Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bread and Pigeons


Teresa: a bag lady. Over 65.
Elizabeth: a professional woman, any age.
Travis: a janitor, any age
Martha: a bag lady. Over 55.

Bench. Teresa sits, throwing bread to pigeons, a shopping cart filled with clothes next to her. Elizabeth enters, carrying a clipboard and looking around. Sees Teresa, stops. Looks at clipboard, looks at Teresa. Quickly tucks clipboard in brief case.

ELIZABETH: You shouldn’t be doing that, you know.
TERESA: (looks up briefly, then picks up new loaf and begins tearing it into small chunks)
ELIZABETH: You shouldn’t be doing that. It’s unhealthy.
TERESA: You talking to me?
ELIZABETH: Yes. You shouldn’t be doing that. That’s very unhealthy.
TERESA: It’s Wonder Bread. Builds strong bodies eight ways. Or is it ten ways? Whatever.
ELIZABETH: Not the bread. The pigeons.
TERESA: Pigeons look healthy to me.
ELIZABETH: They’re not. Carry a dozen diseases. And look at all the droppings!
TERESA: Birds got to shit someplace.
ELIZABETH: But you’re feeding them.
TERESA: So? Birds got a right to eat.
ELIZABETH: But when you feed them, you get them used to eating here. And to not hunting for their food.
TERESA: Better here than someplace where the hawks’ll get them.
ELIZABETH: That’s another thing. You’re disrupting the natural order. There are more pigeons than the ecosystem can support.
TERESA: I’m supporting them, not the ekko-what’s-its. Pigeons are God’s creatures.
ELIZABETH: You’re attracting hundreds of birds to the front of this apartment house. They make a mess. Do you clean it up?
TERESA: Of course not. I’m an old lady. All I do is feed poor helpless birds.

TRAVIS enters, with broom. He exchanges glance with ELIZABETH.

TRAVIS: Jesus Christ, lady. Get the fuck out of here with those goddam crumbs.
TERESA: Language! Is that any way to talk to a lady who’s old enough to be your grandmother?
TRAVIS: My grandmother doesn’t feed fucking pigeons when she’s been told not to. Where I got to clean up their shit and her bread. And deal with the rats.
TRAVIS: Rats. This old nutcase brings so much bread the birds can’t eat it all. So we got rats as well. Hundreds of rats. Plus the Health Inspectors.
ELIZABETH: Health Inspectors? Why?
TRAVIS: They say the birds and the rats and the bread are a safety and health menace. So the city fines me for not keeping the sidewalk clean enough. How can I, when this old bitch throws loaves of bread around three times a day?
TERESA: God hears you. And God wants me to feed the birds. Otherwise they’d starve.
TRAVIS: Christ, are you fucking nuts? This is a city overflowing with trash cans. It’s a fucking bird banquet out there. They don’t need your stupid Wonder Bread. Look how much of it they leave—for the rats!
TERESA: The birds need help. They can’t survive on garbage.
ELIZABETH: Of course they can. How do you think they survived before you began feeding them?
TERESA: Elvira fed them. The previous bird lady. She fed them here when I was younger. And Nellie did it before Elvira. And all the bird ladies before her.
TRAVIS: I don’t care how many bird ladies there were. Get off this damn bench and go home. (Glances at shopping cart.) If you have one.
TERESA: This is public property. I can sit here if I want.
TRAVIS: And I can grab your fucking bread if I want. (He grabs bag of loaves of bread)
TERESA: Give that back! Thief! Thief! You shouldn’t steal from a helpless old lady!
TRAVIS: Watch me. (He takes bag of bread into the building.)
TERESA: The birds ! The poor birds! They’ll starve! I have to go buy more bread!
ELIZABETH: No, wait. Don’t you think they’d prefer bird seed? (She pulls a bag of bird seed from her backpack.)
TERESA: Well, I don’t know. They’re used to the bread I give them.
ELIZABETH: Let’s try the bird seed. (She throws a handful on the ground.)
TERESA: NO! (She pushes ELIZABETH away, tries to scoop up birdseed.) You’re making a mess!
ELIZABETH: Ah! Teresa, now you understand!
TERESA: How do you know my name?
ELIZABETH: I’m from Social Services. (Shows an ID card.) I’ve been observing you, and now I’m convinced it’s time for you to be taken care of. I’m here to take you to the county home.
TERESA: I won’t go! I’ve seen that place. Worse than a jail.
ELIZABETH: I’m afraid you have no choice. You’re homeless, you’re a danger to yourself, and you’re a menace to society. Look at you—attracting filthy pigeons and rats!
TERESA: You can’t take me any place without my permission!
ELIZABETH: Yes I can. The domestic court has declared you incompetent, and therefore a ward of the state. So come along. (She blows a whistle. Travis enters, with a straightjacket. Together ELIZABETH and Travis subdue TERESA, who puts up a terrific fight, and get her into the straightjacket. Travis puts a gag over her mouth.)
ELIZABETH: That’s better.
TRAVIS: I’ll put out the poisoned birdseed when I get back. Now that we can stop her feeding them, it’ll be easy to get rid of them.

ELIZABETH exits, followed by TRAVIS, who drags TERESA. After a short pause, MARTHA enters, carrying a bag of bread.

MARTHA: Oh! There’s no bread here for the birds! I wonder what happened to Teresa, that old lady who’s always here. Maybe she’s sick. I better feed them. I can always pick up more bread for my feeding places.
(She tears bread into pieces and throws it into the street, whistling for the birds as she does so. Pigeons coo happily. Curtain.)