LADYBUG, LADYBUG


A one-act play

Performed by the Experimental Theatre Cooperative at the Last Chance New Play Fest in Helena, Montana, October 2018.




CHARACTER LIST


NAME    /    AGE     /    GENDER     /    COSTUME


MIKEY     /    Early 20s    /    M     /    Street clothes


JORDAN     /   Late 20s    /     NB     /    Street clothes






NOTE ON SCRIPT


Any dialogue shown side-by-side is read simultaneously. Stage light will shift to reveal our progression from reality to partial reality and the imagination. The actors stay seated (as if in a car) unless breaking the fourth wall.


The pronouns for Jordan are they / them.




ACT 1


MIKEY sits in a chair Stage C. He flicks a zippo lighter. He adjusts the rearview mirror.

His eyes are grayish, and inside of his pupil is the highway.

MIKEY


Looks up and speaks over his shoulder.


I can carve a bird out of an apple.


Beat.


I use a pocket knife. Taught myself.


Beat.


Should’ve been a songwriter. That’s what I always wanted to do. Once I was caught singing
on the street... wailing all the way to Town Pump...  and I turned around and behind me
was a crowd of people just following with their phones out.
They were filming the whole damn thing.


Beat.


I shut up right then.


Beat.


Could I bum one of those from ya?


JORDAN pulls a chair up to Stage R. and adjust the seat slightly behind MIKEY.

They reaches into the bag and fish out a cigarette. They pass it up to MIKEY.

MIKEY flicks the zippo and takes a long drag.


JORDAN


I don’t actually smoke nowadays ‘cept on long trips.


Beat.


Anyways, there’s more where that came from, if you’d like.


Silence. Both smoke. MIKEY’s eye darts out to scan the shoulder of the road.

In his pupil, we see a woman’s face.


MIKEY


I was trying to quit–


Beat.


‘Cos my girlfriend got pregnant.


JORDAN


Beat. Drag.


As of when?


MIKEY


Recent.


Beat.


She’s not having it though.


JORDAN


I’m sorry…


MIKEY


I guess, ya. I told her I would’ve, you know––


Beat.


But she didn’t want it. So she––


Beat.



A light shifts to suggest a fracture between the real and imagined.


I can carve a bird out of an apple, did I tell you?


MIKEY’s eye flicks and stares straight. Bores a hole.

If the audience could follow through the space carved out by the eye

they would see a palm full of pills.

Jordan leans forward to check the radio.


JORDAN


Do you mind if I find a station?


Beat.


MIKEY


I wouldn’t but it’s broke.


JORDAN


Bummer... 
Hey! I––


Beat.


––do you want to hear a song? I used to sing it when I was a kid in the car.
When I go on road trips I remember it.


Beat.


It goes…


Sings.


“Ladybug ladybug fly away home…”


Hesitates. Tries another melody.


“Ladybug ladybug fly away home.
Your house is on fire––”


Stops.


MIKEY


Looks behind his shoulder at JORDAN.


What–– is that the whole thing?


JORDAN


Checks phone.


No. It’s not… I––


Hesitates.


I realized the last two lines are sort of… dark.


Beat.


So I stopped.


MIKEY


Okay.


Beat.


You don’t need to share it.


Beat.


But I can tell you the stuff I write is gonna be way darker.


Smiles.


JORDAN


Tell me about your girlfriend.


MIKEY


Back when we first met she was all I had. No job or family then.


Beat.


You know, a lotta girls I know say that their guys are abusive,

but women can do some serious shit to men.


JORDAN


Considering.


Yeah, people usually suck, I guess. Like––


JORDAN places their hand to the glass and manually rolls the window down.


Wait, is that the river formerly-known-as the Blackfoot?



END ACT 1











ACT 2


A powerpoint presentation is assembled. Its title is “The Rivers That Formerly Were”... Jordan stands before the screen with a pointer while Mikey hands out info pamphlets to the audience.


This presentation may change during every performance. Ultimately, it should try to address some of the points below, and whatever else the performers and directors deem interesting or necessary or regionally appropriate.



MAJOR POINTS OF WHAT FORMERLY-WAS:

  1. Contrary to popular thought, these rivers did not just drain around the corner to wait, but are believed to have drained into big dark holes resembling wells or drains. Some speculate they have been re-routed to a secondary, interstellar earth-body, but this has been proven to be speculation with no supporting evidence
  2. While many countries still have access to freshwater, all American drinking water is now owned in federal reserves or by private corporations. The Federal government is attempting to buy out freshwater from developing countries, but they are facing severe backlash. State mandated restrictions apply to all water use, and it is often diluted with overstock off-brand fruit punch, some of which dates back to the 1980s.
  3. In an episode of The Simple Life starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, the actresses stumbled upon a sinking well where the river drained. Rumor has it that the cameraman leaked the footage to major news distributors. Before this, the rapid decline of rivers was claimed to be an internet conspiracy. Many US citizens are still in denial or suspended disbelief.
  4. Since the initial footage was broadcasted, several tighty banded packs of New Age activists and self-declared refugees have been traveling along the former waterways in an act they call “The Summonings;” a handful of Los Angeles celebrities including Matthew McConaughey have joined these refugee populations, and many mocked his attendance which has become a major detractor of The Summoning’s public ethos. Most of the major river channels have been quarantined and are in the process of being researched under the supervision of the state.
  5. In a recent satellite photo, a cartographer deciphered a faint calligraphic scrawl in what is now the dry river channels… An indigenous scholar and linguist claims the channels script is reminiscent of the Muskogean languages. According to another, in Arabic, the tracings loosely resemble the phrase: Now what?


END ACT 2






ACT 3


JORDAN


Wait, is that the river formerly-known-as the Blackfoot?


MIKEY


Looks out to the side. In his pupil is a ladybug.


You bet. I saw, what’s his name, Matthew––


JORDAN


McConaughey?


MIKEY


Yeah, him. He was down there, like, dancing around for a few days.


Both JORDAN and MIKEY quiet.


The ladybug emerges from MIKEY’s pupil.

MIKEY gestures to hold the ladybug on his fingertip

out and back towards JORDAN.


When MIKEY coaxes the Ladybug from his pupil,

a sudden fracture divides what is imagined and what is real.


MIKEY


Trade ya for a cigarette.


JORDAN


The ladybug?


Beat. Digs around in bag.


I have a cup... I can––


MIKEY


What else were you saying? About people––


JORDAN places the ladybug in the cup and examines it inside.

They pass a cigarette to MIKEY. He lights it, drags.


JORDAN


Oh… I think, sometimes, about how we have the capacity of causing immense
harm to one another.


Beat.


And when we do, I think about how it’s always there… it doesn’t leave us. Like
what the rivers-that-formerly-were. It doesn’t go away. It can’t.
It’s bruised on the land, the skin. A burn mark. A tailing obscuring our sight.


Beat.


MIKEY


Pauses. Considers.


You see the scars on my cheek?


MIKEY turns and drags his finger down the jawline.


In MIKEY’s pupil is a razor blade.


JORDAN


“Ladybug ladybug my cup is your home––”


MIKEY


Those are from her, you know. One night she––


Drags.


I can carve a bird out of an apple.


JORDAN


I’d like to see you do it.


MIKEY


I taught myself.


Beat.


How to cook. Have done it for twelve years. I’m only twenty-four, too.


JORDAN


Back then the rivers nearly-were.


Beat.


Hey.


MIKEY


What?


JORDAN


Let’s play a game.


MIKEY


Not super into car games.


JORDAN


Alright. What’s your favorite line from a movie?


MIKEY


Thinks.


Shit.


Drags. Smiles while remembering.


You can’t ride a horse with two asses.


Beat.


Wait. No, sorry, it’s–– you can’t ride two horses with one ass,


Beat.


Sugarbee!


Chuckles.


JORDAN


Is that from Sweet Home?


MIKEY


Yawp.


Beat. Side smiles.


You know, I always thought of myself as a Southerner at heart.
Even though I grew up in Montana, I like to think I have that southern
gentle- man in me. What do they say?


JORDAN


Charm?


MIKEY


That’s it.


JORDAN


Thinks.


When I said people can be cruel, I didn’t–– or I don’t–– have the full story.


JORDAN


What’s her name? Your girlfriend.


MIKEY


Britney.


JORDAN


How bad is it? Like do you believe it’s abusive? Or––


MIKEY


Hesitates.


I–– I don’t know. It’s not good. Whatever it is, I’m going to see my friend in Alberton.
To get away for a while.


JORDAN


Do you imagine you’ll go back? To Britney?


MIKEY


Don’t know yet. I don’t even know if I can.


Beat.


Sometimes I think about it, like, one door opens and another one closes.


Beat.


But, I don’t want another door to open. What I’d really like to do is just want to stand

in the hallway for a while surrounded by doors… you know, options.


JORDAN


That’s fair.


MIKEY reaches for the cigarette, and JORDAN finally passes it back.


JORDAN


It’s almost like, you are the Blackfoot River. You are the Mikey-that-formerly-was.

Quarantined for further inspection in the hope of recovery––


MIKEY


Sure. You could say that. I do feel pretty empty these days.


In MIKEY’s pupil we see the image of a woman. The same as before. She leans in close.


JORDAN stands up and moves in front of the chair. They hold the cup.


JORDAN


Light shifts to reveal a full immersion into reality.

To audience.


I just met Mikey, you know? A part of me is curious and a part of me is just talking…
and another part is worried about him. I don’t know the full context; and I can talk about Britney like this,
at a distance, vaguely and subtly defensive of Mikey, maybe only because
she’s not here. I never met her. I doubt I ever will.


Beat.


And what a trope. To compare a woman to a ride.


Beat.


The rivers-that-formerly-were exist in the past tense only because
of collective actions that accumulated over time––


Beat.


Sometimes it’s easy, as a listener, to convince yourself that you aren’t accountable…
or that you exist outside of what you hear, but only moments before I entered the car
Britney was here… maybe in this very seat, and––


Light shifts back to partial reality.

JORDAN and MIKEY speak slightly out of unison, and JORDAN mutters

while MIKEY recalls the lyrics.


MIKEY


“and your children are dying.”
JORDAN


––”and your children are dying.”


JORDAN


Turns to MIKEY. Sits.


That’s the line. Or, it’s something like that.


Beat.


That doesn’t rhyme, but yeah… close enough.


MIKEY chants somewhat half-jokingly, while JORDAN sings quietly into the paper cup.


MIKEY and JORDAN


“Ladybug ladybug fly away home, your house is on fire and your children are dying.”


JORDAN


It’s not right. It’s “shall burn,” maybe, instead of “are dying”…


MIKEY flicks the zippo.


MIKEY


I want to tell you a story about a time I realized something.


JORDAN sits back down.


JORDAN


Sure.


MIKEY


I was on a walk in the woods with my two dogs. A beautiful, crisp Autumn evening…


Beat.


We hiked all day, got lost, and couldn’t find our way back to the parking lot at the trailhead.
Then suddenly we reached a clearing…


Beat.


and up on the hill was this field of wild roses.


Beat.


And that’s when I learned…


JORDAN


Among the flowers?


MIKEY


Yawp. I learned, or maybe I realized––


Beat. JORDAN leans forward in anticipation.


To stop and smell the roses.


Beat. They lean back… unimpressed.


I also learned that day that death is beautiful
because everthing in the woods was dying, too.
All of it is dying, all the time. So I wasn’t afraid anymore.


Beat.


Not after that day.


JORDAN


Sugarbee.


MIKEY


Forget a horse, I’ll walk if I need to.


MIKEY’s eye searches the rearview mirror. The highway drags along his pupil.


MIKEY


That’s the difference between living and surviving.
I want to live. I don’t want to just survive. I want the––


Beat.





JORDAN


Apple.



JORDAN


You can carve––


MIKEY


I can’t go back to what formerly-was––


JORDAN


That’s the point of the addition, formerly… At the beginning there was the wound.


MIKEY


Visible by the naked eye.


Beat.


Cigarette?


JORDAN and MIKEY both stand. The two face each other, and

JORDAN gives MIKEY another cigarette. He drags and moves to tap the ashes

in the paper cup, but JORDAN blocks it with their hand.


MIKEY


Or, how about this? I’m in the hallway, full of options, and fumbling with my keys… 
then I stand in the fluorescent light, and––


Beat.


In MIKEY’s pupil is a birth scene, obscured by light.


The light shifts on stage to signal a full immersion in the imagination.


All I have is my––


JORDAN


Pocket knife.


MIKEY


Pocket knife.


Beat.


So I’m standing between every door. The rooms––


JORDAN


Carve away behind the doors under the weight of your open knife.


MIKEY


One opens. Maybe two or three at once.


JORDAN


An apple rolls out of the first.


MIKEY


I–– enter?


JORDAN


Nods.


If you want to.


MIKEY


The rivers


Beat.


no-longer-are.


Beat. Drags.


But… there is an apple orchard. Nearly burnt all the way down, and––


JORDAN


You hear rustling.


MIKEY


It’s Britney. It sounds like she is––


JORDAN


Giving birth?


MIKEY


Nods.


I want to help. So I––


JORDAN


Do you?


MIKEY’s pupils show a woman’s face. Razorblade. A palm of pills.


MIKEY


Yes.


JORDAN


Turn the corner. The trees are only slightly singed.


MIKEY


I move closer to her voice, and that’s when I hear the voice of my kid.


Beat.


But instead of finding them behind the trees there is just a––


JORDAN


Crowd.


MIKEY


Strangers, and they are holding their phones out. Recording as
they follow the sound through the burning orchard.


Beat.


I try to follow. I try to push past them. I try to find Britney and our baby, but the crowd is too––


JORDAN


Sprawling. They won’t let you pass. They won’t look up from their phones.


MIKEY


Suddenly, I leave the crowd. I turn. In my hands I look down and see––


JORDAN


Everything that was carved away.


Beat.


Here...


JORDAN hovers with their hand just above MIKEY’s neck. He turns and places the cigarette in his mouth
while they coax his palms open. MIKEY extends his hands.

JORDAN holds open the paper cup to place the ladybug inside.

Both JORDAN and MIKEY hold their palms over one another’s to shield the ladybug.

A long pause ensues as they linger in this gesture of exchange.

The light shifts to partial reality.


JORDAN


You can let me out here. At this Flying J.


Beat.


Thanks again for the ride. Here’s five bucks for gas––


JORDAN’s hand parts from MIKEY’s. He isn’t holding the ladybug. Instead

unfolds a five dollar bill. They are short with each other now, as if

their car ride was filled mostly with silence.


MIKEY


Thanks. Have a good one, alright?


Lights out.


END.