the Wolf who Swallowed the Moon

I mentioned that I’ve been doing a bit of writing. One of the items I’ve been working on is for a friend who is active in local theater. She wants to direct a one-act play and asked if I could come up with something.

I give you my one-act play; it is still in a rather rough form and I plan to continue to revise it in the weeks ahead. It’s also rather short. A ten minute play at best.

THE WOLF WHO SWALLOWED THE MOON

Cast of Characters

SEBASTIAN HAWTHORNE, an early thirty-something gentleman rake. He is well-dressed but ever so slightly rumpled.

CHARLOTTE LORRAINE, an intelligent, yet largely untested, woman of means. She is in an evening gown, or a dress.

The play takes place in a secluded parlor at a manor hosting an evening’s gala.

At Rise:
(A parlor in a large manor house; there is a balcony off to the left with a view of the night sky. CHARLOTTE is sitting on a left end of a sofa in the middle of the room, pouring herself tea from a teacart. SEBASTIAN enters from the right; sounds of a party can be heard through the open door. He takes a couple of steps towards the balcony before noticing Charlotte.)

SEBASTIAN
Pardon me, I was told there was an excellent view of the night sky from this room.

CHARLOTTE
The pardon is yours, as is the view. But if you came here for tea as well, you are out of luck. There was but a single cup left.

SEBASTIAN
     (Sebastian nods and walks to the balcony, looking up into the sky for several moments.)
Ah. As I suspected.
     (Sebastian turns from the balcony and steps back into the room.)
Have you seen moon? I don’t believe I’ve ever seen her so full of herself. What a minx she is, flaunting herself up there.

CHARLOTTE
Is she flaunting herself? I think she just holds herself in high esteem.

SEBASTIAN
Esteem? So she directs the tides and turns men into stags. She is far too aloof for my comfort. But I know her secret.

CHARLOTTE
The moon has a secret?

SEBASTIAN
Of course. And I’ll share it with you in exchange for your name.

CHARLOTTE
You can keep the secret. I am quite sure the moon would prefer it that way. I am Charlotte Lorraine.

SEBASTIAN
Sebastian Hawthorne.
     (Sebastian walks past the sofa, to the right, as if intending to return to the party. He pauses at the end of the sofa.)
Tell me, if you were brought the moon, what would you do with her?

CHARLOTTE
I’d return her to the sky. That’s where she belongs.

SEBASTIAN
Would not the act earn a reward? A smile, perhaps?

CHARLOTTE
     (Charlotte sets down her tea, looking at Sebastian.)
You are bold, sir.

SEBASTIAN
Not as bold as the moon herself.
     (Sebastian smiles.)
And if I am bold, it is only because I am under a gypsy curse. While the moon is still full, I must steal the heart of a woman.

CHARLOTTE
And what happens if you don’t succeed?

SEBASTIAN
I don’t know. The gypsy had a tendency to mumble. And she spoke a foreign a tongue. I am lucky to have figured out as much as I did. Perhaps there was nothing else. Or perhaps –
     (Sebastian holds up a finger)
– she just wants me to enjoy life to the fullest. It is a burden, this curse, but one I bear with solemnity.

CHARLOTTE
Now you are bold and ridiculous. Weren’t you properly raised? You can’t go around trying to steal affection from a lady you’ve just met.

SEBASTIAN
We were barely met when I found you sipping tea. Now we are thoroughly met.

CHARLOTTE
Why do I get the feeling you use verbal sophistry to obscure insecurities?

SEBASTIAN
You are a limber blade, to cut so.

CHARLOTTE
I don’t think I’ve cut nearly deep enough.

SEBASTIAN
     (Sebastian places a hand over his heart as if wounded)
I think you’ve drawn blood.

CHARLOTTE
     (Charlotte looks Sebastian over slowly)
You bleed? I do not see it.

SEBASTIAN
You aren’t looking close enough. I bleed just like any other man, just not as obviously.
     (Sebastian moves away from the door, along the back of the sofa, to the other end, turning to face Charlotte)
You know, I lied about why I came to this room. It wasn’t just to see the sky. I ran into the most intriguing fellow at the party. He was looking for his fiancé.

CHARLOTTE
Oh? Was he having trouble finding her?

SEBASTIAN
So it seems. I thought I would help. Only, now that I have found her, I have to wonder.

CHARLOTTE
Yes?

SEBASTIAN
He was rather stiff.

CHARLOTTE
Stiff.

SEBASTIAN
As a board. And not particularly…

CHARLOTTE
Bright?

SEBASTIAN
Yes. And so I find myself wondering.

CHARLOTTE
Why would someone so obviously clever be marrying someone who appears rather dull?

SEBASTIAN
Exactly.

CHARLOTTE
He is rather nice.

SEBASTIAN
And nice is enough?

CHARLOTTE
Is witty enough?

SEBASTIAN
     (Sebastian chuckles.)
Sometimes enough…is not enough. But you really are a clever girl, and I would not think you are the kind to settle.

CHARLOTTE
I am of a kind? Is that like a gaggle?

SEBASTIAN
Geese gaggle, puppies litter, sheep flock, sparrows host, turtles turn, ravens murder, and girls are kind, but less so after an age.

CHARLOTTE
You say I am too clever to settle.

SEBASTIAN
Yes.

CHARLOTTE
And I say you are too unwound to know what a girl truly wants. You dally. You make a dance of it. You promise the moon, but it is a moon made of paper.

SEBASTIAN
Better a paper moon then an untouched life. I say do not be sane or give up your thirst. Do not loosen your grip on the harmony of need and grace or let slip your memory of the low cry when caught between curiosity and desperation. Do not forget the language of lips to wrist, and teeth to pulse or the spaces between. Do not ignore the lullaby that leaves you bereft or the cradle used to kindle your fire. Do not hide from the torrent, the river, the rain or the unwise but sumptuous words that fill you.

CHARLOTTE
     (silent for several seconds)
You are being dramatic, sir.

SEBASTIAN
At the least. Tell me. Why him?

CHARLOTTE
Why not? He is a good man from a good family. He will treat me kindly and see that I am well taken care of. And if his wit is not as sharp as some, he will never scold me for the use of mine.

SEBASTIAN
But he will never praise you for it either. He will not appreciate the subtle artistry of a well turned phrase, or the invisible knife you wield to cut at the pretension of others. And without someone to hone yourself against, you will become bored, and then dull, and then you will be just like everyone else.

CHARLOTTE
Why am I even talking to you? I feel as though I’m a child playing at a pretend tea-party. Only instead of dolls I have a precariously polite wolf as my guest. I’d rather be the shepherdess. I’ll tend my flock of doubt and fear, losing a lamb or sheep here and there to the wolf or my own neglect.

SEBASTIAN
Let me tell you how to handle a wolf who has found his way to your tea-party. Stay at the edge of the garden. Let him sleep by your porcelain cups. He will know you are there – he has your scent and the length of your words to tell him where you are. But you will be too far away to be more tempting then his dreams. And so he will sleep and dream of chasing clever rabbits under a sky large enough to shelter his hunger.

CHARLOTTE
But this isn’t about dreams, is it?

SEBASTIAN
No. This is about the wolf, the fear that keeps you from coming any closer
     (pause)
and the curiosity that ensures you do.

CHARLOTTE
Is that any way to speak to a woman engaged?
     (Charlotte stands and begins walking along the front of the sofa to the right.)

SEBASTIAN
If you leave now.

CHARLOTTE
     (Charlotte pauses at the end of the sofa.)
Yes?

SEBASTIAN
You will be leaving something behind.

CHARLOTTE
You are being deliberately disingenuous.

SEBASTIAN
Am I? I’ve always considered myself rather opaque.

CHARLOTTE
As a dark window.

SEBASTIAN
And selfish.

CHARLOTTE
Selfish?

SEBASTIAN
Yes. Quite selfish. And for much of my life, I have worn my selfishness as a badge of honor. ‘I am selfish’, I would tell people, ‘But I am upfront about it.’ Admitting it, you see, makes it acceptable.

CHARLOTTE
Do you really think so?

SEBASTIAN
Of course not. But then, I’m not really selfish. What I am is self-centered. I view the world only in terms of the role I have in it.

CHARLOTTE
     (Charlotte sits down on the end of the sofa.)
And what role are you playing tonight, Mr. Hawthorne?

SEBASTIAN
Haven’t you guessed by now? I am the wolf at your tea party. And you are the wayward girl.

CHARLOTTE
Wayward? I am indeed. Catch me by my wrist and I’ll pet your ruffled coat of dark fur. But if you bite me, I’m going to bite you back. And if you hurt me, I’m going to cry. And won’t you feel awful for hurting such small and sweet a thing as me?

SEBASTIAN
I have something to confess. Earlier, when I said I was lying about why I came to this room.

CHARLOTTE
Yes?

SEBASTIAN
I was lying then as well. I came to capture the moon.
     (Sebastian reaches into his vest and draws out a small wooden box. He places it on the tea cart next in front of Charlotte).
And I did.

CHARLOTTE
Am I to believe you have placed the moon in that box?

SEBASTIAN
You are to believe whatever you wish. I know what I believe. I believe you are like a stained glass window. All the lines of your life have been etched across your soul with a knife so sharp you only felt it in the passing. You do not yet know what you are capable of.

CHARLOTTE
Is that all? Next, you will read my fortune and tell me I am not fated for life on the arm of a man of means and respect.

SEBASTIAN
I cannot tell you that you should not marry a good man.

CHARLOTTE
Then what is it you can tell me? It seems you say an awful lot of words without saying anything at all.

SEBASTIAN
I can tell you the moon is a harsh mistress, but that her mystery is one worth possessing. She is ill-content to stay in one shape, dancing from sliver to coin.

CHARLOTTE
Are you saying I should be more like the moon?

SEBASTIAN
I am saying you should be a mystery worth possessing. Good night, Ms. Lorraine.
     (Sebastian smiles, inclines his head while tipping an invisible hat – and then leaves to the right).

(Charlotte picks up her tea cup, sipping at it. She is restless. She smooths out her dress, takes another sip from the tea cup, and then stands up. She takes several steps past the edge of the sofa, heading to the exit to the right and then pauses. She turns and walks back to the teacart, lifting the small box Sebastian left behind. She taps the top of the box thoughtfully, and then turns to leave).

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