The Hundred Year Farce
a PLAY in brief
[Open on a bus stop with bench, currently unoccupied. OLD MAN enters slowly from SR, hobbles to and sits on the far side of the bench. He takes a sighing breath, then extricates a pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket. He places one in his mouth, lights it, and smokes contentedly. There is the sound of a scuffle off SR, and YOUNG MAN is thrown bodily onto the stage, where he staggers to his feet, somewhat drunk.]
YOUNG MAN: Just you wait til I'm sober again! [Nearly falls twice] but until then, I'll give you time to think about it. [He weaves his way to the near side of the bench and gestures to it] this seat taken? [OLD MAN shakes his head, and he sits.]
OLD MAN: The fighting any good tonight son?
YOUNG MAN: The best in weeks. [Peers at OLD MAN] Do I know you?
OLD MAN: Nope.
YOUNG MAN: But I just saw you in the bar.
OLD MAN: You're the only man I know that professes to adequate powers of recollection when drunk.
YOUNG MAN: And YOU'RE the only man I know comes out of that place not smelling of alcohol. And I'm not drunk.
OLD MAN: Suit yourself. [Puffs on his cigarette.]
YOUNG MAN: But you were in there.
OLD MAN: I might have been.
YOUNG MAN: But you weren't drinking.
OLD MAN: I might not have been.
YOUNG MAN: So why go into a bar?
OLD MAN: I'm married. [YOUNG MAN makes a sound of appreciation.]
YOUNG MAN: You got a light?
OLD MAN: I do.
YOUNG MAN: You got a smoke to go with it?
OLD MAN: I do at that. [Gives YOUNG MAN a cigarette, then holds out the lighter for him. They both smoke for a few seconds.]
YOUNG MAN: So your wife.
OLD MAN: You're welcome to her.
YOUNG MAN: Nah, I was just curious. Thanks though. She a pain?
OLD MAN: Like rheumatoid arthritis. I like to take these 'walks' every once in a while to clear my head. Don't you dare let a woman joke about owning cats, because the next thing you know, you'll be up to your neck in them, and all that goes with them.
YOUNG MAN: Women don't want cats nowadays.
OLD MAN: Yeah, that's exactly what she told me too.
YOUNG MAN: So why do you stay with her?
OLD MAN: Even you can't be drunk enough to believe that someone my age can start over again.
YOUNG MAN: That's not so, it's never too late.
OLD MAN: What positive fruitcake frosting.
YOUNG MAN: Ok, maybe not. But at least you have these nights off; how often does she let you out?
OLD MAN: Once a month.
YOUNG MAN: Hell!
OLD MAN: Where I live. I tell her that I need to smoke, and that I'll just take a walk around the neighborhood so the smell doesn't linger near the doorstep; she thinks I'm being gentlemanly in my decrepitude.
YOUNG MAN: Ha!
OLD MAN: Not that it would be hard to fool the old bitch. She shares one brain between her and all those cats. [Takes a drag on his cigarette.]
YOUNG MAN: You bitter old fogey! You're nastier than a second grader!
OLD MAN: I work at it.
YOUNG MAN: Not a bit! I can see it in your eyes, you love every second of it!
OLD MAN: Yeah, a bit. That's what living with a woman that resembles a bag of cement for a hundred years will do to you.
YOUNG MAN: There's no way you're a sweet old codger when you get home, you're pulling my leg. She's just as fed up with you as you are with her.
OLD MAN: Not a bit. Every night I look her in the eyes before I switch off the lamp her damn old mother gave us for a wedding gift, and tell her that she's still the most beautiful sunset I've ever laid my eyes on. [Stares at the cigarette in his hand] god, how it grates against the inside of my lips.
YOUNG MAN: [Laughing] You're a sick old coot, you know that.
OLD MAN: I had an inkling.
YOUNG MAN: So are you just waiting it out here before you have to go back?
OLD MAN: No, I encourage her to spend a bit of time outside herself, say the air is good for her. I meet her here my one night of the month and act all starry-eyed to see her when she comes. I should've been in pictures.
YOUNG MAN: Well I'll be damned. [OLD WOMAN enters from SL, heading slowly towards the bus stop, humming quietly as she comes. OLD MAN takes a last breath of his cigarette and stands, straightening his coat and tipping his hat to YOUNG MAN.]
OLD MAN: It was a pleasure talking to you.
[OLD MAN undergoes a kind of transformation as he turns to face OLD WOMAN. His sour face crinkles into a warm, loving smile and he leans forward, holding his hands out to take hers. He pulls her closer and brushes a lock of gray hair out of her face before gently brushing his lips against her cheek. She smiles back and makes modest sounds of false protest. He offers her his arm and she takes it.]
OLD MAN: I'm terribly sorry my dear, I had another while I was waiting for you. I can take another turn around the neighborhood if you can't let me in the house in this state. [He smiles knowingly, certain of a welcome.]
OLD WOMAN: Oh, it's been so long since I've smelled smoke on you, it can't hurt for one evening. I love you so much.
OLD MAN: And I love you too. Come, I'll walk you home and chase away the shadows with a tune. [They walk off SL, humming together the same tune OLD WOMAN had been humming as she entered. YOUNG MAN stares after them in utter disbelief.]
YOUNG MAN: [As he gets up and heads off SR] I need a drink.
[Close on the empty bus stop.]