(A Short Play in one Act, and two Scenes)
Big Ace and Reno
(Or general idea behind the story)
The story “Escape” is much like the Author’s other works, biographical in many respects; it presents a version of his own life. In this case, an imaginative speculation about what might have taken place prior to his leaving Minnesota to go to San Francisco and what might have happened otherwise, had he not.
That is, had he not chosen to go to San Francisco, in 1968, as indicated in his previous book “Romancing San Francisco”? Moreover, had he not gone to Vietnam, as indicated in his book, “Where the Birds Don’t Sing.” In addition, had he not went onto college receiving two Doctorate Degrees, along with two undergraduate degrees? And seven Poet Laureate Awards; traveling the world over—to fifty-six countries, and forty-six of the fifty states, in the United States. What is more, had he not worked on his self-image—had he not taken as Robert Frost the poet’s idiom seriously, “The Road less Traveled,” then what?
It cast light on the significance for him on his neighborhood (which the police call ‘Donkeyland’), whose influence on his early life is obvious. He himself is perhaps was his own worse—if not only—protagonist. His estrangement from the world outside of the neighborhood, which consists of two neighborhood bars, a street called Cayuga, a cemetery along Jackson Street, called ‘Oakland’; a dozen or two dozen friends.
This story elaborates on one single night at one of the two bars, his central theme alcoholism or escape.
Making the decision he did, he in the process sobered up, wrote three books on the subject of Alcoholism, which he would not have done, had he not escaped the neighborhood, and became an international licensed drug counselor.
It is 1968, at this point, Chick Evens had been married to Barbara for fifteen months, she is now seeking a divorce, but Chick will not give it to her, he knows if he does, he’ll be drafted, and sent to Vietnam. He has a daughter named Darla, born in 1966; again authentic, but on his aesthetic, or visual theory, things could change, in that he ponders on a decision. In real life, Barbara had told Darla, his real father died, of course, this is not the real case, and she wants to marry another person.
Escape, in essence is essential theme; for those who have read much of the forty-five books the author has written, there is always truth interwoven into his dialogues, his narrations, thus, you see the author’s life as it really is today of how it might not have been had he chosen a different road in life.
He has an apartment on the east side of town (York Street), which again is authentic, he is twenty-years old, his brother Mike two years older, lives on Van Buren Street, with his two kids, and wife. He is a truck driver. Chick Evens is a kind of roustabout, better put, working for Swift Meats, in South Saint Paul, and becoming a chronic drunk, he isn’t at this moment in his life, anymore than a bum, as he mother once put it lightly. Perhaps more on the borderline of inspiring drinker, but he drinks almost every day, he likes beer, smokes three packs of cigarettes a day.
He has a girlfriend named Sandy Nelson; she’s sixteen years old, and a blond, tall, thin and nice looking, blue eyes, a sort of whore—or everyone’s girl, to get to the point. On the other hand, he had Sue Benton, sixteen years old, black hair girl dark eyes, very pretty, who wanted to be his exclusive girlfriend—so he was not lacking in female companionship, but she would not put out for him. Consequently, falling to the wayside; these girls will not show up in the Act, but it might be worthwhile knowing why he is not running after any girls during the Act. He also has a fake identification, and if questioned, he looks the legal age for drinking.
Therefore, now you know enough of the background of the story, to get into the story.
The tone to the story is haughty, if not portentous, in that it is slated on Chick’s self-importance. Perhaps you will get to know the author more, or better, knowing the most influential part of his youthful life, which drove him to escape the world he was in, was his neighborhood, and his dreams—although not fully developed yet. Escape is the objective, the author is trying to tell you, not everybody is successful in escaping, and how easy one may think it is, isn’t really so easy, that is if you don’t believe in it fully, and how one thing leads to another.
Had he not gone to San Francisco, and signed the divorce papers, he would not have gone to Vietnam, Germany, Italy, thus, not have written “A Romance in Augsburg,” or the 850-short stories, and 3200-poems and 1400 articles to date, along with forty-five books, or this One Act Play.
Escape: the Story
(Act One, Scene One)
Jackie S. and Nancy E. come in by the front door of the Mt. Airy Bar, on Jackson and Sycamore Streets, Jackie being twenty-years old. When she was fifteen, she and Chick Evens had a thing going, nothing serious, a teenager’s lighthearted affair you might say. Nancy is going with one of the Lund boys by the name of Sammy. The bartender is Jose Garcia, Mexican, a strongly build forty-five year old man, robust.
Jackie slender, from the Native American Race, is wearing a well made and trimmed navy blue blouse, and jeans, she’s slim and cute; as for Nancy, more plain than cute, brown hair, is holding a large handbag. They sit at the corner of the bar, towards the front door; it is 7:00 p.m.
By the jukebox and in a booth near the bathrooms are Jerry Hino, and his brother Jim, and Jerry’s second wife, Betty. A year prior, when Jerry had gotten mad at Betty, he and Chick Evens took a trip to Omaha, Nebraska, Jerry to get away from her, and that in itself is another story.
Jerry is perhaps the same size in height as Chick, but a 100-pounds heavier, and fifteen years his senior. Jim is perhaps twenty-five, more or less, about the same height as Evens, and build. They are drinking beer and smoking, kind of to themselves. Don Gulf, has come in from the bar across the street and is talking to Jerry, they are friends, about the same age, he is married to Jackie’s sister, one of the several sisters of Jackie, he is the biggest drunk in the neighborhood. Once he tried to pick a fight with Chick, thinking he was screwing his wife, when it was John L., (John L., who went with Evens to California; Long Beach and then L.A. and came back to marry his long time girlfriend, Karen) Larry L’s cousin.
Jackie: the boys are sitting on the church steps drinking as usual. I suppose Doug expects me to be there, but he can wait. They didn’t see us anyhow.
Nancy E: No, they didn’t, I saw Sammy there and Chick, he wasn’t there as usual, you should go back with him, you always give him the eye, but end up with someone different, he treats you better than Doug.
Jose: What you girls having?
Jackie: tap beer, any kind.
Jackie: (Points to the clock.) I heard Chick was going to San Francisco; learn more of that Karate stuff, he’s been talking about that for the last year now, he’s still living on East Side of town, goes to that gym he calls a dojo.
Nancy E: (Sitting on the stool next to Jackie, trying to get comfortable.) He’ll never escape this neighborhood, no one does.
Jackie: He might, he’s different. I heard Sammy asked you to marry him, is that true?
Nancy E: O, yes. (She is hesitant, coughs, then laughs, trying to put it off, rather nervously.) I’m trying to put it off until I finish nursing school, I want to be an LPN; that’s in two years, but he doesn’t want to wait, he says he’ll pay for it, he makes good money like, Chick’s brother, Mike.
Jackie: (Sympathetically.) Rather nice, I think he means it, he’s nuts about you.
Jose: Look outside, it looks like rain. (Moving towards the window, leaving the horseshoe shaped bar.)
Jackie: Is Mr. Carbonell working tonight? (Who is the owner of the bar, and kind of a snob?)
Jose: He always works the nights. (He points to the window it is raining hard now.) He’s in the back room getting ready, with Doris, the waitress.
Jackie: Yea, we all know what he’s doing with Doris, both married, and whooping it up.
Jose: Shiii, be quiet, he’ll hear you.
Jackie: we all know he stays with her in the back of the bar half the night after the bar closes.
Nancy E: It shouldn’t be long now; the boys will be in here, or across the street at Bram’s soon, I saw Big Ace’s brother in there, Kenny, you know the skinny one Chick went with to Seattle; he’s back with his wife again.
Mr. Carbonell comes out of the backroom up to the bar front area of the bar, towards Jose, holding papers, he advances towards Jose.
Carbonell: I’ll be a while girls, I got to count the money, and make a transfer, so if you want a drink, order one now.
Allen J: I’ll take a Bud before your start your business. (He shouts, he’s on the other side of the bar by himself, he’s been drinking nearly as much as Chick Evens lately, also the same age as Chick, they are both buddies, Chick used to like his sister, Italian stock, but she’s too young, fourteen. Allen is a nice looking fellow, black hair, his father owns a little business on Cayuga Street, polishing, and putting plated chrome on bumpers and other parts of chrome on cars and motorcycles, Evens worked for his father for a season.)
Carbonell: get him a beer Jose, I’ll open the register.
Doug, Reno (or Steve L. the fat man of the neighborhood, who married Judy, a silent a quite woman) Mike E., Larry L., and Jennie, Jacky’s sister, Nancy D. and her boyfriend, David, along with Big Ace, and his sister Kathy—whom Chick used to date right after he dated Jackie S. And Sid M., a friend who often stopped at Chick’s high school to pick him up before he enter the door, so they could get drunk (Jerry S, six-foot six, 240 pounds, and as dumb as an ox) all walk through the swinging doors of the bar.
Jose: Welcome boys, you will have to wait a few minutes while Mr. Carbonell clears the register. Hope you don’t mind.
Allen: (Rises up, waves his hand, as if to say hello, he is not really one of the boys, but part of the neighborhood, and not much of a troublemaker.)
Mike E: You see my brother. (Looking at Allen)?
Allen: he could be across the street at Bram’s.
Mike E: I doubt it, he does not like the place. Jackie, you see him.
Jackie: No, why?
Mike E: (looks at Jose)
Jose: Do not disturb me, we are counting, he was here an hour ago, left.
Doug: (He takes a hand full of change out of his pocket, hands it to Jackie.) Order me a beer, and the rest of the guys something, I got to go take a piss. (On the way to the can, he slips a quarter into the jukebox, plays Elvis’ “It’s Now or Never,” and Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” and something by Johnny Cash. Bill K and his wife Judy walk into the bar at the sometime; Doug plays his last song, and heads on into the bathroom, waving his hands, a gesture of hello, at Jerry and Bill just before he opens the bathroom door.)
Mike E. You see my brother around, Bill?
Bill K: We were practicing karate earlier this afternoon in my backyard, I can’t say I have seen him since; he’ll be around though, he always is, why?
Mike E: He got some paper from the courthouse sent to my place, I think it’s his divorce papers from Barb, you know, his ex-wife.
Jack T: (One of Chick’s friends, comes through the door, hears what Mike said.) Divorce papers haw, he better not sign them he’ll be heading for Vietnam, I got my draft notice a week ago, I got to be going in three weeks. The bastards got me. Matter of fact, you see my brother Tom? (Tom is married to one of Jackie’s sisters, Trudy.)
Mike E: No. (All the other boys and the two girls, Jackie and Nancy, shake their heads no, but Allen, he’s not paying attention.)
Jack T: how about you goofball (Looking at Allen; Allen looks up surprised, Jack is a joker, and when drunk a loose cannon like his brother.) I’m just kidding, but how long you’ve been here?
Allen: I’ve been here a few hours, he never came in when I was here.
Doug: A letter haw?
Jackie: No shit, I bet he’s going to end up in Vietnam.
Mr. Carbonell: Okay boys, what’ll you have?
Doug: (Picking up his change.) Tap beer for everyone.
Allen: I don’t like tap beer!
Doug: Forget the big shot over there, tap beer isn’t good enough for him, asshole. (Allen just smiles, looks at Doug, he is a brawler.)
Carbonell hands each of his customers, which are really the neighborhood gang, all tap beer but Allen. The newspaper is on the bar, Big Ace pushes it towards Larry, and Larry the tough boxer of the neighborhood, tosses it in the basket behind the bar, knowing nobody in the bar reads anything, in particular, the neighborhood.
Carbonell: Please don’t do that Larry, I read the paper and Doris does after work.
Larry L. Horseshit, we all know what you do with Doris after hours. ((Everyone starts laughing, but Jose just keeps to his self and Carbonell leaves well enough alone.)(Bill and his wife Judy, are in one of the side booths, Doris brings them each a tap beer. She heard what Larry said, just produces a grim face. Jerry Hino is calling Doris over to place an order, there is a lot o noise, and Doris is hard of hearing, matter of fact year after year her hearing gets worse so it seems, one might think it’s from stress, with Mr. Carbonell…but who’s to say.))
Chick E: (Walks into the bar.)
Mike E: I had begun to think you’d never come in; haven’t seen you in a week.
Chick E: I’ve thought of that also, been thinking of going to San Francisco soon.
Mike E: You mean to see that karate expert from Japan?
Chick E: Yup!
Mike E: Still at the stockyards with ma?
Chick E: Yes, I see her almost every day there, she gives me a ride now and then, wakes me up, honks the horn until I get up, drives me crazy.
Mike E: Well anyhow, here, why do you have your paperwork sent to my house? (Chick takes the envelope, opens it up.)
Chick E: I never had it sent to your apartment; Barb must have, knowing I never seem to have a place of my own too long; blame her.
Jackie: What’s it say, divorce, you’ll end up going to Vietnam, Jack says so?
Chick E: I thought of that, but who cares anyhow, I wouldn’t mind it, be something different.
Mike E. What’s it say?
Chick E: Not much, something about “Inhuman Cruelty” for god sake, what on earth does that mean, she’s the one screwing everybody in town, I was at one of the east side bars a month ago, and a guy comes up to me, says ‘…is Barb E—her maiden name—is she your wife?’ I say ‘yes’, and he says ‘what a whore,’ and I told him, ‘why you telling me what I already know, it’s your problem if you don’t like her, why tell me?’ and he just looks at me like a dumb fool.
Jackie: You must have known it before. (He does not answer.) Didn’t you?
Chick E: No, I didn’t know anything. ((Jackie looks at him with a sad, and somewhat mystified face.)(Chick looks back at Jackie, knowing Doug beats the shit out of her, and she takes it, smiles slightly.))
Mike E and Jack T: What you going to do?
Chick E: It’s just paperwork, they can’t draft me until I go to court, or don’t go to court and let them do what they want to, and maybe the war will be over by then: isn’t that the case, isn’t it, or unless I sign it, and agree to it…something like that.
Jack T: Not quite, you don’t know what she’s thinking.
Chick E: Barb wants me to sign paperwork allowing someone else in the future to adopt my daughter, you know my daughter, Darla, if I sign it, and she’ll not go for a divorce I bet.
Laura M: (John St. Clair’s girlfriend had walked into the bar, John being the only brother to Jackie S., and overheard the conversation.) Go on and sign the damn paperwork, or you’ll never go to San Francisco, or in the Army, and end up staying here getting drunk everyday like you do, and dying early. ((Everyone looks at Laura; she is seventeen years old, Indian, very pretty, tall, and pregnant with John’s first child.)(She likes Chick, feels he has potential; she has read some of his early poetry.))
John S: (John leans forward, resting his elbows on the bar, he’s eighteen, his hands joined together) She makes sense, but for us guys, we like it here (looking at Laura).
Laura M: (Shyly, as not to embarrass John.) Yes, we like it here, because that is all we see in our minds. And it is my mind that attracts me to you John, and I love you, so I stay (she’s now receiving hesitating glances from John and everyone). Why do you think I come here John, because of you, but Chick has nobody, he can go and do and see whatever he wants? I don’t even see why he’s here.
John S: Why, we’ve known each other since childhood. We have to give our child a name. It’s you and I, it always has been (John is confused, he’s not as bright as Laura, he’s gulping down a beer) it’s not so bad here, is it?
Laura M: No. Otherwise I’d not be able to see you, and that I’d not be able to live with.
John S: Why then do you say all that.
Laura M: (Suddenly confused.) I had better go, I’m tired, and I don’t want to drink too much, the baby. (She looks at Chick for a moment, then turns quickly and leaves the bar. John shakes his head.)
Jackie S. What now? (She says to her brother, John S.) What now! (She says to Chick Evens.)
Chick E: I can’t say I want to go to San Francisco (With a tinge of intensity.) maybe she’s right, if I don’t sign those papers things will never work out. (Something in his soul, seems to be fighting him, perhaps pride, perhaps ridicule, perhaps drinking too much, or not having money to drink as much as he’d like to if he goes, if he takes on this new adventure of going to San Francisco, contrary to signing the paper, and unknowing what to expect.)
Roger L. comes into the bar, the same age as Doug, twenty-four, he works as a bartender on Rice Street at the Horseshoe Bar, also raised in the neighborhood. He is married to what is considered an outsider, someone not from the neighborhood, he joins Doug and Larry, leans on the bar. Roger used to live with his father and mother and brother Ron, across the streets from the Evens’, on Cayuga Street, a few years back. (Ron L., used to hang around the boys he’s now finishing up at a trade school, to be a Sheet Metal Worker—he seldom if ever comes around the bar anymore, he if anybody, escaped the bar scene, at least the neighborhood bar.)
Larry L., now puts in two quarters, five songs, old Elvis songs, “Hound Dog,” and a few others, people are dancing, Judy and Bill.
Roger L: Give me a bottle of Hamm’s beer!
Bill K: (Talks softly to Chick E, he is standing by Bill’s booth) Courage, it takes courage to leave the neighborhood. I went to Vietnam, ’65, as you know, it’s no picnic, but you’re tough, go to San Francisco, and Vietnam like Laura says, get out of here. You are never lonely anyhow, you like being by yourself, I can see that. (Chick is thinking, leans hard against the soft padding of the booth, averting Bill’s face; Judy raises, walks to the bathroom, allowing them to talk; Chick looks around for a moment. Crosses the bar, sits down by his brother.)
Mike E: You going to sign the paperwork?
Chick: I don’t even know. (He was kind of feeling: why so much interest in me? Was it he that was going to escape and they wanted to know; that they might lose something in their life? Did this for a moment separate him from them? He is kind of feeling, the third person. Did he have a secret held back from them that signing this paper was his answer either way? He looked about, people smiled maliciously. How would it look, life look forty years from now? He points towards the jukebox.) What do you want to hear?
Mike E: Jack Scott or Brenda Lee (He says with some reserve.)
Big Ace, to Larry: (He’s clapping his hands, singing ‘Twenty four black birds backed in a pie…’ over and over, he can’t remember the rest of the words. Big Ace has been buying booze for the boys since Chick was thirteen years old, when he had his first drink, and drunk.) I always knew he would go someday!
Chick knew everything would change after he signed the paper went to San Francisco. His life, his mind— musing now; in a very just thinking way about it brought him near to death, a coldness little by little filling his body. It made him see things differently. If he stayed in the neighborhood, it was finding a job, a woman to sleep with, a bottle of booze, a place to sleep, like the one he had now for $15-dollars a week, just a room with a bed. Half closing his eyes thinking, he opened up the envelope, pulled out the piece of paper, a pale reflection on his face, not saying a word. With dejected energy—he reread the letter, looked at his brother…
Chick E: It all can’t be that tragic (whatever it was, something new was gathering in Chick’s brain, perhaps he knew what he felt he always knew, had to do, that was the reason he did what he did, was going to do, and signed the paper). O, I’ll probably live through Vietnam, it’s all an adventure anyhow, die here on the streets, in the bar, or some other place, what is the difference. (Thus, he had signed the paper in front of his brother, calmly and bitterly, and ordered another beer.)
Act One, Scene Two
Behind the jukebox, where the two bathrooms are, alongside the bathrooms is a corridor, that leads to the back door of the bar, you can leave by that way, but you can’t come in that way, it leads to the street. The walls are plain, no paintings or anything. It is near closing of the same evening, now night. The bar is light lightly, softer music is being played, people are drunker up what they have left, gulping it down, resting their elbows on the bar, the bar closes at 1:00 p.m., the last call for drinks has been called already, and it is twenty-minutes to one.
Chick inhales his 57th cigarette for the day, slowly and then puts it out in a nearby ashtray. Then whipping his hands onto his trousers, he leans back, stretches his legs, and waits.
Carbonell: Let’s drink up, I want to close early.
Doris hurries about picking up empty glasses, and garbage here and there, from the booths, as Mr. Carbonell, is counting the cash in the register. After a few minutes, John L, and his wife Karin, who were at the bar across the street, come in. Followed by a few Hell Outcast motorcycle gang members, it’s still raining, John takes off his hat. John sees Chick, notices his cousin, Larry.
John L: hay man, do we have time to order a beer? (He is yelling at Carbonell, and looking at Chick at the bar with his brother.)
Carbonell: Why come in so late, you should have told me five minutes ago, its five minutes to one, it’s too late, and I’m closing up.
John L: (Is drunker than a skunk, and the bar is full.) Hell, everyone’s drinking, killing time, give me a dam beer! (Carbonell looks at his watch then at the three hoods in black motorcycle jackets from Hell’s Outcast. Figures if he says no, there will be trouble, but if he says okay, they will stay until two o’clock.)
Carbonell: Now I do not want any trouble here boys.
John L: (Laughs, uneasily. Picks up a chair and throws it at Chick, Mike, Larry and Jennie…) Have it on me! (He shouts, but Evens block the chair with his right forearm, and the chair falls short of herring anyone. Now the other three find empty stools and toss them about, Carbonell calls the police)
Chick E to Larry L: I think your cousin is mad. (Chick now is thinking, this is not his kind of life, he’s not sorry he’ll mail the letter off tomorrow, the letter he signed in front of his brother. Very coldly, he says :) Who wants to end up like that? (John knows he said something negative, but remains suspicious, and nearly passes out, one can hear the police siren in the background—John stares at Chick, he had beaten up his younger cousin a season ago for attempted rape on Sandy, and John has not forgotten that).
A short silence
Rapidly, everyone gets up, and escapes to their cars before the police come in and accuse them of being part of the mischief. Chick Evens puts John in the backseat of a Taxi, pays the taxi to get going, pushes John’s body down so the police cannot see him…and the next day, catches a train to San Francisco.
What happened to the boys and girls?
Roger L. died recently at the age of sixty-five, heart attack, at home in his sofa chair.
David, of cancer, died at the age of sixty-three or sixty-four. Allen died at the age of sixty-two; it would seem of alcohol use and a stressful body. David’s wife Nancy, her brother who hung around the neighborhood some, died at the age of fifty-nine of cancer.
Kathy S., died at the age of thirty-five, an accident.
Bill K., was electrocuted, working at a steel company in the neighborhood, one Chick Evens and most of the boys in the neighborhood worked at, at one time or another, he was perhaps in his mid to late thirties.
Mike E., married twice, divorced twice, with three children, was retired at 54, and at 66, went back to truck driving out of boredom.
Jackie did not marry Doug, but married a brother of Larry L., and divorced him a decade later, had one child.
Sammy and Nancy got married, moved out of the neighborhood, but not all that far.
Laura and John S., still live in the neighborhood, they have a few more kids, drinking as usual, at Bram’s; not much has changed for them except for getting older.
Reno, the fat boy of the neighborhood, Chick’s age and at one time good friend, became a drug addict, and died in prison before his 40th birthday; his wife ended up working at K-Mart.
Doug, started his own business, bought a truck, and last I heard was going to court on fraud.
Sid M. died in a car crash with two other friends, all drunk, at the age of twenty-one years old, they had stopped to pick up Chick to go to Hudson Wisconsin, to drink. Chick was with his new girlfriend, named Sharon S., whom he’ll never forget, who gave him a scar on his forehead, a remembrance right after he came back from San Francisco, for ditching her without notice; but had he went he’d be dead, so he can live with the scar.
Jim Hino, died before his thirty-fifth birthday, heart attack, trying to save up $100,000-dollars before his 40th birthday, he did save $60,000 for his wife Bubbles. He worked night and day at a battery company.
Jerry, died before his fiftieth birthday, sober, trying to put a transmission into his car, and it fell onto his chest, and killed him.
Betty died some eight-years later of alcoholism. She drank herself to death.
Don Gulf, died of a swollen biological system—cirrhosis of the liver, created by alcoholism; died before his forty-fifth birthday.
Ron L., is married, and has on his shelf, the first book Evens has ever written, dating back to 1981, one his mother gave to him, before she died. Ron has done well in life.
John L, moved out of the neighborhood, but visits the neighborhood boys whenever.
Sandy, never did show up much at the two corner bars, but hung out at one of Chick’s friends bars, and to this day still does, ‘The Born’s’ on Rice Street, in St. Paul, Minnesota, haggard like a dried up leaf; Jerry B., being Chick’s old friend from the late 1960s.
The Mt. Airy bar closes, and only Bram’s remains open to this day. Nevertheless, it has a new generation of followers, the children of the lost. As they say, from the cradle to the grave, they visit that bar, even Chick’s brother, now and then, hangs out there to this very day.
In the thirty years the author has been sober he has visited the bar twice. Just before, they closed the Mt. Airy. And Laura told him to get out of there before they talked him into drinking—Allen was there and so was John S., that he had been sober going on four years, and the boys would talk him into drinking sooner or later, Chick did up leave, not abruptly, but smoothly, as he had come in. And a visit to Bram’s some fifteen years ago, where he saw his old friend and guitar teacher, Sunny, who could out finger pick any player know at the time, to include Chet Atkins, he was playing lead guitar in that dingy bar. He had played with some pretty big bands in his day, Merle Haggard, if I recall right, some super country western star anyhow. He just could not stay out of the neighborhood.
(11-5-2-11) No: 833