CROSSING

by Paul Mullin

What follows is the script of the audio production based on Paul Mullin's original stage play "Crossing". While the dialogue remains unchanged, the part of the Narrator was added to clarify some of the actions that would ordinarily be visible in a full staging. Wherever possible, the narration remains faithful to the stage directions of the original.

This audio performance of "Crossing" was produced and directed in Los Angeles in 2001 by William Salyers, with sound design by Peter Carlstedt.

The cast was:

The Gunner. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Augustine
Larboard. . . . . . . . . . .Tom Beyer
Starboard. . . . . . . . . . .Bart Tangredi
Narrator . . . . . . . . . . . William Salyers



NARRATOR

It is Christmas night, 1776; We are on a Durham boat, long and flat for river crossings. Lashed on board is a half-ton "sixpounder" cannon and carriage. Beneath it sits the Gunner, cradling an injured man in his arms. Two men stand at the bow with long river poles, waiting for the signal to shove off.

LARBOARD

(New England accent) Ain't never seen New Jersey.

STARBOARD

(Same) Ain't missed much.... Lord God will you kindly quit pissing on us for just one bloody hour? Mind ye, if I were Glover and that cold son of a Virginia whore told me to order my men to push his boats cross this river, I'd cough up every last foul, infectious gob whistling in my chest and I'd hock it right in his smug sour face, I would. "Get yourself another regiment to do yer ferrying," I'd tell 'im, "The Marbleheaders are through. You and your paper money."

LARBOARD

Shit.

STARBOARD

Knows we're gonna muster out come the New Year, and that it's our right to do it, too. Wants to bleed every man as much as he can. Rather see you dead than muster out.

LARBOARD

Well, I'd rather ferry than fight.

STARBOARD

I wager you would.

LARBOARD

There's the torch.

STARBOARD

Ayup. That's it. (Shouting back at the stern.) Aft cast off!
And... shove!

NARRATOR

The Marbleheaders set the leather padded butts of the river poles to their shoulders and shove, slowly pushing their way along the sweeps toward the stern. A few moments later, they stride back up the sweeps trailing their poles along side. The Gunner takes out a pipe and stuffs it with thin, brown, raggy weed from his pocket. He carefully removes a smoldering coal from a tin brazier hanging on the cannon carriage and uses it to light his pipe.

LARBOARD

Whatcha smoking?

GUNNER

(raw Irish) Him that hawked it said pure Carolina leaf. I figger it for Lancaster County corn husk, only not so smooth.

STARBOARD

(shouting back at the stern) Tom, you letting the river steer tonight? Port the helm, you dumb bastard!
And... shove!

(There is a fit of coughing from the man in Gunner's lap.)

STARBOARD

You got a straw man there?

GUNNER

My spongeman Jonas. He's a wee part cold is all.

STARBOARD

Oh well, we're just burning up to-and-froing in this pissing sleet and wind fighting these fucking ice cakes.
And... shove!

LARBOARD

Look at that one alee, big as a prize fucking sow.

STARBOARD

Mind that ice larboard.

LARBOARD

I see it. (to the Gunner) You shoot that cannon, mistah?

GUNNER

I do. I drug it all the way from Ticonderoga under Colonel Knox. Lost a foot to the snow... Small price.

STARBOARD

And... shove!

GUNNER

In March, we got the guns up Dorchester Heights and so the Brits, no bloody fools, abandoned Boston. But my wife and little girl were gone. Nowhere. Most likely dead. Most likely starved. It's the Britisher Gentlemen's weapon of choice, the blockade.

STARBOARD

There wouldn't a been a blockade if Sam Adams coulda kept his drunken mouth shut.

GUNNER

So you say, as if you knew.

STARBOARD

I know alright, cannon man.
And... shove!
I know this is just one more fool's errand in a fool's war. Ain't you heard what's over there? Hessians. Blood-thirsty savages that King Georgie pays bright yellow gold, not this paper the Virginian keeps given us ain't worth wiping your arse with. Says they're gonna be drunk 'cause it's Christmas--
And... shove!
-- I want to know where 'tween here and hell they're getting their whiskey, 'cause ain't none of us seen none since summer. And that was like to blind ya.

GUNNER

Don't trouble yourself about Hessians,friend. They don't know why they're fighting any more than you do. Rather face five of them any day than a single red coat.

STARBOARD

Maybe you oughta fight your red coat, cannon man, and I'll have a whiskey with the Hessian, seeing as your damned right I don't know why I'm fighting.
And... shove!
You got a funny way a talking, mister. I'm like to think you're one of those Popish Irishers Boston's starting to crawl with. So how bout it?
And... shove!
You a pope lover?

GUNNER

I got love for no man. I do love to kill the King's men though. So I figger I'm fit for this army.

STARBOARD

Well, mister, I ain't so sure I got a beef with the British or ol' George.

LARBOARD

We're drifting starboard. Big ice ahead.

STARBOARD

Ain't blind. (shouting aft) Tom, port the bloody helm, will ya? Lean on that tiller! (back to the gunner) It's a sin to joy in killing.

GUNNER

Ever done it?

STARBOARD

No, I don't hope to. And I surely don't hope to die, which it looks like we're all doomed to do before the Virginian's through with us.
And... shove!

GUNNER Doom. Doom, is it? I was in the bunker on Breed's hill. Oh and we had 'em, too, looking down on 'em from that sweet high slope. As soon as they were in range we let loose with every damned thing we had, reloaded and let loose again over and over, no rhyme or reason. We laid a nice red carpet down, we did.

STARBOARD

And... shove!

GUNNER

--And they fell back... and they regrouped... and they came again, and again we gave 'em everything and laid down another broad stripe of red a little closer. And they fell back... and they regrouped... and sure as fuck they marched again. And then a funny little thing happened: some fool says we're out of powder, and funny enough, it's true. And so we watch like dumb monkeys as those bright bastards marched cool steady rhythm right over their own dead and right up that hill to murder us.

STARBOARD

You don't look murdered to me.

GUNNER

I had two feet then.

LARBOARD

You ran then.

GUNNER

Didn't have the wings to fly.

STARBOARD

And... shove! (There is a groan from the spongeman)

GUNNER

(to the boy) Jonas, you weren't there for that, were ya, boy. But you seen some since then, ey?

LARBOARD

Met a man from Ohio country says a regiment of riflemen's what we need. Hiding behind trees and bushes. The Redcoats come to formation, just shoot 'em like ducks in a row.

GUNNER

You'll do it once maybe, before the Lobster gets wise. Takes three minutes to load a rifle. You don't just slide the ramrod down like a musket, ye gotta hammer it. If the wind's with ye, and if you're damned good and damned lucky, you can hit a man at a hundred and fifty strides.

STARBOARD

And... shove!

GUNNER

--The redcoat behind him can cover that ground in half a minute in full gear. He won't bother to load his musket; he'll just fix bayonet. Ye can't fix a bayonet to a rifle: barrel ain't round like a musket but squared off funny-like with eight sides and it's too long anyway. Now you tell me, when that British bastard reaches you with a blade on his stick, who's killing who?

STARBOARD

And... shove!

GUNNER

The Virginian's gotta learn his army to fight the lobsters like lobsters. Ye won't lick him running and ye won't lick him hiding. You got to line up against his line, and learn to take your dead like he does.

STARBOARD

The Virginian oughta learn the terms of surrender while he can. Most the men in these colonies are sons of British born or British born themselves. My own Pa's pa served in the King's navy. It's like fighting your father, like fighting your blood.
And... shove!

GUNNER

Friend, I figger you're most likely right. The Virginian's a son of a Virginian whore, we're a snivelling, rag-tag puppet show of an army, and we're doomed... aye... somewhere cross that river.

STARBOARD

And... shove!

GUNNER

--And knowing it don't change a damned thing.... Might as well fight. You can fight him now or you can fight him later... For all I know or care you might be the King's cousin, you and all your British born brothers.... But you've stood up, see?... And he won't forget. So now you'd do well to not forget neither. You might be his cousin, but you've stood up. So now you're a bloody white nigger like me.

STARBOARD

Hey... HEY!... You mind your mouth, cannon man. I'm the skipper of this boat. And I ain't no nigger neither.

GUNNER

Well, right you are, sir, and I'm sure I'm quite sorry. I'll surely mind my mouth in the future.

STARBOARD

And... shove!
(shouting aft) Three points to starboard, Tom. Straighten her into land.

LARBOARD

New Jersey, ho!

NARRATOR

The Marbleheaders stand at the bow, poles pointing forward to brake their landing.

STARBOARD

(to a man onshore.) Ye want to just sit there, or do ye want yank that line and tie us off? (to the larboard man) Gonna go find the colonel.

LARBOARD

Ayup.

NARRATOR

As the starboard poleman strides away, his counterpart hops on shore with a second line and ties it off. Then, he climbs back aboard and disappears aft. The Gunner stands and, slinging the spongeman over his shoulder, clambers off the boat.

GUNNER

(to someone on the shore) Hey!... Well met there then. Happy Christmas to ya. I'll need a horse or two to pull this gun off. This one'll need burying. Make sure his bible's with him when you cover him up.... 'Tis a pity, too. What did I tell ya time and time, Jonas Spongeman. Dying's not half as fine as killing the lobster. The one you can only do once, the other as often as Jesus pleases.

END

©1999 - Paul Mullin