REVIEW AMERICANA

 

Spring 2015

Volume 10, Issue 1

http://www.americanpopularculture.com/review_americana/spring_2015/watson.htm




DWIGHT E. WATSON

 

A Bleeding Heart

 

LIST OF CHARACTERS
________________________
Mr. Bogardus, an antiquarian
Mr. Lacey, an ornithologist


PLACE
_____________
A National Park


TIME
_______
The Present

 

 

(SCENE. A park. Two benches. A peaceful morning in July. Birds are singing. MR. BOGARDUS sits on a bench feeding the birds. He is impeccably dressed in clothing reminiscent of the late nineteenth century. MR.LACEY, a younger man, sits on another bench near MR. BOGARDUS. Scattered about MR. LACEY'S bench is bird watching paraphernalia: binoculars, a cassette player, notebook, etc. After a moment, MR. LACEY takes a carrot from his lunchbag and begins to eat. MR. BOGARDUS studies LACEY.)

BOGARDUS: That's your lunch? A carrot?

LACEY: Yes.

BOGARDUS: Vegetarian?

LACEY: Yes, I am.

BOGARDUS: Oh.

LACEY: (Brief pause.) Is there something wrong?

BOGARDUS: (Resumes bird feeding.) No. Not at all. Thomas Edison was a vegetarian. So was Henry David Thoreau, which really doesn't surprise me. A man writes about civil disobedience, lives on a pond, and you expect him to eat veggies, or maybe the occasional bass, right? But Edison, Thomas Alva Edison, now that's news, isn't it? It is to me. I think of inventors as meat eaters with huge appetites not only to invent, say, the light bulb, which, I think, was a carnivorous act, but for food. Glorious fatty foods. Richly, marbled Delmonicos, Veal Condon Bleu, Chicken Tetrazzini, incandescent, luminescent, protein-powered food.

LACEY: A flicker. (He takes out his binoculars and studies the bird.) Yes. Yellow-shafted. (Writing in his notebook.) Yellow-shafted flicker. 11:22. Monday. July 2.

(LACEY returns to his carrot. BOGARDUS studies LACEY'S activities with great interest.)

BOGARDUS: (Resumes bird feeding.) Edison was not the lone scientific vegan, oh, no. Albert Einstein and the enlightened Sir Isaac Newton. Hmmm. Curious. I wonder. Is there a correlation between scientific genius and say nibbling on Brussels sprouts? Albert freed the atom of its energy; he helped us take that quantum leap to television. Isaac's calculation of the universe explained how it's all held together. So here's my question: Would the world of modern physics been vastly different if these men had used their canine teeth to rip a few Texas barbecued ribs? I think not.

LACEY: (Again LACEY spots a bird with his binoculars.) Cuckoo.

BOGARDUS: Pardon?

LACEY: Yellow-billed cuckoo.

BOGARDUS: Where?

LACEY: To the right, 45 degrees, the branch of the old oak tree.

BOGARDUS: Yes, there he is. So far we have two yellow birds, one billed and one shafted. I had no idea my trip to the park today would be so educational.

LACEY: (Writing.) Yellow-billed cuckoo. 11:24. Monday, July 2. (He puts the notebook away and returns to his carrot.)

BOGARDUS: I guess we will never know. Edison, Thoreau, gone, they are. Einstein, Newton, gone. Extinct. Scientia. Finis. There were others, too, Darwin, da Vinci, Plato, and more who devoured heads, ears, and hearts of lettuce, corn, and artichoke, but neglected the sweet and tender delicacies of meat. You are in good company, Mr....Mr....

LACEY: Lacey.

BOGARDUS: Mr. Lacey, yes, good company, well, relatively speaking. Excuse my rudeness. My name is Bogardus. (Removing a card from his pocket.) I'm a collector—an antiquarian.

LACEY: (Searching.) Bogardus. (Repeating the name to awaken it from his memory.) Bogardus. That name is...

BOGARDUS: (Moving to LACEY.) Here's my card. Bogardus Collectibles. And you, Mr. Lacey?

LACEY: (Studying the card.) Bogardus.

BOGARDUS: (Indicating LACEY'S bird watching equipment.) Is this a hobby or a profession?

LACEY: Oh, I'm sorry. I work for PETA.

BOGARDUS: Hmm...And what does Peter do?

LACEY: P-E-T-A. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

BOGARDUS: Oh...I see...PETA...you work for an acronym, and you watch birds, ethically speaking.

LACEY: Well...all animals, tracking their whereabouts, that kind of thing.

BOGARDUS: A zoologists.

LACEY: Although my specialty is birds.

BOGARDUS: An ornithologist.

LACEY: My thesis was on the family Columbidae.

BOGARDUS: And what does the family of Columbidae look like?

LACEY: Pigeons.

BOGARDUS: (With some disgust.) Pigeons?

LACEY: Yes.

BOGARDUS: (Returning to his bench.) Mr. Lacey, you're looking in the wrong place. Follow me to the city, to my house, to my walk and you will find a plethora of pigeons playing in a sea of pigeon shit.

LACEY: Those are domestic, common pigeons. I'm looking for a rare one called the Bleeding Heart.

BOGARDUS: (Slight laughter.) The Bleeding Heart?

LACEY: Pigeon. Yes.

BOGARDUS: It seems we're both collectors, Mr. Lacey. I, objets d'art and, you, the Bleeding Heart.

LACEY: They're disappearing from around here. We suspect poachers.

BOGARDUS: Rare pigeons. Sounds contradictory, but so is everything else. We are both tiger and sheep with canine teeth to tear our meats and molars to grind our grains. And so, if you say pigeons are rare, I guess it is possible.

LACEY: They will vanish like the Passenger Pigeon, if we don't take care of them.

BOGARDUS: (Contemplative.) It's very difficult making a living as an antiquarian. Most people are interested in things that are new, the cutting edge, the upgrade, looking through the cyberspace window of the future and not the old foolscap chronicles of the past. (Turning to LACEY.) When did the Passenger....vanish?

LACEY: 1914.

BOGARDUS: So exact. How can we be so sure?

LACEY: She died in the Cincinnati Zoo.

BOGARDUS: She?

LACEY: Her name was Martha.

BOGARDUS: Hmmm...1914...the death of Martha and the beginning of World War I. You say all her relatives are gone?

LACEY: Her species, yes, hunted, eaten, their habitats destroyed.

BOGARDUS: Did someone eat Martha?

LACEY: No. She's stuffed...on display at the Museum of Natural History in Washington. I've seen her...well...what remains of her.

BOGARDUS: You went to the museum specifically to see the remains of Martha, a pigeon?

LACEY: (Self-consciously.) Well...Yes.

BOGARDUS: (Knowingly.) I see. Lovely.

LACEY: (With growing emotion.) Just three hundred years ago, a flock of Passengers, sometimes numbering a million or more in one group, flew these skies. So thick, they were, they blocked out the sun. Billions and billions. Impossible to ignore. After the Civil War, we set our nation against the Passengers. We displaced and ate this graceful, once abundant bird until, finally, only one was left.

BOGARDUS: In a zoo.

LACEY: And then behind glass...

BOGARDUS: Behind glass?

LACEY: To remind us of what we had lost.

BOGARDUS: Your study of the Columbidae is more than academic. Bleeding Heart. What do they look like?

LACEY: They have a patch of red on their chests.

BOGARDUS: I should've guessed. What did writer Crane call it? The Red Badge of Courage. Perhaps, that is why poachers like her so. She's a living target, an uncommon skeet with a visible “heart.”

LACEY: What do you collect, Mr...um...Bogardus?

BOGARDUS: Once it was books, mostly, rare editions, when possible. But as I got older, it seemed fewer people cared. And so, I decided to...diversify. Now I focus on collectibles from bygone days, with a special interest in...medals.

LACEY: Medals?

BOGARDUS: Medallions, prize insignias, memorial coins minted out of silver and gold. My own brand of patches. Here are a few. (Removing medals from his jacket pocket.) See? These are from...various associations throughout the world. This one is from Monte Carlo. And this rare angular coin is from Prague. They are medals...badges of honor...worn by champions. Here, look, hold them.

LACEY: (Struggling to recall.) I've seen these somewhere before.

BOGARDUS: (Looking in the distance, pointing.) What are those?

LACEY: Those?

BOGARDUS: Yes. All...hopping about over there.

LACEY: (Looking through his binoculars.) Those...are...squabs.

BOGARDUS: Squabs. Aren't they cute and...ummm...

LACEY: (Preoccupied with the medals.) Only a few weeks away from the nest. This insignia, these medals, are...familiar.

BOGARDUS: They are small, the little squabs. You almost need something telescopic to see them.

LACEY: (Offering the binoculars.) Here. Try these?

BOGARDUS: (Taking binoculars.) Thank you. What kind of squabs are they?

LACEY: Mournings, maybe Homers. It's hard to tell from here. (Studying the medals.) Where did you say these medals came from, Mr. Bogardus?

BOGARDUS: (Studying the birds.) All over. Europe mostly. Some from the U.S.

LACEY: Medals of...champions, you say?

BOGARDUS: Yes, men of extraordinary poise and stability. Confident. Self-possessed. An endangered species, I'm afraid. With an eye...as...sharp...as clear...as the eye of a.... (Focusing binoculars on one spot.) Ahh! Yes...I believe we have found her.

LACEY: (Almost a whisper.) Shooting medals.

BOGARDUS: (Almost a whisper. Conspiratorially) Yes. We've found her.

LACEY: (With growing recognition.) These are shooting medals.

BOGARDUS: So they are. (His eyes fix on a bird - a pigeon - a Bleeding Heart)
It's amazing to think that some of the world's largest mammals are strictly vegetarian.

LACEY: (With some alarm.) Medals from rifle clubs.

BOGARDUS: (A slight laugh.) The elephant, for example. His tusks have never touched a T-bone, his tongue a Boston Pork Butt, and yet he weighs in the neighborhood of 13,000 pounds! He eats fruits, berries, twigs and grass...and that's it!

LACEY: Medals for killing birds...live pigeons. Trapped and slaughtered for sport.

BOGARDUS: (Unseen by LACEY, BOGARDUS unlatches a case near his bench.) Of course, the bigger they are, the harder they fall—and like the collapse of his cousin, the Woolly Mammoth, the elephant is an interesting concept, but isn't designed for survival.

LACEY: At one of these clubs in the 1880s, a hunter was said to have killed 99 out of 100 live pigeons.

BOGARDUS: I thought scientists were known for their accuracy. He wasn't a hunter; he was a marksman...and he didn't kill 99, he scored 99 out of 100. The judges claimed the 47th bird fell...out of bounds...it was, however, dead.

(BOGARDUS takes a pistol from his case and aims it at the pigeon.)

LACEY: Hey! What are you doing?

BOGARDUS: They were the common Blue Rock variety. Nothing as exotic as your Bleeding Heart.

LACEY: Don't do that!

BOGARDUS: (Steadying his aim.) According to trap-shooting regulations, I would be disqualified if I were to willfully miss.

LACEY: What’s wrong with you, mister?!

BOGARDUS: Please, now, quiet. Rule number 6. If a shooter is balked by another competitor, and I mean you, Mr. Lacey, the shooter is allowed another bird. (Pointing the pistol at LACEY.) Here, again, Mr. Lacey, I mean you. (Calmly.) The contestant takes his mark. When the shooter is ready, he will call to the puller the caution: "Are you ready?" The puller nods to the shooter and then grips the rope. Soon the shooter will yell his command, "pull," and the puller will yank, the trap will collapse, and the frightened bird will fly.

(BOGARDUS points the pistol at the bird.)

LACEY: Bogardus, don't!

BOGARDUS: (The caution.) "Are you ready?"

LACEY: Bogardus!

BOGARDUS: Record it, Mr. Lacey.

LACEY: Don't!

BOGARDUS: (The command.) "Pull!" (He fires. He is successful. Checks the time on his pocket watch, and then turns to MR. LACEY.) Bleeding Heart. 11:34. Monday, July 2.

LACEY: (Stunned.) Why?

BOGARDUS: (Studies the pistol.) This pistol is a work of art. Notice how the hand fits meticulously into the carved contours of the handle? The index finger wraps the trigger, and then, you see, there is...this perfect pressure between the two. You should know the feeling.

LACEY: Why did you do it?

BOGARDUS: (Cleaning the pistol.) Some are champions, Mr. Lacey, and others are pigeon-livered and lack gall.

LACEY: But...an endangered species.

BOGARDUS: (Putting away the pistols.) We are all in danger, Mr. Lacey, so we must all prove our worth.

LACEY: "Prove our worth?”

BOGARDUS: Your Bleeding Heart is no exception. (He leaves and turns back to MR. LACEY.) I leave the trophy to you. (He exits.)


LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK


 

 

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