THE GREAT DIVIDE
(Astrid and Binky, a 40ish couple, are standing and sipping cocktails. Behind them, seated at the table, are three apparent friends 60ish who are pitifully and shabbily dressed. One man wears a crumpled jacket and sneakers, another a cape and beret, and the woman sports several scarves and an assortment of beads over a too brightly colored and tattered dress. Between these two groups and seated at the end of the table (center stage) is Mary, a sophisticated rich woman. Her legs are crossed and she savors a cocktail. She is 60-70ish and also most elegantly dressed. They sit at a small well appointed table which is an ante-room cocktail area. The dinner will be served in another room, unseen.)
Astrid: (Standing, downstage right) Who are those unsightly creatures?
Binky: Astrid, they are Leon’s (Pronounced Lay-on) dinner guests.
Astrid: Binky, (Sniffing) there is a powerfully pungent odor emanating from their direction.
Binky: My dear Astrid, look at the bigger picture.
Astrid: Can’t you smell it?!
Binky: I did just tonight clip my nose hairs. (Deciding to be difficult) Maybe I can and maybe I don’t care.
Astrid: In the meantime Binky, I will not deign to take a step closer to those overripe urchins.
Binky: At some point in the evening, dearest, we must sit down at the dinner table with them.
Astrid: I shudder to think about it.
Binky: I wonder what the seating arrangement will be?
Astrid: Where is LeonI demand to know who they are and why they were invited! Is he trying to humiliate us?
Binky: It isn’t always about you, dearest.
Astrid: I’m entitled to my opinions.
Binky: Perhaps he likes their company.
Astrid: Well, I’m appalled.
Binky: Don’t judge strictly by appearance.
Astrid: Or by aroma?!
Binky: Who’s that other woman who looks like us (Nodding to Mary)?
Astrid: (Throaty) Don’t mock me!
Binky: You’re an easy target my dear.
Astrid: With a name like Binky I wouldn’t be so quick to point to me as an easy target.
Binky: Look! (Two children have entered and darted over to the trio)
Astrid: I’m not looking at them- they’ll look back and then where will we be?
Binky: But you must look. Leon’s children are with them.
Astrid: Those poor children. Are they holding their noses?
Binky: They don’t seem to notice at all. The children are charmed. They’re touching them…
Astrid: Like flies.
Binky: You must learn to be more tolerant my dear. I’m sure these folks have lovely attributes. (Observing) I dare say, the woman appears to be blind. She’s ‘reading’ the children’s faces.
Astrid: (Shuddering) Their hands are probably crawling with germs.
Binky: And fleas…maybe lice.
Astrid: We must tell Leon!
Binky: Astrid, now the children are dancing! (The children dance, one following the other to the delight of the trio who clap and cheer. Binky watches, Astrid is turned away in disgust. Mary is in her own world within the cocktail she holds, so she does not watch either. After the second child has danced, the trio applauds.) The children are having fun.
Astrid: Quit staring at them. Before you know it they’ll be coming over here.
Binky: This is a dinner party.
Astrid: Even at a distance, their stench is giving me a headache.
Mary: My my, how times have changed.
Binky: Perhaps you need a refill on your cocktail.
Astrid; Don’t you dare leave me, Binky.
Binky: I will save you from the savages, dearest.
Astrid: If one of them were to come near me I think I should faint dead away.
Binky: Gird your loins…here comes one now…headed this way (Astrid is girding)…closer (Astrid is horrified)…here!
Binky: Hello ol’ chap.
Jeb: My name is Jeb. (He holds out his hand to shake with Binky)
Binky: (He slyly puts his free hand in his pocket and holds out his glass toward Jeb) I’m Binky. How do you know Leon?
Jeb: I never met him. I’m a friend of Humboldt. He’s the guest of honor (Astrid is cringing). Humboldt was asked to invite his friends- as many as he wanted! He invited me and his woman friend, Blossom.
Binky: So, your friend is the guest of honor? What does he do…for a living?
Jeb: Oh he’s a street philosopher now. He once won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel.
Binky: You don’t say. Did you hear that Astrid?
Astrid: (Looking away from Jeb) I heard it.
Jeb: What an unusual name…Astrid. Are you Scandinavian?
Astrid: (Still averting Jeb’s eyes) No.
Jeb: It’s a pleasure to meet you, Astrid.
Binky: Jeb, what is your…profession?
Jeb: I’m a street poet.
Binky: A street poet?
Jeb: I like to bring joy to people by sharing my gift of poetry. I especially serve those who come to Central Park. I’ll ask them if they’d like a little poem about their name or about something special in their life, or a ditty about their personal characteristics. They usually say ‘Yes’ and I write it for them on the spot.
Binky: Brilliant. Isn’t it, Astrid?
Astrid: (With clenched jaw and still turned away) Yes.
Binky: I can’t imagine you make much money that way.
Jeb: Oh. They give me a dollar or two…maybe more. I’m grateful for whatever I get. In the summer, I greet the people waiting to see Shakespeare in the Park. They’re on their blankets with a basket of food. Sometimes I get a bottle of wine or a sandwich. Sometimes they ask me to eat with them.
Binky: What was the name of the book your friend wrote- the one that won the Pulitzer Prize?
Jeb: It’s called ‘The Great Divide’.
Binky: Never heard of it. Have you heard of it, Astrid?
Astrid: Yes, of course!
Jeb: I’d like to write a poem for you, Astrid.
Binky: That’s a grand idea! Isn’t that grand, Astrid?
Astrid: (Dryly and still averting Jeb) Just grand.
Jeb: (He takes out a pen and pad and writes) Yes…yes…(Binky is trying to look at the paper) Finished.
Binky: Already?! Let’s hear it.
Jeb: Binky, will you read it? (He hands the paper to Binky)
Binky: Jeb, you have perfect penmanship!
Jeb: (He bows gracefully) Thank you. It’s a skill I’ve learned. That way I only need to write the poem once.
Binky: Ingenious. Let’s see…(He reads slowly…deliberately)
Astrid astride her horse did ride
Across the Great Divide
Astride Astrid did rid her clothes
The reason? No one knows.
Bravo! (Astrid is horrified)
Astrid: That’s shameless!
Binky: Which part is shameless- shedding your clothes or crossing the divide? Or maybe it’s the (Mock mystery in his voice)‘no one knows’ part?
Mary: (Said to no one and toasting to no one with her martini glass) My my, how times have changed.
Jeb: I’m sorry you’re offended. I only mean to charm. We are all challenged by the Great Divide. That is my friend Humboldt’s lifelong crusade. First he wrote the book about it as a young man. Then he lived it- in his own way. I think the reason he never wrote another book might be because he couldn’t find another theme that excited his passion even half as much. We all participate in the Great Divide. I think it’s best to cross it naked. That way we can’t tell rich naked babies from poor naked babies- can we?
Children: (They had scampered off after their dancing and have now scampered back) It’s time for dinner!
Humboldt: (Standing and clapping to get everyone’s attention) If I may be so bold, one thought before we all join together at the table of our generous host, Leon (Pronounced ‘Lee’on).
Blossom: Honor us with two thoughts, Humboldt…if you would be so generous!
Jeb: Three! (Then he turns to Binky) Did you pronounce our host’s name as ‘Lay’on?
Humboldt: (Still standing, he proposes his toast) Here we are…all of us invited guests of our most gracious host. We are about to come to the table, sit down and eat together. God intended for us to be at one table…to share our meals…to share our experiences…to share our joy and our grief. We are temporary travelers on a brief journey. God never wanted us divided. But divided we are- divided by age, divided by sex, divided by race, divided by religion, divided by borders, divided by possessions. We have created towering walls to keep us in and to keep others out. We have created massive armies and navies and weapons to protect us and harm others, we have created elaborate schemes to keep possessions to ourselves and safe from others. God gave us a bountiful gift and asked nothing in return. We are blessed whether we know it or not; whether we accept it or not. Let us bow our heads as we approach the table. Let us thank our host. Let us smile a grateful smile that our host acknowledges God’s gifts, he accepts God’s gifts as his own…and he chooses to share God’s gifts with us and with the world. He does not ask us to repay him for our meal, for our time together. He knows that he will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. Amen. And now let us dine at the same table. (They all exit to the dining room except Mary.)
Mary: (Now sitting alone and raising her glass) My my, how times have changed.