Time: One evening, some time after dark, 1983.
Place: Somewhere in rural southern Alabama.
Setting: The screened-in front porch of a clapboard house.
Almeda: I don't think she's gonna come tonight, Pete.

Pete: I'm tellin' you she'll be here. You just gotta be patient.

A: She didn't say when she was gonna be here. You been expectin' her to roll up in the driveway every night now since Tuesday a week ago. I don't see the point in sittin' up waitin' again.

P: I know she's gonna come, Almeda. I can feel it deep down in my bowels. She's out there... she's gonna come up now... it's gettin' real soon. You just gotta wait 'er out.

A: She ain't no wild animal you got trapped in some hole. She could be anywhere right now. We don't have any idea when she's comin', or even if she's even comin' at all. You're not bein' sensible about this.

P: There ain't no bein' sensible about it, woman! It's a feelin'... an instinct. I know she'll be up here... very soon.

A: You ain't got a lick o' sense in your head, Peter Carmichael. You're out of your ever-lovin' mind! You scare me when you get like this.

P: Ain't nothin' to be scared of... just let me wait 'er out. Come on and sit down. You'll see her headlights comin' up over the hill if you keep watchin' with me.

(Almeda sighs. A long pause follows.)

A: I'm goin' back inside. You want somethin'?

P: Bring me some coffee, if you would, dear.

A: Coffee? At this hour of the night? You'll be wide awake all night long if you go to drinkin' coffee at this hour.

P: Don't we have some of that decaffeinated kind?

A: No. I bought some of it one time by mistake, and you told me to never buy that kind again.

P: Well, I'd appreciate it if you brewed me some anyway.

(Almeda sighs in frustration.)

A: All right, Pete. I'll get you some coffee.

P: Thank you, dear.

(Almeda exits.)

Yep... gotta be up and awake when she gets here. Gotta be alert... gotta think fast. You never know what she's gonna say to ya, or how to answer her questions the right way if you're not payin' close attention. Gotta hang on every word. She'll catch ya if you don't. She'll watch you like a hawk, and jump on your back the first moment she suspects that your guard is down. Gotta be on your toes, Pete. She'll know... she always knows. Gotta be at your best. She's a vicious little bitch... you know it better than anyone else. You know. You got the scars to prove it... and she knows it, too. She'll knife you in the back and then twist it hard, tryin' to push it deeper. She'd push it right through you if she could... if you let her. (Pause.) Yeah, I know she's comin'. She can send a signal from a million miles away... half way around the world if she has to. I can hear it every time. From now on, I'll be ready. I'll be ready when she comes.

(Pause. Softly singing:) "She'll be comin' 'round the mountain when she comes... She'll be comin' 'round the mountain when she comes... She'll be comin' 'round... the mountain, she'll be... comin'... 'round... the mountain... She'll be comin'... 'round... the mountain..." (Speaking) when she comes.

(Almeda enters.)

A: You out here singin' to yourself?

P: Yep.

A: The percolator's perkin' away. It sure would be nice to have one of them Mr. Coffee machines. That electric percolator we've had... since 1975, at least. I don't know how much longer it'll hold up.

P: It's a Westinghouse, Almeda. It'll last forever. Besides, we don't need no new coffee maker while that one is still workin'.

A: I didn't say we needed a new coffee maker. I'm just sayin' it would be nice if we had one of them Mr. Coffee machines. I wouldn't have to get up so early in the mornin' and make coffee if we had one of 'em. I could set it the night before and it'd go to perkin' coffee by itself in the mornin'.

P: It don't perk coffee, Almeda, it trickles the water down through the grounds, which drains in to some kinda glass pitcher. That ain't the right way to make coffee, anyway. The water's gotta boil first and perk up through the grounds.

A: Now Peter Carmichael, I know for a fact that Mr. Coffee coffee is just as good as percolator coffee. The Ladies' Club has one of them expensive Bunn coffee brewers, and I've had enough of that coffee to tell the difference, and there ain't any. If anything, percolator coffee is more bitter, 'cause it gets too much of the sour grounds, or somethin'.

P: Was it one of them upright Bunns with a spout at the bottom, or one with a bunch a' glass pitchers?

A: I believe they have the upright model.

P: Well, that just goes to show that you don't know what you're talkin' about, Almeda. That kind with the spout is the percolatin' kind. It just holds more coffee, is all. And there ain't more bitterness in percolated coffee. How can there be sour grounds if the pot is fresh brewed?

A: Well, it's got somethin' to do with the steam, or somethin' like that. I don't remember what it is, but I'm tellin' you I've had that drip coffee, and it's just as good as the regular kind.

P: You were just tryin' to tell me that it was better than the way I like it. You just want me to buy you a new coffee maker so you don't have to get out of bed every mornin' at 5:30 to make coffee.

A: (Bitterly) Well, yes, that would be nice, Pete. I'm not a young housewife anymore, in case you hadn't noticed.

P: Oh, I've noticed. You're gettin' slower every day... you complain about how bad you hurt all the time, and your memory is slipping too. Don't think I haven't noticed. It's been happening to me too, you know.

A: Well... at my age, it would be nice to be able to sleep a little longer in the mornings.

P: You'd wake up at 5:30 every mornin' anyway. You have for the past forty-odd years. So you'd just lay there starin' at the wall while the coffee pot dripped us a pot of coffee downstairs. Drip, drip, drip. And then you'd just get up anyway... you always do. You'd walk downstairs and wait for the fancy new Mr. Coffee to finish fillin' up the glass jar, or whatever it's called. Who ever heard of puttin' coffee in a tea pitcher? We'd have to hurry up and drink it before it got cold.

A: You obstinate old fart! It's got a damned heating coil to keep it warm... all day long if you feel like it!

P: Oh yeah, that's right. I heard from Don that if you let it sit there too long, all the coffee evaporates out of the pitcher, and the heatin' element will break that glass jar into a bunch of pieces. Don said it cost him $25 to replace his after Mary left it on all day when they went to go off somewhere... to Wachilla Creek or somethin'.

A: (Sighs heavily.) Well, I guess I better check on your percolated coffee.

P: Just a little Coffee Mate will be fine, please. (Almeda exits.)

You better come on and get here, girl... don't know what you're drivin' this time, but I bet it's fast. Shouldn't be more than a half hour from the airport. Twenty minutes, the way you drive. Don't think I'm gonna pay for no tickets if you get caught speedin' neither... not that you're in any hurry, I'm sure. You just like to drive fast... reckless, and dangerous to be around. You plan it that way. Well, I've got a surprise for you when you get here, sugar.

(Pause. Softly singing:) "We will kill the old red rooster when she comes... we will kill the old red rooster when she comes... we will kill the old red rooster... we will kill... the old... red rooster... (Pause) We will all have chicken 'n dumplin's... when she comes."

©2002, 1989 panamaus

Note: I wrote this for a playwrighting class in college. It is part two in an open-ended series that I began with Voices of Old People. This is a work of fiction which just happened to fit this particular nodeshell.

Update: October 2002

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