The queen of Sodom
• Mason the preacher and his daughter Ivy
• Harley the sheriff, Beau the head Klansman, and a state policeman
• Carollo and Grady the saloon owners, and his bartenders Homer (black) and Clementine (white), a muscle guy, and Roy the moonshiner
• Gay customers in the saloon: Coralee, Ruby, Trixie (black male), Buford, Earl, Bobby
• On the train, Moses the detective (black), a mother (black), a conductor (white)
• Two singers: Johnson (black), Girl (white), plus a boy learning guitar from Johnson (white)
• Ida Brown (black), sister of a lynched boy
• Emma Lee, an old woman who likes books
A porch in New Orleans, 1930s. A white couple, Ivy and Grady, sit.
IVY. It all began with a lynching. 1918. The guest of honor at our Saturday jamboree was a colored boy who –- well, the details were hard to come by.
We flash back to Coralee and Ruby, two white girls, near a roadside filled with people, in Kentucky in 1918. A lynching.
CORALEE. [they are sharing food] Sounds like he helped that white girl – she was actually driving by herself, had a flat tire. He drove her home. And, there you go.
RUBY. A colored boy just can’t be doing that. Not around here.
CORALEE. They messed him up pretty bad before they strung him up –
RUBY. At least they didn’t set the body on fire this time –
CORALEE. Yeah, there are children here, and folks want to have a little lunch.
RUBY. The colored boy didn’t have a father around. A father could have told him what the rules were.
IVY. No, he had no father.
GRADY. All he had was a mother and a sister who waited in the woods for the party to be over, so they could cut him down and take him home.
IVY. Even now, it puzzles me. The people who wanted to hang the Kaiser for all his brutality, were the same people under that tree with their fried chicken, celebrating and taking pictures, while one of their own neighbors was being tortured, and killed, and torn apart.
GRADY. For fixing a flat tire. Boy was Abraham Brown.
IVY. I was young and confused.
CORALEE. Left my biology book at the library.
RUBY. There’s a new National Geographic at the library, unless they banned it again.
CORALEE. Not a black face anywhere.
RUBY. The colored folks knew better than to come.
CORALEE. Hey, isn’t that the bus from the colored school coming through town?
RUBY. So those kids can see it all. Best lesson they’ll learn all day. This is still Kentucky.
CORALEE. Uh oh, some of the boys from the farm saw em –- oh, no -– they’re throwing stones at the bus -–
RUBY. Oh, good, the bus lit out of here.
CORALEE. So where are those photo people?
RUBY. Good question, they were making money hand over fist last time. Everybody would take a picture of the body, make a postcard of it and send it on –-
CORALEE. I heard that so many people sent those cards that the postmaster stopped it.
RUBY. But even without the darkies it’s a big big big party.
CORALEE. Yeah, like the circus is in town.
RUBY. They put a notice in the paper.
CORALEE. They let out school, so the children could come see. Everyone in town is here, man, woman and child.
RUBY. [a stricken look on her face] Meet me in the shed?
Coralee runs to the shed. A few seconds later Ruby follows. They slide into the shed and kiss, and then hold each other.
CORALEE. And every kiss is stolen.
RUBY. And every kiss is stolen. I don’t want to be alone. Surrounded by these people. What would they do to us if they knew?
IVY. And with that big audience, the preacher saw his chance. And he couldn’t resist.
GRADY. A chance to beat liquor. Demon Rum.
IVY. My father.
GRADY. The preacher.
IVY. And spiritual adviser to the local Klan. And the state legislature.
GRADY. He started an avalanche that day. Him and Abraham Brown.
IVY. By the time all the dust settled, Daddy’s whole world had been destroyed.
GRADY. Because he brought all his enemies right into the middle of Klan country.
IVY. And all hell broke loose.
Down the road a piece, a small knot of men surround Mason, the preacher.
MASON. [calm and confident] Boys, I want to thank you. Did the Lord’s work tonight. But we’re just getting started! The hosts of the Lord are on the advance, and we’re gonna keep marching! No retreat! No hesitation!
BEAU. The prohibition bill is coming up again. We’re gonna kill John Barleycorn dead!
MASON. I need you to do two things: write to our man in the statehouse, and then write to our Congressman in Washington.
BEAU. You tell both of em they better be voting for prohibition or they’ll be hearing from us in November!
MASON. Make sure you check your spelling this time! Get the Kleagles out, you tell all our brothers, the White League, the Red Shirts.
BEAU. The whole Empire!
MASON. And next month, we take the whole show on the road. First stop, the Mississippi legislature!
The Illinois Central
A northbound train leaving Mississippi for Tennessee, 1920s. A black family sits, a black railroad detective walks the aisle.
MOSES. Your boy finally asleep?
MOTHER. He’s not used to wearing shoes, except in church.
MOSES. Your husband?
MOTHER. Stayed up all night getting us ready, couple of drinks, knocked out. Hanging on to that guitar.
MOSES. Got a hundred and ten of you tonight. Was there another hanging?
MOTHER. Beating in Tutwiler. A twelve-year-old boy. Eyeballed a white girl.
MOSES. Hope you all brought food.
MOTHER. Can’t we get food on the way?
MOSES. Once we get past Tennessee and Kentucky, be easier to get off the train and use the toilet and buy food, just like the white folks. Let’s put some miles behind us first. Got a sack of biscuits til then.
MOTHER. Lord, it’s hot.
MOSES. Don’t open the windows until we slow down -– you’ll get coal cinders in here. We’re right behind the engine. The white people are further back.
MOTHER. Had to leave my mother behind. If we can’t figure out how to send her some money, I don’t know what she’s gonna do.
MOSES. Can’t go back?
MOTHER. My husband had enough of their police, they had enough of him. He thinks Chicago is the promised land.
MOSES. He needs to stop reading the Defender. Chicago is better than the delta, but you still got a fight on your hands. The factories that hired our people during the war, they don’t want us now. The Irish and the Polish folks, they’re back from France. They want their jobs back, they ain’t gonna throw you a parade when you get there.
MOTHER. At least there’s no Klan up there.
MOSES. Oh yeah there is. Get your man out there to the stockyard, the railroad, the steel mill. And find someplace with a roof, fast, don’t matter how fancy...So, Homer, you getting off?
HOMER. Going to see my gal in Kentucky.
MOSES. Well, you know where I’ll be. Going past you this way, or going past you that way.
WHITE CONDUCTOR. [enters] What did I tell you about going back there with the colored folks? Your job is back there in the white cars. Don’t make me tell you again.
MOSES. Yes sir.
Moses goes to the back of the train, where Grady and Carollo sit. Carollo is a 30-year-old Italian who lives in New Orleans.
GRADY. You done with that newspaper?
GRADY. Much obliged.
CAROLLO. I wouldn’t say no to a snort from your flask.
GRADY. Help yourself.
CAROLLO. Jesus. What is this stuff?
GRADY. So you like it?
CAROLLO. Buddy, I run liquor for a living. Never had anything like this. What is it?
GRADY. There’s a city in Kentucky. Boy I know, makes this up special. Best jar whisky anywhere.
CAROLLO. Nectar of the Gods.
GRADY. I swing by there once in a while to load up.
CAROLLO. You in the same line of work?
GRADY. Name’s Grady. I’m a barkeep. I’ve run saloons all across the South.
CAROLLO. Sam Carollo. Well, imagine that. As luck would have it, I’m on a sort of mission. My business interests are in New Orleans, but I need to clear out of town for a while, for reasons that are a little complicated. Looking for a new place to strike it rich. Build a new boom town.
GRADY. Down South? Rough country for speakeasies.
CAROLLO. You wouldn’t think so if you crossed the river. See, these Klan boys keep trying to shut down liquor, the gambling, the whores, and...it’s hopeless. Already we got a bunch of towns that are totally run by crooks, we own the police, everything. Hot Springs, Arkansas –
GRADY. Arkansas? You’re kidding!
CAROLLO. Gambling capital of the world, in Arkansas. Ten big casinos, a bunch of little ones...San Antonio, a thousand call girls, black girls and white boys, white girls and darkies, all out in the open, the Klan can’t do a thing. I’m gonna find me a new place, do it all over again. This city in Kentucky, is it big enough to hide a speakeasy in?
GRADY. They have a bunch of em already.
CAROLLO. Can you find me the fellas who make this stuff?
CAROLLO. You looking for work? A saloon to run?
GRADY. Well, you better know what you’re getting into. You know the kind of man I am? Well... I was born in Carolina. Didn’t last long there. They still had the death penalty, hanging, for fellas like me, until not too long ago. Got beat up every week or so for about five years. My folks tried me out, a year in a boy’s school – obviously that didn’t cure anything.
CAROLLO. Boy’s school – [gets it] Aw, Good Lord.
GRADY. You wouldn’t believe the bedhopping in a boy’s school. Moved up north with my aunt later on, but in some ways it was worse. In the city you could meet people at parties and in clubs, but mostly it was the “special” parks and the beaches, and those big city police forces were raiding us all the time. You hold a man’s hand on the street, you get a night in jail, and you get fired the next morning. So...have you broken the code yet?...[smiles] You can’t catch it from a flask of whisky.
CAROLLO. [smiles] We got fellas like you all over New Orleans. Actually it’s funny – once prohibition started, we put in pansy bars all over the place, there were so many other speakeasies that you fairy people had this whole new world to hide in. I’m pretty sure that’s not what these Baptists had in mind ... Well. Interesting. I guess we both have our secrets. What do you say we go look at this town of yours? [smiles] Business, I mean, I’m not proposing anything, here.
GRADY. Well I knew that.
CAROLLO. I’m here to make a good dishonest dollar. I have a lot of dirt under my fingernails, and a little blood too. I can do business with a man who knows how to hide from the law. Doing the same thing myself.
GRADY. The town we’re going to, it’s pretty much where the whole prohibition law started. The preacher there pushed the folks in the statehouse, then he got on a train, did the same thing in Mississippi, Virginia, Carolina, all over the place.
CAROLLO. Then we should go there.
GRADY. To teach him a lesson?
CAROLLO. To thank him.
A new bartender
A saloon in Kentucky.
HOMER. [a black man] You looking for help behind the bar?
CAROLLO. What bar?
HOMER. [not fooled] I ran one of the biggest juke joints in Mississippi. Ran like clockwork. Name’s Homer.
CAROLLO. So how’d you end up here?
HOMER. You ever been to the Mississippi delta?
CAROLLO. Not for a long time.
HOMER. Well, it hasn’t changed. Man like me puts together a pile of money, white man finds out, I’m a target. Don’t know my place. You know who has the best job in Mississippi right now?
HOMER. My cousin. Pinkerton man on the train to Chicago. Things got so bad in the delta, there were some nights they’d have a hundred colored folks on that train every night, running away from the police, their mortgages, going up to Chicago. My cousin, he settles em in, tells em where to go, helps rock the babies to sleep. They call him Moses. Leading the chillun to the Promised Land. But now he wants to leave too.
CAROLLO. So instead of Chicago, you came here?
HOMER. Came to see a girl. She got a new man now.
CAROLLO. So, bartender?
HOMER. Absolutely. You gonna have two bars, right?
CAROLLO. Yeah, we need a couple barkeeps, at least. Get you all sharp, new shirt, put you in the front saloon –
HOMER. Mister, you’re new here, aren’t you?
CAROLLO. What’s your point?
HOMER. You got enough problems already. You build a pansy club in the middle of Klan country, put a black man right out front handling all the money and the whisky...they burn you out in a week.
CAROLLO. I’m bringing muscle.
HOMER. All the same. You got another bar in the back, right? Real quiet, like? [points to Grady] For your people?
HOMER. I’ll take that one.
CAROLLO. You want to pack a gun back there too.
HOMER. Been packing a gun since Mississippi. So if I hear trouble out front...
CAROLLO. Feel free to sort things out. Although the other bartender is pretty tough too.
HOMER. Who is he?
CAROLLO. She. Meet my friend Clementine, from down in the Quarter. Sweet as can be.
CLEM. Pleasure’s all mine.
HOMER. Howdy, miss. Mister Grady, you need all the help you can get. For good luck, a little pepper in the doorway. Whisky bottle under the porch, makes people thirsty, they fill this place up. End of the night, put a broom across the doorway, keep out the witches and the voodoo queens.
GRADY. Does it keep the Klan away?
CLEM. You can try to stop the Klan with a broom, I’m gonna try my way.
Clem shucks her shotgun and slides it under the bar, and smiles sweetly.
CLEM. And I’m ready to begin my day! Anyone for a cold drink?
A visitor from New Orleans
A church in Kentucky.
CAROLLO. Good day to you. Are you the reverend?
MASON. Yes, I am.
CAROLLO. Bless me father, for I have sinned.
MASON. Bless me –- are you a Catholic? This is a Baptist church, but I can try --
CAROLLO. I’m Sam Carollo. I’m from Sicily, by way of New Orleans. I’m not here to seek forgiveness for my sins.
MASON. Your sins?
CAROLLO. Yes, my sins. Although I should, because my sins are many, and they are terrible. In fact, you might say I am the King of Sin in all of Louisiana, and that’s quite a distinction, given the competition. I am deeply ashamed.
MASON. The King of Sin?
CAROLLO. Down New Orleans way, I run everything. Houses of sin, ladies of the night, games of chance, and Demon Rum. I run that town. When I meet the mayor, I don’t go to him, he comes to me.
MASON. Well, it doesn’t seem as though you came here to repent...
CAROLLO. No, I didn’t.
IVY. Daddy, we’re running a little late.
CAROLLO. Miss? Sam Carollo, nice to meet you.
IVY. Ivy. Pleasure.
He takes the hand of the twenty-ish girl, continues to hold her hand through the story.
CAROLLO. Ah, che bella. Ivy. Your daughter? Let me tell you both a story, then. I supply liquor to crooks, hotels, speakeasies, all across the middle of the country. Not long ago, a very famous person from up north came all the way down to see me. He told me in very plain English that I was gonna start bringing in liquor for his operation up north. He brought all his muscle boys with him, to make sure I got the message.
MASON. Famous person?
CAROLLO. This fella and his bodyguards, I stopped em right at the train station. Me and some local cops. We smashed their fingers, and put em right back on their train. To make sure he got the message. I didn’t even let him take a piss at the station. And they never came back again. You know who this person was? Al Capone. [he looks at the girl’s fingers]
MASON. Al Capone?
CAROLLO. The Al Capone. King of Chicago. The would-be King of New Orleans for about five minutes.
MASON. And why are you telling me this?
CAROLLO. That new saloon that keeps moving place to place, the one you keep hollering about every Sunday. It’s my bar. I’m bringing my New Orleans friends to town. And I’m here to tell you that if your Jesus Posse here tries to wreck my bar, I’m gonna burn down your church. And I’m not going to be too particular about whether you’re still in it or not.
MASON. My Lord and Redeemer is a little more powerful than Al Capone.
CAROLLO. Well, he’s been missing for two thousand years, but if he comes back for you, then I’ll be waiting at the station, to have a talk with him. Until then, maybe your next sermon is a little happier than your last one. Jesus forgives the sinner? Jesus turns water into wine?
MASON. We’re not afraid of you.
CAROLLO. We? Ah, you mean your friends with the hoods. Where I come from, a man with real balls, there’s no “we”. [points to himself] I am telling you what’s going to happen here. Pardon my language, miss.
Ivy follows Carollo down Main Street to the alley where his speakeasy is being set up; she follows him into the saloon.
CAROLLO. [tripping over broom] What the hell is this broom doing here?
IVY. [following] Hey. I’m talking to you!
CAROLLO. Church lady, right? Ivy.
IVY. Where – Where do you get the gall to enter God’s house and talk to a preacher like that?
CAROLLO. Yes, it’s shocking, isn’t it?
IVY. Mister, I know every white man in this town, I can have you tarred and feathered by sundown.
CAROLLO. You know every white man in town. Must be quite the social butterfly.
IVY. That’s not what I meant!
CAROLLO. I know this town better than you think. Listen, girly, I’m not really gonna burn down your church. Probably. Your father isn’t exactly a brave man, is he?
IVY. Why are you picking on our town? Why can’t you do this somewhere else?
CAROLLO. I like the liquor. And maybe you people need to be taught a lesson.
IVY. I can’t believe you brought that – that –
GRADY. That would be me she’s talking about.
IVY. He’s a sodomite!
CAROLLO. Yes. You’re right. And he’s helping me build a speakeasy in a town that has tar and feather parties. For fun. I’ve seen the colored jail behind the courthouse. Those boys in cages. And I’ve heard about the lynchings. [cool and calm] So don’t ever come into my saloon and lecture me about morality again.
IVY. Abraham Brown.
CAROLLO. Come again?
GRADY. You’re welcome to a drink though. It’s mighty fine. Course, if you’re afraid...
IVY. Ain’t afraid.
Ivy drinks and tries to hide the fact that she’s impressed by the liquor.
CAROLLO. Name’s Ivy.
GRADY. What a beautiful girl you are. A woman like you, you have everything I want. You’re gonna fall in love, and go into the church and tell the whole town, this is who I love, this is who I’m gonna marry. And the two of you will buy a house, have lots of babies. Your friends will come to your house. Christmas time, your husband’s work, gonna have a big old party, and he can take you to meet all the folks he works with, and not get fired over it. Got a father who loves you. You join clubs, you go to market with your friends. All over this town, everybody knows you, knows your family, and they accept you, and they love you. You are home.
IVY. My father loves me? You are new in town.
GRADY. I live my life like a spy. I’m not at home, I’m in enemy territory. My whole life is hidden. It’s exhausting. We have our little tricks, our roommates, our fake employees, our secret little codes, but we spend our whole lives lying. Everything that’s good in my life, is something stolen. And someday, I’m gonna die. And I’m gonna die alone. There won’t be family there. Just some policeman or a hotel maid to find me and pack me away...But before that happens, I’m gonna have the time of my life. I’m gonna run a saloon, best liquor in the world, and it’s gonna be one long party. And you ain’t gonna ruin it for me. Because it’s all I have, all I’m ever gonna get ...You know you want to finish that drink.
Baptists don’t dance
The saloon. Ivy is at the door, confronted by a bouncer from New Orleans.
GRADY. [to the bouncer] I know this girl.
MUSCLE. You sure?
GRADY. [to her] Are you sure? Where’s your father?
IVY. It’s just me.
GRADY. Preacher’s daughter, in the house.
IVY. [flashback, they’re on the porch again] My first real trip to the saloon, I was terrified. I was a grown woman, and my father still gave me the twenty questions every time I was out after dark.
GRADY. He was worried about you.
IVY. He wanted his eye on me. He was losing control over everything else. And in that country, women didn’t drink alone in public, unless they were, you know, working. And there were colored men there...
GRADY. Ivy, I remember when you walked in. Don’t get me wrong, girls aren’t my thing, but even for me...folks stopped and looked, baby.
IVY. So I go to the saloon, and...a girl notices things. There were a lot of men, and then a bunch of women in a corner, in their own little world. These people – I knew some of them out on the street, but in here they were different. The way they moved, the way their eyes wandered across the crowd. Hungry eyes, eager. And not to flatter myself, but I was expecting to get more looks from the boys than from the girls. And when they saw who I was – they were terrified. They went perfectly still.
GRADY. They figure you’re smoking things out for your father.
IVY. Well, I was going to. Then the boy on the guitar started playing dance music, stamping his feet. And the fellas started dancing. And then I knew. It wasn’t just that they were dancing with each other. They were just too good. I mean, folks in Baptist country just don’t dance like that. Unless there’s something else going on.
GRADY. And then you kept coming back. And it wasn’t the clientele. I mean, Ivy, you do like the boys, right?
IVY. It was the music. I’d never heard anything like it. Singing the things you’re not supposed to say in public, singing about the devil, playing the notes that aren’t on the piano. I was like a morphine addict. I never felt anything like it. I didn’t know anything about loving a man, but I knew I loved that sound. That feeling.
A stock car
Outside the saloon. Carollo talks to his bouncer.
CAROLLO. [to the muscle guy in the doorway] This is Roy, he’s gonna help us with the liquor end of things. My boys here, they mostly work the casinos, the liquor comes in by boat.
MUSCLE GUY. [coming outside] God damn, what’s that smell?
ROY. Well, that’s moonshining. It stinks like crazy, gets into your clothes. Thank you for not smoking over here, I could blow up into flames, real easy. ...So, a pansy club in Kentucky?
CAROLLO. I felt like a challenge. And these fairy people, they’re everywhere. Got Nashville right down the road, Memphis over there, and a bus station that brings em all right here...
ROY. I think you lost your mind. Did you get that sugar for me?
CAROLLO. Next week.
ROY. Dang. Need tons of sugar for this work.
MUSCLE GUY. So you’re not one of these crazy Jesus people, then?
ROY. Only Sunday morning. The rest of the week I need the liquor money to feed my family – crops ain’t selling.
MUSCLE GUY. So you’re not a big fan of prohibition, then?
ROY. Hell yeah, I love prohibition! Doubles the price on my loads! Not all of us are waiting for the Rapture with stars in our eyes. I’m a businessman.
MUSCLE GUY. So what happens if they get rid of prohibition?
ROY. Well, it’ll hurt a bit. But our people in the hills still don’t want to pay taxes on their jar whisky, so there will always be work for me and my truck. She’s a beauty.
MUSCLE GUY. [looking at the truck] Bullshit. Looks like a regular truck, right from the factory.
ROY. Boy knows his cars. Of course it looks regular. You have to jazz it up, but only on the inside – on the outside it has to look like original stock equipment.
CAROLLO. I’ve heard of em. Stock cars.
ROY. You make em look fancy, the cops pull you over for sure. We have races once in a while, and even there you see the cops looking us over. Smelling our trunks.
MUSCLE GUY. So it’s not exactly stock, then?
ROY. Hell no. Got tough nasty suspension underneath, a ridiculous breather box on top of the engine, fake plates. I unhook the brake lights – even if they can see me, they can’t see when I make a quick turn into the woods. And then they spin out, or they lose me.
MUSCLE GUY. Want me to try on your next one?
ROY. Gotta practice first. Gotta know these roads well enough to run em in the dark, which is exactly what I do, full speed. We do our money runs at midnight when we know the roads are clear. When the moon is new and the trees get their leaves, it’s like driving with a sack over your head.
CAROLLO. One or two wrecks out there?
ROY. You know it. Try you out daytime, first. Can you do a half-spin?
MUSCLE GUY. Half-spin?
ROY. Yank the wheel over, spin the car until you’re pointing the way you came, run right back at the police when they’re chasing you? In the dark?
MUSCLE GUY. You’re joking.
ROY. Kept me out of jail, couple times. See, where you come from, cheating the law is civilized. Welcome to the Wild West.
CAROLLO. Hey, Roy?...If you fellas in the hills see any law around, asking about me, let me know?
ROY. Got a little trouble?
CAROLLO. You might say. You’re not bothered by these fairy people coming to your town?
ROY. Sam, I spent months in those trenches over in France. Don’t you think you had men knocking knees with other men in those tents? You know, every army in history had a whole bunch of men marching across the countryside without their women – I bet you every army in history was part fairy.
CAROLLO. Navy too.
ROY. All those little drummer boys, cabin boys.
CAROLLO. Altar boys.
ROY. Besides, I can make crazy piles of money with this pansy stuff. I’m not just being nice.
CAROLLO. Ivy, this is the boy who makes our whisky.
IVY. This is the man?
ROY. You brought the preacher’s girl?
IVY. You need some lemon peel in your mash. The yellow part.
In the saloon, Carollo is making plans.
CAROLLO. We got the preacher and the Klan all heated up, it’s time for a distraction. Two of em! Round up the womenfolk, get em over here once a week, we’re gonna have a book club.
CLEM. I don’t see your point.
CAROLLO. Wait til the books get here, you’ll see. And the other thing...
He shows them a record player.
CAROLLO. We’re going to the opera!
GRADY. Great, we can get us some dance music!
JOHNSON. [holds up guitar] You already got dance music!
CAROLLO. Grady, we can hide the books easy, but dance records make a racket, we’re too close to town. We tell the local ladies it’s for opera, we can tell em it’s culture.
CLEM. Culture. God knows we could use it. Some of these fellers think soap is the exotic perfume of Persia.
CAROLLO. Anyhow, you dance in front of this thing, the needle bounces all over the place. We’d need a big old carpet or something.
CLEM. Or we could play the slow numbers, for the dancing, real romantic like.
CAROLLO. And Bobby [to Johnson] this thing records, too.
Scene of Johnson recording a slow blues number, as Clem and Homer dance; Homer looks nervously around.
CLEM. You said to tell you when I cut my hair.
HOMER. Looks fine. Gimme some of the bits from the floor.
She does, and he puts them in a tiny red cloth, tying string around the ends so it forms a little ball. Pours a drop of whisky on it.
HOMER. Good luck mojo. Lock of your hair, pig bristles, John the Conqueror root, couple other things. Might even get you a husband. Hide it, next to your skin.
She turns, hides it inside her shirt.
CLEM. Want to see something sinful?
She pulls up her skirt to reveal a garter with a slim hip flask in it.
CLEM. Case I get thirsty. Latest thing from New Orleans.
In the saloon. A girl is looking at a page of lyrics.
SINGING GIRL. You sure I can sing this?
CAROLLO. Gotta learn a little Italian first. Can you read?
GIRL. Course I can! What in blazes is that?
GIRL. You’re pulling my leg. In-egg –
CAROLLO. Ineggiamo. Like a J.
GIRL. And what’s this one – dis – cheese –
CAROLLO. Dischiuso. Like a K.
GIRL. Italian doesn’t make any sense.
CAROLLO. Hey, I was seven, I had to learn to spell English. What a mess. I before E...
GIRL. And what’s this stuff over here? Is that Italian too?
CAROLLO. No, that verse is in Latin.
GIRL. Latin? Why are all the damn words twice as long?
CAROLLO. Ain’t got a clue. Here, just listen.
He plays the “Ineggiamo” from Cavalleria Rusticana.
GIRL. Oh. Good Lord.
In the saloon, with the book ladies and a crate.
CAROLLO. Well, you did it. Got yourself a bar. Not just a bar. A pit of sin. Damnation.
GRADY. Sodom and Gomorrah. I am the king of Sodom.
CLEM. [pats him on his shoulder] Queen of Sodom.
After a moment, Grady busts out laughing.
CAROLLO. Good day to you, Emma Lee, how you keeping?
OLD WOMAN. I’m gonna make it, one way or another. Let me set down this biscuit flour.
GRADY. Lord, you have enough for an army.
OLD WOMAN. Platoon, maybe. Where’s your spittoon?
GRADY. Don’t know as we have one.
OLD WOMAN. You said you’re bringing high-tone culture to this place, don’t even have a spittoon. Just hang on. [steps outside for a moment to spit]
CAROLLO. Well, got more books than I thought. Down in New Orleans the monsignor has a big pile of the banned books, the stuff he confiscated down there. Dumped em all on me for free. Sure as hell didn’t want this stuff going through the post office.
GRADY. Look at all those books!
CAROLLO. I guess New Orleans really is the sin capital of the world.
CLEM. So what we got?
CAROLLO. Let’s see. Lady Chatterley – this book is so sinful they had to go all the way to Italy to find a printer...Moll Flanders, story about a hoor.
GRADY. Ulysses – ooh, it has an orgasm in it.
CLEM. What the hell is an orgasm?
GRADY. You know, you just don’t know you know. Chapter 16, you’ll see. Look for the page that is really, really dog-eared.
CAROLLO. The Decameron, Italian, there’s this peasant girl who doesn’t know the difference between a man’s, you know –
CLEM. His pecker.
OLD WOMAN. His tallywacker.
CAROLLO. That’s right, Emma Lee. And the girl’s...
OLD WOMAN. Her Virginia.
CLEM. Her snatch.
OLD WOMAN. Her Elsewheres. Got a lot to learn about telling a story, sonny.
CAROLLO. So a priest tells her that his tallywacker is the devil, and her snatch is hell, and if you put the devil into hell, you get to go to heaven. So she does it over and over and over.
CLEM. So the girl wasn’t too bright.
OLD WOMAN. Sounds pretty clever to me.
GRADY. Hemingway, there’s a young man who...well, let’s just say he had a girl, but he couldn’t, you know, deliver the mail, when the time came. So the girls runs off and finds a teenage bullfighter who knows all about delivering the mail…
CAROLLO. You ladies sure this stuff is alright?
OLD WOMAN. Son, we’re farm kin. We see animals humping each other all day.
GRADY. Mark Twain – hmm, he says some stuff that the preacher ain’t gonna like.
CLEM. Like what?
GRADY. He says that once we get to heaven, men and women don’t get to deliver the mail anymore.
CLEM. Good Lord. They didn’t really mention that in the Testament.
GRADY. Well, I’m not surprised. Hey, Homer, you really want to read this book? [gives it to him]
HOMER. Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
GRADY. Take care of it, it’s probably the only copy in all of Kentucky.
CAROLLO. Canterbury Tales, Casanova, Machiavelli, lots of good Italian boys...
GRADY. The Marquis de Sade – no, that’ll just give em nightmares.
CAROLLO. Got Darwin just to scare the preacher.
GRADY. [looks in the bottom of the box] Oh, good lord, you didn’t.
GRADY. You can’t give em that one!
CAROLLO. Why not?
GRADY. You can’t!...I think you all know I’m am open-minded kind of person –
CLEM. Ain’t that the truth.
GRADY -- but this book is the Babe Ruth of dirty books! You read this, you’re going straight to hell!
CLEM. Well what the hell is it?
CAROLLO AND GRADY. Fanny Hill.
CLEM. Oh. That one.
OLD WOMAN. Here, gimme that. I ain’t skeered of nothing. I survived Grant’s army, ain’t no book gonna kill me. Hmmph. Fanny Hill.
CAROLLO. I don’t know, Emma Lee. The priest down there practically gave it to me with the tongs from the fireplace.
CLEM. Good Lord.
GRADY. Chapter 16?
CLEM. Eyes fastened upon her set her pulses tingling. Whitehot passion in that face, and it had made her his. She leaned back far to look up where the fireworks were and she caught her knee in her hands so as not to fall back and she revealed all … supply soft and delicately rounded, and she seemed to hear the panting of his heart. The first quick hot touch of his handsome lips. She saw a long Roman candle going over the trees, up, up, and, in the tense hush…her face was suffused with a blush…nainsook knickers, the fabric that caresses the skin… she was trembling in every limb … and she wasn't ashamed. She cried to him chokingly, the cry of a young girl's love, a strangled cry that has rung through the ages. A rocket sprang and bang shot blind blank and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely, O, soft, sweet, soft! Then all melted away dewily in the grey air: all was silent.
GRADY. [in flashback] The womenfolk worked hard but they had free time on their hands, so they were eating up these books. And suddenly their husbands found themselves delivering the mail at night, at lot more than they were used to. The menfolk didn’t know what the hell was going on, but I haven’t heard they were complaining any too much. So it was a happy little town.
IVY. Actually, next spring there was a little population explosion. Started with a little boy named Casanova Riley. My father hollered about the books in the pulpit one Sunday, but he started losing his flock on that one.
The best-laid plans
The church. Harley, the sheriff, is trying to talk sense to the preacher.
HARLEY. Reverend, we were kinda wondering what you were going to say in church next Sunday?
MASON. You want my sermon ahead of time? Whose church is this?
HARLEY. Well, you’ve pushed us all way out there, Reverend.
MASON. Well, we’re winning the war! We banned liquor! We got it in the Constitution! Have you ever seen the hand of God so clear? All those immigrants up north were getting rich on liquor...
HARLEY. And look what happened. You made it impossible for brewers to hide their beer, so now the whole country is drinking cheap whisky out of flasks.
ROY. And getting hammered every night.
HARLEY. Up north they tell me there’s thirty thousand of these illegal speakeasies –
MASON. Across America?
HARLEY. No, thirty thousand just in New York city. The police haven’t got a prayer of fighting it. You did this for Jesus, but liquor is the national religion now, because you told em they couldn’t have it. All across the north, those Jews and Eye-talian Catholics you love so much, they’re millionaires, gangsters selling liquor, shooting up the streets, the law can’t keep up with it all. Even down here, half the trucks in this county are jazzed up under the hood so they can run liquor through the hills. Ain’t that so, Roy?
ROY. You’re asking me?
HARLEY. Mason, have you seen your daughter lately?
MASON. My daughter?
ROY. Back in the day, you’d never see women drinking in public. Now they’re out there without their fathers or their husbands, drinking in the saloons. You’ve got darkies drinking and dancing with white women.
HARLEY. And now the queer bars, all those cocksuckers have their own saloons all over America – that’s new, you created that, with the prohibition.
ROY. [smiles] And you know the music they’re listening to? Colored music. That jazz stuff, blues, ragtime. The devil singing to our people. This is the world you created, with this holy war on liquor. It’s ricocheting on you.
HARLEY. I gotta say, you got the Midas touch. [as he’s leaving] My business is law enforcement. In a couple of months you managed to bring the Ku Klux Klan, a bunch of queers, and the Italian crime syndicate, all into my part of Kentucky. Thank you so much. Next week it’ll be a bunch of goddamn pirates.
IVY. Daddy heard all about the homophiles coming to town, and he was magnificent in his rage, specially since he couldn’t find where they were.
GRADY. And he had this brilliant idea. Bible class for the high schoolers, he was gonna fight the homophiles.
IVY. And he was gonna get the high school kids to read the Bible all the way through, to teach everybody how evil the homophiles were.
GRADY. And then he made his mistake. He asked for volunteers.
IVY. And the only two people who were willing to read the Bible all the way through were…Coralee and Ruby. The bookworms.
GRADY. The two girls who never had boyfriends.
IVY. And never would.
MASON. Let’s congratulate the girls on getting all the way through the King James, both of them! Now, tell us what you learned!
CORALEE. Reverend, you keep giving us the Leviticus, saying homophiles are sinners.
RUBY. Actually, though, the founders of Christianity – Peter, Paul and James – said that Christians don’t need to follow Leviticus and the rest of the Pentateuch.
CORALEE. All those laws about ham and shrimp and blended cloth.
RUBY. And homophiles.
CORALEE. The founders of the faith said to ignore all that stuff.
RUBY. Paul said it in Romans, Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians, and Hebrews.
CORALEE. “You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace…. “
RUBY. “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.”
CORALEE. Jesus violated those laws all over the place.
RUBY. We been reading up on the churches too. And the big churches said the same thing.
CORALEE. You can’t take all of the Bible literally.
RUBY. The Catholic church. Church of England, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, dispensationalists.
CORALEE. Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas.
RUBY. They all said ignore those old laws.
CORALEE. I can kinda see why: Leviticus says we should go out and kill homophiles, execute em, right on the spot.
RUBY. The people who wrote Leviticus weren’t very bright, were they?
CORALEE. That part of the Bible has some funny rules. If a bull tramples someone, he must be stoned to death. Have you ever tried to throw a bunch of rocks at a bull? Specially a bull who has a habit of stomping the snot out of people? Are these people stupid?
RUBY. And by the way, Leviticus only talks about homophile men. You know what the Bible says about girls who love girls? Lebanese?
RUBY. Lesbians. Bible says nothing about em.
MASON. Love is supposed to be one man and one woman.
RUBY. So how come all the men in the Old Testament had two wives, and all the men in the New Testament abandoned their wives to go preaching?
CORALEE. Even before Leviticus, God’s plan wasn’t one man and one woman.
RUBY. Look back in Genesis. Chapter 2. God didn’t try to partner man with a woman at first. He tried to partner man with an animal.
CORALEE. Woman was an afterthought.
RUBY. Why is it that when the Israelites finally built their kingdom, their first great king, David, was absolutely a homophile?
CORALEE. Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.
RUBY. Jonathan took off his clothes and gave them to David.
CORALEE. David and his friend Jonathan “became one”.
RUBY. Jonathan made David swear he loved him.
CORALEE. David promised to keep himself away from women.
RUBY. They said they shared a love surpassing the love of women.
CORALEE. Surpassing the love of women!
RUBY. Jonathan’s love for David made him defy his father, because the father said the relationship was shameful.
CORALEE. They had secret meetings, they kissed, they wept.
RUBY. They made a covenant together. It sounds like they were married.
MASON. Those men in the saloon. What they are doing is unnatural!
CORALEE. How can homophiles be unnatural? Why does it happen all over the kingdom of nature?
RUBY. Swans and ducks.
CORALEE. Homophile penguins and dolphins.
RUBY. Sheep and apes.
CORALEE. Elephants and giraffes. I love science!
RUBY. Dragonflies have homophile sex even though it can damage their heads.
CORALEE. Makes me think that maybe they’re doing it wrong.
RUBY. You know what’s unnatural? The Bible, hate to break it to you.
CORALEE. Angels and dragons.
RUBY. Demons and unicorns.
CORALEE. Talking snake, talking donkey.
RUBY. Witches talking to the dead.
CORALEE. Jesus violated nature with miracle after miracle.
MASON. This country was built by God-fearing men, and God hates homophiles.
RUBY. The founding fathers won the revolution and wrote the Constitution wearing wigs, lace and satin tights.
CORALEE. Why did God make so many homophiles?
RUBY. If God loves us, why would he put love in our hearts and then force us to choose between the person we love, and loving God?
CORALEE. Here, show em Corinthians.
RUBY. “However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you.”
CORALEE. Sounds like maybe those homophiles were just born like they are. Made that way by God.
RUBY. Says so right in the Bible.
MASON. These people made a choice, they choose to defy the revealed word!
CORALEE. Do you really think being a homophile is a choice?
RUBY. You think those fellas choose it because it’s gonna make their lives so much easier?
CORALEE. Hunted like criminals all their lives?
RUBY. Even if being a homophile was a choice….so what?
CORALEE. Love is always a choice. Always.
RUBY. Just like hate is a choice.
IVY. Coralee and Ruby got sent home to their parents. Didn’t see em at school that Monday.
HOMER. Of all the dirty, nasty towns, which one’s your favorite? New Orleans?
CAROLLO. The king of them all, Galveston Texas. You should see it, Homer.
HOMER. Down on the coast?
CAROLLO. First thing you see, sailing in, there’s a whole row of ships loaded with liquor – Rum Row – waiting for the little boats to load the rum, like pigs at the tits. The whole town is wide open, the cops mind their own business, the casinos have their own muscle boys to see that everybody gets home safe. They keep the gang fighting down, everybody gets along. [smiles] Galveston. And they’re twenty years ahead of everybody else, even the guys up north. They put up a Ferris wheel –
HOMER. A what?
CAROLLO. This giant wheel, a hundred feet high, people ride on it in little cars. A roller coaster too. They have this thing, air conditioning, blows cool air into the saloons. The whores all get tested by doctors. They have this thing, a beauty parade, all the girls march down in their swimming suits.
HOMER. What kind of suits?
CAROLLO. They almost naked. The Klan tried to keep the colored folks and the Mexicans out, and they got laughed out of town – like you’re gonna kick the Mexicans out of Texas. Made so much money they had to open their own banking racket. Boy, if I wasn’t the king of New Orleans, that’s where I’d go. Down Texas way. Reminds me, got to take a trip back south soon.
GRADY. Hey, Sam, you know what I’d really like?
CAROLLO. What’s that?
GRADY. It’s silly…A world-class chandelier.
CAROLLO. Chandelier? Only a guy like you...
GRADY. I don’t want this place to feel like a dump. Like we should be ashamed to be drinking here. I want this place to be a palace.
CAROLLO. A palace.
GRADY. Replace that piece of junk stand-up beater with a real piano. Big old mirror behind the bar. Get the splinters out of the floors and the walls...
CAROLLO. Well, I hate to break it to you, but I’m not springing for a chandelier...
GRADY. But we’re gonna make good money, I think we can afford it...
CAROLLO. It’s not the money.
GRADY. It’s not?
CAROLLO. We’re not going to spend big on the decorations. We can’t.
GRADY. Why not?
CAROLLO. Because they’re gonna burn you down…. You know that, right? There’s no way they let you stay in business for good....We spend money on the liquor, and the people -- the bartender, the cook, the boy on the guitar. But if we go big with the lights, the furniture, the bar, it’s like waving a red flag at a bull. The local white trash will take it as a dare.
ROY. You make sin look like heaven, they think you’re mocking God.
CAROLLO. I mean, look at these yokels, how hard is it gonna be, to predict what they’re gonna do? Ask Homer – they see something they don’t understand, they take out sticks and beat it to death.
HOMER. Like they live in caves.
CAROLLO. Same reason why I’m not bringing in the cards, the gamblers – don’t want to push the locals too far.
GRADY. So we’re doomed?
CAROLLO. No. You just have to think on your feet. When they burn this place down, where do you go next? Do you know? A great bar is like a church – it’s not the building, it’s the people.
GRADY. Maybe we should move now.
CAROLLO. No! Let them burn you down. Let them see the fire. Let them think they beat you. Walk down Main Street with your facing hanging low. Then we just keep moving from place to place. Once we finally wear this place out, you can roll out of here with some cash in your pocket and with a little luck I can go back to New Orleans, once things cool off down there.
CLEM. [reading] Oh my Lord.
ROY. What’s she reading over there?
GRADY. The farm report.
GRADY. [flashback] And Carollo was right. There had to be at least one fire. But it didn’t all go according to plan.
A crowd is gathered outside the saloon, which is burning, including some Klan yokels following Trixie, a black man in drag.
TRIXIE. Are you the state police?
POLICEMAN. Yeah, what’s this all about?
Trixie hits the cop.
POLICEMAN. Son, I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but you’re under arrest, you’re coming with me!
CAROLLO. What the hell did he do that for?
CLEM. The locals were gonna kill him, right here in town.
CAROLLO. So he hit the state cop...
CLEM. To get out of town. To stay alive.
CAROLLO. So the fellas following him, this is the Klan, the boys who stayed in the saddle after the Civil War?
CLEM. No no no, this is the new Klan. All new. Back 1915 there was a little girl in Georgia, she was murdered. The whole town decided it had to be the Jewish boy that did it, and then everybody in town went to the jail, grabbed him and strung him up. And bang! With that one killing, the Klan was reborn. All the white trash who wanted to kill the Jewish man decided to go big – they were gonna ban liquor, and declare war. Everybody who hated colored people, hated Jews, hated immigrants, liquor...A couple of hundred bedsheets with holes in em, and the Klan is back. Next thing you know, prohibition. ...Look at that place burn.
ROY. I been to one of those Klan meetings.
CLEM. Suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.
ROY. Once the hoods come off, you see your neighbors, you see who’s doing all this. People who think it’s the colored folks made em poor: farmers who can’t make a crop, factory boys who can’t get the job done.
HOMER. Yeah, us colored folks, we got all your money salted away somewhere. Like King Midas.
ROY. Who else they got under those hoods? Crooks, wife-beaters, politicians who got caught. Fellas who don’t like foreigners.
CLEM. That old guy Wilbur who wanted to Klan to shoot up his neighbor’s house cause he listens to the radio too loud.
ROY. Couple of Jesus people who think about sin around the clock, they’re positive the colored fellas are coming for our women-folk – you hear that a lot, “women-folk”.
CLEM. Around here, the night is for the Klan and the moonshiners. Moonshiners because you’re afraid of the law. The Klan because they’re afraid of the light. This is why I told Grady – closing time, everybody go home in pairs.
HOMER. The Klan, they’re having a good day when there’s twenty of them, and only one guy they want to beat up.
CLEM. So never go out at night alone.
ROY. Did Grady go to tell the preacher about what happened to Ivy? The fire?
CLEM. Hell no, he’s at the doctor’s. Carollo’s going to the church.
At the church.
MASON. What the hell you want here? I was here all night, I got witnesses! You can’t blame that fire on me!
CAROLLO. So you know about it? Yes, I know, you’d never do anything like that, without other people to hide behind. I just came to let you know, your daughter Ivy? She was in the saloon tonight when the fire started.
MASON. Where is she?
CAROLLO. Grady took her to the doctor. They’re treating her for burns right now. Her arm, and her face. And that’s the only reason I’m giving you a free pass tonight.
MASON. You pull open your good book, read what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord didn’t pick and choose his sinners, no no no no. He wiped out the whole town. He even killed the woman who wanted to look back on the Lord’s work... This sodomite -– he could destroy us all. The whole town.
BEAU. Those saloon people are back. There’s two things they need. They need that Eye-talian to keep em in business, but he’s got those boys with the guns there. The other thing they need, is that boy Grady. We may need to do something drastic. That one fire didn’t do the job.
MASON. Well, I heard the complaining, folks arguing about my sermons. I went to the Baptists down in Nashville. Got a young preacher coming to us in a month. If he seems like the right sort, I’m gonna marry Ivy off to him.
BEAU. Settle that girl down.
Boy begins playing “Devil Got My Woman”.
BEAU. Boy, what in the world is that? Devil got what?
BOY. Colored boy taught me to play it.
The new saloon. Grady, Clem and Homer setting up.
HOMER. You remind Roy, when the Klan throws one of their little bonfires, always seems to be Saturday night. Tell Roy to deliver the liquor Sunday while they’re all in church. No sense letting it all burn up.
CLEM. Gotta tell you, Homer, we struck gold with the new location. Down that-away you got the bus station – the pansy crowd, they know we’re here, and they hop right off the bus and come down our way.
HOMER. And the army fort – it’s a real gusher. The colonel over there has a list of bars that are off-limits, so right away those soldier boys know where we are.
CLEM. And boy does this crowd love a young man in uniform.
A couple of rednecks roll up in a pickup and throw a hammer through the window. Grady is coming down the steps with a baseball bat.
TRIXIE. They’re getting away!
CLEM. Not a chance. Carollo’s muscle boys cut em off in that Ford.
TRIXIE. They’re beating the stuffing out of em.
CLEM. Carollo doesn’t horse around. Two more Klan boys for the doctor’s office.
GRADY. Well, got a use for that broom, sweep up all that glass.
TRIXIE. Got yourself a hammer.
CLEM. Gonna paint it gold, nail it up on the wall, right next to our first dollar.
MUSCLE GUY. [entering] Can we sit in a corner somewhere?
CLEM. Away from the clientele?
MUSCLE GUY. I just do what Sam tells me. I’m not here to pick up your guys, and they better not be trying to pick me up.
CLEM. Got more Jam in the house!
CLEM. That’s you, boys who like girls. The regular folks. Jam. Cause you’re so sweet...Okay, girls, the police are coming down the street. You know the drill. Keep your hands above the table, no monkeying around.
HOMER. One at a time in the men’s room.
CLEM. [passes a bucket] Gimme the liquor, right down the sink, I’ll make it good later. When the lights go all the way up, they’re coming in.
Harley approaches the muscle boys.
HARLEY. Evening, fellas. Having a night on the town?
MUSCLE GUY. We’re not customers, believe me. We work for –
HARLEY. I know who you work for. Had a couple of local boys got beat pretty good. You know anything about that?
MUSCLE GUY. Just ordering some tea with my associate here.
CLEM. They been in here all night.
HARLEY. Just don’t insult my intelligence, alright?
Harley looks around, and finally sees Trixie, a black man in a dress.
HARLEY. Damn. And I was almost done for the night. What’s your name, boy?
HARLEY. Barkeep? Let me make a few things clear to you. Don’t be assuming I’m stupid. Already I’m turning a blind eye to an awful lot. This place is supposed to be a secret – comes out in the open, I shut you down. I got elected to this job. This goes any further, they’re gonna get rid of me and hire a new kind of sheriff. You know the kind I mean?
He comes behind the bar, finds a bottle, and smashes it.
HARLEY. That kind. You want that kind of sheriff in this town?
CLEM. No sir.
HARLEY. And one thing you can’t do in Kentucky, is wear that. This thing here, gonna ruin the party for all of you. Are you even from here?
TRIXIE. Up in New York, Chicago, they put a ban on the drag. Put pants on or go to jail. So we’re all on the road now. Everywhere.
HARLEY. You’re a colored man in a dress. What the hell are you doing in Kentucky? Like they said. Put pants on or go to jail. I’m telling you once. And you, my friend, will not like our jail. And they won’t like you. [leaves]
CLEM. And Trixie? Don’t be tricking for money in here. I got enough problems already. I bailed you out of jail once, used my own tip money. That’s your one free pass. If you were rich, or white, you might talk your way out of trouble, but you, a colored man, and then...
TRIXIE. Go ahead, say it.
CLEM. A fairy?
TRIXIE. Up north, the word is “temperamental”.
CLEM. Might be easier for you to hide in Memphis. New Orleans.
TRIXIE. But who wants to hide?
CLEM. You do. Believe me. ...Okay girls, the show’s over. Tonight we’ll turn on the radio, the Barn Dance show out of Nashville if the weather cooperates, you can dance your shoelaces off. Later on we got that Johnson boy right here in the joint.
Bobby and Earl, two gay men, whisper in a corner.
BOBBY. [whispering in a corner] Now listen, things are awful tight right now.
EARL. Are they? [drinking hard]
BOBBY. You been helping me out, and I appreciate it.
EARL. Do you?
BOBBY. Now I’m thinking, the money, we make it like a regular thing.
EARL. You think? You seen the store lately? Empty. Things are hard all over.
BOBBY. Don’t I know it. And how hard would things be if I told the sheriff what we’ve been up to? The whole town? And I’m underage too. Totally unable to protect myself. That store, that would be the end, wouldn’t it? I got a gal I want to marry. So you’re gonna take care of Little Sugar. I’ll be by each Friday. [exits]
EARL. Hello little boy, you’re the one I want.
BUFORD. Hello? My name is –
CLEM. No names. Anybody gets word, you can get fired. Make one up.
BUFORD. Had a beverage or two?
EARL. I have been over-served. Had a young lad of mine, he turned sour on me.
BUFORD. Found another man?
EARL. Found a woman. Getting married. Looking for a tidy place to hide from himself. With my money. [standing] Woah, that first step...
BUFORD. I don’t want to take advantage, are you sure you want to –
EARL. Tonight more than ever. [to Clem, pointing to the bar tabs on the bar] My good woman, I will take the smallest bill you have. Good batch, Clem. Tastes like lemon.
GRADY. Hey, fellas. Uh, thanks. You really know how to drive that thing now.
MUSCLE GUY. Got yourself a baseball bat. Well, I gotta say, you got balls after all. Didn’t see that coming. Carollo’s sending more of us up, keep an eye on things.
GRADY. You can come out now, Ivy.
IVY. I need to get home. Maybe one of the Carollo boys can –
GRADY. No, I’ll do it.
IVY. Have you lost your mind? Those boys wanna kill you!
GRADY. I know all about those boys.
Grady takes Ivy’s good arm, a book in his other hand, and walks her down the middle of Main Street to the church. Locals peer at them through windows.
IVY. Maybe this will fool em.
Ivy kisses him on the sidewalk.
GRADY. I think they know all about me, but it was sweet of you to give it a try. Your hair’s growing back real nice.
IVY. My father has my husband picked out. A preacher. What in the world am I going to do?
GRADY. You’re not going to make peace with your father? [she shakes her head] Why not?
IVY. Abraham Brown. Colored boy murdered in broad daylight, before you got here. They made a party of it. My father, next Sunday in church, he said nothing. Now he wants me to marry a man just like him.
Grady walks down the middle of the street back to the bar alone, singing one of the blues songs from the bar, still holding the book. Emma Lee, in the doorway, looks at the Klan boys warily, and spits her chaw.
GRADY. Howdy, Emma Lee. Beautiful dress you have on.
OLD WOMAN. I’ll be damned.
Grady sees a bunch of the local men watching him, including Bobby.
GRADY. Well, Bobby. Answer to a prayer. Been looking all over for you.
BOBBY. And what in the world do you think you’re doing here?
BEAU. Come to bring back my hammer?
GRADY. No no no, gonna keep that, build me a new cabinet for the whisky. You fellas got that look on your faces like you think I’m coming for your womenfolk. And I’m really, really not.
BEAU. How long do you faggots think you’re gonna last here?
GRADY. Faggot? Faggot?
He puts on a tragic look and theatrically dabs one eye, and then the other, with a hankie.
GRADY. What a terrible word. [points] What you think about that one, Little Sugar?
BOBBY. You leave me out of – [stops himself]
GRADY. You all didn’t know about Little Sugar? Ask him why Earl had to sell off his store. Little Sugar spends an awful lot of time talking to the sheriff. About all sorts of things. And he knows where every one of your stills is, and every one of your trucks. Doesn’t he? ...[holds up the book] Earl asked me to give this back to you. He said you’re very sentimental.
BOBBY. Don’t know what you’re talking about!
GRADY. That so? Pity. [looks at the book] I just love Walt Whitman.
Grady is walking around the locals, looking at them one by one as he speaks.
GRADY. I sing the body electric; the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face. It is in his limbs, his hips. The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton and flannel. You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder.
The swimmer naked as he swims through the transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up.
He rolls silently to and fro in the heave of the water.
The young fellow hoeing corn.
The sleigh-driver guiding his six horses through the crowd.
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sundown, the coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance, the upper-hold and the under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes.
The march of firemen, the play of masculine muscle through clean-setting trousers and waist-straps.
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers.
You take care, Little Sugar. [looks at the locals] This is a tough little town.
Scene in the saloon with Johnson playing some devil-inspired blues on guitar and then flipping over his guitar to pound out the beat on the back, continuing to sing. The floor is packed with dancers.
A music lesson
IVY. So how do you do that? Like you’re singing between the white keys and the black keys on the piano.
JOHNSON. You just do it.
Sings with flatted thirds and fifths, as he plays along.
JOHNSON. Sweet little Ivy, gonna let her hair hang down.
IVY. Don’t be putting me in one of your love songs, they’ll beat the straw out of you! I ain’t letting my hair down for you. What’s left of it.
JOHNSON. [sings] Sweet little Ivy, why you go breaking my heart?
IVY. Never heard a man sing like you do.
JOHNSON. You ever been to the delta?
IVY. I’ve heard.
JOHNSON. There’s white people, there’s colored people, and then there’s colored people in the delta. The bottom of the bottom. Like it doesn’t even matter what I feel. So I sing about what I feel.
IVY. Teach me one. I can’t be singing no songs about the devil.
JOHNSON. They’re all about the devil.
IVY. So how do you do all that slidy stuff?
JOHNSON. Well, you gotta cheat a little bit. Listen to the tuning. Even with no fingers, got yourself a chord. So you do that first chord, open, and then the second chord –
He whips out a knife and she shrieks.
JOHNSON. Good lord, girl. Slide the knife up to the five here, got yourself a new chord. Up to seven, got another.
IVY. You make music with a knife?
JOHNSON. Not always. Used to bust off the neck of a liquor bottle.
IVY. Those are my choices, a knife and a busted bottle?
She pulls out an ornate hairbrush.
IVY. Watch and learn.
She manages a few chords with the brush.
JOHNSON. Playing the blues with a lady’s hairbrush? What is this world coming to? Gimme that, gonna drive the devil right out of this here guitar, then where will I be? You gotta be the whitest girl in the world.
IVY. Can you show me some more Sunday?
JOHNSON. Play for the white folks Sunday. Course the songs are a little different.
Does an absurd, exaggerated four bars of “Camptown Races”.
JOHNSON. Give the people what they want.
CAROLLO. You still want to burn down my bar?
IVY. [smiles] Not until he teaches me guitar.
CAROLLO. You okay back home? With your father and all?
IVY. Everyone thinks my father’s getting even meaner. He’s just afraid. He’s getting old, everything is changing so fast. Soldiers come back from France, they’ve seen the world, all sorts of new ideas, folks talking about what they hear on the radio, girls going on dates in cars doing God knows what, women electing presidents...Nobody listens to him anymore. ...And you ain’t helping.
CAROLLO. But you’re here almost every night.
IVY. Only time I feel like I’m alive.
Another go at Sunday school
IVY. Daddy tried to have another go at the girls. Save their souls.
MASON. The Bible is our one source for morality!
CORALEE. Joshua and his soldiers spent the night in a whorehouse and then killed everybody in the Holy Land, man, woman and child.
RUBY. Except the virgins, save them for the soldiers!
CORALEE. Book of Kings, children are torn apart by bears and their heads are thrown in a basket; pregnant women are sliced open in Hosea.
RUBY. Kill your child if he even mentions another religion.
CORALEE. Samuel, God creates a three-year famine because the wrong people were massacred.
RUBY. Lot gave away his daughters to be raped, and later his girls got him drunk and seduced him.
CORALEE. Jacob was a crook.
RUBY. Rachel was a thief.
CORALEE. [skeptical] Morality?
RUBY. First thing Moses did in public was killing an Egyptian.
CORALEE. Solomon with hundreds of slaves for his bedroom.
RUBY. Psalm 137, by the rivers of Babylon. “Happy shall he be, that takes and dashes your infants against the rocks.”
CORALEE. Song of Songs is just plain dirty.
RUBY. A priest giving his concubine to a gang, they raped her until she died, and then cut up her body.
CORALEE. Joseph intended to abandon his pregnant wife.
RUBY. Cruelty, hate, bigotry, people sinning with themselves, peeping Toms, cannibalism.
CORALEE. God approves selling your children into slavery, we gonna bring that back?
RUBY. Stoning women. Can you imagine how long it takes for a woman to die by stoning? Stone after stone after stone?
CORALEE. I mean, you made us read this, but we can’t read Balzac?
MASON. You are criticizing the word of God!
CORALEE. I mean, some of this doesn’t sound like God to me.
RUBY. Archeologists proved that the Jews were never slaves in Egypt, so they never escaped Egypt and never ran to Sinai either. So the part on Sinai where God gives Moses all those laws about ham and homophiles and mildew and unclean things – doesn’t sound like God to me. Sounds like a man.
CORALEE. And most of the books weren’t written by the people they say. Ever wonder why some of these prophets tell their own stories and include their own deaths? The Gospels were written by people who never met Jesus.
RUBY. The God in this book, partway through the very first book, God decided that he hated us all so much that he was going to kill off mankind, and all the animals too.
CORALEE. He killed Jephtha’s daughter, threw Moses out of the Holy Land, killed his own priests for doing the ceremonies wrong, killed Israelites for trying to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling over.
RUBY. He told the Jews to celebrate the murder of a million Egyptian babies.
CORALEE. Nine different books of the Bible order killing your own children. Nine.
RUBY. I am going to burn in magical flames forever because a magical snake fooled a magical rib-woman into eating a magical apple.
CORALEE. My imaginary friend in the sky told me you must die.
RUBY. Love God or he’ll kill you.
CORALEE. Does that sound like God to you?
RUBY. Doesn’t the entire religion go back to God’s covenant with Abraham?
CORALEE. Abraham was a crazy man who almost killed his child because a voice in his head told him to.
RUBY. Then he married his half-sister, and then gave up his wife to be raped, just to save his own life.
CORALEE. Does it bother you that the whole religion is based on this addle-brained goatherd, and the voices in his head?
RUBY. If God really created hell so he can send almost all mankind to the eternal hellfire, and then he wants us to thank him for saving a few of us from the hellfire he created…
CORALEE. All he had to do, was to not create hell.
RUBY. You really think God planned to take almost all the people he created, make em burn forever?
CORALEE. Deuteronomy says if you go back into your family tree, ten generations, and find even one bastard child, you can’t enter heaven. So none of us are going to heaven anyway, right?
RUBY. We all get the big bonfire?
CORALEE. If heaven means standing around doing nothing all but praising God all day every day, no food, no drink, no romance, no conversation, no radio, no books, no newspapers, just praise praise praise praise forever….can I go to hell instead?
RUBY. I mean, the God in the testament, is just plain small. He’s mean. You ever think that maybe there might be a bigger God out there?
MASON. The God I know sees all and knows all. He made all.
RUBY. If God knows everything, why did the Jews have to mark their doors during Passover? Didn’t he even know which ones were the Israelites praying to him every night?
MASON. God proved his divinity when he created a perfect universe.
CORALEE. In almost all of the universe, no life can survive. It’s empty. Life can’t survive on any of our planets except this one. Or on most of the earth’s surface.
RUBY.Almost all of God’s species have already died out, and the sun is going to explode and kill the rest of us.
CORALEE. God’s most perfect creation, the human body. The appendix can outright kill you.
RUBY. Tonsils, nipples on men, body odor, the foreskin, bad breath, baldness, wrinkles?
CORALEE. Blindness, deafness, tooth decay, hemorrhoids, warts, colic, cancer...?
RUBY.If Ford made a car like that, it would be sent back, they couldn’t sell it. The guy who built it would be fired.
CORALEE. I know women were supposed to be God’s afterthought, but seriously – bleeding every month, cramps, menopause?
RUBY. And birthing babies!
CORALEE. Yeah, what kind of near-sighted ham-fisted ten-thumb tinker designed the process of childbirth? I mean, was the Lord drunk that day?
RUBY.And he put the clitoris in completely the wrong place? A little joke on the girls?
CORALEE. Like building a car and putting the starter button under the damn hood!.... It’s Cli-TOR-is.
IVY. The girls realized they had finally gone too far. Luckily, Daddy didn’t know right away what a clitoris was. I pity my mother. Week later he found out what it was, and the girls got expelled from high school.
Old woman crossing Main Street. Singing girl walks down Main Street singing the Ineggiamo; she sees Carollo looking at her.
CAROLLO. You’re flat.
GIRL. [looks at her chest] And you’re rude. Talking about my lulus right in the middle of Main Street.
CAROLLO. Your singing. You’re flat. You’re a soprano! Fly high!
OLD WOMAN. Fanny Hill.
Emma Lee is carrying a shovel and a book, she hands him the book and then holds up a finger and thumb.
OLD WOMAN. Fanny Hill. That close to a heart failure.
GRADY. Emma Lee. You had some sort of episode?
OLD WOMAN. No. My husband. The third time, anyway. Have Ivy give that book to the mayor’s wife, that’ll straighten her right out.
GRADY. I think that’ll get people talking about Ivy.
OLD WOMAN. Well, it’s about time. Ain’t gonna be preacher’s girl forever. That book ought to be sold with a doctor’s prescription.
GRADY. What are you up to with the shovel? Doing some planting? Need any help?
OLD WOMAN. No, I’m gonna do this by myself. [she spits her chaw]
CAROLLO. Brace yourself. This song here is practically a mortal sin. Just picture this. Twenty, thirty years ago they have the premiere of this opera in Rome, the most Catholic place on earth.
IVY. An opera?
CAROLLO. It’s called Tosca. This song is just plain demonic. First you got this choir, they’re in church, it’s Sunday, singing church songs. Standing outside the church, there’s the villain, singing about how he’s gonna hatch all these evil plots, kill everybody, rape the girl, Tosca.
IVY. Oh good Lord!
CAROLLO. And he’s singing it along with the church people – he’s mocking them while they’re praying!
CAROLLO. Girl, this was Rome! He is mocking them while they are praying to God! Right in front of God! You do not mock the church right down the street from the Pope! So they hold the premiere. Make matters worse, Rome was going through a nasty time, anarchists threatening to blow stuff up, everybody’s afraid. And then the Queen shows up. And they sing this devil’s music in front of the queen, in front of the priests – well, here you go, listen to this last bit. It’s Italian, the villain is saying “Tosca! For thee I could renounce my hopes of heaven!”
He plays the last two minutes of Act 1 of Tosca.
IVY. [she’s emotionally overcome by the music] Turn it off, it’s too much! …That is the most evil thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
CAROLLO. You want it again.
IVY. Oh Good Lord yes. Whole thing, from the beginning... We’re going straight to hell, aren’t we?
CAROLLO. On the express train.
IVY. Hey. When a woman is in bed with a man...it’s like that, isn’t it?
CAROLLO. [nods] Once you get the hang of it. You’ll see...Hey, Tosca, this is just Act One.
IVY. Oh Lord, don’t tell me how it ends!
CAROLLO. This is Italian opera. Every dies. It’s bloody. It’s glorious.
He puts the needle back to the beginning of Scarpia’s terrifying aria.
IVY. [whispers] Oh my Lord...
Back room of the saloon.
In the back room, a male couple chats on one couch while a female couple chats on another. The lights go off and on rapidly. One of the men jumps up, grabs one of the women and pushes her toward the other man, and then he sits with the other woman. The two men kiss the women; two policemen come down for a look, and leave.
BUFORD. Hang on. These knuckleheads, there could be more of em. [the two couples curl up together]
CORALEE. So, you finally got to kiss a girl.
BUFORD. Not so bad really.
CORALEE. Not so bad?
BUFORD. Compared to getting beat up by deputies.
CORALEE. [laughs, leans her head on his shoulder] Fuck you.
BUFORD. I’ve kissed girls before.
EARL. Are they gone?
BUFORD. Think so.
CORALEE. You’re pretty quick on your feet. Thanks, sweetie.
RUBY. You moving in on my gal?
RUBY. Knock you into the middle of next week!
BUFORD. It won’t happen again. Trust me. You know how lucky you two are?
CORALEE. Don’t feel lucky. Lots of folks think we’re going to hell.
BUFORD. But you two found each other lickety-split, when you were kids. You know how hard it is for the rest of us to find The Big One? Hadn’t been for Grady and the saloon, I never would have found Earl.
RUBY. Hey. Wait a minute.
RUBY. What if we got married?
EARL. Honey, it’s illegal everywhere.
RUBY. No no no no...the four of us, we’re together every other night anyway...what if we had a house?
CORALEE. So who marries who?
RUBY. Toss a coin?
CORALEE. Are you serious about this?
RUBY. Do you love me?
RUBY. To the last trump of judgment?
CORALEE. To the last...whatever it is.
RUBY. What about you two knuckleheads?
RUBY. Well, I got a job. If you marry the mechanic, ain’t got no money, people will spot the fake. I’ll take the mechanic, you take the boy with the store.
CORALEE. I knew a gal who dressed like a man to get a job, but [looks down] obviously I ain’t got a chance.
EARL. Hey, don’t we get a vote?
RUBY. Not really. …So what do you think?
BUFORD. What if this town doesn’t work for us? I mean, look at this place.
RUBY. Then we all leave together. Or not. And it’s all nice and legal.
CORALEE. I’m all for getting out of here. All four of us.
EARL. I’m leaving. Sold out my store.
BUFORD. You sold it?
EARL. Bank bought up all my inventory, gave us enough money to get the hell out of here.
CORALEE. So...me in my tuxedo?
BUFORD. And me in my dress? [they laugh] Let’s not go pushing our luck.
MASON. Dearly beloved...
We see Coralee and Buford getting married, with Ruby and Earl watching. In the back, Ivy and the bar patrons mask their amusement with difficulty.
Grady is nailing a piece of paper to the wall.
CLEM. What’s that?
GRADY. It’s a poem. There was a young man I knew. He was something special. He joined one of those homophile societies, wrote short stories about it. He used his real name – you never use your real name.
CLEM. Why not?
GRADY. Get arrested. The post office grabbed everything he wrote, it was obscene – you know the local post office here will send postcard pictures of lynchings, but a love letter from somebody like me – that’s obscene. Anyway, he wrote me a poem.
CLEM. This is a pretty terrible poem. So what happened to him?
GRADY. So that boy went from the police station to a hospital and back again, bunch of lawyers arguing whether what he did was a sin or a crime or a sickness. Got sent to a hospital, the fruitcake factory, he got his works cut off like a steer – could have been worse, now they’re talking about grabbing guys like me and cutting open our brains, using electric shock. Couple of guys I know, they just jump off a bridge, string themselves up, they can’t take it.
CLEM. [stares at the poem] Maybe it’s not so terrible.
GRADY. And there’s a rule you have to know. All of us are hidden. The ones who get caught – don’t go looking for the rest to help you out. And don’t be pointing your finger, save yourself by bird-dogging another guy. We’re all on our own. We fight every one of our battles alone.
CLEM. You know those boys out there talking about whupping you up.
GRADY. Spent a lot of years hiding under my bed. I just can’t do it anymore. Got to the point, the hiding hurts as much as the beating.
Pig guts and chaw
GRADY. Well, Ivy’s curious about everything.
IVY. My father was always trying to keep me from learning anything, so I’ve always been pulling the other way.
GRADY. So she kept asking me what fellas like us do in bed.
IVY. Oh, good Lord, don’t! Ew!
GRADY. She kept asking and asking. I just didn’t want to get into it.
IVY. And then that one night I got him good and drunk...
GRADY. And I told her everything.
IVY. Ew! Don’t say – just don’t!
GRADY. Baby, you got folks here who spit their chaw and eat pig guts. Chitlins and chaw. How can this be any worse than that?
IVY. Well, gimme a while to get used to it. Ew!
GRADY. Wait til you end up in bed with a man, see how messy that is. You’ll be ready to hook up with Coralee and Ruby next.
IVY. And how do they do it?
GRADY. Well actually --
IVY. No no no no – don’t tell me. Please. I’m a preacher’s daughter, there’s only so much education I can stand in one week. Ew!
GRADY. Ivy --
GRADY. Ivy, you understand love, right?
IVY. What do you mean?
GRADY. Do you understand love?
IVY. Well, I’m not really sure I do.
GRADY. Once you get that, you’ll get all the rest.
Fetching a shovel
The side of a hill.
OLD WOMAN. Homer, Robert, pull out that big stone over there, bring it here next to the other five. Give me a minute, where’s my chaw? [she installs a plug in her mouth]...Grady. Got a book for you in my poke.
GRADY. Uh oh.
OLD WOMAN. [smiles] My father was a horse doctor going back before the War Between the States. So he took care of the slaves.
GRADY. So he did slaves and animals?
OLD WOMAN. He wrote it all down. He kept a little shack in the woods for some of the old slaves who were too crippled to work, gave em some food. He got a few runaways through here too, coming from Mississippi, heading toward Ohio. [she waves the book] These here were the throwaways, the slaves they couldn’t break. Throwaway horses, they made into glue. Throwaway slaves, came to us. When Father passed, I took over the shack, all these old colored folks, even after they were free. This here is where we buried them, last one died just recent. [Emma Lee is dry-eyed through the whole scene]
GRADY. And he wrote it all down?
OLD WOMAN. Right in this book, up til he died. Hang on. [she steps away to spit, not wanting to spit on the graves] This grave right here. This was Rachel, got caught teaching her children the alphabet. Shackled, branded, then flayed off some of her skin.
HOMER. Dead people? Right here?
OLD WOMAN. Right here. [He backs away] Samuel, made a drum, they thought he was trying to raise a rebellion. They whipped him, made him wear a spiked collar on his neck for six months.
GRADY. Samuel who?
OLD WOMAN. Just Samuel. Sarah, tried to wear a white woman’s castoff clothes. They whipped her, worked her sixteen hours a day, then nearly starved her to death. She went simple in the head.
Ethan, tried to plant his own food, feed his family. They whipped him, performed medical experiments on him. Only time he ever saw a doctor, til he was free.
Big Tom. Every time he ran away they took another piece of him. Chopped off his foot, knocked out his teeth, cut off his ear, then his tongue, slit his nose. Still kept running somehow. Then they castrated him, and put out his eye. Had enough of his extra parts to stitch together a whole nother slave. [smiles] When he died after the war, old overseer still wanted to cut off his head, make sure he was really dead.
Solomon. They beat him with shovels and set the dogs on him. When he tried to defend himself, they whipped him, then rubbed turpentine into the wounds; sometimes they’d use gravel or salt. Tough as a sack of horseshoes, they all were.
HOMER. This a new one?
OLD WOMAN. Rebecca. [sighs] Mississippi gal. Master wanted to sell her as a prostitute, she fought back. Overseer raped her, made her husband watch. Sold Rebecca here in Kentucky, sold her daughter in Tennessee, prostitute. [looks at Homer] She told my father to fix it she could never have children again. She was my last one. Must have been ninety, nobody knows. I really thought she was gonna bury me....Homer, I think her head was right there.
He puts a stone where she’s pointing.
OLD WOMAN. Thank you. [kneels] Miss Rebecca, I hope you’re at peace now. Remind Big Tom to keep an eye on Sarah for me, like always, she wanders off and gets lost. [smiles] Just remember darlin, I can still beat you at stud poker, I’ll come up there to find you someday. But not just yet....[steps away to spit; to Homer and Johnson] Boys, this is my last time coming up here. But I wanted you two to know where it is. Fetch my shovel there, I’m done with it now...
JOHNSON. You dug this last grave yourself?
OLD WOMAN. Dug all of em. Just had trouble with that last stone... [to Grady] Here, you like collecting scary books. You take this to New Orleans, put it in a library somewhere.
JOHNSON. Let me see it first.
OLD WOMAN. [she looks at him for a long moment, and gives it to him] I were you, I’d stick it on a shelf. You ain’t gonna sleep much after you read it – you best hope their ghosts don’t follow you down the hill. [looks at the graves] Not sure which be worse, forgetting the past, or remembering. [to Grady] Take me to town, get me a drink.
The saloon. More of Carollo’s boys hanging around out front. Locals watching them. Carollo reads a newspaper.
ROY. [looking at the new doormen] Your new boys from down south, they’re working out okay?
CAROLLO. [reading a newspaper] Soon as the locals see em, they decide they need to be somewhere else. Problem is, they eat like horses.
ROY. No know what would be an amazing thing...?
CAROLLO. What’s that?
ROY. Next time there’s one of these fires, burn down the bank too.
ROY. Just think, all those mortgages, all those debts...everybody gets a clean slate.
CAROLLO. You can’t beat the bank. You burn it down, they just send a bigger bank. And we’re not criminals. Are we?
ROY. In this state, we are! All of us.
CAROLLO. Well, Louisiana Attorney General agrees with you, far as I’m concerned. They’re coming for me. [reading the paper] Goddamn bootleggers!
ROY. What the hell did I do?
CAROLLO. This jackass bootlegger in Washington. This guy had a gold mine – he was selling liquor to half the guys in Congress. Then just before the election he tells the papers that all those prohibition Senators and such are a bunch of drunks. Election comes, a whole bunch of prohibition types get thrown out of Congress. And now they’re gonna repeal Prohibition!
ROY. Liquor’s gonna be legal!
CAROLLO. How am I supposed to do a dishonest day’s work?
ROY. Well, there’s always another racket. You know, we still got a great moonshine business here, and we still don’t like paying our taxes. You can’t keep a good crook down.
CAROLLO. Hey, Grady, you’ll like this one, or maybe you won’t. There’s this actress, Mae West. She wrote this play, The Drag. It’s about a couple of fairies like you, and a doctor who wants to use science to cure them of their affliction. The show made a ton of money for two weeks, New York City money, and then the police closed down the theater. [laughs] I mean, they should have known better. You can’t have gay people on Broadway!...It’s just silly.
In a car.
IVY. You remember when Sam said you need to get ready for the next saloon? After they burn down this one?
GRADY. Well, here we are.
IVY. Well, do you have a plan?
GRADY. I’m still absorbing all of this right here. We got the new place...
IVY. Well, you need to think one step further. Sam is willing to help us out if we start a saloon in New Orleans. He wants to get back down there – this greasy Kentucky food’s gonna kill him.
GRADY. You’re crazy! You’ve got your father to take care of, the church...
IVY. If I can run the books for a church, I can do it for a saloon.
GRADY. But your whole life is here!
IVY. What do you know about my life? Am I gonna spend the next 40 years counting up bake sale money, married to a man like my father? I mean, look at the men in this town!
GRADY. You think I haven’t?...So you’re proposing we open a new saloon?
IVY. I’m proposing that we get married.
GRADY. Married? Are you the only person in this town who doesn’t know...
IVY. I know all about you. We get married, go down there, open the saloon together. I run the money, you run everything else. If I’m married, I can leave Kentucky without getting hunted down by men with guns.
GRADY. You don’t want a man in your life? I mean, you know, a man?
IVY. Well, I’m afraid I’m gonna cheat on you here and there. And you’re gonna cheat on me. I’m totally shameless. And Grady, you are a man...You are, you know.
GRADY. But don’t you want kids?
IVY. A girl tries like gangbusters to have a baby, her odds are pretty good. Work work work work! Long as my plumbing keeps working. You’ll make a great father. And I do love you, baby.
GRADY. I love you, darling.
IVY. There gonna be some trouble.
GRADY. Story of my life.
IVY. No, I mean soon. You can’t stay. I can’t stay. Those boys coming after you again. You, Grady. And this time they’re bringing in everybody – bringing in fellas not even from this county. Roy says it’s another Saturday night riot. They all want to see the saloon burn. So that’s the first part of the plan.
GRADY. I don’t follow you.
IVY. We’re gonna burn down the saloon ourselves. Friday night. Beat em to the draw. And invite the whole town. Have ourselves a party. Our party, not theirs.
Outside the new saloon which is burning. Almost the whole town is there.
GRADY. Well, I saved my poem. And your hammer. The rest…there she goes.
CLEM. This whole thing – it wasn’t just the bar.
IVY. Look at the bar. Now turn around and look at these people. They came for you.
GRADY. Some of them just like to see a fire.
CLEM. Yeah, some of them. But look. Women, out alone at midnight. Colored people. All the folks who hid under their beds. Now, they’re not afraid. You know who’s afraid? Look around. The boys with the sheets. All bullies are cowards, and cowards hate a fair fight.
IVY. You see? Most of the town is here. Folks figured out that people who spit chaw and eat pig’s guts shouldn’t be appointing themselves Archangels of the Lord.
CLEM. And these folks will never be afraid again. So…nice job. You did that. For them. For strangers.
GRADY. Well, not strangers, really.
Some of the locals come shake Grady’s hand.
CAROLLO. Hey kid. How about now?
SINGING GIRL. I was practicing it for Easter, it’s an Easter song.
CAROLLO. Perfect time for it. The new rising from the ashes of the old.
The girl does most of a verse of the Ineggiamo. Mason arrives.
MASON. What on earth is that? I can’t even understand it.
IVY. Daddy, it’s okay.
GRADY. Sing in praise, the Lord is rising –
MASON. You mocking our Savior, boy?
GRADY. The Lord is rising, he is shining, he has opened the tomb. Praise him, the risen Lord ascends today the glory of heaven. Pretty song.
MASON. [looks him over for a long moment] Tell the gal to sing it again.
She does, all the way through to the final “signor”, the guitar accompanying only on the second verse; Mason goes to look at the fire.
GIRL. [joking] Everybody, sing it with me! [people laugh]
CLEM. We don’t really parlay-voo much down here.
Ivy walks over to Mason who is still fascinated by the fire.
MASON. Damn cinder in my eye.
IVY. Like a vision of hell. Even in a depression, there’s one man who always has a job. Sin never sleeps.
MASON. Sin never sleeps. You said a cotton-pickin mouthful.
IVY. Daddy. Sin isn’t your whole job, is it?
She takes his hand and they look at the fire some more. Beau and loads of Ku Klux Klan types drive in; the locals look at them.
CAROLLO. Gotta say, I like this town. I like the folks here. Even the Jesus people don’t bother us too much. It’s just a couple of knuckleheads want to ruin it for everybody else.
CLEM. Can’t believe this is the same town that lynched that boy. What was his –
HOMER. Brown. Abraham Brown.
CLEM. What changed here?
CAROLLO. Everything...Okay, Clem, now for the cherry on top of the cake...Now’s the perfect time. And you’ve wanted to do it all summer. Right now, middle of Main Street.
Clem takes Homer by the hand to the middle of the street, looks at the Klansmen, and kisses Homer.
CLEM. Maybe you were right about my mojo. Homer, I’m gonna marry you.
HOMER. You can’t marry a colored man, it’s illegal.
CLEM. It’s illegal in Kentucky. [points] Cincinnati is way up there. I asked a lawyer two months ago. Right after I saw the doctor. [she beams]
Clem and the whole town look at the Klansmen, who drive away.
IVY. Miss Brown? You’re Abraham’s sister?
IDA. I know who you are. What’s she doing here? Your father would lose his mind --
GRADY. My name’s –
IDA. I don’t want any trouble!
GRADY. We’re not here to make trouble.
IDA. It’s broad daylight! Did anybody see you come here?
IVY. I don’t know. I don’t think so. Listen. All of this, everything that happened – it all began that day on the road, the night your brother – well –
IDA. The night he was killed.
IVY. And after that, nobody from town came here to say anything, to…?
IDA. What were they gonna do, show up at our house with pies and fried chicken? After they did that?
GRADY. Well, we wanted you to have this. Part of….what’s left of my joint.
IDA. You bring the devil’s money to my mother’s house?
GRADY. ‘Fraid so. This is the most sinful money there is. Liquor, women, criminals. …Guys like me.
IDA. Well, it must be terrible for your soul, carrying around that sinful money. I’m gonna help you out. Take it to the grocery store, pay off my line. And a bunch of us are saving up for a radio, once we get the electric. I’ll have a talk with the Lord, put in a good word for you, it’ll be alright.
She counts the money and looks over her shoulder.
IDA. Ooh, a nice radio. Mama doesn’t need to know everything.
GRADY. It’s blood money.
IDA. It’s a Depression. It’s all blood money. Somebody’s blood, sweat...
IVY. Good luck.
IDA. You too.
GRADY. [as they walk away] I wonder if I should send Emma Lee some more books. Her husband looks a little poky.
Moving to the front
A porch in New Orleans.
GRADY.[he has Emma Lee’s book in his lap] The law in New Orleans finally got Sam Carollo, but they had to cheat.
IVY. They framed him for a murder that happened while he was a thousand miles away, in New York.
GRADY. But he got a pardon from a crooked governor, and he was back in business.
IVY. And a good thing too. They tried to get the law on us. Mann Act!
GRADY. Since when is it an immoral purpose to take your legally married wife across the state line and not sleep with her?
IVY. Sam waved our marriage license in front of that crooked judge.
GRADY. Back in town, the Klan thought they had the last laugh, the final victory. When they realized I’d run away and the saloon was already burned down, the Klan boys trucked up into the hills and destroyed Roy’s still, and a bunch more.
IVY. And that’s when things started to fall apart for the Klan.
GRADY. And Roy came down to New Orleans with us.
IVY. That man with that still, he has a gift, right there in his fingertips.
GRADY. You know what they say back in Ireland? [holds up his hands] He has the gift of the fairies. [laughs]
IVY. And when Roy left, he left his whisky recipe to a colored man. Homer. Couple of months, that boy was king of the whole town. Got to be the bartender in the front room, living the life. People realized they missed us more than they missed the Klan.
GRADY. So the town got back to normal again.
IVY. . Down here in New Orleans, we’re doing just fine too, even with all those troubles, all that sinning.
GRADY. What a town. You can’t keep her down.
IVY. I guess Daddy was wrong. The Lord has forgiven us.
GRADY. [picks up the book and looks at it] He must be a good sport after all.
Cut to Homer and Clem, back in Kentucky, in bed reading Ulysses.
HOMER. The pink and blue and yellow houses and the rose gardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses.
CLEM. And Gibraltar as a girl, where I was a Flower of the mountain, yes, when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used, or shall I wear a red.
CLEM. And how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again.
HOMER. Yes, and then he asked me would I, yes, to say yes my mountain flower.
CLEM. And first I put my arms around him, yes, and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume, yes.
HOMER. And his heart was going like mad.
CLEM. And yes I said yes I will Yes.