Here's a one-act play I wrote in 1968, when I was 24. It's had four productions over the years: three stage versions (one at Penn State, one at Atlanta's Academy Theatre, and one at the Chip Deffaa Invitational Theatre Festival in New York). A television adaptation was broadcast on Alabama Educational Television in 1972.

©1968 by Howard Cruse
The stage is bare and blue except for a huge yellow cutout of a moon six or seven feet in diameter, at least. The clowns in the play are not in whiteface. Their names are never spoken; here we shall call them GNU, GNO, and GNONE.

When the lights rise from a blackout, the clowns are frozen in a tableau of walking. After a few beats, the tableau breaks.

GNO

What time is it?

GNU

Here a minute
and I'll look at myself in this forest pool.

He looks at his reflection.

Lord God, it's getting late.
I look like a freak!

GNONE

Midnightish?

GNU

You could say that.

GNONE

The witching hour.

GNO

Our journey is almost ended.

GNU

How can you tell?

GNO

My hand.

GNU

Is it better now?

GNO

Five fingers.

GNU

Fantastic!

GNONE

The clock has struck.

GNO

What year is it?

GNU

Let me look at the sun.

GNONE

At midnight?

GNU

I'll need a boost.

GNO gives GNU a boost. GNU peers at GNONE's face.

GNO

Is the moon confusing you?

GNU

There isn't any moon,
you fool.

GNO

I forgot

GNU
(Peering at GNONE)

Fantastic!

GNO

What is?

GNU

The year.

GNO

Is it the right one?

GNU

For us?

GNO

Of course.

GNU

Of course.

GNO

Then it's the left one.

GNU

Right!

GNO

The one we left
before?

GNU

No no no!
The one
we left behind!

GNONE

Are you through?

GNU

It's talking!
The sun is talking!

GNONE

You're the one who's babbling
while precious time is passing us by.

GNU

Where? Where?

GNONE

It's too late now.

GNU

Then let's be off.

GNO

We've ascertained, have we not,
that the hour is midnight,
the year is behind,
and time is passing . . . ?

GNU (Amazed)

What?
What did you say?

GNO

I said we've ascertained
that the hour is midnight--

GNU & GNONE

Fantastic!

GNONE

What you said!

GNU

It's amazing!

GNONE

Like nothing I've ever heard before!

GNO

The year is behind?

GNU

He said it again!

GNONE

I told you he was deep.

GNU

Let's contemplate him!

GNONE

Excellent!

GNO (Aside)

I enjoy being contemplated.

Pause while GNU and GNONE contemplate GNO.

GNONE

That was good.

GNU

I agree.
Let's do it again.

GNO

There isn't time.

GNU

There isn't what?

GNO

Time.

GNU

Where?

GNO

There.

The three of them examine the absence of time.

GNONE

It goes without saying.

GNU

Where?

GNONE

What?

GNU

Where does it go?

GNONE

It goes without.

GNO (Sadly)

We all do.

GNONE

Do what?

GNO

Like time.

GNU

There isn't time!

GNONE

What?

GNU

Time.

GNONE

Where?

GNU

Anywhere!

GNO

What I was saying is,
we all go without.

Pause.

GNONE

I don't.

GNO

You don't?

GNONE

I go within.

GNO

Within?

GNONE

I like to think.

GNO

You don't go without?

GNONE

Within.

GNO and GNU exchange glances.

GNO

Yes,
but where do you go?

GNO and GNU laugh, then stop, then laugh again, then stop.

GNONE

Here.

GNONE puts his hand on his heart.

GNO

How's that?

GNONE

Here!

GNO

I can't.

GNONE

You can't?

GNO

You don't have to rub it in, after all.
I wasn't born deaf!

GNONE

You weren't?

GNO

Of course not.
It happened when I was two ears old.

GNU crosses to listen to GNONE's heart.

GNU

God damn it if you don't!

GNONE

I told you.

GNU

Fantastic!

GNO

Within?

GNU

He wasn't lying.

GNO

I'll believe you.

He thinks.

Well,
now that we've established
the source of his mobility,
don't you think
we'd better be on our way?

GNU

What?
What did you say?

GNO

It's the witching hour?

GNU

No, before that.

GNO

The source of his mobility?

GNU draws GNONE aside.

GNU

If he keeps saying
fantastic things like that,
I'm going to come.

GNONE

Do you want
to contemplate him again?

GNU

I don't know
if we should go that far.

GNONE

How far is it?

GNU looks to see.

GNU

We could do it in several stages.

GNONE

Several stages?

GNU

In one play?

GNONE

Contemplation-in-the-round?

GNU

Proscenium! Proscenium!

They cross to contemplate.

GNO

What are you going to do?

GNONE

Just stand still.

GNO

How can I stand still
when time is moving?

GNONE

Don't try to dodge,
that's how.

GNU

What's all this about time, anyway?

GNO

You want to do it again?

GNU shrugs.

GNU

What the hell.

GNO (Shouting)

We'll never get where we're going!

GNU

Why not?

GNO

There isn't time!

GNU

There isn't what?

GNO

Time.

GNU

Where?

GNO

Here.

GNU

What?

GNO

Here!

GNONE (Shouting)

You don't have to rub it in!

GNU

He wasn't BORN deaf!

GNO

Good God, what a plethora!

GNU and GNONE look at each other and cluck their tongues.
GNO continues obstreperously.

Deaf!
Beanpile!
I don't believe you are!

GNONE looks up at him in shock.

I don't believe you ever WERE!

GNONE cringes with dismay; GNU is shocked.

GNU

I don't believe you said that!

GNO

Why not?

GNU

You know
he's very sensitive about that.

GNO

Being deaf?

GNU

Being!

GNO

Being?

GNU

Existence is a sore point with him.

GNO

It is with all of us.

GNU

What is?

GNO

Existence.

GNU

Is what?

GNO

With all of us.

GNU

Not with all of us.

GNO

Not?

GNU

Some people don't exist.

GNONE

You shouldn't have said it.
It's a sore point.
The trouble with existence,
unlike time,
is that it doesn't go without saying.
For some of us
it doesn't even go without thinking.

For some of us.

One day
when the moon still existed
I was walking beneath it and found that,
although I could definitely feel
the feel of green grass between my toes,
my feet were not in contact with the ground.
Not just one foot.
That would have been
in the nature of walking.
One, then the other.
That is the process.
But then came the realization...
Then,
as my second foot left the ground and
as I looked down at my first foot and
as I still felt the grass between all ten toes...
Then came the realization
that the moon
was not where it had been.
Because I had been below the moon,
but now something was gone.
It had disappeared.
Not the moon. It wasn't gone.
In those days it still existed, you know.

Not like now.
Not like the warmless black that we're in,
without a comforting round moon
anywhere... never... absent...
No, the moon was there,
but what was gone as I looked about was--
The thing is:
I couldn't find my feet each time I wanted to.
Not because they weren't there, either!
Don't jump ahead of my story!
I'm still not past the trees and sky yet!

No,
what had disappeared was
Up.
Up!
Good God, don't think I'm strange;
no wonder you can't find the moon
when there isn't any Up!
And if you think about the corollary I mean the
coronary I mean the heart of the question you'll be able
to see why I was
absolutely unable
to dependably locate my feet.
Where are your feet without Up?
Tell me that!
Not the same place mine were,
I can guarantee.
Because my feet had somehow gotten
displaced while I was looking for
the moon and, well--
I was talking about going within,
talking about the heart of it all,
and when I looked to the heart of it,
what did I see?
Yes! Yes! I saw my feet!
There!
Now we're past the trees and the sky!

He waves the natural phenomena by.

Hello-o-o!

Now, as you may have figured,
what had happened was
that I had lost my normal bearings
and was no longer going within;
I was going without.
Juxtaposed as my world was,
the other one, normally outside,
was inside and shrinking,
and I found myself outside the earth,
outside all things.
You may be sure
it boggled my mind,
upset my appetite,
disoriented my digestion,
and flooded me with the intense
and exhilarating urge
to urinate over the entire wreckage
of my previous conception.

But then came a third coronary
crossing my consciousness:
that if what was without was within,
then what had been within would be without.
And I would not be forever doomed
to be contemplated by others.
I would be able to contemplate myself.

So with my eyes bulging
I opened my vision
to encompass whatever was without.
I was prepared for anything...
My heart, lungs, kidneys,
bladder' anal column,
fingering bronchioles, arteries,
corpuscles, cavities, corneae.
I was prepared to feel the external throb
of the kinesthetic senses.
God, what planets these organs would be,
what biological orbits they would form!
And as expansive as the within without could be,
I hoped somehow to catch the view
of the solar soul!

Well,
the ending to it all was painful,
too much to tell.
But surely I don't need to.
You know what I saw, don't you?
I can tell you do.
But how?
Why is it that we all know...
unless it's true?

Now there was a thought I had
at the time of the final shock:
something about
how odd it was that,
through the whole damned experience,
I could still feel the grass between my toes.
I think I'll think that thought again.
Yes. There it is. Definitely odd.
But I haven't felt the grass again
since the moon has been gone.
It raises doubts,
but it doesn't resolve.

He sighs, ponders.

It's not like time,
existence.
It's not with all of us at all.

Pause.

GNO

I shouldn't have said it.

GNU

It was too cruel for him.

GNO

What I meant was deaf.

GNU

What?

GNO

Deaf-f-f.

GNONE

Deaf-f-f.

GNU

Not death-h-h?

GNONE (Quickly)

F-f-f-f.

GNU

Th-h-h-h!

GNONE

F-f-f-f!

GNU

Th-h-h-h!

GNO

But it's what I mean.

GNU

It's what you are.

GNO

I--

GNU

Mean...

GNO

Or am I--

GNONE

At least nobody said you aren't!
At least nobody said that!
That's a difference between us.
Nobody said you weren't!

GNU

At one time
I think we were about to contemplate again.
But now there seems to be no one to do it to.

GNO

There isn't time anyhow.

GNU

There isn't what?

GNO

Time.

GNU

Where?

GNO

Anyhow!

GNU

How?

GNO

Anywhere!

GNU

I can't understand what you're saying!
I can't understand what you're saying!

GNO

Maybe it's because you've lost your place.

GNU examines his place, then shrugs.

GNU

Well,
we don't want to get stalled
on our journey, you know.

He tries playing all roles.

"What time is it?"
"Here a minute
and I'll look at myself
in this forest pool.
Lord God, it's getting late.
I look like a freak."
"Midnightish?"
"You could say that."
"The witching hour."
"Our journey is almost ended...."

He ponders.

Fantastic!

He sits and contemplates his hand.

GNO

You didn't have to rub it in.
I wasn't born dead.

GNONE (Bitterly)

At least
nobody ever said you weren't!

GNO & GNU (In unison)

I can't understand what you're saying!

An idea seizes GNONE, now seated apart from the others.

GNONE

Oh! OH!!

He freezes, then understands. He begins laughing.
Then he pauses and understands more.
He crawls over to GNO.

GNONE

I couldn't understand
what you were saying.
But now I can.
And...
IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE!!

He waits. GNO & GNU look at him, startled.
GNONE crawls back to his place, resumes laughing.
GNO and GNU understand. They join him in increasingly uneasy laughter.
Then they pause again, stare at the moon, and understand more.
The lights dim out.


THE END


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