Stars: A Short Play

Jorg Said: What Happened Next: Hanna Said:
The outside deck of a country inn, with a huge green canopy tent, like the ones used in weddings, with stars painted un the underside. Wall murals and sculptures present the deck as a kind of tropical jungle. Beyond the tent it is raining. Only four of fourteen tables are occupied — four adults in riding gear are at one, a couple with two young children are at a second, and two singles, Hanna and Jorg, each with a dog in tow, occupy two small tables at opposite ends of the deck. Jorg is listening to an iPod by headphones, and dancing among the tables near him; The two children, Hanna and the two dogs are all staring at him.
Pretty smooth, mister. Merengue, right?
(gasping) Hah! Not even close. Zoukous. Las Cuatros Estrellas de ZaÔre.
Jorg beckons to the little girl, inviting her to dance with him. She turns and hides her face shyly in her mother’s arm, but peers back to see what he is doing.
Have a way with the ladies, too, I see.
(dancing again) I shine too bright — it causes women to play hard to get. Hiding behind shades and paper fans. (He looks at her through spread fingers.) I always get come-hither looks from a safe distance.
Yeah, sure, from behind Mom you mean. I’d guess that’s more for your safety than theirs.
A waiter arrives with Hanna’s salad, and then takes Jorg’s order and a drink order for the horsie group. He exits back into the inn.
(looking at her salad) Your puppy is going to be disappointed. I bet he’s not a vegetarian.
(sarcastic grin) I brought her stuff — organic meat loaf. (she puts a plastic bowl down for her dog) Your dog looks kind of envious. (then questioningly) Genie’s willing to share.
Xena always has ‘chicken au chien’ — the chef makes it specially for her. (stopping dancing and looking at the dogs)  Can we let them check each other out?
(she beckons with her head) Sure. You can come too. No sniffing though.
They both untie their dogs from the table pedestals. As Jorg walks over to Hanna’s table, both dogs are pulling hard on their leashes to meet each other. Tail wagging and butt-sniffing ensues, and the leashes get immediately tangled.
(laughing) Now that’s the kind of gusto that all females should use to greet each other! (looking up at Jorg) — Hanna, hi.
Jorg. Nice to meet you both, and that appears to go for Xena too.
(raising eyebrows) Xena, eh? No Amazon leathers for her? Can I trust her with Genie?
(haughtily) Xena named after the tenth planet of our solar system, not the lesbian cartoon character.
(skeptically) Uh huh. (pause) So if Xena has her own special dish, I presume you’re a regular here (she scowls to herself for saying this). (recovering) How’d you discover this place — we just stumbled on it on our way back from a Bruce Trail walk. (nodding at the jungle decor) Seems kind of exotic for a country inn. I was expecting tea and scones.
All organic, fair trade, and mostly vegan. The chef’s a neighbour of ours…
(subtle facial expressions are traded as he says ‘ours’, but they both notice them)
…mine and Xena’s, and he has a very sophisticated menu — I think he sees his job as educating us country peasants about cuisine, and healthy and conscientious eating.
Well, good for him. After the hike, a salad was fine for me, but this is pretty fancy — edible flowers and lots of veggies — really good stuff.
All from the garden right beside the inn. No chemicals, no artificial fertilizers, no pesticides.
So what did you order, “chicken au humain”?
(shaking his head) Strictly vegan. Terrine de las Diosas — fresh local veggies, nuts and chick peas in a tamarind and coriander sauce. Exquisite. If I could afford it I’d eat here every day.
They look at each other. Genie and Xena are sharing Genie’s meat loaf. Awkward silence. Jorg looks away first.
(smiling) This section of the trail is spectacular. Genie and I have walked eight sections now, most of the route between here and Owen Sound.
(he puts his headphones over one ear, unties the leash from Xena’s collar and beckons her over as he starts to dance again) Come on, Xena, show our new friends your stuff.
On a signal from Jorg, Xena twirls in a circle clockwise, then counter-clockwise, then gets bored with the exercise and lies down facing Hanna and Genie as the waiter brings drinks to the riders.
I only went on the Bruce Trail once. I got lost and decided it wasn’t for me.
(incredulous) You got lost on a trail.
Well, that’s the thing, you see. I got bored staying on the trail and trying to figure out what those funny white bars meant on the signs and trees, and kind of wandered off into the forest. Good thing it was a warm night. The next day I just kept calling out until someone answered, and followed their voice back to the trail. Definitely not for me.
Hah! I bet you never coloured inside the lines either. Maybe if you’re bored it just means you don’t know how to pay attention. We saw some amazing sights this morning. Come here and I’ll show you how to read the blazes — those white bars — on a trail.
How about you show us after lunch? Xena and I both learn better by practicing than if someone just tells us something.
You kidding? Genie and I have already put in three hours today. She’s just got short little legs, you know. Besides, you don’t have the proper footwear for trail walking. (looking at the weather) Or rainwear.
Hey, if I can dance Zoukous, I can walk a trail. I’m a natural born pedestrian.
(pause) Hmmm… OK, we’ll try it for another hour or so. If we follow the Bruce to the west from here we can circle back along the Humber Valley trail. You promise to stay on the trail this time?
(holds up his hand) Promise.
Good, because there’s some nasty stuff Xena could get into too if you wander away from the path. You don’t want to know what it’s like treating a dog who’s eaten poison ivy.
Scene two. On the trail. Still raining lightly. Hanna wears a rain poncho. Jorg has his shirt tied around his waist and is just wearing cutoffs and boots. He’s demonstrating some African dance moves. They walk together along the middle of the trail. The dogs, on leash, are sniffing opposite edges of the trail.
What I don’t get is why people who have just met have to act so cool and casual. Why can’t we be more like dogs and children and show honest joy and delight in someone right from the moment of meeting?
Well, if you’d come up to me and licked my face at the bar I’d have left, and you’d have a black eye.
(motioning to the two of them together) Yet here we are, only an hour later, as if we’d known each other a lifetime.
Even dogs check each other out, sniff, circle around each other.
I still think it’s a game. For some reason we have to show people we’re not effusive, ‘nless they think we’re desperate or something. It’s a sad reflection on our society.
I dunno — I think this is pretty spontaneous. A walk in the forest with someone you just met is a rather intimate act, don’t you think? I said yes to you on the basis of instinct, chemistry — Blink. The dance, or whatever that was we were doing together back at the restaurant, was just a way of quickly substantiating our mutual intuition to get together, testing it. That’s not a game.
So if I were to tell you that all I can think about right now is the thought of having sex with you here in the forest, that spontaneous statement, that honesty wouldn’t tear it?
You really aren’t very observant, are you. Take a deep breath, smell the forest and the odours my body is giving off — the rain helps trap them around us, like a cloud. Look at my eyes, the dilation of my pupils, the facial cues, the body language, the way my arms keep brushing against you. You’re horny strictly in programmed response to what my body is telling your body. You’re just blurting out what our bodies have been screaming to each other since the moment we met.
(pause) So why aren’t we doing anything about it?
Hanna stops walking, leans with her back against a tree, one foot propped back against the trunk, and wipes her face with her sleeve. Jorg stops and faces her. The dogs look back, perhaps wondering why they’ve stopped.
Because we live in a complex society with a lot of rules that keep us from doing a lot of damage to each other. One or both of us may have made commitments to others that would make such an act very harmful or hurtful, a betrayal. In an ideal world, we’d have the blanket spread under the trees and having a lot of fun by now. But it’s not an ideal world.
(pause) Well, in my case, not only have I made no such commitments — (makes flapping motions with his arms, drawing curious looks from the dogs) I’m free as a bird — but much of the female population will tell you I am incapable of making any commitments.
Well I am and I have, though if I were to tell you what they were, you’d probably be shocked and lose interest in the whole idea.
(pause) Try me.
Hanna starts walking again, ahead of Jorg, so he has to hurry to try to catch up, but ends up walking a few steps behind her.
I live in a commune, of sorts, with five wonderful guys, we’re in a shoegaze band — I’m the lead singer. They’re also struggling artists, and as the only left-brainer in the group, I’ve accepted the role of organizer. I love them all, I’m committed to them absolutely, and I would never do anything to hurt them or betray them.
(pause, thinking) So what’s the problem? If you’re not sleeping with one of them on an exclusive basis…
I’m sleeping with all of them on an exclusive basis.
Jorg stops, and as Hanna walks on the gap between them grows.
When I say I love them I mean I love them, body and soul. The six of us have worked out a relationship that gives each of us exactly what she or he wants. Do you have any idea how special that is?
(mutters) Pretty special all right. (louder) Wait up.
He runs to catch up to her, grasping her arm and then taking her hand.
So let me get this straight. You can’t have sex with me because you’ve taken a pledge to five other guys. You really think none of them has ever fooled around (he grimaces at this choice of words) when you weren’t around?
They haven’t. Not because I wouldn’t let them, but because we just work. It’s hard to explain. It’s just chemistry. We’re around each other 24/7 and we never get tired of each other. That’s what makes it so magic, and why I would never do anything to endanger it.
You mean, like sleeping with me.
I’d love to sleep with you! It’s not that simple. If we have sex you’re not going to want to just walk away and never see me again.
How do you know? A lot of women seem to think that’s my definition of the perfect relationship.
God, can’t you ever pay attention to what’s happening, live in the moment? Feel the electricity here. Listen to your body. If we were to make love, you could no sooner walk away and leave it at that than fly to the moon. (pause) And neither could I. (pause) This kind of chemistry is addictive. You can’t just stop at one act. So that complicates things, you see. (she is crying, but almost imperceptibly)
They walk along in silence. He’s still gripping her hand tightly.
So if we made love, I would have to become your seventh, which means we’d have to make sure the chemistry is right between all seven of us. No jealousy, no instinctive loathing. These guys would all have to accept me as one of them — as one of you.
(she laughs through her tears) Hey, you do get it. I’m impressed.
I’ve studied a lot about intentional communities, and how they work, and why they’re usually pretty small. (pause) I suspect they’d all be so jealous of having such a smart, clever-spoken, fast-dancing, trail-walkin’ kind of guy in their midst that it’d never work.
Well, believe it or not, they’re all buff, and you’d have to get rid of that saggy belly or you’d make us all nauseous. (she notices his pained expression) Don’t get your feelings hurt, Lief is a fitness trainer, he’d get you whipped into shape in no time. But I think your getting used to sharing me with five other guys, and our girlfriend Yael on weekends, would be too much for your head to handle. Which is a shame, because I really like you, I think I could love you as easily as falling off a log.
They stop walking, turn and face each other, holding each other’s hands, and embrace. Jorg kisses her on the forehead.
So are we understood?
I get it. Your dance card is filled. I just get to spend time chatting with you while the band’s on break.
They resume walking. Camera pans back as they walk into the distance. As the rain stops, the sun briefly peeks through a fast-moving cloud and hits the camera lens, turning the pair into silhouettes against the glare.
(pause) You live with a guy named Leaf? What, does he rustle in the wind?
Lief. L-I-E-F, silly. She elbows him playfully.
And what about this Yael? What does she do during the week when she’s not cavorting with you guys?
Stop! She’s our backup singer. During the week she works as a CPA. And she’s way too young for you. Now you see that blaze on the tree, the fact that the top mark is to the right of the bottom mark means we have to turn right here…
Fade to black.
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3 Responses to Stars: A Short Play

  1. AnotherDave says:

    Great dialog! Presuming that this is a fictional situation you’ve created, I find this one much more realistic than the amsterdam story. The way the situation unravels is unpredictable in a very realistic waySome further comments (DISCLAIMER: I am no expert in story telling, this is purely my opinion, and I am not convinced that you’d be better off if you follow my ‘advice’):While the amsterdam story seemed to take place in Utopia, I wondered a little bit about the outcome of this story. It might err a little bit in the other direction. Even if Hanna is a self-described ‘left-brain’ person, I believe that most people don’t act that rationally. My experience is that rational reasons are often found after making the decision. At least I frequently catch myself backwards rationalizing.So I might interpret Hanna’s statements and actions to mean that Hanna would have another (unspoken) reason to reject Jorge’s proposal, only citing the rational reason as a pretence. Or am I so involved already that I crave for closure of that inherent conflict?Another point: Hanna might be special, but most people (that I know, anyway) are not that aware of their decision process, or the biological manifestations of attraction, so I’d interpret that part of the dialog as the author’s urge to bring his point across (mentioning Blink and all that). I imagine that in a movie, that scene would work better if most of that explanation on Hanna’s part would be demonstrated by the actor (in body language) instead of verbalizing. On the other hand, if bringing these facts into the story is the main purpose, the goal of your writing, I don’t know of a better way to do it ;-)I enjoyed reading that scene a lot, this was a very good read despite my comments above. If this was in a book, I’d be captured and would read on!

  2. theresa says:

    I just noticed this now, this looks curious too. I read some of the earlier fiction which was really good. Skipped it before as I’ve said. I will have to read this. I guess I should read it first and then comment but anyway..

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    AnotherDave: Thanks for the thoughtful critique — very helpful!

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