Queen of the Cadillac

a black comedy in two acts for seven actors
by Kent Stetson


Bill Dow as Winston, in the ATP world premiere: "I will not rest until that old bugger is six feet under."

Bill Dow as Winston, in the ATP world premiere: “I will not rest until that old bugger is six feet under.”

In this irreverent comedy where nothing sacred goes unchallenged, half mad but still sweet and charming Hestor clings  to the few scraps of self-worth left her by MacCulloch, her  equally charming, abusive, alcoholic father.  Her sense of family is re-defined when the  old man dies.  With the help of her chosen family — the Montreal street people, habitues of The Golden Cadillac Tavern for whom she provides — Hestor defeats the lingering malignancy of biological kinship and a bizarre affliction which has plagued her for years… the cloud of migrating souls that fogs her consciousness.  Ordinary sanity is an abstract possibility for Hestor, who knows it exists but has never taken much comfort in its narrow parameters. Her struggles eventually liberate Ehrlich, her own punked-up, messed-up, lost and abandoned son.  Ehrlich’s sudden appearance changes Hestor’s life, and the lives of her down and out and just plain odd friends — for the better, and for good.

Act One Scene Three

NARRA­TION:  Montreal.  Hestor’s living space by the furnace in the open basement of an apartment block in West­mount, Montreal.  Pipes.  Wires.  Duct work.  Except for a shaft of light from a small sub-ground level window, it is dark and oppre­ss­ive.

HESTOR:   [sings]  If you go down to the woods today, you better not go alone.  It’s lovely down in the woods today, but safer to stay at home.   For all the bears…

NARRA­TION:  The furnace gurgles and belches.

It does.  Hestor becomes alarmed.   

HESTOR:   Who’s there?  [to furnace]  Who’s there?  If I have to come up there to you I’ll tan your hide.

More belches.  A blast of steam issues from the  drain  grate in the floor in front of her.  She covers the grate with a mat, kicks the fur­nace.

HESTOR:  That usually shuts it up.

It  quietens.  She is pleased with power of her the new sneak­ers.  Her meditation is broken when a shoe, one of her red high top sneakers, lands on the stage in front of her.  She sits up, stares at it.  

HESTOR:  I better smoke.

The oxygen mask and hose land on the bed beside her.  Light builds on the cat walk above and behind her.  Ehrlich looms. 

HESTOR:    You again.  I thought you were dead.

EHRLICH:  We’re all dead, man.

The other shoe lands with a thump.  

HESTOR:   Oops.  I read about people like you.  You’re perverted.

EHRLICH:   I didn’t know bag ladies could read.

HESTOR:  I am not a bag lady.  Bag ladies have dirty black feet that crack and bleed.  Bag ladies have festering sore things on their legs and wear too much clothes all summer and eat garbage which is why if you ever thought of it they smell like piss and vomit.  I do not.  I smell nice.  Bag ladies have no home.  Bag ladies talk to them­selves and get lost.  Bag ladies sleep under bridges in burned out busses by train tracks.  I have a bed.  Every night I sleep in it.  This bed.  Right here.  My bed.  By this furnace.  Here.  Why you following me around all the time?

EHRLICH:  The summer of ‘63 ring a bell?

HES­TOR:  Why you lookin’ at me like that?  Who are you?

EHRLICH:  That’s what I’m here to find out.

HESTOR:   Oh.  Whatcha doing with Clara?  Eh?

EHRLICH:  I went to art college with this guy who’d been in a wheelchair all his life.  Freaked up real bad.  Wicked painter.  Hated every­thing he saw.  Every­thing he did.  We had a bet.  One of us, it didn’t matter who, had to produce a painting which ‘… resulted in the artist’s death.’

HESTOR:   Where’s Clara?  Eh?

EHRLICH:   He beat me to it.  Claims he had a vision whack­ing off one night.  Quite a trick in a wheelchair with­out brakes.

HESTOR:   No brakes?

EHRLICH:  He had them removed.  Twisted.

HESTOR:   I know you.

EHRLICH:  Kama kazi kinda guy.  He dumped handfuls of live snails into buckets of water-based paints.  All saturated colors —  reds, blues, greens.  Some he’d double dip for more subtle shading.

HESTOR:  Sounds pretty.  Snails swim?

EHRLICH:  He took them out  before they’d drown.  Put them here and there on a  huge white canvas laid out flat.  They slimed around until they died, leaving trails of colored goo.

HESTOR:   Sounds pretty.

EHRLICH:  It was Mundo bizarro.  [he leaps or tumbles or swings down from the catwalk]   People  stood for hours like they were real, watching a long ever-ready battery commercial.  Which gadget will puff or hop or vibrate the longest?  Event­ually the snails suffocate.  The end of their trail of slimy glory.  He leaves the artist’s corpses stuck to the canvas, frames it on the spot and sells it to the highest bidder.  He sold one for six thousand bucks.  Six Thousand Bucks.  Doesn’t do a freaking thing but murder innocent snails.  Snail agony for fun and profit.

HESTOR:  Who won?

EHRLICH:   What?

HESTOR:  Who won?

EHRLICH:  Hey.  Lady.  I’m still here.

HESTOR:   Hum.

EHRLICH:   [sudden anger]  Fake!  Counterfeit!  Phuckin’ Phoney!   He stole the idea from a paraplegic painter in France.   Betrayal, man.  [he moves closer to Hestor]  Freakin’ betrayal.  [he reclaims the catwalk]   There’s an apart­ment at the back of a house by a lake.  There are houses around the lake and huge old pine trees.  Full of crows.

HESTOR:  One crow sorrow, two crows joy.  Three crows a letter, four crows a boy.  Hah!

EHRLICH:  No.  They’re ravens.  I used to live there.  I go back and the landlady who used to be good to me doesn’t give a flying freak any more.  I walk in.  The lay-­out is the same.  Even some of my old furni­ture is there.  The floors begin to rot as I walk and I sink to my knees.  Then I’m up past my hips, movin’ slow.  I stop.  Trapped.  Like an insect in amber.

HESTOR:   Stuck.

EHRLICH:   Yeah.  Stuck.  The curtains rise and fall.  Someone breath­ing in the night.

HESTOR:   Bears.

EHRLICH:   This raven flaps toward me.  He’s huge.  I try to run.  Freakin’ stupid.  Stuck in the floor and I try to run.  I think he’s going to decapi­tate me. But…  Nnnooo…!  He picks me up by the collar.  He pulls.  I’m in his beak, right?  Like a rat.  Get the picture?  And he pulls, and he pulls.  He’s the robin.  I’m the freakin’ worm.  My joints start to pop…  [he makes popping sounds]  I feel my guts stretch.  I’m bleed­ing inside. Just as I’m about to rip apart my legs come free and I’m hurled through the roof.  I go and I go and I go until there’s noth­ing below me but this beautiful blue ball and I know it’s the earth.  I think, this is alright.  And it’s just like the astro­nauts say.  I wanna cry, it’s so…  gentle.  This gentle blue ball below me.  I want it.  I want it in me.  In here.  [heart]  Blue and white.  Blue and white and green, sweet and serene in the big black void.  I have x-ray vision.  No.  A zoom lens.  My eyes range over the conti­nents.  Asia.  Africa.  Europe.  Here comes  Canada.  Alright!  I’m above the Maritimes.  I see Cape Breton, all of Nova Scotia.  I linger over Prince Edward Island.   Peace.  Beauty.  Then the earth’s skin erupts in a spew of putrid lava and I’m falling toward this stinking pit.  There’s an old man in it and I hate him.  I can smell the stink of his petty thoughts.  I’m stand­ing on this little stairway…  way, way in outer space…  three steps…  one step up, one step down.  Me on the middle step.  Nothing above but obliv­ion, this stinking pit below.  I can’t go up, I can’t go down…

HESTOR:  Immobilized.

EHRLICH:  Yeah.  Immobilized.  Then this freaking raven…  this huge vicious black hum­ming bird’s pecking colored snails outa my friggi­n’ ears.  Weird, eh?  He hovers, closer to my eyes…  closer…  closer.  The hum becomes a roar —  a thou­sand jet engines, a million Hiro­s­himas. He lunges.  He plunges at my eyes —   No!!  Not my eyes… .  I leap up toward oblivion.  I’ve escaped.

HESTOR:  Free!

EHRLICH:  Free.  I laugh and I soar and I float.  I stop.  I’m suspended, light, trans­parent.  I’m happy.  No.  I’m euphoric.  I smell popcorn.  Which I think is  inappropriate, given the situation.  Then there’s Clara.  Then the old man and the stink of the pit and I fall…  I fall like this.

He screams — or whimpers —  falls, leaps, tumbles —  or simply slides —  from the catwalk.  He arranges himself comfortably in the armchair. 

EHRLICH:  What do you think of that?

HES­TOR:   You on drugs?


End Excerpt.

Authors Rights & Copyright Note

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