Thursday, March 11, 2010

Excerpt from Bachelor's Graveyard, a new play by Clifford Morts

Bachelor's Graveyard, a new full-length play in one act, will be presented as a staged reading in the
very near future at NoHo Center for the arts under the direction of Karesa McElheny. Here's a teaser.

Chip (Overlapped.)

And so he comes for him. Stomps, step by step, toward Ali leaning on the ropes. Big, heavy, awkward
steps. Like an executioner wearily trudging up the steps of the gallows. Ali peaking through his gloves,
staring at George like a rabbit stares at a hawk, like a mouse stares at a cat, like old, homeless, black men
stare at cops. And George goes to work. This is his house, now. He’s home. (Mimes the body punches
again.) And Ali, twitching like the last kid on a dodge ball team, swaying and twisting on the ropes,
taking those cannon shots on his arms, his elbows, his chest, his shoulders, everywhere but his head.
Twisting like a corpse hanging from a tree branch in the wind. It’s all over. An entire STADIUM of
people gone quiet, an entire WORLD of underdogs watching the last car wreck they ever wanna see,
can’t turn away, can’t stop the pictures, can’t make sense of it all anymore. (Beat. Quietly:) Ding, ding.
(Beat.) Ali walks slowly to his corner. Refuses to sit on his stool. Head down. Looks up. Worry on his
face. Sweat dripping off his chin. Eyes focused on George less than twenty feet away. And . . .
and . . . smiles. And in that heartbeat, that eye blink, that moment of clarity, he knows. He KNOWS. And
for Ali, it’s the best-kept secret on the earth. He’s the ONLY one that knows. He’s smiling ‘cause he
knows, deep in his heart, deep in his soul, so deep in himself only a handful of men have ever been there,
he knows . . . it’s over. He knows the long fight is his. And like a book that repeats itself, paragraph after
paragraph, chapter after chapter, so predictable, so mind-numbing, so sad, and so the fight plays itself out.
Ding, ding. Ali leans on the ropes. Foreman follows. Ali protects his head. Foreman swings. And swings.
And swings. And . . . Jesus Christ, swings. And Ali talks to Foreman, explaining things, teaches school,
lessons of life, talks, pours out his philosophy, makes Foreman understand, recites, demands, scolds,
pontificates, talks to him, puts his mouth right up to his ear, drags him into clinch after clinch and lectures
quietly into his ear. He says, "My name is Muhammad Ali. You’ve been hearin’ about me since you
was a scared, little boy. My name is Muhammad Ali. I been walkin’ in your dreams for years. My name
is Muhammad Ali and, listen good, boy, I want it all BACK." Round five, round six, round seven. Ding,
ding. Big George can’t even walk to his corner without staggering. He’s so tired of hittin’ on Ali. No man
can hit something all night long. Doesn’t matter what it is: a pillow, a tree, a wall. Why won’t he go down?
Why won’t he fall? Why won’t he lay down, goddamnit. Who IS this man? And Big George is praying,
oh, yes he is. Not big prayers, not even to win anymore. George is praying small now, just get me through
another round. Oh, God, I’m so tired. (Beat.) Ding, ding. George pushes himself off his stool. God, I just
want this to be over. I’m just so . . . so tired. Ali. To the ropes. Waves George in. C’mon. This is not over
yet. You gotta finish me. If you want me to lay down, you gotta kill me, George. Can you do that? You
got that in you? Can you kill me? Don’t you know that might isn’t always right? Don’t you KNOW that?
(Beat.) On the ropes. Always on the ropes. He looks like a man leaning out his bedroom window to see
if there’s a cat on the roof. Big George stumbles toward him. This is all cosmically written. God’s puppets.
There’s nothing else for him to do. Just swing. Put his head down and swing. Just swing. (Beat.) And
then. Like a flash of heat lighting in the middle of the blackest night in the middle of the loneliest field in
the middle of nowhere. Ali starts punching. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight perfect shots
to the face. Like a sniper, patient and blindingly fast, firing round after round of ammo. Each punch whips
George’s head from left to right, from right to left, from east to west. Each punch hard enough to knock
out most men alive. Each punch so fast George can only feel them, not see them. And he starts a slow
spin, downward, arms twirling, like a man on a tightrope. He can’t feel his legs. All he can see are lights
in his eyes. He’s in the queer room now. Where alligators play trombones and bats sing choruses of
hallelujia and time slows to nothing. Stay down, George. Stay down. It never really belonged to you
anyway. (Beat. Quiet. Even Dave is enthralled now.) Nine, ten. And Ali raises his hands high above
him. Fists clenched. And walks leisurely around his fallen foe, the fallen despot, all the fallen ghosts,
a fallen decade. (Whispers.) Ding . . . ding. And it was finished. (Pause.) And nobody knew it, not
then, not right then anyway, that it was ALL finished, everything: the sixties, Vietnam, Watergate,
Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Nixon, Kent State, The Beatles, Wounded Knee,
Bobby Seales, Civil Rights, Truth, Justice and the American way. It was finished. The end of a fixed
race. And for a few moments, a few days maybe, a few happy, happy moments, everything was as
it should be. The crown had been returned to the king and we were a few and a happy band of brothers,
the Holy Grail was close and God’s Grace was upon us. (Beat.) October 30, 1974. Three in the
morning. (Beat.) And yes, sometimes, sometimes things worked out okay.

See you tomorrow.