Bright early morning. Row boat.
MARLA rows and WHIZZLE stands looking ahead.
Marla: What’s wrong with you now?
Whizzle: It’s good to be back!
He breathes air in deeply.
Smell that swamp air? Damn I love me some swamp air!
Marla: Sit down before you topple us both over you damn ignorant bastard.
Whizzle coughs. He bends over violently and coughs hard.
Whizzle: Gone and swallowed a fly.
Marla: Told you to sit yo ass down.
Always gettin’ so damn excited over nothing. We in the shit and you jumping up and down like a little school boy. Ain’t nothing to rejoice about here.
Whizzle: Damn fly.
Marla: That’s what happens when you ain’t got two front teeth as a blockade. Zzzzzip, right on in. Like you inviting critters to fly in yo mouth.
Whizzle: I wasn’t inviting shit. (Whizzle pops open and sips a beer)
Marla: That ain’t true. You up there with your mouth all wide like you was trying to catch something. Just like when you sleep at night, mouth wide open. Don’t know what’s worse, your snoring or your open mouth.
Whizzle: Oh hell now, I know I snore but I keep my mouth closed like a clam.
Marla: I know you ain’t serious.
Whizzle: Sure is, I ain’t sleeping with my mouth open none.
Marla: Gonna take a photo of ya and frame it one of these days.
Whizzle: I’d like to see it.
Marla: (beat) You sure we going right?
Whizzle: You should know as well as I do.
Marla: We going right alright but things looking a bit off since the storm.
Whizzle: Well, my bones is telling me we near but I don’t see the head of the crane just yet…maybe a little further up.
Marla: I hope our equipment is still in one piece.
Whizzle: It either is or it ain’t.
Marla: That ain’t no way to be.
Whizzle: What way is that?
Marla: Acting like you don’t care.
Whizzle: Course I care darling.
Marla: Better care. You don’t care we are out our investment for the entire year! Then what we gonna do? Huh? Move in with your brother Judd and his pill popping wife?
Whizzle: Damn I know it.
Marla: You gonna take over these oars or I gotta wait to pass out before you start acting like the man?
Whizzle: You said you was gonna row us!
Marla: Not the whole way there!
Whizzle: Shit! Alright, alright. All you need is to ask.
Marla: Shouldn’t have to ask you Whizz.
Whizzle switches seats with Marla. He hands her his beer and rows. Marla sips the beer.
I try to help out but my arms is getting tired.
Whizzle: I know, I know. It’s fine. You done good. More than halfway there…must be…strong woman.
Marla: I know I’m strong…wish I was stronger, take us all the way.
Whizzle: No, you fine darling, you fine.
Marla: Don’t need you having another heart attack.
Whizzle: I won’t, I won’t…but, if I do, just toss me on over, let them gaters have me. Always felt like I was a gater in my past life anyway. Whenever we’re here I feel at home, completely at ease, like, I bet if I dove head first into this swamp that no gater would bother me. They love me them gaters and I love them. I have dreams of it…I be swimming under the murky water feeling the cool dirt on my paws and enjoying all that quiet…it’s that solitude, where nothing can bother you, secure in your own being…that make sense?
Marla: I don’t know what in the hell you talking ’bout?
Whizzle: Me! As an alligator. I have dreams of being one.
Marla: Are we almost there cause I need to urinate?
Whizzle: Told you to go before we got in.
Marla: I didn’t have to go then.
Whizzle: Can you hold it?
Marla: I’ll try but if it presses on me hard you know my bladder has a mind of its own.
Whizzle: I know…remember that time we was over by Edna’s and you and I got caught up playfighting and you pissed your pants?
Marla: Not funny. And that’s only cause you play too damn rough with me. You’re never soft.
Whizzle: Oh come now.
Marla: You tickle me for too long and so I couldn’t stop myself from peeing. I was never so embarrassed in all my life. Edna was looking at me with such pity and I hate when people look at me like I’m some lost puppy.
Whizzle: You pissed your pants. Hahaha.
Marla: Stop it! You acting like a bully.
Whizzle: Hahaha…well, I did feel bad darling…terrible really.
Marla: Then quit laughing ’bout it.
Whizzle: Go on and stand, see if you see the head.
Marla: I see it.
Whizzle: Whyn’t you tell me?
Marla: Just keep rowing old man, we almost to it.
Whizzle: Getting tired.
Marla: You always tired. Gonna out live everybody you know.
Marla: Too dumb to die young.
Whizzle: You think I’m still young?
Marla: Yeah…you had a heart attack but you okay in my book.
Whizzle: Thanks baby cakes.
Marla: Shut up…want me to row the rest?
Whizzle: No, no I got it, being I’m young and all.
Marla: Use those muscles.
Whizzle suddenly stops. A worried look comes over his face and he grabs his arm…then his chest.
Whizzle looks at Marla and smiles. He cracks up laughing.
Whizzle: Got ya!
Marla: You are a real dip shit, you know that?
Whizzle: Yes, I do. I ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. Bet your ass on that one.
Marla: I’m sure.
Whizzle: Now listen, when we get there, we gotta survey the land, check the equipment, test everything out…look over the trailer…lots of work okay?
Marla: I know it.
Whizzle: Hopefully, things is good and we can continue.
Marla: Oh man, I hope so…I really hope so.
Whizzle: I think we gonna be alright…I’ll tell you one thing though…next time, I’m keeping land on land, don’t want no water ways, too much work.
Marla: But I told you, didn’t I?
Whizzle: You did and I have to say you was right. I was wrong.
Marla: Extra work and we already maxed out.
Whizzle: Yeah…you right, all I can say.
Marla: We got two more months season. If it had to happen, at least it happened sooner.
Whizzle: I rather it didn’t happen at all.
Marla: Me too.
Whizzle: Alot riding on this one…we make it out alive, we have a real chance here, a real chance.
Whizzle: Ten years more, that’s all we need; we stay on pace, ten years, we gonna be alright…that’s all we need and then you’ll have everything, not a damn thing to worry…whew, I gotta take a break. This rowing…shoulda…I’m good—
Marla: Here, let me do the rest…come off it.
Whizzle: No, nah, I can do it just fine.
Marla: Why we gonna take chances? Haven’t we taken enough?
Whizzle looks at Marla and agrees. They both swap seats. She hands him beer and he drinks.
Marla: Yep. No sense in you dying yet. Let’s get rich first and then you can croak.
Whizzle: Oh, that’s why you’re with me. Hopes of riches.
Marla: There’s gotta be something. What else is there if we ain’t got hope?
Whizzle: I feel you darlin’. That’s all I’ve ever had. Belief. If not today, maybe tomorrow. Been that way my whole life, really, long before I met you but I was always dumb…wild and dumb…could never put two and two together…always got five or three…never got it straight. Met you, I started getting things straight or at least I’m trying to get things straight…tryin’…I, I think that if we succeed, together, if we make this pass this year, I think I can finally be where I am supposed to be, with you at my side and I think I’ll amaze myself if it happens cause it’s all been so long…this life…so damn long and to just have a glimpse of what I imagine, hell, even a twinkle of what I imagine, it would have all been worth it. I mean, if things don’t work out, I really don’t have nothing else. This is it for me and I know you ain’t said it but for us, too. I know it so ah, if when we get there it’s a disaster, just ah, don’t quit on me just yet, at least not until this season closes cause anything can happen at any one time.
Marla: You ain’t gotta explain all that.
Whizzle: I do…you deserve that much from me. To know that I’m aware of the reality of our situation and that I will work to my last breath to make this happen. I need you to know that for me.
Marla: Well, it’s ah…that’s some of the nicest things you ever said to me I…stop talking cause I don’t want you to ruin it.
Whizzle leans in and kisses Marla. It’s a long passionate kiss.
They finally break apart and Marla continues to row.
Whizzle wipes a tear from his eye.
(teasing) Don’t tell me you crying…
Whizzle: I don’t cry.
Marla: What you wipe from your eye then?
Whizzle: The wind. Wiping the wind away.
Marla: We ain’t going that fast.
Whizzle: (coughs) Fast enough. (trying to change subject) Want some beer?
Marla: You was crying.
Whizzle: Stop it. I wasn’t crying cause I don’t know how to cry. I ain’t ever cried in all my life. Can’t do something you don’t know how to do.
Marla: When you were a baby you cried.
Whizzle: That don’t count and it was so long ago I forgot all about it, don’t even remember it.
Marla: And now?
Whizzle stares at Marla and smiles.
Whizzle: Gonna hold it against me?
Marla: I like it.
Whizzle: Yeah well, a man’s not supposed to cry. It makes a man less of a man if he cries in front of his woman. Maybe I had a tear drop slip by but I ain’t cry. That don’t count as a cry.
Marla: It don’t matter.
Whizzle: (slips) I wish I could cry…
Marla: …So why don’t you?
Whizzle: If I cried my eyes out to you…let’s just imagine this, if I went and cried my eyes like ah sob, this great big old sob of a man in front of you just balling his eyes out, what you gonna think?
Marla: I ain’t gonna think nothin.
Whizzle: No, come on now, what you gonna think?
Marla: Ummm, I think I would think it nice is all.
Whizzle: Why nice?
Marla: Cause you’re human. Just cause you a man don’t mean you ain’t a human being.
Whizzle: Won’t you think me weak in the knees?
Whizzle: You lying. Ain’t no woman on planet Earth that if a man started crying outloud they wouldn’t somehow someway not think that that man isn’t a fish.
Marla: I wouldn’t think you a fish.
Whizzle: Ain’t no way.
Marla: I’d never think that of you.
Whizzle: Hmmm. (beat) Well, I still ain’t gonna ever cry in front of you.
Whizzle: A tear is all you get and that’s already pushing my man limit.
Whizzle: Cause, you know, where I come from, that sort of thing gets laughed at and you know, I ain’t gonna be the one.
Marla: The one what silly?
Whizzle: The one, the one…the one who everybody talk about like I’m the girl of the bunch.
Marla: Is that what it is? You think you a girl if you share your feelings?
Marla: That don’t make no sense.
Whizzle: Yeah, a man can’t cry cause he’s gotta be strong for the woman. That’s the way I was raised.
Marla: Don’t you think it would feel good to be able to open up to the woman you love like that?
Whizzle: Like what?
Marla: Like, tell her how you feel.
Whizzle: Oh yeah, I mean, of course but without the whaling.
Marla: Just know that if you ever slip up again and go to where no man has ever gone before that it would be okay by me and I wouldn’t tell anyone.
Whizzle: I’ll take that as a challenge.
Marla: Don’t matter. Do what you want but if you have a rainy day, I’d still—
Whizzle: You wouldn’t think less of me as a man?
Marla: Depends on what you crying about.
Whizzle: You see? So you would look differently at me.
Marla: I didn’t say that. What I mean is, if you cry because you got a splinter versus crying over someone you love who has died, that’s two different kinds of crying is all.
Whizzle: Two different kinds of crying…I ain’t never look at it that way before.
Marla: Sure. I mean, if you crying over stubbing yo toe I’m a look at you as a crybaby but if you crying to me when you telling me you love me, well, that’s a special sort of man.
Whizzle: Special man?
Marla: Oh yeh…my GranMama told me that my Grandaddy used to cry to her all the time.
Whizzle: You shittin’ me, ain’t ya?
Marla: No, I ain’t shittin’ you.
Whizzle: I knew your Granddad. Ain’t no way that man shed no tear. Ain’t no way in hell!
Marla: My Grandaddy cried but only when he told my Grandma how much he felt about her.
This gives Whizzle pause.
That made him more man than any man I ever known in my opinion. You just came real close.
Whizzle: How you mean I came close?
Marla: The way you got a moment ago…was something special to me, very special cause you showed me something from you because of how you feel about me and ain’t that what love is supposed to be when two people love one another? Ain’t it supposed to be about that kind of honesty?
Whizzle: …You’re Grandfather…Mr. Higgins A.K.A. ‘The General’ cried to your Grandmother, his wife?
Marla: Yes, he did.
Whizzle: Goddamn. That’s…that makes me step back some.
Marla: Does it now?
Whizzle: I mean, you know, never saw it like you saying.
Marla: But you did it on your own.
Whizzle: I didn’t cry, Marla.
Marla: I know you didn’t cry but it was still special.
Whizzle: Hold on, hold on now…
Marla reaches land.
Marla: Finally. We here. Thank the Lord…
Whizzle: Hold on…what you’re saying is that a man has to cry to a woman he loves when he tells her he loves her in order to be considered a real man?
Marla: No. I’m just saying that the way you made me feel, the way you went about it and how you got…the way my Granddaddy got with my Grandma…I don’t know…there’s something magical in that, something that goes beyond trying to live up to bravado, something that goes past it all and I see you for you…you follow?
Whizzle: You saw me?
Whizzle: And it was good…what you saw?
Marla: It is everything.
Marla gently touches Whizzle’s face.