High Teatime

Characters:

SPLENDOR. The eager young protagonist, young, frail, and naïve. (She’s just lost all three brothers to the medieval habit of seeking one’s fortune—a dangerous pursuit, when you live near the goblin mines of Doris-Duath.) Overwhelmed and wide eyed, has a lot of feelings about everything.

NEWT. An unstoppable force, bold, beautiful, impossibly reckless, too large of a personality to exist comfortably. (She looks like love and tastes like death when you put your teeth in her.) Carries a small purple fluff-ball that she occasionally dialogues with. His name is Princess.

WIST. The woman who lives for yesterday. Small-souled, desperate, incomplete, and dripping in regret. She is not enough. Pours tea for visitors and mourns her lover to anyone who will listen. Wears large goggles on her head for no discernable reason.

GRANDMOTHER. The tree at the top of the hill, the spirit of a woman long-dead, who councils those who come to her in their time of greatest need. Oldest, wisest, and cruelest. (She has buried her children, her grandchildren, her grandchildren’s children.)

Scene One:

Center stage, dark with a single spotlight. Splendor kneels in front of the tree sketch, back to the audience, weeping. She raises her head heavily a moment after the lights go up.

Splendor: Who’s there? [sniffs, pauses for breath.] Hello? [looks around, into the audience] You know, if you’re going to listen to me make an idiot of myself, you could at least do me the dignity of doing it to my face. [sighs]

Grandmother: Child… Keep crying on my roots like that, you’ll shrivel them.

Splendor, as if praying: Grandmother. My three brothers have all gone away into the world and may never come back. Asferoth’s forces march on the mines, and there have been no letters. Am I supposed to just go on with life, pretend nothing happened? I had a family.

Grandmother: Hmm. Well. You could drink to forget.

Splendor: Even for a tree, that’s bad advice.

Grandmother: Your ancestors have sought my counsel in their hours of deepest need for centuries now—trust me, I know what I’m talking about. On the Rotting Doorstep, beyond the Castle of Noncommittal Shrugs and the Valley of Half-Remembered Shopping Lists, deep in the forest, there is a fountain of gill-green waters. One draught from this spring will cause you to forget your sorrow, however piercing, and put your mind at last at ease-

Splendor: Are you sure? I mean this sounds awfully fantastic and awfully far away-

Grandmother: Do you want to seek out the fountain?

Splendor, sniffling, and painfully sincere: Well, I’d give anything not to feel this way anymore.

Grandmother: It’s not far. And I know someone who knows the way. [Intones dramatically] COME FORTH, AMPHIBIAN.

Newt, cartwheeling in: Another wanderer to the land of forget-me-not! Or Forget-Me-DO. Salesmen, tradesmen, and nary a tear to be seen! Every day a carnival, festivities are marvinal! Hey-ho, look at the long face, looks like you could use a little of such stuff dreams are made on!

Grandmother: Here you are, dear. Gather me stories into your bag, bring back a tale of bright swords and copper cities, fair maidens and desperate monks, and a husband if you’re into that sort of thing.

Splendor: Ew. Gross.

Newt, taking her hand and leading her offstage: Hey-ho! We’re off to see the liquid gold and the climbing-crown-city-of-Amber and Cinnamon. Perhaps if we’re lucky, the turquoise tide shall sweep us along, and scatter pearl obsidians in our wake, like a trail of breadcrumbs. Wouldn’t it shine! Now, come with me, Princess, if not in title than at least in name…

Fade to black.

Scene Two:

Enter Newt and Splendor.

Newt: No, no, no, I don’t know a thing about how fountain magicks work nor why, but I’ll take you to a little place to dry your soggy little face. That broad bright land of plantains and kangaroos, and every tear shall be wiped from all our eyes! Forget your most dire distresses.

Splendor: That sounds like heaven.

Newt: Goodness no, that’d be powerful boring. I’m talking about the land of eternal song, where the cups slosh full of moon-wine and the vines are heavy and rich all year round-

Loud stomping in the distance, enter WIST. Both Newt and Splendor cringe as though from a foul scent or a strong wind. A moment of silence.

Wist: WHO DARES TRESSPASS HERE?

Splendor, throwing herself at Wist’s feet: Please! We’re vagabonds, travelers, seekers—passing through. Don’t hurt us, please.  

Newt, drawling: ‘Sup, bro.

Wist: SILENCE, INFIDEL. Your passage here is BARRED.

Newt: Buddy. Pal. Bro. Brodo. Brochatcha.

Splendor tries frantically to quiet her.

Wist: IMPUDENCE, VAGRANT DOG AND HIS MISERABLE ASSISTANT COMPANION-CREATURE

Newt: Napoleon Broneparte, and that’s my last offer.

Wist, suddenly relaxing: Well, why didn’t you just say so in the first place?

Newt, laughing: You’re still not over him, are you? [Aside, to Splendor] she likes to play the tragic-rejected-lover-lifestyle-curmudgeon card.

Wist: Speak not of what you cannot understand.

Splendor: What happened?

Newt: The love of her life didn’t love her back, big deal. She only forgot how to exist without her charming, courageous, graceful, handsome-

Wist grabs the Frisbee and smacks Newt with it.  

Wist: You wouldn’t understand.

Newt: Get a Princess, they’re marvelous fun, and good conversation besides. [pats Pygmy Puff] Heck, while you’re at it, get a Plucky Protagonist! They don’t say much, get a bit underfoot, and generally gawk at things. Easily impressed, as it were. Look good in spangles, too.

Wist, coughing: You’re after the fountain.

Splendor: Yes ma’am, if you please, ma’am.

Wist: Goodness, all polite. Where did you dig her up?

Newt: Curtesy of old Grandma Tree, up on the hill of Far-Too-Many-Worries and Really-Upset-Humans-Having-Crises. There’s a reason we avoid the place. Remember the old days, before the War? When the young warriors came flocking in their raw-ink skin-

Wist: Dark times. Now, if you’ll just follow me.

Newt: Over fen and fern and coffee table, as ever, brigadier! Shan’t spill the tea service this time.

Wist: Splendor, dear, you’ll have to join us for a cup of tea sometime. Now about this fountain business. Rules are rules. You can only drink the cup at midnight of the full moon of each month for the charm to hold.

Newt: Midnight, when shadows reconvene in the bayou for a toast and a stealthy song. Fortunately for us, we’re in Fairyland, so it’s already conveniently the right time of month and the sun’s just setting. We’ll even have time to set a nice table. You’ve heard of high noon? Well, this is high teatime.

Exit.

Scene Three:

The tree drawing stands alone in center stage. Newt runs in and dances around it once, tossing the pygmy puff and muttering snatches of song to herself. Splendor enters, speaking small and weepy to Wist.

Splendor:so the last one, the youngest, he was only fifteen when they took him. I saw him crying. The big goblin, death-red and drooling, had horns the size of Evain’s chest, and-

They all circle around the tree in the middle of the stage.

Newt, with satisfaction: What ho? Do mine eyes deceive me!

Splendor: Have… have we been here before? Grandmother?

Wist, abstractedly: Yes yes. Nearly there.

Newt, dancing between them: We’re almost there! Isn’t adventuring fun! The road feels like home today. Now you’re here-

Splendor: Are we lost?

Newt: and you’ll be here in the land of forget-me-nots and daisies forever!

Splendor: But I don’t want to stay here forever.

Newt: What?

Wist: What?

Splendor: I don’t want to stay here, I want to go home.

Wist: Your brothers are… dead? I surmise. You don’t have a home.

Splendor: Not exactly. They were strong-armed into seeking their fortunes by a giant goblin and haven’t been heard from since.

Newt: Well, as good as. Have a sip with us and it won’t matter though! Skip the sadness that comes from dealing in wayward menfolk altogether, and have a rollicking good time. Forget all about it.

Splendor: But I don’t-

Newt: No gods! No masters.

Splendor: Also, we’re going in circles. You’re lost.

Wist: This implies there was a different plan?

Splendor: You’re both useless!

[Splendor exits angrily]

Wist: Rude.

Newt: Am not! I’m charming. And also hilarious.

Lights go out, momentarily. Stage clears. Spotlight on stage left. Splendor crouches in the corner, arms wrapped around her knees.

Splendor: I don’t want to forget them… I don’t want to.

Lights out. Exit.

Scene Four:

The lights go up to reveal a spotlight on center stage, where a tea party for three is set up below the drawn tree. Wist and Newt are dining pleasantly on opposite sides of the table.

Newt: And she held lovely court in the lands of the Barbary Queen, decked in opal from sky to sky, wrapped up in gratitude-

Splendor enters.

Newt: Welcome, little Baroness of the Splintered Waste-Heart! Join our revel and raise a glass to bliss and breath and brio.

Splendor, spitting out words all in a tangle: Ian was brave, and Jack was kind, and Evain… was strange. But they’re my brothers, in this life and the next. I won’t forget about them. I won’t. They were good and I want to remember that. And maybe they’re not even dead!

Wist: Well then.

Newt: Have a seat. We’ll get you a cup.

She pours a cup of steaming liquid, and pushes it across to the trembling Splendor, who stares at it.

Splendor: Is that…?

Newt, downing a cup: Drink to forget, Mon Cherie.

Wist: Death walks faster than air, child. You’re far too late to save them.

Grandmother: You want to be free of this hurt.

Splendor takes the glass, and considers it carefully. Then, in one smooth move, she throws the glass and overturns the table.

Splendor: NO.

Wist and Newt scatter.

Splendor, addressing Grandmother: I /want/ to feel this. There’s far worse things in life than having your heart broken.

She kicks the table for good measure, and faces the audience.

Splendor: I’m going to go find them, find their bodies, if I must. If it lead me down to Goblin-Town.

Lights out.


“High Teatime” was written, produced, and performed in 24 hours at Houston Baptist University in 2015 for the Rex Fleming Players’ annual “Play In A Day” event.