The Here & Now Project

The Space Between Two Houses

Every Friday this summer, The Here & Now Project will post a new short play, written by one of four playwrights selected from across the US. These plays focus on dramatizing where these playwrights are and what’s happening there now.

THE TIME: Third week of July, 2012.

THE PLACE: Prescott, Arizona.

The lawn and curb space where two houses meet. A nice deck hugs one of them; a proud looking ELEPHANT surveying the view from its well-furnished prow. The other house rests a bit more modestly.

The green between houses reflects distinct difference in opinion on the matter of lawn-care. ELEPHANT cannot help but dwell on the indecency of this as he takes in the view.

He is staring at the grass, getting quite ruffled, when a little brown HEN walks on, pushing an overstuffed trash can in front of her. It bulges with discarded household items and an enormous egg.

ELEPHANT watches as she pushes the garbage can to the curb... it’s almost brushing his property...

ELEPHANT
That’s good right there.

HEN jumps, startled.

HEN
Holy cow! You just scared the bejesus out of me.

ELEPHANT
Can’t be loading things onto other people’s property, you know.

HEN
What?

ELEPHANT
I got my own trash to be putting out there, and I can’t do if you got your refuse parked in my spot, can I?

HEN
Sorry, sorry. Wasn’t trying to infringe. I’m moving and I just needed to get rid of a few things.

ELEPHANT
Can’t do it in my spot!

HEN
I’m not, I’m not. There’s still plenty of room.

ELEPHANT narrows his eyes, looking at the garbage can...

ELEPHANT
Whatcha got stacked on top there?

HEN
What?

ELEPHANT
Is that an egg?

HEN
Yeah. I’ve been trying to find a way to keep it, but—

ELEPHANT
You’re not throwing it away, are you?

HEN
I can’t take care of it.

ELEPHANT
Can’t go throwing away perfectly good eggs.

HEN
It’s not, not what I wanted to do, but I really just don’t have much of a choice. I can’t really—I mean, it’s been a rough couple months for me, er, years, actually, so—

ELEPHANT
Bull-pucky.

HEN
What?

ELEPHANT
Bull. Pucky.

HEN
I don’t think I—

ELEPHANT
You got an egg all to yourself, perfectly good egg, pretty looking egg, probably got something real good inside it, and now you want to throw it away like yesterday’s garbage?

HEN
My new place, it’s much smaller. I’ve got a roommate. I’m downsizing all around.

ELEPHANT
So you think you can just pawn this off on the garbage man then?

HEN
Woman.

ELEPHANT
Make it his problem?

HEN
She’s a garbage woman.

ELEPHANT
How’s he going to carry that thing to the truck?

HEN
I put big stuff out here all the time. They have special equipment. I had to throw away a vanity last week because I couldn’t find anyone to buy it. They got it in the truck no problem.

ELEPHANT
(Mumbles) Typical.

HEN
What?

ELEPHANT
I said it’s typical you dusty feathered, hen-headed nitwit!

HEN
Listen, we’ve been neighbors for several years now without a problem. I don’t see why you have to get nasty to me right as I’m getting ready to move—

ELEPHANT
I don’t want your egg on my lawn!

HEN
It’s not on your lawn, it’s in the trash.

ELEPHANT
But I got to stare at your “trash” until it gets picked up, and I shouldn’t have to. It’s your egg. You should keep it to yourself, in your nest, where it belongs!

HEN
Listen here, I’ve had to make some tough decisions lately, and I don’t appreciate your butting in! I don’t have time for an egg, I don’t have money for it, and I sure as shit won’t be able to afford the upkeep if I can’t keep a job because I’m sitting on an egg for the next eight months!

ELEPHANT
Well, maybe you shoulda thought of that before you laid the damn thing.

HEN
Oh my God! You know what, screw you! I’m not gonna stand around here listening to your abuse—

She turns back to her house.

ELEPHANT
I’m telling you, you get that egg back in your nest before I call the cops, or I’ll... I’ll call ‘em!

HEN
The cops don’t have anything to say about this!

ELEPHANT
They sure do, they sure do! They got a say in defense of that egg!

HEN
But... it’s an egg!

ELEPHANT
I want to see it hatch!

HEN
I don’t remember inviting you to the cracking ceremony.

ELEPHANT
Sure you did—happened about five minutes ago when you wheeled it onto my lawn!

HEN
Well, five minutes and ten seconds ago you didn’t even know I had an egg. Coulda cared less about me one way or the other—you never even wave when I get the mail!

ELEPHANT
Look, what you do in your own time is your business—

HEN
Thank you.

ELEPHANT
—until you go laying things.

HEN
Okay. Then if you care so much about this thing, why don’t you sit on it?

ELEPHANT
Are you crazy? I can’t do that—I don’t have feathers, I don’t have the skill set... I would crush it.

HEN
Then how about you pay my rent for the next God-knows-how-long? You want to do that? Do you have some financial windfall up your trunk for me?

ELEPHANT
Look, lady, you’re the one who put that egg in my yard—

HEN
It’s not in your—

ELEPHANT
—and now I have to do something about it. If you didn’t want anyone getting involved, you should have just rolled it out the door and down the hill in the middle of the night like all the other negligent chicks—

HEN
Oh, shut up!

He trumpets through his trunk. HEN claps her hands to her ears.
The egg rattles.
They both look at it, squint...

Then:

HEN
You’re a bully.

ELEPHANT
I’m a good citizen. You birds need to be kept in line and I’m not letting you out of my sight until that thing hatches.

HEN
And then what? Are you going to help me raise it?

ELEPHANT
You just don’t understand how much you’ll appreciate what I’m saying when it hatches.

HEN
That’s crazy!

ELEPHANT
All chicks want to see what’s in the egg. It’s natural. You’ll love what pops out of there and then you’ll be happy I stopped you!

HEN
Happy? Happy doesn’t pay the bills. Happy doesn’t feed the thing. Happy doesn’t pick it up from school and pay for its shots and protect it from poachers—I’m not heartless—I’m not without heart here! I just can’t hatch anything right now! Don’t you get it?

ELEPHANT
You’re hysterical. That happens. What you need to do is pray for guidance, let it into your heart, and you will find a way. God will provide. I’m not letting you dampen your soul with some ill-planned impulsive behavior—

HEN reaches out to the trashcan and shoves with all her might. The egg lands with a terrible crack.

Egg yolk oozes across the stage.

ELEPHANT and HEN stare at the mess. Hot tears stream down HEN’s face.

HEN
I wanted to wait for Waste Management. It would have been better that way.

She looks up at him. He looks down at her.

Beat.

FIN

Playwright’s Note:
When Governor Jan Brewer signed a law blocking funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in Arizona because they provide abortions, I knew I wanted to write something about it, but it took me a while to figure out how to access the story.

Here in Prescott, “neighborly advice” often gets handed out fairly easily on the assumption that one’s neighbors should all think, feel, and politicize the same. I ‘m often surprised to find myself in conversations with people assuming I think as they do, without concern that I might disagree.

So, rather than just write a play about abortion, I decided to explore the intrusive nature of the “Good Neighbor” in relation to this hot-button issue, while trying to draw focus to the desperation that women in Arizona and other states with limited services must be feeling.

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