A One Act Play
By G. L. Horton
copyright © 2006, 2008
A rehab hospital. RICK and DARLA, in their early 20s, are in an unlocated "outside". When they finish their brief "outside" conversation, they cross to center stage as LOUISE rolls her wheelchair center to meet them. There may be optional chairs or other hospital-type furniture, but this play can be performed with no set.
RICK: The more I think about this, the less I think it's a good idea. Why don't I come with you next time? After you make sure Louise's ok with it.
DARLA: OK with what? With you? Only you can--
RICK: With you and me! I don’t know how to--! What am I going to say to her?
DARLA: "Hello, Louise?" "I'm glad you're back, and alive?" She's been my friend since forever, and you two got along fine in high school.
RICK: She put up with me, that's all. We had nothing in common--
DARLA: Except me! Listen, Rick: Louise was not one of those friends who were telling me to break up with you. She's always been-- and now when she--. Are you going to make an effort, or not? I think we can do this, but not if we pretend that it's 1999.
RICK: All right, Darla. I guess you're right.
DARLA: (calls) Louise? (As LOUISE answers, there is a light change and the characters move into the main playing area, RICK hanging back.)
LOUISE: Is that you, Darla? Come on in.
DARLA: Weezie! (comic salute, then upset at how her friend looks) Bad day?
LOUISE: No, I'm doing fine. The therapist was just here, put me through my paces. I may look like she's been beating on me, but once the Oxy kicks in-
DARLA: You do remember I said I'm back with Rick?
LOUISE: You are? Was I on Oxy, then? Or are you?
RICK: I told Darla this isn't a good idea...
LOUISE: It's OK. The more visitors who show up, the better they treat me. I'm a little short on Auld Acquaintance this week: Good thing you came.
DARLA: Auld Acquaintance, yeah. Like, last century.
LOUISE: Ninth grade. Coach Backster's algebra class.
RICK: Right. And weren't you in the Chess Club?
LOUISE: For a few weeks. Turned out I'm not a Strategic Thinker.
RICK: Me neither. I quit chess and joined the debate team.
DARLA: A better form of combat for a guy with a big mouth.
LOUISE: Didn't you get in a fist fight once? With Pervis Prescott?
RICK: Close, but no. Somebody told Prescott I called him "The Perv", and he threatened to break my nose. I shut my big mouth and stayed far away from him.
DARLA: You and a lot of others.
RICK: The Perv was popular! Class president.
DARLA: Wrong. He was Treasurer.
LOUISE: Until he was arrested.
DARLA: I always thought he rigged the election.
RICK: To skim the Gift Fund? He wasn't that smart.
LOUISE: My theory is Coach Backster rigged it for him.
RICK: Prescott almost made it into West Point. He'd have flunked out, of course.
LOUISE: Didn't you want to go there?
RICK: (nods) Before I changed my mind.
DARLA: Rick's a senior at State, now. He can show you around.
LOUISE: I don't think I'll be going--
DARLA: Next semester. You said!
LOUISE: The campus isn’t accessible. There's blocked ramps, broken elevators....
RICK: How can they get away with that?
DARLA: Rick? We could work on getting it fixed. Circulate petitions. Hold a rally.
RICK: In this economy? I don't think we've got the--
LOUISE: Never mind. I'm not really interested.
DARLA: Don't say that! If not next semester, later on--
RICK: Take it easy, Darla. It's Louise's decision.
LOUISE: OK. I decide on Yale. I don't want to study-- just give me the degree.
RICK: That worked for Bush! (RICK laughs, DARLA looks distressed. RICK stops, abashed)
LOUISE: People! You're supposed to laugh! You're supposed to get ME to laugh. That's an order, civilians! At least be civil.
DARLA: Right. Laughter's the best medicine.
LOUISE: When I've rested some, we'll show Rick my attempt to use this leg thing. You'll laugh, OK? (to RICK) Darla does this cheerleader bit, cracks me up every time.
DARLA: You deserve cheers. You're a hero.
LOUISE: Sure. You passing it out? (silence) That's a joke. What's the matter with you two? You're dropping the ball.
DARLA: You can make jokes, but you won a medal for "gallantry beyond the call of duty".
We read about it in the paper.
LOUISE: Don't believe everything you read. Or see on TV.
RICK: You mean like the Swift Boat guys?
RICK: Hey! What'd I say? Louise said it. Not me! But if she wants me to apologize--
LOUISE: What for? Cheering for the war then turning against it? None of my business.
DARLA: You went and came back a hero. Rick talked like one, but---
LOUISE: (chicken noises) "Bwuak-buk-buk-buk-buk"?
RICK: You can call me chicken. After 9/11 I ran around like "The sky is falling"! Then one morning I woke up and -- and I---. I guess I-- I got over it.
DARLA: How can you get over 9/11? We broke up over 9/11! You went from being the only freshman who wore a Gore button--
RICK: Besides you.
DARLA: One you gave to me! I only wore it when I was with you.
RICK: Coach Backster tore mine off me-- did you know that? He said the school rule is No Politics. Bullshit! Six months half the faculty had flag pins.
DARLA: Including you! The loudest, red white and bluest, Muslim hating-est --!
RICK: It wasn't hate! It was pants-pissing fear!
LOUISE: "Bwuak-buk-buk-buk buk"!
DARLA: You attacked us. Me. Like some kind of rabid --
RICK: Sure. Chicken, rabbit, whatever. A little creature that runs around in panic..
DARLA: If people are like, friends, or like, trust each other, why did you keep hammering? I was practically a pacifist! And you almost had me convinced I should enlist! And Weezie did! And now she's--- (cries)
LOUISE: Don't insult me, Darla! I didn't join up because of Rick! I needed a job, and I thought: drive a truck? I can do that. I’m good with machines, and pretty brave--. I'd make that choice again.
DARLA: But why should you go, and Rick not?
LOUISE: It's nothing to do with Rick! Anything you think you know about Iraq--?! Forget it. You don't.
RICK: Fighting terror --how the hell do you do that? You can't bomb or shoot it--
LOUISE: If it shoots at you, you can sure as hell shoot back.
RICK: Iraqis weren't shooting at us before we went in there!
DARLA: Now you give us the other side! I knew there was another side, I just had no idea what it might be. The army is the biggest employer around here.
RICK: Naked prisoners with dogs. Smashed babies. Americans don't do those things!
LOUISE: Americans aren’t supposed to. But if you put untrained troops in a bad situation--,
RICK: I knew I' d been played. Terrified out of my mind by twenty guys with box cutters?
LOUISE: It’s a terrible thing to be afraid. Even if you’re the only one who knows. You'll open fire on civilians, or walk into a bullet, just to get past the fear.
DARLA: I wish I'd had the words to talk you out of--
LOUISE: Forget about it! This Disneyland you live in, where you think you can be all safe and moral and only bad guys die-- I don't believe in that. I wouldn't want to.
DARLA: I understand that what happened to you is-- is--
LOUISE: I'm not the person I was, Darla. Your old friend Weezie? The girl you could talk out of things? She's over.
DARLA: But you're out, now.
LOUISE: No, sir, Ma'am. I'm down, but I'm not out. I'm going back.
DARLA: How can you? You're--
RICK: Not everyone who serves is in combat, Darla. There's desk jobs where--
LOUISE: I don't want a damn desk job! I want to be with my unit. I hope to God they'll let me.
DARLA: But you said the guys think women don't belong. Women were raped, you said.
LOUISE: Not by my guys! I'm not saying there wasn't pressure, sometimes. And some times I felt like screwing my brains out, myself. But we knew better-- you got to be strong. Sex-- or worse, love? Don't even think about it. Do the job.
RICK: Like at Abu Ghraib.
LOUISE: You see what I mean? Here, people look at me and they think of those pictures and they wonder. Like Rick does. Don't you? Yeah. Sure, I killed people...
RICK: Women and children?
DARLA: I don't believe it.
LOUISE: Not women and children: I was lucky. But I know people who did. And I know why. I understand the Iraquis who shoot at us, too. Better than you, if you studied for a hundred years. People only learn what people are made of the hard way.
RICK: What are you made of?
LOUISE: Ice, maybe. Whatever. Something that keeps me focused when people around me panic, and tells me what needs doing.
DARLA: That’s why you want to go back?
LOUISE: That's why I belong there.
DARLA: But you can’t belong in Iraq, Louise. It's not ours! Even if we bomb the place into rubble, and pave it for a parking lot, Americans won't belong there!
RICK: Face it! For every Muslim we kill, we make enemies-- and there are billions of them. Enemies all over the world!
LOUISE: Save your breath, guys. I need mine to work on walking. Are you going to help me, or do I have to call the nurse to throw you out of here?
DARLA: Louise, we've lost in Iraq. It's all over but the getting out. People will go on dying, but... (RICK hands LOUISE her crutches)
LOUISE: You know they're offering me a job as recruiter? Can you imagine? As if I'd talk some poor soul into doing what me and my guys do. Come on, now, Darla. I want to hear you cheer. Get me going now, girl!
DARLA: Yay, Louise! (jumps and shakes imaginary pompoms) Give me a W!
RICK & LOUISE: W!
DARLA: Give me an A!
RICK & LOUISE: A!
DARLA: Give me an-- ! (We never find out whether the next letter is the “L” of WALK or the “R” of WAR. Loud Military music swells and the lights fade as LOUISE struggless to stand and walk)