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As the Crow Flies

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Crow Daily- 40+, wise and realistic. He has dark beady eyes like that of a crow as well as thick black hair. His birth name is Crowley but he’s gone by Crow ever since he was small. He has a hooknose similar to a beak, tall and lanky. The keeper at Greyfriar’s Kirkyard.

Jessie Fawn- 25, young, has suffered a great deal. He is tall and wide with great stomping feet. He has a large scar across his face, looks like a knife slash. He wears a workingman’s attire, has had to grow up too quickly. Returned from an extensive stay in America.

Setting: An ancient graveyard in Edinburgh, Scotland.

At rise: It is the heart of the witching hour and all the great potential of the world hovers as a thick mist. JESSIE wanders into the graveyard.

ACT ONE
SCENE ONE

Jessie walks amongst the graves, a bouquet of flowers in hand. He seems exhausted emotionally. After searching for a couple seconds he collapses, being careful to avoid falling on gravesites.

JESSIE

It’s useless. I’m useless! I’m a silly fool.


CROW

(Sneaking up from behind a gravestone.) Hah! I spit on the graves of silly fools!

JESSIE

For chrissakes! Don’t sneak up on a person like that!

CROW

(Squatting on the ground, swaying back and forth.) I didn’t sneak. I wasn’t sneaking.

JESSIE

Indeed you were sneaking! I’ve never seen more of a sneak in my entire life.

CROW

Haven’t lived very long then, have you? (Stands up quickly and tilts his head to the side)

JESSIE

Who are you? (Stands)

CROW

Well who are you?

JESSIE

I’m Jessie.

CROW

Aye, and what right do you have being in my cemetery?

JESSIE

Very little I suppose. (Pause) Hold on a minute, your cemetery?

CROW

My cemetery.

JESSIE

You don’t own Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, you must be mad!

CROW

I’d rather be mad than be a fool.

JESSIE

Who said anything about a fool?

CROW

You did. Just now.

JESSIE

I did?

CROW

You called yourself a fool and I said: “Aye! I spit on the graves of silly fools!”

JESSIE

Isn’t that a bit insulting?

CROW

What?

JESSIE

Spitting on a stranger’s grave?

CROW

Not if they’re fools in life! There is no room for folly when we’re already floundering in the great human crisis!

JESSIE

What are you on about?

CROW

I don’t suffer fools lightly, friend. (Puts his arm around JESSIE) The great human crisis is upon us; the human race is declining in intelligence like the great waning orb amongst stars. I am here to perfect our species, be it by my own natural efforts or the eventual end of the world.

JESSIE

You sound as if you wish to play God!

CROW

Perhaps I shall.

JESSIE

Who are you!? What is your name?

CROW

Most call me Crow.

JESSIE

Crow… oh my goodness! You’re Crazy Crow! You live in this cemetery!

CROW

I’m the keeper of this cemetery, yes. I have a shack over there.

JESSIE

Crazy Crow Crowley from Galway! Oh I’ve heard stories about you!

CROW

I probably made them up.

JESSIE

No you didn’t! You can’t of made up the one about taking Ms. Annie’s cat and…

CROW

Replacing it with a different cat everyday until she went crazy?

JESSIE

Did you really do that?

CROW

Is Ms. Annie crazy?

JESSIE

Yes she is.

CROW

You decide then.

JESSIE

My father used to tell me stories about your mad ways! How you’d won thousands of pounds in underground card games then gambled it all away! He told me of the time you faced the Russian mob! He… he told me you were dead.

CROW

Perhaps I am, lad.

JESSIE

You’re not. I can see you here with my waking eyes.

CROW

Indeed. (Picking up the collection of flowers) These for me?

JESSIE

For my father.

CROW

Does he rest here lad?

JESSIE

He does.

CROW

Give me the name and I’ll help you find him.

JESSIE

Jack Fawn.

CROW

Ah yes, buried him this time five years ago. Follow me. (CROW skips rather merrily over many gravesites, whistling while he does so. JESSIE seems uncomfortable.)

JESSIE

Ah! Uhm… Crow? Don’t you think you should avoid stepping on these graves?

CROW

(Stops quickly) You hear that, lad? (Cupping his hand to his ear and moving from side to side)

JESSIE

No, I don’t hear anything.

CROW

It’s the sound of you living up to your name, boy. (Raises his eyebrows and widens his eyes)

JESSIE

What on earth are you talking about?

CROW

A Jessie is a coward where I come from.

JESSIE

A coward! Why am I a coward?

CROW

Hah! Can’t even step on a gravesite!

JESSIE

It’s disrespectful, intrusive!

CROW

Bah! I say phooey on men who can’t pay homage to the dead with the patter of feet.

JESSIE

Are you suggesting I walk on these graves?

CROW

Walk on? No! I’m suggesting you dance and skip on these graves, son! I’m suggesting that you wake these sleeping sacks of bones by treading over them with mighty force! Use those massive feet nature gave you! Kick the swollen toadstool halos growing around their heads; allow your shoes to dampen in the dew. Show them you remember them, show them you aren’t afraid!

JESSIE

But I am afraid.

CROW

Afraid of what? Afraid of death? Of the great equalizer? Oh don’t fill yourself with pity of how every man must die, but remember that it’s something we all do together.

JESSIE

No it’s not!

CROW

Of course it is, lad! You want to know what I have in common with Alexander the Great? With Louis the 14th, the Great Sun King of France? Dare I say, with Jesus Christ? We all must die, most of them have already. Death doesn’t choose between a great man and a small man, Jessie.

JESSIE

I will always fear death. It is natural to fear it!

CROW

All men are born of earth, and of sky, of dirt, and to dirt you will return. That is what’s natural, boy.

JESSIE

The earth is cold, Crow. I cannot imagine endless blankets of dirt, that cannot be the end!

CROW

It doesn’t have to be the end. You can achieve immortality.

JESSIE

(Skeptical) How?

CROW

Leave something of yourself behind to be remembered by, live again in the minds of others.

JESSIE

That’s not immortal!

CROW

Is it not? I say William Shakespeare; a distinct image comes to mind, yes?

JESSIE

I suppose.

CROW

And if I say Nick Pavarti, what do you see in your mind’s eye?

JESSIE

Nothing, I don’t know that man.

CROW

Well, he lived next-door to me for 12 years; he’s not immortal so you have no cause to remember him. Make yourself memorable, leave something behind, and you’ll continue to exist in this world.

JESSIE

I have nothing to leave here, I have nothing of value.

CROW

Perhaps then, you weren’t meant to be immortal.

The men stand in silence for a moment, JESSIE reads the graves at his feet nervously and experiments with walking over them as CROW stands with his hands on his hips with one eyebrow raised.

Why do you come here now?

JESSIE

What?

CROW

I buried your father five years ago; I don’t remember you at the funeral.

JESSIE

Because I didn’t go to the funeral, I was away.

CROW

Away? Where?

JESSIE

Nosey for a gravedigger, aren’t we?

CROW

Clever prick with a penknife, but it’ll take a spear to stab through this tough skin.

JESSIE

Gravedigger and a poet, my my!

CROW

I sense some hostility at your going away, where did you fly to little bird?

JESSIE

America.

CROW

Ah, land of opportunity I’m told. Why flee there?

JESSIE

I found a job.

CROW

There are plenty of jobs here. You ran from something.

JESSIE

I don’t run from anything.

CROW

Oh yes, nothing. Nothing besides death.

JESSIE

I don’t run from death!

CROW

Hah!

JESSIE

Okay! I wanted to leave Edinburgh behind. My father and I didn’t get on.

CROW

Yet here you are, attempting to build a bridge with him in the afterlife.

JESSIE

That is not why I’m here.

CROW

Just how bad was your relationship with pa? It wouldn’t have anything to do with that scar on your face, would it?

JESSIE

No.

CROW

Ah, don’t test me. I remember Jack Fawn, I remember him well. Fond of the drink and right tough! He picked dozens of fights with me lad, and he won many of them. Quite a sharp right hook he had and an even sharper temper.

JESSIE

You knew my father?

CROW

I know many people. Where do you think he got those stories? I knew Jack well and I could take a fair guess at who gave you that scar, Jessie.

JESSIE

(Quietly) Far too nosey for a gravedigger. (Looks down at the ground)

CROW

(Takes a moment to reflect then speaks solemnly) I’ll let you in on a grand secret, something I’ve learned from my stiff colleagues: most things turn to dust. Nothing ends tied in a bright ribbon box. Fathers abuse sons, sons abandon fathers, mothers are nowhere to be found as daughters and uncles and aunts run amuck! There is but three things we know to be constant in this world: our own company, our own truth, and the knowledge that we will eventually die. The only thing we have to look forward to are fleeting moments of celebration and pure joy. Have you ever felt pure joy?

JESSIE

Sure I have.

CROW

Tell me about the last time you felt joyful.

JESSIE

Well, I really enjoyed my time in America.

CROW

Bah! You fled to America to escape your father’s abuse. No joy in that.

JESSIE

No I didn’t! I didn’t flee anywhere! My father was dying well before I decided to leave.

CROW

Then why did you leave?

JESSIE

I couldn’t bear to see him die.

CROW

Incredible. Blood’s thicker than a knife to the face, I suppose.

JESSIE

You’re right, okay! He gave me this scar, but these scars have been building for years. That is not why I left. The man could barely walk, he was teetering on the threshold of the invisible, I didn’t think he could even throw a punch! But he took out a knife and slashed my face out of some built up spite, perhaps because he couldn’t leave his perch on the armchair. I decided I’d rather remember him swinging rashly as he’d done all my life, than watch him dying quietly. I left him to die alone. And he did. He died three months after I had settled in Boston.

CROW

Then what are you doing here now?

JESSIE

I don’t know. I decided to come back; I decided to pay my last respects to the old bastard.

CROW

You didn’t need to find his body to do so.

JESSIE

How else would I pay my respects?

CROW

Remember him. Think of him. Tell stories of him. And for those few moments he’ll live again with us. You reminded me of him, I haven’t thought of Jack Fawn in years. He lived again today.

JESSIE

You honestly believe that?

CROW

It’s my own truth, it’s all I have to believe.

JESSIE

(Pauses) Are you really as crazy as they say, Crow?

CROW

Sure. (Shrugs his shoulders)

JESSIE

Sure?

CROW

What’s so wrong with being crazy? We’re all a bit off lad. Is it really so crazy that I live here alone in a graveyard, that I prefer that solitude? Is it so crazy that I naturally distrust people? In my line of work, you learn the difference between crazy and sane, if there even is such a clean distinction. You learn to put up a front. I made up those stories so people would be frightened of me, leave me to my peace. It worked, you know.

JESSIE

You’re also immortal, as far as I’m concerned.

CROW

Aye lad, that father of yours has done me a real service by passing on those stories. I’ll live forever in this festival city!

JESSIE

Crazy Crow Crowley from Galway. Never thought I’d meet you in a million years, it’s like meeting Little Red Riding Hood.

CROW

Aye, I hope it’s a bit more like meeting the wolf! Ah, here it is lad. (Spots a grave downstage, stage right. It must be one that neither of the men has looked at before. It had been in darkness before, but is now illuminated by a spotlight. It reads JACK FAWN with dates and such.) Here lies Jack Fawn.

JESSIE

Wow, the family didn’t splurge on a headstone did they?

CROW

No one ever does.

JESSIE

I can’t think of anything to say.

CROW

Remember something about him.

JESSIE

I remember the way he smelt.

CROW

Hah! Of all the bloody things!

JESSIE

He smelt like pine trees.

CROW

And bourbon.

JESSIE

I suppose that too. But mostly, he smelt like pine trees and for a long time I remember he was the smartest man I knew. Best at all sorts! He seemed inhumanly smart.

CROW

As fathers do to sons.

JESSIE

Do you think that simple? That father-son complex that wears down into spite?

CROW

Everything is usually as simple as it seems. The world is black and white.

JESSIE

So my father was just average, Crow? He was just another Nick Pavarti.

CROW

Ah but Nick was special to me and to his wife and daughter as Jack was special to you. Immortality doesn’t need to be widespread. Jack will live on in you. Does he need anymore?

JESSIE

I suppose not.

CROW

And you’ll end up down there with him soon enough.

JESSIE

But today I’m up here.

CROW

So have a dance then!

JESSIE

What?

CROW

Dance on his grave! Show him you remember him, show him you aren’t afraid.

(JESSIE loudly lets out all his breath and hesitates before he jumps upon his father’s grave with great force. He gives a loud laugh of relief and “pure joy” then jumps up and down some more. CROW also gives a laugh. Music should begin to play in the background as the lights slowly go down.)

END



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This article has 1 comment. Post your own!

cayaTWThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Dec. 14, 2012 at 7:55 pm:
I really like the simplicity of this.  The story unveals at a nice pace.  The characters are distinguishable and memorable.  The topic of immartality and the way it is discussed is just right. 
 
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