backwoods

(a one-act)

 

CHARACTERS

LIAM, 30s

ALEX, late 20s, Liam’s fiancé

FRAN, 60s, Liam’s mother

SETTING: A very small town outside the city limits of Helena, Arkansas. Present Day.

FRAN hustles around the kitchen trying to get

                                                            everything ready. After a few beats, ALEX and

                                                            LIAM enter.

 

FRAN

Oh. I—hi. I just—

 

LIAM

Hey ma.

 

LIAM goes to kiss his mother. She turns reluctantly.

 

FRAN

I was hoping I had more time. The house is a mess. I wasn’t ready.

 

ALEX

Everything looks great. It’s way cleaner than our house has ever been.

 

Awkward silence.

 

ALEX

My house. I’m sorry. You’re in a couple so long that you forget. Oh, I’m—my house. Cleaner than my house has ever looked.

 

LIAM

Ma, this is Alexis.

 

FRAN

Yes. I figured. Hello Alexis.

 

ALEX

It’s Alex actually.

 

FRAN clears her throat.

 

FRAN

Right. Alex. Well sit down. Make yourself comfortable then. You two hungry?

 

LIAM nods as ALEX shakes her head.

 

LIAM

We haven’t eaten since morning. We’d love something.

 

 

 

ALEX

But only if you don’t mind.

 

LIAM sets a comforting hand on ALEX. FRAN nods.

 

FRAN

I’ve got some steak and tomatoes in the fridge if you—

 

ALEX

Oh I—

 

LIAM

Alex is a vegetarian, ma. I told you—

 

FRAN

Right, right. I forgot. Let me see. I must have something.

 

FRAN goes to look in the fridge. ALEX squirms

                                                            uncomfortably.

 

FRAN

You know what? I’ll just head to the garden. I’ll make us a casserole.

 

ALEX

Oh, you don’t have to—

 

FRAN

It’s not a problem. I’ll be right back.

 

FRAN exits.

 

ALEX

She hates me.

 

LIAM

You’re fine.

 

ALEX

I just—does she not know we live together?

 

LIAM

You’ve still got your old place so….

 

 

ALEX

 

LIAM

It’s fine. She’s probably just excited you’re an actual woman. With a name like Alex…

 

ALEX

Great. She’s homophobic too.

 

LIAM

I’m only kidding. Calm down. It’s not like—

 

FRAN enters holding vegetables.

 

ALEX

Well at least I know not to bring up your father.

 

FRAN

What about Cletus?

 

ALEX tenses up. She didn’t notice FRAN enter.

 

ALEX

Oh. I—

 

LIAM

Ma, what you got there? Your garden get bigger?

 

Pause.

 

ALEX

I need to—may I go to your bathroom?

 

FRAN

It’s down the hall to the left.

 

ALEX gets up and leaves.

 

FRAN

She don’t know, do she?

 

LIAM

No ma. I didn’t tell her.

 

FRAN

You realize it’d be the end of all of us if anyone found out. Christ, Liam, how could you be so irresponsible? You know, Jimmy just got into Harvard and how proud I been of him. And now you went ahead and—

 

 

LIAM

Ma, I didn’t tell her. ‘Sides even if I did, she’s not a stranger, she’s going to be my wife.

 

FRAN

Hell, Liam. My mama don’t even know. Boy, you done messed—

 

LIAM

Ma! I didn’t tell her.

 

Silence. ALEX returns. She sits down and crosses

                                                            her arms. She is at a loss.

 

FRAN

So Liam tells me you’re from Portland?

 

ALEX nods.

 

FRAN

What brings you to Arkansas?

 

ALEX

Teach for America. I work at Kipp.

 

Tense silence.

 

FRAN

Liam didn’t tell me you worked for Teach for America.

 

LIAM

Ma—

 

FRAN

At Kipp.

 

LIAM

Ma, Alex is just really serious about service work and thought that—

 

FRAN

Oh I know what she thought. You know how Teach for America works, don’t you, Alex?

 

ALEX

I know that it works if that’s what you’re asking.

 

 

FRAN

Oh does it? Well somebody light me on fire and call me a pig because—

 

LIAM

This is her last year but she’s choosing to stay. And work at the school. She’s not just leaving, mama.

 

FRAN moves to the vegetables and starts cutting

                                                            them to prepare the casserole. Long, uncomfortable

                                                            silence.

 

FRAN

(to LIAM)

So you’re moving back then?

 

LIAM

I am.

 

FRAN

And what will you do while your—while Alex is working at Kipp? Teaching.

 

ALEX

I’m sorry. Do you have a problem with teachers? I mean I can understand having a problem with me being from the city. Or being friends with gay people or something but teaching? How could anyone—

 

FRAN

You think what you’re doing is teaching? What you’re doing is prepping. Prepping kids to take bullshit test so that they pass along without knowing a goddamn thing and then when they get to college, they don’t know left from right because all they know—

 

LIAM

Ma!

 

Silence.

 

LIAM

Listen. If the two of you can’t get along, then fine. Ma, we’ll head into town and go visit—

 

FRAN

No. Stay. I’m sorry.

 

ALEX

I’m sorry too.

 

FRAN

For the record, I don’t care about your gay friends or whatever.

 

LIAM

Ma used to be a principal. She’s just really passionate about learning.

 

FRAN

Got my phD at Brown and everything.

 

ALEX

Oh. I—I didn’t know that.

 

FRAN

I figured.

 

Silence.

 

FRAN

I suppose you’ll be wanting Sugar’s ring.

 

ALEX

Sugar?

 

FRAN

My grandmother.

 

LIAM

Actually, I was wondering if you still had Cammie’s.

 

Silence.

 

LIAM

I know it’s wrong to ask for it but—

 

FRAN

You’re goddamn right it’s wrong to ask for it.

 

LIAM

But it’s not like you need it anymore and it means a lot to me.

 

FRAN

To you? It means a lot to you? What the hell do you think it means to me?

 

LIAM

I was figuring nothin’ considerin’.

 

FRAN

Considerin what, Liam?

 

LIAM

Ma, come on. You don’t need it. You don’t even wear it.

 

FRAN

That don’t change the fact that it’s mine.

 

ALEX

Well technically isn’t it Carrie’s?

 

FRAN

It’s Cammie!

 

LIAM

Alex, don’t—

 

FRAN

And not that it’s any of your business, Alexis, but it was my wedding ring. You must think I bout lost my mind if I’m going to—

 

LIAM

You hated Cletus.

 

FRAN

Last I checked I wasn’t the only one.

 

LIAM

I’m just trying to make a bad thing right.

 

FRAN

This ain’t the way to do it.

 

LIAM

Well it’s a start, ain’t it?

 

FRAN slams down her cutting knife.

 

FRAN

You selfish bastard. You think this city bitch is worthy of that ring?

 

ALEX

Hey!

 

 

FRAN

Shut up and stay out of this. This don’t concern you.

 

LIAM

He left the ring to me.

 

FRAN

Burn in hell. You know he was so drunk that night. You asked him right before—You had damn good timing, I’ll say that.

 

LIAM

Ma, it’s just a ring.

 

Silence.

 

FRAN

Alex, what you don’t understand is that ring was passed down for centuries. The stone in it is—(pause)—The stone in it is from the Treasure of Lima. You know, the stolen one.

 

ALEX

I—

 

FRAN

Look it up when you’re bored. The point is the ring is literally priceless. I don’t know how the family came up with it but—

 

LIAM

That whole family line was crooks and thieves. I’m not surprised at all.

 

ALEX

Liam, don’t talk about—

 

FRAN

No. The Porra family was full of crooks. Liam’s right.

 

ALEX

The Porra family?

 

LIAM

My dad’s family way back was Spanish.

 

FRAN

But then somebody married a Gorecki and they haven’t been able to get rid of the last name since.

 

Silence.

 

LIAM

Ma, Alex is about to be a part of the family. Just give us the ring. Please.

 

FRAN

Your father may have been good for nothing but that ring—Liam. It’s too much to ask.

 

LIAM

Ma, don’t you remember what he was like?

 

FRAN

Liam—

 

LIAM

He’d beat you, ma. All of us. He was a drunk. And he was just—he’s where he belongs now, mama. No point of keeping bad memories.

 

ALEX

Then why do you want to give me those memories?

 

LIAM

I don’t. I want to change them. I want to turn something bad, something awful, into something amazing.

 

Pause. FRAN leaves the room. ALEX and LIAM

                                                            sit in silence. FRAn returns holding the ring.

 

FRAN

Taking this ring as your wedding ring means you’re part of the family now.

 

LIAM

Ma—

 

FRAN

Is that what you want, Alex?

 

ALEX nods hesitantly.

 

FRAN

 

FRAN grabs ALEX hands. She removes her

                                                            engagement ring and tries on the new ring.

 

FRAN

Good. It fits.

 

She takes the ring off.

 

FRAN

We shot him.

 

FRAN gets up, grabs a bottle of whisky, and three

                                                            glasses. She pours a little bit in each glass.

 

 

ALEX

Excuse me?

 

FRAN

Cletus. We shot him. Liam, Jimmy, and I. Planned it out and shot him in the woods.

 

LIAM

 

FRAN downs her whisky. Both LIAM and ALEX sip

                                                            theirs. FRAN pours more whisky into her glass.

 

FRAN

He was an absolute brute, you know. Fucking terrible. I don’t regret it for second. But if you’re going to wear his family ring, you best know what happened to him.

 

ALEX is frozen. She can’t speak.

 

FRAN

Thing is, now that you know, you can’t tell anybody. Or I’ll shoot you too.

 

FRAN finishes her drink.

 

FRAN

I’m not about to lose my freedom because some Teach for America cunt can’t keep her mouth shut.

 

ALEX

Excuse me?

 

FRAN

You heard me.

 

Silence.

 

 

LIAM

Alex, it’s way more complicated than—

 

ALEX

No. Don’t. You killed someone. You all killed someone. Over what? And you didn’t even…Why hasn’t anybody wondered where he is? Didn’t the police look into it? How could you be so calm about it?

 

LIAM

You didn’t know him.

 

ALEX

I didn’t know him? That’s all you have to say? Why hasn’t anyone looked into his death?

 

FRAN

Didn’t nobody care he was missing. Everyone just figured he’d moved.

 

Pause.

 

ALEX

Oh, I can’t—you people are despicable.

 

ALEX stands up.

 

ALEX

(to LIAM)

Find your own way home. I’ll have your stuff packed by the time you make back into town. Goodbye Mrs. Goreki. Hope to never see you again.

 

ALEX slams the door behind her.

 

LIAM

That was a shitty thing to do, mama.

 

FRAN

You know I gotta kill her now, don’t you?

 

LIAM nods.

 

 

LIAM

Yeah. I know.

 

They both finish their whisky. THE END.

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