(Scene opens with a man seated amid piles of ancient sprial notebooks and index cards. He is Lowel Davis, 83, dry, brittle, hard of hearing, and a collector of names. In the collection of mouldering pages around him are the names of every person he has ever met since he was seven years old. He is adding more...)
HAZEL: (from off) Yes, Lowell?
LOWELL: The new check-out girl.
LOWELL: Cindy what?
HAZEL: Her name tag said Cindy.
LOWELL: I cant just write Cindy. Whats her other name?
HAZEL: How do you know shes got another name?
LOWELL: Supermarkets dont hire people with only one name, Hazel, its too big a risk.
HAZEL: (entering) For Heavens sake, Lowell, you dont trust anybody, do you?
LOWELL: You promised youd help me with this. You promised youd help and then you cant remember the new girls name. How can I trust anybody if I cant trust my own wife?
HAZEL: I forgot. Just make a note and well ask her next time we go in to get eggs.
LOWELL: Suppose she gets fired? What then? Shell get away. Ill never know what her last name was.
HAZEL: Just call her "Cindy the Check-out Girl".
LOWELL: I cant do that!
HAZEL: Why not?
LOWELL: It wouldnt be Christian.
HAZEL: Theres a name wont end up in your damned book!
LOWELL: Eh? What was that ?
HAZEL: I said, its a shame Cindys name wont end up in your grand book.
LOWELL: Im surrounded by ignoramuses and traitors.
HAZEL: What was that, dear?
LOWELL: I want you to call up the store and find out who she is!
HAZEL: Im busy doing the dishes, Lowell, you do it.
LOWELL: For Gods sake, Hazel, dont be such an idiot.
HAZEL: Well, Lowell, to be honest, it was you who met her, you should have asked her at the time.
LOWELL: I did ask her, you were supposed to remember the name.
HAZEL: Why dont you carry the notebooks with you? Then you could write the names down as you go.
LOWELL: If I carried the books with me everybody would want to know what I was doing with them and theyd be curious enough to find out. I wont have my private business looked into by the lot of heathen scum that lives around here!
HAZEL: Well, Im busy right now, Lowell, so if you have to have that name immediately, you will just have to make the call yourself.
LOWELL: I cant call up the god damned supermarket and ask the name of some thirteen year old girl! For Gods sake, Hazel, whats come over you?
HAZEL: Ive had enough, Lowell.
(She exits into the kitchen, where she starts to sing the kind of hymns you hear at Dust Bowl funerals. LOWELL becomes increasingly agitated and then picks up the phone, beginning to dial. The singing in the other room becomes slightly distorted and louder. LOWELL gets confused and wipes the sweat from his brow, again attempting to dial.
Someone answers and the line goes dead. A loud dial tone now blends with the singing. A light change for the darker as the wind ruffles the pages of his notebooks. LOWELL is frightened.)
LOWELL: Hazel? Hazel, stop that caterwauling!
(HAZELs voice picks up a razors edge as she sings louder of the wages of sin and vengence on the wicked at heart.)
LOWELL: Hazel! In Heavens name what is going on here?
(The door to LOWELLs study creaks open and a very tall figure, more shadow than man, enters. His red eyes glow and his voice has a quality like that of a frieght train slamming on its brakes to avoid hitting a car stopped on the tracks.)
LOWELL: (picking up a pencil, licking it, and opening his notebook) Wh-who are you? Last name f-first please....
FIGURE: Lowell Davis, not one more name will be entered into your ledger.
LOWELL: Are you Death? Is it my time? Im not ready! Theres so much more to do, so many more names to enter!
FIGURE: (picking up a notebook and reading from it) Scott Stone: Fundamentalist preacher and homosexual. Hypocrit. Norhisham Khalil: Gas station worker, Godless Arab, had affair with Mrs. Crenshaw. Jim and Janet Pribble: Live on Elm Street, communists, enjoy watching sex films and dont wear clothes at home.
LOWELL: (interrupting) Even a town like this has its bad element. Im just a record keeper, recorder of facts. Its all true though, every word.
FIGURE: Earl Stroud: bully in high school, killed kittens for fun. Barbara Ledvina: Clerk at the drug store, short changed me sixty-five cents. John Lenzen: Idiot with a bad temper, beats his wife.
LOWELL: Its quite rare, a collection of names like this one. Every name of every person I have ever met. Mister Death, let me write your name in my ledger before I go. I would deem it a great honor and the capstone of my achievements. May I take the books with me? I would love to compare notes with St. Peter....
FIGURE: (tearing a page from the book) This is not your province. You have no right.
LOWELL: (shrieking) Hey! Stop that!
(FIGURE shreds another page, and we hear a gush of wind that sounds like relief, laughter, happy tears, and then disappears)
FIGURE: I am not Death, Mister Davis.
LOWELL: Stop tearing those pages! You dont know what youre doing!
FIGURE: (continuing to rip pages, with sounds as before) I know.
LOWELL: (struggling with the FIGURE who is now destroying all the books while HAZEL sings triumphantly from the kitchen and the light and sound effects build) Stop!! Most of those people are dead! Without these books it will be like they never existed! People need to know about them! To remember them!
FIGURE: And how are they to be remembered, Davis? As YOU remember them? As YOU have judged them? Every name you have entered is cursed with your damning opinion and blame. Every name here annotated with the character trait you found most offensive. Lowell Davis book of the damned. Well, no more!
LOWELL: Wh-who are you?
FIGURE: You know me, Davis. I am already in your book.
(All peripheral sound stops. The only people in the world are LOWELL and the FIGURE, who hands him the oldest of the notebooks.)
FIGURE: Stockton Davies. Entry number one.
LOWELL: (sitting down at his desk, reading the entry) Davies, Stocton. Right in front of me in alphabetical order. Teachers pet. Do-gooder. Caught him stealing cherries from Old Man Huss. The do-gooder is a thief, and will go to Hell because of it. Knowing this, I can sleep better. (looking up at the FIGURE) Im sorry.
(The FIGURE reaches out to take the notebook, but LOWELL will not release it. They struggle, pulling back and forth. Finally the old paper crumbles and the book is destroyed. The sounds of children running to recess while LOWELL screams. The lights go very dim and the FIGURE departs. HAZEL enters.)
HAZEL: Applebaum. I remember now, Lowell. Its Applebaum, Mary Applebaums youngest daughter.
(LOWELL is lying dead at his desk, surrounded by the shredded papers. HAZEL sees only his familiar hunched frame tending to his books, and turns to exit.)
HAZEL: You ought to turn the light on honey, sitting in the dark isnt good for you.
(She resumes singing as the lights fade to black. End.)"Stockton Davies" IS COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL AND MAY NOT BE DOWNLOADED, TRANSMITTED, PRINTED OR PERFORMED WITHOUT THE EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR
"Stockton Davies" debuted circa 1990-91, performed by Rebecca Gilman, Fred Norberg and Todd Ristau.
Performed at No Shame / Charlottesville on November 23, 2001, by Todd Ristau, Allison Taylor and Sean Nitchmann.