Night. A man stands on the railing of a bridge, looking down at the water. He leans out over the water hanging on with one hand.
Sound of a car door.
Max enters behind Donne.
Donne: Aaauch! (he grabs the upright, clings) Christ!
Max: Couldn’t do it, eh? That was your big chance.
Donne: What the hell are you talking about?
Max: Could even’ve told yourself it was an accident on the way down. In case you’re a Catholic.
Donne: I’m not – I’m not – I wasn’t going to – (pause) I was chased up here by a dog.
Max: A dog.
Donne: Yes, a dog.
Max: What kind of a dog?
Max: I mean, was it a little white dog? A boxer? A pit bull? Did it bite you? Was it drooling and foaming?
Donne: Black. It was black. With teeth.
Max: With teeth, eh?
Max looks around.
Max: Well, I don’t see any dog around here, white, black or otherwise. Why don’t you come down?
Donne: Look, why don’t you – thank you very much for your concern, but I am fine, so if you could please just leave me alone.
Max: I can’t do that.
Donne: Oh, WHY? Why the fuck not?
Max: I can’t just leave you here, thinking about – you know.
Donne: I told you, it was a dog.
Max: Right. Well, I can’t leave you here, thinking about dogs.
Donne: Why not? What are you supposed to be? An angel?
Max: I’m a cabdriver. A cabbie. Just a cabbie on the graveyard shift looking for a fare, deader’n shit out here, I see this guy standing on the railing of a bridge, I figure, there’s a guy that needs a lift.
Donne: Well, I don’t.
Max: Look like you do.
Donne: Well, I don’t. Okay? So could you just go away, Mr Graveyard Shift Just Looking For a Fare.
Max: Max. My name.
Max: Done? No wonder you’re trying to check out.
Donne: Donne. Like the poet.
Max: “Do not go gently into that good night -”
Donne: That’s Dylan Thomas.
Max: Oh. “Death be not proud – ”
Donne: That’s the one. (pause) Are you sure you’re a cabbie?
Max: You mean, because I know some poetry? What, you think I woke up as a fourteen year old one fresh morning a coupla hundred years ago and thought, doctor? lawyer? Naw, I’m gonna be a cabdriver when I grow up!
Donne: No, I didn’t mean, well, I didn’t think – well, maybe I did.
Max: But you know, shit happens. Shit just happens. Or as my buddhist friend says, shit happens for a reason.
Donne: Great. Just great. Zen and the art of cabdriving.
Max: Oh c’m’on Donne. Get it? Come on Donne. Come on down. Come on down, Donne. I bet you got teased a lot as a kid. Dun-da-duh-dun. (Oh oh music theme) Dun-de-de-dun-de-de-dun dun (Bonanza theme). (pretends to knock) Are you Donne in there?
Donne: Okay, that’s it. (he starts to step off the railing)
Max: Wait!!! Please. Please, I’m not going about this the right way. I do that, always make a joke, try and lighten up the situation. It’s not always appreciated.
Donne: Please. Just go away.
Max: I can’t do that.
Max: I just can’t.
Max: Look, Donne. I’m not going to give you any grand speeches about sunrises and the laughter of a child, the taste of good scotch or your mama’s scalloped potatoes, about that first sip of coffee in the morning, about about the unconditional love of a dog -
Donne glares at him.
Max: Okay, okay, bad example. Anyway, I’m not doing that speech because I know you don’t give a rat’s ass about any of those things right now. In fact, there’s not all that much to recommend this life. It’s hard, and it’s lonely, and it’s – it’s -
Max stops, sighs. Pause.
Donne: It’s – ?
Donne: You were giving me a speech about not giving me a speech about flowers and sunsets and all that crap -
Max: Flowers and sunsets? I never said anything about flowers and sunsets.
Donne: Yeah, okay, whatever, not flowers and sunsets but, you know, cliches, and then you said it’s hard and lonely and you – stopped.
Max: Yeah, well, got wore out thinking about it.
Donne: You’re not very good at this, Max.
Max: So, what do you care? You’re gonna go for the big swim anyway, leave me standing here looking like the biggest jerk in the universe.
Donne: I don’t care, really, it’s just if you’re going to try and reach out to someone who is contemplating the big swim as you so colourfully put it, you might want to work on your technique a little.
Max: So what are you gonna do, haunt me?
Max: Don’t what?
Donne: Don’t get cynical and bitter on me, you’re not like that.
Max: No, I’m not. How do you know?
Donne: Because you stopped. Because you stopped to try and talk a guy down off a bridge. Because you’re a cabbie who stopped.
Max: Now look who’s getting bitter and cynical.
Donne: I’m the guy who’s jumping, I’m allowed. Supposed to, in fact.
Max: But you’re not now, are you.
Donne looks down at the water.
Max: ‘Cause you see, the thing is, Donne, it’s not as bad now as it was ten minutes ago, is it? And in ten more minutes, it’ll probably be not as bad as it seems now. It’s not as dramatic as sunrise, it just – passes – a little bit.
Donne shakes his head.
Max: C’mon, you’re not going to go through with it because you said you would and you’re a stand up kind of guy who always follows through. No one knows, right? So, no one will ever know, I won’t tell anyone.
Donne: Oh yeah, you’ll dine out on this for a month, it’ll be the topper story down at the donut shop won’t it, so I’m driving along, s’deader than shit, and I see this guy standing on the bridge, this suit, that’s what you’ll call me right, Max? this suit, and he says he’s been chased up there by a dog – and all your little friends will go har-de-har-de-har.
Max: I won’t tell anyone.
Donne: Of course you will, and you’ll all relish in the fact that there’s really nothing wrong with my life, that I have it all, the car, the job, okay so I can’t get past the second date, and I haven’t touched another human being in six months, but so what? I’m not hungry, I’ve got my health, and you’ll all shake your heads and go aww, poor little yuppie feels empty -
Max: I won’t tell anyone.
Donne: Sure you will. I would.
Max: You’re not me.
Max: Come down and we’ll go for a cup a coffee, pass the next half hour or so. Talk poetry. We’re both poetry guys. You know Hopkins?
Donne: “Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair -”
Max: “Not feast on thee -”. Good poet.
Donne: Great poet.
Max: Also kinda down. Jesuit.
Donne: You a Catholic?
Max: Me God no!? Grew out of it.
Max: Come on down, Donne.
He does not move.
Max: Shoo! Git! G’wan! Okay, coast’s clear. No dog.
Donne looks at him. Max offers him a hand. Donne jumps down.
Max: My cab’s over here.
Donne: Streets really are dead.
A church bell chimes five.
Max: Five o’clock. Sun’ll be up in half an hour. C’mon, we wanna beat the breakfast rush.
Max: And my friends don’t go har-de-har-de-har.
Donne: I didn’t mean anything.
Max: That would be evil.
Donne: I just meant - Lights fade as they exit.
*Donne In was commissioned and produced by Nakai Theatre, Whitehorse, Yukon in 1998. It is published in Two For The Show, edited by Brian Kennedy, Playwrights Canada Press; 2000