‘Round Midnight

Ron Campbell   soarfeat@gmail.com

 

‘Round Midnight

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS

 

Chazz

Doris

The Lamppost

 

SETTING

 

A Wednesday in a foggy, noire-y San Francisco night.

 

 

 

(In the Darkness we hear Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight. The lights come up to reveal CHAZZ standing stage left. DORIS stands stage right. LAMPPOST stands center, perhaps wearing a headlamp like the kind miners wear. There is a beat. Then:)

 

CHAZZ

 

Dig this:

I step out of the club and the night hits me between the eyes like a silk sledgehammer. I breathe in the tart midnight air and my nostrils pick up the stiff whiff of orange blossoms and petroleum sliding off the Bay from Point Richmond. I’ve varnished my tonsils with the watered down supermarket scotch they serve in places like this. Places like Frank and Chuck’s Rumor Lounge and The Alibi Room  and Spec’s. I’ve been under the spell of some rabid hard bop barn burners for a couple of blistering sets and the drummer’s syncopated mania has leaked into my sternum like hot champagne. They only stopped playing because the trumpet player’s instrument melted into pure golden drops of indescribable beauty. I squeeze into the night. Everything is cool. And then I see… her.

 

DORIS

 

I step out of the cab and pay the driver with a smile. The scent of me will haunt his backseat for weeks. On long cross-town rides future passengers will either make love or go mad. As I step to the curb my silhouette gives the night an instant hard on. My hair glistens in the neon haze like spun brass. My lips are red and as bee stung as a fat boy scout at a Fourth of July pick nick. The sound of my heels on the rain soaked sidewalk could wake a dead Quaker and make him dance a lunatic jig. I light a cigarette and the smoke curls into the damp air and spells out one word: desire. I scan the street with eyes as cool as a double vodka gimlet and twice as potent. That’s when I see… him.

 

LAMPPOST

 

I see them see each other. Her glance makes the brim of his fedora curl up like a dried apricot. He quickly stuffs his tongue back in his mouth with his free hand while straightening his tie with the other. He tries to play it cool but it’s too late. His personal Coit tower is tenting his trench coat like a steel obelisk. I chuckle to myself as only a lamppost like me can: silently. I’ve seen it all. I’ve held up drunks and illuminated shady deals. I’ve dented wayward SUV’s and supported Gene Kelly wannabe’s. I’ve stood sentinel on this corner for sixty something years without complaint. Why? I’m a lamppost.  And we lampposts have no mouths. We’re just here for the atmosphere.

 

CHAZZ & THE LAMPPOST

 

(They share the following dialogue, like a chorus, perhaps alternating lines.)

 

Another San Francisco night

Another dark rendezvous

There’s no withdrawals from this fog bank

That will cure these lonesome blues

In the glare of the neon

In the shadow of a bridge

There ain’t a metaphor we haven’t met before

And no dream can’t be abridged

 

 

CHAZZ

 

My five o’clock shadow is out of date by a week. The pride I swallowed twenty years ago does a pirouette in my pancreas. I burp and it smells like curdled regret with a dash of self-loathing. I stuff my hands in my pockets with the studied nonchalance of a veteran pocket pool player.

Testi, testi, one two. I’m ready.

I try to casually saunter towards her but the sidewalk is drunk and it tries to make me look like a shanghai’d sailor still getting his land legs. A single drop of flop sweat makes its way from the nape of my neck to the crack of my ass. A siren in the distance sounds like I feel inside: lonely and too late.

 

 

DORIS

 

I’ve noticed him psychically rubber necking since I got out of the cab. I grace him with a full body profile that, in this light, could peel the enamel off a claw-foot bathtub in the middle of a ‘Frisco winter. Even with the brim of his hat down I can sense him looking at me so hard I can hear his eyes. I reach down and adjust the clasp that holds my thigh high stockings on my perfect pegs. I know my stiletto heels are as sharp as daggers of glass, that my skirt fits like it was made of molasses and that, in the light of this lamppost, my skin is as alabaster as a gravestone in Daly City. In other words, I look pretty good for a Wednesday night.

 

LAMPPOST

 

I wait. I cast a circle of light. They are moths to my flame. The moist air caresses me. Caresses her. Caresses them. I wait. Patience is my chief attribute. I have the quality of cast iron. Why? Because I am cast iron. But somewhere, deep inside me, in the hollow center of me, where all the wires go and the electricity sings its’ wild song, I feel a something. Is this what I was meant for? Is this my purpose? To light the way for these two lonesome souls in this city drenched in enough longing to drown all the cats in Contra Costa County? Am I the lighthouse in the fog for these wayward tug boats? Am I here to laminate their forlorn souls with the buzz of my light bulb? Is this the encounter I’ve been counting on all these years?

 

 

CHAZZ & THE LAMPPOST

 

            (They again share the following dialogue, like a chorus, perhaps                            alternating lines, perhaps with a little more longing.)

 

Another San Francisco night

Another dark rendezvous

There’s no withdrawals from this fog bank

That will cure these lonesome blues

In the glare of the neon

In the shadow of a bridge

There ain’t a metaphor we haven’t met before

And no dream can’t be abridged

 

 

CHAZZ

 

As I cross the street towards her my heart starts to beat like it was powered by Elvin Jones on a fist full of bennies. I hear my blood moving. Fast. The glint from her garter has done catastrophic damage to my motor skills and my self-control. She stands at the edge of a circle of light cast by this lonely lamppost. Smoking. She also has a cigarette. She takes a drag and I can hear the dry tobacco crackle in the dark. I’ve never envied anything as much as I envy that cigarette right now.

 

 

 

 

 

DORIS

 

I flick the cigarette into the dirty puddle in the gutter, destroying the reflection of the lamppost in an instant. I pick a bit of tobacco from My crimson lips with my gleaming French tips and offer the slightest curl of a smile, like a wisp of smoke, to the man in the hat who seems to be trying to negotiate with a personal gravity issue as he approaches. When he looks up I see his eyes are as deep and clear as the bottom of Lake Merritt. I want to take off all my clothes and skinny-dip in them immediately. But I show him none of this. I lean against the lamppost and let my lungs work.

 

(DORIS leans against the actor playing LAMPPOST seductively.)

 

LAMPPOST

I feel her flank against me and it’s all I can do to not short circuit and blow a bulb. This is what we lampposts call a bit of allright. I’m used to stoned folk singers sticking Xeroxed notices on me with duct tape and spoiled cocker spaniels marking me as their territory but this is something entirely different. This is what I was made for. This is my purpose. A curl of her hair brushes my Doric detailing and I practically bend. She angles her jaw line and I go all chiaroscuro on her.  From my angle her clavicle looks almost holy in it’s perfection. If a lamppost can smile, I’m smiling. Hell, I’m leering.

 

 

CHAZZ & THE LAMPPOST

 

(They share the following dialogue, like a chorus, momentum building.)

 

Another San Francisco night

Another dark rendezvous

There’s no withdrawals from this fog bank

That will cure these lonesome blues

In the glare of the neon

In the shadow of a bridge

There ain’t a metaphor we haven’t met before

And no dream can’t be abridged

 

CHAZZ

 

I wonder: Was that a smile, like a wisp of smoke, curling in the corner of her mouth? Or is this lamppost light playing tricks on My libido-laden vision? I approach her with the swagger of the hopeless, adding a pinch of playful insouciance for good measure and she is leaning against that lamppost like it was a vertical chaise lounge. When I’m ten feet from her I stop- and my brain slides forward and slams into the inside of my forehead. She looks me dead in the eye and my mouth goes as dry as rattlesnake jerky. I become a five-foot-eleven nerve ending. I try to say hello but all that comes out is…

Heh-

 

DORIS

 

This used to be my favorite part. When I watched them crack inside. When I flashed them my eyes and turned their insides into pudding. But not tonight. Tonight is different. Maybe it’s something in the way he’s looking at me from under that fedora. Like he was submerged for a long time and is only now coming up for air. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s no moon tonight. Or maybe it’s the light that shines down from this lamppost and cuts through this fog like a scalpel. I’m not sure if he tried to speak. All I heard was…

 

CHAZZ

 

…Heh.

 

DORIS

 

And that’s not really a word. Much less a greeting. But it’s not a come-on either, and that’s refreshing. I tilt my head slightly so the shadow of my lashes can play across my cheekbone. I can feel the darkness beyond this little island of light breathing. Darkness draped in a wet shroud of loneliness. The sadness of a thousand souls sighing out there in the dark of a San Francisco that the tourists never see. I see the toes of his brown shoes flirting with the edge of the lamppost light. And suddenly I want him to join me, in this island of light in this dark city under this forgotten lamppost. And so I say…

Hello.

 

CHAZZ

 

Hello.

 

I licked my lips and swallowed and the gulp sounded deafening and I was sure she heard it but she smiled and said:

 

DORIS

 

It’s a dog of a night, isn’t it?

 

I wanted to see him better, this shy man in a fedora with his coat collar pulled up against the midnight chill and his dark eyes so full of pain and longing I could taste it. I reached out an exquisitely manicured hand.

 

Let me see you in the light.

 

 

CHAZZ

 

She reached out a hand to me, which I noticed was exquisitely manicured, and said again:

 

 

DORIS

 

Let me see you in the light. Don’t worry. I won’t bite.

 

 

CHAZZ

And I touched her hand and she pulled me into that pool of light that spilled from that lamppost and suddenly all the artful posturing and the Sam Spade charade and all that clever yet macabre façade just melted away and we were just two slightly damaged yet undaunted people. And we just stood there. Not saying anything. Not needing to say anything. Just  holding hands. Just. Holding. Hands.

 

 

CHAZZ & DORIS

 

        (They share the following dialogue, like a chorus.)

 

Another San Francisco night

Another dark rendezvous

There’s no withdrawals from this fog bank

That will cure these lonesome blues

In the glare of the neon

In the shadow of a bridge

There ain’t a metaphor we haven’t met before

And no dream can’t be abridged

 

 

LAMPPOST

Somewhere out above this fog the stars are shining like pin pricks in black velvet. And somewhere on the other side of the world a hot sun is shining. But right here, right now there are only two lonely people holding hands against the darkness. And just between you and me and the lamppost the world became just a little less dark of a place tonight… sometime ‘round midnight.

(As the lights fade, we hear ‘Round Midnight again, but softly.)                    

 

– END OF PLAY –

 

 

 

Ron Campbell   soarfeat@gmail.com

 

‘Round Midnight

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS

 

Chazz

Doris

The Lamppost

 

SETTING

 

A Wednesday in a foggy, noire-y San Francisco night.

 

 

 

(In the Darkness we hear Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight. The lights come up to reveal CHAZZ standing stage left. DORIS stands stage right. LAMPPOST stands center, perhaps wearing a headlamp like the kind miners wear. There is a beat. Then:)

 

CHAZZ

 

Dig this:

I step out of the club and the night hits me between the eyes like a silk sledgehammer. I breathe in the tart midnight air and my nostrils pick up the stiff whiff of orange blossoms and petroleum sliding off the Bay from Point Richmond. I’ve varnished my tonsils with the watered down supermarket scotch they serve in places like this. Places like Frank and Chuck’s Rumor Lounge and The Alibi Room  and Spec’s. I’ve been under the spell of some rabid hard bop barn burners for a couple of blistering sets and the drummer’s syncopated mania has leaked into my sternum like hot champagne. They only stopped playing because the trumpet player’s instrument melted into pure golden drops of indescribable beauty. I squeeze into the night. Everything is cool. And then I see… her.

 

DORIS

 

I step out of the cab and pay the driver with a smile. The scent of me will haunt his backseat for weeks. On long cross-town rides future passengers will either make love or go mad. As I step to the curb my silhouette gives the night an instant hard on. My hair glistens in the neon haze like spun brass. My lips are red and as bee stung as a fat boy scout at a Fourth of July pick nick. The sound of my heels on the rain soaked sidewalk could wake a dead Quaker and make him dance a lunatic jig. I light a cigarette and the smoke curls into the damp air and spells out one word: desire. I scan the street with eyes as cool as a double vodka gimlet and twice as potent. That’s when I see… him.

 

LAMPPOST

 

I see them see each other. Her glance makes the brim of his fedora curl up like a dried apricot. He quickly stuffs his tongue back in his mouth with his free hand while straightening his tie with the other. He tries to play it cool but it’s too late. His personal Coit tower is tenting his trench coat like a steel obelisk. I chuckle to myself as only a lamppost like me can: silently. I’ve seen it all. I’ve held up drunks and illuminated shady deals. I’ve dented wayward SUV’s and supported Gene Kelly wannabe’s. I’ve stood sentinel on this corner for sixty something years without complaint. Why? I’m a lamppost.  And we lampposts have no mouths. We’re just here for the atmosphere.

 

CHAZZ & THE LAMPPOST

 

(They share the following dialogue, like a chorus, perhaps alternating lines.)

 

Another San Francisco night

Another dark rendezvous

There’s no withdrawals from this fog bank

That will cure these lonesome blues

In the glare of the neon

In the shadow of a bridge

There ain’t a metaphor we haven’t met before

And no dream can’t be abridged

 

 

CHAZZ

 

My five o’clock shadow is out of date by a week. The pride I swallowed twenty years ago does a pirouette in my pancreas. I burp and it smells like curdled regret with a dash of self-loathing. I stuff my hands in my pockets with the studied nonchalance of a veteran pocket pool player.

Testi, testi, one two. I’m ready.

I try to casually saunter towards her but the sidewalk is drunk and it tries to make me look like a shanghai’d sailor still getting his land legs. A single drop of flop sweat makes its way from the nape of my neck to the crack of my ass. A siren in the distance sounds like I feel inside: lonely and too late.

 

 

DORIS

 

I’ve noticed him psychically rubber necking since I got out of the cab. I grace him with a full body profile that, in this light, could peel the enamel off a claw-foot bathtub in the middle of a ‘Frisco winter. Even with the brim of his hat down I can sense him looking at me so hard I can hear his eyes. I reach down and adjust the clasp that holds my thigh high stockings on my perfect pegs. I know my stiletto heels are as sharp as daggers of glass, that my skirt fits like it was made of molasses and that, in the light of this lamppost, my skin is as alabaster as a gravestone in Daly City. In other words, I look pretty good for a Wednesday night.

 

LAMPPOST

 

I wait. I cast a circle of light. They are moths to my flame. The moist air caresses me. Caresses her. Caresses them. I wait. Patience is my chief attribute. I have the quality of cast iron. Why? Because I am cast iron. But somewhere, deep inside me, in the hollow center of me, where all the wires go and the electricity sings its’ wild song, I feel a something. Is this what I was meant for? Is this my purpose? To light the way for these two lonesome souls in this city drenched in enough longing to drown all the cats in Contra Costa County? Am I the lighthouse in the fog for these wayward tug boats? Am I here to laminate their forlorn souls with the buzz of my light bulb? Is this the encounter I’ve been counting on all these years?

 

 

CHAZZ & THE LAMPPOST

 

            (They again share the following dialogue, like a chorus, perhaps                            alternating lines, perhaps with a little more longing.)

 

Another San Francisco night

Another dark rendezvous

There’s no withdrawals from this fog bank

That will cure these lonesome blues

In the glare of the neon

In the shadow of a bridge

There ain’t a metaphor we haven’t met before

And no dream can’t be abridged

 

 

CHAZZ

 

As I cross the street towards her my heart starts to beat like it was powered by Elvin Jones on a fist full of bennies. I hear my blood moving. Fast. The glint from her garter has done catastrophic damage to my motor skills and my self-control. She stands at the edge of a circle of light cast by this lonely lamppost. Smoking. She also has a cigarette. She takes a drag and I can hear the dry tobacco crackle in the dark. I’ve never envied anything as much as I envy that cigarette right now.

 

 

 

 

 

DORIS

 

I flick the cigarette into the dirty puddle in the gutter, destroying the reflection of the lamppost in an instant. I pick a bit of tobacco from My crimson lips with my gleaming French tips and offer the slightest curl of a smile, like a wisp of smoke, to the man in the hat who seems to be trying to negotiate with a personal gravity issue as he approaches. When he looks up I see his eyes are as deep and clear as the bottom of Lake Merritt. I want to take off all my clothes and skinny-dip in them immediately. But I show him none of this. I lean against the lamppost and let my lungs work.

 

(DORIS leans against the actor playing LAMPPOST seductively.)

 

LAMPPOST

I feel her flank against me and it’s all I can do to not short circuit and blow a bulb. This is what we lampposts call a bit of allright. I’m used to stoned folk singers sticking Xeroxed notices on me with duct tape and spoiled cocker spaniels marking me as their territory but this is something entirely different. This is what I was made for. This is my purpose. A curl of her hair brushes my Doric detailing and I practically bend. She angles her jaw line and I go all chiaroscuro on her.  From my angle her clavicle looks almost holy in it’s perfection. If a lamppost can smile, I’m smiling. Hell, I’m leering.

 

 

CHAZZ & THE LAMPPOST

 

(They share the following dialogue, like a chorus, momentum building.)

 

Another San Francisco night

Another dark rendezvous

There’s no withdrawals from this fog bank

That will cure these lonesome blues

In the glare of the neon

In the shadow of a bridge

There ain’t a metaphor we haven’t met before

And no dream can’t be abridged

 

CHAZZ

 

I wonder: Was that a smile, like a wisp of smoke, curling in the corner of her mouth? Or is this lamppost light playing tricks on My libido-laden vision? I approach her with the swagger of the hopeless, adding a pinch of playful insouciance for good measure and she is leaning against that lamppost like it was a vertical chaise lounge. When I’m ten feet from her I stop- and my brain slides forward and slams into the inside of my forehead. She looks me dead in the eye and my mouth goes as dry as rattlesnake jerky. I become a five-foot-eleven nerve ending. I try to say hello but all that comes out is…

Heh-

 

DORIS

 

This used to be my favorite part. When I watched them crack inside. When I flashed them my eyes and turned their insides into pudding. But not tonight. Tonight is different. Maybe it’s something in the way he’s looking at me from under that fedora. Like he was submerged for a long time and is only now coming up for air. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s no moon tonight. Or maybe it’s the light that shines down from this lamppost and cuts through this fog like a scalpel. I’m not sure if he tried to speak. All I heard was…

 

CHAZZ

 

…Heh.

 

DORIS

 

And that’s not really a word. Much less a greeting. But it’s not a come-on either, and that’s refreshing. I tilt my head slightly so the shadow of my lashes can play across my cheekbone. I can feel the darkness beyond this little island of light breathing. Darkness draped in a wet shroud of loneliness. The sadness of a thousand souls sighing out there in the dark of a San Francisco that the tourists never see. I see the toes of his brown shoes flirting with the edge of the lamppost light. And suddenly I want him to join me, in this island of light in this dark city under this forgotten lamppost. And so I say…

Hello.

 

CHAZZ

 

Hello.

 

I licked my lips and swallowed and the gulp sounded deafening and I was sure she heard it but she smiled and said:

 

DORIS

 

It’s a dog of a night, isn’t it?

 

I wanted to see him better, this shy man in a fedora with his coat collar pulled up against the midnight chill and his dark eyes so full of pain and longing I could taste it. I reached out an exquisitely manicured hand.

 

Let me see you in the light.

 

 

CHAZZ

 

She reached out a hand to me, which I noticed was exquisitely manicured, and said again:

 

 

DORIS

 

Let me see you in the light. Don’t worry. I won’t bite.

 

 

CHAZZ

And I touched her hand and she pulled me into that pool of light that spilled from that lamppost and suddenly all the artful posturing and the Sam Spade charade and all that clever yet macabre façade just melted away and we were just two slightly damaged yet undaunted people. And we just stood there. Not saying anything. Not needing to say anything. Just  holding hands. Just. Holding. Hands.

 

 

CHAZZ & DORIS

 

        (They share the following dialogue, like a chorus.)

 

Another San Francisco night

Another dark rendezvous

There’s no withdrawals from this fog bank

That will cure these lonesome blues

In the glare of the neon

In the shadow of a bridge

There ain’t a metaphor we haven’t met before

And no dream can’t be abridged

 

 

LAMPPOST

Somewhere out above this fog the stars are shining like pin pricks in black velvet. And somewhere on the other side of the world a hot sun is shining. But right here, right now there are only two lonely people holding hands against the darkness. And just between you and me and the lamppost the world became just a little less dark of a place tonight… sometime ‘round midnight.

(As the lights fade, we hear ‘Round Midnight again, but softly.)                    

 

– END OF PLAY –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Round Midnight by Ron Campbell.doc
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