About The Book
David Rabe has been a major voice and crucial force in American drama since 1971 when, in the midst of the Vietnam War, he startled the nation with The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel. The story of a native recruit’s initiation into war, it is by turns brutal and hilarious. It won the young playwright an Obie and was hailed by The New York Times as “rich humor, irony, and insight.” More than two decades later, Rabe continues to be one of our most compelling dramatists, acclaimed most recently for the Tony Award-winning Hurlyburly.
In this, the first of two volumes of The Vietnam Plays, Pavlo Hummel is paired with the equally intense Sticks and Stones, in which a blinded Vietnam veteran returns home numbed by the war and is astonished by his family’s inability to comprehend their country’s politics and his rage.
Place: The United States Army
The set is a space, a platform slanting upward from the downstage area. The floor is nothing more than slats that run in various directions with a military precision. It has a brownish color. The backdrop is dark with touches of green. Along the back of the set runs a ramp elevated about two feet off the floor. Stage left and a little down from the ramp stands the drill sergeant’s tower. This element is stark and as realistic as possible. Farther downstage and stage left the floor opens into a pit two feet deep. There is an old furnace partly visible. Downstage and stage right are three army cots with footlockers at their base. Upstage and stage right there is a bar area: an army ammunition crate and an army oil drum set as a table and chair before a fragment of sheet-metal wall partly covered with beer-can labels. All elements of the set should have some military tone to them, some echo of basic training.
To start the play, pop American music is heard for an instant in the dark. Then lights up on the bar area: evening. A drunken GI sits slumped on the crate, leaning forward on the drum. YEN (pronounced “Ing”), a Vietnamese girl dressed in purple silk pajamas–slacks and pullover top–moves about with a beer, trying to settle PAVLO down.
PAVLO: (dressed in fatigues, moving with the music, dealing somehow with the other two in the room as he speaks): Did I do it to him? The triple-Hummel. Can you hear your boy? (A sort of shudder runs through his shoulders; he punches.) A little shuffle and then a triple boom-boom-boom. Ain’t bad, man? Gonna eat up Cleveland. Gonna piss on Chicago. (Banging with his palms on the sides of the oil drum.)
YEN: Creezy, creezy.
PAVLO: Dinky dow!
SOLDIER (disturbed by the banging, looking up, deeply drunk): Les ” go ” home”.
YEN: Paablo creezy.
PAVLO: Dinky dow.
YEN: Paablo boocoup love. Sleep me all time “
PAVLO: Did I ever tell you?–thirteen months a my life ago–Joanna was her name. Sorrentino, a little bit a guinea-wop made outa all the pins and sticks all bitches are made a. And now I’m the guy who’s been with the Aussies. I HAD TEA WITH “EM. IT WAS ME THEY CALLED TO–”Hummel!” ‘mEDIC!” (With a fairly good Australian accent.) “The dirty little blighters blew me bloody arm off.” (YEN brings a beer.) Yeh, girl, in a little bit a time. (And back to the air.) We had a cat, you know? So we had a kitty box, which is a place for the cat to shit.
YEN: Talk ‘shit.” I can talk ‘shit.” Numba-ten talk.
PAVLO: Ohhh, damn that Sorrentino, what she couldn’t be taught. And that’s what I’d like to do–look her up and explain a few things like, “Your face, Sorrentino, I don’t like your ugly face.” Did I ever tell you about the ole lady? Did I ever speak her name, me mudda.
YEN: Mudda you, huh, Paablo? Very nice.
PAVLO: To be seen by her now, oh, she would shit her jeans to see me now, up tight with this little odd-lookin” whore, feelin” good, and tall, ready to bed down. Ohhh, Jesus Mahoney. You see what she did, she wrote Joanna a letter. My mother. She called Joanna a dirty little slut, and when I found out, I cried, I wailed, baby, big tears. I screamed and threw kitty litter; I threw it in the air. I screamed over and over, “Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday,” and then one day there was Joanna in the subway and she said, “Hello,” and told me my favorite jacket I was wearing made me look ugly, didn’t fit, made me look fat.
(A grenade, thrown by a hand that merely flashes between the curtains, hits with a loud clump in the room, and everyone looks without moving.)
(PAVLO drops to his knees, seizing the grenade, and has it in his hands in his lap when the explosion comes, loud, shattering, and the lights go black, go red or blue. The girl screams. The bodies are strewn about. The radio plays. And a black soldier, ARDELL, now appears, his uniform strangely unreal with black ribbons and medals; he wears sunglasses, bloused boots. [ARDELL will drift throughout the play, present only when specifically a part of the action, appearing, disappearing, without prominent entrances and exits.] A body detail is also entering, two men with a stretcher to remove the dead.)
ARDELL: (moving to turn the radio off): You want me, Pavlo? You callin”? Don’t I hear you? Yeh, that the way it happen sometimes. Everybody hit, everybody hurtin”, but the radio ain’t been touched, the dog didn’t feel a thing; the engine’s good as new but all the people dead and the chassis a wreck, man. (Bowing a little toward PAVLO.) Yeh, yeh, some mean motherfucker, you don’t even see, blow you away. Don’t I hear you callin”? (Pivoting, moving swiftly down center stage.) Get off it. Bounce on up here.
(PAVLO leaps to his feet, runs to join ARDELL.)
PAVLO: PFC Pavlo Hummel, Sir. R.A. seven four, three one three, two two six.
ARDELL: We gonna get you your shit straight. No need to call me Sir.
ARDELL: Now what’s your unit? Now shout it out.
PAVLO: Second of the Sixteenth, First Division, BIG RED ONE!
PAVLO: My Company Commander is Captain M. W. Henderson. My Battalion Commander is Lieutenant Colonel Roy J. S. Tully.
ARDELL: Squad and platoon leaders?
PAVLO: My platoon leader is First Lieutenant David R. Barnes; my squad leader is Staff Sergeant Peter T. Collins.
ARDELL: You got family?
ARDELL: You lyin”, Boy.
PAVLO: One mother; one half-brother.
ARDELL: All right.
ARDELL: Soldier, what you think a the war?
PAVLO: It’s being fought.
ARDELL: Ain’t no doubt about that.
ARDELL: You kill anybody?
ARDELL: Like it?
ARDELL: Have nightmares?
ARDELL: What we talkin” about, Boy?
ARDELL: How tall you? you lyin” motherfucker.
ARDELL: What you get hit with?
PAVLO: Hand grenade. Fragmentation-type.
ARDELL: Where about it get you?
PAVLO (gently touching his stomach and crotch): Here. And here. Mostly in the abdominal and groin areas.
ARDELL: Who you talkin” to? Don’t you talk that shit to me, man. Abdominal and groin areas, that shit. It hit you in the stomach, man, like a ten-ton truck and it hit you in the balls, blew “em away. Am I lyin”?
PAVLO (able to grin: glad to grin): No, man.
ARDELL: Hurt you bad.
PAVLO: Killed me.
ARDELL: That right. Made you dead. You dead man; how you feel about that?
ARDELL: DOn’t YOU KNOW? I THINK YOU KNOW! I think it piss you off. I think you lyin” you say it don’t. Make you wanna scream.
ARDELL: You had that thing in your hand, didn’t you? What was you thinkin” on, you had that thing in your hand?
PAVLO: About throwin” it. About a man I saw when I was eight years old who came through the neighborhood with a softball team called the Demons, and he could do anything with a softball underhand that most big-leaguers could do with a hardball over-hand. He was fantastic.
ARDELL: That all?
ARDELL: You ain’t lyin”.
(A whistle blows loudly and figures run about behind PAVLO and ARDELL, a large group of men in fatigues without markings other than their name tags and U.S. ARMY. And on the high drill instructors tower, which is dimly lit at the moment, stands a large Negro sergeant. A captain observes from the distance. A corporal prowls among the gathering troopers, checking buttons, etc.)
PAVLO (looking about): Who’re they?
ARDELL: Man, don’t you jive me. You know who they are. That Fort Gordon, man. They Echo Company, Eighth Battalion, Third Training Regiment. They basic training, baby.
PAVLO (removes PFC stripes and 1st Division patch): Am I ” really ” dead “?
ARDELL: Damn near, man; real soon. Comin” on. Eight more weeks. Got wings as big as streets. Got large, large wings.
PAVLO: It happened ” to me”.
ARDELL: Whatever you say, Pavlo.
PAVLO: Sure” that grenade come flyin”, I caught it, held it. (Pause.)
ARDELL: New York, huh?
PAVLO: Manhattan. Two thirty-one East Forty-fifth. I–
ARDELL: Now we know who we talkin” about. Somebody say “Pavlo Hummel,” we know who they mean.
SERGEANT TOWER: GEN”LMEN! (As the men standing in ranks below the tower snap to parade rest and PAVLO, startled, runs to find his place among them.) You all lookin” up here and can you see me? Can you see me well? Can you hear and comprehend my words? Can you see what is written here? Over my right tit-tee, can you read it? Tower. My name. And I am bigger than my name. And can you see what is sewn here upon the muscle of my arm? Can you see it? ANSWER!
THE MEN (yelling): NO.
SERGEANT TOWER: No, what? WHAT?
THE MEN: NO, SERGEANT.
SERGEANT TOWER: It is also my name. It is my first name. SERGEANT. That who I am. I you Field First. And you gonna see a lot a me. You gonna see so much a me, let me tell you, you gonna think I you mother, father, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and children–if-you-got-“em–all rolled into one big black man. Yeh, Gen”lmen. And you gonna become me. You gonna learn to stand tall and be proud and you gonna run as far and shoot as good. Or else you gonna be ashamed; I am one old man and you can’t outdo no thirty-eight-year-old man, you ashamed. AM I GONNA MAKE YOU ASHAMED? WHAT DO YOU SAY?
THE MEN: Yes, Sergeant!
SERGEANT TOWER: NO! NO, GEN”LMEN. No, I am not gonna make you ashamed. SERGEANT, YOU ARE NOT GONNA MAKE US ASHAMED.
THE MEN: SERGEANT, YOU ARE NOT GONNA MAKE US ASHAMED.
SERGEANT TOWER: WE ARE GONNA DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN DO AND DO YOU ONE BETTER!
THE MEN: WE ARE GONNA DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN DO AND DO YOU ONE BETTER!
SERGEANT TOWER: YOU A BUNCH A LIARS. YOU A BUNCH A FOOLS! Now you listen up; you listen to me. No one does me one better. And especially no people like you. Don’t you know what you are? TRAINEES! And there ain’t nothin” lower on this earth except for one thing, and we all know what that is, do we not, Gen”lmen?
THE MEN: YES ” Sergeant”.
SERGEANT TOWER: And what is that? (Pause.) And you told me you knew! Did you lie to me? Oh, no, nooo, I can’t believe that; please, please don’t lie. Gen”lmen, did you lie?
THE MEN (they are sorry): Yes, Sergeant.
SERGEANT TOWER: No, no, please. If there something you don’t know, you tell me. If I ask you something and you do not know the answer, let me know, Civilians. That the answer to my question. The only creatures in this world lower than trainees is civilians, and we hate them all. All. (Quick pause.) And now ” and finally ” and most important, do you see what is written here? Over my heart; over my left tit-tee, do you see? U.S. Army. Which is where I live. Which is where we all live. Can you, Gen”lmen, can you tell me you first name now, do you know it? (Quick pause as he looks about in dismay.) Don’t you know? I think you do, yes, I do, but you just too shy to say it. Like little girls watchin” that thing just get bigger and bigger for the first time, you shy. And what did I tell you to do when you don’t know the answer I have asked?
THE MEN: What is our first name?
SERGEANT TOWER: You! You there! (Suddenly pointing into the ranks of men.) You! Ugly! Yeah, you. That right. You ugly. Ain’t you. YOU TAKE ONE BIG STEP FORWARD.
(And it is PAVLO stepping forward hesitantly. He does not know what he has done or what is expected from him.)
I think I saw you were not in harmony with the rest of these men. I think I saw that you were looking about at the air like some kinda fool and that malingering, Trainee, and that intol”able. So you drop, you hear me. You drop down on your ugly little hands and knees and lift up you butt and knees from off that beautiful Georgia clay and you give me TEN and that’s push-ups of which I am speaking.
(PAVLO, having obeyed the orders step by step, now begins the push-ups. TOWER goes back to the men.)
NOW YOU ARE TRAINEES, ALL YOU PEOPLE, AND YOU LISTEN UP. I ASK YOU WHAT IS YOUR FIRST NAMES, YOU TELL ME “TRAINEEs’!
THE MEN (yelling): TRAINEE!
SERGEANT TOWER: TRAINEE, SERGEANT!
THE MEN: TRAINEE, SERGE–
SERGEANT TOWER: I CAn’t HEAR YOU!
THE MEN: TRAINEE, SERGEANT!
SERGEANT TOWER: AND WHAT IS YOUR LAST NAMES? YOU OWN LAST FUCKING NAMES?
THE MEN: (A chorus of American names.)
SERGEANT TOWER: AND YOU LIVE IN THE ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
THE MEN: AND WE LIVE IN THE ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
SERGEANT TOWER: WITH BALLS BETWEEN YOU LEGS! YOU HAVE BALLS! NO SLITS! BUT BALLS, AND YOU––
(Having risen, PAVLO is getting back into ranks.)
THE MEN: AND WE HAVE BALLS BETWEEN OUR LEGS! NO SLITS, BUT BALLS!
SERGEANT TOWER (suddenly back at PAVLO): UGLY! Now who tole you to stand? Who you think you are, you standin”, nobody tole you to stand. You drop. You drop, you hear me.
(And PAVLO goes back into the push-up position.)
What your name, boy?
PAVLO: Yes, sir.
SERGEANT TOWER: Your name, boy!
PAVLO: Trainee Hummel, sir!
SERGEANT TOWER: Sergeant.
PAVLO: Yes, sir.
SERGEANT TOWER: Sergeant. I AM A SERGEANT!
PAVLO: SERGEANT. YOU ARE A SERGEANT!
SERGEANT TOWER: All right. That nice; all right, only in the future, you doin” push-ups, I want you countin” and that countin” so loud it scare me so I think there some kinda terrible, terrible man comin” to get me. Am I understood?
PAVLO: Yes, Sergeant.
SERGEANT TOWER: I can’t hear you!
PAVLO: Yes, Sergeant! Yes, Sergeant!
SERGEANT TOWER: All right! You get up and fall back where you was. Gen”lmen. You are gonna fall out. By platoon. Which is how you gonna be doin” most everything from now on–by platoon and by the numbers–includin” takin” a shit. Somebody say to you, “One!” you down; “two!” you doin” it; “three!” you wipin” and you ain’t finished, you cuttin” it off. I CAn’t HEAR YOU!
THE MEN: YES, SERGEANT.
SERGEANT TOWER: I say to you ‘squat!” and you all hunkered down and got nothin” to say to anybody but “How much?” and “What color, Sergeant?”
THE MEN: Yes, Sergeant.
SERGEANT TOWER: You good people. You a good group. Now I gonna call you to attention and you gonna snap to. That’s heels on a line or as near it as the conformation of your body permit; head up, chin in, knees not locked; you relaxed. Am I understood?
THE MEN: Yes–
SERGEANT TOWER: AM I UNDERSTOOD, GODDAMMIT, OR DO YOU WANT TO ALL DROP FOR TWENTY OR–
(ARDELL, off to the side, is drifting nearer.)
THE MEN: YES, SERGEANT, YES, SERGEANT!
ARDELL: Pavlo, my man, you on your way!
CORPORAL: PLATOOOON! PLATOOOON!
SERGEANT TOWER: I GONNA DO SOME SINGIN”, GEN”LMEN, I WANT IT COMIN” BACK TO ME LIKE WE IN GRAND CANYON–
ARDELL: DO IT, GET IT!
SERGEANT TOWER: –AND YOU MY MOTHERFUCKIN” ECHO!
SQUAD LEADERS: RIGHT FACE!
CORPORAL: FORWARD HARCH!
SERGEANT TOWER (singing): LIFT YOUR HEAD AND LIFT IT HIGH “
THE MEN: LIFT YOUR HEAD AND LIFT IT HIGH “
SERGEANT TOWER: ECHO COMPANY PASSIN” BY!
THE MEN: ECHO COMPANY PASSIN” BY!
(They start going off in groups, marching and singing.)
ARDELL: MOTHER, MOTHER, WHAT’d I DO?
THE MEN: MOTHER, MOTHER, WHAT’d I DO?
ARDELL: THIS ARMY TREATIN” ME WORSE THAN YOU!
THE MEN: THIS ARMY TREATIN” ME WORSE THAN YOU!
SERGEANT TOWER: LORD HAVE MERCY I’m SO BLUE!
THE MEN: LORD HAVE MERCY I’m SO BLUE! IT EIGHT MORE WEEKS TILL WE BE THROUGH! IT EIGHT MORE WEEKS TILL WE BE THROUGH! IT EIGHT MORE WEEKS TILL WE BE THROUGH!
(And all the men have marched off in lines in different directions, giving a sense of large numbers, a larger space, and now, out of this movement, comes a spin-off of two men, KRESS and PARKER, drilling down the center of the stage, yelling the last of the song, marching, stomping, then breaking and running stage left and into the furnace room, where there is the hulk of the belly of the furnace, the flickering of the fire. KRESS is large, muscular, with a constant manner of small confusion, as if he feels always that something is going on that he nearly, but not quite, understands. Yet there is something seemingly friendly about him. PARKER is smaller; he wears glasses.)
KRESS: I can’t stand it, Parker, bein” so cold all the time and they’re all insane, Parker. Waxin” and buffin” the floor at five-thirty in the morning is insane. And then you can’t eat till you go down the monkey bars and you gotta eat in ten minutes and can’t talk to nobody, and no place in Georgia is warm. I’m from Jersey. I can jump up in the air, if there’s a good wind, I’ll land in Fort Dix. Am I right so far? So Sam gets me. What’s he do? Fort Dix? Uh-uh. Fort Gordon, Georgia. So I can be warm right? Down South, man. Daffodils and daisies. Year round. (Hollering.) BUT AM I WARM? DO YOU THINK I’m WARM? DO I LOOK LIKE I’m WARM? JESUS H! EVEN IN THE GODDAMN FURNACE ROOM, I’m FREEZIN” TA DEATH!
PARKER: So, what the hell is hollerin” like a stupid ape gonna do except to let “em know where we’re at?
KRESS (as PAVLO enters upstage, moving slowly in awe toward the tower, looking): Heat up my blood!
ARDELL (to PAVLO): What you doin” strollin” about like a fool, man? You gonna have people comin” down all over you, don’t you know–
OFFICER (having just entered): What’re you doin” walkin” in this company area? Don’t you know you run in this company area? Hummel, you drop, you hear me. You drop!
(PAVLO drops and begins the push-ups.)
ARDELL (over him): Do “em right, do “em right!
KRESS: Why can’t I be warm? I wanna be warm.
PARKER: Okay, man, you’re warm.
KRESS: No; I’m not; I’m cold, Parker. Where’s our goddamn fireman; don’t he ever do nothin” but push-ups? Don’t he ever do nothin” but trouble!
PARKER: Don’t knock that ole boy, Kress; I’m tellin” you Hummel’s gonna keep us laughin”!
KRESS: Yesterday I was laughin” so hard. I mean, I’m stupid, Parker, but Hummel’s STUPID. I mean, he volunteers to be fireman “cause he thinks it means you ride in a raincoat on a big red truck and when there’s nothin” to do you play cards.
PARKER: Yeah! He don’t know it means you gotta baby-sit the goddamn furnace all night, every night. And end up lookin” like a stupid chimney sweep!
KRESS: Lookin” what?
PARKER (as PIERCE enters at a jog, moving across the stage toward ARDELL and PAVLO): Like a goddamn chimney sweep!
PAVLO: Where you goin”?
PIERCE (without hesitating): Weapons room and furnace room.
PAVLO (getting to his feet): Can I come along?
PIERCE (still running, without looking back): I don’t give a shit.
(He exits, PAVLO following, as ARDELL is drifting the opposite direction.)
PAVLO: ” great”
KRESS: Yeh? Yeh, Parker, that’s good. Chimney sweeps!
PARKER: Yeh, they were these weird little men always crawlin” around, and they used to do this weird shit ta chimneys.
(PIERCE and PAVLO enter. They have their rifles. PIERCE is a trainee acting as a squad leader. He has a cloth marked with corporal’s stripes tied on his left sleeve.)
PIERCE: At ease!
KRESS: Hey, the Chimney Shit. Hey, what’s happenin”, Chimney Shit?
PAVLO: How you doin”, Kress?
KRESS: Where’s your red hat, man?
PARKER: Ain’t you got no red fireman’s hat?
PAVLO: I’m just with Pierce, that’s all. He’s my squad leader and I’m with him.
PARKER: Mr. Squad Leader.
PAVLO: Isn’t that right, Pierce?
PARKER: Whose ass you kiss to get that job, anyway, Pierce?
PIERCE: At ease, Trainees.
KRESS: He’s R.A., man. Regular Army. Him and Hummel. Lifer morons. Whata they gonna do to us today, anyway, Mr. Actin” Sergeant, Corporal? What’s the lesson for the day: first aid or bayonet? I love this fuckin” army.
PIERCE: The schedule’s posted, Kress!
KRESS: You know I don’t read, man; hurts my eyes; makes “em water.
PAVLO: When’s the gas chamber, that’s what I wanna know.
KRESS: For you, Chimney Shit, in about ten seconds, when I fart in your face.
PAVLO: I’m all right. I do all right.
KRESS: Sure you do, except you got your head up your ass.
PAVLO: Yeh? Well maybe I’d rather have it up my ass than where you got it.
(Slight pause: it has made no sense to KRESS at all.)
PAVLO: You heard me, Kress.
KRESS: What’d he say, Parker? (There is frenzy in this.) I heard him, but I don’t know what he said. WHAT’d YOU SAY TO ME, HUMMEL?
PAVLO: Just never you mind, Kress.
KRESS: I DOn’t KNOW WHAT YOU SAID TO ME, YOU WEIRD PERSON!
PARKER (patting KRESS): Easy, man, easy; be cool.
KRESS: But I don’t like weird people, Parker. I don’t like them. How come I gotta be around him? I don’t wanna be around you, Hummel!
PAVLO: Don’t you worry about it, I’m just here with Pierce. I just wanna know about the gas chamber.
KRESS: It’s got gas in it! Ain’t that right, Parker! It’s like this goddamn giant asshole, it farts on you. THHPPBBBZZZZZZZZ! (Silence.)
PAVLO: When is it, Pierce?
KRESS: Ohhhhh, Jesus, I’m cold.
PAVLO: This ain’t cold, Kress.
KRESS: I know if I’m cold.
PAVLO: I been colder than this. This ain’t cold. I been a lot colder than–
KRESS: DOn’t TELL ME IT AIn’t COLD OR I’ll KILL YOU! JESUS GOD ALMIGHTY I HATE THIS MOTHER ARMY STICKIN” ME IN WITH WEIRD PEOPLE! DIE, HUMMEL! Will you please do me that favor! Oh, God, let me close my eyes and when I open them, Hummel is dead. Please. Please.
(He squeezes his eyes shut, clenches his hands and then looks at PAVLO, who is grinning.)
PAVLO: Boy, I sure do dread that gas chamber.
KRESS: He hates me, Parker. He truly hates me.
PAVLO: No, I don’t.
KRESS: What’d I ever do to him, you suppose.
PARKER: I don’t know, Kress.
PAVLO: I don’t hate you.
PARKER: How come he’s so worried about that gas chamber, that’s what I wonder.
PAVLO: Well, see, I had an uncle die in San Quentin.
That’s the truth, Kress.
(KRESS screams again.)
I don’t care if you believe it. He killed four people in a fight in a bar.
PARKER: Usin” his bare hands, right?
PAVLO: You know how many people are executed every damn day in San Quentin? One hell of a lot. And every one of “em just about is somebody’s uncle, and one of ” em was my Uncle Roy. He killed four people in a barroom brawl usin” broken bottles and table legs and screamin”, jus’ screamin”. He was mean, man. He was rotten; and my folks been scared the same thing might happen to me; all their lives, they been scared. I got that same look in my eyes like him.
PARKER: What kinda look is that?
KRESS: That really rotten look, man. He got that really rotten look. Can’t you see it?
PAVLO: You ever steal a car, Kress? You know how many cars I stole?
KRESS: Shut up Hummel! You’re a goddamn chimney sweep and I don’t wanna talk to you because you don’t talk American, you talk Hummel! Some goddamn foreign language!
PARKER: How many cars you stole?
PAVLO: That’s a lotta cars, huh?
PARKER: You damn betcha, man. How long’d it take you, for chrissake? Ten years?
PARKER: Workin” off and on, you mean.
PAVLO: Sure. Not every night, or they’d catch you. And not always from the same part of town. Man, sometimes I’d hit lower Manhattan, and then the next night the Bronx or Queens, and sometimes I’d even cut right on outa town. One time, in fact, I went all the way to New Haven. Boy that was some night, because they almost caught me. Can you imagine that. Huh? Parker? Huh? Pierce? All the way to New Haven and cops on my tail every inch a the way, roadblocks closin” up behind me, bang, bang, and then some highway patrolman, just as I was wheelin” into New Haven, he come roarin” outa this side road. See, they must a called ahead or somethin” and he come hot on my ass. I kicked it, man, arrrrgggggghhhhh ” ! Eighty-two per. Had a Porsche; he didn’t know who he was after; that stupid fuzz, eighty-two per, straight down the gut, people jumpin” outa my way, kids and businessmen and little old ladies, all of “em, and me kickin” ass, up to ninety-seven now, roarin” baby sirens all around me, so I cut into this alley and jump. Oh, Jesus, Christ, just lettin” the car go, I hit, roll, I’m up and runnin” down for this board fence, up and over, sirens all over now, I mean, ALL OVER, but I’m walkin” calm, I’m cool. Cops are goin” this way and that way. One of “em asks me if I seen a Porsche go by real fast. Did I see––
KRESS: JESUS-GODDAMN–the furnace room’s smellin” like the gas chamber!
(He rises to leave, PARKER following.)
PARKER: Right, Hummel. That’s right. I mean I liked your story about your really rotten uncle Roy better than the one about all the cars.
KRESS: Gotta go get our weapons.
PARKER: Defend our fuckin” selves.
PAVLO: I’ll see you guys later.
(They are gone. Silence.)
Hey, Pierce, you wanna hear my General Orders; make sure I know “em, okay? Like we’re on guard mount and you’re the O.D”. You wanna see if I’m sharp enough to be one a your boys. Okay? (Snapping to attention.) Sir! My first General Order is to take charge of this post and all government property in view, keeping always on the alert and “
PIERCE: Gimme your eighth, Hummel.
PAVLO: Eighth? No, no, lemme do “em one, two, three. You’ll mess me up I don’t do them one, two, three.
PIERCE: That’s the way it’s gonna be, Hummel. The man comes up to you on guard mount, he’s gonna be all over you–right on top a you yellin” down your throat. You understand me? He won’t be standin” back polite and pretty lettin” you run your mouth.
PAVLO: Just to practice, Pierce. I just wanna practice.
PIERCE: You don’t wanna practice shit. You just wanna stand there and have me pat your goddamned head for bein” a good boy. Don’t you know we stood here laughin” at you lyin” outa your ass? Don’t you have any pride, man?
PAVLO: I got pride. And anyway, they didn’t know I was lyin”.
PAVLO: And anyway, I wasn’t lyin”; it was story telling. They was just messin” with me a little, pickin” on me. My mom used to always tell my dad not to be so hard on me, but he knew.
(Whistle blows loudly from off.)
PIERCE: Let’s go.
PAVLO: See, he was hard on me “cause he loved me. I’m R.A., Pierce.
PIERCE: You got an R.A. prefix, man, but you ain’t Regular Army.
PAVLO: They was just jumpin” on me a little; pickin” on me.
(Again the whistle.)
PIERCE: That whistle means formation, man.
PAVLO: They’re just gonna draw weapons, and I already got mine.
PIERCE: That ain’t what I said, Jerkoff!
PAVLO: Well, I ain’t goin” out there to stand around doin” nothin” when I can stay right here and put the time to good use practicin” D and D.
(Again the whistle. The men are gathering; we hear their murmuring.)
PIERCE: You ain’t no motherin” exception to that whistle!
PAVLO: You ain’t any real corporal anyway, Pierce. So don’t get so big with me just because you got that hunk a thing wrapped around you–
PIERCE: Don’t you mess up my squad, Hummel! Don’t you make me look bad, or I’ll get you your legs broken.
PAVLO (as whistle blows and PIERCE is running and gone): I bet you never heard a individual initiative.
(Whistle again as soldiers rush in to line up in formation at parade rest while SERGEANT TOWER climbs to stand atop the platform.)
ARDELL: They don’t know, do they? They don’t know who they talkin” to.
ARDELL: You gonna be so straight.
PAVLO: So clean.
(As SERGEANT TOWER, noticing that someone is missing from formation, turns, descends, exits.)
(And he does the move with only a slight and quickly corrected error.)
ARDELL: Good, Pavlo. Good. (Slight pause.) Order Harms!
(There is some skill in the move.)
ARDELL: RIGHT SHOULDER ” HARMS!
(Pavlo’s head flinches, the rifle nicking the top of his helmet. His back is toward the group. SERGEANT TOWER enters, watches for a time.)
PAVLO: Goddammit. Shit.
(Again the rifle back to order arms.)
ARDELL: RIGHT SHOULDER”
(Again it is not good.)
You mother rifle. You stupid fucking rifle. RIGHT SHOULDER, HARMS. (He tries.) Mother! Stupid mother, whatsamatter with you? I’ll kill you! (And he has it high above his head. He is looking up.) Rifle, please. Work for me, do it for me. I know what to do, just do it.
ARDELL: Just go easy. Man ” just easy. It don’t mean that much. What’s it matter?
SERGEANT TOWER: What you doin”, Trainee?
PAVLO (snapping to attention): Yes, sir! Trainee Pavlo Hummel, sir.
SERGEANT TOWER: I didn’t ask you you name, boy. I asked you what you doin” in here when you supposed to be out on that formation?
PAVLO: Yes, sir.
SERGEANT TOWER: No, I don’t have no bars on my collar; do you see any bars on my collar?
PAVLO (looking): No’ No’
SERGEANT TOWER: But what do you see on my sleeve at about the height a my shoulder less a little, what do you see?
PAVLO: Stripes, Sergeant. Sergeant stripes.
SERGEANT TOWER: So how come you call me ‘sir”? I ain’t no sir. I don’t want to be no sir. I am a sergeant. Now do we know one another?
PAVLO: Yes, Sergeant.
SERGEANT TOWER: That mean you can answer my question in the proper manner, do it not?
PAVLO: I was practicin” D and D, Sergeant, to make me a good soldier.
SERGEANT TOWER: Ohhhhhhh! I think you tryin” to jive this ole man, that what you doin”. Or else you awful stupid, because all the good soldiers is out there in that formation like they supposed to when they hear that whistle. Now which?
PAVLO: Pardon, Sergeant?
SERGEANT TOWER: Which is it? You jivin” on me or you awful stupid, you take your pick. And lemme tell you why you can’t put no jive on the old sarge. Because long time ago, this ole sarge was one brand-new, baby-soft, smart-assed recruit. So I see you and I say, “What that young recruit doin” in that furnace room this whole company out there bein” talked at by the C.O.?” And the answer come to me like a blast a thunder, and this voice sayin” to me in my head, “This here young recruit jerkin” off, that what he doin”,” and then into my head come this picture and we ain’t in no furnace room, we in that jungle catchin” hell from this one little yellow man and his automatic weapon that he chained to up on top of this hill. “Get on up that hill!” I tell my young recruit. And he tell me, “Yes, Sergeant,” like he been taught, and then he start thinkin” to hisself, “What that ole sarge talkin” about, “run on up that hill? Ah git my ass blown clean away. I think maybe he got hit on his head, he don’t know what he talkin” about no more–maybe I go on over behind that ole rock–practice me a little D and D.” Ain’t that some shit the way them young recruits wanna carry on? So what I think we do, you and me, long about twenty-two hundred hours we do a little D and D and PT and all them kinda alphabetical things. Make you a good soldier.
PAVLO (thinking he wants to work with SERGEANT TOWER): I don’t think I can. That’s nighttime, Sergeant, and I’m a fireman. I got to watch the furnace.
SERGEANT TOWER: That don’t make me no never mind. We jus’ work it in between your shifts. You see? Ain’t it a wonder how you let the old sarge do the worryin” and figurin” and he find a way?
(Turns, starting to leave.)
PAVLO: Sergeant, I was wondering how many push-ups you can do. How many you can do, that’s how many I want to be able to do before I ever leave.
SERGEANT TOWER: Boy, don’t you go sayin” no shit like that, you won’t ever get out. You be an ole bearded blind fuckin” man pushin” up all over Georgia.
(SERGEANT TOWER moves to leave, and PAVLO, speaking immediately and rapidly, in a single rush of breath, again stops him. Incredulously, SERGEANT TOWER watches, starts to leave, watches.)
PAVLO: And I was wondering also, Sergeant Tower, and wanted to ask you–when I was leaving home, my mother wanted to come along to the train station, but I lied to her about the time. She would have wanted to hug me right in front of everybody. She would have waved a handkerchief at the train. It would have been awful.
(SERGEANT TOWER turns; now he is leaving.)
She would have stood there waving. Was I wrong?
CORPORAL: TEN-HUT! FORWARD HARCH!
(And the men begin to march in place, while PAVLO, without joining them, also marches.)
SERGEANT TOWER: AIn’t NO USE IN GOIN” HOME.
THE MEN (beginning to exit): AIn’t NO USE IN GOIN” HOME.
SERGEANT TOWER (at the side of the stage): JODY GOT YOUR GAL AND GONE.
THE MEN: JODY HUMPIN” ON AND ON.
SERGEANT TOWER: AIn’t NO USE IN GOIN” BACK.
(And PAVLO, in his own area, is marching away.)
THE MEN: JODY GOT OUR CADILLAC.
CORPORAL: AIn’t NO MATTER WHAT WE DO.
ALL: JODY DOIN” OUR SISTER, TOO.
CORPORAL: Count cadence, delayed cadence, count cadence, count!
ALL: One–two–three–four–One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. HEY!
(All are now gone except PAVLO, who spins out of his marching pattern to come stomping to a halt in the furnace-room area, while ARDELL drifts toward him.)
ARDELL: Oh, yeh; army train you, shape you up, teach you all kinds a good stuff. Like Bayonet. It all about what you do you got no more bullets and this man after you. So you put this knife on the end a your rifle, start yellin” and carryin” on. Then there Hand-to-Hand. Hand-to-Hand cool.
(PAVLO is watching, listening.)
It all about hittin” and kickin”. What you do when you got no gun and no knife. Then there CBR. CBR: Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Warfare. What you do when some mean mother-fucker hit you with some kinda chemical. You
(ARDELL mimes throwing a grenade at PAVLO.)
got green fuckin” killin” smoke all around you. What you gonna do? You gotta git on your protective mask. You ain’t got it?
PAVLO (choking): But I’m too beautiful to die. (Rummages about in the furnace room.)
ARDELL (throwing a mask to him): But you the only one who believe that, Pavlo. You gotta be hollerin” loud as you know how, “Gas!” And then, sweet Lord almighty, little bit later, you walkin” along, somebody else hit you with some kinda biological jive. But you know your shit. Mask on.
(And PAVLO, having put the mask on, is waving his arms.)
PAVLO: GAS! GAS! GAS!
ARDELL: You gettin” it, Pavlo. All right. Lookin” real good. But now you tired and you still walkin” and you come up on somebody bad–this boy mean–he hit you with radiation.
(PAVLO goes into a tense, defensive posture.)
PAVLO (realizing his helplessness): Awww.
ARDELL: That right. You know what you do? You kinda stand there, that what you do, whimperin” and talkin” to yourself, “cause he got you. You gotta be some kinda fool, somebody hit you with radiation, man, you put on a mask, start hollerin”, “Gas.” Am I lyin”? Pavlo. What do you say?
PAVLO: Aww, no’. No, man– No, No– No, no. No, no. Oh”
(There has been, toward the end of this, a gathering of a group of soldiers in the barracks area. PAVLO, muttering in denial of the radiation, crosses the stage hurriedly, fleeing the radiation, and runs into PARKER, who grabs him, spins him.)
I did not.
KRESS: The hell you didn’t.
PARKER (kneeling behind PAVLO to take a billfold from his pocket): You been found out, Jerkoff.
KRESS: We got people saw you. Straight honest guys.
PARKER: Get that thing (meaning the mask) off your face.
BURNS: The shit I didn’t see you.
PARKER: You never saw a billfold before in your life, is that what you’re tryin” to say? You didn’t even know what it was?
KRESS: Is that what you’re tryin” to say, Hummel?
KRESS: What are you tryin” to say?
PAVLO: I’m goin” to bed. (Moves toward his bed but is stopped by KRESS.)
KRESS: We already had two guys lose money to some thief around here, Shitbird, and we got people sayin” they saw you with Hinkle’s billfold in your pudgy little paws.
HINKLE (in a deep Southern drawl, as PARKER hands him the bill-fold he found on PAVLO): Is that right, Hummel?
PAVLO: I was just testin” you, Hinkle, to see how stupid you were leavin” your billfold layin” out like that when somebody’s been stealin” right in our own platoon. What kinda army is this anyway, you’re supposed to trust people with your life, you can’t even trust “em not to steal your money.
PARKER: Listen to him.
PAVLO: That’s the truth, Parker. I was just makin” a little test experiment to see how long it’d be before he’d notice it was gone. I don’t steal.
KRESS: What about all them cars?
PAVLO: What cars?
PARKER: The New Haven Caper, Jerkoff. You know.
PAVLO: Ohhh, that was different, you guys. That was altogether different.
KRESS: Yeh, they were cars, and you couldn’t fit them in your pocket.
PAVLO: Those people weren’t my friends.
PARKER: You don’t steal from your friends. That what you’re sayin”? Kress, Hummel says he don’t steal from his friends.
KRESS (jumping up on Pavlos bed, standing, walking about): Don’t that make his prospects pretty damn near unlimited.
PAVLO: Hey! Kress, what’re you doin”?
PAVLO: I said, What’re you up to? You’re on my bed.
KRESS: Who is?
PAVLO: You are. You are.
PAVLO: Right here. You’re on my bed. That’s my bed.
KRESS: No it isn’t. It’s not anybody’s. It’s not yours, Hummel.
PAVLO: It is too.
KRESS: Did you buy it?
PAVLO: Get off my bed, Kress!
KRESS: If you didn’t buy it, then how is it yours? Ugly!
PAVLO: It was given to me.
KRESS: By who?
PAVLO: You know by who, Kress. The army gave it to me. Get off it.
KRESS: Are you going to take it with you when you leave here? If it’s yours, you ought to be planning on taking it with you; are you?
PAVLO: I can’t do that.
KRESS: You’re taking people’s billfolds; you’re taking their money; why can’t you take this bed?
PAVLO: Because it was just loaned to me.
KRESS: Do you have any kind of papers to prove that? Do you have papers to prove that this is your bed?
PAVLO: There’s proof in the orderly room; in the orderly room, or maybe the supply room and you know it. That bed’s got a number on it somewhere and that number is like its name and that name is by my name on some papers somewhere in the supply room or the orderly room.
KRESS: Go get them.
PAVLO: What do you mean?
KRESS: Go get them. Bring them here.
PAVLO: I can’t.
KRESS: If they’re yours, you can.
PAVLO: They’re not my papers, it’s my bed. Get off my bed, Kress.
(KRESS kneels, taking a more total possession of the bed.)
Goddammit, Kress. GODDAMMIT!
(Silence as KRESS seems in fact about to lie down.)
All right. Okay. You sleep in my bed, I’m gonna sleep in yours.
(PAVLO charges toward Kress’s bed. KRESS rises a little, tense, as all stand, watching PAVLO.)
KRESS: No, Hummel.
PAVLO (yelling): The hell I ain’t, Kress.
KRESS: No, no, I strongly advise against it. I do strongly so advise. Or something awful might happen. I might get up in the middle of the night to take a leak and stagger back to my old bed. Lord knows what I might think you are ” laying there. Lord knows what I might do.
PAVLO (yelling): Then get out of my bed.
KRESS: You don’t understand at all, do you, Shitbird! I’m sleeping here. This is where I’m going to sleep. You’re not going to sleep anywhere. You’re going to sit up, or sleep on the floor, whatever. And in the morning, you’re going to make this bed. This one. Because if you don’t, it’ll be unmade when Sergeant Tower comes to inspect in the morning and, as we’ve already discussed, there’s papers somewhere in one room or another and they show whose bed this is.
PAVLO (rushing back, stomping, raging): GODDAMN YOU, KRESS, GET OUT OF MY BED! GET OFF MY BED! GET OUT OF IT!
(Whistle blows and everyone scrambles. There is the popping of many rifles firing as on the ramp across the back three or four men are in firing position; others stand behind them at port arms until SERGEANT TOWER calls, “Cease fire!” and the firing stops. The men who have been firing put their rifles on their shoulders to be cleared. SERGEANT TOWER walks behind them, tapping each on the head when he has seen the weapon is clear. The men leap to their feet. SERGEANT TOWER then steps out in front of them, begins to pace up and down.)
SERGEANT TOWER: GEN”LMEN! IT GETTIN” TOWARD DARK NOW AND WE GOT TO GET HOME. IT A LONG LONG WAYS TO HOME AND OUR MOTHERS GOT SUPPER READY WAITIN” FOR US. WHAT CAN WE DO? WE GOT TO GET HOME FAST AS WE CAN, WHAT CAN WE DO? DO ANYBODY HAVE AN IDEA? LET ME HEAR YOU SPEAK IF YOU DO. ” I HAVE AN IDEA. ANYBODY KNOW MY IDEA, LET ME HEAR IF YOU DO.
PAVLO: Run “
SERGEANT TOWER: WHAT?
MORE MEN: RUN!
SERGEANT TOWER: I CAn’t HEAR YOU.
THE MEN: WHAT?
SERGEANT TOWER: RUN!
THE MEN: RUN!
SERGEANT TOWER AND THE MEN: RUN! RUN! RUN! RUN! RUN!
SERGEANT TOWER (as the men still yell, “Run, run”): PORT HARMS ” WHOOO! DOUBLE TIME ” WHOOOOO!
(They have been running in place. Now SERGEANT TOWER leads them off. They exit, running, reappear, exit, and reappear, spreading out now, though PAVLO is fairly close behind SERGEANT TOWER, who enters once again to run to a point downstage, where he turns to PAVLO entering staggering, leading.)
(And PAVLO collapses. The others struggle in, fall down.)
PIERCE: FIVE GODDAMN MILES!
(All are in extreme pain.)
KRESS: MOTHER-GODDAMN-BITCH–I NEVER RAN NO FIVE GODDAMN MILES IN MY LIFE. YOU GOTTA BE CRAZY TO RUN FIVE GODDAMN MILEs’.
PARKER: I hurt. I hurt all over. I hurt, Kress. Oh, Christ.
PIERCE: There are guys spread from here to Range Two. You can be proud you made it, Parker. The whole company, man–they’re gonna be comin” in for the next ten days.
(And PARKER yells in pain.)