A Tale of 2 Murderers


Act I      A Prison Cell

Act II     The Same Cell Later

Act III    The Same Cell Several Weeks Later

CHARACTERS

Frank Strelsey................................an axe murderer
Mike McCrory.................................drug abuser, petty criminal
Guard............................................ prison guard
Policeman.......................................arresting officer
Mother............................................McCrory’s Mother

Non speaking parts: Ginny, friends, police, McCrory’s boss

Act I

The Play takes place in a cell of a State Prison Medical Facility. The cell contains a toilet, sink and bunk beds. The side of the cell toward the audience is open. The door of the cell is stage right and opens on to a passageway along the tier of cells. A tall man with an ascetic but powerful face occupies the upper bunk (which he does not leave until Act III), his head propped on a pillow reading a book. His eyes are capable of an intense gaze and have the capacity to shine especially when he is speaking with great energy on a matter of interest to him. He is in his late thirties or early forties. A guard brings another man to the cell. This man is shorter, of a muscular build, has the appearance and manner of a street tough. He is younger, about twenty-five years old.


Mike McCrory

Hey man, take your hands off me.

Guard

Come on -- move along.

Mike McCrory

I'm moving. Just don't put your hands on me. I don't like it.

Guard

I will put a lot more than that on you if you don't move along.

Mike McCrory

O.K. O.K.

Guard

This is it.

Mike McCrory

Yeah?

Guard

This is your cell. You will be here for a while. I hope you enjoy the decor, it's the State's best.

Mike McCrory

Yeah?

Guard

(Opens the cell.) O.K. In you go. You want me to say it to you in French?

Mike McCrory

Yeah?

Guard

Move!

Mike McCrory

O.K. (Goes in.) That don't sound like French to me.

Guard

(Locks door.) Don't call me. I'll call you.

Mike McCrory

(Noticing his cellmate.) Hey man.

Frank Strelsey

Yeah.

Mike McCrory

What're you doin'?

Frank Strelsey

What does it look like?

Mike McCrory

Yeah? What are you, some smart ass? Hey, if you don't want to get along it's O.K. with me. I mean I don't need you. So screw yourself (washes his face). Hey man, maybe you didn't mean nothing by it, maybe it's just me. The name is Mike, Mike McCrory.

Frank Strelsey

I'm Frank Strelsey.

Mike McCrory

I guess we will be spending some time together.

Frank Strelsey

I guess so.

Mike McCrory

Yeah. What are you reading?

Frank Strelsey

Dante's Inferno.

Mike McCrory

Yeah? Never heard of him.

Frank Strelsey

I don't suppose you have.

Mike McCrory

Naw. Hey man, you got any smokes?

Frank Strelsey

No.

Mike McCrory

Aw shit.

Frank Strelsey

Don't smoke.

Mike McCrory

Yeah? You do anything else?

Frank Strelsey

Like what?

Mike McCrory

Oh, you know, uppers, downers, H, speed. You know.

Frank Strelsey

No.

Mike McCrory

Ever try 'em?

Frank Strelsey

No.

Mike McCrory

Oh man, you missed out.

Frank Strelsey

If you say so.

Mike McCrory

Really man. I did them all on the outside. Yeah. But it got me in here. That and a dumb lawyer.

Frank Strelsey

That so?

Mike McCrory

Yeah. I was out of my mind when I cooled this chick. My lawyer got the judge to send me here to see if I was nutso. He's trying to cop a plea for me. I don't trust these damn public defender guys though. They will sell you right down to get you off their list. I hear everybody in this cellblock is doing hard time for something capital.

Frank Strelsey

What else did you hear?

Mike McCrory

Well, that some of the guys here are a...little...

Frank Strelsey

Different?

Mike McCrory

Yeah, yeah that's it. You took the words right out of my mouth. Yeah, a little "different".

Frank Strelsey

Perhaps.

Mike McCrory

So, look. You and me got something in common. We both killed somebody, right? So tell me who did you kill?

Frank Strelsey

I killed a literary pedagogue.

Mike McCrory

A what?

Frank Strelsey

I said...an English...professor.

Mike McCrory

How did you do it man, strangle him with some prepositional phrases or something?

Frank Strelsey

No.

Mike McCrory

Hey, then what man?

Frank Strelsey

I chopped him down with an axe.

Mike McCrory

Man, you must've been real mad at him.

Frank Strelsey

Yeah.

Mike McCrory

What did he do to you?

Frank Strelsey

What?

Mike McCrory

What did he do - - I mean did he steal your girl or something?

Frank Strelsey

No.

Mike McCrory

What'd he do? Flunk you? Keep you from getting your degree?

Frank Strelsey

No.

Mike McCrory

Well, what then? Oh, I bet I know.

Frank Strelsey

What?

Mike McCrory

He was queer! Am I right? He made a pass at you and you iced the S.O.B. Right? I would have done the same thing. That's what happened. Right?

Frank Strelsey

No.

Mike McCrory

Well...what then?

Frank Strelsey

He taught a course on the punctuation in Shakespeare.

Mike McCrory

What?

Frank Strelsey

Yeah, he taught the meaning of punctuation; commas, semi-colons, thing like that. In the works of Shakespeare...

Mike McCrory

You killed him because of some punctuation?

Frank Strelsey

I killed him because he taught that course.

Mike McCrory

Hey man, I don't get it. I mean, man, you may be crazy but you're not stupid. Why didn't you just drop out of his course?

Frank Strelsey

That would have been the easy way.

Mike McCrory

Yeah, well look, you would still be on the outside -you know--doing your thing.

Frank Strelsey

Yes, but he would have been able to continue doing what he was doing.

Mike McCrory

Well, what was so bad about it?

Frank Strelsey

Don't you see? (Sits up.)

Mike McCrory

No.

Frank Strelsey

How many years do you think you will be around?

Mike McCrory

What?

Frank Strelsey

How old are you?

Mike McCrory

I guess I am twenty-five, maybe twenty-six -- don't keep too close track. Why?

Frank Strelsey

How long do you think you will be alive?

Mike McCrory

I don't know.

Frank Strelsey

Your life expectancy is about seventy-five, I'd say.

Mike McCrory

That is if the law don't catch up to me. My Ma died young. I hear my Dad is still around though, and he is maybe seventy or eighty now. He was a lot older than my Ma.

Frank Strelsey

So maybe another fifty years.

Mike McCrory

What?

Frank Strelsey

That you will be around.

Mike McCrory

Yeah. Hope so!

Frank Strelsey

Do you ever contemplate the void?

Mike McCrory

The what?

Frank Strelsey

The void.

Mike McCrory

Hey man, what's that? Now don't go getting Loony Tunes on me.

Frank Strelsey

What's that?

Mike McCrory

Nothing.

Frank Strelsey

Well? Do you?

Mike McCrory

What?

Frank Strelsey

Contemplate the void?

Mike McCrory

Naw, I don't even know what it is.

Frank Strelsey

It's the abyss. It's what is beyond what we know here in this little room, or in that world out there, beyond what we can see or hear or touch.

Mike McCrory

Naw, I never learned nothing about that.

Frank Strelsey

No, of course you didn't.

Mike McCrory

Hey, don't treat me like I am dirt or something.

Frank Strelsey

No, you're not dirt, my friend.

Mike McCrory

O.K. So why is that a reason to kill this dude?

Frank Strelsey

He wasted my time.

Mike McCrory

What was you doing?

Frank Strelsey

He wasted the time I had to think about that, hours, minutes, seconds, nanoseconds that I should have devoted to thinking about that.

Mike McCrory

You're lucky your lawyer got you off and got you in here or you wouldn't have had too much more time to waste.

Frank Strelsey

I don't have any time to waste regardless of how long I have to live.

Mike McCrory

Yeah. Right. Sure.

Frank Strelsey

I wouldn't expect you to understand.

Mike McCrory

Naw man, maybe I do understand.

Frank Strelsey

Don't patronize me.

Mike McCrory

No, man. Look I ain't doing whatever that means.

Frank Strelsey

Don't humor me!

Mike McCrory

No. I'm not doing that. Honest.

Frank Strelsey

I really didn't expect you to understand.

Mike McCrory

Well, maybe that is the problem.

Frank Strelsey

Maybe I have underestimated you.

Mike McCrory

Yeah. That's it.

Frank Strelsey

How far did you go in school?

Mike McCrory

Aw, Hell. I dropped out -- second year of high school. But give me a chance, I'm not real stupid. My mind ain't closed down.

Frank Strelsey

Then my friend you are different from most people.

Mike McCrory

What do you mean?

Frank Strelsey

Well, the mind of most people has closed down. Usually it happens when they leave high school or college or graduate school. Yes, they think they are open minded because they like what was avant garde, new to them, at that time, but their mind is usually done. They are the dead tending the graves of the dead.

The worst are those who have progressed the furthest. They are the gatekeepers and only let through what resembles the past to them, they trade on the wisdom and judgment of their betters, those who have preceded them. Their very insecurity and doubt reveals itself in the tenacity with which they cling to the received wisdom. They are always like Orpheus looking back and, like Orpheus, by doing it they lose what they wish most to possess.

There are, my friend, only a few people in an epoch who can truly look forward without always turning their gaze back to the comfort of the past, the familiar. Only a few can truly look at something new and perceive it, recognize it, add it to their store of experience in the world. A certain number can take their hand and, through this progress, the rest are dead. When I dispatched Higgenbottom, that was his name, I merely allowed his body to follow where his mind had already gone.

ETC.