to their horrible little rooms with one less humiliation to suffer. I think we all hate each other. Toasties. They make us feel like informers, and we are not. It's about ambition, isn't it, Mr. Trumbull? I see wisdom in your face. You know, everybody's scrambling for gravy and the gravy train's done gone. Well, help yourself to another knockwurst. We got plenty. God's been good to us, though I don't know why.

Nick, Jr (00:32:02):

David and me?

Ivan (00:32:04):


Molly (00:32:04):

David's his dead brother. You are 16. It's time you stopped imagining brothers. You're about to tell a lie. Do you want a whipping?

Stage Directions Reader (00:32:14):

Nick looks at his mother. The three men can see he is hesitating.

Ivan (00:32:18):


Nick, Jr (00:32:23):

David is my brother who died before I was born. He's my friend. We went to the railroad yard together. We hopped the car to Camden and we walked all the way back. This girl I know lives on 43rd Street, they call it the "bottom." We got shot at once down there and we had to run in some lady's shoes.

Abel (00:32:40):

That's very dangerous.

Cupid (00:32:42):

Yes, very.

Ivan (00:32:44):

What do you want to be when you grow up, young man?

Nick, Jr (00:32:48):

It's funny. I asked David the same question the other day, and he said, "Dead." I think, I think I would love to go to the sea.

Ivan (00:33:03):


Nick, Jr (00:33:03):

I have to go to the sea.

Ivan (00:33:06):

The smell of the sea in my nostrils,

The sound of the sea in mine ears;

The touch of the spray on my burning face,

Like the mist of reluctant tears.

The blue of sky above me.

The green of the waves beneath;

The sun flashing down on a grey-white sail

Like a scimitar from its sheath.

And ever the breaking billows,

And ever the rocks’ disdain;

And ever a thrill in mine inmost heart

That my reason cannot explain.

So I say to my heart, “Be silent,

The mystery of time is here;

Death’s way will be plain when we fatham the main,

And the secret of like be clear.”

Nick, Jr (00:34:24):

Paul Laurence Dunbar, The Mystic Sea. What dreams we have and how they fly, like rosy clouds across the sky. Of wealth, of fame, of pure success, of love that comes to cheer and bless. And how they wither, how they fade. The waning wealth that, for a moment, gleams. That flies forever. Dreams are dreams.

Nick, Jr (00:35:32):

O burning doubt and long regret,

O tears with which our eyes are wet,

Heart-throbs, heart-aches, the glut of pain,

The somber cloud, the bitter rain.

You were not of those dreams – ah well,

Your full fruition who can tell?

Wealth, fame, and love, ah! Love that beams

Upon our souls, all dreams – ah dreams.

Abel (00:35:35):

Paul Laurence Dunbar, Dreams.

Ivan (00:35:40):

Courage. Thank you, ma'am. We have to be on our way if we're to make it to the Greyhound in time. Jesus favors the kind in heart. God bless you.

Cupid (00:35:54):

God bless you.

Abel (00:35:55):

God bless you.

Nick, Jr (00:35:57):

God bless you.

Molly (00:36:00):

Goodbye. Here. Here's $3. A dollar for each of you. You ride to the Greyhound. You've walked enough. Here.

Stage Directions Reader (00:36:11):

Ivan Takes Molly's hand, kisses it. The three men leave.

Nick, Jr (00:36:19):

A rabbit's foot. The bewitched eye of a cougar and a piece of string from his shoulder for luck. There were three angels that visited the Sultan of Edaas. Each had a gift. Fire was frozen in the eye of the cougar, and the rabbit foot had crystal claws, and the string is God's umbilical cord cut from his mama's Isis.

Nick, Jr (00:36:44):

I bet. Mr. Trumbull has read Puskin. The world says no matter how exhausted you get, you will never be as old as I am. I will never be alone. I finally got a nickname at school. They call me Hofenburg’s Folly. Folly for short. Mother, dear. Why are you always mad?

Molly (00:37:05):

Don't talk all that insane garbage to me. You're just like your father. Dreams. Dreams? You better wake up. You better learn how to hold a job longer than 10 minutes. All summer, you had two jobs. Mr. Jonesy does your father a favor and gets you a job with the leather factory, portering behind Mr. Jonesy. He tried to muzzle you through.

Molly (00:37:26):

And what did you do? Every time he looked up, you got your face in some junk about the Irish, reading on the job. Mrs. Rose next door was Irish. That evil hag was next door to us for two years and never spoke one word to me. I called the fire department when I saw smoke over there. I should have let her hind parts burn. I could see nigger in their eyes every time they had to look this way, and you reading some Irish book? And I told you what was going to happen if you lied. Didn't I? Didn't I?

Nick, Jr (00:37:54):

I was imagining-

Molly (00:37:54):

You were lying! Now, get in your room and take off your clothes. You're going to get a whipping. Get upstairs.

Nick, Jr (00:38:00):

Mother dear, please don't-

Molly (00:38:00):

Get up upstairs.

Stage Directions Reader (00:38:03):

Nick, Jr climbs the stairs to his room. We see Nick, Jr removing his clothes down to his underwear. He stops undressing. After a moment, Molly opens the closet door, taking a large razor strap. Molly climbs the stairs to Nick's room, her razor strap over her shoulder. She arrives. He is very frightened.

Molly (00:38:24):

I told you to take your clothes off. You know you don't get no whipping with your clothes on. Take them off now.

Nick, Jr (00:38:29):


Molly (00:38:30):


Nick, Jr (00:38:31):

No. I can't take everything off no more.

Molly (00:38:36):

What did you say?

Nick, Jr (00:38:37):

I'm not going to be naked in front of you no more. I'm too grown for that.

Molly (00:38:43):

You what?

Nick, Jr (00:38:44):

You can beat me with my clothes on.

Molly (00:38:46):

Take them off.

Nick, Jr (00:38:47):

No, Mother dear.

Molly (00:38:57):

Cry. Why don't you cry? Cry. Cry. Cry. Cry. Cry. Cry. Why don't you cry? Cry.

Loretta (00:39:21):

Nick. Nick? Come out, come out, wherever you are. Nick, come out.

Molly (00:39:22):

Loretta. Loretta, come in here. I want to see you. Yes, now. I want to see you. Come on upstairs.

Stage Directions Reader (00:39:29):

A young girl of 14 enters the back door.

Loretta (00:39:33):

Mrs. Hofenburg?

Molly (00:39:35):

We up here, Loretta, in the back room.

Stage Directions Reader (00:39:37):

Loretta climbs the stairs. Nick, Jr Is standing frightened and embarrassed. Loretta enters Nick's room.

Loretta (00:39:45):

Oh my. I...

Stage Directions Reader (00:39:49):

Excuse Nick in his drawers.

Loretta (00:39:51):

Hello, Mrs. Hofenburg. Hello, Nick. Can you come out? We're going to Fairmont Park. Is your bike fixed? If not, you can use Herbie's brother's.

Molly (00:40:02):

Loretta. Do you know anybody 16 still pees in the bed?

Loretta (00:40:07):


Molly (00:40:08):

Do you know anybody 16 still pees the bed?

Loretta (00:40:12):


Molly (00:40:13):

That's what you think. Look at those stain sheets. Tell her, piss pot, how you wet the bed every night. That's why you can't spend the night nowhere. Tell her. Don't stand there with your mouth open like you dumb. You tell her. She don't want no piss pot. Tell her.

Stage Directions Reader (00:40:30):

Loretta runs from the room. Nick Jr stares at Molly, who smiles at him. She walks from the room, slams the door, then slides a bolt shut, locking Nick, Jr inside.

Molly (00:40:42):

When the cat lets go of your tongue, you can come out. I got to get me some sleep.

Stage Directions Reader (00:40:48):

Molly goes to her room. The lights fade on all but Nick Jr's room. End of act.

Stage Directions Reader (00:44:34):

Act two. Early that evening. In the kitchen, Nick, Sr is putting the last touches on a sandwich. Molly is in her room at her vanity table, nursing a cocktail. She wears only her slip. Nick Jr is still locked in his room, asleep in his underwear. The light from the window shadows the room. Nick Sr is climbing the stairs with the sandwich and a bottle of beer on a tray. He arrives at Nick Jr's door. Slides the bolt open, enters, and closes it.

Nick, Sr (00:45:06):

Hey boy, wake up. Get some of his ham your mother made for dinner. Boy, it's good. Get up. Come on. I put it on a sandwich with some potato salad. Get up.

Nick, Jr (00:45:24):


Nick, Sr (00:45:25):

Wake up. What, you sleep? You hungry?

Nick, Jr (00:45:29):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:45:29):

And I done dropped it all up the steps. Your mother going to have a conniption. Well, how you doing? Got a whooping, huh?

Nick, Jr (00:45:38):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:45:39):

Yeah, cut a hog, now you in the dog house, huh? You want some of this beer?

Nick, Jr (00:45:45):

Yes, sir.

Stage Directions Reader (00:45:46):

Nick, Sr picks up an empty soda bottle.

Nick, Sr (00:45:49):

This bottle clean?

Nick, Jr (00:45:50):

Yes, sir.

Stage Directions Reader (00:45:52):

He pours some of his beer into the soda bottle.

Nick, Sr (00:45:54):

Yeah, in case your mother comes in. Well, here's to you. Now, you see, your mother asked me to come in here, say a few words to you on the subject of lying. She didn't tell me to bring you something to eat, so if she catches you, you stole it.

Nick, Jr (00:46:15):

All right.

Nick, Sr (00:46:15):

Because I'd just as soon stayed out of it, all right. No, don't worry. Take your time. She getting dressed to go to Jersey. Well, I ain't going to call you on lying because well, hell I lied yesterday. I told Hemshaw she had pretty feet in them shoes she wore to church. That was a lie, wasn't it?

Nick, Jr (00:46:39):


Nick, Sr (00:46:40):

Now what was that line you wrote in your poem that I like so much? It escapes me.

Nick, Jr (00:46:46):

I'll give a piece of myself away to everybody. I dissolve on their tongues like holy communion.

Nick, Sr (00:46:52):

Yes. Oh, that's very expressive. It reminds me of the poem I wrote once for your mother. Give yourself away. Well, you feeling better?

Nick, Jr (00:47:04):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:47:05):

Now, you stop all this business talking about brothers that's dead. You know how sensitive your mother is about that, and boy, I will slap you up. She don't want to hear that. You stay in the dog house, you keep it up. She's sensitive.

Nick, Sr (00:47:20):

See, there's things that you don't know. You don't know everything. You think you do, but you don't, see. And anything your mother do, short of killing you, is all right with me. We'll get you to understand what's waiting out there for you.

Nick, Sr (00:47:35):

And good manners, that come from down the line on back in Africa. Life'll teach you if you can control your manners. You're also using your brains instead of your mouth, get me? Now your mother wanted a gentleman and that's what she going to get, if we have to break your neck.

Nick, Sr (00:47:52):

Of course, compared to me when I was your age, you perfect. I was a humdinger. They had to tie me up, leave me out by the dogs until my grandma could hear me praying. And it'd be cold as a mummy's titty, and I'd be yelling at the top of my voice toward my grandmama's window. "Our father, who art in heaven, that kingdom come," and that little hell unit wake up and yell back, "Are you right with God?" And I'd say under my breath, "You damn right, cold as it is out here, you old veteran." The old folks break you like a young horse. They tie a saddle to you and then ride you into manhood, as if they knew the way.

Nick, Sr (00:48:35):

I have to be honest with you. I don't know what to say to you. I was on my own at 14.

Nick, Jr (00:48:42):

I'm 16, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:48:44):

16? You're 16? No, well, wait, wait, wait... Well, that's right, you are. Where did the time go? Well, anyway, what I was saying about your mother. Now, I'm going to tell you a story, and I don't want you to tell your mother I told you, all right? Grown men ain't really buddies until they hold a secret together.

Nick, Sr (00:49:11):

Now you was a little thing in your mother's arms, and company was coming. She got you up in one of them lace dresses belonged to her father when he was a baby, and then she gave you your [inaudible 00:49:25] so when you come to spitting up all over this lace dress, she slapped you. And you will no more than six or seven months old, if you was that. And I said, you can't slap a baby, Ms. Molly, you'll kill it.

Nick, Sr (00:49:39):

And then she, she cried. Then I remember, your mama had another little boy before you. Died of diphtheria one night in Georgia. We down there traveling through the sticks down there. Couldn't find a colored doctor, and no white doctor or hospital would see him. He died in her arms. He buried down there in the colored church yard, and your mother never got over it.

Nick, Sr (00:50:07):

So you talk about brothers that's died, you shake her up. Now there's terrible folks out there. Steal your blood, much less your money. Now, Ms. Molly, the first time I laid eyes on her, I'd give her all my money. Yeah, Ms. Molly, here's everything I have. Here's my soul. You handle it for me until God gets it and I know it'll be in good hands. She keeps you clean. Keeps the perfect house. She's beautiful. You proud to call her your mother. And you look at some of your friends' mothers. They let themselves go. Big behind.

Nick, Sr (00:50:47):

But see, that's because they don't any reason to their lives. And now, Ms. Molly got her clubs and her whatnot to keep her busy, though I don't know where she get the time. I work two jobs and I'm beat when I come home. She full her ginger, fussing about something.

Nick, Sr (00:51:02):

And then I asked her, don't you never sleep? She's up when I get up. You never have to leave here for school without your breakfast, like some of your friends. And not because they too pour, but because they mama too drunk. You get me? Too drunk. So when you say your prayers, remember your mama, because I remember mine, and you'll never go wrong.

Nick, Jr (00:51:23):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:51:25):

You'll make some money tonight, huh? You going to open the beer, make some sandwiches?

Nick, Jr (00:51:30):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:51:30):

And then pull yourself together. Clean yourself up. And I expect you to be on the job.

Nick, Jr (00:51:35):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:51:35):

Now, you see, you got so many relatives back in Department, North Carolina. You wouldn't be able to stand it. And everybody in the department named Hoffenberg. Colored people, white people, rich, poor. It upset me. I had to get out of there.

Nick, Sr (00:51:53):

Your mother and I never had no luck down south. One time, she reddened her hair a little bit and some sailors liked to beat me to death. Thought I was with a white woman. She slapped some white woman in a department store. We had to leave on the night train. She just wasn't able to bend to the white folks. It wasn't in her. So we better get out of there before they kill her. And that's when we left Maryland, come to Philly. Last one boy. The one the other one mentioned.

Nick, Sr (00:52:22):

Now, Mr. Jonesy say he had to let you go because you was slack on the job.

Nick, Jr (00:52:29):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:52:30):

He put himself out to hire you.

Nick, Jr (00:52:32):

The smell of the fresh skins made me sick.

Nick, Sr (00:52:36):

Yeah, well, it does stink like hell. I don't know how he's stand it. I don't know how his missus stand it. I smell it on him all the time. What was that job that they fired you off in June?

Nick, Jr (00:52:49):

At the university of Pennsylvania Medical School. I cleaned up after amputation class.

Nick, Sr (00:52:53):

Amputation class?

Nick, Jr (00:52:56):

Yes, sir. Mrs. [Rider 00:52:58], she's the superintendent, says that has to be taught like everything else. Leaves a mess.

Nick, Sr (00:53:05):

What sort of mess?

Nick, Jr (00:53:06):

Arms and legs and heads and things. They have to all be put back in their bins.

Nick, Sr (00:53:12):

Why would you pick a job like that?

Nick, Jr (00:53:14):

That's all there was for colored. That, and digging sewage out in Germantown, and you have to be strong for that. Plenty of grown men lined up for that.

Nick, Sr (00:53:23):

Did your mother approve of you doing that?

Nick, Jr (00:53:25):

I told her I was cleaning up. I didn't tell her what.

Nick, Sr (00:53:27):

We're doing pretty good down at the garage, why don't you come on down there and answer the phone for me, run some errands for me? I might be able to pay you $5 a week. How about that?

Nick, Jr (00:53:37):

Yes sir.

Nick, Sr (00:53:38):

Because I don't want you working those kinds of jobs. That's the shit I had to do. If you told your mother what she was doing, she'd have raised the roof. And that's why I'm always after you about education. Get your education so you don't have to shovel shit all your life. You don't want to live like that again. Never.

Nick, Jr (00:53:54):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:53:55):

Cleaning up after amputation class. They must be crazy. You need some money, you come to me. You don't be doing stuff like that. You want a dollar? Here, here, take two. Don't you ever sell your soul for no living. If you want to sell it, ask for the universe, you get me? Tell them you want the universe, and the sun, and the moon, and every damn thing else. They want your soul, they got to pay.

Nick, Jr (00:54:19):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:54:21):

You ready to stay up half the night?

Nick, Jr (00:54:23):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:54:27):

It has come to me, through Billy, who works the Super Chief between New York and Washington, that the President of the United States is apt to wet the bed now and again, because of his condition. That he might even, at certain times, have to wear rubber pants and sleep on a rubber sheet, so it don't mean that you can't concentrate on your schooling.

Nick, Jr (00:54:50):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:54:51):

Want to hear a joke?

Nick, Jr (00:54:53):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:54:55):

Italian got a job overseeing some Negroes, shoveling sewage out of a ditch. The Negroes had to climb down and hand the stuff up to the Italians, loading it on the truck. Of course, it's hard for the Negroes because they was waist deep in it. Now, an Irish foreman and come back from lunch to find the Italian down in the ditch, passing it up to the Negro. The Irishman calls him up, cusses him out for giving the Negro the easy job. The Italian told him that when he come to this country, the first thing they tell him? To never let a nigger give him no shit. And if you laugh, I'll kill you.

Nick, Jr (00:55:34):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (00:55:36):

Come on, eat your supper.

Stage Directions Reader (00:55:39):

Nick Sr leaves and goes to Molly's bedroom.

Molly (00:55:45):


Nick, Sr (00:55:46):

Can I come in?

Molly (00:55:48):

Come in. Don't stand in the door, you'll block the air. That man finally delivered the ice. Not the same since Mr. Suites died. You have to call up a day ahead of time. I hope the beer is cold. I made a peach cobbler. It's on the buffet with some of the potato salad, and the ham for the sandwiches is all sliced up in the icebox, and half a pound of sliced cheese to go with it. Nick knows where everything else is. What you wearing a suit for?

Nick, Sr (00:56:13):

We always dress for our poker games, Ms. Molly.

Molly (00:56:16):

You dress for them and you won't dress for me?

Nick, Sr (00:56:18):

Now when do you want me to dress that I don't dress?

Molly (00:56:21):

You sit around the house in those old slacks and that old sports shirt. You should go over to the Updike's place. Any time you ring their bell, he's as sharp as a tack. He always wears those little scarves around his neck. There's a picture of Leslie Howard wearing one in Liberty Magazine on my dresser. When I get time, I have to take you down and buy you a new suit.

Nick, Sr (00:56:40):

I can buy my own suit. You don't-

Molly (00:56:42):

And I've seen the suits you going to buy. I let buy your own suit months before. What happened? You bought something because the man gave you three pair of pants with it.

Nick, Sr (00:56:50):

And a big can of Nunil, which would last me for a year.

Molly (00:56:54):

Well, I'm glad we took it back.

Nick, Sr (00:56:55):

You took it back. It was a good suit.

Molly (00:56:57):

Let's not fall out over that suit. That's water under the bridge. Mrs. Cornwall told me she saw Mr. Candy with Leda Jefferson down on South Street the other night. She was hanging all out his Lincoln, high as a kite. Mrs. Candy's sick. She's in the Mercy Hospital.

Nick, Sr (00:57:14):

Mr. Candy? No, he's supposed to play cards with us tonight, but his wife's got him on Monday nights.

Molly (00:57:20):

She ain't got him tonight because they don't allow visitors in Mercy Hospital this time of night. Hattie Hawkins' mother was dying and they wouldn't let her in.

Nick, Sr (00:57:27):

Because they was killing her. Now that’s a sorry hospital. I told him to come if he can.

Molly (00:57:31):

Yeah, well I bet he can't, not if Lita Jefferson's got him. When she was invited into the club, you could look at her and tell she was going to go through every husband in the place.

Nick, Sr (00:57:41):

She ain't that bad because she can joke with men. She's a high spirited girl. The boys used to call her Slap and Tickle.

Molly (00:57:50):

Is that what goes on?

Nick, Sr (00:57:51):

It's just a joke, Ms. Molly.

Molly (00:57:54):

Well, I don't think Mrs. Candy'll die laughing over it.

Nick, Sr (00:57:57):

Yeah, she'll probably die as a result of false rumors.

Molly (00:58:00):

Rumors? Mrs. Cornwall saw it with her very own eyes.

Nick, Sr (00:58:03):

That old biddy can't see far as from here to the window, much less half the stuff she says she sees. Old boot-nose woman, always sticking it in someone else's business. Mr. Candy wouldn't do no such thing.

Molly (00:58:14):

All right. Don't you all get too loud and have these crackers next door call the police on you.

Nick, Sr (00:58:20):

Ms. Molly, I was thinking.

Molly (00:58:25):


Nick, Sr (00:58:27):

I was thinking you shouldn't give Nick whoopings anymore.

Molly (00:58:32):


Nick, Sr (00:58:32):

Well, he's almost grown. It ain't right, making the boy take his clothes off in front of his mama. I was a boy. You get embarrassed with your dang-a-lang 00:58:41 hanging out in front of your mother.

Molly (00:58:42):

I ought to cut it off. Maybe that'll stop him wetting my beds.

Nick, Sr (00:58:45):

Well, he only wets one bed, Ms. molly, and that's his own. It hurts him to wet the bed at his age, more than it does us.

Molly (00:58:52):

I don't want to talk about it. You beat him, I'm finished with him. I told you I wanted a girl. A girl I could have made into a little doll. He ain't nothing. Stays in the movies, keeps face facing those old dusty books you bring home. They all full of dead worms.

Molly (00:59:08):

It's a pleasure for me now to spank him. A weight off of me. You talk to him, he don't listen. I'll tell you the truth. I wish he was dead instead of David. He's not the son you used to go on and on about in Baltimore. He's a disappointment. I could handle his death a lot easier than I can handle his bed wetting. He's getting on my nerves.

Nick, Sr (00:59:27):

Ms. Molly, He's not to blame.

Molly (00:59:30):

To blame for what?

Nick, Sr (00:59:34):

I don't know. Thanks for the cobbler. I have to keep Smitty off it. You know how he loves your cobbler.

Molly (00:59:42):

Leave me alone, now. I'm going to be late. I have to dress.

Nick, Sr (00:59:46):

Yes, ma'am.

Molly (00:59:49):

Answer the door.

Nick, Sr (00:59:49):

Come on, boy. I don't hear you moving in there. Let's shake a leg.

Stage Directions Reader (00:59:55):

Nick, Sr goes downstairs.

Nick, Jr (00:59:58):

I'm on the move, Daddy.

Stage Directions Reader (01:00:00):

Nick, Sr opens the door. Smitty and Whistling Billy are standing there. Whistling is holding an arm full of orange lilies.

Nick, Sr (01:00:09):

What in the world... What is this?

Smitty (01:00:10):

His wife made them dig up all the day lilies. They gave her hives.

Whistling Billy (01:00:15):

They for the misses.

Nick, Sr (01:00:17):

Boy. They are beautiful. Ms. Molly, come on down and see these flowers.

Stage Directions Reader (01:00:22):

Molly comes down the stairs.

Molly (01:00:24):

Aren't they beautiful? Oh, I wanted Nicky to grow me some lilies. He didn't do it. Oh, they are beautiful.

Whistling Billy (01:00:32):

Well, you got them now. Some of them got the roots with them.

Molly (01:00:36):

Nicky, get something to put them in. There's two vases in the hall closet that'll hold them.

Nick, Sr (01:00:39):

Now, Ms. Molly, you wanted me to grow lilies for you, you should've said something. In all my born days, I ain't never heard you talk about lilies. You like roses, but they won't grow. I tried to grow them and then they won't grow.

Molly (01:00:52):

How's Ms. [Hollets 01:00:53]?

Whistling Billy (01:00:53):

Oh, she's fine. And how are you?

Molly (01:00:56):

Oh, fair as can be expected. You have to excuse me, I'm getting dressed. Have a good game. Hi, Smitty. You so quiet.

Smitty (01:01:04):

You look nice, Ms. molly.

Molly (01:01:06):

Thank you, Smitty. It's nice to be noticed.

Nick, Sr (01:01:09):

These what you mean?

Molly (01:01:11):

Nicky, put some water in the vases. Do I have to tell you everything? Lord have mercy. Does your wife tell you everything, Smitty?

Smitty (01:01:18):

Yes, ma'am.

Molly (01:01:19):

Don't your wife want you to go out and get the world for her? Now, how are you going to get it if she has to tell you everything?

Smitty (01:01:26):

I tell her, she want the world? She got my permission to go get it. These people about to work me to death. I need my rest. I can't keep my yard the way she want it. What am I going to do with the world? If she was as young-looking and as pretty as you, Ms. Molly, I'd have given her more than she got now.

Whistling Billy (01:01:42):

And they'd have put your butt in jail.

Molly (01:01:45):

Have a good game.

Whistling Billy (01:01:46):

Thank you, ma'am.

Stage Directions Reader (01:01:46):

Nick, Sr carries two large vases of lilies.

Nick, Sr (01:01:51):

Make yourselves at home. There's some cobbler over there, Smitty. Whistling, open up them new decks and warm them up. I'm going to go take these up to Ms. Molly. And Smitty, get the cold beer out the ice box. My boy is coming down in a minute to make some sandwiches. Help yourself.

Stage Directions Reader (01:02:07):

Nick senior goes upstairs to carry Molly flowers. She's spraying herself with perfume.

Molly (01:02:13):

Put them on the dresser.

Nick, Sr (01:02:15):

You smell good and you look pretty. You never change. Time comes and goes. You never change.

Molly (01:02:22):

Nicky, put the flowers down before you smother them.

Nick, Sr (01:02:25):

I love you, Ms. Molly, you smell good. You taste good, too.

Molly (01:02:32):

Why don't you wait until I'm dressed? You mussed me up. Go on down and take care of your company.

Nick, Sr (01:02:37):

Why won't you let me touch you?

Molly (01:02:40):

Because you a late comer. Where were you Friday night? I was in the mood. You was asleep.

Stage Directions Reader (01:02:45):

The bedroom fades. Half moon light in the flowerless. Loretta wanders into the yard.

Loretta (01:02:51):

Nicky. Nicky.

Stage Directions Reader (01:02:56):

Nick, Jr appears at the kitchen door.

Loretta (01:02:59):

Can you be out?

Stage Directions Reader (01:03:00):

Nick, Jr enters the yard, crosses to Loretta, takes a firm hold, kissing her passionately.

Loretta (01:03:13):

They can see us from the windows. Ms. [Toland 01:03:16] sleeps with her nose on the sill. She can smell trouble. Let's go to the park.

Nick, Jr (01:03:21):

Can't. I'm poker host. I have to make sandwiches for the poker club. Want a beer?

Loretta (01:03:27):


Stage Directions Reader (01:03:29):

Nick, Jr bolts into the kitchen. Grabs two beers from the ice box and returns to the yard.

Nick, Jr (01:03:35):


Loretta (01:03:39):

That's cold. I'll be drunk.

Nick, Jr (01:03:44):

Guess what?

Loretta (01:03:45):


Nick, Jr (01:03:48):

I'm going to leave home. I'm going on my own.

Loretta (01:03:50):


Nick, Jr (01:03:52):

I got $30 coming. As soon as it comes.

Loretta (01:03:55):


Nick, Jr (01:03:57):

Because of what happened. I'm surprised you even talk to me now.

Loretta (01:04:02):

Why? Because of what Ms. Molly say? I heard her say worse than that. She was on Ms. [Rosemont 01:04:08] the other day because her number runner short changed her, and Ms. Rosemont didn't come to apologize personally. "She could come. Instead, she sends another runner. Don't kiss my foot." I don't pay no attention to that.

Loretta (01:04:24):

Mama's just as bad. She locked Herman in the cellar without his supper because he rolled his eyes at her. Them water bugs had him screaming down there. I let him up, I couldn't stand it. So you know what Herman did? Mama keeps a pitcher of water on the kitchen table in case somebody gets thirsty. Herman released water bugs into mama's pitcher.

Loretta (01:04:47):

Aunt Whitney came down and pours herself some water in the dark, and she thought one of them fat water bugs was a piece of ice, so she'd come to sucking on it until his little legs started to quiver. When she snapped on the light and saw it, she liked to died. We had to take her to the all night clinic. Herman didn't tell mama, because she sent him off to military school and he's going to make good her promise, he keep that up.

Loretta (01:05:12):

You pulling my leg? You really going away?

Nick, Jr (01:05:15):

As soon as I got my $30.

Loretta (01:05:17):

Where you going? You going far?

Nick, Jr (01:05:19):

Far as I can go.

Loretta (01:05:21):

How far is far?

Nick, Jr (01:05:23):

Most likely, my first stop will be New York. William Scott's brother joined the Merchant Marine. He went to Singapore.

Loretta (01:05:32):

Singapore... Like the Singapore in the movies? Except for Marlene Dietrich, there ain't nothing but Chinese people there. What are you going to do there?

Nick, Jr (01:05:41):

I'm going to eat Chinese food every night. Then, I'm going to Zanzibar or someplace like that, then Egypt, and maybe Timbuktu. Someplace where colored people are in charge. Philadelphia? It's a joke to me. Can't go no place. Can't do nothing.

Loretta (01:06:02):

You live in the movies.

Nick, Jr (01:06:03):


Nick, Jr (01:06:03):

... can't do nothing.

Loretta (01:06:03):

You live in the movies.

Nick, Jr (01:06:03):

I'd rather live in the movies then die in Philadelphia, buried alive like a wasted mackerel. [inaudible 01:06:09] can have this town. Matter of fact, they can have this whole country. I'll swim the Indian Ocean if I have to. Then when I've made my fortune, I'll come back and get you.

Loretta (01:06:22):

Like old Jack and the Beanstalk. We're just two in a million. Jackie [Dora 01:06:29] is marrying that idiot she picked up at Woodside park.

Nick, Jr (01:06:32):

Oh, she's cute. What's she marrying him for?

Loretta (01:06:35):

Because his father's an undertaker and he's bound to be one, too. They money crazed. So stuck up. I'd study secretarial work if I thought I could be one. I don't know no Negro secretaries, do you? If you don't come and get me before Christmas, I'll most likely be cleaning somebody's house. To tell the truth, I'd rather marry a janitor than be one.

Loretta (01:06:57):

When you get rich, will you really come for me or are you just saying that? Negroes known for not showing up when you need one.

Nick, Jr (01:07:04):

I'm not like that. I say something, I mean it. If I called you from Cairo and said the Queen Mary was sailing and the ticket is paid, would you come?

Loretta (01:07:15):

Try me. Or maybe I'll swim the Indian Ocean with you. I can swim better than you, anyway. You come to drown, I might have to save you. You'll need me.

Nick, Jr (01:07:25):

We might have to save each other.

Loretta (01:07:28):

Anyway, my grades are good enough. Looks like I'll be going to Spelman next winter.

Nick, Jr (01:07:33):

What are you going there for?

Loretta (01:07:35):

Momma says I need my education so I can take care of her when she gets old, so she won't have to work until she's dead. She wants a big funeral. She say I'm going to have to bury her because that's what children are for.

Nick, Jr (01:07:46):

Is that all we're for?

Loretta (01:07:48):

To hear Momma tell it. I don't go to funerals myself. They sickening. They remind me of my aunt, stuck in the colored graveyard in Philadelphia and never having done nothing or gone nowhere. Spend your whole time picking up after white people.

Loretta (01:08:04):

You sure you'll come back and get me? Are you sure, Nicholas, or are you lying?

Nick, Jr (01:08:08):

I'll send for you, but I'll never come back here. Never. I'm going to be long gone. You just wait and see.

Nick, Sr (01:08:15):

Nick, you out here?

Nick, Jr (01:08:19):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (01:08:21):

Me and Mr. Smitty and Mr. [Whistling 01:08:23] are going to make a run. Now, I'll be back in a couple of hours. Don't stay out here all night and don't leave the yard in case your mother calls from New Jersey.

Nick, Jr (01:08:31):

Yes, sir.

Nick, Sr (01:08:32):

Hello, Loretta. Is that you?

Loretta (01:08:35):

Good evening, Mr. Hoffenberg. How are you?

Nick, Sr (01:08:38):

Oh, I'm fair. How's your momma and daddy?

Loretta (01:08:41):

Oh, they're doing fine, Mr. Hoffenberg.

Nick, Sr (01:08:44):

Okay. Listen for the telephone, boy. I'll see you later.

Nick, Jr (01:08:47):

Yes, sir.

Loretta (01:08:53):

I love you, Nick.

Nick, Jr (01:08:56):

I love you, Loretta.

Loretta (01:08:58):

When you send for me and we get married, we'll spend the night together. I've never been with a boy like that. I French kissed, but I never spent the night.

Nick, Jr (01:09:09):

I'd like to be the first one you do it with.

Loretta (01:09:12):

And the last.

Nick, Jr (01:09:12):

And the last.

Loretta (01:09:17):

Momma's making me an evening coat to go with my prom dress. We went to Wanamaker's to find some buttons and a silk cabbage rose for the dress. Them floor walkers followed us wherever we go, like buzzards begging us to die so they can eat us up. Makes me nervous. Sometimes it gets so hot. And that baseball game on the radio, you can hear it all down the block.

Loretta (01:09:40):

Old Mr. Parker on his porch swing, puffing away on a stogie. I say, "Hi, Mr. Parker, what you doing that's exciting today? He say, "Sitting here collecting my reward for an honest day's work at the post office." If it wasn't for the post office, some Negroes would sink. All these graveyard aspirations, the desire of the moth for the star.

Loretta (01:10:07):

If I was a man, I'd have been gone. I swear, Nick, aggravation's going to bust me wide open. It makes me mad. It makes me want to get a knife and kill somebody. Everywhere you look, white folks sashaying and around like they own God. Like they tell God who to love and who to hate. If I could, I'd be like Sleeping Beauty. I'd die until you came and woke me up. And we'd go to Singapore and eat Chinese food until we bust and never come back here. Never.

Stage Directions Reader (01:10:39):

Nick, Jr kisses her.

Loretta (01:10:49):

I have to go. Mom is wondering where I am.

Nick, Jr (01:10:56):

Goodbye, Loretta.

Loretta (01:10:58):

Goodbye, Nick.

Stage Directions Reader (01:11:00):

She runs from the yard. Nick, Jr stands, watching the half moon, crying. Then, against the sky, a great tall ship struggles against the waves. The sea cracks against the night air. The wind stirs the dead leads about the garden. Has hit been a dream?

Stage Directions Reader (01:11:28):

Nick, Jr watches the tall ship move towards him. Waves gently slapping the shore. The house is dark, except for a dazzling light suddenly ablaze in his room. An 18 year old Negro boy stands on Nick, Jr's bed in a carpet of gardenias. The boy in a white suit, white shirt, tie and shoes, is splattered with blood. Nick, Jr enters the house and walks slowly to his bedroom.

David (01:12:10):

Brightly beans our Father’s mercy from his lighthouse evermore; But to me he gives the

keeping of the lights along the shore. Let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam across

the wave. Some poor fainting, struggling seamen you may rescue, you may save.

Dark the night of sin has settled, loud and angry billows roar; Eager eyes are watching,

longing, for the lights along the shore. Let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam

across the wave. Some poor fainting, struggling seamen you may rescue, you may save.

Trim your feeble lamp my brother. Some poor seaman, tempest tossed. Trying now to

make the harbor, in the darkness may be lost. Let the lower lights be burning, send a

gleam across the wave. Some poor fainting, struggling seamen you may rescue, you may


Nick, Jr (01:12:10):


David (01:14:10):

My cot was down by Cypress Grove and I sat by my window the whole night long and heard well up from the deep dark wood, a mockingbird's passionate song. And I thought of myself, so sad and lone, and my life's cold winter that knew no spring. Of my mind so weary and sick and wild, of my heart to set the scene.

David (01:14:59):

But even as I listened to the mock bird song, a thought stole into my saddened heart, and I said, I can cheer some other soul by a carol's simple art. For oft, from the darkness of hearts and lives, come songs that brim with joy and light, as out of the gloom of the Cypress grove, the mockingbird sings at night.

David (01:15:24):

So, I sang a lay for a brothers ear in a strain to soothe his bleeding heart. And he smiled at the sound of my voice and lyre, though mine was a feeble art. But at his smile, I smiled in turn, and into my soul there came a ray. In trying to soothe another's woes, mine own had passed away. The Lesson, Paul Lawrence Dumbar.

Stage Directions Reader (01:16:03):

David's light fades. Nick, Jr is alone in the darkened room.

Nick, Jr (01:16:11):

Goodbye. Goodbye.

Stage Directions Reader (01:16:18):

Light comes up on a middle aged white man. Good-looking, well-groomed, demeanor of a gentlemen. He's nursing a bottle of gin sitting in a worn upholstered chair, dressed in his monogrammed underwear. He talks to someone who was able to hear his thoughts. Someone we cannot see.

Speaker 7 (01:16:42):

I couldn't see you on Thursday. We were out at George's Hill. Bunny's ill proportioned cousin married Brewster [Baddeck 01:16:52] and [Chatsworth 01:16:53] Incorporated. They floated eight white stallions on a barge down the Schuylkill for some reason. And we all sang We're Just Wild about Harry, which we were not.

Speaker 7 (01:17:07):

Anyway, I was under orders from [Jilly 01:17:08], else I would have been with you. Jilly's coming home with the children on Saturday. They're just outside [Gwenivaka 01:17:17] in a hotel, then they're driving down to Taxco, then Acapulco, and then home. I tried to get her to stay another week, no dice. She wants to cut me in little pieces. I married her for her nose. She had the most perfect little nose, like a church mounted on an Irish hull. I thought to give my children that nose as their inheritance against Connecticut's cold German winters. My boy, Hodge podge the third, he's as graceless as a bull in a porcelain shop.

Speaker 7 (01:18:03):

Value. Value. Cost, I say to Hodge, the cost was very dear. There's been blood sacrifices, and here you stand with the debt riding between your legs, like a penny pleasure. You know more than any of us and that's a tragedy of such import that there isn't enough time in the universe to comprehend it.

Speaker 7 (01:18:31):

So, it's obvious that he's not an original, he's a copy. Now when they kicked him out of Deerfield, I prayed he'd been radicalized, just for pranks. They stuffed the Nightingale twins into their gym lockers because they were Italian. At least it was rumored they were Italian. Nightingale isn't Italian though, is it? You can't tell nowadays.

Speaker 7 (01:18:55):

The woman that raised me in Westbury was named Ritz, and we called her Ritzy because she was. She nursed my brother and me to breasts. Mother was in France. I am speaking of Mammy. May Ritz. Oh God. The only woman I ever loved. You remind me of her. Same soft skin. The same smell about you, like sea air.

Speaker 7 (01:19:32):

Jilly's my ice fantasy, the perfect nose and crystal lips. Forever thinking and never feeling. Screwing you would have been the ideal adventure. To reach the top of Kilimanjaro, and then to fall and to suffer the divine ecstasy on the way down, like finding the source of the Nile. Oh, I adore tragedy. It reeks of desire.

Speaker 7 (01:20:10):

And what has so many diverse reactions, to desire. You could die from it. Being in the arms of an obscure shadowy woman's like being dead and buried in the earth. Like a deep sleep, a much needed rest. Oh.

Speaker 7 (01:20:34):

That's too bad I can't show you the house at Shelter Island, you'd love it. It's Victorian, like a great cake, the ocean all around. Oh, you'd love it. With Jilly, as one of her literary weekends, you should come and serve. Make a very nice lady's maid.

Speaker 7 (01:20:52):

You're far prettier than Fiona Jennings and she'll hate you for it. She despises Negroes, light or dark, especially the pretty ones with the perfect noses. Nevertheless, that'd be wicked to smuggle you out on some pretense. It'd be amusing. Would you like that?

Stage Directions Reader (01:21:17):

Lights up slowly on Molly in a shabby hotel room. She's behind Hodge in bed, naked, with the covers pulled up. Her clothes folded carefully on a chair, the flowered hat on a table. She listens quietly.

Speaker 7 (01:21:35):

I won't see you next week. We're off to Oak Tree. Jilly's family seat, North Carolina. Avenues of Oak trees. Short horn cattle grazing knee deep in bluegrass. Old daddy Jennings owned some good horses in both thoroughbred and trotting lines. Sort of country gentlemen, which is disappearing. Top Price is the stallion who has added most fame to the stud. As for his mares, it is said at Oak Tree is gathered the finest lot of brood mares in the world, outside of king George's stable.

Speaker 7 (01:22:15):

Do you have the slightest idea of what I'm talking about? What does it matter? You're not here to satisfy me. You're here for your own reason. And what sort of curiosity have you put to rest? I wonder. Don't tell me. I don't want to know.

Speaker 7 (01:22:39):

I have a vague vision of you asleep in an eternal climate of 101, under a Coco Palm, dressed only in silk stockings and smelling of vanilla. I don't want to hear about your old man not being able to get it up, or he burnt the grits, or any of your personal business. I'm not interested in what's what. I want to lay up on you like Ritzy. Smell your perfume. Nurse me back to when my damn mother was in France. I don't want your sympathy. I want your titties.

Speaker 7 (01:23:21):

Now Jilly, she has the tits of an Eagle. They're hard to come by. That's a joke. I kept wondering, what was this beautiful Negro woman doing in the Bellevue-Stratford for heaven's sake? Then when they told us that the Negro women in the ballroom were having tea with Eleanor Roosevelt, well, I simply had to see. And everyone was very kind. I believe they took me for an octoroon. They were very receptive. And you, you were the most receptive.

Speaker 7 (01:24:10):

Hey, have you seen any of Lionel [Wentz' 01:24:15] photographs of Salon? Of course you haven't. Where would you have seen them? Oh, they're beautiful, lofty. They're primitive, splendid. There's a smell of wet flowers about them. They're like you, or you're like them. I don't know which came first.

Speaker 7 (01:24:41):

It's too bad I can't take you to dinner, or stroll Chestnut Street with you. I'd like to know what you talk about in broad daylight. Would you destroy my illusions? Are you clever? Do you speak English? Are you the queen of Egypt? Who the fuck are you?

Stage Directions Reader (01:25:13):

Dawn is beginning to lighten the sky. Nick, Jr fully dressed, sitting on his bed, looking at his grandfather's picture. A packed suitcase is on the bed. Nick, Sr is sitting on the bottom step of the stairway, still in his shirt and tie. He is sleeping, holding a bottle of beer. The door opens. Molly enters as perfect as when she left. She sees Nick, Sr in the stairway, drunk.

Nick, Sr (01:25:44):

Ms. Molly, you back?

Molly (01:25:47):

What are you doing at this time of morning?

Nick, Sr (01:25:49):

I thought you were staying over later than this.

Molly (01:25:53):

[Hadie 01:25:53] had too many people staying over. I sat up in the kitchen all night. Then, I got tired called me a cab. I ran out of money. There's some money on my vanity to pay the cab. He's waiting-

Nick, Sr (01:26:04):

I've got money to pay the cab. I'm just glad you're home.

Molly (01:26:06):

I'll pay it.

Stage Directions Reader (01:26:07):

Molly stretches out on the couch.

Nick, Sr (01:26:19):

You tired?

Molly (01:26:21):


Nick, Sr (01:26:23):

Want a beer?

Molly (01:26:25):


Nick, Sr (01:26:28):

You was right about that [Lita 01:26:30] Jefferson woman. She had [Candy 01:26:34] down to [Pop Tooley's Taproom 01:26:34]. He never did get here. Mr. Candy called. She got loud and they put her on the sidewalk and then he couldn't get her off the corner. Me and Whistling Billy and Smitty had to go get them because Mr. Candy's car wouldn't cry.

Nick, Sr (01:26:51):

So, I've been here by myself since 12:30. Nick listened to Jack Benny, then he went to bed. Boy, Rochester's something. You see, Benny is cheap, see, and Rochester wants this raise because his old girlfriends is coming to town and Benny going to lend Rochester the money at a high rate of interest. Dog bite it, that so-and-so's cheap. Rochester... I bet that's a rich Negro. Is he in any of them movie magazines you read?

Molly (01:27:34):

He ain't in the movies, he's on the radio. They don't put Negroes in movie magazines.

Nick, Sr (01:27:39):

I saw a colored gal in that last one you had up there in the bathroom, wearing a sarong, long hair.

Molly (01:27:47):

That's mot a colored girl. That's Dorothy Lamour.

Nick, Sr (01:27:51):

What is she?

Molly (01:27:53):

I don't know what she is.

Nick, Sr (01:27:54):

Well, when we got there, there was Lita Jefferson out on the corner with her dress up over her knees, dancing to Rang-Dang-Do. She had about six eyeballs and no dinner. Anyway, we took her back in Pop Tooley's and bought her a boilermaker.

Nick, Sr (01:28:12):

Candy was high from drinking with Lita Jefferson. I guess the boilermaker revived Lita, because she started to talk up a storm about how sweet Candy is and how she going to kill herself on his chocolate stick. Candy was fit to be tied and ordered another zombie.

Nick, Sr (01:28:31):

And then, Lita tell him about the time she had this job with this undertaker, and he used to take her over to Mitchell Hill and they'd do it in the swing late at night. And I was taken back to the time when I was picking peaches. Town named [Stouffville 01:28:48]. Nastiest, dirtiest town you ever did see.

Nick, Sr (01:28:51):

A marketplace for a lot of small time cattle farmers. I'll call them cattle [inaudible 01:28:56]. Town had more lies than I ever seen in my life.

Molly (01:29:00):

You're still drunk.

Nick, Sr (01:29:01):

And I met a gal there. Nice gal, Catholic, married to a man she ain't seen in 10 years. Couldn't get a divorce. Wasn't nothing for her to do but be a whore or a lady's maid. She lost her earlobe in a gunfight with her brother. He lost the gunfight because she a dead shot. Kept her gun in her drawers.

Nick, Sr (01:29:25):

A woman start pulling her dress up, a man is disarmed. Last thing he thinks, she going for a gun, then dropped his pants. She done shot him in the you know what? She liked me. I wanted to take her to bed, but she said no, she had one of them diseases. She didn't want to spoil me. She was a good woman, just missed the boat. Like most of us, waiting at the dock with holes in our socks, trying to get a Kodak of the Queen Mary.

Molly (01:29:54):

Why are you talking about that?

Nick, Sr (01:29:59):

How long has it been since we've been there?

Molly (01:30:02):

You don't know?

Nick, Sr (01:30:03):

Yeah, I know. I just wanted to see if you knew. Anyway, we get Lita in Whistling's car. We all pile in. We thought, to get her home, we'd still have time for a little five card stud. We piled into the Hudson with the windows down and Lita starts singing Might Like A Rose. That's my favorite.

Nick, Sr (01:30:26):

We in the parking. Smitty breaks out the card, Whistling spread out a blanket on the grass. We passed the bottle and talked about what we wanted when we was children. They were disappointed. I was the only one who wasn't. I had everything thing I wanted.

Nick, Sr (01:30:42):

I used to sleep on a pile of rags, near the stove with newspaper stuffed in my shirt to keep warm. The first sheet I slept on, I stayed up all night, staring at them. Most of the time, you sleeping in cellars and stables out on the ground, like a dog. But I come to Philly, like I said I was going to do. I did what I said I was going to do.

Molly (01:31:04):

And that's the end of it? You happy to be down at that garage with all that grease and you call it yours and you have to work two jobs to support it. You'll kill yourself. And then what's to happen to us?

Nick, Sr (01:31:16):

You'll bury me from St. Luke's Episcopal church like I told you, and then you'll collect my insurance live happily ever after. God willing.

Molly (01:31:26):

Would you like to hear what I wanted when I was little? I still want it.

Nick, Sr (01:31:31):

What do you want?

Molly (01:31:34):

I used to look at my momma sometimes and wonder if I hadn't been kidnapped. If Momma was holding me for ransom, but nobody would pay up because I was a girl. If I'd been a boy, they'd have rescued me. I knew I was an Egyptian queen in another life. Royalty. I used to ask momma, why Negro men hadn't overpowered the white man and took our good times back? And she'd just shake her head and say too late now.

Molly (01:31:58):

I learned what too late now meant. Momma spelled it out and in worn, secondhand hand-me-downs from the old woman Daddy drove for. Spelled out in the way they looked at each other on Saturday night. They sentenced themselves to each other and they taught me one thing that I was going to do better, and better isn't necessarily good.

Molly (01:32:19):

This beautiful body is deigned to do me on this earth, not in heaven. Funny, when I conjure up my Daddy's voice, I don't hear any wise words or promises to save me. I see him spent on staying alive, not on heroics. If I painted Daddy, I'd paint him beneath the red sky. He'd wear the gold and blue uniform of a general. And he'd be on the corner of the Baltimore Moon Cafe, with his hand on his ding-a-ling.

Molly (01:32:49):

I saw Daddy kill a man once, so I knew he could do it. When we lived on [Decatur 01:32:55] Street, Negro came in the whole window to rob. Daddy caught him round the neck, took his arm and knife and opened his neck up like the way Mr. [Dosa 01:33:02] slaps heads off them cat fish down at the market. I saw him make love and momma once when we lived in a one room. I swear, I couldn't tell the difference.

Molly (01:33:11):

I said to myself, if I win another beauty contest, I'll vomit. What's the use of it? Can't go to Hollywood. I lived in a world where the only black skin people I knew with real money was Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor. All the real Africans were footmen.

Molly (01:33:28):

I thought I'd go to Hollywood, anyway. I'd be bent over a bucket and somebody'd discover me, make me a star. All I had to do was go, and then it slipped my mind like half the I dreamed of. Stuff momma promised some colored man would come and give me if I rinsed out my underwear every night and gargled with lemon water.

Molly (01:33:48):

I wish you'd do something, Nicky, about getting me some more money to run this house on. I can't do what I have to do and clean this house the same time. If the reason you don't want me to clean some white woman's house is to save my strength for to clean yours, I ain't going for it.

Molly (01:34:02):

Another $20 a week, I could get the living room furniture upholstered and get a new dress for the Royalette's dance so I wouldn't have to sew one. Everybody looks forward to what I'm going to wear. If I showed up at that dance with my hind parts all hanging out in that old taffeta dress, you'd disown me.

Molly (01:34:17):

And down at [Solo's 01:34:18], there's a periwinkle blue chiffon. It's so beautiful. The dress is $25. I should go down there and copy it, but they don't let Negroes try on clothes. You try it on, you have to buy it. I guess I could copy it from the newspaper, but I haven't seen the back, and I can't crochet the bag until I find out what color the dress is going to be.

Molly (01:34:38):

As Ida Cox says, I'm between the devil and the deep blue sea, and Daddy never taught me how to swim, so I guess I'll drown or go to the devil.

Nick, Sr (01:34:47):

When I went out to pay the taxi, he told me he picked you up at the [Worcestershire 01:34:53] hotel. I tried to give him a tip. He said a white man had already given him a big one. The Worcestershire hotel, it's where colored whores go with their white customers. Every cab driver knows that. They take them there all the time. What was you doing coming out the Worcestershire hotel with a white man?

Molly (01:35:13):

What dreams we have and how they fly, like rosy clouds across the sky of wealth, of fame, of sure success. Of love that comes to cheer and bless, and how they wither, how they fade. The waning wealth that for a moment gleams, then flies forever. Dream, ah, dreams. Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Molly (01:35:42):

I didn't think it was in me to cheat on you. I didn't think it was in me. I've been trying to leave you, Nick, the best way I know how. When they were installing my very own kitchen, as you described it, I knew it wasn't enough. I pretended it was. I was crazy about you, so I told my first lie, I haven't stopped lying since.

Nick, Sr (01:36:05):

You deserve better than that.

Molly (01:36:05):

Yes, I do. It wasn't you I was lying to. It was Daddy. You don't exist. I was asked to a dance by Shanks Curry, an obnoxious bully. I despised him, and Mother insisted that I allow him to take me to the dance because his father was a dentist. Momma was already envisioning another wedding.

Molly (01:36:25):

She even lent me her lavender satin shoes to dance in. And to our amazement, we enjoyed ourselves. It was a very snooty evening, and I learned the difference between cocovan and chicken on the rocks.

Molly (01:36:37):

Daddy was appalled at my wearing Momma's high-heeled lavender slippers. He ordered Momma out of the room and he made me take off my shoes and walk up and down the floor in front of him. To walk barefooted back and forth in front of a man while he berates you, it's humiliating. He humiliated me. He knew more about women than I did.

Molly (01:36:57):

I saw the white boys and white men in the town sauntering and strutting around town, passing in and out of those glass doors, leading to God knows where. And I'd seen my father and all his colored brothers ducking and dodging, stealing and fighting to stay alive. And their lives had the street value of a good day's hunting, as far as white folks were concerned. I wanted Daddy to kill those folks for me. I wanted him to raise up and kill them, and he never did. From then until now, he never did. I deserve better than that.

Molly (01:37:27):

Yes, I was in the Worcestershire hotel with a white man. I let him pick me up at the Bellevue-Stratford hotel T. You were too tired to go. I let him sway me with talk about Long Island, and Ivan the Great, and lobster Thermidor, and The Great White Way. I thought, with luck, I might stumble into my own. And now I'm confessing my innermost thoughts to a complete stranger. You're not Daddy.

Nick, Sr (01:37:51):

What would your Daddy have done?

Molly (01:37:53):

He'd have hit me.

Nick, Sr (01:37:55):

For the same reason you beat little Nick?

Molly (01:37:57):

What reason is that?

Nick, Sr (01:37:58):

I don't know, because you love him? It's not something I feel comfortable guessing at. I'm dumb as dishwater when it comes to guessing at why folks beat each other.

Molly (01:38:10):

When they killed David, when he died in my arms in the back of your Oldsmobile, I realized loving a colored man is like loving the wind. They kill you all off faster than we can find you. Going from hospital to hospital, watching the smile on their faces as they turned us away. And by morning, there'll be another dead nigger.

Molly (01:38:27):

In the morning, I was soaked with David's vomit and diarrhea and he was dead, and all you could do was cry. All I wanted you to do was cry because they'd have killed you, too.

Molly (01:38:38):

On the year of my 14th birthday, that year 5,000 Negro men had been lynched in North Carolina alone. At dawn, if you were sent on errands, you could find somebody's brother or daddy hanging in the tree. It was the men they wanted.

Molly (01:38:50):

Why? What have you done? Why do you die so much? They let David die because he was a boy. I know it. Because he was colored and because he was a boy. Why are they so afraid of you that they murder little boys?

Molly (01:39:02):

...boy, why are they so afraid of you that they'd murder little boys? Why? I'm in a stew because you can't kill back and it keeps me from loving you too much in case they murder the both of you. If you die, I'm home free because I'm his mother. I have grief. He said I smelled like the sea. He was very attentive. I thought he would take me to Newport for a sail on his yacht or to a suite at the Bellevue-Stratford with some cold champagne and at least a fondue. I brought the negligee I [copied 01:39:34]. He took me to the Worcestershire Hotel and we had nothing to eat. He had a bottle of Gordon's gin and no glasses, his breath stank of spuds, and he shook his thing till it bled trying to get it hard.

Molly (01:39:47):

The gin did what I didn't have the brains to do. It knocked him out. I don't know why I went with him. I thought maybe in the throes of his passion, he would at least treat me grand, tops his dream of stealing Miss Anne's man to see if he's any good. I've never been anybody you could tell anything to. I had to see for myself. He said, if I got on my knees and worshiped him, his ding-a-ling would get hard. I refused. So he laid on top of me and fell asleep. The brain is simply a short wave radio through which the soul can telegraph its appetites. I should have my head examined.

Nick, Sr (01:40:28):

Smitty's sister went to a head doctor 'cause of her appetites. Head doctor fell in love with her and killed himself.

Molly (01:40:37):

Life is hard.

Nick, Sr (01:40:38):

Hard as lard and twice as greasy. Of course, I know doctors, I wouldn't feed before [inaudible 01:40:45] dogs had eaten. You want me to challenge a white boy to a duel? That'd be the gallant thing to do.

Molly (01:40:52):


Nick, Sr (01:40:52):

Where? Tell me where.

Molly (01:40:55):

On the playing fields of Eton.

Nick, Sr (01:40:57):

Is that that place down there past Aberforth Avenue?

Molly (01:41:00):

It's in England. King George played there. Which is more deadly Nicky, to make a flesh wound or to open old ones?

Nick, Sr (01:41:07):

I thought Shakespeare was the King of England. Well I think old wounds are the worst. Whenever we went visiting, there was always some man snoozing on the couch, near the radio, some old Negro, everyone called Pops, on a pillow of [rocket, rye 01:41:23] and onions. "You get out of this [dictor 01:41:27] neighborhood before they get your balls." That's what [Whistling Billy'd 01:41:30] say. "You've been apromised something that's already dead. Go on back to Scotland [Neck 01:41:36] or Africa, or Egypt, or wherever the hell you come from before they trapped you."

Molly (01:41:41):

Blow your nose.

Nick, Sr (01:41:44):

Well, I might as well stay awake. I got to make a run for 12 o'clock.

Molly (01:41:54):

How come colored men always have to make a run? Where do you all go?

Nick, Sr (01:41:58):

Yeah I thought you knew all there was to know about colored men. You and [Lida Jefferson 01:42:03] just alike, you suffer from the same thing that the White folks suffer from concerning being a colored man, inexperience. My grandmamma raised five colored men and didn't know diddly squat about me. Shoot, when we came back from the war, my three brothers and me, she had this copy of Miner's Patriotic Poem, and I memorized it to this day. It was called Aunt Donna's Offer to Uncle Sam. Way down in Louisiana where the cotton blossoms grow, lives that old Aunt Donna and her husband, Uncle Joe. They have six husky boys and they all live down in Bam.

Nick, Sr (01:42:45):

Now this is the offer Aunt Donna made to Uncle Sam. "['Cept 00:03:54] D's, Uncle Sam, this is all that I can do. Here's six fat greasy Rascals, and I give them all to you. 'Course, the white folks call you uncle and I calls you uncle too. And I reckon it's 'cause we all live meet that old red, white, and blue. You can send them on to the battlefield, cross the ocean blue. They can fight to beat the devil. And I know that they'll be true. If they don't come back to me, sure, I feel sadly too. Just bury them in the stars and stripes, and I feel just the same towards you." By Coleman L. Miner.

Nick, Sr (01:43:33):

Grandma, he who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare. And he who has one enemy shall meet her everywhere. Before I was grown, I realized I'm playing the part of the devil in somebodies tragedy. Stripped naked of my own dreams, color is my costume. Manhood is my arrogance and my outrage. Through the woods, they scream, "Nigger, to the trees." They hunt me like a Fox and I have feelings for hunted animals, cut flowers and chopped down trees. The [crest 01:44:08] raccoons, and the mangled skunks, a lamb going to slaughter stares me in the eye. We were born in the Holocaust. I grow by my width. I fooled you. I made you think I'm a work horse, not a man. You give me credit of a mule 'cause I choose it to being dead. I was told by my daddy, before they cut his head off in Sweet home Mississippi, he said, "Nicky, play dumb. For God's sake, play dumb." It's something he couldn't do.

Nick, Sr (01:44:40):

He had a big mouth and a bigger fist. We knew he wouldn't last. And mama left him 'cause of it. Mama cried morning, noon and night, ['bout the least thing 01:44:48] The sun came up, mama cried. Sun went down, mama cry. Finally, couldn't take it no more. She sold her earrings and ran off to Paris with her girlfriend. And for a while she sent pictures of herself beside the Eiffel Tower in a place called Pig Alley. And then they stopped, like she'd been swallowed up somewhere. She was gone. So grandma came to stay with a wicked trunk and a Bible. And a spite for my mother whose children we were. So the only thing I could think to do was to save all the money I could and learn about automobiles. So I wouldn't have to work for pay all my life and marry out the tobacco field.

Nick, Sr (01:45:32):

Find yourself a lady, somebody with high ideas, high enough to lift my mind out of the gutter and the mines and the jail house and the work camps and the whore house and the tap rooms. I want to fly on your wings. Mine are all worn. I can run, but I can't fly, like I was meant to. I want to fly on your wings, in the middle of your disgrace. You still the prettiest woman. I've got to say, forgive me not killing nobody for you, but I still have charged my immortal soul, which would you have me for? The father of lies into the fire... I would. Just tell me and I will. I love you, Molly.

Nick, Sr (01:46:16):

Do you want my soul?

Molly (01:46:23):


Nick, Sr (01:46:27):

Can we go to bed now?

Molly (01:46:28):


Stage Directions Reader (01:46:37):

Nick senior takes her in his arms, kisses her. In the midst of their passion, nick Jr. Appears, watches them. Nick senior sees him. Molly turns to see Nick Jr.

Molly (01:46:52):

Did you wet your bed?

Nick, Jr (01:46:53):


Molly (01:46:54):

Well, what are you standing there like a dumb pluck for? You can go fix your own breakfast. What would you do without me? One day I ain't going to be here and then what? You're going to starve?

Nick, Jr (01:47:05):

I'm not hungry.

Molly (01:47:06):

Then get out of my sight then. Your father and I have business to discuss. I'm one hot minute off you as it is. Who told you to put those long pants on?

Nick, Jr (01:47:14):

I never saw you kiss him before.

Molly (01:47:16):


Nick, Jr (01:47:17):

He's always kissing on you, but you never kiss him.

Molly (01:47:21):

You are not grown. You don't discuss me kissing him or him kissing me. That's none of your goddamn business. I aught've put you away.

Nick, Sr (01:47:30):

Miss Molly...

Molly (01:47:30):

Now who the hell do you think you are? You don't want to take your clothes off anymore for a weapon. Now you're going to start talking out the side of your mouth to me. Talk about kissing, like you're grown. You can pack your funny clothes in your camp pack and move your butt out on the sidewalk. You can go back to your room. You go back there and stay there until I tell you to come out. You ain't hungry? Good. Then you can go without lunch and supper. See where that gets you. Me kissing your daddy. You get out of my sight.

Nick, Sr (01:47:56):

You shouldn't disrespect your mother. Do like she tells you.

Nick, Jr (01:47:59):

I figure, sir. Mother, dear, what I'm going to say now will make you both want to kill me. Mother, dear, I didn't put the screens in the attic window. It's probably hot enough up there to kill them mice you've been squawking about. The ones ate through the wardrobe. I didn't forget to do it. I deliberately decided not to put them up. I said, no, I wasn't going to do it for no particular reason. That and locking the basement door last night. I left it open on purpose, cause I was daydreaming that maybe somebody would slip in and kill us while we slept. Then I wouldn't have to say what I decided to. After one more whipping, I promised David, I was going to speak up. Not that you hurt me anymore. It don't hurt. It don't break my bones, but it breaks my heart that you're so dumb to some things.

Stage Directions Reader (01:48:47):

Nick, Sr stands as if to attack.

Molly (01:48:50):

That's all right, Nicky, let him finish. He thinks he's grown. I want to hear it. Go on. Let's hear it.

Nick, Jr (01:48:56):

I planned what I was going to say. Now it won't come. I'm terrified. This is the boldest I've ever been, it's now or never. Dead men tell no tales.

Molly (01:49:07):

That's right. You talk while you still got a tongue.

Nick, Sr (01:49:10):

Go on upstairs to your room.

Molly (01:49:12):

I said, I want to hear what he's got to say. I want to hear it. I want to carry it to my grave.

Nick, Sr (01:49:16):

Miss Molly, you...

Molly (01:49:17):

You sit down. Go on, talk.

Nick, Jr (01:49:20):

Dad, you want me to go to my room? I'll go. I can't remember what I had to say anyway. Daddy?

Nick, Sr (01:49:29):

Do like your mother says.

Nick, Jr (01:49:31):

I can't remember.

Molly (01:49:33):

You can't remember. And then you think we supposed to leave it at that. You think you're going to raise your mouth to me? And we forget about it.

Stage Directions Reader (01:49:40):

She goes to the buffet and pours herself a drink. Then one for Nick senior, who tries to reject it.

Molly (01:49:45):


Stage Directions Reader (01:49:46):

He takes the drink. Then she half fills a water glass with whiskey and takes it to Nick Jr.

Molly (01:49:51):

You grown? We gonna have a grown talk. Here, you have a drink with me and your daddy. You a big a man as he is, here.

Stage Directions Reader (01:49:59):

Nick Jr. Takes the glass from her, empties it in two swallows.

Nick, Jr (01:50:07):

I've been drinking since I was nine. I can cut your whiskey, can't tell I drank it. Better drink something, crazy as I get. Can I have some more? That's all right. I'm packed. You can call this a farewell drink and I don't spit up on the carpet. Why don't you just give me the bottle? I'll help myself.

Molly (01:50:28):

You're going to stand up in my face and tell me you've been drinking up my liquor.

Nick, Jr (01:50:31):

Well, I'm too young to drink my own. Nobody'd sell it to me. You drink like a fish. We'd been drinking together. Remember, daddy a long time ago. You and mother would come home late. I be asleep by the radio.

Nick, Sr (01:50:44):


Nick, Jr (01:50:45):

I was drunk from rock and ride. I'd chew raw coffee, so you wouldn't smell it. Of course, not that you ever got close enough to me to smell my breath, anyway. I used to smell my own just in case. And I'm not going to class in the fall. I'm going to get a job.

Molly (01:51:02):

And where are you going to live?

Nick, Jr (01:51:03):

At Father Divine's hotel, where I intend to go on the wagon because he don't allow no drink on his property.

Molly (01:51:11):

You're going where?

Nick, Sr (01:51:12):

He said he going to Father Divine's.

Molly (01:51:14):

You think you're going to stay in Philadelphia and embarrass me by living at Father Divine's? Is that what you think you're going to do? No, you ain't. You must be crazy. I'm at the end of my wits.

Nick, Jr (01:51:26):

I'm at the beginning of mine. Dad, I forgot what I was going to say. I'll go to my room if you want me to.

Nick, Sr (01:51:35):

Mind your mother.

Molly (01:51:36):

Oh, don't worry. He's going to stay right there 'til he remembers. Full of liquor as he is. I want you to talk, you ungrateful so-and-so. [What? 01:51:44] I can't beat your butt. You too big to feel it, but I can ask, are you man enough to remember what you had to say to me?

Nick, Jr (01:51:50):

I'm packed, I can say anything I want.

Molly (01:51:51):

Packed or unpacked, I'm your mother.

Nick, Sr (01:51:53):

Miss Molly...

Molly (01:51:53):

I told you to stay out of this. You sit back for 16 years while he goes bad. Now you got something to say?

Nick, Sr (01:52:00):

Well, tell us what's on your mind, boy. I guess we all come to it sooner or later, I left home at 14, beat my big brother damn near to death on the way out the door. That's why 'til this day I don't hit nobody. Last year before he died, I called him. He wouldn't take my call. So speak up and explain yourself before it's too late.

Nick, Jr (01:52:20):

I wrote a poem. Can I read it?

Molly (01:52:23):

It's your Swan song.

Nick, Sr (01:52:25):

Read it.

Nick, Jr (01:52:26):

The lion's wife. Every day, she eats her primal lunch of displeasure and the malodorous wind of rage swells inside her breast. She prays to pass the exhaust that will ignite the world. She cries to split up the fire that will consume the universe. By Nicholas Hoffenberg, the third.

Molly (01:52:52):

That's disgusting. You must be crazy.

Nick, Jr (01:52:55):

I gave it to the counselor at the playground, and he...

Molly (01:52:58):

It's dirt. It's just out and out smut. Whose breasts are you describing?...

Nick, Sr (01:53:03):


Molly (01:53:03):

Reading that sort of smut to your mother? Well, maybe you're used to it. It wasn't allowed in my home.

Nick, Sr (01:53:10):

It wasn't in mine either. What the boy talking is artistic. Not dirty.

Molly (01:53:12):

What I see that's artistic is beautiful and that ain't beautiful. Nothing in it's beautiful. The Mona Lisa is beautiful. Michelangelo's statues are beautiful. Niagara falls is beautiful. All quiet on the Western front was a beautiful picture, but what's so beautiful about somebody's wife eating a lunch of displeasure and her breasts and her passing gas all over the world. It's filth.

Nick, Sr (01:53:35):

What the man at the playground do with the poem?

Nick, Jr (01:53:38):

He gave it to a Mr. Laws who runs the amateur dramatic group downtown because they're having a poetry reading of neighborhood poems from the contest.

Molly (01:53:46):

What contest?

Nick, Jr (01:53:47):

I came in second in my neighborhood. I won $30. It's going to be published the colored paper. So I never had $30 all at once in my life. So I figured I'm going to New York. I'm staying over at Father Divine's because I'm reading my poem myself, next Sunday at the Playhouse. You can come if you want to. I'll leave tickets for you. Since mother dear was out a lot at night and daddy, you was asleep by seven. I used to slip out and go into town to a tap room called the pirate ship. That's where all the poets and bohemians go to drink port and get drunk.

Nick, Jr (01:54:20):

A white girl named Chloe and I do an eccentric dance together. These are really crazy white people that swing out at the pirate ship. They let me in because it helps give the place the low Bohemian atmosphere they come for. They got a colored woman, sings German songs. The Duke of Ellington comes in to see her whenever he's in Philly. It's mostly sissies, now that she's older. They throw her up on their shoulders and do a la-da-da from German operas. Anyway, Chloe is this white girl who's only 15 and she's got her own apartment. Her mother knows about it and all, and she's allowed to have intercourse and do what she wants. She took me to a couple of parties in Rittenhouse Square and I met this guy who's paying her rent. He's married and he doesn't mind chloe and me spending the night together, keeps her off his back.

Nick, Jr (01:55:14):

He paid for her abortions already. One in her apartment. When I told you I was going on my school trip, I was in Westbury, Connecticut. Chloe couldn't stay in her apartment. She was seeing things. We got her some pills. Anyway, so I'm sailing on a yacht with [Blauveldt 01:57:08] . That's his name, Mitchell. Then it's on to New York to a job as a house boy, to a friend of his whose wife's in a wheelchair. With the money from that, I should be able to have my own hotel apartment. Anyway, I guess you could say Chloe's my woman, except for Mitchell Blauveldt, but [laughter 01:55:51] [trump 01:55:51] is through his nose. He puts down a hundred dollars a month for me and her and her apartment. And all we have to do is let him lay over for one night a week, that's Monday nights. Sometimes she brings her girlfriends over because they're curious and want to have a colored boy.

Nick, Jr (01:56:07):

I tell her I should charge them, but then I'd be a whore like her, so I try and do it for enjoyment. You tell me all the time that I'm nothing. Then I thought how hard it must be to create something from nothing. So I said to work the job as best I can with what I have, which is nothing. Anyway, this lady Susie wants me to call her in New York. Chloe says, if things get rough, I might have to take a few dollars if Susie offers it. Then I'd be a Scarlet man. [Licentiousness Last 01:56:41] hasn't changed her any. She's still the same fun-loving, unfortunate she is when she ain't doing it. She keeps herself clean and she's only seeing two men. Besides, she's funny and she likes me and I haven't wet the bed when I stay over with her. She's so strange, she'd probably enjoy it if I did. I hope I learn deep sea diving like Blauveldt does. Blauveldt says I'm America's sweetheart, but they don't know it.

Molly (01:57:12):

You're scared of water.

Nick, Jr (01:57:17):

I'm scared of you. I'm scared of those old pictures on my walls. The only thing that terrifies me more than them is your voice. Little David vanishes when it's in the air. His spirit leaves me. We share at the same body. He has the fun and I get the whipping. I told David he's got to live in his own body and leave me be. He talks about his dying like it was wrong. Like you was wrong to let it happen. He rages on about blood and murder and revenge, which is not God's. It's his, it's not written nowhere that he had to die. He rests in a palace of murdered boys. He tells me my soul is his temple, not a shield for obstructing heavy blows. He teaches me comeuppance, satisfaction. "Kill a baby for Molly," He says, "Find a white boy for Molly and kill him. Feed her it's blood in her Brandy. Give her peace. Give us all peace. She needs reparations for her loss. I need blood for mine. She's nemesis. My goddess of divine retribution." Little David is my love. I will never leave him and he will never leave me.

Nick, Jr (01:58:40):

You have put his heart in my mouth, my penis shrinks at the sound of your voice. I freeze with consternation when you touch me, ogress. Bet [inaudible 01:58:52] Fi far fum. I am clarified by your animosity. Show me a boy who never threw a stone at someone's cat, who never hurled a snowball swift at someone's high silk hat, who never broke a pane of window glass, who never disobeyed the sign that said keep off the grass. I believe I've forgotten it. Who never did a thousand things that weaved a sordid tale. And I'll show you a little boy who must be far from well, huh? It's mother's favorite and I've forgotten it.

Nick, Jr (01:59:32):

I was sitting in the corner behind the silver, the sunlight shone right on it, it was fresh polished. I saw it all. Nicholas Hoffenberg, the second, slaughtering, the rednecks who killed my brother. He slit open their bellies like blowfish and fed them to the moon. You killed them. You killed all of them. And I was free as a bird. I won't have to stink from hard work like daddy and all those bent over uncles from the railroad. We're both afraid of shadows. We're all marking time like foot soldiers in an armed conflict. A war that does not determine who was right, but who is left? You fail me. And my blood is in your mouth. Not on your hands. You have not stood up for me. When you smile, I smell the breath of the beast on you. I'm scared to death of you.

Stage Directions Reader (02:00:26):

Nick, Sr rises to strike Nick, Jr. Molly is terrified. Nick, Sr raises his fist at his son.

Nick, Jr (02:00:32):

Hit one, hit another. Hit me, you'd hit your mother.

Stage Directions Reader (02:00:37):

Nick, Sr strikes his son, knocking him down. He strikes him again. Again. Molly is trying to pull Nick, Sr off the boy.

Molly (02:00:45):


Nick, Sr (02:00:51):

My God, Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. My God...

Stage Directions Reader (02:01:01):

Lights fade. Softly, a white light glows in Nick, Jr's bedroom. David, the dead brother sits among the gardenias. The ocean cracks. The house red`dens with a brilliant sunset.

David (02:01:20):

The Forbidden City, by David Hoffenberg, the fourth. I saw an angel coming from heaven. He had a great power. He lit up the earth with his glory. He cried loud with a strong voice. He said, this great city is falling. Has fallen and has become the habitation of devils and hold out of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. All nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her criminal conversation. And the kings of the earth have committed adultery with her. And the merchants of the earth have grown rich with the abundance of her delicacies.

David (02:01:58):

And I heard another voice from heaven saying come out of her, my people, that you not be eaters of her evil courses and that you receive not her sickness. Her sins have reached up to heaven and God hath remembered her. Reward her as she has rewarded you and double unto to her according to her laws. Take the cup that she has filled and fill it to her double. As much as she has glorified herself and lived deliciously, that much torment and sorrow give her. She says in her heart, I sit a queen and in no widow and shall feel no sorrow. Her plagues will come in one day, death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the light that judges her.

David (02:02:42):

The Kings of the earth who have slept with her and lived deliciously with her, will mourn her and lament her, saying, my God, my God, that great city for in one hour has her judgment come. The merchants will weep and mourn over her for nobody buys their merchandise anymore. The merchandise of gold and silver and precious stones and of pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet and all the wood and all manner of ivory and brass and iron and marble and cinnamon and odors and ointment and frankincense and wine an oil and fine flour and wheat and beasts and sheep and horses and automobiles and slaves and mansions and the souls of men and women and their children. And the fruits that your soul lusted for will be gone. And all things that are dainty and good will be gone. And you will find them no more at all.

David (02:03:39):

The merchants will stand afar off weeping and wailing for her linen and purple and scarlet, for in one hour such great wealth has come to nothing. Every ship master and all the company and ships and sailors, and as many trade by the sea will stand far off and cry when they see the smoke of her burning. What city is like this great city, in one hour she's made desolate. Sing over her anarchists and profits. God has avenged you on her.

David (02:04:10):

A mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and cast it into the sea saying, "With violence, will this forbidden city, be thrown down and will be found no more at all." And the voice of harpers and musicians and of flute players and trumpeters will be heard no more at all in you. And no craftsmen of whatsoever craft it be will be found anymore in you. And the toxicology of intolerance will be inhaled no more at all in you. And the light of a candle will shine no more at all in you. And the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride, will be heard no more at all in you.

David (02:04:43):

Merchants are the great men of the earth, by this sorrow, all nations are deceived. And in the forbidden city is found the blood of profits and of saints and of all the children that were murdered upon the earth.

Stage Directions Reader (02:05:18):

The scarlet light of sunset fades, darkening the house. The end. By Bill Gunn.

Stage Directions Reader (02:05:53):

This has been a Lincoln Center Theater presentation of The Forbidden City, written by Bill Gunn, directed by Seret Scott, performed by James T. Alfed, Spencer Scott Barros, Derrick Baskin, Kyle Beltran, Ato Blankson-Wood, Jason Bowen, Alfie Fuller, John Benjamin Hickey, Roscoe Orman, Brenda Pressley and Ray Anthony Thomas. Music by JJJJJerome Ellis, sound designed by Frederick Kennedy, audio supervision by Matt Craig, dramaturgy by Jonathan McCrory, stage managed by Roxana Khan. Produced under license from The Public Theater as owner of the rights to the dramatic works of William Gunn. LCT's new digital artistic programming is sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies with major support from the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, the Howard Gilman Foundation and the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund. To learn more about LCT and to donate, visit