MAISIE’S DEAD: Act One, SCENE 5

Maisie’s  Dead: A Comedic Tale of Love and Marriage

Copyright © 2007 by William D. Coffey, All rights reserved

 

Act One, SCENE 5:   Thursday afternoon, the social room

 

The social room of Mayflower Senior Apartments.  Assumed door location is left end of upstage wall.  A sign, “MAYFLOWER Senior Apartments,” hangs high at center of upstage wall.  Eight folding chairs lean against the right end of upstage wall.  A lightweight podium stands against the downstage right wall.  A light wooden table with three chairs is DSL.  John & Clyde enter, look around.

 

 

JOHN

This is it, Clyde.  A nice big social room.  Think it’ll do?

 

CLYDE

Do fine.  Big enough to hold all them damn others.

 

JOHN

Yes, big enough for any number of people who might show up.  And it’s “decent.”

 

CLYDE

Looks decent if you ask me.  Hullo, who’s this?   [Jessie, Maud and Germaine enter]

 

JOHN

Why good day, ladies!  What brings you here?

 

JESSIE

We thought we’d while away the afternoon with a little gin rummy.

            [the women seat themselves around the table; Jessie shuffles cards…]

 

MAUD

Are you here taking my advice, John?

 

JOHN

Yes, this room will do just fine. Ladies, let me introduce Clyde Pickins.  Clyde is, ah, Maisie’s husband. Clyde, these ladies all live here.  This very pretty one is my mother-in-law, Jessie.  Her equally pretty friends are Maud and Germaine.

 

GERMAINE

John, the bad man will get you for charming old ladies. Clyde, you came for the funeral?

 

JOHN

Memorial service.

 

CLYDE

Yes ma’am.  It’s a sad day after bein’ married to Maisie for seven happy years.

 

JESSIE

Well that certainly beats John here – his marriage to her lasted only seven months.  Could you not talk her out of going out in that boat on Lake Michigan?

 

CLYDE

T’weren’t no talkin’ to it, ma’am.  She’d done run out on me seven months ago. I went into the corner Jiffy Mart for a minute – JUST A MINUTE – to get bread and beer. When I come back wham bam Maisie’s gone.  No idea where she’s been these past seven months.  [darkly]  Or who she’s been with.  Now I got to go to this funeral…

 

JOHN

Memorial service.

 

CLYDE

…where they say ever galoot who was ever married to Maisie is prob’ly gonna show up.  All them others.  Ain’t that just a sorry thing?!

 

[Jessie slowly deals several cards to Maud and Germaine; throughout the scene 

 they are engaged with John and Clyde, their card playing is perfunctory]

 

MAUD

Well it sounds like an interesting crowd!  Here in our own building.  May we come too?

 

CLYDE

Reckon so!  More the merrier.  Might make Maisie roll over in her wave. Hu-hu… D’ja get it?  Roll over in her wave?  Hu-hu!   Hullo, we’re gettin’ a crowd here!

[Smokey and Preach enter, stand just inside door holding their hats]

 

JOHN

Hello, can I help you?

 

SMOKEY

I’m looking for Mister John Welford.

JOHN

I’m John Welford.

 

SMOKEY

I’m Eugene Waddle.  Your lawyer, fellow name of Mister Ben Smith, he called me…

 

JOHN

Aha.  By any chance, were you married to Maisie?

 

SMOKEY

You bet.

JOHN      [motions them in]

Do come in.  [Smokey and Preach move further in]  When were you married to her?

 

SMOKEY

Been a long time — thirty-five years ago.  Best years of my life, till she up and took off.  This Smith fellow said Maisie’s drowned on Lake Michigan and there’s a funeral.  Sure hate to hear that.  Gave your name and address. Am I in time for the funeral?

 

JOHN

Yes, the memorial service is this Saturday, so you and your friend are two days early.

 

SMOKEY

As to that — this fella here ain’t exactly my friend, though I suppose he’s all right. Down at the bus station, I noticed he got off the bus right behind me. I set out walking to your ad-dress that the lawyer gave me, and I noticed he did too.  Every time I turned, he turned.  We finally got there, and your wife told me to come over here to find you. So here we are, but I can’t tell you his name.  He don’t seem to talk much.

 

JOHN

Oh?  And who are you sir?  Do you need directions to somewhere?

 

PREACH

My name is Delbert Lee Jones and I very often talk when it seems useful.  If you are John Welford, then I don’t need no directions.  Your lawyer, Smith, he called me too.  Said you’re in charge of things.  Give me your phone number and address.  So here I am.

 

MAUD

I’m beginning to understand “all those others.”

 

JOHN

I guess you were married to Maisie too?

 

PREACH

I used to be.  I thought I was.  Twenty-eight years ago.  Now I hear she’s turned over a boat on Lake Michigan and drownd’ed. I cain’t hardly believe it.  Is it really true?

 

JOHN

Yes sir, they say that’s what happened.

 

PREACH

Then I am for sure at the right place. Maisie was always just so full of life!  She was one fine elegant lady, even if she did skip out on me, and I want to pay my respects at her funeral.  [John reacts]   Saturday, huh?  Where could a man stay in this town for the next two days?  I didn’t much like them high-priced cabins down there at the bus station.

 

CLYDE

I’m stayin’ in their barn.  Y’might wanta stay out there with me.  It’s lots of room.

 

PREACH

Most barns have lots of room, that don’t mean I want to sleep in one.  Who’re you?

 

CLYDE

Pickins is the name.  Clyde Pickins.  I’m Maisie’s husband.  I mean her real husband.

I mean her last husband.  It’s me who opened up her will and found out about John, here.  He’s her first husband, see.  John, he taken charge of things.  And here we all are.

 

JESSIE

Yes, here you all are.  Were you gentlemen on that bus very long?

 

PREACH

Been on that bus since day before yesterday.  [to Smokey]  Say you was married to Maisie thirty-five years ago?  Long time.  How long since you parted company?

 

SMOKEY

Oh gosh, it’s been … [he thinks with fingers] …twenty-eight years since I last saw her.

 

CLYDE

That long!  But here you are turned up for her funeral.

 

JOHN

Memorial service.

 

CLYDE

Yeah, that.  Ain’t this somethin’!  Four of us here, and all four been married to Maisie.

 

JESSIE    [ironic]

Extraordinary, isn’t it.

CLYDE     [oblivious to irony]

Sure nuff!  John here’s got us all beat – thirty-five years ago for him.  How bout you, Brother Jones?  Delbert did you say?

 

PREACH

Yes, and you got the Brother part right. Most folks call me “Preach,” on account of I’m a preacher.  Ah, Smokey… say it was thirty-five years ago you married Maisie?

 

SMOKEY

That’s right.

 

PREACH

But Clyde just said it’s been thirty-five years since John here was married to Maisie.  I was just kinda wonderin’ how that works out…

 

SMOKEY

Uh… Maybe you could shed a little light on that, John?  I’m kinda wondering my self.

 

JOHN

I believe I can.  Maisie and I were married in February.  It only lasted seven months, so she left in… ah… August.  Later that year she evidently met Smokey and married him.

 

SMOKEY

Right.  We got married the first of October.  I remember.  I was there.

 

CLYDE

Kindly workin’ overtime, weren’t she?     [to Preach]    You’re a preacher, hey?   Hard to

believe Maisie was ever married to a preacher?  How long was you married?

 

PREACH

Why’s that hard to believe?  We was just married seven years, but they was fine years!

            [he gazes, lost in memory…]

 

JESSIE

So, Preach – I guess it’s all right if I call you Preach – both you and Mister Waddle say

you have not even seen this woman for many, many years, and still…  you go out of your way to attend a memorial service for her.  She must have left quite an impression on you.

 

SMOKEY

Ma’am, I’ve got a nickname too.  Everybody calls me Smokey.  Yes, I’d say Maisie left a big impression on every man she ever met – especially those she was married to.

 

JESSIE

Oh, really?  Why do you think that was?

 

JOHN

Now hold on a minute, I’m not sure I’d agree with that!

 

SMOKEY

Yes, ma’am, Maisie left a great hold on me. She was the finest! After she left, I never really wanted another wife.  I just never … wanted to… be married again… somehow…              [he and Preach gaze into space, mouths agape, mutually lost in memory…]

 

MAUD

My, my.   Do you think she had that effect on all her husbands?

 

JOHN

Assuredly not!

 

PREACH

Yeah I do, that’s how it was with me too.  Oh, you should’a heard Maisie sing at a tent revival meeting.  Put me in mind of an angel.  She helped me to save a many a soul, she did, just by singing like an angel… the way she did.

 

SMOKEY & CLYDE

Maisie could sing?

 

PREACH

Why sure.  Like I said.  Sing like an angel.

 

SMOKEY    [amazed]

I didn’t know that.  She never sang when she was married to me.  I don’t remember her ever singing.  Not once.  I never knew she had it in her.

 

CLYDE

Me neither.

 

PREACH

Not even when you went to church?

 

SMOKEY

What church?  We never went to church.  Didn’t either one of us believe in church.

 

PREACH

Didn’t believe in church?! Maisie?!!  My gracious! Whatever did you do together, then?

 

SMOKEY

Well, we flew airplanes a lot.

 

PREACH

Flew airplanes?  What are you talkin’ about?

 

SMOKEY

I had me an old biplane – you know, two wings [he gestures].  I used it for crop dustin’, sometimes I flew it for circuses, too.  Did sky writing. Maisie liked that airplane a lot, wanted to fly it.  So I taught her.  She was a natural.  Flew it easy as a rat eats cheese.

 

PREACH

You mean to tell me Maisie could fly an airplane?  She never told me that!

 

CLYDE

Me neither!

 

SMOKEY

Why sure she could!  Good at it too.  Got to where if I wasn’t feeling good when the circus got to a town, why Maisie would take the passengers up.  Five dollars for seven minutes.  Sometimes we’d pull in two hundred dollars a day.  Good money back then.

 

PREACH         [pensive]

Well… yeah… beats the fire out of our old collection plate.  Maisie’d always start that pan around and pick a few guys to keep it going.  She’d get it passed around three, maybe four times.  But the best we ever did in one meeting was only about a hunnerd dollars…

 

CLYDE

Ain’t this just somethin’!  I never knowed she could sing or fly an airplane!  Mostly she just wanted to hang out at the race track.  Or stay home and eat toast with her beer.  That was the damndest thing – messin’ up good beer with toast.

 

PREACH      [dismayed]

Maisie drank beer?!!

 

CLYDE

We never set foot in no church, neither, not even to get married in the first place!  A justice of the peace done us.  And she never mentioned bein’ married to either one of you guys.  Or John here, either.  You’re all new to me!

 

MAUD

Mr. Waddle —  Smokey — how did you get your nickname?

 

SMOKEY

Now there’s a story.  Seems like everything I ever did involved smoke.  Started out, I was a blacksmith – lots of smoke, you know – making horse shoes and puttin’em on horses.  After I got horse kicked a few dozen times, I knew I wasn’t going to make my million that way, so I got me a loan and bought that old biplane.  Did crop dusting.  Looks like smoke, see?  Then I started doing circuses too, taught myself how to sky write.  That looks like smoke too.  Folks love it.

 

JOHN

How about you, Clyde?  Do you have a nickname?

 

CLYDE

Naw.  People sometimes tried to call me “Pick,” but Maisie didn’t like that. Said it reminded her of that mountain.  She all-ays called it “that damn mountain.”

 

PREACH

Maisie said “damn?!”  What mountain?

 

CLYDE

People called it Pickins’ Nose.  Maisie never liked that neither.  I couldn’t tell about my own family mountain without her gettin’ uppity. Is that all you do, Preach?  Just preach?

 

PREACH

Well, I wouldn’t say “just.”  Sometimes I do a little missionary fundraisin’ too.

 

JOHN

You do missionary work?  What countries have you been to?

 

PREACH

Naw, I just raise funds for missionaries.  People always give a little more generous when they hear you’re gonna spend the money to save souls over in a jungle somewheres.  And then of course I do a little gospel rock and roll.

 

MAUD & JESSIE            [highly entertained]

You do what?!

 

PREACH

It’s all part of the package.  I did rock and roll when I was real young, even tried out for Bill Haley and the Comets.  But then I quit that stuff, because I got saved, see.  I figured Jesus never did no rock and roll, so it must represent the other side, see.  So when I took up preachin’ I just sorta rolled that in with the show and used it for the gospel music.  Lotta folks don’t know it, but you can make an old gospel song really rock when you put the treatment to it.  I think that’s what got Maisie attracted to me in the first place.

 

SMOKEY

How’s that, preacher?

 

PREACH

Preach.  Well, first time I ever saw Maisie, she showed up at a tent meetin’ on one of the best nights I ever had.  We had seven gospel rock and roll musicians, countin’ me, and we was all hot as firecrackers that night.  It was the hot summertime anyway, but with all the preachin’, and the gospel rock and roll music, and folks singin’ and hollerin’…   [he gets animated]  …and swayin’ in the aisle, and some plumb fallin’ down…  Man, that was a tent meetin’!  Had the whole front row, both sides, filled up with sinners who saw the light.  Maisie too, she come down.  Purtiest little thing I ever saw.  Yeah!  And she says to me  – she says –  “Preacher, can I help make this beautiful music with you?”             [he gets intense]   Yeah, that’s what she said!  We was married a week later.  She took up playin’ the drums as well as singin’.   Man, did she have rhythm!!

 

CLYDE    [sullen]

I never knowed she could play drums or fly airplanes…

 

PREACH

And then I still do a little chi-ro-practorin’ on the side.

 

JOHN, SMOKEY, JESSIE, MAUD, GERMAINE

What?

 

PREACH

Chi-ro-practorin’.  I used to have a road partner who had went to chi-ro-practor school. Said he come close to finishin’, before he quit to take up preachin’.   He showed me how to move bones.  That’s right.  Said that’s exactly what you got to do, you got to move bones.  Makes people feel better.  It did, too!  I figured, man, this is a natural for my line of work.  Some evangelists like to lay on hands.  But they don’t do like chi-ro-practorin’.  No.  The way they do it is, a bunch of big-belly elders stand all around you, while you sit there in a chair like the Lamb of Judah – and they pile up all their hands on top of your head.  Well I tell you, after six or eight gents all overfed on fried chicken has all piled up their big heavy hands on top of your head –and them sorta pushin’ down a little too, just to make sure you feel the full benefit – why, you got about a hunnerd and twenty pounds pushin’ straight down on your spinal column!

 

SMOKEY

Man I surely was misinformed about him not talking much.

 

PREACH    [sidewise glance at Smokey]

Depends on whether my congregation is worth preachin’ to.  Anyways, I got my own style of layin’ on hands, see!  After these good Christian gents has compressed your spine down about two inches, you are ready for some chi-ro-practorin’!  I have saved more than a few con-verts out of people who was just blessed grateful to me for fixin’ up their neck and back vertebras after they’d been through a heavy session of layin’ on hands.  It’s kind of like a miracle, see?  Course it don’t pay much, but it’s great for goodwill.  Most always brings ‘em back to the tent revivals, too.

 

GERMAINE

Are you any good on pain in the lower back?  It about kills me every time I have to get up out of a chair.

 

PREACH

Oh yes ma’am.  I’m real good with lower backs.  I c’n he’p ya.

 

GERMAINE

Well, if I have another night losing sleep getting up to take aspirin, I may just let you try.

 

PREACH

Won’t be just tryin’, ma’am.  I’ve he’ped a lotta people with pain in their lower backs. I used to practice my chi-ro-practor thrusts on Maisie.  She really liked it.

 

JESSIE

Perhaps we might not want to hear about that.  John, has that lawyer Smith made all his calls yet?  Are any more husbands going to show up?

 

JOHN

I don’t know!    [throws up his hands]    I DON’T KNOW!  Ladies and gentlemen, this social room is very decent.  It will do just fine for Maisie’s memorial service.  That grand occasion will occur right here this very Saturday, just two days from now.  And then it will become history.  And I for one look forward to its doing so.  Now let’s go home, gentlemen.  Smokey, Preach, you’re both welcome to stay in our barn’s guest room.  As to who sleeps where, you’ll have to work that out with Clyde here, who has already moved in.  Ladies, have a good day!      [he stalks out]

 

            [Preach and Clyde talk as they exit]

 

PREACH

Guest room in a barn, huh?  That’s a new one on me.  How many will it sleep?

 

CLYDE

Oh, you c’n get eight or ten in there, countin’ the floor and feet in your face. Where you guys sleep is ever’ man for his self.  The couch lets out and makes a bed, see, and I done claimed the left side of that, right next to the john!  I mean the toilet — no offense, John.

 

            [the three women, left alone, look at each other through a moment of silence]

 

JESSIE          [pensively, staring straight ahead]

Maud…

 

MAUD

Yes Jessie?

 

JESSIE

How long does it take to get a divorce?

 

MAUD

You mean the whole thing?   Start to finish?

 

JESSIE

Yes.

 

MAUD

Like, from the time you first go to a lawyer until a court decrees the divorce is final?

 

JESSIE

Yes.

 

MAUD

Oh, I don’t know…    Maybe… twelve weeks?   Four or five months?  The law moves rather slowly in such matters.

 

GERMAINE

I’ve seen some divorces take a year and more.

 

JESSIE        [still pensive]

Could it ever happen in as little as eight weeks?

 

MAUD

Oh, I hardly think so.  That seems awfully short to me.

 

GERMAINE

Me too.  Why do you ask, Jessie?

 

JESSIE

Well, I just heard my dear son-in-law say that this Maisie woman walked out on him thirty-five years ago in the month of August.  Isn’t that what he said?

 

MAUD

Yes, I believe so.

 

JESSIE

And this fellow Smokey said he married her at the beginning of October.  Right?

 

GERMAINE

Is that what he said?

 

MAUD

Yes, he said exactly that.  I distinctly remember…   Oh…!   [her hand goes to her mouth]

 

GERMAINE

What?

 

JESSIE

Well, if my arithmetic isn’t completely batty…all of August and September is only eight weeks at most.  Could John’s divorce from her POSSIBLY have been final when she married Smokey on the first of October?

 

            [Germaine’s hand goes to her mouth]

            [Jessie’s hand goes slowly to her mouth]

            [all three lean back in their chairs and stare at each other]

 

…to be continued…

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