White Linen

THE PLAYING SPACE IS WIDE OPEN, DUSTY AND DIM, FRAMED BY ROUGH HEWN BEAMS. THERE IS AN UPPER LEVEL; WHAT MIGHT BE AN OLD EMPTY HAY LOFT OR STORAGE AREA.

IT IS NIGHT. MOONLIGHT THROWS THE SHADOW OF CELL BARS ACROSS THE PLAYING AREA

MEN ARE SITTING ON BUNKS AND WOODEN CRATES STAGE LEVEL – BACK CENTER.

JOHN WESLEY HARDIN IS IN HIS EARLY TWENTIES. WILD BILL LONGLEY IS AROUND FORTY.

THE MUSICIANS ARE AGELESS. THEY POSSESS A STOIC, DISCOURAGED, SOMEWHAT ALCOHOLIC DIGNITY; ARE DRESSED LIKE UNDERTAKERS FALLEN ON HARD TIMES; DARK, DUSTY SUITS, BOWLER HATS, MOURNFUL LOOKING MOUSTACHES AS DROOPY AS THEIR STRING TIES.

NOTE: BESIDES PROVIDING PART OR ALL OF THE MUSICAL ACOMPANIMENT FOR THE SONGS, THE MUSICIANS WILL SUPPLY “SOUND EFFECTS” TO ON-STAGE ACTION.

NOW, AS THE MUSICIANS STRUM AND PLAY, ONE SINGS:

THE MUSICIAN

As I walked out in the streets or Laredo, as I walked out in Laredo one day, I spied a poor cowboy all wrapped in…

(pause)

I spied a poor cowboy all wrapped in…

LONGLEY

Wrapped in what?

(THE MUSICIAN SHRUGS.)

LONGLEY

Ain’t figured it out yet, huh?

(singing)

I spied a poor cowboy all wrapped in… burlap.

(THE MUSICIAN SHAKES HIS HEAD)

LONGLEY

Naw. Alfalfa.

(singing)

All wrapped in alfalfa!

(speaking)

That fits. Don’t sound quite right though.

(singing)

I spied a poor cowboy all wrapped in… Shit. Well, don’t worry none. We’ll get it. Lord knows we got the time.

(WES HAS BEEN READING FROM AN OLD, TATTERED PENNY PERIODICAL.)

WES

Hey, Bill? Says here on page one a Great Western Tales that you, William “Wild Bill” Longley, was possibly shot dead in Texas, Souix Territories or Mexico even.

LONGLEY

Does it.

WES

It does. Also says you was almost strung up by vigilantes who was upset that you was takin’ more than a passin’ interest in their cattle.

LONGLEY

Interestin’.

WES

Say. Who writes this stuff anyways?

LONGLEY

Dudes. Crackpots. Got more imagination than talent. Turn the page an you’ll probably read I was on the side a the injuns at Little Big Horn.

WES

No. It don’t say that. Says that Kit Carson once shot a hundred buffalo with a hundred shots. Hit each one plumb in the eyes. Damn.

LONGLEY

You ever seen a buffalo, boy?

WES

Not so’s I recollect.

LONGLEY

They offer`bout as much of a moving target as a milkcow. Any asshole can hit one. And has. That’s why you never see’m no more.

WES

(reading)

Bat Masterson faced down, out drew and shot dead six ruthless desperados at Coopers Crossing, Kansas. Left them…

LONGLEY

Supine.

WES

– and squirming in the sodden soil, their carcasses dripping with gore. Whew!

LONGLEY

If Bat Masterson did that, it was at a hundred yards with a Winchester rifle and the dumb bastards he shot didn’t have enough sense to get out of the way.

WES

Hold on now. I hear tell Bat Masterson is one a the greatest lawmen ever been.

LONGLEY

He ain’t dead yet. Which is more than I can say for me in the very near future.

WES

(sighing)

Yes.

LONGLEY

Oh, now, what are you lookin’ all glum about? You ain’t the one gettin’ hung.

WES

They’re sendin’ me to prison. I’d rather die.

LONGLEY

Well, you are a fool. Beats me how you ever come to trod the wayward path.

WES

Beats me too.

LONGLEY

I, on the other hand, was born to end up here.

WES

What? You believe a man is born to trod the wayward path?

LONGLEY

You don’t?

WES

I surely do not.

LONGLEY

You figure some people just sorta develop a natural affinity for the work?

WES

I think good fortune comes from good intentions is what I think.

(GUFFAWS AND GIGGLES FROM THE MUSICIANS)

WES

It does. Furthermore, it is my opinion that conscience is the mark of a man.

LONGLEY

Oh, lord, a fanatic.

MUSICIAN

I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in –

WES

Tortillas!

LONGLEY

Tortillas?

WES

Somethin’ wrong with tortillas?

LONGLEY

He’s a cowboy not no caballero.

WES

I don’t see you doin’ no better.

(WES PICKS UP AND READS FROM GREAT WESTERN TALES.)

WES

Doc Holiday, the consumptive surgeon from St. Louis –

LONGLEY

Doc Holiday was a dentist, ya dang fool.

WES

– once shot a man and then, usin’a soup soon and a bowie knife, operated on him, hopin’ to save his worthless life. Sadly the patient did not make it. You can bet that weren’t Doc Holiday’s fault.

LONGLEY

Boy… if you was any dumber, they’d have to water ya.

(THE MUSICIANS GUFFAW. THEY APPRECIATE LONGLEY’S JOKES. WES GLARES ANGRILY. THE MUSICIANS BEGIN TO SAW AND BOW.)

SONG * DIME STORE NOVELS

LONGLEY

A legend is a damn fool’s life

A hero’s just a man

It’s fate combined with circumstance

You do the best you can

In hope and desperation

Until the day you die

Believe this, boy, nah, maybe don’t

I’ll always tell a lie.

WES

Every since I heard a indians I knew what I would be

A cowboy and an army scout

Who road the wild prairie as his own.

LONGLEY

Legend and tales, exploits and glory

Who gives a damn, it’s a hard luck story

Outlaws and whores, bloodshed and tears

With the wave of a pen, it’s all trumpets and cheers

We’re talkin’ fact not fable, the truth will set you free

Believe this, boy, nah, maybe don’t

I’m fond of perjury

WES

Every since I heard of indians I knew what I would be

A cowboy lightnin’ on the draw,

Who faced and faught the dread outlaw

But life don’t make no sense at all

The outlaw man is me.

LONGLEY

Dimestore novels and two penny dreadfuls

paint something vivid and fair

But cowshit ain’t gold dust and hoodlums ain’t hero’s

Better beware what you read’s not out there.

Boys hear what they want to hear,

it gets them through their youth

Believe this, boy, nah, maybe don’t

I never tell the truth.

WES

Ever since I heard of Indians I knew what I would be.

(THE MUSICIANS CONTINUE TO PLAY. A CHANGE SWIRLS AROUND WES AND LONGLEY. COWBOYS AND SALOON GIRLS ENTER AND PULL CRATES AND BOARDS FORWARD – THEY BECOME SALOON TABLES AND CHAIRS. LONGLEY BUCKLES ON A HOLSTER AND REACHES FOR DUSTY SADDLEBAGS.)

WES

You don’t remember me much, do ya?

LONGLEY

Should I?

WES

Seems to me when you change the course of a man’s life you oughta at least do’m the favor of rememberin’m.

LONGLEY

I did that?

WES

You did.

LONGLEY

Well, I don’t.

WES

You remember bein’ around Livingston, Texas?

LONGLEY

Maybe I do, maybe I don’t.

WES

I do. I remember it – and you – like it was yesterday.

(LONGLEY MOVES DOWN TO THE TABLE. HE SITS. HE DEALS HIMSELF A HAND OF SOLITAIRE.

SIMP DIXON, A BLACK MAN OF WES’S AGE, RUNS ON CALLING BACK OVER HIS SHOULDER.)

SIMP

C’mon, Wesley! It’s Bill Longley! Wild Bill Longley! And J.W.’s gonna call him out! Wesley! Will you hurry! We’s gonna miss the whole thing!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(HE TRIPS AND FALLS RIGHT AT WES’S FEET. WES HELPS HIM UP.)

SIMP

Right along here is where I seen him. A comin’ down Main Street as easy as you please. Long moustaches. Silver spurs! Bill Longley! Just like on the wanted posters.

WES

Simp Dixon, if brains was sunshine, you’d be rain.

SIMP

Sheriff seen him and jumped right on his horse and went off to get Federal troops. But ain’t no bluebellied Yankees can capture Wild Bill Longley!

(SIMP DUCKS DOWN ONTO HIS HANDS AND KNEES. HE CRAWLS A FEW PACES AND THEN PEERS UP AT THE CARD PLAYING LONGLEY.)

SIMP

(to Wesley)

Bill Longley. That man is worth five thousand dollars. Gawd, Wesley! His moustaches must be longer’n the Rio Grande. Maybe we’ll git lucky and he’ll kill somebody!

(COMMOTION FROM OFF-STAGE. J.W. GROOBER ENTERS; FREEZES. A MUSICIAN SHAKES A RATTLESNAKE RATTLE. J.W. IS AS DIRTY. HE WEARS AN ENORMOUS BLACK HAT. HE WEARS FANCY SPURS ON HIS DUSTY BOOTS. A MUSICIAN CLINKS A KEY RING SO THAT THE SPURS “CHINK” WITH EVERY STEP J.W. TAKES. HE IS BACKED BY SEVERAL GRINNING “CRONIES”.)

J.W.

Bill Longley in thar’!?

SIMP

Shore is!

J.W.

(spitting)

Tha’s good.

(J.W. ENTERS – CHINK! CHINK! – HIS CRONIES FOLLOWING HIM STEP FOR STEP. HE SHOVES SIMP OUT OF THE WAY.)

J.W.

Thought I told you to stay out a here, boy!

WES

(protective of Simp)

Dang it, J.W., just cause you wear a gun doesn’t mean you got to go out of your way to –

J.W.

(all menace)

To what?

(THE MUSICIAN SHAKES THE RATTLESNAKE RATTLE.)

WES

…get yourself shot.

J.W.

Ain’t nobody faster’n me.

(HE DRAWS AND SPINS HIS PISTOL. HIS CRONIES OOH! AND AHH!)

SIMP

(impressed)

Gawd!

LONGLEY

(bored)

Damn.

WES

Federal troops comin’. I’d wait for’m.

J.W.

Ain’t no reward federal troops git’m. He’s mine!

(HE HOLSTERS HIS GUN. HE CROSSES TO LONGLEY. THE CLOSER HE GETS, THE MORE NERVOUS EVERYONE GETS. LONGLEY CONTINUES TO PLAY CARDS.)

J.W.

You Bill Longley!?

LONGLEY

You Wyatt Earp?

(LAUGHTER. J.W. SILENCES IT WITH A FURIOUS LOOK.)

J.W.

I’m J.W. Groober, dep’ty sheriff a Livingston, Texas an’ yore under arrest.

LONGLEY

How you plannin’ on takin’ me in, Dep’ty Sheriff?

J.W.

With… this!

(J.W. DRAWS HIS GUN FROM HIS HOLSTER. HE “SPINS” IT. OOHS! AND AHHS! FROM HIS CRONIES. J.W. GRINS.)

LONGLEY

Dang. That’s a beauty. You gonna shoot me with it?

J.W.

You don’t come along peaceful, I reckon I’ll have to.

LONGLEY

Well…

(LONGLEY RISES. EVERYONE COWERS. LONGLEY TWITCHES JUST TO SEE THEM COWER SOME MORE.)

LONGLEY

You got me, Dep’ty Sheriff. You want my shootin’ iron?

J.W.

(annoyed that it should be so easy)

You mean you’re just gonna give it to me?

LONGLEY

Hell, yes.

(LONGLEY TAKES OFF HIS GUN AND HOLSTER. HE HANDS IT TO J.W.)

LONGLEY

Weren’t expectin’ there to be such a tough lawman in such a small town, Dep’ty Sheriff.

J.W.

You spected wrong. I did it. I arrested Bill Longley. I’m gonna be rich on reward money! I arrested Bill Longley!!

COWBOYS

(ad-libbing)

Knew ya could, J.W. Way to go, J.W. We’s with ya, J.W.

J.W.

An you was sposed to be a desperado. Why, you ain’t nothin’ but the color yellow with a fancy rep. An I got ya.

LONGLEY

Can I get some cigars from my saddlebag to take over to the jail with me?

J.W.

Shore. Go ahead. You’ll need’m. But don’t try nothin’!

I got ya covered. Hey, Boys! I got Bill Longley covered!

(THE COWBOYS CONGRATULATE J.W. AGAIN.)

WES

Jesus, J.W., if brains was show –

(LONGLEY PULLS A PISTOL FROM HIS SADDLEBAG, AIMS IT – )

J.W.

Hey.

(BANG! A MUSICIAN HITS A RIM SHOT ON A SNAREDRUM – LONGLEY SHOOTS THE GUN RIGHT OUT OF J.W.’S HAND. THE CROWD SCATTERS.)

WES

(wide eyed)

– you wouldn’t be worth the price a admission.

(J.W. FALLS TO HIS KNEES.)

J.W.

Aw, please, Mr. Longley, sir, don’t kill me, please….

(LONGLEY STICKS HIS PISTOL UNDER J.W.’S NOSE. HE COCKS IT.)

WES

Mr. Longley?

(LONGLEY SPINS, AIMING.)

WES

Sheriff rode for Federal troops. You can spect’m presently.

LONGLEY

That a fact.

(looking at J.W.’s gun)

You own one a these?

WES

I do not. They seem like nothin’ but trouble to me.

(LONGLEY PICKS UP J.W.’S GUN, TOSSES IT TO WES. WES CATCHES IT LIKE A HOT POTATO. LONGLEY GATHERS HIS THINGS.)

LONGLEY

You ever draw that thing, don’t make designs in the air with it. You make damn sure you plan on shootin’ it.

(to the crowd)

Boo!

(THE CROWD CRINGES. J.W. FAINTS. LONGLEY EXITS INTO THE SHADOWS. COWBOYS CARRY THE SENSELESS J.W. OFF. LIGHTCHANGE; BACK TO THE JAIL CELL. WES STARES IN AWE AT THE GUN IN HAND.)

WES

You shot the gun right out of his hand. Fast as lightnin’, twice as slick. It was the most wonderfulest thing I ever saw.

LONGLEY

I missed.

WES

What?

LONGLEY

I missed. I was aimin’ for his son of a bitchin’ heart.

WES

His heart?

LONGLEY

Left ventricle.

WES

But… that woulda killed him!

LONGLEY

No foolin’.

WES

But… why would ya have wanted to go and do that?

LONGLEY

I didn’t like his attitude. What a you think guns are about, target practice? Guns are about killin’ people.

WES

Yes. That is a fact.

(suddenly angry)

So why’d you have to go and give me one!?

LONGLEY

Why didn’t you throw it away?

WES

(defensively)

You own a gun, you oughta know how to use it.

LONGLEY

I guess you’re gonna tell me you didn’t like the cool, slick feel of it in your hand.

WES

I did not!

LONGLEY

It sorta just stuck itself on your hip all by it’s lonesome, did it?

(A MOMENT. LIGHTCHANGE AND RIMSHOTS AS WES SPINS AND FIRES OFF SEVERAL SHOTS. SIMP ENTERS.)

SIMP

Yore gettin’ good.

WES

Wanna try?

SIMP

Do I?

(taking the gun)

I ever show you my fast draw, Wesley?

WES

Now don’t you go bein’ foolish, Simp. Simp, you be careful now. Simp!

SIMP

Yaaaah!

(SIMP DRAWS, BARELY CLEARING HIS BELT, AND FIRES -RIMSHOT! – INTO THE GROUND AT WES’S FEET. BOTH JUMP. SIMP DROPS THE GUN.)

WES

Goddammit to hell, Simp Dixon! You almost blew my foot to smithereens!

SIMP

Weren’t my fault! Damn thing went off!

WES

(swinging at him)

You dumb ass!

SIMP

(swinging back)

Who you callin’ a dumbass!?

(THEY THROW WILD PUNCHES. THE PUNCHES DEGENERATE INTO A WRESTLING MATCH. THE SHERIFF AND A LIMPING, ONE ARMED GABBY HAYES OF A MAN – WES’S FATHER – ENTER.)

HARDIN

Good for nothin’ sons a bitches! Can’t do a lick a work but can beat each other’s heads in! Stop it, dad blast ya, stop it, the both a ya!

(HE BREAKS UP THE FIGHT WITH WELL PLACED KICKS.)

HARDIN

Sheriff wants to talk to ya. Answer his questions as best ya can which god knows ain’t gonna be very good. Then back to work!

SHERIFF

Head strong and full of juice, ain’t they.

HARDIN

War killed off anybody that could put’m in their place. Too big for their britches I’d say.

(exiting)

Dadblab, flibidybob, ratzafratzin’ no account (garble) – !

SHERIFF

He still bitchin’ and moanin’ about the south losin’ the civil war?

WES

South mighta lost, Texas didn’t.

SHERIFF

Don’t tell that to the Federal troops round Livingston.

(HE PICKS UP THE PISTOL.)

SHERIFF

Hope you boys ain’t gettin’ too good with this.

WES

You want it, Sheriff, you take it.

SHERIFF

What would I do with it? Keep it. Word has it, Wesley, you tole Bill Longley I was comin’ with the Federal troops.

Don’t bother me none. Soldier blues’d blown half the town to hell gettin’ him. Them townspeople didn’t end up dead a been mighty pissed off. Some ain’t too happy though. Specially ol’ J.W. He sorta lost face in front a whole lot of folk.

WES

Bout time, you ask me. He’s bullied and pushed everybody in Livingston for too long.

SHERIFF

Be that as it may, the way he’s talkin’, I’d say he wants that face back by gettin’ hisself a piece a you, son.

WES

What!?

SIMP

Wes’ll fix’m if he tries, the ornery son of –

WES

Simp! Sheriff, J.W.’s as mean as a snake. I ain’t goin’ near him.

SHERIFF

I think that’s wise. I guess you figured out what I come to tell ya, Wesley. You stay away from J.W. Groober.

WES

He gonna stay away from me?

SHERIFF

Something happens, I’ll do what I have to do. Ain’t got the energy or inclination to do different. See ya, boys.

(HE EXITS.)

SIMP

Don’t you worry, Wes. That bad ass, J.W., messes with you, we’ll fix him. Might take you a year or so to recuperate but our memories are long and our minds are crafty. Guess we oughta get back to work.

(HE EXITS. LIGHTCHANGE. )

WES

Nothin’ but trouble.

LONGLEY

You talkin’ about guns again?

WES

I’m talkin’ about life!

LONGLEY

Thought you said good fortune comes from good intentions.

WES

It does! But…

LONGLEY

But what?

WES

Sometimes life is the damnest thing…

(LONGLEY LAUGHS. THE MUSICIANS BEGIN TO BOW AND STRUM AS:)

LONGLEY

Tell me about it, boy.

SONG * THEY BLAME IT ON ME.

WES

I could walk slow, talk soft, shoot, I’d get arrested

I could jump down, spin around, dang, I’d break a leg.

Hum a little tune and a hurricane answers.

Be alone, fart, an’ the cattle stampede.

Sometimes life is the damnest thing,

it starts off sweet and fine!

But things go wrong like anything,

when things go wrong, they blame it on me!

LONGLEY

(speaking)

Be specific, boy.

WES

Wash your hands, mind your manners, son, walk the straight and narrow,

Shut your face, pay attention, lord, a body can’t breath.

Get to work, go to school, god, everybody’s yellin’.

The children need a lesson

The teacher ain’t discernin’

So a body gets a whippin’

an’ a note for his daddy

which means another whippin’

guess who that boy be.

(spoken)

Me! I’m only doin’ this cause I love ya. This hurts me way more’n it does you. This is for your own good, son.

LONGLEY

You’ll thank me for this someday.

WES

Right.

(singing)

Find a dollar in the dirt.

MUSICIANS

Thief!

WES

Somebody stole it. Shoot a rabbit for my dinner.

MUSICIANS

No!

WES

It’s somebody’s pet. Kiss a girl cause she let me.

MUSICIANS

Help!

WES

Her daddy’s talkin’ marriage.

Cause she’s gonna have a baby,

everybody’s pointin’ fingers,

an the family’s are a’feudin’

and I hate to hurt her feelin’s

but I ain’t there yet.

Sometimes life is the damnest thing

You play by all the rules

But things go wrong like anything

When things go wrong,

when things go wrong,

they blame it on me

LONGLEY

(speaking)

This is exactly what I’m always sayin’.

WES

I could go to town, hang around, dang, I’d cause a riot

I could walk slow, talk soft, somebody’s mad,

sing a song, walk home, mind my own business.

turn around, fall down,

broke head, drop dead,

tell the truth, no use,

face jail, no bail,

leave home, born to roam,

on my own, all alone,

make a friend, jail again,

stand tall, dang it all…

(speaking)

Just… just dang it all.

(a moment, singing)

When things go wrong they blame it on me.

Sometimes life is the damnest thing,

it starts off sweet and fine

But things go wrong like anything,

when things go wrong…

when things go wrong…

when things go wrong…

THE MUSICIANS

We blame it on him!

(LIGHTCHANGE. SOLDIERS ENTER. THEY ARRANGE THEMSELVES IN POZES OF LAZY RELAXATION.)

WES

Some days you’d go down to Livingston, there’d be so many bluebellies you’d think you was in Washington D.C.

LONGLEY

Seems to me, you’da avoided the place then.

WES

Yeah, well…

(MAGGIE SHAW ENTERS AND STRIKES A PRETTY POSE.)

LONGLEY

Well now.

WES

Miss Maggie Shaw.

LONGLEY

Prettier’n sunrise.

(THE SOLDIERS THINK SO TOO. ONE OF THEM APPROACHES, TIPS HIS HAT.)

SOLDIER

Can I walk with you, little lady?

(MAGGIE SMILES. AND THEN KNEES HIM IN THE GROIN.)

WES

Feisty too.

(approaching her)

Can I walk with you, Miss Maggie Shaw?

(SHE GRABS HIS ARM, GLARING.)

WES

Nice day.

MAGGIE

(pushing the arm away)

Don’t you go gettin’ no ideas, Mister John Wesley Hardin.

WES

Don’t take no revelations to know it’s a nice day.

MAGGIE

Only reason I’m walkin’ with you is cause I can’t take those Yankee jackasses hootin’ for another minute.

WES

Well, I’m more’n happy to –

MAGGIE

I don’t know what’s worse, Yankee jackasses or Texas jackasses.

WES

You referrin’ to me?

MAGGIE

I’m referrin’ to this whole miserable territory. Men smell like manure and got the manners a billygoats.

WES

Well, don’t you talk high and mighty for a body born and bred here.

MAGGIE

I ain’t stayin’ here. Soon as I can I’m goin’ to St. Louis, San Francisco and Paris, France.

WES

And how you gonna do that?

MAGGIE

I’m gonna make me a pile a money. I’m gonna wear pearls around my neck, John Wesley Hardin.

WES

If dreams was pearls, we’d all be rich.

MAGGIE

Shows what you know.

WES

Well, this is as far as I am goin’.

MAGGIE

When you walk a lady, you take her to her destination. I am goin’ down the street.

WES

Well, I ain’t. I’m goin’ to the general store. Gotta get an ax handle. Where you’d think we’s headin’? Paris, France? And besides, you ain’t no lady.

(SHE SWINGS AT HIM. HE DUCKS AND RUNS. BRISTLING WITH FURY, SHE STORMS OFF. LIGHTCHANGE. LONGLEY STARES AT A SADLY WISTFUL WES FOR A LONG MOMENT.)

LONGLEY

I take it you was in love with her?

WES

I guess.

LONGLEY

You tell her?

WES

I was gonna.

LONGLEY

But you didn’t.

WES

(getting annoyed)

I intended to.

LONGLEY

(reading from the penny perodical)

Jeremiah Johnson, the famous Colorado mountain man, once killed over thirty Crows and ate their livers.

WES

Why’d he wanna go do that? Bird livers.

LONGLEY

Crows are indians, boy.

WES

Oh…

LONGLEY

Squeamish, are ya?

WES

You don’t mind.

LONGLEY

Damn, boy, how’d you ever even work up the courage to leave home?

(WES IS SILENT. AND THEN:)

WES

I was gonna be a lawyer, y’know.

LONGLEY

That a fact.

WES

I read up on it. I was gonna take one a them correspondence courses.

LONGLEY

That a fact.

WES

I didn’t.

LONGLEY

Why’s that.

WES

Weren’t a court a law in our part a Texas for four hundred miles.

LONGLEY

I find that encouragin’, boy.

(LIGHTCHANGE. SIMP IS SUDDENLY THROWN ON FROM THE SHADOWS. J.W. AND HIS CRONIES ENTER AS SIMP PICKS HIMSELF UP.)

J.W.

How many times I gotta tell you to stay outside where you belong, boy!

(J.W. BEGINS UNWINDING A LENGTH OF ROPE FROM AROUND HIS WAIST.)

SIMP

Dang it all, J.W., ain’t you heard a the emancipation proclamation? You touch one hair on my poor, sufferin’ head, soldier blues’ll gonna throw your bone dumb, white trash ass in jail and throw away the key.

J.W.

You see any soldier blues round here? I surely don’t. Time to teach you some manners, boy.

(HE CRACKS THE ROPE – A MUSICIAN SUPPLIES THE CRACK OF A BULLWHIP. WES LEAPS SUDDENLY FORWARD, BRANDISHING THE AX HANDLE.)

WES

You leave him be!

J.W.

Well, well… John Wesley Hardin… here’s the boy distracted us all long enough for Bill Longley to pull a gun on me. Ain’t that right, boys?

(silence; “cracking” the whip)

Ain’t that right, boys?

THE CRONIES

(quickly)

That’s right, J.W.! He did, J.W.! Dang right!

(MAGGIE ENTERS, SEES WHAT IS TAKING PLACE, RUNS OFF.)

J.W.

Here’s the boy told Longley solder-blues was comin’!

SIMP

You’re lucky he did, J.W.! Bill Longley was fixin’ to put a bullet tween your scared, crossed, teary eyes.

WES

Simp!

J.W.

Here’s the boy, stripped the gun from my unconscious body, the gun that rightly belongs to me!

WES

You want it, you come out to the place and get it.

J.W.

This town is screamin’ for justice!

WES

Aw, J.W., this town’s no more screamin’ for justice than a herd a goats. You got made a fool of is all. Now just what is it you want from me?

J.W.

Blood.

(J.W. “CRACKS” THE WHIP. WES DODGES, THE AX HANDLE IN FRONT OF HIM. THEY CIRCLE ONE ANOTHER.)

J.W.

You are in trouble, Wes Hardin.

(HE SNAPS THE WHIP. WES DODGES, TRIES TO GET INSIDE IT TO SWING THE AX HANDLE. J.W. EASILY EVADES HIM. HE CRACKS THE WHIP. WES DODGES, GOES SPRAWLING, LOSING THE AX HANDLE. HE GOES FOR IT. ONE OF J.W.’S CRONIES KICKS IT OUT OF REACH.)

J.W.

Big trouble.

(HE CRACKS THE WHIP. WES DODGES. HE CRACKS IT AGAIN. WES DODGES BUT ONLY BARELY. SUDDENLY SIMP THROWS HIMSELF AT J.W., STRUGGLING WITH HIM)

SIMP

Run, Wesley, run!

(J.W. KNOCKS SIMP TO THE GROUND. HE RAISES THE WHIP – )

A CRONY

Yankee’s comin’!

(J.W. AND HIS CRONIES IMMEDIATELY BACK OFF, ACT LIKE NOTHING IS HAPPENING. MAGGIE AND THE SOLDIERS ENTER.)

MAGGIE

And where is it you’re from again? Newark, New Jersey! Why that must be the most excitin’ place in creation. You all are just the most excitin’ people! Only way a farm girl like me stands a chance with such sophisticated gentlemen is to play hard to get. Why, there he is! There’s my little brother, playin’ in the mud with the pigs as usual!

J.W.

You and me ain’t finished, Wes Hardin.

(J.W. AND HIS CRONIES EXIT.)

MAGGIE

Say howdy to the nice soldiers, Wesley. Say it!

WES

Howdy.

MAGGIE

Good. Now where were we. Oh, that’s right. We were all discussin’ which one a you handsome boys was gonna get to walk me home.

(WITH A LAST HAUGHTY LOOK AT WES, MAGGIE EXITS WITH THE SOLDIERS. WES WATCHES HER GO.

LAUGHING, SIMP RISES, KNOCKING THE DUST OFF.)

SIMP

Dang, Wesley. We did it. We gol’dang did it! We fought ol’ J.W. to a standstill. You an’ me.

WES

We did, didn’t we.

SIMP

Dang right we did.

WES

Whooo-eee! We sure did! You was good.

SIMP

You was better.

WES

We was equal. So to speak.

SIMP

So to. Hey. Pards.

WES

Pards inseparable!

SONG: PARDS

SIMP

Pards stick together

through all kinds of weather

Specially when the goin’ gets hard.

WES AND SIMP

Pards are like mem’ries

I don’t got no mem’ries

of an hour or a mornin’,

from the day I was born

ain’t a moment when you weren’t my pard

WES

I remember a time when I climbed up a tree.

And I couldn’t get down.

You climbed up after me.

SIMP

I said, follow me down. But you hung on instead.

WES

So you shook the dang branches

an’ I fell on my head.

SIMP

Were you hurt?

WES

Just my pride.

SIMP

So I saved you.

WES

I guess.

WES AND SIMP

That’s what pards do, give each other their best.

Pards together!

Pards forever!

Pards are like children and wives!

Give me your hand, friend

Together we stand, friend!

We was pards from the start

It’s till death do us part

We’ll be pards for the rest of our lives.

SIMP

When your pard has a sandwich

And he knows that you’re hungry

He’ll lend you that sandwich

and give you a bite

WES

I remember a time

when I lent you my sandwich

You swallowed her whole

and we got in a fight

SIMP

I blackened your eye.

WES

I bloodied your nose.

SIMP AND WES

I whupped your ass bad.

What a great time we had!!

Pards together!

Pards forever!

Pards are like butter and bread!

Give me your hand, friend!

Together we stand, friend!

I don’t got a brother

God gave me no brother

He gave me a good pard instead.

SIMP

I remember a time

when you called me –

WES

– a name

SIMP

That the other boys taught you.

It filled me with shame

WES

The shame was my own

But I couldn’t back down

Though the look in your eye

cut me clear to the bone

Did I say I was sorry?

I’m sayin’ it now

SIMP

Not that you have to.

Pards never have to.

But thanks just the same anyhow

WES AND SIMP

Pards forever.

Pards together.

Pards are like children and wives!

Give me your hand, friend

Together we stand, friend!

We was pards from the start

It’s till death do us part

We’ll be pards for the rest of our lives.

(MAGGIE SHAW SUDDENLY ENTERS. SHE MAKES A GREAT SHOW OF IGNORING WES. WES HURRIES OVER TO HER.)

WES

Miss Maggie Shaw! May I have the honor of walkin’ a lady home?

(HE OFFERS HIS ARM. SHE TAKES IT. THEY MOVE ACROSS THE STAGE, PAST SIMP, IGNORING HIM.)

WES AND SIMP

Pards are like mem’ries

I don’t got no mem’ries

of an hour or a mornin’,

from the day I was born

ain’t a moment when you weren’t my pard.

(SIMP EXITS. WES SUDDENLY TURNS BACK FOR HIM ONLY TO FIND HIM GONE. MAGGIE FREEZES. LIGHTCHANGE.)

WES

Things that happened, I never meant for’m to happen.

LONGLEY

I’m sure ya didn’t.

WES

It was Simp’s fault.

LONGLEY

Thought you was pards.

WES

We was but…

LONGLEY

But what.

WES

Simp was always sorta forgettin’ himself.

LONGLEY

Pards do.

(WES TURNS TO STARE AT MAGGIE AS IF REMEMBERING HER WISTFULLY.)

WES

Maggie Shaw coulda made a Texas farm look good. The two of us maybe’d stood together at the end of a day and watched the sun go down over mountains an’ streams an’ desert.

LONGLEY

The west is the most beautiful place on earth, boy.

WES

Cept when you’re seein’ it from the inside of a prison window.

(LIGHTCHANGE AS WES MOVES BACK TOWARDS MAGGIE.)

MAGGIE

Ain’t no fancy dresses or jewels an’ even if there was, ain’t nothin’ a lady could wear’m to. Ain’t nothin’ round here a lady could love. Me? I’m gonna marry me a, a shippin’ mag-nate or a doctor or a politician or a –

(AND NOW WES MOVES BEHIND HER. PUTTING HIS ARMS AROUND HER WAIST, HE BEGINS TO KISS HER NECK.)

MAGGIE

Oh! Don’t you… oh… don’t you go gettin’ ideas, hear? No way I’m fallin’ for some dirt poor Texas cowboy. Oh! No way, now how. Oh! I’m goin’ to St. Louis… I’m goin’ to Paris, France… I’m goin’…

(SHE TURNS AND THEY KISS.)

LONGLEY

Boy, you are about as much a cold hearted, cold blooded, cynical outlaw as a bale a hay.

(MAGGIE BREAKS FROM WES, TURNS AND RUNS. WES STARTS AFTER HER, STOPS.)

LONGLEY

How did you ever get on the path a malicious, premeditated desperadodom?

(J.W. ENTERS. HE IS DRUNK. HE HOLDS A BOTTLE IN ONE HAND, AN AX HANDLE IN THE OTHER.)

J.W.

John Wesley Hardin! Told you, you and me ain’t finished.

(J.W. TOSSES AWAY THE BOTTLE – A MUSICIAN BREAKS SOME GLASS. J.W. TOSSES WES THE AX HANDLE. HE DRAWS A KNIFE FROM HIS BOOT.)

WES

J.W., you’re drunk.

J.W.

Yeah!

(THEY FIGHT. J.W. FINALLY LUNGES AT WES. WES DODGES. J.W. STUMBLES AND FALLS, CRACKING HIS HEAD WITH A LOUD CLUNK. WES, BENDS OVER HIM. HIS EYES GROW WIDE. LIGHTCHANGE AS HE TURNS AND BANGS HIS FOOT ON THE FLOOR AS IF BANGING HARD ON A DOOR:)

WES

Sheriff! Sheriff! I gotta see you!

SHERIFF

(off)

It’s the the middle a the night! Who’s there?

WES

Come quick. It’s me, John Wesley Hardin!

SHERIFF

(entering)

Wesley? That you, boy? What a you doin’ stoppin’ by so – what in hell happened to you, son? You look like you fell off’n a cliff.

WES

I’m in trouble. Bad trouble. You better come look.

(HE LEADS THE SHERIFF TO J.W.)

SHERIFF

Oh, my. He dead?

WES

He’s alive. I was walkin’ home? He jumped out. He’d been drinkin’. He came at me with a knife. He fell and I heard this clomp. He musta hit his head on a rock. Here’s the knife. Maybe he was tryin’ to scare me is all. You reckon?

SHERIFF

That stuck in your gullet’d be scary all right.

(calling out)

Speedy! Pig! Get your worthless butts out here!

(to Wes)

I’m gonna have to hold you, Wes.

WES

Yeah.

(THE SHERIFF’S SONS ENTER.)

PIG

What for you wakin’ us up, huh?

SHERIFF

I guess you know my boys, Speedy –

SPEEDY

I’m tired.

SHERIFF

– and Pig.

PIG

I’m hungry!

(seeing J.W.)

Whoa! That a boogey-man!?

SHERIFF

It’s J.W. Groober, ya discouragin’ lardbucket! Don’t stand there, help me get him inside.

(to Wes)

We’ll get him comfortable and then I’ll go for the Doc.

(THE SHERIFF AND HIS TWO SONS CARRY J.W. OFF.)

SPEEDY

I’m tired! I’m tired!

PIG

I’m hungry! I’m hungry!

SHERIFF

I’m fuckin’ discouraged! Move, goddammit!

(LIGHTCHANGE.)

LONGLEY

I know what you was goin’ through.

WES

Not in a million years you don’t.

LONGLEY

I was sixteen years old an thought myself a man cause I had a pistol strapped to my hip. I was full of myself from two weeks a target practice and a naturally quick hand. Some half drunk cowpuncher called me out, more to amuse his friends than anything else. He laughed. He slapped his holster. I was scared and thought he was drawin’. I had two bullets in him fore I even realized he was funnin’ me. I sat with that man in the doctor’s office all night.

WES

What happened to him?

LONGLEY

He died.

(LIGHTCHANGE. THE SHERIFF ENTERS.)

SHERIFF

Now don’t you worry. Ol’ J.W. ain’t gonna die.

WES

What if he does?

SHERIFF

He’s too mean.

WES

You believe what I told ya?

SHERIFF

That’s J.W.’s knife all right.

WES

Soldier blues gonna believe me? Or they gonna believe what they want? If he dies –

SHERIFF

Why we talkin’ like this. He ain’t gonna die.

(THE DOCTOR ENTERS.)

DOC

Well, he’s dead.

(pause)

Whole side of his head was caved in. Whatever you hit him with, Wes, you did a good job of it.

WES

I didn’t hit him with anything!

SHERIFF

Course ya didn’t. Wes, we better get you over to a jail cell.

WES

No.

(WES RUNS AT THE SHERIFF AND GRABS HIS PISTOL FROM HIS HOLSTER. HE LEVELS IT.)

SHERIFF

Aw, come on now, gimme that back.

WES

I’ll blow your leg off.

DOC

If he does, don’t look to me to fix it, I’m busy.

SHERIFF

I’m just gonna have to go for the soldiers and we’re gonna chase ya an they’re gonna shoot ya and more’n likely you’ll come back dead as alive.

WES

I’m not goin’ to no jail for no accident.

SHERIFF

Aw… ya ain’t got a snowballs chance in hell. But if you’re gonna run, first thing you do is put some bullets in that gun.

WES

You ain’t?

SHERIFF

Course not. Dang things are dangerous when they’re loaded.

(WES FIRES AT THE SHERIFF’S FEET. RIMSHOT! THE SHERIFF LEAPS BACK.)

SHERIFF

See what I mean.

(a sigh)

Take my horse out there. He’s strong and he’s fast. Take my rifle too. Ain’t mine. Belongs to the U.S. government. Get outta Texas. If you can grow more’n peachfuzz, grow a beard. Don’t get into fights, don’t get drunk an’ go to church on Sundays.

WES

Why?

SHERIFF

Prayer, boy. You’re gonna need it.

WES

Thank you, sheriff.

SHERIFF

Son, next time I see ya, I’ll be shootin’ at ya.

WES

You know Maggie Shaw? You tell her what happened? Tell her I’ll be seein’ her.

SHERIFF

She gonna want to see you?

WES

I hope.

(WES EXITS.)

DOC

You want some breakfast?

SHERIFF

What the hell. I ain’t in no hurry. Damn, the boy can ride, he can shoot. Not a healthy combination.

(THE SHERIFF AND THE DOCTOR EXIT. LIGHTCHANGE TO WES AND LONGLEY.)

WES

Beef jerky!

LONGLEY

What?

WES

(singing)

I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in beef jerky! No! Magnolias! How `bout that? Or hawk feathers. Wrapped in hawk feathers!

(getting angry at Longley’s silence)

I don’t see you doin’ no better!

LONGLEY

(reading from Great Western Tales)

Having viciously beaten and bound the noble sheriff and saintly physician who had saught to befriend him, the virginal gunslinger, Hardin –

WES

What!? That’s me!

LONGLEY

– stole a majestic stallion belonging to the U.S. government.

WES

They’re writin’ about me!

LONGLEY

Seems like. The proud beast, a Pony Express mount, laden with mail for orphans and missionaries in Tacoma, Washington was never heard from again.

WES

But… it weren’t that way at all.

LONGLEY

No?

WES

How could they go and make a mistake like that.

LONGLEY

Dudes. Crackpots. Nothin’ but.

(a moment)

The girl.

WES

Maggie?

LONGLEY

That “noble sheriff” give her your message?

WES

Somehow I don’t think he ever got around to it.

(LIGHTCHANGE. MAGGIE SHAW ENTERS. SHE NODS TO THE MUSICIANS.

SONG * A WOMAN IN THE MOONLIGHT

MAGGIE

Love is just a season,

seasons come and go.

The sunshine of summer

gives way to winter snow.

The finest May flowers

are born of April rain.

I wonder if my true love

will pass this way again.

A man is born to wander

A woman’s born to love

A man’s about as constant

as the smilin’ moon above

A man will steal your kisses

And then he’ll say goodbye

He’ll take your love and run away

He’ll always make you cry

(LIGHTS UP ON OTHER WOMAN.)

MAGGIE AND THE WOMEN

A woman in the moonlight, a woman all alone,

it’s just the same old story, a woman on her own.

It’s just a brand new season, a new spring has begun,

a woman in the moonlight, who’s man is on the run.

Take my heart and take my hand,

lift me to the sky.

Don’t let me love another man,

they make you want to die.

I know I’ll love another.

I’m sure I’ll smile again.

I’ll stop my mind’s remembering.

My broken heart will mend.

I know I have tomorrow,

if I get through tonight.

Someday I’ll have a new man

to love and hold me tight.

A woman in the moonlight, a woman all alone,

it’s just the same old story, a woman on her own.

It’s just a brand new season, it’s just another day,

a woman in the moonlight, who’s man has run away.

Take my heart and take my hand,

lift me to the sky.

Don’t let me love another man,

they make you want to die.

they make you want to die.

they make you want to die.

(MAGGIE EXITS. LIGHTCHANGE. SIMP AND PA HARDIN ENTER.)

HARDIN

He back yet? No? I’m gonna tan him within’ an inch a his life. Then I’m gonna listen to his excuse. When his excuse ain’t any good, I’ll kill him.

SIMP

You think anything coulda happened to’m?

HARDIN

Whatever happened to him ain’t nothin compared to what’s gonna happen to him. Get in the house and peel some taters.

SIMP

Damn taters.

(WES RUNS ON, BREATHLESS.)

WES

Throw some food in a sack for me!

HARDIN

Where you been!? Where’s my ax handle!? Jesus! I send ya to town, ya don’t come back! When ya do come back, ya forget what I sent ya for! I’ll learn ya!

(HE TAKES A ROUNDHOUSE SWING AT WES, MISSES COMPLETELY AND FALLS AS WES DUCKS.)

HARDIN

Stand still when I’m hittin’ ya!

WES

J.W. Groober is dead. Soldiers gonna be comin’ for me.

SIMP

You killed J.W. Groober?

WES

Might as well have.

SIMP

I’ll get supplies.

(SIMP RUNS OFF.)

HARDIN

Why didn’t ya say Union army was after ya, boy? We’ll wait for’m here. The three of us’ll ambush’m! It’ll be the war a Northern Aggression all over again!

WES

I ain’t fightin’ a war long over, Pa.

HARDIN

We ain’t lost yet.

WES

We’re still losin’. I wouldn’t be runnin’ if it were otherwise.

HARDIN

You’re a coward, are yee?

WES

Pa… I just seen a dead man. They are not a pleasant thing. War’s over, Pa. We lost. I’m runnin’ north to Oklahoma.

HARDIN

Yes. I guess runnin’s best. Always knew you weren’t no farmer, boy. Thought my yellin’d make you one. I was wrong. Well, I got work to do.

WES

Pa… I’ll write.

HARDIN

I don’t read.

(LIGHTCHANGE AS PA HARDIN EXITS.)

WES

(as if remembering)

He was born an angry man.

LONGLEY

Somehow I doubt that.

WES

You didn’t know him.

LONGLEY

I knew men like him. Good ol’ boys who went off hootin’ and hollarin’ bout how they was gonna win the war single handed. Most of’m had no idea what they was goin’ for. Most of’m was too damn poor to ever own a slave. They just figured soldierin’d be a lot more fun than tendin’ some dustbowl of a Texas farm. They came back. Minus arms and legs and spirit. Those that came back at all. The dust hadn’t changed. The poverty was the same. Only thing that was different was now the carpetbaggers owned it all.

WES

And so you become an outlaw because you wanted no part a that?

LONGLEY

Shit, no, boy. I was just lazy.

(LIGHTCHANGE. SIMP ENTERS WITH LONG COATS AND SADDLEBAGS.)

SIMP

I’m goin’ with ya.

WES

You ain’t, Simp.

SIMP

You listen here, Wes Hardin. You need me. Ya always have, ya always will. Who watches your back in a fight? Me. Who makes ya laugh? Me.

WES

Simp –

SIMP

Who loves ya like a goldang brother, John Wesley Hardin? Me. You need me, Wes. You need me.

(A MOMENT. WES STICKS OUT HIS HAND.)

WES

Till death do us part, Simp Dixon, damn your eyes.

SIMP

(shaking)

Amen!

WES

You ready to ride!?

SIMP

Good god almighty, look out Oklahoma! Here comes the famous gunslingers, Simp Dixon and the notorious John Wesley Hardin!

WES

God all mighty yourself, Simp Dixon! If brains was victuals, we’d both be dead a starvation! Saddle your ass up!

SIMP

Yeee-hawww!

(SIMP EXITS. LIGHTCHANGE.)

LONGLEY

You get enough of a start?

WES

We coulda been gone a week and it wouldn’ta mattered much. Simp’s horse went lame bout five miles out. We was ridin’ double.

LONGLEY

Your Daddy send them boys in the wrong direction?

WES

Well… he tried.

(LIGHTCHANGE. PA HARDIN ENTERS FOLLOWED BY THE SHERIFF AND THE UNION SOLDIERS.)

HARDIN

Lemme alone, ya goldang flabiditybabbits! I got work to do! I tole ya, he stole food and ammunition and he lit out. Said he was goin’ towards Mexico. Ya ask me, he shoulda stayed to fight. He mighta lost. Smell a you Yankees’d disable a man. But he shoulda stayed.

SOLDIER 1

(grabbing him roughly)

You talk awful tough for a –

SHERIFF

Let him alone. Let him alone I say! What with you boys bayin’ like hounds on the trail, a body can’t even think straight. Head north, boys. They’re headin’ for Oklahoma.

SOLDIER 1

He says they’re goin’ towards Mexico.

SHERIFF

John Wesley Hardin don’t speak Spanish, ya jackass! Now go on, git outta here!

(THE SOLDIERS EXIT.)

SHERIFF

I know you’re angry with him but he’s still your son and he deserves a chance. Least now we got these idiots goin’ in the wrong direction.

HARDIN

Wes is headin’ for Oklahoma.

(HARDIN SPITS AND CONTEMPTUOUSLY WALKS AWAY.)

SHERIFF

Damn. Sometimes this job makes my ass itch.

(HE EXITS. LIGHTCHANGE. SIMP COMES ON AND STANDS BEHIND WES. HE PUTS HIS ARMS AROUND WES’S WAIST. THE IMPRESSION IS THAT THE TWO OF THEM ARE ON HORSEBACK. THE MUSICIANS MAKE THE SOUNDS OF HOOFSTEPS.)

WES

Simp an’ me, we was just amblin’ along as if we was out for a Sunday ride.

SIMP

We could be rustlers, Wes. Hear tell you make a good livin’ at that. Or maybe… bank robbers. Ain’t no overhead on robbin’ banks. No! Gamblers! Head on down the Mississippi River, set ourselves up in Panama hats and silk shirts! We’d end up ownin’ New Orleans! Damn! Whole world’s in front of us, Wesley! The possibilities are endless.

WES

How you talk, Simp Dixon, how you talk.

(RIMSHOT! A SHOT RINGS OUT. SIMP KNOCKS WESLEY’S HAT OFF HIS HEAD. THE “HOOFSTEPS” GALLOP.)

WES

(looking back)

You’re a prophet, Simp! A dang prophet!

SIMP

That weren’t a bad shot for a soldier.

(MORE RIMSHOTS.)

SIMP

My horse! I let go a the reins!

WES

You want I should stop so you can go back an get’m?

SIMP

I never liked that horse. Ungrateful animal! Don’t you worry, Wesley. They ain’t gonna hit us in a million years. They a bunch a fools!

(MORE SHOTS. SIMP’S HAT IS KNOCKED OFF.)

WES

Hush your face, Simp. Them fools keep hearin’ you.

(LIGHTS UP ON THE UPSTAGE UPPER LEVEL: SOLDIERS STAND IN A LINE. THEY BOUNCE UP AND DOWN AS IF GALLOPING FAST. THEY RAISE THEIR PISTOLS. MORE RIMSHOTS RING OUT.)

SONG * LORD WON’T YOU HELP (THERE’S A POSSE CHASIN’ ME)

WES AND SIMP

Lord, won’t you help, there’s a posse chasin’ me.

They’re shootin’ ammunition, good lord, don’t you see

it’s a misunderstandin, I didn’t do no wrong.

But that ain’t gonna help me when I am dead and gone!

SIMP

We’s ridin’ over hills, lord, we’s ridin’ over dales.

We’s gallopin’ through canyons, we’s tumblin’ down swales.

WES

We can’t seem to lose them, we just ain’t got the knack.

WES AND SIMP

We’s lost and helpless children, too scared to fire back.

WES

Our horse, lord, is fadin’.

SIMP

It’s many miles we’s rode.

WES

He’s achin’ and he’s groanin’.

SIMP

He just can’t take the load.

WES

An if we are forsaken,

SIMP

Good lord, look down at least!

WES AND SIMP

An think a this poor pony, have pity on the beast.

(more shots)

There’s a posse chasin’ me!

SIMP

(spoken)

Some fancy ridin’, Wesley!

WES

(spoken)

Ain’t ridin! It’s hysteria!

WES

Whatever we have done, lord, we won’t do it again.

SIMP

We’ll give up cards and whiskey,

WES

We’ll say our prayers, amen!

SIMP

Amen!

WES

We’ll settle down for good, lord, we’ll even go to church.

SIMP

Good lord we are but babies, don’t leave us in the lurch!

WES AND SIMP

It’s a misunderstandin’!

We can’t seem to lose them!

Lord, are we forsaken!?

(RIM SHOTS!!)

WES AND SIMP

Yup.

(singing)

Please don’t leave us in the lurch!

(BLACKOUT. LIGHTS UP ON LONGLEY.)

LONGLEY

Interestin’ the way the hunted react. A fox’ll try to trick ya; double back, hide it’s tracks. A deer’ll try to outrun ya; go hell bent for leather, dare ya to keep up. You corner a mountain lion and it’ll turn and try to kill ya. An then there’s a man. A hunted man? He’ll do all three.

(LIGHTS TO WES AND SIMP, “RIDING HARD”.)

WES

Simp, we been friends a long time!

SIMP

Damn long!

WES

We played hide and seek as kids! You was good at it!

SIMP

What are you talkin’ about!?

WES

This horse ain’t goin’ much further with both of us on’m. N’ those soldiers are after me. So you hide, Simp! You hide good!

(WES PUSHES SIMP. SIMP FALLS, SPRAWLING. WES RUNS.)

SIMP

Wesley! You need me! You – ! Oh-oh.

(HE RUNS AS THE SOLDIERS ENTER HOLDING A STRUGGLING WES. THEY THROW HIM DOWN AND FORM A ROUGH CIRCLE AROUND HIM, THEIR GUNS AIMED AT HIM. WES STRUGGLES TO HIS FEET.)

WES

This has been… a nice afternoon. But I… I got ya where I want ya. Throw down your guns and go home.

SOLDIER 2

You takin’ on all of us, boy?

WES

If I have to.

SOLDIER 2

Then killin’ you is pure self defense. I got the right leg.

SOLDIER 3

Left leg.

SOLDIER 4

Right arm.

SOLDIER 5

Left arm.

SOLDIER 6

Head.

SOLDIER 7

Heart.

WES

This is your last chance.

SOLDIER 3

Ready! Aim! Fire!

(WES FAINTS TO THE FLOOR AS THE SOLDIERS OPEN FIRE, SHOOTING ONE ANOTHER DOWN.

SIMP ENTERS AT A RUN)

SIMP

Wesley! We – !

(HE STOPS AT THE SIGHT OF THE DEAD SOLDIERS. WES COMES AWAKE WITH A GROAN. SIMP RUSHES TO HIM.)

SIMP

You’re alive! I thought sure you’d be dead.

WES

The soldiers?

SIMP

It was them or you, Wesley. You killed’m. You killed everyone. Damn. This outlawin’ ain’t as much fun as I thought it’d be.

WES

We’d best bury’m as good we can.

(WES AND SIMP DRAG THE BODIES OFF STAGE AS LONGLEY READS FROM GREAT WESTERN TALES.)

LONGLEY

(reading from Great Western Tales)

Throw down your arms and surrender, cried the brave soldiers. We are merciful Christian men, filled with naught but duty, we have no desire to harm you. Duty and mercy be damned retorted Hardin.

(WES ENTERS FROM THE SHADOWS.)

WES

I didn’t say that.

LONGLEY

Without warning Hardin opened fire on the trusting gallants, shooting them down.

WES

That didn’t happen!

LONGLEY

Made mad and lustful by the smell of innocent blood, he ran forward. Unsheathing a dull edged blade, he did take grisly trophies in the Indian fashion.

WES

(softly)

Oh, god.

LONGLEY

Hardin might not have been so jocular had he surmised that one soldier, through heroic and titanic efforts, had managed to escape his fiendish clutches and was even then wending his way homeward. Shit, this is better’m tequila.

(WES IS SILENT.)

LONGLEY

Says here you fled to Oklahoma.

WES

Yeah. You know what they say about Oklahoma, don’t ya? Reason Texas don’t fall into the Gulf a Mexico is cause Oklahoma sucks.

LONGLEY

Yes. Seems to me I heard that said.

WES

Simp and me got a job punchin’ cattle.

(THE MUSICIANS MAKE “MOOING” SOUNDS. LIGHTCHANGE. SIMP ENTERS, A ROPE TANGLED AROUND HIS NECK.)

SIMP

Punch’m!? I’d like to kill the goddam, miserable, stupid, brainless, no account, mean spirited sons a bitches!

WES

Simp Dixon, if work was bright blue sky, you’d live underground.

SIMP

I’d live anywheres, long as it weren’t Oklahoma. I hate cows. Always did. Pickin’ cotton was easy compared to this. Goddam cotton ain’t always tryin’ to kick ya, dammit!

(THE WIDOW CHAMBERS ENTERS.)

WIDOW CHAMBERS

Dix! Weston! May I see you boys for a moment, please?

SIMP

That widow woman talkin’ to us again, Wesley? I keep forgettin’ our names. Hey, maybe it’s payday! Women an’ beer, here we come!

WES AND SIMP

Howdy, Miz. Chambers!

WIDOW CHAMBERS

Boys. You two almost finished up?

WES

Yes, maam.

WIDOW CHAMBERS

Good. You two getting sick of stew and cornbread yet?

SIMP

Yes, maam.

WES

We ain’t complainin’. It’s fillin’.

WIDOW CHAMBERS

It is that. Well. The foreman tells me you boys are on your way to becoming pretty fair hands. Good enough that I was wondering. How’d you like to help take a herd up to Kansas. You’ll be well paid for it. What do you say?

SIMP

Not me, Miz. Chambers. Next time I get involved with a cow I want it to be burnt and on a plate.

WIDOW CHAMBERS

Weston?

WES

I dunno… I can see how punchin’ cattle could become a habit. I’ve always wanted a little more from my life than that. No, Miz. Chambers. Thank ya though.

WIDOW CHAMBERS

They’ll going to Abilene, Weston. You might like Abilene, a man like you.

WES

What a ya mean?

(THE WIDOW CHAMBERS REACHES INTO HER COAT POCKET, TAKES OUT AND HANDS WES A FOLDED WANTED POSTER.)

SIMP

Five thousand dollars. Damn!

WES

How long you had this, maam?

WIDOW CHAMBERS

Long enough that I don’t put much stock in it. Care to reconsider?

WES

I don’t like runnin’, Miz Chambers.

WIDOW CHAMBERS

I can’t say I blame you. Well, you’ll always have jobs with me if you want them. The foreman’s got your wages. Be careful.

(SHE EXITS.)

SIMP

Come on, Wesley. We been eatin’ from pans and sleepin’ on horseback for too long. It’s time to cut loose.

WES

Maybe she’s talkin’ sense.

SIMP

Ain’t nobody gonna be fool enough to mess with Simp Dixon and the notorious John Wesley Hardin! Let’s have some fun! Good times, here we come!

(HE RUNS OFF.)

WES

Did I do right?

LONGLEY

Don’t matter now, does it.

(pause)

All right, maybe you was temptin’ fate a tad too much. An outlaw don’t got too many choices. You find a place where nobody knows or ya find a place where nobody cares. Oklahoma, in my opinion, weren’t that place.

(SIMP ENTERS, STARING AT THE MONEY IN HIS HAND.)

SIMP

Fifteen dollars? What am I supposed to do with fifteen dollars?

WES

You never had fifteen dollars in your whole life, Simp Dixon.

SIMP

I know, but damn!

LONGLEY

It’s a problem. Workin’ for a livin’ just don’t pay well.

SIMP

I’m gonna get me in a poker game and make my fifteen five hundred! Am I lucky? Like the first star at night!

(LIGHTCHANGE AS COWBOYS BRING ON A CRATES AND CHAIRS. THEY SIT AS IF AT A POKER TABLE AND BEGIN TO PLAY.)

WES

I’m gonna get me a bath, maybe some new boots, a hat.

SIMP

(crossing to the table)

You do that. I’ll warm the cards up for ya.

(looking at the table and players)

Like the first start at night!

(HE SITS AND IS DEALT CARDS.)

SIMP

Ain’t this grand, Wesley? Ain’t this just grand?

WES

It is.

LONGLEY

(singing)

I spied a young cowboy all clean from bathwater!

WES

(singing)

I spied a young cowboy all drunk on good whiskey!

LONGLEY

(tossing Wes his hat)

Here, try this on. Wyatt Earp wears this kinda hat.

WES

No!

LONGLEY

He does. Says so on the label. It’s what ya call an endorsement.

WES

I’ll take it.

(SOLDIER 1 ENTERS AND STANDS BEHIND SIMP, STARING. WES SEES HIM)

LONGLEY

And new boots?

WES

You got ammunition?

LONGLEY

(a sigh)

Nothin’ but trouble.

(LIGHTCHANGE TO:)

SIMP

Lucky one eyed jack! I win again! I can’t lose! I am just too lucky! Let’s finish this bottle and I’ll buy us another one! Where I come from, a winner buys!

(TWO MORE SOLDIERS ENTER. SIMP SEES THEM.)

SIMP

Cept this time. I hate to win and run but I’ll be leaving you don’t mind.

(HE RISES, TURNS AND IS FACE TO FACE WITH SOLDIER 1)

SIMP

Uh… I’m just leavin’. You’ll excuse me.

SOLDIER 1

I’m gonna see you hang, mister. You’re gonna beg to be hanged. You and your friend. Where is he? Your friend. John Wesley Hardin.

SIMP

I don’t know any… who?

(THE SOLDIER STRIKES SIMP.)

SIMP

I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about!

(WES SPRINGS INTO THE SCENE, PISTOL DRAWN.)

WES

Nobody move!

SIMP

Oh, that John Wesley Hardin! Hot damn!

(HE PUNCHES SOLDIER 1)

WES

Let’s go, Simp. Nobody even blink. I am scared to death an that makes me dangerous.

SIMP

(filling his pockets)

I’ll take my winnings, gents, y’don’t mind.

WES

Simp, leave the money an let’s go.

SIMP

No call to get persnickety just cause you got a new hat. He’s like that. I gotta take care of’m all the time.

WES

Let’s go!

(THEY RUN. SIMP DROPS SOME MONEY.)

SIMP

Wait, I dropped some –

(HE LOOKS UP. SOLDIER 1 HAS HIS GUN LEVELED AT HIM. THEY STARE AT ONE ANOTHER.)

SIMP

Wesley!!

(RIMSHOT! THE SOLDIER SHOOTS HIM DOWN. THE MONEY FLIES FROM SIMP’S HAND AS HE FALLS. THE SOLDIERS ALL RUN AFTER WES. THE COWBOYS CLEAR THE TABLE. LIGHTCHANGE AS WES ENTERS.)

LONGLEY

Killed?

(WES WALKS SLOWLY TO SIMP.)

WES

Yeah. Oh, god, yeah. I couldn’t go back for him. They was after me.

SONG * HEAVEN IS A WESTERN SKY

LONGLEY

It’s a hard land.

It’s a tough life.

It’s a dark night to be sure.

It’s a mighty pain.

It’s a tough game.

It’s a dim light to endure.

Livin’ is just askin’ why, all life’s choices seem so poor.

An’ heaven is a western sky, goin’ on forever more and more.

WES

Played together as kids

Got in trouble at school

Got in fights every day

We was friends, him and me

LONGLEY

If a tear, son, makes you a weary one,

don’t cry, refuse to feel.

You won’t cry, son, but you won’t smile none.

A tear makes laughter real.

Livin’ is both tears and sighs,

feelin’ right down to the core.

An heaven is a western sky

Goin’ on forever more an’ more.

WES

Damn your eyes, Simp Dixon… damn your eyes.

LONGLEY

Let it go, boy.

(AN UNDERTAKER SOLEMNLY ENTERS. THE UNDERTAKER LIFTS SIMP INTO HIS ARMS AND EXITS.)

LONGLEY

It’s a right wrong.

(Wes: We was friends him and me)

It’s a sad song.

(Wes: Shared stories and dreams)

It’s a wound that never heals.

(Wes: We left home as one)

It’s a quiet ache. It’s a heartbreak.

(Wes: To walk this troubled land, both free)

Can’t touch it but it’s real.

LONGLEY AND WES

Livin’ is a state a mind,

like knowin’ what you’re livin’ for.

An heaven is, heaven is, heaven is

a western sky, goin’ on forever more an’ more

An’ more

An’ more

(LIGHTCHANGE. LONGLEY HANDS WES GREAT WESTERN TALES.)

LONGLEY

Turn the page, boy.

WES

(reading)

Having buried his sniveling sidekick –

(pause)

John Wesley Hardin sneaked out of Oklahoma bound for the jostlin’ and bustlin’, populous and splendiferous, majestic queen a the prairies… Abilene.

(THE STAGE STARTS TO FILL WITH PEOPLE.)

WES

Glorious with beautiful women!

(SALOON GIRLS SAUNTER BY, GIVING HIM FLIRTACEOUS GLANCES.)

LONGLEY

Whores.

WES

Elegant saloons!

(A DRUNK IS THROWN OUT ONTO THE STAGE. HE STAGGERS AROUND, BUMPS INTO A STARTLED WESLEY AND THEN COLLAPSES.)

LONGLEY

Drunks.

WES

Merchant princes!

(A DRUMMER POSES IN FRONT OF A GROUP OF PEOPLE. HE HOLDS THE TONIC HE’S SELLING HIGH.)

LONGLEY

Con men.

WES

Dad blast it, why’d you come to Abilene if it’s so bad?

LONGLEY

Whores, drunks and cheaters are my kind a’ people.

(THE DRUNK RISES AND STAGGERS INTO A COWBOY. THE COWBOY HITS HIM. THEY FIGHT.)

LONGLEY

There’s also a lot of fistfights.

(THE CONMAN COMES DOWN AND HOLDS OUT HIS TONIC. THE DRUNKEN COWBOY GRABS IT, SWIGS IT, CLUTCHES AT HIS THROAT AND FALLS.))

LONGLEY

Remedies for fistfights.

(SOLDIERS ENTER.)

LONGLEY

Oh, yeah. Soldiers too.

(WES TENSES. A SOLDIER TIPS HIS HAT IN PASSING. WES WATCHES HIM WALK ON, ASTONISHED. TWO MEN ENTER. ONE, CODY, IS INCREDIBLY SCRUFFY, BEARDED, DRESSED IN RAGS AND HALF-DRUNK. HE CARRIES A HUGE RIFLE. THE OTHER MAN, HICKOK, LOOKS AND SOUNDS LIKE A BESPECKLED YOSEMITE SAM; SHORT AND FAT AND BEWHISKERED.

CODY

I can!

HICKOK

Can’t!

CODY

I say I can!

HICKOK

You can’t!

CODY

I say I –

HICKOK

Prove it.

(THE CROWD GATHERS ROUND. CODY, STEPS FORWARD.)

CODY

Pull!

(AND ALL, INCLUDING CODY, WATCH WHAT IS PROBABLY A CLAY PIGEON FLY THROUGH THE AIR. A MOMENT. THE SHORT, FAT MAN, HICKOK, LOOKS QUESTIONINGLY AT CODY.)

CODY

Oh…

(fiercely)

Again! An` do it right this time! Pull!

(HE RAISES HIS RIFLE AND FIRES OFF TWO SHOTS. THE KICK OF THE RIFLE KNOCKS HIM OFF HIS FEET AND HE FIRES THE SECOND SHOT PRONE ON THE GROUND. CODY BURPS.)

CODY

I hit it?

HICKOK

First shot hit a weathervane, ricocheted through a window and grazed a mule in the hindquarters. Second shot mighta hit a duck passin’ overhead.

CODY

Oh….

(sadly)

I guess I can’t.

WES

Who’s that?

LONGLEY

Dirty one? Buffalo Bill Cody. Hell of a shot, ain’t he. That cannon a his could stop a dinosaur. These days Bill’d have to be at point blank range to hit it though.

HICKOK

My turn? Anybody else got a bet fore I start? No? Pull!!

(HE DRAWS AND FIRES WITH INCREDIBLE SPEED.)

WES

God! He shot the clay pigeon into pieces an’ then he shot the pieces into pieces!

LONGLEY

He did.

HICKOK

Anybody owes me money, drop it off at my office.

(to Cody)

We gotta get you into another line a work.

CODY

Like what? I can’t do nothin’.

HICKOK

We’ll think on it.

WES

Who is he?

LONGLEY

Ask him.

WES

(approaching Hickok)

Friend? That was some shootin’.

HICKOK

I never miss less’n the bet’s right. I know you?

WES

John Wesley Hardin.

HICKOK

(reloading his gun)

James Butler Hickok.

LONGLEY

Alias Bill Hickok, alias Wild Bill Hickok, alias the marshall a’ Abilene.

HICKOK

See you around… Wes.

(HICKOK AND CODY MOVE AWAY.)

WES

That was…? But he don’t look like…. without them glasses he’d be… stories tell a him bein’-

LONGLEY

You see him shoot?

WES

Yeah.

LONGLEY

With them guns in his hand and that badge on his chest, he’s anything he wants to be.

WES

They was havin’ a shootin’ match right here on the street.

LONGLEY

That’s Abilene.

WES

He knew who I was too. You could tell. But he just went about his business.

LONGLEY

An that’s Abilene.

WES

Know something? I like this place.

LONGLEY

That a fact.

WES

Yup. I think I like this place just fine.

SONG * ABILENE

WES

I have never seen such buildings

there’s a saloon on every block

A place to tie your horse right on the street.

There must be thousand cowboys here

An they all are havin fun

An they don’t care what I done in Abilene.

Abilene, Abilene, you don’t care who I am.

LONGLEY

You’re just another man in Abilene.

WES

Abilene, Abilene, I been ridin’ so damn long.

I think I’ll rest awhile in Abilene.

COMPANY

Y’know, ya always been a runner.

An when ya wasn’t it don’t count.

It don’t total no amount that I can see.

An you always been an outlaw

an you never had a home.

The only place you’re not alone is Abilene.

WES

Abilene, Abilene, you’ll do anything I say

COMPANY

As long as you can pay in Abilene.

Abilene, Abilene, you cheat, girl, and you lie.

But damn, girl, so do I, you Abilene.

WES

Y’know that I once loved a woman

who dreamed a Paris, France,

a pearls an’ how she’d dance along the Seine.

WES AND COMPANY

I’ve never crossed the ocean,

I’ll never leave the west

But I have seen the best in Abilene.

LONGLEY

I’ve lived the life I chose to live

LONGLEY AND COMPANY

Or maybe it chose me

I’ve no regrets but than I had no dreams.

I’ll walk your streets a final time,

I’ll look you in the eye

I’ve come to you to die, my Abilene.

WES, LONGLEY AND COMPANY

Abilene, Abilene, I love you like a child.

You’re loud and free and wild, you Abilene.

Abilene, Abilene, I been ridin’ so damn long.

I think I’ll rest awhile in Abilene.

(THE LIGHTS AND MUSIC ABRUPTLY CHANGE. THE COMPANY MELTS INTO THE SHADOWS. ONE OF THE MUSICIANS PLAYS A SINGLE, SAD LONELY REFRAIN ON HIS HARMONICA – “I THINK I’LL REST AWHILE IN ABILENE”.)

WES

Shit.

(HE SITS WITH LONGLEY ON A BUNK. LIGHTS TO BLACK.)

END OF ACT I

*

ACT II

(DURING THE INTERMISSION, THE MUSICIANS HAVE BEEN PLAYING AND SINGING OLD WESTERN TRADITIONALS.

LIGHTS TO BLACK.

LIGHTS UP. WES AND LONGLEY SIT ON THEIR BUNKS.)

LONGLEY

So, Mr. John Wesley Hardin!

LONGLEY RISES FROM HIS BUNK. HE AND WES BUCKLE ON GUNS AND HOLSTERS, PUT ON HATS AND COATS.)

LONGLEY

You came to Abilene fresh off the trail, smellin’ a horses and cattle and your own sweat and you ached for a bath and a drink and a good meal!

WES

Somethin’ like that.

LONGLEY

An who was it you run into?

WES

You know.

(WES MOVES DOWN STAGE.)

LONGLEY

Yeah… reckon I do.

(LIGHTCHANGE. A MAN WALKS ACROSS THE STAGE PAST WES.)

WES

Friend? Can you tell me the name of a place that serves a good meal?

(THE MAN KEEPS WALKING. A MAN ENTERS FROM ANOTHER DIRECTION.)

WES

Sir? Scuse me, sir?

(THE MAN KEEPS RIGHT ON GOING.)

WES

There a good spot to – hey!

(pause)

What is goin’ on!?

(AND NOW LONGLEY PASSES.)

WES

Bill Longley!

(LONGLEY SPINS, HIS GUN OUT AND AIMED.)

LONGLEY

(all menace)

I know you, boy?

WES

John Wesley Hardin. Wes. How come none a these people’ll talk t’ me?

LONGLEY

Maybe you’re lookin’ a little scarred around the edges.

WES

They seen fresher wounds.

LONGLEY

They have. Every day a their lives. It’s this way… Wes. Nobody in Abilene who don’t wear a gun’ll talk to anybody who does. That is a gun you’re wearin’, ain’t it?

WES

It is.

LONGLEY

Thought so. You want information, you best talk to someone who is wearin’ a gun. They’ll tell ya anything ya want to know. Less’n a course, they don’t try an’ kill ya first.

WES

You wearin’ a gun?

LONGLEY

This is a gun, yes.

WES

You aimin’ on tryin’ t’ kill me with it?

LONGLEY

Not today, no.

WES

Any place in this town that serves somethin’ besides stew and cornbread?

LONGLEY

You buyin’?

WES

I am.

LONGLEY

You want chandeliers? Silver tableware? Red carpets on the floor?

WES

I do.

LONGLEY

An’ be you a drinkin’ man?

WES

You buyin’?

LONGLEY

I am.

WES

Let’s go for the works.

LONGLEY

The works it is!

(LIGHTCHANGE. A HONKY-TONK PIANO PLAYS. COWBOYS AND SALOON GIRLS BRING ON TABLES AND CHAIRS AND TURN THE SPACE INTO A CROWDED, NOISY SALOON. SALOON GIRLS FLIRT WITH COWBOYS. A BOUNCER THROWS A DRUNK OUT THE SWINGING DOORS. A SALOON GIRL, BELLE STARR, LEAPS UP ONTO A PIANO AND BEGINS TO SING:)

SONG – IT AIN’T EASY LOVIN’ A BAD MAN

BELLE STARR

It ain’t easy lovin’ a bad man.

Sometimes outlaw ain’t a cup a tea

It ain’t an easy life!

You don’t always sleep at night

They ain’t always what they’s sposed to be

ALL THE SALOON GIRLS

It ain’t easy when he’s someplace shootin’ strangers

It ain’t easy when he’s off ridin’ range

It ain’t easy him always bein’ wanted

It’s sorta sad when you’re sweetheart’s robbin’ trains

BELLE STARR

A lawman’s gal’s got it better than a robber’s

When her lover shoots, it ain’t against the law

An’ he comes home at night

An’ he leads a normal life

He don’t gotta be fastest on the draw!

SALOON GIRLS

A bad man’s life just goes in one direction

A sudden drop from eight feet then yer gone

An it don’t help bein sad and lonesome

Cause no one hears a badman’s badgirl’s song

It ain’t easy lovin” a bad, bad, bad, bad man!

(BELLE COMES DOWN OFF THE PIANO AND GRABBING DRINKS OFF A PASSING TRAY, CROSSES TO WES AND LONGLEY.)

BELLE STARR

Hey! Longley! How they hangin’!? Have a drink! Your friend too! Say… introduce me. He’s cute.

LONGLEY

Wes Hardin, Belle Starr. Belle, Wes.

WES

Ma’am.

BELLE STARR

I think I could eat you for breakfast, boy.

LONGLEY

Where you been keepin’ yourself, Belle?

BELLE STARR

Just got in from Texas. Damnest place. They got what ya call rangers now. Mean bastards. Chase ya all the way t’ China if need be. Came up through Oklahoma. Oklahoma is still open but hell, ain’t nothin’ in Oklahoma but cows and dust.

WES

An’ graves.

BELLE STAR

Got them everywhere, boy.

LONGLEY

Thanks for the drink, Belle.

BELLE

Any time, Longley.

(with sexual innuendo)

Any time, Wes.

(WES KNOCKS HIS DRINK BACK.)

LONGLEY

Ain’t you the drinkin’ man.

WES

I’m open to learnin’.

LONGLEY

I’ll get you another one.

(LONGLEY TAKES THE GLASS AND MOVES AWAY. MAGGIE SHAW, DRESSED LIKE A SALOON GIRL, ENTERS WITH TWO COWBOYS. THEY ALL FLIRT AND LAUGH. ANOTHER COWBOY JOINS THEM AND MAGGIE FLIRTS WITH HIM TOO. WES, ASTONISHED, WATCHES AS MAGGIE AND THE COWBOYS EXIT. LONGLEY RETURNS WITH DRINKS, SEES WES STARING.)

LONGLEY

There are girls upstairs. Best in Abilene. If you’re open to that kind a learnin’, you plan on buyin’ your own.

WES

I thought I saw someone I knew.

LONGLEY

They hang around here long enough, they all start lookin’ the same. You a card player?

WES

For money?

LONGLEY

(puzzling a moment)

There’s another way?

WES

You play. I’ll look around.

LONGLEY

Suit yourself.

(LONGLEY TURNS TO A TABLE WHERE A GAME IS IN PROGRESS.)

LONGLEY

Howdy, gents, who’s feelin’ lucky? Shake, friend, cause your luck just changed.

(WES WANDERS AROUND, WIDE EYED. MAGGIE ENTERS AGAIN WITH THE COWBOYS. WES SEES HER, HESITATES AND THEN CROSSES TOWARDS HER.

MAGGIE

An’ we got silk sheets all the way from Chicago. You ever tried silk sheets? Anybody like to? Only two dollars.

COWBOY

I got me two dollars.

WES

I got five.

(SMILING, MAGGIE TURNS. SHE FREEZES AND THEN QUICKLY TURNS AWAY. THE COWBOYS START TO GRUMBLE. A MANAGER QUICKLY APPROACHES.)

MANAGER

What seems to be the problem here, gents?

WES

She and I are old friends.

MANAGER

Don’t plan on settlin’ any grudges, cowboy. You’ll go out of here in pieces.

WES

Here’s five dollars. No, here’s ten. I don’t want nobody botherin’ us.

MANAGER

Well! Give the man room, gents. He’s got her time fair and square.

(THE COWBOYS MOVE AWAY, GRUMBLING.)

WES

Maggie…

(SHE SUDDENLY TURNS TO HIM SMILING BRIGHTLY.)

MAGGIE

Well, howdy, cowboy! Oooh, ain’t you the handsome galoot!

WES

Maggie, don’t…

MAGGIE

Don’t what? What ever are you talkin’ about, cowboy? Come on now, what’ll it be?

(a moment)

What’sa matter, cowboy? You afraid you ain’t gonna get your ten dollars worth?

WES

Kinda afraid that’s all I’ll get.

(a moment)

Whatever happened to Paris, France, Maggie? This sure as hell ain’t it.

MAGGIE

I’ll get there some day. Just you wait and see.

WES

Yeah. I bet all you “fancy ladies” say that.

(SHE SLAPS HIM. A MOMENT. THE MUSICIANS BEGIN TO PLAY.)

MAGGIE

Come on, cowboy. You paid your money, let’s you and me go upstairs.

(SHE STARTS TO PASS. HE STOPS HER, STARES AT HER SADLY.)

SONG * PRETTY LADY

MAGGIE

A lonely cowboy in a crowded room

A lonely cowboy lookin’ for a friend

Come on, cowboy, you’re lookin’ down and blue.

You can spend an hour or two

with me and ecstasy.

WES

Pretty lady you oughta go back home

Your eyes are bright but your heart is bare

You look just like a girl I loved

in a Texas town. But I was young back then.

WES, MAGGIE AND COMPANY

Oh, why can’t life be as sweet as wine.

No one tries, they knock you down.

We’re always schemin’ our crazy schemes,

grabbin’ for stars at night.

Grabbin’ for crazy dreams.

MAGGIE

Come on, handsome cowboy, I’m that girl you loved.

And if I’m not, I’m anyone you want.

An’ I got a heart as big as Paris, France.

An’ I got hips that ride, an’ I got lips that dance.

WESLEY

You was gonna wear pearls around your neck, Maggie Shaw.

MAGGIE

Ssshhh. You don’t know me. You’re just a cowboy and I’m a saloon girl. For ten dollars we’re gonna pretend we care bout each other for a little while.

WES

Simp is dead. He was killed back in Oklahoma.

MAGGIE

(a shocked moment and then)

What’ja expect? Only a matter of time before the same thing happens to you. So come on with me now. Please.

WES

For an hour or two we’ll both have different names.

An I could hold my cheek against your breast.

MAGGIE

And if you cried, you know I wouldn’t run.

I’d have to stay awhile. Until the sessions done.

WES MAGGIE AND COMPANY

Why can’t life be as smooth as silk.

No one works, they seem to quit.

We’re always fightin’ our own private wars.

Searchin’ for savin’ grace.

That’s what they pay you for.

Oh, that’s what they pay you for.

Oh, that’s what they pay you for.

Oh, that’s what they pay you for.

Oh…

(WES AND MAGGIE KISS. AND THEN MAGGIE BREAKS THE KISS.)

MAGGIE

Oh, just damn you, John Wesley Hardin. You let me fall in love with you and then you ran away and broke my heart. I hate you.

WES

Here.

MAGGIE

What’s this.

WES

Bout a fifty dollars. It’s all I got. You take this night off. For me.

MAGGIE

Wesley…

WES

I hope you get to Paris, France, Maggie. More’n anything.

(MAGGIE EXITS. WES WATCHES HER GO. A COWBOY APPROACHES WES.)

COWBOY

Mister, what makes you think you can come in here and walk that girl away from us like that?

WES

(dangerous)

I can do anything I want… mister. I’m a gunslingin’, deathdealin’, dastardly desperado. Your call.

COWBOY

Buy you a drink?

WES

Some other time.

(turning away)

Hey! Belle! How much is a whole bottle.

BELLE

Silver dollar.

WES

Get me one! Now!

(HE CROSSES TOWARDS LONGLEY WHO’S AT THE CARD TABLE.)

WES

I want what I want when I want it and if I can’t have it, there better be a reason!

(to Longley)

Uh, Bill? You lend me a dollar? I’m busted.

GAMBLER

Hey, no fillaberin’ whilst we’re playin’.

WES

(dangerous)

I ain’t talkin’, mister. You are.

LONGLEY

Pay him no mind, Wesley. He’s talkin big cause he’s been winnin’ big. But that’s all about to change. Soon as I take this pot you can have all the silver dollars you want. Four kings. Beat that, you son of a bitch.

(LONGLEY REACHES FOR THE POT. THE GAMBLER PUTS OUT A HAND AND STOPS HIM.)

LONGLEY

You let go a my arm… friend.

GAMBLER

Four aces beats four kings… friend.

LONGLEY

Huh. I get eights, you get nines. I get a pair, you get three of a kind. Why is that… friend?

GAMBLER

Just lucky… friend.

LONGLEY

Lucky. I guess you are. Tell me somethin’, Wesley. You enjoyin’ this town?

WES

Not much.

LONGLEY

You won’t mind leavin’ it then. Gents, I got my pistol out under the table an’ I’m a fine shot from two feet away even if I am shootin’ blind. So if everybody’ll just put their money in the middle of the table, I’ll be obliged to take it.

WES

Jesus, Bill –

GAMBLER

You can’t do this.

LONGLEY

I’m doin’ it. Let’s see your purse before I blow your balls off. Thank you, friend. Wesley, you move casual like towards the door. I’ll be right behind you. Go.

(WES, AGAINST HIS BETTER JUDGMENT, RETREATS. HE BUMPS RIGHT INTO MAGGIE SHAW WHO CLINGS TO HIM.)

MAGGIE

John Wesley Hardin! We have to talk you an’ me.

WES

Now ain’t a good time, Maggie.

MAGGIE

We can’t leave it like this, Wesley.

WES

Leggo my arm, Maggie, we’ll talk another time.

MAGGIE

No, we’re gonna talk right now. You are gonna listen to me. There might not be another time.

WES

That’s more’n likely you don’t let go a my arm. Please, Maggie!

(LONGLEY TURNS QUICKLY FROM THE TABLE, MAKES HIS RUSH FOR THE DOOR AND COLLIDES WITH WES AND MAGGIE. THEY GO DOWN IN HEAP.)

GAMBLER

Robbery! Robbery!

CODY

Robbery!? Where!?

(HE DISCHARGES HIS RIFLE INTO THE CEILING.)

BELLE

Robbery? Fight! Fight!

(SHE JOYFULLY COLDCOCKS THE COWBOY NEAREST HER. THE STAGE IS IMMEDIATELY FILLED WITH BRAWLING COWBOYS. THE PIANO PLAYS AS LONGLEY AND THE GAMBLER FIGHT FOR CONTROL OF LONGLEY’S PISTOL. WES IS DECKED. MAGGIE DECKS THE COWBOY WHO DECKED WES. TABLES SMASH. BODIES FLY AND CAREEN. THE WOMEN SCREAM AND FLAIL. CODY STAGGERS ABOUT, MIRACULOUSLY AVOIDING SERIOUS INJURY. THERE IS THE SUDDEN SOUND OF A SHOT. FREEZE. LONGLEY AND THE GAMBLER ARE CAUGHT IN A FROZEN EMBRACE. THE GAMBLER CRUMBLES TO THE FLOOR. LONGLEY HOLDS THE PISTOL.

LONGLEY

Shit fire, dammit to hell, nothin’ but nothin’ but trouble! Nobody move! I will shoot the first person to even twitch. This is a good time to leave, Wesley, you comin’? I said, are you comin’!?

(HICKOK ENTERS. LONGLEY GRABS MAGGIE AND USES HER AS A SHIELD.)

LONGLEY

I guess you are.

WES

No!

LONGLEY

Hold it!

(pause)

Howdy, Wild Bill.

HICKOK

Quite a mess. He dead?

LONGLEY

Fraid so. I’ll be goin’ now if you’ll move away from the door.

HICKOK

Can’t do that.

LONGLEY

I’ll shoot this girl, Bill.

HICKOK

Looks like somebody’s gonna die. Might as well be an innocent.

LONGLEY

I’ll shoot you.

HICKOK

There’s that chance. There’s also the chance that I’ll draw an’ put a bullet tween your eyes fore you have time to blink’m. Ain’t you tired a all this yet? Ain’t it kinda lost it’s flavor? Where else you have left to run to `sides heaven or hell?

(A MOMENT. LONGLEY LETS HIS HAND DROP TO HIS SIDE. THE GUN CLATTERS TO THE FLOOR. MAGGIE RUNS TO WES.)

HICKOK

Jails across the street.

(to Wes)

You come too.

LONGLEY

He didn’t do nothin’.

HICKOK

He will. Everybody go on home!

(RIMSHOTS! HE “FIRES” HIS GUNS. LIGHTCHANGE AS EVERYONE EXCEPT WES AND LONGLEY RUNS SCREAMING FOR THE EXITS. WES AND LONGLEY MOVE TO THEIR BUNKS AS HICKOK EXITS. THE STAGE IS CLEAR. AND THEN:)

WES

(singing)

I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in corn flour.

LONGLEY

Now what would a cowboy be doin’ all wrapped in cornflower?

WES

Waitin’ to go from the fryin’ pan to the fire is what.

LONGLEY

Me usin’ the girl as a shield. Nothin’ personal. I wouldn’t hurt her. Less I couldn’ta helped it.

WES

(reading from Great Western Tales)

Wild Bill Hickok, his wrath risen to a godlike crescendo a’ fiery fury, drew his fortyfives an’ in a dazzling display a derring-do, shot the bootheels off the fleeing coward, Bill Longley. Longley, a wilting flower in the withering storm a’ Hickok’s hot lead, fell into a horse trough an’ was nearly drowned.

LONGLEY

Aw, it don’t say that.

WES

It does.

LONGLEY

Shit. Sometimes it ain’t easy bein’ a bad man.

WES

Why ya gotta be one then? Damn! It’s your fault.

LONGLEY

Huh?

WES

I just realized. It’s all been your fault. Born to trod the wayward path like hell! The only mistake I ever made was meetin’ you!

LONGLEY

You watch your tone with me, boy.

WES

And if I don’t? What a ya gonna do? What a ya gonna do to me, ya ain’t done to me already? You an’ your dang gun!

(A DOOR IS SUDDENLY THROWN OPEN.)

HICKOK

Grubtime! Up and at’m! Time to face the dadburn day!

(HICKOK, SEVERAL GRINNING DEPUTIES AND AN INEBRIATED, REELING CODY ENTER. CODY IS CARRYING A TRAY.)

CODY

Wile Bill an’ me, we brung breakfast for ya.

LONGLEY

You prepare this repast, Buff?

CODY

Naw. Picked it up over t’ the cafe.

LONGLEY

Seems to be covered with something.

HICKOK

That’s dirt. The buffalo fell down comin’ over here.

CODY

Twice!

WES

I ain’t hungry.

HICKOK

Well, stare at it awhile. Maybe somethin’ll sprout. Y’know, boys, I was just tellin’ the buffalo here that he’d be a natural for show business.

WES

What? Him?

LONGLEY

Why, absolutely.

HICKOK

Far as I can see, the buffalo just about epitomizes the ol’ west. People’d pay t’ see that.

CODY

Ya think?

HICKOK

Sure I do! You’re a crack shot.

LONGLEY

He is that.

HICKOK

You’re a crack scout.

CODY

Yup.

WES

You’re cracked.

CODY

Huh? Hey…

HICKOK

(snarling at a musician)

You! Play somethin’!

(THE MUSICIANS BEGIN TO PLAY)

HICKOK

You could be big, Buff! You could be real big!

SONG * BUFFALO BILL

HICKOK

I can see you leadin’ some cowboys off into battle.

Dressed in white buckskin, your hair blowin’ long in the breeze.

Fearless and crafty, the scourge of all injuns is Cody.

Buffalo Bill –

WES AND LONGLEY

If brains were sunshine, you’d freeze.

HICKOK

You’d be the star of a wild west show!

HICKOK AND HIS DEPUTIES

You’d be the hero to them that don’t know

bout a vanishing breed, a dyin’ off seed,

a fast fadin’ story to make your heart bleed,

the cowboy… the cowboy…

CODY

I can see me ridin’ a buffalo!

HICKOK

Well, how `bout a stallion.

CODY

Or maybe trick shootin’!

HICKOK

I’d settle for ridin’ the ring.

CODY

A distinguishin’ crowd, they’d applaud my exploits and bravery!

WES AND LONGLEY

Buffalo Bill, if brains were silence, you’d sing.

HICKOK, THE DEPUTIES, WES, LONGLEY AND THE MUSICIANS

And you’d be the star of a wild west show,

you’d be the hero to them that don’t know

bout a vanishing breed, a dyin’ off seed,

a fast fadin’ story to make your heart bleed,

the cowboy…

CODY

Yodelodelahee-ho!

HICKOK, THE DEPUTIES, WES, LONGLEY AND THE MUSICIANS

The cowboy…

CODY

Yodelodelahee-hoo!

(THE SOUND OF HAMMERING IS HEARD)

WES

Say, what are they building out there?

HICKOK

A gallows.

(THE DEPUTIES LAUGH LIKE IDIOTS.)

LONGLEY

You just had to ask, boy. You just had to ask.

CODY

(to Hickok)

I dunno… you really think I could do it?

HICKOK

Course I do, Buff, course I do. He does too.

(fiercely; to a deputy)

Don’t ya.

DEPUTY 1

I can see how his name might eventually go down in history.

CODY

A peaceful peacemaker, a western plains statesman, that’s me.

HICKOK AND THE DEPUTIES

A buffalo hunter, a scout and a hero is Cody.

WES AND LONGLEY

Buffalo Bill, if brains are a prison, you’re free.

CODY

And I’d be the star of a wild west show!

HICKOK

Everybody!

HICKOK, WES, LONGLEY, THE DEPUTIES AND THE MUSICIANS

You’d be the hero to them that don’t know!

CODY

I’d be the hero!

ALL

Bout a vanishing breed, a dyin’ off seed,

a fast fadin’ story to make your heart bleed,

the cowboy… the cowboy…!

You’d be the star of a wild west show,

(You’d be the star…!)

you’d be the hero to them that don’t know

(You’d be the hero…!)

bout a vanishing breed, a dyin’ off seed,

a fast fadin’ story to make your heart bleed,

the cowboy…

CODY

Yodelodelahee-ho!

ALL

The cowboy…

CODY

Yodelodelahee-hoo!

ALL

The cowboy…

CODY

Yodelodelaaaa-heeeee-hooooo!

(OVERCOME WITH EMOTION AND TOTALLY OUT OF BREATH, CODY FAINTS INTO THE ARMS OF THE DEPUTIES. HE IS CARRIED OFF STAGE.)

HICKOK

Well… take it easy, boys.

WES

Mr. Hickok, sir! Hold on one minute, sir! We have not been given a trial! We have not been judged in a court a’ this land!

HICKOK

What’s he runnin’ on about?

LONGLEY

Beats me. I guess at one time he considered the law profession.

WES

We have a right to a trial by jury. If we are found guilty, the right to be sentenced by a judge.

HICKOK

If ya steal, ya go to jail. If ya kill somebody, ya hang. Everybody knows that.

WES

That drunken idiot, Bill Cody, can destroy half a Abilene with that elly-phant gun a his and nothin’ happens to him. All we do is rob an’ kill a man – a man who was cheatin’ at cards and deserved it – an’ you decide to imprison and hang us. I, sir, object!

HICKOK

Buffalo Bill Cody is on his way to becomin’ a American folk hero. You spect me to arrest and’ hang him?

WES

The man is a dangerous drunk!

HICKOK

Them out there don’t know that! Neither do they know that I am near sighted and losin’ my hair.

LONGLEY

An’ gettin’ fat to boot.

HICKOK

Okay, that too! See, this man ain’t gettin’ done in for what he did. He’s dyin’ for what he done. An’ you, you’re goin’ to prison for what you will do. It all works out in the end.

WES

I am not payin’ for something I never did an’ as a right this moment have no intention a doin’! Great Western Tales be damned! I am breakin’ out a this two bit, once horse jail!

HICKOK

Know what will happen if you do?

WES

What?

HICKOK

I will shoot you dead.

WES

Oh.

HICKOK

Say. Almost forgot. Got a visitor. I don’t usually let no one in with the prisoners but I’ll make an exception.

(exiting)

Enjoy yer’selves.

WES

Prison. Dear God! I’d rather die!

LONGLEY

Can’t say I blame ya. I was in prison once. Didn’t care for it. Bad food and the hours’re lousy.

(AND NOW MAGGIE ENTERS.)

MAGGIE

John Wesley Hardin! I have a bone to pick with you!

LONGLEY

Guess I’ll, uh… take a nap.

WES

I’m surprised Hickok let you see me.

MAGGIE

He and I are friends.

WES

I bet. He one a your regulars?

(MAGGIE JUST LOOKS AT HIM. AND THEN SHE BEGINS TO SNIFF BACK TEARS.)

WES

Aw, come on, don’t snuffle so.

MAGGIE

I’ll snuffle if I want to, John Wesley Hardin! What kind of a foolish no mind are you anyways, tryin’ to do what you did? Of all the stupid, nonsensical –

WES

You come here to cheer me up or was there somethin’ special you wanted to talk about?

MAGGIE

I… I wanted to tell you that… what I said last night? That I hated you? That wasn’t true, Wesley. I don’t hate you.

WES

It don’t matter.

MAGGIE

It does. See, I know now I’ll never see St. Louis or San Francisco or Paris, France and I don’t care no more. I just want you outta this place. Oh, damn! Damn, damn! How come I gotta be in love with a no account, dirt poor Texas cowboy who’s in jail. What’d I ever do to deserve that?.

WES

Maggie… you love me?

MAGGIE

I just said so, didn’t I? Now that you know, try to figure out with what little smarts you have, how you’re gonna get outta this mess so you can take advantage of it. Wake up that good for nothin’ and see if he can help you. I swear, I don’t know who’s more dim, you or me.

(SHE EXITS.)

WES

Bill? You asleep?

LONGLEY

Boy, I’m gettin’ hung tomorrow. It’s not like the sandman’s standin’ next to me, pitchin’ at my eyeballs.

WES

Bill, she loves me. Maggie Shaw loves me. N’ I love her!

LONGLEY

So?

WES

So I’m gettin’ outta here! I gotta get outta here! An you gotta help me! She loves me!

LONGLEY

Oh, Lord, I got this horrible feelin’ you’re gonna sing.

SONG * ABILENE REPRISE

WES

I never asked for trouble but trouble shadowed me.

It dogged my steps, it was my middle name.

And all the things I dreamed of, I thought I lost for good.

The dark days spread before me, each the same.

(LIGHTS UP ON A QUARTET OF TWO COWBOYS, TWO SALOON GIRLS. THEY SING IN ACCOMPANIMENT.)

WES

Oh, my love, oh, my darlin’, it’s you don’t you see.

You’re waitin’ now for me with open arms.

Oh, my love, oh, my darlin’, like a phoenix I’m reborn

from the ashes in your arms, Maggie Shaw.

An outlaw don’t go home at night

an’ he ain’t got no kids or wife.

An outlaw’s got no future I can see.

Oh, my love, oh, my darlin’, I been ridin’ so damn long.

Change my luck and help me,

Maggie Shaw.

LONGLEY

That was even worse than I thought’d be. Well, boy, you got a plan?

(WES REACHES FOR GREAT WESTERN TALES. DURING THE FOLLOWING, MAGGIE WILL ENTER AND ACT OUT THE IDEAS WITH DISASTROUS RESULTS. THE PIANO PLAYS AN OLD TIME MUSIC HALL ACCOMPANIMENT.)

WES

Says here on page 14 a Great Western Tales that Wild Willy Wood’s gang got him out of the the Fargo Jail by tyin’ ropes to the bars a’ his window and then, by excitin’ their mounts to efforts of colossal equestrian hysteria, succeeded in rippin’ out the very walls of the dank prison chamber.

(MAGGIE ENTERS WITH A ROPE. THE ROPE DOESN’T QUITE REACH THE SUPPORT POST SHE HAS IN MIND. SHE PULLS BUT CAN’T BUDGE THE OFF-STAGE ANIMAL. SHE WRAPS AN ARM AROUND THE POST AND CLENCHING THE ROPE IN THE OTHER HAND, FIRMLY BRACES HERSELF.

MAGGIE

Hee-yaa!

(SHE IS PULLED, WITH A SHRIEK, OFF-STAGE BY THE GALLOPING HORSE.)

LONGLEY

Course Wild Willy’s men had a way with recalcitrant, dumb animals.

WES

Says here on page 43 a’ Great Western Tales that Beaver Tatum made good his escape from the Deadwood jail after his wife smuggled him a pistol in the bodice of her dress.

(MAGGIE ENTERS. SHE SLIPS A GUN INTO THE FRONT OF HER DRESS. SHE SQUIRMS AND WIGGLES SO IT WON’T SHOW. IT FALLS WITH A CLANK ONTO THE FLOOR.)

LONGLEY

Alfrieda Tatum weighed near three hundred pounds. She coulda hid a cannon in the bodice a her dress.

(MAGGIE PICKS UP THE GUN AND TRUDGES OFF.)

WES

Says here on page 112, index b, a Great Western Tales that the infamous Dalton Boys exploded free a’ their Dodge City jailcell after implements a’ escape was slipped to them in a apricot upside down cake.

(HICKOK AND MAGGIE FROM OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE STAGE. MAGGIE CARRIES A CAKE. HICKOK STOPS HER AND DELIGHTEDLY STICKS HIS FINGERS IN THE FROSTING FOR A TASTE. HE FEELS SOMETHING. HE DIGS DEEPER. HE PULLS OUT A GUN SO COVERED WITH GOO, IT WOULDN’T FIRE IN A MILLION YEARS. MAGGIE SQUIRMS GUILTILY. HICKOK TAKES THE GUN AND THE CAKE AND EXITS.)

LONGLEY

It was files that was slipped to’m! Jesus!

WES

Files, huh?

LONGLEY

Files! Sides, the Dalton boys mother knew how to cook!

WES

Well, what a we gonna do now?

LONGLEY

We?

WES

All right, be that way! What am I gonna do?

LONGLEY

Something’ll turn up, boy. Somethin’ usually does.

(HICKOK AND SOLDIER 1 ENTER.)

HICKOK

Got a visitor!

LONGLEY

Something just did.

SOLDIER 1

Well, well, well. John Wesley Hardin. Got the makings of a pretty good necktie party outside, yes, sir. Too bad it ain’t for you. But don’t you worry, once you’re in prison we’ll extradite ya down to Texas. They’ll hang ya there. And I’ll be there to see it.

WES

I have never intentionally hurt another human bein’ in my life. But I dare say you will be the first.

SOLDIER 1

Talk is cheap, boy. Longley! I’m gonna tell the hangman to give that noose a nice loose fit. Takes a long time that way, a real long time.

LONGLEY

Appreciate it.

(SOLDIER 1 EXITS)

HICKOK

(puzzled)

He a friend a yours?

WES

This whole proceedin’ is a absurd mockery a’ justice!

HICKOK

Oh, damn, is he startin’ again?

LONGLEY

Hickok? How’d you ever get to be a marshall?

HICKOK

Shot a man. Stead a’ hangin’ me, they gave me a reward. Seems he was wanted in three territories.

LONGLEY

Fate. Figures. How many men you killed total?

HICKOK

(thinking a moment)

Nine.

WES

Nine!? Says in Great Western Tales it’s at least thirty!

HICKOK

I ever killed that many men, I’d have to spend all my time runnin’ from their relatives.

LONGLEY

Ever wish you could do it all different, Hickok?

HICKOK

That’d be a waste a’ time. I can’t.

LONGLEY

But say ya could. Say ya could be re-in-carnated.

HICKOK

Wouldn’t mind bein’ Ulysses S. Grant or Andrew Jackson. On the other hand, I mighta been a dude or a girl. No, I’m satisfied.

(WES IS READING FROM GREAT WESTERN TALES.)

WES

Gunned down by Jack McCall, in Hickok’s hand a full house, aces and eights, since then known as a dead man’s hand.

HICKOK

What’s that?

WES

Oh, nothin’ that’d interest you.

HICKOK

Well… oh, almost forgot. You got a last request?

LONGLEY

No strings?

HICKOK

They’re cuttin’ your strings come morning. I just figured you’d do the same for me.

LONGLEY

Well… I have always found the company of a lovely woman to be a comfort.

HICKOK

You got anybody in mind?

LONGLEY

How about that Maggie Shaw?

WES

What!?

LONGLEY

Just to sit with us, Wesley, in our time a’ need. Hickok?

HICKOK

You want her to wear anything special?

WES

What a you mean, special!?

LONGLEY

He don’t mean a thing, boy. You tell her to bring a number a’ pretty things so we can take our choice as it moves us.

HICKOK

All right. I’ll be back.

(HICKOK EXITS.)

WES

What you’re thinkin’ about her, you stop thinkin’ it.

LONGLEY

You a mindreader now?

WES

I don’t need to be. Maggie’s a good, decent woman.

LONGLEY

She’s a whore.

WES

That ain’t her fault! It’s luck, it’s circumstance, it’s…

LONGLEY

Fate?

WES

Yes!

LONGLEY

Do tell, boy.

WES

I… Bill, it’s all starting to seem confused in my head. I’m not sure what’s true no more, this or me. I’m scared, Bill. I never thought it’d be like this. You read ol’ Great Western Tales an’ you sorta get the impression that cuttin’ up is generally a lot a’ fun.

LONGLEY

Believe this, boy. There ain’t no bright future in bein’ a son of a bitch.

(CODY ENTERS. HE IS IMMACULATE IN WHITE BUCKSKIN. HIS HAIR IS LONG, FLOWING AND SNOWY WHITE. HIS VOICE IS NOW VIBRANT AND BOOMING.)

CODY

Howdy, pardners!

LONGLEY

By god, Buff, is it you?

CODY

Fraid so! Hardly know myself! I feel like a… a hero is what! Lads… I took what ya said to heart! I’m goin’ into show business! America needs someone to idolize an’ that someone is me!

LONGLEY

What about your drinkin’?

CODY

I’m givin’ it up, lads!

WES

Your carousin’?

CODY

I’m finished with it!

LONGLEY

What about your buffalo?

CODY

(sagging, speaking with puzzled sadness)

The buffalo’re gone.

SONG: PICTURE IT, LADS

CODY

Picture it, lads.

On each horizon, an ocean.

Great beating hearts.

Thick as the green in a forest.

Winterfrost in their beards.

Lowin’ sweet and peaceful.

But by god, when they ran,

By god, a man heard thunder.

A man lifts a rifle and a buffalo drops

Without even aimin’, see a buffalo’d drop.

The buffalo fall and the man never stops

And the buffalo drop

And the buffalo drop

Who’da thought it could change.

Who’da thought we could change it.

Muscle, blood and horn

Blink your eyes and it’s bone

Turn. Turn back again.

The bones have turned to dust.

But by god, when they ran,

By god, a man heard thunder.

Look at me, lads.

Laugh at me, lads.

Ah, well.

(CODY SHAKES HAND ALL AROUND)

CODY

I’m off! Wish me luck, lads!?

LONGLEY

Good luck, Buff.

WES

The best.

CODY

Same to you. Outlaws… heroes. Hell. Someday we’re all gonna be famous throughout the land! Lads!

(HE EXITS.)

LONGLEY

I got this absolutely horrible suspicion he’s gonna make it.

(SILENCE)

LONGLEY

Boy, would you truly go to Paris, France?

WES

Huh?

LONGLEY

Wouldn’t have to stop there, y’ know. You could go… you could go anywheres.

WES

You gettin’ sentimental?

LONGLEY

Naw. Just wistful. Jails do that to a man. Kinda turn your memories into should a’ beens.

(singing)

I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in sad mem’ries.

(a sigh)

That’s the wrong song.

(HICKOK AND MAGGIE SHAW ENTER. MAGGIE CARRIES DRESSES.)

HICKOK

Here she is. Changes of clothes and all. She was awful hard to convince. Two almost all a’ two seconds.

LONGLEY

You want to search her?

HICKOK

Already did.

WES

What!?

HICKOK

Oh, shut up.

MAGGIE

Oh, Wesley!

(MAGGIE THROWS HERSELF INTO WES’S ARMS.)

HICKOK

Don’t look like she’s gonna give you much company.

LONGLEY

She’s fine. Thanks, Hickok.

HICKOK

Don’t mention it.

(HICKOK EXITS.)

LONGLEY

So tell me, Miss Maggie Shaw, how’s the outside world?

MAGGIE

A circus is what it is. People are pourin’ in from all over to watch you hang.

LONGLEY

Comin’ to mourn me, are they?

MAGGIE

The saloons are prayin’ they have enough whiskey to last the night. Oh…!

(SHE TEARFULLY HUGS LONGLEY.)

LONGLEY

Come on now, none a’ that. You’ll get me all weepy-eyed. No tears. See, I’ve known this day was comin’. An am I gonna give’m a treat tomorrow? You just wait. Wait till I make my entrance.

SONG * TODAY

LONGLEY

They’ll pull into town, come from miles around today.

Come the day, they’ll fight for the front row, come the day.

It’s swift and it’s bloodless and god knows it’s free.

The dead man will dangle, too bad that man’s me…

CHORUS

Three cheers… hooray….

LONGLEY

They’re hangin’ Bill Longley in Abilene town today!

(A SHADOWY MIME SHOW BEGINS BEHIND AND ABOVE AND AROUND LONGLEY, WES AND MAGGIE. DARK, DREAMLIKE FIGURES ACT OUT WHAT LONGLEY IS SINGING.)

LONGLEY

Been waitin’ all night for the red mornin’ sun.

The kind that drives sailors to drink fore it’s done.

An’ the night’s been as empty as a dry wishin’ well.

An’ the sun’s breakin’ red!

An’ it’s hotter’n hell!

CHORUS

We’re hangin’ Bill Longley in Abilene town today.

We’re hangin’ Bill Longley in Abilene town today.

There’s a church choir singin’, singin’ a sin.

A temperance group keening the evils a’ gin.

A white bearded preacher beseechin’ the sky.

LONGLEY

Where some walk through the valley!

I’ll by-god fly!

CHORUS

We’ll pull into town, come from miles around today!

Come the day, we’ll fight for the front row, come the day!

It’s swift and it’s bloodless and god knows it’s free!

The dead man will dangle, thank god, it’s not me!

PREACHER

Kneel… and pray…

The Lord works in many mysterious ways they say.

MAGGIE

(spoken)

Why, I never knew that gettin’ hung could be so wonderful!

LONGLEY

Hell, they oughta be payin’ me. Death is the most excitin’ damn show there is.

WES

Less you’re the one doin’ the dyin’.

PREACHER

(singing)

Shall we gather at the river?

CHORUS

No, a hangin’ll do!

So pass around the bottle, here’s some courage for you

LONGLEY

N’ that crowd a church daughters pretendin’ they’re bored?

CHORUS

You watch us go faint when he steps through the door!

He’ll light up a stogie… he’ll give us a show…

The singin’ll stop… an’ the preachin’ll go…

LONGLEY

I pass the rapt glances, one catches my eye

I take her in my arms…

(THE CHORUS GASPS.)

CHORUS

An’ the whole damn crowd sighs…

He kisses her deep… an’ she’s soft an’ she’s sweet…

LONGLEY

An when I release her, she can’t keep her feet!

CHORUS

Thank you, we say, thank you for dyin’ today.

LONGLEY

I’ll spit in your eye if you don’t get out a’ my way

CHORUS

You have our attention but you don’t have our tears

LONGLEY

An’ I see admiration in your boys young in years

CHORUS

So look to your futures an’ look to your fears and pray

We’re hangin’ Bill Longley in Abilene town today.

We’re hangin’ Bill Longley in Abilene town today.

(THE FOLLOWING DIALOGUE IS SPOKEN TO MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT.)

WES

What happens next, Bill?

LONGLEY

I mount the platform. The choir begins to sing.

(THE CHOIR BEGIN TO SING A DISCORDANT VERSION OF “STREETS OF LAREDO”.)

LONGLEY

Hush, say I! I point to the prostitutes of Abilene an’ ask them to sing for me instead.

(THE WAILING SOUND OF WOMEN’S VOICES.)

WOMEN

Ohhhh… Bill, Bill! Ohhhh… Bill, Bill!

LONGLEY

The preacher approaches.

PREACHER’S VOICE

I am praying for you my son.

LONGLEY

Thank’ee, preacher.

HICKOK’S VOICE

Bind his feet. We don’t want kickin’. Get the noose over his head. Pull it tight. Blindfold?

LONGLEY

Please, no.

HICKOK’S VOICE

Any last words or anything?

LONGLEY

I don’t deserve this.

A CROWDMEMBER

You’re a murderer!

LONGLEY

Okay, yes, I have, in my time, killed over two thousand men usin’ a pistol, a rifle, a bullwhip an’ in one instance, a dull butter knife. But every single time it was self defense.

A CROWDMEMBER

You’re a thief. You’ve stolen money!

LONGLEY

But I have immediately put it back into the economy by spendin’ it.

A CROWDMEMBER

You’ve rustled horses and cattle!

LONGLEY

From widows. They had no use for’m.

CROWDMEMBER

You’re a carouser!

LONGLEY

Yes.

CROWDMEMBER

You’re a liar!

LONGLEY

Yes.

CROWDMEMBER

You’re a cheat!

LONGLEY

Oughta thank me for it.

THE WHOLE CROWD

Why!?

LONGLEY

I’m the kinda guy who drives family men outta saloons and keeps’m home where they’s sposed to be.

(THE CROWD GRUMBLES.)

LONGLEY

Listen up.

(SILENCE.)

LONGLEY

I don’t spose you all’d change your minds bout this if I was to say I’s sorry?

THE CROWD

( a moment)

No!

(singing)

The sandbag drops from the scaffold and all turn away!

We shudder and gasp, then we giggle, oh, what a day!

There’s jugglers and cowboys, saloon girls in frills!

A man hawking tonic to cure all your ills!

It’s better than whiskey and it’s better than pills today!

(A SNARE DRUM BEGINS TO BEAT, BUILDING IN INTENSITY. LONGLEY LAUGHS DEFIANTLY.)

CHORUS

We’re hanging Bill Longley in Abilene town today!

We’re hanging Bill Longley in Abilene town today!

Today….! today….! today….!

(THE MIME LONGLEY DROPS THROUGH THE SCAFFOLD AND SWINGS. THERE ARE SCREAMS OF HORROR, SHOUTS OF EXCITEMENT. LIGHTCHANGE. THE SHADOW FIGURES FADE. MAGGIE IS WEEPING QUIETLY. WES HOLDS HER. LONGLEY STANDS, STARING STRAIGHT AHEAD, HIS VISION STILL VERY REAL TO HIM. WES PICKS UP GREAT WESTERN TALES AND READS.)

WES

Soldiers laughed. Women went white and hid the eyes of their children. Strong men took desperate pulls from their bottles.

LONGLEY

An’ the only one who cried was Miss Maggie Shaw. Thank you, darlin’.

WES

I gotta get outta here. I gotta get outta here!

LONGLEY

Yes. I reckon so.

(a moment)

Hickok!? Hickok!!? Bill, we got ourselves one poor excuse for company in here! She ain’t good for nothin’ but weepin an’ blubberin’!

(HICKOK ENTERS)

HICKOK

What say?

LONGLEY

Get this girl outta here, dammit. Her sobbin’ and whinin’ make me wanna puke.

WES

Those tears are for you, Longley.

LONGLEY

I don’t want’m. Get her outta here, Hickok, fore I give her somethin’ to really cry about.

WES

Why you! I oughta punch your face!

HICKOK

Quiet! Quiet, the both of ya! I shouldn’ta brought her over here. I wouldn’ta if’n I’d knowed this was gonna happen. Come on, Maggie. This ain’t a place for a little girl.

(LONGLEY STEPS UP BEHIND HICKOK AND SNATCHES ONE OF HIS PISTOLS FROM THE HOLSTER. HE COCKS IT AND HOLDS TO HICKOK’S HEAD.)

LONGLEY

No place for anybody, Wild Bill.

HICKOK

Shit. You plan this.

LONGLEY

Might say.

HICKOK

That’s what I get for feelin’ sorry for a dead man.

WES

He’s not dead yet.

HICKOK

Matter a’ time, ya young fool. Somebody take the other gun fore I try and do somethin’ I’ll regret.

LONGLEY

Hickok, you’ll excuse me but I’m going to whomp you smartly on the skull an’ put you out.

HICKOK

Shit. Ya have to?

LONGLEY

I don’t want you feelin’ no obligations to stop this jailbreak.

HICKOK

Aw… go ahead. But do it lightly, huh? If it don’t quite put out the lights, I’ll pretend it did.

(LONGLEY KNOCKS HICKOK OUT, DEPOSITS HIM ON A BUNK.)

WES

You’re a wonder, Bill Longley, a natural born wonder!

LONGLEY

You ain’t out yet.

MAGGIE

Is he allright?

LONGLEY

He’s sleepin’ is all. Ain’t that right, Bill?

HICKOK

Yup.

LONGLEY

Put on one a’ these dresses, Wesley.

WES

What?

LONGLEY

A dress, put it on.

WES

What for?

MAGGIE

Put on a dress, Wesley.

WES

I ain’t puttin’ on no dress.

MAGGIE

Didn’t you listen to me before? The streets are filled with people. There’s soldiers, bounty hunters. A disguise isn’t going to hurt.

WES

I’m goin’ like I am.

LONGLEY

They’ll shoot ya fore they smile at ya. This green one is nice.

WES

Well… okay. But this ain’t gonna make me look like no girl.

LONGLEY

Sure it will. An ugly one. Put this blanket over your head. Let’s see. Not bad. Ya look like Big Gerty over to the saloon. You walk low an’ you talk high an’ you’ll do fine. Maggie, you go check out front for a buggie or a wagon. The owners say anythin’, you just tell’m we’re breakin’ outta jail. They’ll understand.

(MAGGIE KISSES LONGLEY.)

MAGGIE

Thank you, Wild Bill Longley.

LONGLEY

Thank you, Miss Maggie Shaw.

(MAGGIE EXITS.)

WES

Here. You put this one on. You can hide your face under this bonnet.

(pause)

What’s a matter?

LONGLEY

I ain’t goin’.

WES

Don’t talk crazy. Come on, you don’t like the blue, you can wear the white.

LONGLEY

I’m tired, boy. If I had the energy to run, I’da done it that night in the saloon. I wouldn’t even know where to go.

WES

We could go anywheres. Anywheres! St. Louis! San Francisco!

LONGLEY

Paris, France?

WES

Sure.

LONGLEY

You keep believin’ that Wesley. You do, you’ll get there.

WES

Bill, you gotta come.

LONGLEY

Be so easy if it was all like Great Western Tales. Black an’ white, good guys against the bad guys. But it ain’t. It’s a tremblin’ shade a grey an’ the good guys an’ the bad guys are one an’ the same.

WES

(contemptuously)

You’re nothin’, aren’t ya. You’re a saddlebum who needs his moustache trimmed. You’re a petty killer who hides behind women’s skirts!

LONGLEY

Dressed as you are, boy, I’d be careful what I say about women’s skirts.

WES

Get mad at me, for god’s sake!

LONGLEY

Got nothin’ left.

WES

(pause)

What’ll I tell Maggie?

LONGLEY

You tell her I don’t regret nothin’. I just ain’t up to doin’ it over again. Less’n it’s in a story or a song. You marry that little girl, hear?

WES

Bill… please?

LONGLEY

See ya.

(WES HUGS LONGLEY.)

LONGLEY

Careful. You’re gonna give me ideas, you in a dress an’ all.

WES

Bye.

(WES EXITS.)

LONGLEY

Goodbye… Wesley.

(HE LOOKS AT THE DRESS IN HIS ARMS.)

LONGLEY

Kind of a shame. I’d look real fine in white linen.

(A MOMENT. HE SUDDENLY SMILES.)

LONGLEY

(singing)

I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in white linen, all wrapped in white linen an’ cold as the clay.

(a moment)

Damn. That’s it. There ya be.

(calling out)

Wesley, I… Oh, well.

(HICKOK SITS UP AND MAKES HIMSELF COMFORTABLE. HE REACHES FOR GREAT WESTERN TALES.)

HICKOK

(reading)

After four hours of public display, the hanged man was cut down and pronounced dead. Hardin and his wife were captured a week later. Hardin was sentenced to prison. He was later released and followed his wife, a woman of ill repute, to Mexico. John Wesley Hardin was shot to death at the age of-

(LONGLEY TEARS THE MAGAZINE OUT OF HICKOK’S HANDS. HE TOSSES IT ACROSS THE STAGE.)

LONGLEY

Dudes an’ crackpots. Nothin’ but. Dudes an’ crackpots who don’t know nothin’ from no how.

(calling out)

San Francisco, Wesley! Ya hear!? Gay Paree! Go, boy! Go! Yeeee-haaaa!

SONG * STREETS OF LAREDO SUITE

THE COMPANY

Ohhhh… you’d a be the hero…

LONGLEY

As I walked out in the streets of Laredo

As I walked out in Laredo one day

(THE COMPANY ENTERS FROM THE SHADOWS)

LONGLEY

I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in

ALL

All wrapped in white linen and cold as the clay

(WES AND MAGGIE ENTER)

WES

Don’t call me a good man, don’t call me a bad man

LONGLEY

Just call me a man did the best that he knew

WES

Outlaw or hero, it’s just circumstances

LONGLEY

Though I ran from the law, to myself I was true

COMPANY

The prairie’s my kingdom and I rode with princes

from high Rocky mountains to deserts so dry

Army scout and prospector, saloon girl, gunslinger

though the flesh passes on, western legends don’t die

ALL

Oh, we beat the drum slowly and played the fife lowly

and bitterly we wept as we carried him along

For we all loved our comrade, so brave, young and handsome

We all loved our comrade although he done wrong

COMPANY

You’d be the star of a wild west show…

(As I walked out in the Streets of Laredo…)

You’d be the hero…

(As I walked out in Laredo one day…)

It’s a vanishing breed, a dying off seed

A fast fading story…

A fast fading story…

I spied a young cowboy…

(THE LIGHTS BEGIN TO FADE.)

WES

To make your heart bleed, the cowboy

Yodelahee-hoo!

The cowboy…

Yodelahee-hoo-hoo!

(THE COMPANY BREATHES AS ONE; MAKES THE SOUND OF THE WIND BLOWING ACROSS A DESOLATE PRAIRIE. LIGHTS TO BLACK.

END OF PLAY

THE CAST

(Note: The only actors not playing more than one role are those playing the roles of Hardin, Longley and Maggie Shaw. An example of a cast breakdown is:)

John Wesley Hardin

Wild Bill Longley

Simp Dixon/Saloon Manager

J.W. Groober/Soldier/Buffalo Bill Cody

Pa Hardin/Wild Bill Hickock

Sheriff/Soldier #1/Cowboy

Maggie Shaw

Doctor/Soldier/Cowboy/Preacher

Widow Chambers/Belle Starr

Soldier/Pig/Cowboy

Soldier/Speedy/Cowboy

Saloon Girl/Soldier/Cowgirl

THE MUSICIANS

Anywhere from one to four musicians are on stage and are part of the company. The music is traditional; the roots are acoustic – guitars, saloon piano, harmonica, fiddles. Certainly other musicians and instruments can be off-stage.

A MOMENT. LONGLEY TURNS AWAY. THE MUSICIANS ARE ALL LOOKING AT HIM)

LONGLEY

What are ya all lookin’ at? Play somethin’!

(THE MUSICIANS BEGIN TO PLAY.)

THE BAD MAN SONG

LONGLEY

A good man is foolish.

A bad man is smart.

WES

A good man has conscience.

LONGLEY

A bad man has heart.

WES

A good man knows peace. And a bad knows woe.

LONGLEY

But I’m welcome whereever I go.

(HE GLOWERS AT SOME PRISONERS. THEY COWER.)

WES

A good man’s content, where a bad man pretends.

A bad is lonely. A good man has friends.

LONGLEY

A bad man knows life where a good man’s nieve!

A bad man has tricks up his sleeve!

THE MUSICIANS

There once was a good man, a banker by trade.

He worked long hard hours, his fortune was made.

But now he ain’t nothin’ but a pauper.

You’ll find him in an alley quite out of his head

LONGLEY

I robbed him, I left him for dead.

WES

A good man is humble.

LONGLEY

A bad man is proud.

WES

A good man is quiet.

LONGLEY

A bad man is loud!

WES

A good man is quiet, at peace with his lord!

LONGLEY

A bad man resents being born!

WES AND THE MUSICIANS

A bad man is selfish, a good man is fair

If a girl loves a bad man, that girl best beware

Where a good man is patient, a bad man is brief

He’ll take her then leave her to grief!

LONGLEY

Let me tell you `bout a woman, a seamstress!

WES

I’m not listenin’.

LONGLEY

She worked long hard hours, her fortune was made!

WES

I’m sick of your lies!

LONGLEY

But now she ain’t nothin’ but a bargirl.

She’s drunk and she’s shiftless, her virtue’s worth dirt.

She loved me –

WES

Cheat!

LONGLEY

Loved me!

WES

Thief!

LONGLEY

Loved me, she made me this shirt!

WES

You have no honor!

COMPANY

Little at best.

WES

You’ll all die scoundrels!

COMPANY

We could care less.

WES

You can’t provoke me!

COMPANY

You’re just a pup.

LONGLEY

Still a virgin.

WES

Put’m up! Put’m up!

LONGLEY

Drop dead.

WES

A bad man’s a coward!

COMPANY

A good man plain stinks!

LONGLEY

A bad man just says what he thinks.

WES

A good man is giving.

LONGLEY

A bad man just takes.

WES

A good man feels bad for the simplest mistakes.

LONGLEY

Not so with a bad man his rules are his own.

Don’t like them then leave me alone.

There once was a good man, not more than a lad.

WES

Bad luck when he met you!

LONGLEY

His family was dead and his prospects were sad.

WES

You had no pity for him!

LONGLEY

But now he ain’t nothin’ but a bad man!

He’s shameless and guiltless and wild and he’s free.

WES

Free!?

COMPANY

That bad man, my good friends, is –

WES

Cad!

COMPANY

Bad man, my good friends –

WES

Scum!

COMPANY

Bad man –

WES

Dirt!

COMPANY

Bad man –

WES

Louse!

COMPANY

Bad man –

WES

Fake!

COMPANY

Bad man is me (me, me, me, ME!).

WES, LONGLEY AND THE MUSICIANS

A bad man is selfish, a good man is fair.

(A good man is foolish)

If a girl trusts a bad man, that girl best beware.

(A bad man is smart)

Where a good man is patient, a bad man is brief

(A bad man has heart)

A good man reveres!

A bad man’s reknown!

No heroes!

No falsehopes!

No future!

Only tomorrow!

(A good man trusts strangers)

Only tomorrow!

(A bad man trusts none)

Wait till tomorrow!

(A bad man hates pity and mercy, it’s weakness)

Wait till tomorrow!

(A bad man lives strong)

A bad man dies young!

WES

That’s right! A bad man dies young!

(THE SOUND OF HAMMERING IS HEARD OUTSIDE.

LONGLEY

(furious)

Stop that goddamn bangin’!

(SILENCE. AND THEN THE BANGING BEGINS AGAIN.