The Night Visitor

A cold, grey kitchen. A stove. A fridge. A stove with the oven door open to provide heat. A table. A single Christmas candle on it.

WAYNE is white and late 50’s to mid 60’s. HORACE is a black man, 40’S. Wayne wears a moldy, stained bathrobe and old slippers. He is disheveled. Horace wears a too-thin over coat. He wears a neat shirt and button down sweater beneath.

It is 1952

WAYNE

Well, sit down if you have to.

HORACE

I can stand, sir.

WAYNE

Suit yourself. I don’t care. I will.

He sits.

WAYNE

Don’t think I do this on a regular basis.

HORACE

I do appreciate it, sir.

WAYNE

Well, don’t. I’d do it for anybody. Even you.

(a moment)

You’re gonna be in my house and I offer you a chair, you sit.

Horace hesitates; then sits.

WAYNE

What the hell you doing out in weather like this anyway? Stupid nigger, you oughta be frozen to death.

(a beat)

Well? That was a question.

HORACE

No, sir, that was an insult.

WAYNE

You don’t like it, there’s the door.

Horace rises.

HORACE

Thank you for your hospitality, sir.

WAYNE

Now, hold on, hold on. I’m not gonna have you turned to an ice cycle on my conscience.

(a beat)

Tell you what, I won’t call you a nigger and you won’t take it personal.

Horace hesitates. He sits again.

WAYNE

And don’t call me, sir. My name’s Wayne McKee. You can call me Mister McKee. I don’t need to know who you are.

Silence.

WAYNE

Get up.

(rising)

I said, get up. Switch. This chair’s closer to the stove.

HORACE

No need.

WAYNE

I told you, this is my house. I say there’s a need, there’s a need, you don’t like it, you can go back out in the snow.

They switch.

HORACE

Thank you.

WAYNE

Don’t thank me. Told you, I’d do the same for anybody.

Then:

HORACE

I’m going home.

WAYNE

What?

HORACE

You ask me why I was out in the storm. I’m on my way home. For Christmas.

WAYNE

Hmmph. Where’s home?

HORACE

Newark.

WAYNE

New Jersey? That’s a eighty miles from here. You figured on walking?

HORACE

Till the snow picked up, I’d hoped to hitch some rides.

WAYNE

Hmmph. Didn’t have much luck, did ya.

HORACE

I did. All the way from Boston. Nice couple. They dropped me off about a mile from here. Then it began to snow.

WAYNE

White?

HORACE

Snow is white, yes, sir.

WAYNE

No. This couple, picked you up. Were they white?

HORACE

Yes, they were.

WAYNE

Wouldn’t catch me doin’ that, take my life in my hands.

HORACE

You are one bitter old, cracker, aren’tcha?

A MOMENT

WAYNE

You want coffee?

HORACE

Don’t go to any trouble.

WAYNE

It’s made. Just gotta heat it.

HORACE

Hot coffee’d be nice.

Wayne rises. Heats coffee on the stove.

WAYNE

Got family?

HORACE

Yes, I do.

WAYNE

Wife?

HORACE

I don’t think she’s tired of me yet.

WAYNE

Hmmph. Kids?

HORACE

A boy, three girls.

WAYNE

You got all these children, what are you doin’ in Boston?

HORACE

Lookin’ for a job.

WAYNE

No jobs in Newark?

HORACE

Not the kind of jobs I’m lookin’ for.

WAYNE

And what is the right kind of job for a smarty-pants like you?

HORACE

I’m a chef.

WAYNE

A cook?

HORACE

No. A chef.

WAYNE

Same thing.

HORACE

No, it’s not.

WAYNE

What’s the difference?

HORACE

The difference is the food you make.

WAYNE

What do you make?

HORACE

For Christmas dinner tomorrow, I’ll be cooking shrimp Etouffee, a roasted acorn squash salad, cranberry relish. Gratin Dauphinoise. Cochon de Lait.

WAYNE

What’s that?

HORACE

It’s Cajun style roast pig.

WAYNE

You got something against turkey?

HORACE

Not a thing. I do it with oyster cornbread stuffing.

WAYNE

Dessert?

HORACE

My specialty.

WAYNE

Yeah, well, I’m not one for fancy food.

HORACE

You would be if I cooked it, Mr. McKee.

WAYNE

Coffee’s hot. I don’t have milk.

He puts down two mugs. He sips.

HORACE

You got family, Mr. McKee?

WAYNE

Course I got family. What do you think I am?

HORACE

Wife?

WAYNE

Dead.

HORACE

Children?

WAYNE

I got a daughter. She’s got her own life. Not here.

HORACE

You have friends?

WAYNE

You are one nosey nigger.

HORACE

That may be, but I got a wife, children and friends and I got a warm, happy place to go for Christmas.

WAYNE

But you’re not there, are you?

HORACE

Just a matter of time. They’ll be waitin’ for me.

WAYNE

I think you should go back out in that blizzard and leave me alone.

A moment

HORACE

You want to come with me?

WAYNE

What are you talkin’ about?

HORACE

You want to come with me, Mr. McKee. To Newark? A man shouldn’t be alone, no food or company, at Christmas.

WAYNE

Me in a room with a buncha little Pica ninnies? You got your nerve.

HORACE

Mr. McKee, I guess you never got nothing but sticks and rocks in your shoes for Christmas.

WAYNE

You don’t like it, you can leave. Leave goddamn you!

Horace rises, puts on his coat, starts to exit –

WAYNE

Don’t go.

(a moment)

I’ve been sitting here. All day long. Hardly able to move. Wondering. What did I do wrong. What happened, why is it like this? I can’t seem to figure it out.

HORACE

Can I tell you a story?

WAYNE

At this moment, you can do anything you want.

HORACE

Once upon a time there was a lonely, old man. Christmas came this one year and he had no tree, no presents, no people. He just sat around in an old bathrobe being sad with the world. He had a daughter he could call but he didn’t want to because she hadn’t called him. He had a Christmas candle on his table, one his wife had bought a long time ago, but he couldn’t bring himself to light it.

Horace proceeds to search the kitchen for more matches as he talks.

HORACE

Well, that Christmas Eve day it began to snow early. Snow so heavy, it was like a weight. That old man was sittin’ there, when there was a knock on his back door. When he opened it there was this black man standing there, cold, not dressed for it. He asked if he could come in, get warm. The old man didn’t like black people but he said yes. He tried to pretend it was an imposition but truth is, if someone hadn’t shown up at his back door, he just might of been getting ready to stick his head in an unlit gas

oven. He had no idea that angels are out and about on Christmas Eve, searching for somebody needs a friend. Furthermore, this old man had no idea that the only way you get a visit from an angel is by inviting him in. And then when that ol’ angel tries to leave, you have to ask him to stay. You have to offer him some old fashioned hospitality. Like a cup of bad coffee.

He’s found some matches

HORACE

Now I’m no angel, Mr. McKee, and we both know you not that stubborn, unhappy old man, but I do know that inviting somebody in, is one way of getting a Christmas candle lit.

Horace lights the candle. Silence.

WAYNE

I got a car.

HORACE

What’s that?

WAYNE

I got a car in the garage outside. I could drive you. Down to Newark.

HORACE

In this weather?

WAYNE

It’s got snow tires, it’ll make it.

HORACE

Only if you’ll have Christmas with us tomorrow. Dinner. With the Picka ninnies.

Wayne gives a quick, hard nod. He holds out hand.

WAYNE

My name’s Wayne.

HORACE

My name’s Horace.

They shake.

WAYNE

Merry Christmas, Horace.

(then; releasing his hand)

I’ll get the keys.

Lights to black.