Play Three of the Adventures of Fiona MacQuillin
Atlanta, 1864. A young woman finds herself trapped in a house where two men love her and then a third man shows up. 4 men, 3 women, simple sets.
(Rosenbloom parlor; morning; a well-dressed but uncomfortable FIONA is seated; UNCLE MAX is showing her dresses from a pile of dresses on the couch; NATHAN is in a wheelchair, leg still bandaged; behind him stands SELMA, the maid/slave of the house)
UNCLE MAX: (with dress) Do you like this one? Or…(second dress)…maybe this one.
FIONA: They’re both…nice.
UNCLE MAX: I have decided I can give you one of these dresses, Fiona. Or…maybe two. Depending.
FIONA: I’m fine in the dress I have now. Thank you.
UNCLE MAX: Now when I saw this one I just knew it would fit you. And I knew I wanted to see you in it. Why don’t you go upstairs and change into this one? Let me see how this looks on you.
FIONA: I don’t feel like changing my clothes right now.
UNCLE MAX: Oh, but my dear…
FIONA: The dress I am wearing is fine.
UNCLE MAX: But don’t you want another?
FIONA: I don’t need another dress, Mister Max.
UNCLE MAX: Oh, never in my life have I heard a woman say she doesn’t need another dress.
SELMA: The woman say she don’t need another dress.
NATHAN: I heard her, too.
UNCLE MAX: No kibitzing from over there. And what are you two doing in this room?
FIONA: I asked them to be in here.
UNCLE MAX: Why?
NATHAN: She knew you were coming home from the store with more dresses.
UNCLE MAX: (pauses, overcomes his embarrassment) If you must be in the room then you both can just mind your own business. (with scarf) Now…this is a very fine scarf. Here, feel this material.
FIONA: I’m warm enough already, sir. In this dress and with this collar.
NATHAN: And with all this attention.
UNCLE MAX: This scarf has an Irish lace pattern. Women in this town would stab each other with knitting needles to have such a scarf.
FIONA: Nine out of ten women in this town are dressed in black, sir. I can see them out the windows.
UNCLE MAX: Now you shouldn’t be looking out any windows, Fiona. You’ve got to keep the curtains closed.
FIONA: I can’t stare at the walls all day.
UNCLE MAX: Nathan has given you books.
FIONA: And I thank you, Nathan. I do. I thank you very much for those.
NATHAN: You’re welcome.
UNCLE MAX: And I have given you…
FIONA: I know everything that you have given me.
SELMA: And I know what he wants in return.
UNCLE MAX: Selma, shut up!
SELMA: Maybe I shuts up and maybe I won’t.
UNCLE MAX: Leave the room.
SELMA: I can’t be sold again. Not since them blue soldiers is here. Ain’t gonna be no more selling of black people round here. Now ain’t that so?
UNCLE MAX: I did not buy you, Selma.
SELMA: No, you traded for me. You sent Mister Beasley a bunch of things from your store. Including dresses that looked just like those.
NATHAN: I remember that.
SELMA: And the girl is right. Every woman in this town is wearing black. She goes out in one of those ball room dresses you got there the whole town is gonna stop and look.
UNCLE MAX: No one asked for your opinion.
SELMA: No one ever does.
UNCLE MAX: Get her out of here, Nathan.
NATHAN: I’m not the help.
UNCLE MAX: Both of you are forgetting your place.
SELMA: Ain’t a day of my life anyone has ever let me forget my place.
UNCLE MAX: (to Nathan) She’s like this because of you. There is not a colored woman in this town, in this whole state, in the entire Confederacy I would wager, who can get away with saying the things she says in this house. And I blame you.
NATHAN: She does have a streak of unremitting belligerence, which is often followed by an impenetrable sullenness.
SELMA: I love it when ya-all use them big words.
UNCLE MAX: Oh my God…
SELMA: I’m the most educated black woman in this town because I’m living in this house.
UNCLE MAX: Take these dresses upstairs to Miss Fiona’s room.
FIONA: Oh, Mister Max…
SELMA: Ain’t no more room in that bedroom.
FIONA: I’m smothered in that room.
MISTER MAX: So put them in the other bedroom.
FIONA: No please, just take them back to your store. I don’t want them.
MISTER MAX: But I want you to have them, my dear.
FIONA: Oh, Mister Max, please. Stop. (rises) Just…stop.
UNCLE MAX: Fiona…what’s wrong?
(FIONA crosses into library, closes door, sighs, exits L; pause)
NATHAN: I believe the lady wants to be left alone.
UNCLE MAX: Selma, take those dresses upstairs.
SELMA: (gathering dresses) Some folks got more than they need, some folks got nothing, and some folks don’t like what they’re being offered.
MISTER MAX: And no muttering today.
SELMA: Mutter, mutter, mutter.
UNCLE MAX: There isn’t another house in Atlanta where you could get away with talking to me like that!
SELMA: That don’t mean I like here. That don’t mean I like it here one bit.
UNCLE MAX: Take all the dresses.
SELMA: If you don’t want them wrinkled I gots to make at least two trips. (exits upstairs with dresses)
UNCLE MAX: It’s your fault she’s like this. (begins to pace, stops now and then to stare at library door)
NATHAN: Like what?
UNCLE MAX: Oh, don’t give me that. You know exactly what.
NATHAN: Talking back to “massa”?
UNCLE MAX: I have never liked the word “master.”
NATHAN: It does have an ugly tone. Would you prefer “boss?”
UNCLE MAX: I would prefer to be obeyed when I give an order.
NATHAN: Have you tried ordering Fiona to just visit your bedroom?
UNCLE MAX: I’m not that kind of man.
NATHAN: Not yet.
UNCLE MAX: She’ll come to her senses.
NATHAN: You have given her half the store and she still hasn’t come to her senses.
UNCLE MAX: Oh, I can’t sell those. Had them from before the war.
NATHAN: She’s right. Women only buy black these days.
UNCLE MAX: If they buy anything at all. Which they don’t. How could they?
NATHAN: And everyone wants credit.
UNCLE MAX: If everyone paid their bills I’d be the richest man in town.
NATHAN: Is the store closed today? You’re home.
UNCLE MAX: Cousin Leo is behind the counter. Did you want to go down and help him?
NATHAN: With this leg?
UNCLE MAX: Ah yes. Your perfect excuse for doing no work.
NATHAN: It keeps me from going upstairs.
UNCLE MAX: That’s your problem. A shame our guest cannot receive you in her quarters.
NATHAN: Does she receive you? In her bedroom?
UNCLE MAX: If she did……would half the store be here in the house?
NATHAN: (laughs) You’re embarrassing yourself. Do you know you’re embarrassing yourself?
UNCLE MAX: Yes, yes, yes I know. I’m a fool. And I can’t help myself and I don’t care.
NATHAN: Well that is at least…refreshingly honest. And deeply disturbing.
UNCLE MAX: You had your chance with this woman. And you abandoned her.
NATHAN: No, I saved her. I saved her twice.
UNCLE MAX: You saved her at least once, yes. She even said those words to me herself.
NATHAN: She did? When?
UNCLE MAX: She and I have had certain conversations. And she is well aware that I am the one saving her now, hiding her in this house.
NATHAN: How long are you going to hide her? Until you get what you want?
UNCLE MAX: Don’t be crude. I’m still young enough to start a new family. Fifty years old and fit as a fiddle.
NATHAN: You’re going to propose? I had no idea you had become this…what would be the word? Affected? Deranged?
UNCLE MAX: Why? Why is that so hard to believe? Her and me.
NATHAN: Well for one…age.
UNCLE MAX: Stability and prosperity are great attractions, my boy. They are two things you will probably never know.
NATHAN: Our community will frown.
UNCLE MAX: Oh, tell me something I don’t know “Mister Smart as Hell.”
NATHAN: Would you keep a kosher home?
UNCLE MAX: Well…if I got her to convert.
NATHAN: Oy vei.
UNCLE MAX: I have never been more on fire with love for a woman. Never.
NATHAN: At your age?
UNCLE MAX: At any age. A man my age knows life becomes more precious. He knows the things he’s missed. Why should I be denied a little joy in the middle of all this…pain! Agony! Chaos! The whole world falling apart.
NATHAN: And you chose now to fall in love?
UNCLE MAX: You don’t stop living in the middle of a war. Quite the opposite. The days become more precious. The hours. The minutes. Everything intensifies.
NATHAN: (pauses; quietly) I know what it is like to be in love with Fiona MacQuillin.
UNCLE MAX: Yes, Boy Chick. And you blew your chance.
UNCLE MAX: No maybe about it. Most certainly you did. Without a doubt.
NATHAN: Has she said something to you?
UNCLE MAX: Well…
NATHAN: In one of your private conversations? Upstairs or anywhere else?
UNCLE MAX: A gentleman would not say what a lady has told him in confidence.
NATHAN: What did she say?
UNCLE MAX: What am I? Your go between? A gossip? Some messenger?
NATHAN: Has she said anything about me?
UNCLE MAX: Actually, when I think about it…I don’t think she’s said a single word about you.
UNCLE MAX: Has never mentioned your name even once. Go figure.
NATHAN: Oh God, listen to us. Two school boys.
UNCLE MAX: Yes. Ridiculous, I know. (sits) But what is a beautiful woman for anyway? To make you dream of something you never had? Perfect happiness? Ha. (pauses) Still…
NATHAN: We are all drawn on by the unattainable. And disappointed when it is beyond our reach.
UNCLE MAX: Some even have it for a while. Then let it slip through their fingers.
NATHAN: We are both fools. But you are the older fool.
UNCLE MAX: No doubt. I don’t even want to leave the house anymore. It means being away from her. And putting up with what the world has turned into. Out there. Misery and grief. In here. Barely enough to feed ourselves.
NATHAN: Much less our guest.
UNCLE MAX: And for that she should be grateful. When I first saw her she was in rags. Out on the street in rags. I gave her dresses. And jewelry.
NATHAN: You gave her colored glass.
UNCLE MAX: That one piece is not glass. That one piece is three carats.
NATHAN: Maybe I should tell her about the other two.
UNCLE MAX: No, no, no, please don’t do that.
NATHAN: (laughing) Oh, Uncle Max. I’ve never seen you like this.
UNCLE MAX: Am I a bad man? Because my appetite is worn on my sleeve? You want her, too. I know you still do. (pauses) Have you been sneaking into her bedroom in the middle of the night?
NATHAN: In this wheelchair? Up the stairs?
UNCLE MAX: Oh my God. I can hardly think straight these days.
NATHAN: I’m in the servants’ quarters. In the room next to Selma.
UNCLE MAX: Where you belong. With your equals. Because neither of you wants to work.
NATHAN: Maybe neither of us likes the wages.
UNCLE MAX: I pay you a salary. At least I did. Do you know what it cost me to get you that wheelchair?
NATHAN: I know exactly. It was a lot. Thank you.
UNCLE MAX: There’s probably not six of them in the whole town. And right now they could use about a thousand of them.
NATHAN: So you’re telling me I’m lucky?
UNCLE MAX: I’m telling you…you best be careful when it comes to this girl. (loud knock on front door; pause) Selma. Selma! (no response) Were you expecting anyone?
NATHAN: Me? No.
UNCLE MAX: If we just sit here we can pretend that no one’s home.
NATHAN: You just called out for Selma.
UNCLE MAX: Do’h! (pauses; fierce whisper) Selma! Selma!!
(second loud knock on front door; pause)
NATHAN: What if it’s someone from the Union Army?
UNCLE MAX: Why do you say that?
NATHAN: You know the rumors.
UNCLE MAX: Of course I do. Do you think they’ve come to tell us something?
NATHAN: I don’t know. Maybe we should answer the door.
(a third knock at front door)
UNCLE MAX: Where’s Selma? Why do I have a maid if she won’t even answer the door? Selma! (another knock at front door) Ohhh…. (rises, crosses, opens front door)
MISS SALLY: Hello, Mister Max.
UNCLE MAX: (taken aback, pauses; regains himself) What can I do for you, Miss Sally?
MISS SALLY: You can invite me in. We have business to talk over.
UNCLE MAX: What business would you and I have?
MISS SALLY: Invite me in and I’ll tell you all about it.
UNCLE MAX: Why don’t you come by the store tomorrow?
MISS SALLY: I was by your store yesterday and today. Never known you not to be in your store, Mister Max. And with all these new customers in town?
UNCLE MAX: Another time would be best.
MISS SALLY: (pushes her way in) I think you want to see me now, sir. (looks around) Oh my, very nice. I don’t think I’ve ever been on this particular block. (to Nathan) Hello there. And your name is ah…
MISS SALLY: That’s right. How is your leg?
NATHAN: Still attached.
UNCLE MAX: They might still cut his leg off.
MISS SALLY: I’m sorry to hear that. If I remember correctly you’ve been down to my place…or what used to my place…only two times. The first time was some months ago.