Please enjoy the play JOSHUA LIMBO in pdf format. The characters are KOSH GLEASON, a white LA drifter on the edge of his life who comes to the desert shack in search of money. HECTOR PETE JACKSON, an Afro-American W.W. II pilot is a man content to be a hermit guarding a dark secret he has lived with for decades. He's a man who keeps two rattlesnakes, Lucky Lucy and Sunshine Sally as pets/friends. When Kosh ignores the warning sign near the shack - 'evisceration awaits you interloper,' he enters the shack explaining his car broke down and is in need of help, elderly Hector Pete suspects that his sudden appearance wasn't accidental.
This potent and allegorical play is a brutal look into male predation, bigotry and violence. The dialog is disturbing and highly provocative as we as readers/audience must confront our own reflections in the heat of desert justice. "This play is a bullet shot," says Laro. "It's a commentary on all men suffering greed and deceit in an attempt to gain control and power. The plot is as dangerous as rattlers FANGS!"
The play is topical given the racial upheaval of recent years America is trapped in and thus, is a cautionary tale.
https://www.zillahglory.com/ Ms. Zillah Glory - Director
S.W. Laro - writer/producer
https://www.amazon.com/s.w.- laro/e/B0084606ME%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share (link to S.W. Laro's author page)
Play in Two Acts
Copyright 2018 - VT/USA
This two-man play represents predation & bigotry. Takes place in 1990.
The setting is Joshua Tree Desert. A place of Timeless hardship not far from the Mojave where in a very short time a man can rot from thirst and deprivation - parched into oblivion. Joshua Tree is a mystical landscape far away from Los Angeles below what is called 29 Palms, a live fire Marine range and airbase. There’s a stretch of roadway cutting through the desert and rock formations that look like a child piled stones, one a top the other like blocks, at random. Big sky country. Stars that undulate ‘pon you when you sleep outside staring up into the Great Mystery. Things happen in Joshua. Other realm type of things, where awfulness can happen to good men. Or, necessary things, to evil men.
Who the predator is and who’s prey is unclear. Both characters seek a justice only the desert Herself can deliver. Afterall, She makes all the rules.
Hector Pete Jackson (78): W.W. II bomber pilot living in Joshua Tree Desert. He’s an elderly Afro-American hermit who went to solitude to forget all he had been.
Kosh Gleason (50):LA grifter. A white man trapped in a whirlwind of desperation on the run from himself and what hope still feels sorry for him.
Limbo: A place of imprisonment/confinement. An uncertain situation that one cannot control and in which there is no progress or movement.
It’s said a desert is Timeless. Mysteries abound there. And men perish for not paying attention.
MUSIC - dirty slide guitar
The stage is sparse. But we know it’s the interior of a rundown shack - a sun faded window with half the glass within the frame. A rusted Franklin stove. Stacked desert wood is stacked to one side. Sideways shelving filled with canned foods and rags, plates, utensils and cups. Another shelf reveals a series of book bindings of various titles. A poster of W.W. II bombers faces us on one wall and a ragged American flag hangs from the beams above a wooden table. Another wall has a Vargas girlie pin-up who smiles wide. Boxes of double-D batteries line a corner as well as oil for the lamps. Four-track cassettes as well. There’s an Army cot with pants and a shirt, a metallic water bucket nearby. There’s an old mattress in a corner, a sofa couch and ripped up chair by the stove. Beer bottles litter the floor and boxes and crates are piled high by the front floor. A coat rack is draped with leather pilot jacket and cap w/ goggles. Shotgun leans against a wall.
Most prominent is an American flag hanging from the ceiling beams. A medium size table with two glass tanks contains two rattlesnakes. A clock radio plays old time band tunes from the 1940s. Moonshine jugs lay in a corner.
WE HEAR the snakes rattling their tails. Danger lurks in this space. The rattlesnakes make us uneasy. After a time, as the radio plays an advert. Hector Pete enters.
He’s tallish, wears stained jeans as rusted as the iron stove, a white gini-T and tattered boots. His hair is ‘old’ white. His face wrinkled by hard sunshine and cruelty, a pair of sunglasses hide what’s left of his eyes. His manner is scattered but slow as the heat dictates all movement. Oddly, there’s a terracotta pot with colorful desert flowers rising up he tends to gently. Throughout the play Hector Pete will focus his attention on the flower pot when he becomes confused or angered in such a way that the flowers seem to relax him. (this detail of his persona is optional)
But always, the two rattlesnakes steal him.
PRODUCTION NOTE: A stage scrim (s) may be used to display image projections for time lapse video and stills of desert and interior of shack/props. Movement outside shack can be displayed on scrim.
Hector Pete’s desert shack
HECTOR: Sup’time ladies, SUP TIME! (he slams front door and walks to the table with glass tanks) Got us some fine rat meat for m’ ladies I do. Good eats t’nite ladies. I treat yas good don’t I? DON’T I? ‘Good as new can be n’ good as I knew yud’ be.’(snakes rattle louder. Hector carries a large paper bag with one rat inside moving round. He twists the open end tighter and proceeds to slam the bag against the end of the table. His signature ‘tic’ or mannerism is imitating a snake hissing with its tongue darting out) Damned rat, squash ya up good dead for m’girls. Sup’ time ladies. Good eats. (He dumps the unconscious rat into one tank. Then Hector sings along to an old time radio - ‘Stormy Monday Blues’ by Billy Eckstine, as he watches one snake wrap up the rat preparing to swallow it)
‘It’s gone n’ started rainin’, I’m as lonesome as a man can be
It’s gone n’ started rainin,’ I’m as lonesome as a man can be
Cuz everytime it rains I realize what you mean to me…’
HECTOR NARRATES: Ah yeah, Billy Eckstine cud sing a ballad like no man cud. (pause) Love to see how ya ‘twine round that rat! Smooth, quick like when lightnin’ hits the back hill upa’ ways. Snatch that damned rat and swallow em up. (Hector leaves the tanks and moves to the stove to make coffee in an old iron pot) Years ago Sally, one a them rats bit thru ya hide clean, o’most killed ya. Beat that rat to death, fucker! Broke it in half and cooked em up. Ate that rat like a hamburger. O’most killed ya but we nursed ya back. Good as new can be and good as I knew yud be! (laughs! Yawns)) Won’t feed ya live rats no more ladies. I do the killin’ then you swallow em in peace ya see. Love my girls I do. (he stands to salute the flag and recites a few lines of Allegiance) ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…’ AH! Ya’ know the rest. (sits down)
WE HEAR off stage the distant sound of a car. Quick horn blast and then engine dies. Hector Pete goes to the window for the shotgun and grabs it up. He returns to table and sits drinking coffee.
Whadduh…? Backfire. Any man comes here he gonna see the sign. (whistling enters from off stage) Who ‘dat?
Hector goes to the front door, peers out the window holding shotgun with passion. We hear the rattlesnakes ‘rattle’ and he shhhhs them. They stop rattling.
Quiet now ladies. (Waits. A knock. Silence. Knocks again. Silence. Rattlesnake rattles. Hector Pete reacts. Man says, ‘Hello?’) Didn’t see the sign did’ja?
MAN: (off) You home?
HECTOR: I’m in it.
MAN: My car broke down.
MAN: Need some gas, tire iron. Got a flat.
HECTOR: You see the sign?
MAN: I did.
MAN: So what sir…?
HECTOR: My sign.
MAN: Yeah, I saw it.
HECTOR: Read it did’ja?
MAN: Think so. Faded kinda.’
HECTOR: How so?
MAN: Sun rays I guess, sir. Faded. I need some gas if ya got any. Out of it.
HECTOR: Move on friend. No gas here ya see.
MAN: (whistles, sings melody)
HECTOR: Why are ya doin’ that?
MAN: What, singin’?
HECTOR: Yeah. Stop.
MAN: Pardon me sir but are you okay in there?
HECTOR: Why’s that?
MAN: Jus’ askin.’ Look, I need gas is all. And to fix my flat. (whistles)
HECTOR: You ain’t one of them white ass lilies from L.A. are ya?
MAN: Jeez-uz, jus’ a dude from L.A., car ran outta gas is all!
HECTOR: What happened to ya?
MAN: I said my car broke....
HECTOR: I mean why’d ya leave that shithole L.A. for?
MAN: Sorry to bother ya sir. I’m leaving. (whistle grows fainter)
HECTOR: (waits) HEY! You said the sign faded?
MAN: Sun rays did it.
Hector opens the door. He aims shotgun hard as the man enters. Kosh Gleason steps in to the shack. He’s ‘rundown’ slick, from LA. A cocky primal looking man. Handsome hair - a face women adore to loathe. He wears thick sunglasses, removes them and puts them in a shirt pocket. He has grease on his hands, stained slacks and wears sneakers.
KOSH: Don’t shoot. (he hears rattlesnakes)
HECTOR: I may boy.
KOSH: Jus’ need gas ol’ man.
HECTOR: You come here end of day and tell me my damned sign is faded.
KOSH: What’s it suppose to say?
HECTOR: ‘EVISCERATION AWAITS YOU INTERLOPER.’
KOSH: (laughs) Biblical.
HECTOR: Is what it is, means what it means.
Kosh. Not anymore. Reads, ‘ceration aits u loper.’
HECTOR: No shit.
Scrim reveals the faded sign. And a brilliant pastel sunset.
KOSH: Put it down will ya. I’m about to piss myself.
HECTOR: (gun down at table) I re-painted that goddamn sign a month ago...
KOSH: Name’s Kosh Gleason. From L.A.
HECTOR: Hector Pete Jackson, Hector or Pete do fine. Don’t say old again.
KOSH: Didn’t mean to offend you.
HECTOR: Sit down then. Coffee on the stove. So, why you leave LA with bad tires n’ no gas for?
KOSH: Have a clean cup somewhere?
HECTOR: Shelf there.
KOSH: Thanks. (pours) A woman. What else makes a man leave without thinkin’?
HECTOR: You wanna know what the sign says?
KOSH: Basically, ‘no trespassing.’ You ever do what that sign warns of?
HECTOR: (finally sits down at table with Kosh) What’s that?
KOSH: SIGN. You deaf...
HECTOR: Oh, the sign, not yet. Killed a lot of desert rats tho.’ And other things. (laughs, pause) So, a woman.
KOSH: It’s always about a woman ain’t it? Use to be fine and loving. But then she got too neon for me Mr. Pete.
HECTOR: Pete’s fine boy. Neon?
KOSH: Stirred up, witches brew - NEON. Wow, strong coffee.
HECTOR: Perks up the anus it does ya see.
KOSH: Guess your ass is jus’ about blown to shit then Pete.
HECTOR: So, if the sign was clear n’ not sun faded, you’d have walked away from my shack?
KOSH: I usually don’t walk away from nuthin.’ ‘Cept the woman I left last night back in Venice Beach. Fuck her.
HECTOR: My wife Elly hit me in the head with a hammer one time! She died some years past. I’m alone now Sunshine Sally and Lucky Lucy.
KOSH: (stares at snake tanks) Nice rattlers Pete. Why not name one of them after your dead wife?
HECTOR: Did. That snake died.
KOSH: What do snakes die of, don’t mind me askin’?
HECTOR: Heartbreak. (beat) Sunshine Sally replaced her. What’s the name a the broad you drove off from?
KOSH: Uh, Melanie. Nice woman. Middle-aged. Neon.
HECTOR: That’s good.
KOSH: Great sex. Mushrooms, MADONNA - now there’s a broad I’d like to sniff on.
HECTOR: L.A.’s a shithole.
KOSH: Yes it is. Desperate place for desperate narcissists. I call it, narce-a-situs.
HECTOR: I knew a priest one time who ran a parish in Fairfax County, L.A. Fr. Fred Nab, Nabaret his name was. Nifty white priest served up a soup kitchen to the riff-raff ya see.
KOSH: Nifty. Never needed a soup kitchen.
HECTOR: Soup and bread can end a man’s pain when he gets to the bottom of the bowl ya see. When he gets to the bottom of himself.
KOSH: Chowder’s good.
HECTOR: Nah, like puke. A thick meat and vegetable is best for me.
KOSH: I like chowder. Boston. Lived there for a while back in the day.
HECTOR: When was that boy?
KOSH: Jus’ a bowl a soup after a ballgame. Red Sox, Yankees. So ya have some gas? Tire iron.
HECTOR: Both. Knew some dames in New York, upper west side, Hells Kitchen. Took em to see the Bombers play way back. Sox had scags like Johnny Pesky n’ what’s his name, uh, Luis Tiant.
KOSH: Okay, sure, go Yanks. I’m a Dodgers fan now anyway. ‘Go Dodgers.’
HECTOR: Jimmy Claxton, first Negro to play for a white team, the 1916 Oakland Oaks. N’ Jackie Robinson, now he WAS life changin’ even for all you white mothafuckas.
KOSH: Outstanding players. But black is black right ol’ man?
HECTOR: Black is black what, boy?
KOSH: Doesn’t matter. You have any gas…?
HECTOR: You in a rush to get back to that broad in L.A.?
KOSH: Fuck it we’re done. Till next time when…
KOSH: When the epic debates bring the walls down and we start over. (thinking to himself) I still miss the artist, what happened to her. (pause) Can I pour more coffee?
HECTOR: (gestures to stove; snakes rattle) Shhhhh girls, quiet now I’m o’rite. Pot’s there boy.
KOSH: Watchdog snakes huh Pete.
HECTOR: Sumptin’ like that.
KOSH: Long as we’re jus’ two guys talkin’ lemme ask ya this: the sign, keeps folks away.
HECTOR: You the first one to ever say it’s faded.
KOSH: You a hostile ol’ man.
HECTOR: (bit deaf) How’s that, don’t hear well no more?
KOSH: (loud) You a bigot or sumthin’! Said white mothafuckas, boy.
HECTOR: I dislike alotta people ya see. But nobody comes ‘round here, ya see ‘cept you Mr. Kosh. You a bigot?
KOSH: Ain’t we all Pete? There’s folks I don’t wanna be ‘round faggots mostly. Gangbangers. But I don’t have a sign like you got.
HECTOR: N’ if’in ya did, it say what boy?
KOSH: (thinks) ‘hit the road Jack, don’t come round here no more no more no more hit the road jack and don’t come round here no more…!’
HECTOR: All You white folk Talk, talk, talk, TALK…! Diarrhea words poopin’ the diaper.
KOSH: Sign can just read HIT THE ROAD JACK, good enough for ya?
HECTOR: KKK, Nazi. Put that on ya white sign.
KOSH: I don’t need a sign. Need some gas, a tire...
HECTOR: I know a white boy racist when I hear one ya see. Ya remind me a some of the whites my father worked for when I was a kid back in the day.
KOSH: Where’s that?
HECTOR: Born in th’ south but lived Upper west side NY city. Ol’ man sold insurance, one a the few black men sellin’ it back then and sold a ton, ya see. Good huckster m’ ol’ man, knew how to play the game with whitey. My mother, what a voice she had ya see, sang big band, jazz too. Knew all the songs of Ma Rainey n’ Billie Holiday. Died young my mother did, her voice stayed in here boy (taps his head). Ya see, I was schooled but NOT FOOLED by white people’s history a things. You look like a scag who reads comics n’ porn.
KOSH: I came for gas and… (getting up)
HECTOR: (raises gun) Siddown! Good little rat boy. Scared? G’hed shat ya’sef if’in ya need too.
KOSH: It’s all good. Do you need to shit ya self cause I’m all good ovuh’ here sir. No shitting in my pants...
HECTOR: Ya don’t need a sign, ya need a ball gag so nobody has to listen to ya talk no more. (walks around him at table) Earth’s bored as a whore on her weddin’ night to a Mormon, with white peoples talk.
KOSH: Angry ol’ black coot ain’t’cha.
HECTOR: Discontent, as a good cup of harsh joe boy. Keeps the blood up.
KOSH: Did’ja hate me for knockin’ on your door?
HECTOR: You one a them rich white mothafuckas?
KOSH: I’m no banker. Kill me for knockin’ on a door asking for gas and a tire iron...
HECTOR: Only if m’girls said I shoulda.
KOSH: Snakes talk to you Pete?
HECTOR: Sure they do and me them. Love em like daughters.
KOSH: How long you been out here in Joshua?
HECTOR: Oh, lemme see, is 1990 now so - 1980’s sumptin’ I come out here. Many years now in Joshua. Wife passed, here I am.
KOSH: From where?
HECTOR: California. Spent lots a time all over boy, Air Force. Usta whoop shit up on Manhattan Island, NYC we did. Don’t miss a city. Out here, Hector Pete Jackson has QUIET. Jus’ like when the yucca brevifolia, Joshua Tree, blooms come springtime.
KOSH: Hey, You rich?
HECTOR: ‘I’m poor, but I’ve a ransom of soul.’
KOSH: What did you do your whole life?
HECTOR: Pilot. Trucker, barkeep. Lotta’ things to keep on keepin’ on as they say, ya see. (lost in past) Had a son with my Ellen, died Vietnam, 1968. How’s ‘bout you, what…?
KOSH: Got your funds in a bank around here then.
HECTOR: (grabs shotgun and aims at Kosh; snakes rattle) Why?
KOSH: Whoa now ol’ friend! Sure your money is safe around here buried and in some bank…
HECTOR: What I did with my life’s work ain’t ya concern white boy.
KOSH: If I came here to rob you I wouldn’t wait.
HECTOR: You have cash for some gas and that tire iron ya need Mr. Gleason? I don’t give shit o’way, ya see,‘specially to no white fuck from the devil’s abyss of LA.
KOSH: Put the gun down Pete, please. (Hector Pete leans shotgun against his knee at table) Thank you, sir. I’m no threat to you or your snakes!
HECTOR: We’ll see. (lights wooden pipe) You come out here to Joshua Tree for trouble boy?
KOSH: Left a broad on Venice Beach. Like I said, wasn’t thinking.
HECTOR: Never leave LA without thinkin’! Soulless place men go to die if’in they can’t fly straight.
KOSH: Look, I can leave if you want...
HECTOR: Sit and stay quiet. (lights wooden pipe) Sumptin’ ‘bout ya Mr. Gleason makes my ass pucker. Don’t fit.
KOSH: Your ass don’t fit what?
HECTOR: No, YOU don’t fit; you’re like religion white boy, jus’ an easy excuse to get it all wrong.
KOSH: That so.
HECTOR: You a wrong puzzle piece end up the hell out here in the middle of Joshua Tree Desert? Nah-uh. Be like a whore’s weddin’ to a priest and blessed by the Pope.
KOSH: I like the desert. Came here years back to think things out. Come to grips. Did business in the Palm Springs.
HECTOR: What a ya do in LA? Newspapers, druggie hustler…?
KOSH: I uh, run an office.
HECTOR: For what?
KOSH: Industrial equipment. Contractor.
KOSH: San Bernardino, Oxnard jobs sometimes. Got one now near Santa Monica. Lease the rigs. Easy work.
HECTOR: No work is easy.
KOSH: (sips) Good coffee. I like watching dozers and cranes tearin’ up the roads and earth. The sound of profit per hour to run them damn things, I tell ya not cheap.
HECTOR: Men like you been fuckin’ mother earth for centuries. Out here when them white green flowers of the Joshua tree fly free wit’ May rains ya see, I walk up politely n’ say, ‘who ya becomin’ nex’ M’am? Thanks for YOUR color.’
Walking around the shack as if expecting a secret to be revealed.
Lookin’ for sumthin’ boy?
KOSH: Nice place ya got. Private. Pets. Stove. Don’t know if I could do it though.
HECTOR: What’s that?
KOSH: Live alone out here. (looking around more obviously, he nervously lights a smoke) Mind?
HECTOR: Give ya’self lung cancer for all I care.
KOSH: (his back is to Hector Pete) You aiming that shotgun at me ol’ man?
HECTOR: (he raises shotgun) James Baldwin said, ‘...american whites have always glorified violence, unless a Negro had the gun.’
KOSH: (agitated, pours more coffee and smokes) Yeah, the fuckin’ quietude out here would cave in my sanity. (walks to shack door) Don’t bother you here alone?
HECTOR: Depends. (pounds head) When the electrics get LOUD, I don’t see, hear things clear. Wirin’ turns down LOW, can hear the desert spirits out there talkin’ kindly.
KOSH: What a they sayin’?
HECTOR: (pause) Spirits say, ‘Hector, this man ain’t worth the paper he’s printed on.’ (laughs) I know ya ain’t here for gas and a flat.
KOSH: I do have car trouble.
HECTOR: No boy, you jus’ got trouble.
MUSIC– dirty slide guitar theme