A House Not Meant to Stand by Tennessee Williams

  [The men cross into the dining room.]

  CHARLIE: Mom, lean on my shoulder. We better go in the kitchen.

  BELLA: It’s here somewhere.

  CHARLIE: What, Mom?

  BELLA: Did I tell you? . . . no. But I told Chips—it’s in this house. Must try to recollect . . .

  [Bella and Charlie go into the kitchen. There is a thunder clap. Emerson appears on the stair landing.]

  EMERSON: I tellya, Corney, conditions upstairs are . . .

  CORNELIUS: No worse than down.

  EMERSON: Think I better be going.

  CORNELIUS: Wait’ll the rain lets up . . . have another beer . . .

  EMERSON: No thanks.

  [Emerson takes a beer.]

  CORNELIUS: Your house is dark. Jessie’s still out with your key.

  [Thunder is heard and the lights flicker.]

  CORNELIUS: Power plant—lacks power. —Em?


  CORNELIUS: Tell me more about that old enterprise of yours, the Sykes and Sykes Refinery. I still don’t know what they refined. Escapes my understanding.

  EMERSON [relaxing with his beer]: Aw, that’s on the back burner, what’s cooking now is my upcoming chain of motels, first already under construction in Gulfport.

  CORNELIUS: Upcoming?

  EMERSON: Nite-A-Glory motel chain.

  CORNELIUS: What was that you called it?

  EMERSON: Nite-A-Glory.

  CORNELIUS: Very suggestive title but—no criticism. Your business.

  EMERSON: Last week I ordered the installation of them little ice chests, you know, one in each room. Also ordered the installation of vibrating mattresses for it.

  CORNELIUS: Vibrate? Do they? Mattresses? Vibrate?

  EMERSON: It works like this. You drop fifty cents in a slot and the mattress starts to vibrate.

  CORNELIUS: Well I never. Meant to make the patrons believe they’re out to sea on a cruise-ship?

  EMERSON: Heh, heh, no! Of course some of the guests, the highway tourists, are old and tired. What they want is a soothing massage that’s conducive to a quick and deep sleep. But the other couples, young ones, well they like the stimulating effect of the vibration at night.

  CORNELIUS: Aw. Aw. Mattresses designed to arouse carnal impulses, huh? On them not usually blessed by civil or church ceremony, that the idea back of it? [He stares desolately out at the audience. He shakes his head and takes another swallow of beer.] Disposal unit! —of waste . . .

  [Cornelius turns to Emerson. Emerson notices the men.]

  CORNELIUS: Ain’t that about what it is, our time of life?

  [Emerson moves downstage to avoid the men’s scrutiny.]

  EMERSON [uneasily, in a frightened stage whisper]: Don’t I see a couple of men in the dark dining room?

  CORNELIUS [chuckling]: Neighbors drop over to offer congratulations when you come home from a family funeral, Em.

  EMERSON: Anyhow, don’t understand why they don’t come in and speak instead of standing there in the dark with no talk, not a word between ’em.

  CORNELIUS: Where’d you say these men are?

  EMERSON [with gathering alarm]: In there, in the dark dining room, standing completely silent.

  CORNELIUS [to lighten Emerson’s tension]: Like “silent partners,” Em?

  EMERSON: Shit, this is no joke. You know ’em?

  CORNELIUS: Never seen ’em before in my life.

  EMERSON: You’re not lookin’ at them.

  CORNELIUS: They’re prob’ly friends of Charlie’s.

  EMERSON: Charlie ain’t with ’em. Don’t seem natural. Call Charlie. Ask him.


  [Emerson backs up and puts his beer on the table.]

  CORNELIUS: There’s a coupla strange young men in the dining room. Did you let ’em in? What’s their business, who’d they wanta see, me about something?

  CHARLIE [sticking his head out of the kitchen]: You? No, not you. They come to see Mr. Sykes about something.


  CORNELIUS: I’m not about to place a gun in the hands of a man over-excited as you.

  EMERSON: I want my gun, goddamn it!

  CORNELIUS [picking up shotgun]: Relax, no sweat, I got you covered with it.

  SECOND MAN: Mr. Sykes?

  FIRST MAN: Mr. Emerson Sykes?

  SECOND MAN: Would you step in here a minute.

  EMERSON: What faw? I don’t talk business after midnight in a neighbor’s house.

  FIRST MAN: This business can’t wait.

  EMERSON: Turn the lights on in there!

  CORNELIUS: Bella left ’em on when we went to Memphis and they’re burnt out.

  EMERSON: Mighty peculiar. Open the kitchen door so I can see ’em, Charlie. Otherwise, I—

  [A dim and ominous glow appears in dining room.]

  EMERSON [reluctantly advancing]: If you’re here about employment at the motel, it’ll be weeks before I’m ready to accept more than applications on file.

  SECOND MAN [after Emerson enters dining room]: Outside, Mr. Sykes.

  EMERSON: Naw, naw, take your hands off me!

  CORNELIUS: No violence, men. Mr. Sykes ain’t well.

  [There is a struggle with a few ad-libs.]

  BELLA [coming out of the kitchen with Charlie]: Em, is that Em goin’? Say hello to Jessie! You all—

  [The commotion subsides as Emerson is hustled out the kitchen door. The door slams shut. Bella sits at the dining room table.]

  CHARLIE: I thought you said Mr. Sykes was your best friend in the Moose Lodge.

  CORNELIUS: A crook is a crook, Lodge brother or not. Obviously you are not aware that some people in this world have still got a respect for honesty and for— Hell, it wasn’t my doin’. His wife had disclosed certain matters, mortgage of joint property.

  CHARLIE: Could be she just wanted him out of the way for someone younger.

  CORNELIUS: It’s none of your business so keep your nose out of it, huh? That man was trying to swing a fraudulent deal to put up and operate something not much better than a string of bordellos. You’d natcherly find that morally admirable, Charlie. It’s the Dancie blood in you.

  CHARLIE: Goddamn it, if you ain’t mean as a junk-yard dawg. Dancies, Dancies, Mom’s folks and mine. Never let up on ’em. But tonight you quit it! I’ve had it!

  [There is a pause. Cornelius changes strategy.]

  CORNELIUS: You misunderstood me, Charlie. Will ya help your Mom in here?

  CHARLIE: Naw. Won’t. For you to disturb her again?


  BELLA [from the dining room]: Yes, Cornelius?

  CORNELIUS: Bella, would you come in here for a quiet but serious talk?

  CHARLIE: Stay there, Mom.

  BELLA: ’Sall right, Chips. Go on up and rest after your long trip.

  [Bella walks to the sofa as Charlie goes up the stairs.]

  CORNELIUS: That’s right. Set down here, Bella. —I hope you’re feeling a little better now.

  BELLA: Lots to do today. Laundry to dry. Many things neglected to catch up on.

  CORNELIUS: Bella, in your condition, don’t over-do. Don’t want to alarm you but a blood-pressure up to 220 over whatever, well, it’s time to set the house in order, to relieve your own mind.

  BELLA: Have you got something you want to say to me or not?

  CORNELIUS: No. —But something to ask you.

  BELLA: What’ve you got to ask me?

  CORNELIUS: Off and on I’ve asked you this before, but now, you in your condition and me in mine and the roof of the house and every wall of the house threatening to collapse before we do, the question is too urgent not to call for an immediate answer.

  BELLA: Question is—?
  CORNELIUS: Concerning the Dancie money. It’s time now you told me, don’t you think so?

  BELLA: —Dancie?

  CORNELIUS [leaning forward]: Yes, Dancie.

  BELLA: Money?

  CORNELIUS: Yes! Money!

  [Cornelius stares at Bella silently.]

  CORNELIUS: Well, Bella?

  BELLA: “Well, Bella” what?


  BELLA: My folks, the Dancies? Live on relief, you know that, why they’re eating on food-stamps, got no money a-tall! Never heard of any Dancie money, no time ever!

  CORNELIUS: Everyone else has heard of it, why folks that never heard of the notorious Dancies have heard of the Dancie money. And you deny it. Claim you never even heard it existed?


  CORNELIUS [resorting to softer tactics]: You do remember your Grandpa? His devotion to you? When he passed on at close to the century mark, he had a shotgun on his bed and wouldn’t admit a person inside his bedroom door except you, not even the preacher, Bella. But you he did let in and you were alone in the room with him, Bella. That’s common knowledge, ask any dawg in the street.

  BELLA [staggering backwards]: Ask any dawg—not me. They, they, the Dancies, they got none!

  CORNELIUS [discarding all restraint]: OH, NO, NOT NOW THEY AIN’T. WHY? WHY?

  CHARLIE [from the stair landing]: DON’T HOLLER AT MOM LIKE THAT!

  CORNELIUS [to the audience]: SHE’S GOT IT! [To Bella.] YOU GOT IT, THAT’S WHY!

  [Cornelius gets his cane. Bella begins to breathe loudly.]

  CHARLIE [descending to the living room]: Mom, go in the—kitchen.


  BELLA: Te-tell?


  [Bella cries out in terror and staggers off to the kitchen where a crash is heard.]


  [Cornelius, with raised cane, turns again toward Charlie. Charlie seizes the cane and hurls it away while simultaneously there is a clap of thunder. The interior goes black: a confusion of out-cries and sounds are heard.]




  STACEY [from upstairs]: BLACK, ALL BLACK!


  [There is an interval in the shouting with sounds of neighbor’s voices and the heavy breath of fury in the house.]



  STACEY: CANDLES, ANY CANDLES? [Stacey is now on the stair-landing.] LAWD! I AM CRAWLIN’ DOWN STAIRS!

  [The lights come back on as power is restored. Reassured, Stacey stands and illuminates the landing with a smile, modestly clasping her hands over her belly, protuberant with late pregnancy.]

  CHARLIE: ’Sall right, now, Stacey!

  [Charlie is in possession of the cane. Cornelius is supporting himself by chair-back.]

  STACEY: Such a—such a disturbance. Crawled down here on my—

  CHARLIE: It’s okay now, honey.

  [There is a pause as she looks about.]


  [Her smile widens. Cornelius removes one pair of glasses, puts on another, his jaw falling open in astonishment.]

  CHARLIE [nervously]: Come on down here, Stacey, don’t be shy.

  STACEY: Charlie, don’t you know me better’n that?

  CORNELIUS: I known her better’n that before I seen her.

  [Stacey remains on landing to adjust her panty hose.]

  STACEY: My clo’s are still drainched.

  CHARLIE: We walked here from the bus station in the rain.

  STACEY: I said, “Charlie, call us a cab,” an’ he said there wasn’t a cab in the county. Is that the truth?

  CORNELIUS: No. You want a cab?

  STACEY: Aw, not now, we’re here. Lucky I don’t catch cold since I lent my raincoat to m’girlfriend Polly an’ she left town with it, ha ha!

  CHARLIE: I’ll light the gas logs in the fire.

  STACEY: Good, good. I’d appreciate that. [Hitches her skirt up higher.]

  CORNELIUS: Tell her not to come down till she’s completed dressing.

  STACEY: My panty hose don’t fit me right.

  CORNELIUS [to audience]: Jesus.

  STACEY: I never did like these things, preferred to wear regular garters but they’re hard to get now, seem to’ve gone out of style.

  [Bella enters with a tray bearing a dry and frowsy-looking omelet.]

  BELLA: Here’s eggs.

  CHARLIE: Mom, this is Stacey.

  BELLA [to Stacey]: Why, how d’ you do. [Noticing her distended abdomen.] How’d you do! I thought you all might be hungry so I—

  CHARLIE: Mom thinks everyone’s hungry.

  STACEY: Well, I happen to be. —Hello, Mom.

  BELLA: Hello. What’s your name, honey?

  STACEY: Stacey, it’s a family name they give me as a first name.

  BELLA: Oh?! ’Sthat so? Why?

  STACEY: It’s a lo-oong, long story! You see my uncle—

  CORNELIUS: Don’t tell it right now! Had too much t’night here.

  STACEY: Could I, could we—have something t’drink, Mom?

  BELLA: Y’know we been up in Memphis for several days. I was gonna make you some cocoa but the milk’s gone sour.

  [Charlie takes a pint bottle of whiskey out of his trench coat pocket.]

  BELLA [gasping]: No, no, not whiskey, son! Charlie’s older brother just— [She sobs.]

  CORNELIUS: —Terminal—alcoholism, at thirty-one!

  STACEY: Let’s talk about it tomorrow, not tonight.

  CORNELIUS: I’m a believer in talkin’ all things out that can be talked out as quick as possible, miss.

  CHARLIE: Stacey.

  CORNELIUS: Stacey what?

  CHARLIE: T’morrow she is gonna be Stacey McCorkle.


  CHARLIE: Bright and early tomorrow her last name will be mine.

  BELLA: —Oh . . .

  CORNELIUS: What d’ya make of that, Bella? Something or nothing?

  BELLA [unmistakably so]: Oh, I’m delighted about that!


  STACEY [crying a little]: Yes. So happy I could die! —Just dieee!

  CHARLIE: Sit down, Mom.

  BELLA: If I had something to rest my leg on, I could sit down better. Y’see I—

  CHARLIE: Mom had a little accident on the street.

  STACEY: Oh? What was that, Mom? Oh, you got your laig bandaged.

  BELLA: Yes, by Doc Crane, he lives right across the street.

  CORNELIUS: The truck driver was injured. Took down names and addresses and intends to sue.

  CHARLIE: Aw, wasn’t hurt hardly a-tall.

  CORNELIUS: No, no, not killed. He drove a privately owned truck off the highway to avoid hitting Bella.

  CHARLIE: When you drove her outa the house.

  CORNELIUS: Me drove her out? I told you to stop her! The responsibility’s hers and she’ll have to foot the bill, all of it, man’s injury, damage to his truck, oh, if it comes under five thousand she’ll git off light.

  STACEY: This is no time to discuss the cost of something that might of cost Mom’s life. Lemme put something under. [She puts a pillow on floor.] Better now, Mom? Don’t hurt much?

  BELLA: No, no, I’ll tell you so
mething. A big hurt like we got up there in Memphis, it, it—sort of numbs you to anything else for a while.

  CHARLIE: Doc Crane says nothing is broke. A miracle, he called it.

  STACEY: A case of divine intervention. Well, Mom, you can depend on me to take care of the house till you’re completely recovered, yais, and after. Charlie’s told me how bad you need some assistance, and I am happy to give it. Only too happy.

  [Bella, forgetting her injury, attempts to stand.]

  BELLA: —Ow!

  STACEY: Stay there, Mom. Did you want something?

  BELLA: Yes, honey, Doc Crane give me some tablets for temporary relief of—sedation.

  CHARLIE: He gave ’em to me. He said take two at once. —It slipped my mind. [He removes them from his pocket.]

  STACEY: Better get her something to wash ’em down with.

  [Charlie crosses through the dining room.]

  CORNELIUS: Play your hand. See what it’s worth in a courtroom.

  [Charlie goes into the kitchen. There is a pause.]

  STACEY: Don’t you worry, Mom. Just rest. [She picks up the framed photograph of Chips on an incidental table.] —Is this—?

  BELLA: Honey, that was my first-bawn. —Chips . . .

  STACEY: Very good looking young man. Charlie has told me about his brother Chips, Mom, I known a lot of boys like him. I unnerstood and I liked ’em. They used to flock into The Late and Lively, where I was employed as a waitress befo’ my engagement to Charlie, yais, boys like this come in there when the bars closed for our ninety-nine cent breakfast of aigs, sausage, grits and biscuits, haws-biscuits with sawmill gravy and with chicory coffee.

  [Charlie enters with water for Bella.]

  STACEY: —I made acquaintances with them—I sympathized with their problems. Oh, they had many problems. I always advised the couples to stick together, to settle, make homes together. Such boys are not understood by society, Mom. I think they are persecuted by society, Mom. Thrown out of jobs. Beat up. Despised for difference they can no more help than they could help being born. Human. With talents. But society—Well, you heard of Anita Bryant. Just one of many. And sometimes, often—I did bring some to Jesus! You see, Mom, I’m a bawn-again Christian.

  BELLA: What is that?

  CHARLIE: Stacey’s a bawn-again Christian.

  STACEY: Saved by my Savior, by His blessed forgiveness! Many, many times saved from temptations of Satan! [Her voice rises rhapsodically.] Came to Him and He saved me, from falling, falling! I fall to my knees before the throne of my Lord and Savior! Mom, Mom, fall to Him with me!

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