Play Two of The Adventures of Fiona MacQuillin
1864. A young woman strikes a bargain to be a card dealer in a bordello. As long as she wins at cards she does not have to do the other kind of work in the house. 4 women, 3 men, simple sets.
(morning; street, Atlanta; lights rise on exhausted FIONA; a well-dressed middle aged woman, MISS SALLY enters, stops, regards her)
MISS SALLY; You tired, honey?
FIONA; Between you and me…I am down to my last bone.
MISS SALLY: Looks like you could use a bath and a good meal.
FIONA: You got one?
MISS SALLY: You want a job?
FIONA: Doing what?
MISS SALLY: Being nice to men.
FIONA: I got a record of being not so nice to men.
MISS SALLY: That’d be a something my house don’t handle.
MISS SALLY: You got to go all the way to New Orleans to get into that whipping business. That’s a specialty item my house don’t provide.
MISS SALLY: Honey, at my house we’re just old fashioned kind of girls. We’re nice to men. Real nice. Nice as a woman can be.
FIONA: So I have to sleep with them?
MISS SALLY: Tell you the truth there ain’t much sleep involved. But there is money.
FIONA: How much?
MISS SALLY: As much money as a woman like you could ever make in this town.
FIONA: How much?
MISS SALLY: Depends on how much you wanna work. Woman really wants to set her mind to it she could make a dollar a night. Maybe even two dollars a night.
FIONA: How many men would I have to be…”nice to”…to make that kind of money?
MISS SALLY: At my house it’s a dollar a throw. And you get ten percent.
FIONA: A dime?
MISS SALLY: Now how about that. You are the first girl I ever met actually knew what ten percent of a dollar was. Here I thought you was green as grass, come down out of them hills. You did come down from out of them hills, didn’t ya honey?
FIONA: I did. Got an education on that road, too.
MISS SALLY: How far you walk to get to Atlanta?
FIONA: Hundred miles if you walk straight line. But I ain’t walked no straight line getting here.
MISS SALLY: None of us do, honey. Now me, I’m in the only business they let a woman be in. Called the oldest business for a reason. Not a bad business. Look at it this way: you got it, you sell it, but you still got it.
FIONA: Maybe. But you got all those strangers who come and go.
MISS SALLY: (laughs) Why don’t you stand up turn around for me?
MISS SALLY: I need to take a better look at you.
FIONA: I ain’t some cow at a fair.
MISS SALLY: Okay. I got no doubt we can work with what you got. I reckon after a nice hot bath and some new clothes, a girl like you could clear seven dollars a week easy.
FIONA: Would that be gold or Confederate folding money?
MISS SALLY: Ain’t much gold left in this town. But what little there is does tend to visit my house.
FIONA: You pay your girls in gold?
MISS SALLY: I pay my girls three things. Room, board, and good Confederate folding money.
FIONA: If I ever went into your line of work…I would only take gold.
MISS SALLY: My, my, and listen to you. I bet you ain’t got one friend in this whole town, Missy. Else you wouldn’t be sitting our here like you’re doing. Now ain’t that so?
FIONA: Just about.
MISS SALLY: You already look like a woman in my line of work. Except I’m dressed a lot better than you. Would you like a dress like this?
MISS SALLY: I got a whole room full of dresses. That’s part of the deal, too. Forgot to mention that.
FIONA: (pauses) And shoes?
MISS SALLY: Sure. Right after you take a good long hot bath. Wouldn’t you like to be clean again?
FIONA: (pauses) Yes.
MISS SALLY: Way you’re dressed now you be lucky to get a penny a throw. Be lucky they don’t throw you in jail. Think you’re gonna get paid in gold out here? I bet you never even seen gold.
FIONA: Yes, I have.
MISS SALLY: Well, that may be. But right about now a good stiff breeze blow you half way across town. But if you come with me…by tonight you’ll have a bath, a meal, a dress, a place to sleep, and you won’t get yourself arrested being a common woman of the town.
FIONA: I’m don’t want to be in your line of work.
MISS SALLY: Oh, ain’t so bad. Some girls even learn to like it.
FIONA: That ain’t gonna be me. A whore ain’t gonna be my identity.
MISS SALLY: What the hell does that word even mean? Identity. You oughta listen to your stomach, girl. I bet you’re hungry.
FIONA: Ain’t that hungry.
MISS SALLY: Ever slept with a man? Is that it? Never done it? Saving yourself? For marriage? Like a good girl? You a virgin?
FIONA: Why should I tell you?
MISS SALLY: We do a special thing when a virgin comes to my place. Or any new girl. Any new girl is a virgin. Men set such stock in that. I have made a damn good living from the foolishness of men for the last ten years. And there ain’t nothing makes a man more foolish than to think he’s going to bed with a virgin. So we do a special thing when we get a new girl at my house. We hold an auction.
FIONA: An auction?
MISS SALLY: Never heard of one?
FIONA: I seen a slave sold at auction once.
MISS SALLY: So there you go.
FIONA: And now it’s my turn?
MISS SALLY: It’s kind of an honor.
FIONA: No thank you. I have seen an auction.
(a well-dressed middle aged Jewish man, UNCLE MAX ROSENBLOOM, enters, crosses, touches his hat but does not take it off)
UNCLE MAX: Ladies.
MISS SALLY: Mister Max. How are you this morning?
(in distance cannon fire; he stops; all cock an ear to the sound; pause)
UNCLE MAX: Well…I guess I have seen better mornings.
MISS SALLY: Haven’t we all. First time I heard that, gave me the willies. Few weeks later, almost sounds like a rooster.
UNCLE MAX: (closer look at Fiona, now takes off hat) Is this a new girl of yours?
MISS SALLY: We don’t know that yet.
(a second distant roll of cannon)
UNCLE MAX: Have to hurry. Good morning to you both. (exits)
MISS SALLY: Regular of mine. One of the richest men in town. What you need right now is a good safe place to wait out this hell. Why don’t you come work for me, girlie?
FIONA: How much of that auction money would be mine?
MISS SALLY: Well, let’s do a little figuring. After I deduct a meal, a bath, a good dress, maybe a splash of perfume…
FIONA: And some sleep. I need some sleep before I do anything else.
MISS SALLY: And the cost of a bed, well, add all that up and…remember…we don’t know what you’d bring at auction.
MISS SALLY: Okay, that’s true. (winks) You’ll bring plenty.
FIONA: Goddam right.
MISS SALLY: Don’t be cussing. There ain’t no cussing in my house. I don’t run that kind of place.
FIONA: How much of that blood money would be mine? And it’s my blood.
MISS SALLY: That all depends on who shows up. Most men are out there fighting Yankees. But there’s still a few prospects around. And tonight is Saturday night. Always my best night. I’ll send the word out. Got a new one at Miss Sally’s. Right nice, too.
FIONA: I want twenty percent of that auction money.
MISS SALLY: Now just who do you think you are?
FIONA: I Am Not Stupid. That is who I am. How much would be my cut?
MISS SALLY: (considers) I’ll give you five dollars you let me auction you off at my place tonight.
FIONA: Gold or Confederate?
MISS SALLY: Rule Number One at my house. Miss Sally, that’s me, gets all the gold. I told you what I pay my working ladies.
FIONA: No thank you.
MISS SALLY: Okay. Suit yourself. But I got an eye for these kind of things, honey. Sooner or later I think you are cut out for my line of work. (turns to leave)
FIONA: Wait! You got a card table at your house?
MISS SALLY: Course I do.
FIONA: Then I could do more for your house than just lie down and spread my legs.
MISS SALLY: Oh yeah? What’s that?
FIONA: I can deal cards.
MISS SALLY: Now where in the hell did you learn to deal cards?
END OF SCENE
(bright sunshine; a country road in Georgia; birds sing; from cart FIONA takes a bucket, a rag, a book and a pair of boots; sits on stump; cleans her face; when finished cleaning her face she opens book; pause)
(NATHAN ROSENBLOOM enters, turns poles of the cart from US to DS, as if just arriving; he is a young, handsome, and brilliant Jewish man)
NATHAN: Yes! My God! (sets down poles of cart) It must be in the bloodlines.
FIONA: You sold something?
NATHAN: One dollar and twenty cents worth.
NATHAN: They had a certain kind of laundry on the line, and I said to myself, “Nathan, they will buy from you. They are good clean living people and they want better things.”
NATHAN: On the road three weeks and this is the first day I got off my tuchis and knocked on doors. Necessity is the mother of invention and convention. Today I am a salesman. And look. I traded that mold to make bullets for a little side of…(pulls it from cart)…bacon.
FIONA: Oh, Nathan!
NATHAN: There’s a verse in the Talmud about a Jew eating bacon. And one of these days…I will find that verse.
FIONA: Let’s eat now. I’m so hungry.
NATHAN: Oh my dear. For the first time ever I’m on fire with drive and ambition, to sell. There’s still time for one more house. Maybe even two. And the next half mile of road looks to be downhill.
FIONA: Oh, Nathan…(kisses his cheek)…can’t we eat early tonight?
NATHAN: Well…come to think of it…early is not a bad idea.
FIONA: Thank you.
(take skillet and plates from cart to “make dinner” [no real food, all mimed]
FIONA: How far are we from Atlanta?
NATHAN: Twelve miles is my best guess.
FIONA: Can’t we go straight there?
NATHAN: Let’s take it in stages, my dear. A mile or two a day.
FIONA: I almost think you don’t want to get back.
NATHAN: Only because I’m having too much fun here.
FIONA: Do you have more books in Atlanta? Because I finished everything you brought along.
FIONA: (shows book) I started this one a second time.
NATHAN: You are some sort of genius.
 Pronounced “took-us”