Home > Uncategorized > Light and Heat: A Play

Light and Heat: A Play


Act One

A dark apartment. Feeble light bleeds through the door from the apartment building hallway. Nate enters first, Claudia close at his back. He flips the nearest light switch. Darkness prevails.

Nate: Fuck!

Claudia: What?

Nate: The light.

Claudia: What light?

Nate fumbles along the wall, nearly tripping over the leg of a chair, to the next light switch. Claudia remains in the doorway. He flips the switch. 

Darkness prevails.

Nate: God-damnit to fucking hell.

Claudia: What?

Nate: Come help me.

Pause.

Nate: Come help me open the drapes.

He extends his hand to Claudia, guiding her into the room. They move carefully toward three street-side windows covered with heavy draperies. They pull open the drapes one by one, tying them aside with sashes. The room gradually lightens as they sash, illuminated by the moon and street lamps.

Nate: There. That’s better.

Claudia: It’s cold.

Nate: The heat. Light and heat go together.

Claudia: Heat and light. Did you pay the bill?

Nate: I think so.

Claudia: When?

Nate: I don’t remember.

Claudia: We’ll freeze.

Nate: It’s not all that cold, you know.

Nate’s voice is distant. From the kitchen. Clinking of glassware. He returns carrying a bottle and two glasses. Sets the glasses on a table. Uncorks the wine. Pours.

Nate: Here. This will help.

Nate hands Claudia a glass. Sits beside her on the sofa. Claudia sips.

Claudia: It’s sour.

Nate: It’s not more than a few days old. Drink it anyway.

They drink, emptying the bottle.

Nate: I’ll make some tea.

Running of water. Noise from the kitchen. Banging of teapot. Nate returns without tea.

Nate: Fuck.

Claudia: Heat and light.

Nate: Light and heat. Let’s go to bed.

Claudia: It’s too early. I’m not sleepy.

Nate: To get warm under the electric blanket.

Claudia: Heat and light. Light and heat.

Nate: Fuck.

Under the covers in the dark bedroom.

Claudia: My sleeping bag.

Nate: What?

Claudia takes a bulky sleeping bag out of the closet. Unzips its perimeter. Spreads it over the bed. Climbs back in.

Claudia: See? That’s better.

Their heads disappear under the cover. Shifting and squirming. A large hillock forms under the covers. The hillock begins to undulate rhythmically. Female cries of passion. The lump dissolves.

Claudia: (muffled) That was nice.

Nate: (muffled) Wasn’t it now!

Curtain

Act Two

Sitting in a pub. Brushing snow from their coats and hair. A puddle is forming at the foot of their bar stools from the melting snow. The pub is warm. It is very early. There is no one else, other than the bartender, in the pub.

Nate: Did you sleep well?

Claudia: Until I had to pee.

Bartender: You two are up early.

Claudia: Heat and light.

The bartender looks at Claudia in confusion.

Bartender: What’ll you have?

Nate (looking at Claudia): You have money?

Claudia: Not much.

Nate takes money from his pockets. Places bills and coins on the bar. Claudia rummages through her purse and does the same. Bills and coins. Meanwhile, a customer comes into the pub. Takes a seat at the other end of the bar. The bartender moves away to serve him. Nate separates the money into distinct piles. 

Nate: Not a lot here but it will buy us a few pints.

Claudia: Can’t we just sit and warm for a bit first.

Nate: If we don’t order he’ll throw us out. If we order too much he’ll throw us out. What the world’s come to.

Claudia: Same as it ever was.

The bartender returns. Looks at the piles of bills and coins.

Nate: Two lagers please.

Claudia: I’d rather a stout.

Nate: Okay. Two stouts then.

The bartender looks at the bundled, dripping couple and, again, the small piles of money.

Bartender: The stout is a little more than the lager.

Nate: One stout and one lager then.

The bartender serves the beers. Picks from the money. Smiles and walks back to the other customer. Claudia takes a gulp of the stout.

Nate: Drink it slowly.

Claudia: When are you turning the heat back on?

Nate shrugs. They sit for a while wordlessly drinking. They watch the snow through the window, illuminated by the streetlamp. Big flakes like cotton balls or feathers. They order another round. A few more customers have entered. Claudia is sleepy in the warmth, marinated in the stout. The pile of money on the bar dwindles slowly.

Claudia: We should get something to eat.

Nate: Eggs! Eggs are cheap.

They order eggs and toast without the bacon and fried potatoes after negotiating with the bartender. When he delivers the breakfasts the plates have bacon and hash browns.

Bartender: The cook didn’t read the ticket. I’m still charging you the same as without the bacon and hash.

Claudia: Thanks.

Claudia and Nate ravenously engage the meal.

Nate: Should we go to your mother’s?

Claudia: Donna. Her name is Donna. You’ve never even met her.

Nate: Now would be as good a time as ever.

Claudia: We can’t just barge in unannounced.

Nate: Why not? You’re family. Family has to take family in, it’s the rule in a civilized society.

Claudia: But you’re not. (Pause) Family.

Nate looks hurt. Orders more pints. The bartender collects the dishes, scraped clean.

Claudia (while looking at the puny money remaining on the bar): Okay.

Nate: Okay what?

Claudia: We’ll go to Mom’s. Go get the car.

Nate leaves. Claudia drinks her pint. The other men at the bar ogle her. Nate  returns covered in snow. Sits heavily.

Nate: It’s gone.

Claudia: What’s gone?

Nate: The car.

Claudia: Stolen.

Nate: I don’t think so.

Claudia: Did you make the payment?

Nate: I think so.

Claudia: When?

Nate: I don’t remember.

Pause

Nate: We’ll walk.

Claudia: It’s far.

Nate: Let’s get started.

Curtain

Act Three

Seated at a kitchen table are Claudia, her mother Donna and Nate, drinking coffee. Nate sits to the left of Claudia, to the right of Donna. Midway between the two women. North and south in equal measure, distance and age,  from each of them.

Donna: Is anyone hungry?

Nate: I wouldn’t mind.

Donna: I can make sandwiches.

Claudia: Thanks Mom.

Donna puts her cigarette in the ashtray, rises and goes to the refrigerator. She takes out lunchmeat, cheese and a jar of Miracle Whip. At the counter beside a microwave oven with the door hanging open she assembles sandwiches.

Nate: (with sandwich in front of him and looking at a half full bottle of cheap wine on the counter) Do have anything to drink?

Claudia gives Nate a harsh look. Donna rises, fetches the wine bottle and water glasses. Pours.

Nate: Thank you. Do you mind? (Pointing to the cigarette pack and matches on the table. Donna pushes the items to him as she draws a puff.)

Nate smokes and drinks and takes a bite of the sandwich.

Nate: The bread is stale.

Donna: Don’t eat it.

Nate: The sandwich?

Donna: The bread.

Nate takes the meat and cheese from between the slices of  bread and crams all into his mouth. Licks the Miracle Whip from his fingers. Claudia looks on in disgust. Donna watches with awe.

Donna: So, what do you do Nate?

Nate: When?

Donna: For a living.

Nate: Speculation.

Donna: What’s that?

Nate: Buying and selling.

Donna: Buying and selling what?

Nate: This and that. Anything and everything.

Donna: You’re a grifter and a womanizer, I think.

Nate: That too.

Long Pause

The light in the room fades. The trio sit speechless for a while. Cigarette butts have piled up in the astray. Two empty bottles of wine sit in the middle of the table.

Donna: I’m going to bed early. Claudia will sleep with me. You’ll (pointing to Nate) sleep on the couch.

Nate: Why can’t I sleep in the bed too?

Claudia looks at Nate in horror. Donna ignores him and rises to go to the bedroom.

Claudia: I’ll get a blanket and pillow for you.

Darkness for some time. 

Nate can feel her presence hovering above him. The stale smell of cigarettes. She flicks on the table lamp, bends and nudges his shoulder. He pretends to sleep. She nudges harder. He opens his eyes, looks at her. She opens her house-coat. He lifts the blanket. She crawls on top of him.

Long Pause.

Morning. Claudia stands beside Nate on the couch, clad only in panties.

Claudia: Get up. She wants you gone.

Nate: Who?

Claudia: Mother. She wants you gone.

Nate: Where will we go?

Claudia: I’m staying. I need heat and light. And a hot shower. By the smell of you, you could use one too.

Nate lifts his arms and sniffs at both pits.

Nate: You’re turning me out.

Claudia: Mother is.

Claudia looks to her mother’s bedroom. Turns back. Nate raises the covers. Claudia climbs in on top of him. The blanket undulates rhythmically. A female squeal of pleasure muted under the covers.

Nate dresses. Pulls on his long coat. Walks to the kitchen, opens the cabinet where the wine is stored. Puts a bottle into the coat’s deep pocket. Walks away. Stops. Walks back to the table. Picks up the pack of cigarettes and matches. Puts them in his other pocket. Opens the door prepared to step outside.

Claudia: I’ll call you.

Nate: Phone’s out. Light and heat.

Nate slams the door behind him.

Curtain

Act Four

In the Pub with a new girl. They drink pints of stout. Sharing fish and chips. Nate dumps more malt vinegar on the fish and potatoes. He swallows hard after a long drink of  ale.

Nate: Speculating.

Girl looks at him without speaking.

Nate: You know. Buying and selling. This and that. You asked what I did. Speculating.

Nate holds up his empty pint.

Nate: Another round?

The girl goes into her purse for more money.

Nate: I’m writing a novel, you know.

Girl: Really? What’s it about?

Nate: A man and his adventures. The usual stuff of literature, you know. The man has secrets that women want to learn about. It’s rather sexual, I’m afraid.

Girl: What kind of secrets?

Nate: Ah! You’ll have to read the book. Can’t give away the ending, you know.

Girl: I’d love to read it.

Nate: When it’s finished.

Girl: I’ll read along. Maybe I can help.

Nate: No can do. You can critique the first draft but only after it’s done. I hate having someone read over my shoulder when I’m writing. Destroys the creative spirit, you know.

Girl: I’m sorry. But when it’s done…

Nate: What’s done?

Girl: The book.

Nate: Ah. Right. The book. Then you can read it. When it’s done.

Nate holds his empty glass for examination. The girl’s pint is nearly full.

Girl: Oh. Right.

The girl takes more money from her purse.

Nate: Thanks. The advance you know. The advance for the book. It should arrive  in a few days.

Girl: I  thought the check was from an invention, or something.

Nate: Oh that. The urea collection service and the products there-from. Tooth whitener. Skin creams for eczema and what-not. Fertilizer. Batteries charged. I told you about this?

Girl: A little. Hours ago. When we first met. I didn’t understand it.

Nate: Just as well. Keep it under your bonnet. Wouldn’t want news out…. prematurely.

Pause. They drink.

Nate: Do you like music?

Girl: Yes. Very much.

Nate: Classical? Jazz? Blues?

Girl: (Giggles) Afraid not. Rock and Roll. Show tunes. Some country.

Nate: Maybe you know my younger brother, Telford.

Girl: Croft? The Bangers? My yes. They’re playing next week at the Near North Elk’s Lodge I think.

Nate: You haven’t slept with him, have you?

Girl: Slept with who?

Nate: My brother.

Girl: That’s hell of a thing to ask. Of course not. I know of your brother but I don’t know him.

Nate: I see. Just making sure. Pause. Ever listen to Erik Satie?

Girl: Who’s that?

Nate: French composer. Debussy contemporary. He’s long dead, of course. Satie’s Gymnopedie and Gnossienne. Haunting works.

The girl looks into Nate’s eyes.

Girl: I’m afraid I…

Nate: Have you read Sartre? Wittgenstein?

The girl looks into her pint glass.

Nate: Philosophers. Ah. Not a big deal. One can’t know everything. I can help, you know.

Girl: Would you like another pint?

Nate: Yes, please. The advance, you know. Soon. Pause. Any day now.

Girl: You said you lived nearby.

Nate: Down Rubicon Avenue a bit. Toward Washington Park.

Girl: We could go listen to…

Nate: Satie? I’m afraid not. No heat or light. A life style choice until the novel is finished. An aid to my concentration and creativity.

Girl: No heat or lights? No utilities then.

Nate: Uh… not in the traditional sense.

Girl: We could go to my place but I’m afraid I have no, no…

Nate: Satie? That’s alright. We can talk instead. It’s fascinating to talk to you, you know.

The girl blushes. Nate holds up his pint glass. 

Nate: We could have a couple of more pints though. Before we go. Right?

The girl nods.

Curtain

 

 

Nate: Your mother, right? I’ve

 

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