By Daniel J and Christin J. Kuck
What is Christmas like for the homeless? Has a surprise ending.
Millie: Is an older woman (50's - 60's) She is the mother figure of the bunch and looks out after everyone. Millie is a bag lady and suffers from pain in her joints and muscles.
Mick: Is a young man (18-30) He is very sick and afflicted with coughing spells. He never says a word. When Mick has a coughing spell, dialogue should stop until he is finished.
Evie: Can be any age. But she acts like a child. Her words are non-sense. She doesn't really know where she is so she doesn't care.
Scrugs: Is a Vietnam war veteran. He has a huge chip on his shoulder because of what he perceives as mistreatment by the Government. He suffers from PTSS. In his own fashion, he feels a certain responsibility for the other members of the Afamily@. Scrugs has a bottle of booze in his pocket and periodically takes a swig.
Jenny: Is a teenager. She can be anywhere from 15 - 17.
Shopping cart filled with garbage bags. Half a bottle of cough syrup, a book, a mirror and half a sub sandwich cut into four parts, money, old blanket, small liquor bottle.
Sound effects: Train whistle heard far off in the background. Thunder FX (and if possible, accompanied by flashing light)
Setting: Scene opens in a wooded area behind a warehouse, near the railroad tracks. Three cardboard boxes are set haphazardly on stage, with blankets covering the openings. These are homes for the homeless. A half of a garbage can or the like should contain a red glowing light to resemble a fire. The stage lights should be low to give an ambiance of evening.
(Millie enters pushing a cart piled with plastic bags and other trash across stage. She is humming a Christmas tune. She takes a seat on a crate and stretches her aching back.)
Millie: The day after Christmas. My favorite day. Pickin's are best that day. Yep. In with the new, out with the old. My name's Millie. Last name isn't important. Not out in Shanty Town.
Scrugs emerges from box and stretches.
Millie: That there is Scrugs. No one knows his first name. (To Scrugs) Good evening, Scrugs.
Scrugs: Yeah! What's good about it!
Millie: (to audience) Oh, don't mind him. He's an ol' sour puss. If he was German, he'd be sour kraut. Ha, ha. Get it? Sour kraut? Ahhhh, hem. Anyway, Scrugs was in the Vietnam war. Didn't come back the same as when he left. He's been living out here, well... as long as I can remember.
Mick emerges from box under a coughing spell.
Millie: Him? Well, that's Mick. Showed up in Shanty Town three months ago. Sickly boy. We've done what we could for him. But the cough just keep's getting worse.
Mick Begins to cough
Millie: (To Mick) You been to the clinic today, boy?
Millie: Wouldn't see ya, huh? Let me guess. It's foot day, not cough day.
Mick nods, coughs again.
Millie: (To audience) They call it a free clinic. Free is right and you get what you pay for. I've been down once or twice to have my knees looked at . They say nothin's wrong. Just plain old arthritis. Take some aspirin and come back in two weeks. But try holdin down a job, with plain old arthritis. Somedays, it feels like my knees will fall right out of their sockets.
Scrugs: You bring back any food in that cart of yours?
Millie: Nary a crumb. Suspect Ellie will have something when she comes back. You know the soup kitchens all like Ellie. Always give her a little something extra.
Scrugs: I'm hungry.
Millie: Now aren't we all. (To Audience) Soup kitchens love us fine on Christmas day. After that (runs finger across throat). Isn't that right Mick?
Mick begins to cough.
Scrugs: What're you askin him for. Laziest son of ..... If I do find food today, I'm not sharin it with him. Always layin around in that box. He'll probably infect the rest of us with AIDS.
Millie: Now don't be startin in on Mick again. They wouldn't let him in the clinic.
Scrugs: Probably afraid he'll infect them, too. He's worthless. He does nothing but sponge off the rest of us.
Millie: (laughs) Come, Scrugs. He can't sponge what we don't have.
Evie: (Enters stage) I wish I may, I wish I might, I wish I get my wish tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, I wish I get my wish tonight.
Millie: (To audience) That's Evie. She has the mind of a child. Autistic I guess they call it. Don't know how she ended up here. Haven't ever gotten a word out of her that makes sense.
Evie sits down next to Millie
Millie: There's my girl. Did you have a nice Christmas, Evie? Did you now?
Scrugs: Nice Christmas? Christ lady, are you stupid? How could any of us had a nice Christmas?
Millie: (Ignoring Scrugs) Did you find anything for us today. Did you bring back any food?
Evie: I wish I may, I wish I may. I wish I had some food today.
Millie: I guess not. (Sighs) Well, we may be hungry but there's no reason to be cold. Mick, why don't you start the fire. I've already laid the wood.
Mick bends down to start the fire.
Millie: (To audience) Well, although I did not find any food, I didn't come back empty handed neither. Folks like us don't celebrate Christmas on Christmas. Well except for the special meal down at the soup kitchen. They had turkey for us, and a preacher who raged about repentance and that the end was close at hand. Year 2000, you know. He smelled sour. I didn't stay the night, although they had an extra cot. Had to be out early to scour the garbage cans for goodies. (To Scrugs) Hey. Scrugs. Hand me that bag on top of my cart.
Scrugs: Get it yourself, you old bat.
Millie: What's a matter, Scrugs. The booger man get you whilst you were sleepin?
Scrugs: Shut up old lady.
Mick stands up from building the fire and walks toward Scrugs, pushes his shoulder and wags a finger at him.
Scrugs: Hey, you little wimp! You want to fight me! Well, come on then!
Millie: Oh, stop it, Scrugs. We needn't be fighting amongst ourselves. Mick, get my bag off the top of the cart. I have a Christmas present for each of you.
Scrugs: You and your stupid Christmas. People like us don't have Christmas.
Mick brings bag to Millie. Suddenly has a fit of coughing.
Millie: Christmas is for everyone, Scrugs. Our own Savior was born in a stable. Among the animals. Wasn't much different than this.
Scrugs: (Pulls out bottle of liquor and drinks some.) Your Savior, not mine.
Millie: (takes bag and pulls out half empty bottle of cough medicine) For you Mick. Nyquil. And look, it's hardly out of date.
Mick takes the bottle and drinks directly from it. Nods his thank you. Goes and lays in front of fire, pulling blanket over himself.
Evie: For me, for me. I wish, I wish for me, for me.
Millie: Yes, dear. I remembered you, too. (Holds up hand mirror)
Evie: (grabs mirror and begins preening.) AI wish, I wish, I wish I may@
Scrugs: What good does that stupid mirror do her? You should be trying to find food, not this useless crap!
Millie: She sees the image of God. Why we were all created in His image, you know. She sees the beauty He placed there and it gives her comfort.
Scrugs: Always God with you. I don't want to hear nothing about God. Where was God when the commies killed my platoon. Where was God when I came back a broken man. Where was he when my family fell apart. When I couldn't hold down a freakin job. When the Government swept me under the rug like dirt! Just shut up about God for once.
Millie: You aren't the only one who's suffered. We've all had our crosses to bare. I won't toss away God the way people have tossed us away.
Scrugs: Then you're as crazy as her (points at Evie).
Millie: (Sighs. Long pause. To Audience) My husband was a missionary. We were home on leave when a pick up truck ran a red light and hit us blind side. They say my husband died instantly. I don't remember. I was in a coma for two months. That's the reason the knees give out. And sometimes my hips. When the weather changes, my shoulders hurt so bad, it's like a ball of fire between my shoulder blades. The doctors have some fancy name for it.... Fibromyalsia I think.
The insurance company came up with a half million reasons not to pay. I took some jobs. Cleaning. That's what I know how to do best. But, I couldn't keep up with it. And I ended up out here. With Scrugs, Mick and Evie. Can't complain too soundly. I'd always thought there were people who would stand behind me in a bind. But, it weren't so. I hold no ill will toward them, though. I think of it as my thorn in the flesh.
Scrugs: What are you mumbling about old woman?
Millie: I have something for you too, Scrugs.
Scrugs: I don't need a mirror.
Millie: What would a sorry looking fellow like you want with a mirror. I got you somethin better. (Holds out book)
Scrugs: What's this. (Reluctantly takes book. Reverently rubs the cover) Sonnets of the Portuguese..... I used to read this all the time when I was younger. (Clears throat)
Millie: It's nothing. We all know you like to read. Found it in the dumpster over at the library.
Scrugs: (opens book and turns the pages) Wish it was a steak medium rare. Dreamed I ate my own hand again last night.
Jenny (steps from behind the bushes) Excuse me.
Scrugs: (drops book and pulls gun from pocket, rounding on Jenny) What do ya want!
Jenny: (voice shaking) I just wanted to warm myself by the fire.
Millie: Oh for God's sake. Scrugs put that thing down. (Gets up and waddles over to girl) Don't mind him dear. That thing ain't loaded anyway. He can't afford bullets.
Scrugs: I told you to stop telling people that. You want to be set upon by vermin?
Millie: Scrugs, we are vermin.
Scrugs puts gun back in pocket.
Millie: Come over and warm yourself, dearie. You feel like a sack of bones.
Scrugs: You got anything to eat, you little brat?
Millie: Scrugs, stop!
Scrugs: She wants to sit by our fire, she should contribute.
Millie: You're always lookin for something. Why can't you ever think about giving?
Scrugs: I gave to my country and look how it left me! A cripple.
Millie: Stop your silly prattling. You could have gone with that man from the government. He said he would help you. But you've too much pride.
Scrugs: (Turns his back on the group)
Millie: (to Jenny) There now. Get closer and warm yourself.
Jenny kneels by the fire and begins to warm her hands.
Millie: (To audience) We see her kind come and go all the time. The young ones. She probably came in on one of the freights. (Sound FX: distant train). Homelessness is the worst for them. Someone's always out to take advantage of the young ones. I give her two, three months. If she doesn't get off the streets she'll end up selling her soul to stay alive.
Scrugs: (moves closer to the fire) Whatcha runnin for kid. You're mama take away your Barbie?
Jenny: (Pulls off backpack and begins rummaging through it) I'm an adult you know. I just turned 18.
Millie: Oh, there you are. And I'm good ol' Queen Bess herself.
Jenny: I really am.
Millie: That's alright dear. We weren't going to turn you in.
Jenny: I have food. (Pulls sandwich from backpack) I ate half of this sandwich, but you can have the rest, if you'd like.
Scrugs comes to attention, licking his lips.
Millie: Merciful heavens. (Takes sandwich from Jenny.) Scrugs, hand me your knife.
Scrugs (pulls hunting knife from sheath and hands it to Millie) Make sure you cut it equal like.
Millie hands a section of sandwich to Scrugs and Evie. Mick refuses his piece and lays back down. Jenny takes his piece.
Scrugs: (Eats his sandwich, leans back and sighs) Sure beats that rat I roasted last week.
Evie: Strawberry tart, strawberry tart. Just a little bit of rat in it.
Jenny gasps and looks at Scrugs in horror.
Millie: Oh don't look so surprised. Scrugs here learned to catch all manner of thing while in Vietnam. It actually was pretty good, roasted over the fire and all. And it was big enough to feed all four of us.
Jenny: That's disgusting!
Scrugs: What did you think would happen when you ran away, little girl. Your mommy wasn't going to follow after you and make you a pot roast dinner every night.
Millie: No, he's right dear. Life out here is not easy.
Jenny: (Quiet for a long moment) I'm trying to get back home. Hopping the rails... It isn't as easy as it seems. I think I'm on the right freight and it only takes me farther from home. (Pause) My family probably doesn't want me back anyway.
Millie: Oh, here now. It's Christmas time. Of course they do. A pretty little thing like you. We are the ones no one wants. We're the dregs, sweetie.
Mick: (Edges over to Millie and Jenny. He has a wad of money in his hand and is pushing it to Jenny.)
Millie: Good God, Mick. Where did you get all that money?
Scrugs: What do you think you're doing! We need that!
Mick pushes money at Jenny.
Millie: He wants to send her home.
Jenny: I can't take that.
Mick pushes money at Jenny. Begins to cough.
Millie: He wants you to have it. Don't look down on one of God's blessings.
Jenny looks at Scrugs.
Scrugs: (looks from face to face) Ahhh, freakin...... grrrr.... take the money and get outta here, you little brat! ( Picks up book and stomps over to box and crawls in)
Millie: Don't mind Scrugs. He gets surely when you young 'uns come through. You just remind him of his own daughter. Go ahead, take the money.
Jenny takes the money from Mick. Mick crawls back to fire, lies down and pulls blanket over himself falling into coughing spell.
Millie: Rain! Should of known. The bones were aching something fierce today. Well, I'd best be getting out that old piece of tarpaulin I found.
Another round of thunder.
Jenny: (Staring at the money in her hand) I can't take this money. You all need it more than me. (Points at Mick, sleeping by the fire) That man is sick. He needs to see a doctor.
Millie: Oh, old Mick is fine. See, we're family here. We look after one another and somehow we get by. You don't belong here. You have a family waiting at home. Now get along before it starts to rain. You don't want to catch your death of cold. The bus station's just around that corner. Go along now.
Millie: (watches Jenny run off. To Evie) Come dearie, let's get in our box before it starts to rain. Come, sweetums.
Evie: To bed, to bed you sleepy head. (Skips off to her box) To bed, to bed, to bed, to bed.
Millie: (covers the boxes with a tarp and speaks to audience) Another day after Christmas in Shanty Town. Makes the soul feel good to see that little girl go home. (Goes back to fire) Mick, get into your box, dear. It's going to rain. Mick? (Stoops down and checks Mick) Oh, Mick. No! (Pulls his head into her lap) You were so young. Too young for this. (Long pause) You could have used that money to go to the doctor, and you gave it to that girl. You're a saint, Mick. The true living spirit of Christmas.
© Daniel J and Christin J. Kuck - 1999
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