Whittlin’

A Monolog
By Art Davis
1984

(Scene: An empty stage. A pool of lavender light. A man enters with a rocking chair. Places it in the light. Exits. Returns with a small table and a candle. Places the candle on the table in front of the chair. Lights the candle with a kitchen match. Sits down. Rocks. Takes out a stick and a pocket knife out of his pocket and looking down begins to whittle. Raises his head looking out at the audience and begins to speak.)

You know some people ask me why I sit here on this porch in the evenin’s and whittle. Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t rightly know. It’s not somethin’ I ever really thought about. It’s more of a somethin’ I just do. It’s like, well, you sit here and there’s that big orange ball floatin’ down and you’re whittlin’ and it feels real good and when you get through all’s left is this pile of chips on the floor that you sweep up, and throw away. There’s a sort of divine uselessness to it that makes me just sit here and kinda smile at myself.

Ah, I really love this place. Lived here all my life. (lights a pipe) I’ve been lookin’ at that place over there for over sixty years. Started lookin at it as a little boy, and now I’m lookin’ at it as an old man. It’s funny how things kinda change on you. Things seem to be whizzin’ by so damn fast. All these people act like they got some place to go.

Now I might go to the store and get some more pipe tobacco or some matches for somethin’. But I don’t go runnin’ around all over everywhere like some kind of crazed lunatic. I just sort of sit here on this porch. I guess the only reason I understand anything is that I look at these things a little longer than most people did and a whole lot longer than people do now. Like take for instance that place over there … You know this guy who used to live there was a … of a strange sort. I remember he used to smoke like a chimney. He smoaked all the time. I mean really smoked. None of this Vantage shit. No sir, not even Marlboros. I mean he was into Chesterfield no filters. I can just see him takin’ out one, smellin’ it, then a big smile would creep across his face and he’d light it up, spit out those nasty little bits of tobacco that get in your mouth when you smoke no filters, and take a big drag and just go ahhhhhhhh. I could tell even as a small boy that he was more than just, whatta they call it? … Psychologically dependent. He was hooked down to his soul on them cigarettes.

(pause)

He was always trying to quit. He tried everything known to man. I remember one time he bought these gum things. They were these little pieces of gum kind of like Chicklets. Little gum things with about the same amount of nicotine as about three packs of cigarettes. He was always chewin’ on them things … And not just casually chewin’, mind you, but a full blown chompin’ fit. He chewed those things so ferociously that he developed ulcers all inside his mouth … It was awful. You could tell that it hurt bad, but he kept right on chewin’ …… He quit smokin’ ……..
But it took him three or four years to give up them gum things. It was the damnedest think I ever saw ….. And it wasn’t just tobacco. That man drank coffee all day every day, sunup ‘till sundown and then some. You know one time he actually told me that he would run over baby chickens to get to a cup of coffee ………….Now you might find that humorous. But just stop and think about it …. Give it a while …. Picture it in the ol’ minds eye for just a minute or so.

(pause)

OK, now, you got your concrete street, blacktop, nice and flat, smooth, pretty warm, but not too hot. Then you got your baby chickens poppin’ up and down on that black slab like popcorn. That’s all well and good. But now you got your 1968 Bonneville barrelin’ down the boulevard with a caffeine cravin’ maniac behind the wheel…… Eyes buggin’ out, knuckles all white, teeth gritted together, real Mad Magazine type of shit. It’s a horrible sight to behold.

(long pause)

Now ….. Now what was I sayin’? Oh yeah.

(picks up his knife and begins to whittle)

Sometimes …. Sometimes I pick up the paper and read about things. You know there are situations where, by some people’s absence, their voice speaks louder than I’ll ever shout. I must be some kinda god damned fool for somethin’ ‘cause I really thought I was gonna make some kind of difference. You know be a really great person like …….. Harpo Marx or somethin’ ….. Guess I got a Dale McMickle complex ……….. He used to play third trumpet with Glenn Miller ….. He’s in all the pictures and he’s on all the records ………… But you probably don’t remember that, not many people do.

(pause)

But what I do best. What I really like. Is to sit here on this porch in the evenin’s watchin’ that sun fade away and whittlin’ on this stick.

(Lights pipe. Blows candle out. Black out)