21 December 2008

Cats In A Bag - A Play In One Act

Mr. HEAD – Heavyset, nervous looking chap
Mr. HEART – Thin, haggard, spiky hair

A small room, grey-black walls. There is a metal door in one wall. The paint is flaking off the door. In the door is a small rectangular window. Faint silvery light shines through the window. On the wall opposite the door is a black slate chalkboard, covered in writing. The writing appears to be an itemized list, bulleted. The writing is tight, sharp, as if were done at high speed but with great care. In the middle of the room is a heavy wooden table with two folding metal chairs. Over the table is a light dangling from a fraying cord. The shade is green metal, dented and warped. On the table sits three old books, open. There is a pack of cigarettes, matches and a whisky bottle, half full. There are two glasses on the table. One glass is empty; the other has two fingers of whisky in it. HEAD is in front of the chalkboard, a stub of yellowish chalk in one hand. He is wearing a button down shirt, white, with charcoal colored trousers, neatly pressed. On his feet are black shoes, comfortable looking and safe. HEART sits in one of the chairs, elbows on the table with face supported by hands which stretch his cheeks up into big bags under his red, swollen looking eyes. His shirt is cream colored, wrinkled with the collar open. His pants are linen and sorely in need of a dry cleaning. There is a wrinkled sport coat hanging on the back of the chair. His shoes are brown leather with scuffed toes. The empty glass is in front of him. His eyes swivel back and forth as he watches HEAD pacing rapidly back and forth. HEAD is talking at a high speed, pitch varying little from a strained squeaking. He looks at HEART:

HEAD: We have to do something. We have to do something NOW. This is a disaster! I can’t believe this shit, I hadn’t counted on this. You have any ideas? (Looks at HEART)

HEART: (silence, except for a slight cough. Stares at HEAD. The light shining through the window is slowly getting brighter)

HEAD: (resumes pacing): Figures. I’ve had to carry you for too long. BOTH of us for too long. Why is it I always have to figure shit out? Always making sure we had money coming in, paying the bills, all that. (Looks at HEART expectantly).

HEART: (sits very still, breathing shallowly, eyeing HEAD with slow-blinking look of a lizard. He does not say anything.)

HEAD: Guess it’s all up to me again. Look, we’ll start cranking out the resumes, making phone calls. We have to find something FAST. This is not good, and I---

(HEART interrupts, not loudly, but with a voice like the edge of a guillotine): Shut up.

HEAD: What? What d-did you s-

HEART: I. Said. SHUT. UP. Are you fuckin’ deaf?

HEAD: Wha--? NO, I’m not deaf. What the hell--?

HEART (shouting, slams his palms down on the table, the books and glasses jumping from the impact): I have had it with you and the security and the nuts and bolts and always with “Well, it isn’t the greatest but it’ll do”, that shit is choking the life out of me! (He stands up slowly, hands still on the table) Would you just stop? Please? I’m sick of it!

(HEART is shaking. His fingers flex, nails leaving shallow gouges on the table. The light from the window is considerably brighter. HEART sucks in a deep lungful of air, points a shaking finger at HEAD):

Because of you I have been dying, dying, for YEARS. Look at me, I look like a goddamn scarecrow! I have been asking for more for years, and I’m still starving! All because I listened to you too much. I was always too scared, too worried about paychecks and taking shit work because we could. I trusted you, and I’m starvin’ to death!

(HEART hurriedly puts on the jacket, starts toward the door. The silvery light is very bright and outlines his head as he turns to look back at HEAD)

HEAD (eyes bulging, jaw working): But, I thought…I mean, that’s what I thought we needed…

HEART: You weren’t entirely wrong. Those things are important, but LIVING means more than just covering the mortgage. Maybe you were okay with doing what other people always wanted you to do, but I’m not. Not anymore. I don’t want to die. (His hand is on the door lever, begins to unlatch the door). I don’t want to starve anymore.

HEAD: What do you mean, starve? You always had enough to keep going, just like me! (He slowly walks to the table, sits down staring blankly at the books)

HEART: Enough? (Bitter laugh) Enough? Are you really that fucking blind? (He opens the door, steps out into the light. He looks sadly back at HEAD) You can always eat when you’re miserable, but you won’t enjoy the food.

(He leaves, the door slamming shut behind)

HEAD drops the chalk on the floor and slowly lays his head on the table, crying softly into the pages of a book he forgot to read. The light fades.



  1. follow HEART but listen to Head
    once in awhile.you have a good
    one under your hat.

  2. Hi. Visiting from Goodfather's place...
    I love this post! I was recently laid off too so I know exactly how you are feeling.
    I always followed my heart when it came to my career, and I still got tossed out on my ass. Soooo..... there's little consolation there, I know. But I feel your pain. Really I do.
    Off to check out the rest of your blog! I'll be back again soon!

  3. But more importantly, you've got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you're lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he's never going to come off the field second. --The Great Vince Lombardi

    My Grandfather was a fan and had this saying in his office for as long as I can remember. It seemed fitting to share it with you after reading that beautiful post. : )

  4. Wait. Do you hear that? It's faint. It seems to be coming from the north. No... north west. It's a long ways off, but it definitely sounds like clapping.

    Well done, IG.

  5. Bravo..........

    I am right now bowing, and uttering the words..."We are not worthy."

    That was very well written, incredibly captivating and just fucking great.

  6. Treehouses, man. Treehouses.

    good stuff.

  7. Mum knows lots of people with plenty of head but no heart, and she knows which ones she prefers. But she agrees with Anonymous up there. Except she'd say follow your heart, but 'use' your head. You will get there Irish.

  8. That was very fucking COOL!

    You set a high bar.


  9. hooray for the heart!!!! shout it out mr. red!!!!! this was beautiful! just beautiful!!!

    i had a conversation like that, with another part of my anatomy, located a little further south a couple of weeks ago.

    big, fat, squeezy hug for you gumbolicious!!!!!

    ps-your head will catch up to your heart. they are capable of working together.


  10. *stands and applauds as the light fades*

    wonderfully written. awesome.

    i hope this season of your life allows you to find better balance. :)

  11. GO HEART!!!

    Brilliant. My head and heart would be having the same dialog right now if I could either of the to WAKE UP. It's like trying to start a chainsaw that's in the shed for five years. Nothin'.

    Got goosebumps and everything. Bravo!

  12. Exactly.

    I'm already starting to feel better.

  13. I think my comment got eaten -

    This is really something, the voices in your head...

  14. wait, did someone up there mention giving head?

    that's just wrong...........

  15. So cool, Irish Gumbo. Big Red once
    did a Speech based on the same lines.
    I expect to hear of you as a published writer some day. Keep em coming.

  16. Encore!! Encore!!!

    Totally awesome!

  17. Anonymous (Dad, I know its you! :): I will. I may be ig’nant, but I ain’t stupid!

    Robin: Thank you for your kind words, and for eyes on the page!

    SBA: Great quote! And I do have a lot of head, it’s big…

    Captain: I am honored sir! Applause carries a long way.

    VM: You’re going to make me cry, you keep talking purty like that!

    cIII: Thank you. And I am still mulling over those treehouses. It could work.

    MD: Thank you! Thank you!

    Henry: Very well put! Time to turn the tables.

    OAM: Thank you for that.

    IB: Man, it’s good to be cool. Thank you.

    MIW: *blushing* I likes me some hugs.

    CPM: Thank you. ‘Season’ is a lovely way to phrase it.

    Goodfather: Thank you. Just make sure the safety button is off on that saw!

    Anndi: Word! Glad to be of help, hope you keep feeling better! (hugs)

    Ashley: I swear I didn’t eat! The voices, well, FINALLY they make themselves useful…

    VM: You cheeky little monkey!

    Jerlyn: I will, I promise. (And dreams do come true sometimes!)

    SPS: Thank you! And may I say, what a lovely name!

    Krystal: Encore is in the works. Thank you!


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...