The Drumming by Craig Stormont

Characters

WILL

MARY (his wife)

JOE (his brother)

SUPERINTENDENT OF THE BUILDING

NEIGHBOR

GWEN

THREE CHILDREN

Scene One

The setting is a living room in a New York City apartment. As the curtain rises, Will, a man in his late thirties, stands stage rear with his back to the audience. He stares out one of the windows that are located in the background. It’s late in the day; the sun is setting. The room is sparsely furnished with a sofa and coffee table to the right, facing left. A set of dumbbells rests on the floor nearby. Behind the sofa, a sink, stove, and refrigerator line the center of the right wall, with doors on each side. A television set sits in the far left corner of the stage. The entrance to the apartment is located on the left wall. It is distinguished by a number of locks. Will appears unkempt, as if he’s just woken up. He leaves the window, and as he moves about the room, he gives the impression that he doesn’t know what to do with himself. The muffled sound of someone playing bongo drums or a conga in another apartment is heard. Will stares at the floor and screams, “Fuck you,” repeatedly. He picks up one of the weights and drops it on the floor, several times, until he hears someone banging on the door.

WILL: (rests the dumbbell on the floor, walks nervously to the door) Who is it?

JOE: It’s me. (annoyed) Let me in.

(Will unbolts the locks and lets Joe in. Joe is older than Will, and he looks like

the typical blue-collar worker.)

JOE: Do you really need all those locks? What’s the matter with you? (after a pause) What’s all the racket?

WILL: You know what’s been going on with that creep downstairs. It’s not safe here anymore. Listen. You hear that? All day and all night. Goddamn drums.

JOE: Maybe if you got a job and weren’t sitting around here all day it wouldn’t bother you so much. When’s the last time you saw daylight? (pause) Mary’s right. You look sick.

WILL: I’m not sick. I just got up a little while ago. Was readin’ all night.

JOE: (sarcastically) That’ll get you far. Mary called me. She’s worried about you. When are you gonna find a job?

WILL: I don’t think I’ll ever find a job because I’m not lookin’ for one. (pause) I was reading Thoreau last night, and you know what he says about the whole job thing? He says that most people lead lives of quiet desperation, and it’s because of their jobs. All wishing they were doin’ something else with their time. Not me. After that last fiasco, I’m done with that crap.

JOE: (as he sits on the couch) Whoever this Thoorough is, he’s an idiot, and you are too. I like my job. If you weren’t stupid enough to get caught stealing, you’d still be workin’.

WILL: Ahhh. It’s water under the bridge now. I shoulda stayed in school. Then I never woulda been in that position. Twelve bucks an hour. What the hell is that.

JOE: It was better than nuthin’. You’ve been sittin’ around here for six months now. If they’da pursued it, you never would’ve gotten unemployment. You were damn lucky that I’m friends with Bob’s son.

WILL: Fuck him.

(The sound of drums is heard again.)

WILL: You hear that? This fuck! (Will resumes his routine of dropping the dumbbells on the floor).

JOE: (yells) STOP! What the hell is wrong with you?

WILL: (placing the dumbbells on the floor) I’m teaching that asshole downstairs a lesson, and I don’t need any input from you. They’re trying to evict him, you know.

JOE: I think you’re losing your mind. Did you ever ask him nicely to stop playing them?

WILL: I tried that when it started. He smiled and said some crap about his rights. It seems like he’s been banging on them more ever since. (pause) He’ll be outta here soon, so it really doesn’t make any difference.

JOE: Be careful he doesn’t kick your ass on his way out.

WILL: (changing the subject, after thinking about what Joe has said) You wanna beer?

JOE: (thinks about it) Yeah, why not.

WILL: (walks over to the refrigerator and gets one for each of them) Here.

JOE: You know, Mary asked me to talk to you. She’s worried about what you’re gonna do when the unemployment runs out. You can’t expect her to support you. What are you gonna do?

WILL: I’m gonna do what I’ve been doin’. I’m gonna keep educating myself.

JOE: Who’s gonna pay the rent?

WILL: I’m not worried about that. Rent is bullshit. The entire concept of money is what they call an artificial construct, and I’m not gonna be ruled by it. It’s how the rich fucks stay rich and maintain control over guys like you.

JOE: (angered) No one’s controlling me, but it seems like the asshole downstairs is doin’ a pretty good job with you.

WILL: I’m just teaching him a lesson in consideration for his fellow man.

JOE: That’s bullshit. Look how you’ve messed up the floor by dropping those weights. He owns you.

WILL: Your boss owns you.

JOE: (irritated) Like hell! When I walk out that door, I’m headin’ home to a nice big house where I don’t have to deal with idiots playing the drums underneath me. (pause) And I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for my job. I got a nice family, and I get respect at work. I’m in charge of six guys now. You’re problem is that you never found something you liked…you never stuck with anything. I’m glad Mom and Pop ain’t here to see it.

(The sound of drumming begins again.)

WILL: (rises, lifts one of the dumbbells, then drops it to the floor) Oh yes I have.

JOE: And what’s that?

WILL: My new philosophy.

JOE: And what is your new philosophy?

WILL: Well, it’s not really mine. It’s just a way of thinking that I’ve adopted.

JOE:   And what is that?

WILL: It’s existential. As far as I’m concerned, people are hell, and the less I have to do with them, the better. Every bad thing that ever happened to me was caused by some asshole, so I’m just gonna have as little to do with people as possible. At this point, getting a job would be like diving into hell, so I’m not doing it.

JOE: That’s great, but it seems to me like you’ve made this apartment your own little hell. (pauses) How does Mary fit into your philosophy?

WILL: She’s an exception.

JOE: And why is that? Because she’ll be paying the bills?

(Will appears anguished as a knock on the door saves him from answering.)

WILL: (nervously, at the door) Who is it?

VOICE: It’s the Super.

(After his ritual with the elaborate set of locks, Will invites the Super inside. The

Super is a short Asian man in his late fifties, and he speaks with a foreign accent. He acts beholden to Will.)

WILL: Any developments?

SUPER: Yes Mr. Will. They went to court yesterday, and judge give him thirty days to move out. If he not gone then, Marshalls put his stuff in street. He owe lot of rent, so judge no listen to him. He say lot of loud banging, like bowling, come from up here, but judge no care. (Joe laughs out loud).

WILL: (victoriously) That’s great!

SUPER: Landlord say the guy very mad with you. You stay away from him. Yes?

WILL: Sure…sure. Good work. Thank you so much.

SUPER: Glad to help Mr. Will, but you don’t bother the guy. Right?

WILL: (opening the door, as a message that the visit is over) Of course not, and thanks for keeping me informed.

SUPER: Remember Mr. Will, garbage night is Thursday. I help you, you help me.

(The Super exits. Will bolts the door.)

JOE: You better watch your ass. (pointing to the floor) That guy’s gonna have it in for you.

WILL:   I’m not worried. It’s time to celebrate. Want another beer?

JOE:   No. I gotta catch my train. (after a pause) Look, I can get you a job with my company if you’re willing to go down there for an interview. All you’d have to do is join the union; I might even be able to get you on my crew. Whaddya say?

WILL:   I don’t think that’d work out.   Besides, once the creep downstairs is gone, I’ll be able to concentrate.

JOE:   (angered) You better start concentrating on how you’re gonna support yourself.

(The sound of someone unlocking the elaborate system of door locks is heard.

Both Will and Joe stare at the door. They become alarmed when a crashing sound is heard from outside the door. The door opens and Mary enters. She’s carrying several bags of groceries, one of which she’s dropped outside the door. She’s a woman who was once fairly attractive, but now older than her years. She looks exhausted.

JOE: (rushes to the door, as Will disappears into the bathroom) Here, give me those bags.

MARY: (tiredly) Hi Joe. The applesauce broke.

JOE: (locates the garbage can, and begins to clean up the mess) Sit down. I’ll take care of it.

MARY: (sinks into the couch, and slowly kicks off her shoes) Thanks for coming.

JOE: I offered him a job with me. Maybe you can talk him into taking it. I couldn’t.

MARY: Oh, that’s great!

JOE: You deserve better than this. I think he’s lost his mind.

MARY: He’ll be better when he starts working again. I’m grateful, Joe.

(Will emerges from the bathroom)

WILL:   What’s for supper?

MARY:   I bought some pork chops.

WILL: I hope you remembered that we’re out of applesauce. I can’t eat pork chops without it.

JOE: (relishing the opportunity) You’re gonna have to tonight, cause’ your applesauce is in the garbage. I gotta get goin’. You better make up your mind about the job. I don’t know how long I can save a spot for you. And you better be cool with that guy downstairs.

WILL: (to Mary) Did Joe tell you? He’s gonna be gone in thirty days.

MARY: (faking interest) That’s nice.

JOE: (heading out the door, scolds Will) Get your act together. I’ll see you, Mary.

MARY:   Bye Joe.

(Will, embarrassed by Joe’s comment, moves toward the window and stares out.

As Mary relaxes on the couch with her eyes closed, they do not speak. Will glances at Mary as she rests, and he appears anxious. He wants to say something, but can’t. The drumming from downstairs resumes, and Will moves toward the dumbbells on the floor. He lifts one, then throws it violently at the floor. Mary is startled by the sound.

MARY:   (in a pleading, almost helpless tone) Please, don’t do that anymore tonight.

Scene Two

(The same room, but night has fallen. Mary sits on the couch while Will finishes

            cleaning up after their meal. Drumming is heard from below.)

MARY:   Thanks for cleaning up. I was just too beat to do it.

WILL:   I know. Those bastards work you like a dog down there.

MARY: (hoping to change the subject) Joe said he offered you a job. Are you going to take it?

WILL:   (annoyed by the question, fakes civility) Well, I wanted to discuss it with you.

MARY:   Then let’s discuss it.

WILL:   (sits next to her on the couch, pauses) I don’t wanna ruin your day, but I don’t think I’m gonna take it.

MARY:  Why not?

WILL:   It’s not what I really wanna do.

MARY:   What do you want to do?

WILL:   I want to write a book.

MARY: (curiously) About what?

WILL:   I’m not sure yet, but it makes a lot more sense to me than digging holes with Joe. (pause) I’m tossing around an idea about a guy who kills his neighbor.

MARY: But you’ve been out of work for six months already. If you really plan on writing something, why haven’t you started it?

WILL:   (raising his voice) Because I can’t concentrate with this fucking drumming at all Goddamn hours!

MARY: I thought you said they were getting rid of the guy down there.

WILL: Yeah, the Super was up here today, and he said he’s evicted. They gave him thirty days to move, or the Marshalls’ll drag his crap out into the street.

MARY: Well that must’ve made your day.

WILL: And how!

MARY: (after a pause) I don’t know. He used to be very friendly when I ran into him near the mailboxes, until you started this feud.   Always smiling, asking how things were going. He’s very soft-spoken.

WILL:   He was probably trying to get in your pants.

MARY: Maybe, but it seemed like he just enjoyed the chance to talk to someone. I think he’s a lonely guy.

WILL: I guess being an unemployed drumming guy doesn’t lead to an active social life. God…talk about a loser.

MARY: Like you should talk.

WILL: (changing the subject) Well anyway, once him and his drum are gone, I’ll be able to get down to business with my book. There won’t be anymore distractions. If it turns out that I don’t have it in me, I’ll dig holes with Joe til I’m ready to spend eternity in one.

MARY: (with authority) I’m giving you thirty days. Thirty days after the guy downstairs is gone, we’ll see how your book is doing. If it’s going nowhere, you’ll have to get a job. My salary isn’t enough, and I don’t want the Marshalls dragging our stuff into the street.

WILL: That’s fair.

MARY: (after a long pause) Why can’t you be like this all the time?

WILL: (appears uncomfortable) What are you talking about?

MARY: Just the way you’re acting tonight.

WILL: And how is that?

MARY: Like a civilized human being.

WILL: Well, if a civilized human being is someone who adapts to a sick world, don’t expect it to last.

MARY: It’s not a sick world.

WILL: (countering) It’s a nut house without a roof! Read the newspaper!

MARY: (after a pause, dreams out loud) Someday we’ll have a nice house, with nice neighbors, in a nice neighborhood.

WILL: (annoyed) I wouldn’t hold my breath.

MARY: (arguing) If you took the job with Joe, we’d be able to afford a house in a few years.

WILL: I told you what I wanna do. I’d rather be in my grave than digging holes with Joe.

MARY: If you write a good book…(Will cuts her off before she has a chance to finish)

WILL: (shouting) Where’s the TV Guide?

MARY: (lifts a newspaper from her side and hands it to him) Here.

(Neither speaks. Will uses a remote control to turn on the television set. The

            volume is high, and the program they’re watching is distinguished by loud,

            dubbed laughter. They stoically watch the program like robots, with their eyes

            glued to the set. No emotion can be observed.

Scene Three

(Early the next morning in the same room. The sun is rising. Mary moves around getting prepared for her job. She puts on earrings. Drumming can be heard from downstairs, but it’s louder than before. Will emerges from the bedroom and stares at the floor in disgust. He picks up one of the dumbbell and drops it.)

MARY: (pleading) Please, not now. I have a long day ahead of me, and I’m running late.

(Will walks toward the window, opens it, and sticks his head out)

WILL: (shouting downward, sarcastically) Twenty-nine days and counting. Twenty-nine days. Bye-bye!

MARY: (angrily) I’m glad I’m leaving. You’re sick.

WILL:   I’m going back to bed. Make sure you lock the door.

(Will leaves the room as Mary puts on makeup. As she hurries to finish a cup of coffee near the sink, she hears someone knocking at the door.)

MARY: (near the door) Who is it?

NEIGHBOR: (in a pleasant tone) Hi, it’s your neighbor. Can I speak with you for a minute?

MARY: (glances at her watch, and without thinking, unlocks and opens the door) You? What do you want?

(The Neighbor is chubby-faced and clean-cut. He’s dressed conservatively in a

            white buttoned-down shirt. He has a sinister smirk on his face that isn’t

            appropriate for the situation.)

NEIGHBOR: (forcing his way into the apartment) Where’s your husband? (pulling a pistol out of his pants pocket) He’s got something to say to me?

MARY:   (frantic) Will!

(Will is dumbfounded when he emerges from the bedroom. The Neighbor raises

            his weapon toward Will, but Mary grabs hold of his wrist. As she struggles with

            him, a round is fired. She crumples to the floor, shot in the chest. Will stares in

disbelief, then runs into the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. The Neighbor appears horrified by what he’s done. He’s visibly shaken as he stares down at Mary. Noises from within the room suggest that Will is setting up a barricade behind the door.)

NEIGHBOR: (sitting down on the couch, pistol in hand, shouting to Will) Why did you make me do this? This isn’t what I planned. (after a pause, tauntingly) Have a nice life.

(The Neighbor points the pistol at his chest and fires. The apartment is quiet. Commotion from within the bedroom suggests that Will is clearing the barricade. The door opens, slightly, and he peers out. As he enters the room, his eyes are focused on the Neighbor. He takes the pistol out of the Neighbor’s hand and tosses it on the floor. He then moves toward Mary, and sits near her on the floor. He cradles her head in his lap, and sobs.

WILL: (to Mary, after a minute) You’re free. (again, after a pause) You’re free.

(Will gently rests Mary’s head on the floor. He rises and slowly moves toward the

            window. As he looks out, he shakes his head back and forth, signifying NO. The

            curtain falls.

 Scene Four

(A different room – far more affluent, but messy. Will looks forlorn as he rests in a reclining leather chair in the center of the room, facing the audience. A loveseat rests against the wall stage right. A door and empty bookcases are located stage left. Will’s overall appearance is no different than before. Two windows at the rear of the stage reveal a country setting. The sound of nature is heard, until it is interrupted by a crying child. A female adult shouts in response. Will rises anxiously, walks to the door and opens it, showing a sudden surge of enthusiasm.)

WILL: (happily) Hey!

(Joe enters with his wife Gwen and their three young boys, aged six, seven, and nine. They all shout in response to Will’s welcome. The situation is a happy

            reunion. The boys run around in a boisterous manner as Gwen kisses Will on the

            cheek. Joe wears a funny fishing hat, and he’s carrying several fishing poles.

JOE: Alright, we’re here. Show me the fish!

GWEN: (to Joe) Leave those things on the porch.

JOE: (to the boys, who follow each other like a herd of animals or a school of fish) Quiet down and say hello to your Uncle Will.

(Will exchanges greetings with the boys, but he seems overwhelmed by all of the sudden commotion.)

JOE: This is a helluva setup you’ve got here. (shifting his attention) Boys…go play outside.

(The boys run outside.)

WILL: Here, sit down.

(Will moves some junk off of the loveseat. All sit.)

GWEN: So how are you doing Will?

WILL: Ahhhh. I’m alright, I guess. It’s too quiet out here sometimes.

JOE: Aw c’mon. You got it made out here.

WILL: Money isn’t everything, Joe.

GWEN: Has the case been settled?

WILL: Yeah…Three weeks ago. (pause) That fuckin’ landlord. I should shoot HIM.

JOE: Now…you can’t be like that. Ya gotta move on.

WILL: I’m lucky Mary had all that insurance. I didn’t even know about it.

JOE: She was a great gal.

GWEN: How’s your book coming along?

WILL: I gave up on it. (pause) My inspiration’s gone.

JOE: (changing the subject) So when are we gonna get those fish?

(The boys return, still in a rambunctious mood, running as a group.)

WILL: (feigning interest) Well, I heard they just restocked the pond, but I don’t even have a fishin’ rod.

JOE: Ya hear that boys! A stocked pond! Get your poles. (the boys run out, Gwen follows, shouting at them to settle down.) We got one for ya, don’t worry.

WILL: It’s kinda sad that they have to stock the pond. Somethin’ phony about it…don’t ya think?

JOE: So the deck’s stacked against the fish…who cares. Alls I know is we’ll be eatin’ good tonight!

(Joe heads out. Will hesitates, then follows. Nothing is heard but the sounds of nature.)

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