Oct 1996

3712, A Play

by Ben Ohmart


MON—A mother of 47, who is getting over a separation and trying to get her life back together. She is plainly dressed in middle-class clothes, but she knows how to have a good time when she can find the energy.

CREATURE—MON's daughter. She's 21 and not overly attractive, but she'd do in a pinch. She dresses moderately, also. She doesn't have too much tolerance for school, but studies, and does everything else, because she must.

DEAD BODIES—These are people who've died, still dressed in their shabby burial clothes, and come back to life reciting poetry.


St. Patrick's Day. March. The year 3712. The future.


The country, away from the city of Tallahassee, Florida. The play takes place in a large backyard, where the nearest neighbor is only a cemetery.


(The future. The year 3712. And things don't look very different than now, but obvious style changes, as odd as the director wants. An afternoon on St. Patrick's Day. The backyard of a Tallahassee, FL house in a residential neighborhood. Not a lovely house or backyard, but good enough for two women on their own. The edge of the house can just be seen. A bush with red berries. Fallen leaves on the dirt-enveloped grass. Free-standing poles 20 ft. apart connected by sturdy clothesline. The shades of trees are moved from start to finish of play by the sun's constant motion. CREATURE, a young woman of 21, sits in a futuristic deck chair "catching rays." She wears sunglasses. College books beside her chair. She gets up to poke the fire simmering in the post-modern grill, comes back to chair, opens a book to study, closes it frustrated, and lies back. Something sounding like a shot is heard far away. CREATURE jumps half-way up, then settles back down. She turns off the radio which has been playing "Bohemian Rhapsody" or some made-for-this-play song that has vaguely to do with mothers shooting people.)


CREATURE: Really hope this works...

(Gets up and starts to poke the fire again when MON enters. She's 47, but has still managed to keep her looks pretty well. She carries a slab of frozen ribs in a bag.)

Hey, Mon, did you—?

MON: Next time, Creature, I'm going to send you out yourself, and I don't care if you can't drive.

CREATURE: Said I was sorry.

MON: Sorry, yes, yes.

CREATURE: What is it?

MON: Ribs. What did I tell you I was going to get? Ribs. What did I ask you for? Ribs. So here. Here are the ribs. Here!

CREATURE: You don't have to be so—

MON: I'm not angry, just mad as hell! Our guest will be here in...

CREATURE: (Laughs to herself) Never heard you call him a guest before, Mon.

MON: I... we've got to get ready. Are you ready? Everything all set inside?


MON: I'm sorry. I didn't hear that.

CREATURE: You said keep an eye on the fire. It's what I've been doing. All I could. The breeze is up strong today. From that— (Starts to point)

MON: The fire? That's all you could do? Oh, Creature... (CREATURE hangs her head. MON's sorry for talking to her like that. Goes to hug her.) Oh, Creature... it's okay. Sorry. I'm sorry. It's all right. I'm nervous. Okay? Nervous.

CREATURE: You have a right to be.

MON: That's the spirit. You wouldn't believe what a run on the meat department St. Patrick's Day causes.

CREATURE: I'd believe it, Mon, if you told me. (MON smiles at CREATURE, pats her cheek. Then slaps her.)

MON: Don't forget again. Now. I believe everything else is ready. Everything. Out here, I should hope.

CREATURE: (In French accent) San doute.

MON: (Looks at her; pause) What?

CREATURE: I don't know. It just came out.

MON: What does it mean?

CREATURE: I don't know. What's it sound like?

MON: Sounds like a foreign language.

CREATURE: Maybe it's Spanish. Maybe I'm learning more than I thought. Easier than I thought.

MON: Doesn't sound like Spanish. Sounds like French.

CREATURE: It doesn't matter.

MON: That's what it sounded like.


MON: How are the studies coming?

CREATURE: I don't take French. I take Spanish.

MON: Was that French?

CREATURE: (Laughs) Ha—I guess it was...

MON: Well?

CREATURE: I'm tired of college.

MON: And I'm tired of paying for it. When you figure a way to teach yourself, let me know. (They've been taking turns cooking the meat) See to the sheets. I doubt our guest will mind if our clothes dry while we eat.

CREATURE: (Smiles, starting to go in the house) That's a really good sign.

MON: (Pause) Uh..


MON: I didn't ask your father. I forgot. (The sound of someone reciting something is getting closer)

CREATURE: (Smiles again) That must be him now.

(Goes in the house. MON continues over the meat, a little troubled. Suddenly a DEAD BODY, like something from Night of the Living Dead, ambles on, reciting Byron's "Vision of Belshazzar." He walks slow and continues to recite no matter what he does, which is basically to get at MON's "brains.")


The king was on his throne
The Satraps throng'd the hall:
A thousand bright lamps shone
O'er that high festival.
A thousand cups of gold,
In Judah deem'd divine—
Jehovah's vessels hold
The godless Heathen's wine!

In that same hour and hall,
The fingers of a hand
Came forth against the wall,
And wrote as if on sand:
The fingers of a man—
A solitary hand
Along the letters ran,
And traced them like a wand.

(MON's horrified and doesn't know what's going on. She evades the crippled walk and screams once or twice, before finally deciding to take up the shovel from a remote part of the yard and hits the thing on the head repeatedly until it's dead again. She kicks it to see if it's dead. CREATURE enters with a laundry basket of sheets. She stops, seeing MON over the DEAD BODY with a wild look in her eyes.)

MON: He was reciting Byron! Good Lord! How did I know that?!

CREATURE: What do you mean "get ready for our guest"?

MON: What?

CREATURE: "Our guest." If you didn't invite dad, who's coming?

MON: Creature, there's a dead body in our yard. He wanted to partake of my dandruff. (Thinks to herself) What an odd thing to say..

CREATURE: Did you kill that man?

MON: Well...

CREATURE: Yes or no.

MON: Or. (Laughs at herself, pleased with the joke)

CREATURE: Why did you kill him, mother?

MON: Well what do you want me to do? Stand there and say "Dig in!"? It was like he was trying to eat me.


MON: Don't you "oh, Mon!" me!

CREATURE: What's he doing here?

MON: How should I know? We're so far out in the country, the closest neighbor we have is the cemetery. (This makes both women pause. They look at the DEAD BODY, then move away from it.)

CREATURE: What did you—

MON: If you think I'm going to repeat that, you're crazy. (CREATURE starts to hang up sheets) What are we going to do?

CREATURE: You killed him. (MON drags DEAD BODY to a more inconspicuous place)

MON: (Grunts and groans while moving it) You don't really think—?

CREATURE: The area of a triangle is one half times base times perpendicular height. I just realized that.

MON: What are you talking about? He'll be here any minute.

CREATURE: Who, Mon? Who? You can't just evade the question by killing someone, you know.

MON: He was trying to attack me! How should I know?!

CREATURE: Are we eating alone?

MON: No.


MON: No.


MON: No.

CREATURE: I'm starting to understand things, Mon.

MON: "That must be him now."


MON: "That must be him now." That's what you said.


MON: A few minutes ago. Before I killed that man.

CREATURE: You remember?

MON: I remembered.

CREATURE: You never had that good a memory before.

MON: Maybe I never had anything important to remember before.

CREATURE: You've forgotten my birthday more than once.

MON: Should I repeat myself?

CREATURE: I know what we could do. We could roll him down.

MON: Now you're trying to—

CREATURE: Down the hill. No one would ever know.

MON: (Thinks) Don't think so?

CREATURE: No one would ever have to know. (MON's still thinking) The hill back there's very steep.

MON: Yes, yes, I know. All right. (They talk as they roll the body toward the edge of the stage, where the hill starts)

CREATURE: It was Byron.

MON: It was Byron.

CREATURE: Born 1788, died 1824. Of his most famous works, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Cantos one and two in 1812.

MON: You're well informed.

CREATURE: I guess he was a poet. Never had to read any of it.

MON: He's heavy.

CREATURE: Do you suppose he was already dead? Smells like it.

MON: I hope I get around that much after I'm gone.

CREATURE: You have no idea?

MON: Look I was just standing there, looking after my ribs, when—Oh! Good goodness!

(They hurry to roll DEAD BODY. It rolls off stage, presumably down the hill. MON hurries to her ribs, which are starting to smoke.)

Are you going to tell me? You distinctly said, must be him now. I mean, qu'est-ce que cela signifie?

CREATURE: Rien. Nothing at all.

MON: Tell me. I know you, Creature.

CREATURE: Tell me why you're speaking French.

(A pause. More reciting can be heard far away. From now on, the occasional gunshot can be heard in the distance)

MON: Seemed like the thing to say.

CREATURE: What's happening to us?

MON: Nothing important. I can tell.

CREATURE: (A little worried) Are you sure?

MON: Positive—that you're trying to change the subject.

CREATURE: I asked him.

MON: Pardon?

CREATURE: I talked to him last week. Friday. The weekly "how you doin" call. He said you hadn't said a thing to him. Figured you called it off.

MON: You asked him.

CREATURE: I know at first I wondered if you forgot. But I figured this way, it wouldn't matter.

MON: You've got to stop this, Creature.

CREATURE: He took the day off and everything. At least, I guess. He's really late.

MON: But the factory's still open. What do you mean? The factory is open every holiday now.

CREATURE: He'll be here.

MON: And you never bothered to stop and think that I just might have something else planned. Never occurred?

CREATURE: You never do. Anything else planned, I mean.

MON: Sometimes, a lot of times, I wonder why I bothered with you.

CREATURE: (This hurts her. Pause.) And that's a real good way to ignore what—

(But another DEAD BODY makes an appearance. The only thing needed to distinguish one DEAD BODY from another is different colored rags: what they were buried in. This DEAD BODY is reciting Poe's "Imitation.")


A dark unfathom'd tide
Of interminable pride—
A mystery, and a dream,
Should my early life seem;
I say that dream was fraught
With a wild, and waking thought
Of beings that have been,
Which my spirit hath not seen.
Had I let them pass me by,
With a dreaming eye!
Let none of earth inherit
That vision of my spirit;
Those thoughts I would control,
As a spell upon his soul:
For that bright hope at last
And that light time have past,
And my worldly rest hath gone
With a sigh as it pass'd on:
I care not tho' it perish
With a thought I then did cherish.

MON: (All this spoken over DEAD BODY's reciting) Go get the gun.

CREATURE: It's not here.

MON: What are you talking about?

CREATURE: He took it with him. It was his.

MON: Think. A kitchen knife?

CREATURE: Something, though, that would be sure to stop them.

MON: Hit them on the head with a Stephen King book? That should stop anybody. Kill any—Oh, I know. Go get the blow gun. (CREATURE dashes back inside) Oh, my sheets!

(DEAD BODY is trying to get to MON through the sheets. She tries to lead him away from them, then picks up the shovel for protection.)

CREATURE: (Off) I can't find it.

MON: Look in the hall closet. Next to the flame-thrower. Hurry up, this shovel's—oh, well... (Bashes this one in the head a bunch of times, too)

CREATURE: (Enters) All right. Where did—

MON: I decided just to off 'im with the shovel again.

CREATURE: Same one?

MON: No, this one was partial to Poe. The "Imitation" I believe.

CREATURE: We should be going crazy.

MON: Arthur Schopenhauer was a German post-Kantian philosopher.

CREATURE: I hope he doesn't show up. Those philosophers can be so sensitive. And I thought they were all vegetarians. Oh, the ribs!

MON: They're not burning.

CREATURE: It's the wind! I think the breeze is going to put the fire out.

MON: No! (Rushes to her ribs) Look after the sheets. Anybody else comes, (Refers to blowgun) use that thing.

CREATURE: I'm glad dad left some of his stuff around.

MON: Only the stuff that doesn't work.

CREATURE: Who is it, Mon?

MON: Are you looking after the sheets. I hear something.

CREATURE: Answer me.

MON: Someone I met at the grill where I work.

CREATURE: You're picking up men now?

MON: Don't talk back, and take that dead body out of the yard.

CREATURE: We should really talk about this.

MON: You talk about it. You seem to be the only one who wants us back together. (This shuts CREATURE up. CREATURE goes near DEAD BODY.)

CREATURE: Your fire's going out. Put the lid on it.

MON: Does it seem to be coming from the factory?

CREATURE: (Sullen) I don't know. Does it matter to you?

(Another DEAD BODY starts its way on. During the following CREATURE calmly takes the blowgun and shoots DEAD BODY in the head with it, before it reaches her. It was reciting some Wordsworth poem)

MON: You had no right, you know.

CREATURE: No, I don't know what you're talking about.

MON: I know you're not trying to be mean.

CREATURE: (After she's killed the DEAD BODY) It's a good thing dad was a hunter.

MON: Precious. "Another French political philosopher influenced by Locke was Baron de Montequieu."


MON: Yes.

CREATURE: 1689 to 1755?

MON: Of course.

CREATURE: Always like you to change the subject.

MON: I can't help it.


MON: Just like being alone. You know?


MON: But it doesn't have to be that way.

CREATURE: Podria usted repetir eso?

MON: It doesn't have to be that way.


Ben Ohmart has had 100's of stories and poems in journals and zines, and has had three plays produced this year. He also enjoys writing screenplays and lyrics. Some of the latter will be on CD soon.