Hitchin’ at the Junction
A “Gay Nineties” Melodrama in One Act
By Eric Goudie
1st Draft © November 2009
Scene: The Train station in Ennotville (the name can be changed to a local reference) on a hot summer’s day. A small rectangular building with a ticket window and door forms the station-master’s office upstage left. A bench sits just centre of the office, and a large lever for switching the tracks likes SR. The lever has two positions – one marked “Into Town” and the other marked “Elora Gorge” (or other local reference to a deep gully, ravine or cliff). The lever is currently in the “Into Town” position. A single line of train tracks run across the front of the stage.
Oh we are the good folks of the drama
Come here to brighten up your day
With a story ‘bout your Grandpa and Grandma
And life as it was in times of yesterday.
Here at the (Ennotville) railroad junction
Some trouble will happening today
But everything that happens has a function
In the happy ending to our little play.
But we’re going to need to ask you to help us
To make sure our story turns out right
Yell hooray and cheer and fuss
When you see our hero dressed in white
And when you see the lovely Bessie
She’ll surely catch the eye of every fellow
Watch over her when things start to get messy
And you’ll know her by her lovely gown of yellow
There’s just one more person to this pack
And here is what we’d like you to do to
When you see the villain dressed in black
Shout at him, jeer at him, hiss at him and boo boo boo!
Now you know all you need to play
It’s time for our show to start
Have fun upon this wondrous day
And don’t forget to play your part.
Bessie enters. She is a ravishing yet virtuous beauty, dressed in a yellow dress of cheap cloth and innocent modesty. She carries a small suitcase, and an umbrella, which she is holding over her head to protect herself from the hot summer’s sun. She looks about, sees that no one else is around and sits down on the bench. She reaches into her dress and pulls out a small necklace with a heart-shaped locket, which she opens up and looks at. She lets out a long, mournful sigh.
Bessie: Oh, woe is me. I am a poor, orphaned little lost soul in the sea of life. Oh mother and father, why did you abandon me so young? (she sings)
I’m a lost soul in the sea of life
To mommy and daddy I was nothin’ but strife
Now I’m alone and my worries are rife
I’m a sad lost soul in the sea of life
When I was a child life was happy and gay
My parents owned a freak show in a circus midway
We didn’t have much but we had fun every day
And as far as we knew that’s how it would stay
Then one day a creepy man came to the fair
Pulled out a gun and told us to put our hands in the air
He cleaned us out but the circus owners didn’t care
The demanded at day’s end that we still pay our share
Well Daddy had no savings and Mommy was broke
So the went to the owners and of their troubles they spoke
But the owners were mean and they didn’t give a croak
They called the police and my parents were arrested – no joke!
So now my parents are in prison and I am alone
Doing my virtuous best to get enough blood from a stone
If I were a dog surely someone would throw me a bone
But none will help me and it seems I’m on my own
So here I am that station of the little place
To see if I can find someone who’ll look upon my face
Perhaps my looks, with some charm and a touch of grace
Will bring this sadness to end and me to a happier place!
At the conclusion of the song Bessie returns to lovingly admiring the pictures of her parents and letting out some more mournful sighs. Suddenly a loud explosion is heard off SR. Bessie leaps to her feet, replaces the locket and peers into the distance.
B: Christmas to Murgatroyd! An explosion by the side of the old gorge! I must go quickly and make sure that nobody was hurt.
Bessie hurries off SR. The stage is empty for a few moments, then Cedric Snead enters, clothed in black from head to toe, but dusting off some dirt from the explosion.
C: Ahh, the station is deserted, I see. Perfect! Now I can complete my fiendish plan in peace.
Cedric goes over to the lever and pulls it (with much effort) to the “Gorge” position.
C: There! Now when the Daily Flyer comes charging through this pitiful little station instead of going straight through town it will divert and head to the gorge. By the time the engineer realizes that I, Cedric Snead, have blown up the bridge over the gorge it will be too late! The train will go over the edge and be a spectacular wreck. And then I should have no trouble stealing the money that is stored on board the train, money that is destined for the Governor’s Bank in Inverhaugh (or other local reference). I’ll be rich, rich, RICH! (he laughs fiendishly)
C: All I have to do do now is make sure that no one happens to come by and notice that switch! It’s a wonder there’s no incompetent country boob of a station-master here minding his post. I had hoped to dupe him with some elaborate ruse and perhaps even get him to throw the switch himself. But not matter. All is in place now. Nothing to do but sit back and wait for my fiendish plan to be a success! (more devilish laughter) Now, I wonder what I shall do with all that money.
Cedric sits down on the bench and daydreams of his riches. A few moments later Bessie re-enters, her dress no covered with soot, burn marks and tears. She is stumbling along, clearly unable to see her way.
B: The station! I must have made my way back to the station. Yes, this is the lever I saw earlier, but I could have sworn it was in the other position.
Cedric starts at the sound of Bessie’s voice, and then stares at her, awestruck.
C: No, it can’t be –
B: Hello? Is someone there? Can you help me?
C: (in a very fake accent) Hello, miss. My name is Cedr – er, I mean Seymour Smith and I am the station master for this little town. How can I help you?
B: Oh, Mr. Smith I’m so glad I’ve found you. I was here earlier and the station was deserted – why weren’t you about?
C: (accent) Oh my apologies, Miss, but I have been busy all morning a-chasin’ after my second cousin’s pigs.
B: Oh dear me, Mr. Smith, I guess pigs are awfully hard to catch. But I do need your help, Mr. Smith – the lives of many may depend on you!
C: (accent) Me, miss?
B: Yes, you Mr. Smith. You see, I was sitting here at the station when I saw what looked like an explosion over by the gorge. When I went over to investigate I found that the bridge had indeed been blown up! Fortunately it looked like no one had been hurt, but as I stared into the flaming debris looking for anyone in trouble the fire’s brightness seared my eyes and has left me blinded! I believe it’s only temporary, for I can see al little more with each passing moment. But I was sure that when I left the lever was in the other position, the one pointing away from the gorge. Now the lever points to the gorge. Mr. Smith, the Daily Flyer is in grave danger! You must reset the switch!
C: (accent) What is your name, young beauty?
B: Oh my apologies, Mr. Smith. I would shake your hand if I could see you, but I can only just dimly make out shapes at present. My name is Miss Beatrice Buxom. Everyone just calls me Bessie, though.
C: (no accent) Ah ha! I knew it! (quickly, with accent) Ah, Miss Buxom, here is my hand, though I fear it’s coarse lines and bony ridges may be too crude to ever touch palms with as fine and exquisite a creature as you.
B: Oh, Mr. Smith, you flatter me foolish! I am just a simple girl with plain features and modest assets. But what about the train?
C: (accent) You needn’t worry yourself about the train, Miss Buxom. The Daily Flyer isn’t running today.
B: It isn’t?
C: (accent) No, the Daily Flyer on runs on days that end in “Y.”
B: Oh. Does Saturday (or day of the week the show is on) end in Y?
C: (accent) You don’t know? Do you not read?
B: Oh Mr. Smith, please don’t ask me that, please!
C: (accent) My deepest apologies, Miss Buxom – I mean no offense. Forgive my forwardness. I am usually more restrained, but I cannot help being fascinated by you, I confess.
B: (snifling) I’m sorry, Mr. Smith. Yes, it’s true I’m afraid – I cannot read a word! You see, my parents were merely humble freak show performers. My Father was a contortionist and my mother the Bearded Lady. They gave me a few lessons in between their acts, and mine as a human cannonball. But what few books we had were stolen from us by the dastardly villain who also stole our money, our trailer and all our possessions, leaving me destitute and my parent’s in the debtors prison. Oh Mr. Smith I know it’s wrong to say so, but I hate that evil, evil man who did this to us.
C: (accent) Do you remember his name, perchance?
B: I’ll remember his name until the day I die, Mr. Smith. He was the lion-tamer’s apprentice – Cedric Snead.
Cedric coughs and chokes at the sound of his own name.
B: Are you okay, Mr. Smith?
C: (accent) Yes, yes Miss Buxom, I… I… I was just taken aback by your story, utterly shocked and sorrowed that anyone should treat someone so fine as you in such an uncouth manner!
B: Oh that isn’t the worst of it, Mr. Smith. Not only did Cedric Snead rob my family clean he also made it clear that he had un-pure designs on me. Me! A simple girl with plain features and modest assets. His intentions, I fear, were far from honorable. But enough about that vulgar man, Mr. Smith. I think my vision is returning. Very soon I should be able to see your face, I think.
C: (no accent) No! (accent) Uh… Miss Buxom, you must protect your pretty eyes! My father was a surgeon who taught me something of medicine. If your eyes remain uncovered in this hot summer’s sun your vision will never return in its entirety. Quickly, you must cover your eyes with a binding.
B: Oh! Thank you Mr. Smith, I had no idea a binding was necessary.
Bessie rips off a (preset) loose sleeve from her dress and ties it around her eyes.
B: There, Mr. Smith. Now I cannot see a thing.
C: (no accent) Ah, excellent, Bessie. (accent) I mean, I mean, that’s very good, Miss Buxom.
B: Thank you, Mr. Smith. You’re most kind – though every once in a while you seem to burst out and say things in a voice that strangely familiar to one I wished I’d never heard a great many years ago…
C: (accent) Tell me, Miss Buxom, and forgive me for being so forward, but you have such a glowing complexion – just like a woman in love. Is there a man in your life?
B: (giggling) Oh, Mr. Smith, really? I’m just a simple girl with plain features and modest assets – I certainly don’t have a glowing complexion – and no, there’s no man in my life, much as I wish it were so.
C: (accent) Miss Buxom, there’s certainly a man in your life now!
B: Oh Mr. Smith how forward of you!
C: (accent) Forgive me, Miss Buxom, but I have been struck by you since the first moment I laid eyes on you, so many years, I mean minutes, ago. I want your… your tender virtues and delicate… manners. Oh Miss Buxom, please be mine!
B: Mr. Smith, I am amazed and utterly flattered. I can’t imagine what you see in me, but I have come to this place to find the comfort and security that comes with wholesome matrimonial bliss. Very well then, Mr. Smith, with no parents available for permission and counsel the decision is mine alone to make and make it I will. Mr. Smith, I humbly accept your offer. I am your betrothed.
C: (accent) Oh, Miss Buxom how wonderful. I fear I have no ring to give you to show proof of our bond, but will you give me your word? Your promise will be as strong a bond as any ring.
B: Yes, yes, yes Mr. Smith – Seymour. I give you my word as a pure, honest girl that I am hereby betrothed to you, and I will remain true to you no matter what may come our way.
C: (no accent) Yes! Ah! Hahahahahaha! Oh Bessie, you don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this moment to come. You are mine now!