Green Flash at Sunset: a one-act play by Tim West

GFaS plain image

SCENE 1. We hear the sound of waves on shore;

and a seagull’s cry recedes into the distance.

 

LIGHTS FADE UP on a woman, 20ish, dressed

in modest but immaculate clothes of the late 1890s,

seated on a blanket, engaged in reading a book.

 

A 20ish man enters. He’s somewhat nattily attired

in the mode of amateur outdoorsman of the period;

bespectacled, but not too bookish.

 

He’s burdened with beach-gear: a picnic basket,  

a parasol, and a cumbersome device on a tri-pod,

and barely avoids tripping over her where she sits.

 

MR. BUSHNELL:

(managing to tip his hat to her)

I beg your pardon, miss. Am I intruding? Sorry, don’t mean to be a masher.

MISS DELANO:

(not looking up, she shrugs)

Nobody says “masher” anymore. And the Mussel Beds are a public beach…

for now.

He  rests his burden with some relief, though

too proud to show it. Did he hear her correctly?

MR. BUSHNELL:

“Mussel beds,” did you say?

MISS DELANO:

It’s what the local people have always called this place. “OceanBeach,”

the speculators are calling it now –though precious few will end up with

an oceanfront vista.

MR. BUSHNELL:

I’m sorry?

MISS DELANO:

This place is known locally as The Mussel Beds; the speculators renamed it “Ocean Beach.”

MR. BUSHNELL:

Speculators.

MISS DELANO:

Is that what brings you out here today? Conducting some sort of survey?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Survey.

MISS DELANO:

Laying out lots?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Lots of what?

MISS DELANO:

Lots of land! Additions. Sub-divisions. Whatever you call them. Isn’t that

what the… er, semi-portable optical device is for?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Ah! I see now. Not a surveyor, no. I’m a scientist. I’ve simply come to observe this evening’s sunset.

 

He busies himself with setting up his equipment, with the lady

somewhat warmer, now she knows he’s not a speculator.

MISS DELANO:

Simply? You seem to be burdened by a lot of very complicated equipment.

MR. BUSHNELL:

It’s the new Kodak camera.

MISS DELANO:

A camera bug!

MR. BUSHNELL:

I plan to capture the sunset in a photograph. In a heliotype, to be precise.

MISS DELANO:

Heliotype?

MR. BUSHNELL:

It’s a type of photograph.

MISS DELANO:

Of the sun?

MR. BUSHNELL:

You were right. It’s complicated. Do you take an interest in photography?

MISS DELANO:

I take an interest in the sunset.

She indicates the sunset, and we see the glow of it on her face;

he notices this, really for the first time.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Hm? Oh, of course! Yes, indeed. Remarkable. Especially beautiful

this evening.

       The setting sun, and music at the close / As the last taste of sweets,

       is sweetest last / Writ in remembrance more than things long past.

 MISS DELANO:

Oh my! A scientist and a lover of Shakespeare! And I mistook you for

another of those money-hungry land speculators and stock-jobbers!

 MR. BUSHNELL:

Not entirely sure what a stock-jobber is, but surely glad I don’t seem

to be one. Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Bushnell, Miss… er?

MISS DELANO:

…Delano. Well, you don’t seem much of a masher, Mr. Bushnell.

And the sunset is here for everyone to enjoy.

MR. BUSHNELL:

You’re fond of sunsets, are you?

MISS DELANO:

Never the same twice, different from each other, night to night –even during

the same sunset, from minute to minute. I watch it every evening.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Every evening?

MISS DELANO:

That’s surprising, Mr. Bushnell?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Well, it’s quite a trek. Someday, I suppose they’ll extend electric lines

all the way to Ocean Beach. Excuse me, “The Mussel Beds.”

MISS DELANO:

Oh, I don’t come from town. I ride my bicycle down from Lomaland.

MR. BUSHNELL:

“Lomaland”?

MISS DELANO:

Point Loma? The narrow peninsula overlooking both the Mussel Beds to

the north and the harbor to the south. We live on the other side of the hill

in Roseville. Well, La Playa, actually. With all the Portuguese—  you’re not

from the area, are you?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Do I give myself away that easily? I’m woefully ignorant of the local

geography.

                                   

MISS DELANO:

That, and you dress like an Easterner!

 

MR. BUSHNELL:

I beg your pardon?

MISS DELANO:

Well, what with the spats…

MR. BUSHNELL:

They’re practical!

MISS DELANO:

If you’re hunting for mussels. But the tide’s too high. You’d get

your spats wet.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Miss Delano, are you suggesting that I’m what’s known colloquially

as a “Dude”?

MISS DELANO:

No, I wouldn’t have called you a dude. They overdress in cowboy

accoutrement –whatever they are convinced is worn “way Out West.”

MR. BUSHNELL:

What, boots and a Stetson, here at the beach?

MISS DELANO:

Oh, they’re full of paradox. They often end up retiring here for their health

and then complaining daily about how much they miss the change of

seasons.

MR. BUSHNELL:

I like the weather here!

MISS DELANO:

Yes, and you don’t look tubercular, though you are perhaps a bit

overdressed for a beach outing, with some rather unusual gear.

But not a dude, exactly. I really would have guessed “speculator.” 

MR. BUSHNELL:

You make it sound like it’s a crime to speculate.

 

She frowns, as a schoolmarm might at the

briefly promising pupil who’s backsliding.

MISS DELANO:

You seem to be a literate man. Have you read Mr. Edward Bellamy’s book

Looking Backward?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Is that the book you were so engrossed in, as I came up just now?

MISS DELANO:

Looking Backward is not beach reading, Mr. Bushnell: It is a serious

indictment of a social system that rewards speculators and stock-jobbers.

MR. BUSHNELL:

I see.

MISS DELANO:

Mr. Bellamy posits a man, such as yourself, who awakens from a long,

hypnotically-induced slumber, in a society that has abolished the irrational,

exploitive and volatile in favor of a political economy based upon the

humane, equitable, and democratic.

MR. BUSHNELL:

I’m afraid I don’t go in much for speculative fiction.

MISS DELANO:

You make it sound like it’s a crime to speculate.

MR. BUSHNELL:

What do you mean?

MISS DELANO:

You’re a scientist! What do scientists do but speculate about the world?

MR. BUSHNELL:

But there’s a great difference between scientific speculation and… and…

MISS DELANO:

Yes?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Well, I’ve not read Mr. Bellamy’s book, but it sounds rather… utopian.

A romanticist’s notion of Things To Come.

MISS DELANO:

Utopian? What is any quest for human perfectibility –democracy or

free trade, or true love– but an idealized view of a future we’ve yet to

achieve.

MR. BUSHNELL:

What are they? Abstractions. As different from scientific speculation as

day and night, or sunlight and moonbeams. I strive to confine myself to

the substantive, the physical senses, and physical sciences. Things that

the eye can see. Optics is my interest.

He turns to his camera, his back to her.

And atmospheric conditions tonight bode particularly well for observing

a phenomenon known as…

MISS DELANO:

The Green Flash.

He turns to her, struck by the coincidence.

MR. BUSHNELL:

A green flash, yes. How extraordinary. How do you know about

the green flash?

MISS DELANO:

(holding up the book)

Have you by any chance read Mr. Jules Verne’s novel, Le Rayon Vert?

MR. BUSHNELL:

(taking the book from her, he leafs through it)

As I said, I don’t go in for the fantastical, which I believe Mr. Verne also

writes: subterranean worlds, trips to the moon, submersible warships, that

sort of thing, is it not?

MISS DELANO:

“Fantastical”? But Mr. Bushnell, you’re a scientist!  Is le rayon vert

“fantastical”?

MR. BUSHNELL:

I don’t know… It’s French.

MISS DELANO:

Vert means “green” and Le Rayon is “The Ray,” or flash. Mr. Verne relates

that the sun, setting behind an ocean horizon, emits a final burst of light, of

a green unlike anything in nature, which according to an old legend of the

Highlands imparts to the viewer a unique and profound insight into the heart

of another. In Mr. Verne’s novel, a young couple go in search of it.  Are you

in search of it, Mr. Bushnell?

MR. BUSHNELL:

A unique and profound insight, or the green flash?

MISS DELANO:

According to Mr. Verne, they are one and the same.

MR. BUSHNELL:

(handing the book back to her)

Well, I can’t speak to the charming if spurious folktale, nor the veracity of

a novelist apparently known chiefly for his powers of invention, but the

optical phenomenon is real enough. And at this specific place and time,

the elements favor our observing it –and my capturing it on film!

MR. BUSHNELL again turns to his device, which MISS DELANO now rises

to inspect more closely.

MISS DELANO:

You believe you can not only predict a green flash, Mr. Bushnell, but

actually record the occurrence?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Predict a flash, Miss Delano? No, but we can maximize the probability of

observing it, and be prepared to best advantage when it comes.

MISS DELANO:

How do you propose to do that, Mr. Bushnell? Your button-down

braggadocio intrigues me.

MR. BUSHNELL doesn’t really hear this last;

 having taken a folded map from his pocket,

he begins the process of unfolding it on the

nearest flat surface –her beach-blanket.

MR. BUSHNELL:

The unbroken line of a distant horizon, seen from a promontory facing a

large body of water to the west, is an ideal for viewing the flash. The Pacific’s

temperature differentials create the proper refraction, and it’s generally

cloudless at this latitude. Indeed, 32oN might be considered the nearly

optimal geographic point. A slight elevation is helpful. The heights on either

side of False Bay are ideal.

MISS DELANO:

Duckville, Mr. Bushnell. No one but a dude calls it “False Bay” these days.

After the real estate boom and bust, “False Bay” seemed ironic. “Seaside

lots,” otherwise known as swampland. Fathers with hungry families hunt

there, hoping to bag a stray duck for supper. Thus, Duckville.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Hence your dislike of land speculators and… what did you call them?

MISS DELANO:

Stock-jobbers. Sellers of false securities. They ruined my father. He never

recovered. His heart. So, I’m not fond of them, no.

 

MR. BUSHNELL:

I’m sorry.

MISS DELANO returns to her blanket, and

picks up her book, though she doesn’t read.

 

MISS DELANO:

It was a long time ago. Mother and I are doing much better now, thank you.

 

MR. BUSHNELL crosses to the blanket

to retrieve his map and fold it up.

 

MR. BUSHNELL:

I didn’t express that well, did I?

MISS DELANO:

Have you never lost someone?

 

MR. BUSHNELL:

My parents are living, if that’s what you mean. But… I’ve endured loss, yes.

MISS DELANO:

A broken camera?

MR. BUSHNELL:

A broken romance. An engagement. With a girl I’d known since childhood.

MISS DELANO:

I’m sorry.

MR. BUSHNELL:

It was a long time ago.

(beat)

 

MR. BUSHNELL:

How does the story resolve?

MISS DELANO:

What?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Your book. Le Crayon Vert. Do our heroes ever witness their green flash?

MISS DELANO:

I don’t know. I haven’t finished  it.

MR. BUSHNELL:

One could read ahead.

MISS DELANO:

Then what’s the point of a story? No, I’ll wait. All in good time, Mr. Bushnell.

(She looks at the book, then to the sunset)

You said “at this specific place and time, the elements are favorable.” For a

green flash. What makes present conditions so propitious in terms of time?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Ah! Autumn likewise favors the temperature differential that makes

the flash.

MISS DELANO:

Autumn. That’s a full season, three months. Say, ninety sunsets. Why

this one?

MR. BUSHNELL:

The coast is quite a trek. Seventeen miles. I work six days a week, so I only

have Sundays off to view the sunset without interfering with the day’s

business.

MISS DELANO:

Alright, say Sundays. Still, four a month, that leaves twelve Sundays in

Autumn. But you said… What was it? “Conditions bode particularly well”

for this evening?

MR. BUSHNELL:

It’s rained recently, with the wind out of the southwest. A storm has passed,

scouring the sky so it is clear and free of particulate.

MISS DELANO:

It is particularly lovely this evening, isn’t it?

They look at the sunset, their faces glowing red.

MR. BUSHNELL:

I have never seen such a beautiful one. Yes, this evening is most propitious.

He abruptly takes out a pocket-watch and studies it.

Sunset’s less than a quarter of an hour off.

MISS DELANO:

Well, Mr. Bushnell, I’ve watched the sunset here every evening since I began

Mr. Verne’s book, and I’ve yet to witness a Green Flash. I’m afraid you may

be disappointed.

She crosses back to her beach-blanket and sits.

He snaps his watch shut, puts it away, and kneels.

MR. BUSHNELL:

I would have been disappointed before we met, Miss Delano. But there is

not the slightest chance of it now.

MISS DELANO:

Mr. Bushnell, is that your way of… flirting with me?

MR. BUSHNELL:

(unsure of this burst of bravado)

It… it might be.

MISS DELANO:

Why, sir, you are a speculator!

They share a smile, and present a soft tableaux.

LIGHTS CROSSFADE. END OF SCENE 1.

 

SCENE 2. A young man enters, with guitar and

a backpack slung over his shoulder, from which

a pair of boots protrudes. He is barefoot, with jeans

and a casual top; has long hair, or facial hair –

the look of one who marches to a different drummer.

 

He deposits his bag, sits sans towel, and places

the boots on the ground before him as he sits.

He looks like a panhandler as he plays.

 

After a few moments, a young woman enters.

She’s a broad-shouldered, sun-flecked blonde

with her hair cut short or pert. She wearing

a wetsuit, glistening from her swim, handily

carrying a surfboard. She stops short.

SAM:

Dude, what are you doing with my boots?

DAN:

Just watching ‘em for you.

SAM:

What, they gonna do a trick?

DAN:

Saw you surfing –gnarly wipeout, by the way!— and these boots tucked into

that crevice in the tide-pools…

SAM:

Yeah, where I hid them!

DAN:

Thought they were probably yours. Along with a half-a-dozen flip-flops

wedged in there, but I think those belong to the tourist kids wading around

in the run-off from the storm drain.

SAM:

Can I have my boots?

SAM takes the boots, looks in them, then at DAN.

SAM:

I keep my car key in them. So no one—

DAN:

(holding out a key, he reads it)

—no one steals your… VW.

SAM:

(snatching the key from him)

I surf here almost every night. No one has ever messed with my stuff.

DAN:

Hey, I didn’t mean to mess with your stuff.  Just trying to help a sister out.

You surf here every night, and nothing happens, but there’s a first time

for everything.

SAM:

What are you talking about?

DAN:

I’m talking about the shifty-looking dude, shaking like he was tweeking,

skulking around, scoping-out your boots like he was thinking about stealing

them, and anyway the tide was rising, so I made like the boots were mine,

brought them over here and waited for you.

SAM:

A “tweeker”?

DAN:

A crankster, a meth-head. You think I’m making this up? Talking to himself

and—

SAM:

Looking like he needed a pair of shoes?

DAN:

Aw, I always go barefoot! I don’t need boots. Look at these puppies. 

Calluses like dogpads! Oh, wow, toenails too!

SAM:

Where’d he go, this “tweeker”?

DAN:

He split. The cops came by.

SAM:

Where’d the cops go?

DAN:

I dunno. Donut-shop?

SAM:

They just happened by?

DAN:

Somebody must’ve called ‘em.

SAM:

Somebody?

DAN:

Aw, it’s not like that! Do I look like I’d drop a dime on a brother? Naw,

Some local business-owner. Tweekers frighten the tourist trade.

Which is OK; I hate tourists. Anyway, the cops won’t come unless

someone’s damaging property.

SAM:

You got a problem with cops?

DAN:

Not a big fan of them, no. Look, why am I the bad guy here? Hey, I’m

the guy that saved your boots! Just in time, too. Look!

He gestures toward the water. She looks.

Perhaps we even hear a bit of surf.

SAM:

The tide’s come in.

DAN:

You were out there a long time. I was just about to give it up, unlock

your microbus, toss your boots in the cab, and go.

SAM:

How do you know I drive a microbus?

DAN:

Only VW with a surf-rack.  …but I was afraid that tweeker would break your

windshield to steal the boots.. And anyway, what would I do with the keys?

SAM:

I hide ‘em where I hide ‘em for a reason. I use my boots to walk on the rocks.

And there’s no place to put a key in the wetsuit. Some jerk tore the pocket

off it.

DAN:

Why’d he do that?

SAM:

We were at a –None of your business.

DAN:

Okay, all I’m saying is: That wasn’t me. I didn’t know. I’m sorry I touched

your things. Your stuff. I should’ve just let it be.

He grabs a pint of tequila from the backpack,

from which he takes a drink. She sits to put on

a boot. After a moment, she relents.

SAM:

Hey, I didn’t mean to dump on you. I see you were just trying to help.

If the tweeker didn’t get my boots, the tide might’ve. I suppose I should

even say thank you.

DAN:

(cool) That’s cool. You don’t gotta thank me. (warmly) I do like that smile.

She stops smiling, puts on the other boot.

DAN:

Aw, you’re not staying for sunset?

SAM:

I surf here every evening. I’ve seen plenty of sunsets, believe me.

DAN:

Why not chill with me and catch one more? It’s only a short time ‘til.

SAM: 

Chill is right. I’ll freeze in this wetsuit.

DAN:

I got a blanket.

He pulls a woolen blanket from the backpack,

tosses it at Samantha. She looks at it.

  

SAM:

This looks nice. I don’t want to get it all dirty.

DAN:

It’s just an old horse blanket. It’s already dirty.

 

SAM:

Thanks.

DAN:

Chill matter of fact: there’s a limited number of sunsets in anyone’s life.

Factor in how few of those you actually stop to watch… What? One in seven?

in thirty? You’re missing out on one of life’s few truly dependable moments

of wonder, and… and connectedness.

SAM:

So I’m missing “connectedness”?

DAN:

We’re all missing connectedness.

SAM:

Yeah?

DAN.

Yeah. Plus, I’m a scintillating conversationalist.

SAM:

I’ll bet you are.

DAN:

I’ll throw in a shot of tequila and a toke. Final offer.

SAM:

I don’t smoke.

DAN:

Suit yourself. It’s the real deal, the kind with a worm in it. The tequila.

It’s from RosaritoBeach. Beautiful sunsets in Rosarito. Tequila sunsets.

Ever been?

SAM:

I’ve never been that far into Mexico.

DAN:

Dude! Rosarito isn’t even as far away as Oceanside. And Mexico’s beautiful!

SAM:

“Dude”?

DAN:

Sorry. I got carried away. Believe me, you don’t look like a dude.

                                                           

She smiles at the left-handed compliment.

She wraps the blanket around herself.

SAM:

So which sunsets are better, here or south of the border?

DAN:

Here, definitely.

He extends his hand cordially; She takes it.

 

DAN:

I’m Dan.

SAM:

Sam. Short for Samantha.

DAN:

Yeah? Dan’s short for something.

SAM:

You a local? Don’t think I’ve seen you here before.

DAN:

A local. Hmm. I don’t live in O.B., so I suppose I should say “No.”

I grew up in La Keside.

SAM:

La Casida? Where’s La Casida?

DAN:

Sorry. Inside joke. Spanish pronunciation of Lakeside. La Keside?

SAM:

Way out in the EastCounty?

DAN:

“Waaay out in EastCounty?” “Alongside the feed store yonder, I reckon.”

I see: If it’s outside the People’s Republic of O.B., then it’s not on your radar.

SAM:

That’s kind of a stereotype, too, isn’t it?

DAN:

If the shoe fits. In your VW microbus, right now, at this moment, do you or

do you not have at least two organic items purchased at the local co-op

known as “The People’s Market”?

SAM:

Do they both gotta be organic?

DAN:

Whereas, I, the native of Lakeside, am wearing neither boots nor spurs.

Those shoes fit you. I rest my case.

SAM:

So, my question is, what brings you so far from the rodeo, cowboy?

DAN:

My motorcycle.

SAM:

Barefoot?

DAN:

And no helmet.

SAM:

I meant, that’s a long trip, just to see a sunset. Even if it does make you feel…

What was it?

DAN:

Connectedness.

SAM:

Connectedness, right. Is that all that brings you so far from home?

DAN:

Unvarnished truth, or unabashed bullshit?

SAM:

Try me.

DAN:

Ever hear of something called a green flash?

SAM:

It’s a beer, isn’t it?

DAN:

Under the right conditions, you can watch the sun going down and, right at

the end, that sucker flashes green.

SAM:

Isn’t that a myth?

DAN:

So, you have heard of it. No, it’s for real. Something  to do with green light-waves travelling slower.

SAM:

Slower?

DAN:

Or above the earth’s curvature or something. Something like that.

Reflection, refraction, defraction, deflection.

                                                            SAM laughs, heartily, for the first time.

SAM:

Scintillating!

DAN deftly downs an ounce of tequila.

DAN:

I’ve come down here, looking for it, at least once a week for a while now.

It’s supposed to be this transcendent experience or something.

                                                           

SAM:

I thought it was just an optical illusion. Transcendent experience, huh?

Where’d you hear that?

DAN laughs, takes another sizeable sip of tequila.

DAN:

I took this class, up at UCSD.

SAM:

You go to UCSD?

DAN:

Went. So?

SAM:

Me too. Revelle.

DAN.

Cool. Me? Muir.

SAM:

What’s your major?

DAN:

Was. Film Studies. You?

SAM:

Physical Therapy.

DAN:

Cool.

SAM:

So… How does the green flash relate to Film Studies?

DAN:

Oh, we watched this one film in class. The professor roomed with the

producer or slept with the cinematographer or something. I forget the

director, but… French New Wave, so same old crap: Bad ad-libbed dialogue,

hand-held camera… Very Cinema Verite.

SAM:

I know the type.

DAN:

But the story was cool. It’s about this girl who’s looking to… connect with

somebody. She overhears this guy by the sea-side, gabbing about this

legend of the green flash, and how it helps you find insight and… well,

connectedness to another person…

SAM:

“Connectedness.” Like, “soul-mates” or something?

DAN:

Maybe. The subtitles said “connectedness.”

SAM:

You’re sticking with that, huh? You buy that concept?

DAN:

What, subtitles, or connectedness?

SAM:

Soul-mates.

DAN:

I don’t know. Do you?

SAM:

Like, The One Person that you’re meant to be with, it’s Destiny, it’s…

DAN:

Kismet?

SAM:

I was going to say, Fate. I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of crap connected

with love, if you really want to know the truth.

DAN:

Like what?

SAM:

Like “love at first sight,” for starters. Or even the concept of “falling” in love,

which is really just some form of attraction until it’s replaced by…

DAN:

Real love. Trust, maybe. Respect, yes.

SAM:

I was going to say “habit.”

DAN:

Connectedness!

SAM:

That’s not even a word!

DAN:

Alright, then. Call it what you will. But maybe you don’t know until after it

happens to you. So, you never know who might end up being that person.

You might’ve just bumped into him.

SAM:

You have a very positive outlook. Lemme tell you, you can waste a lot of

time with the wrong person.

DAN:

Or miss seeing the right one when they come along. Spend any amount of

time with someone, you’ll find something to like.

SAM:

Or dislike.

DAN:

Girl, you are a hard case!

SAM:

Yeah, I must sound pretty cynical. It’s just… People get all excited about

that initial connection. But that’s not the same as… as…you know?

DAN:

No, I know. Like “Oh wow, we went to the same school” or “Dude plays

wicked guitar” or “That chick’s toned to the max.” You can’t base a

relationship on that. Those are surface things that…

SAM:

Evaporate.

DAN:

I was going to say, fade. Become less important. Shift in priorities. So you

never know at first, it might be just a superficial connection, a coincidence.

But it might be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. It’s like a… wadya-

call? A McGuffin!

SAM:

A McWha..?

DAN:

In film. Some object or event for characters to connect over, when the real

story is about… Something else entirely. Maybe just about making that

connection.

SAM:

Or not.

DAN laughs heartily at that, goes to drink, stops;

then fishes a joint out of the backpack, dusts it off,

and deftly lights it.

 

DAN:

Take that French flick about the green flash. It’s based on something in an

old novel by… I’m not good with names. Another French dude.

(DAN offers SAM a toke, but she declines)

Predicted trips to the moon, and submarines and all that.

SAM:

I’m sorry, I’m not good with names either.

DAN:

But you do know who I’m talking about.

SAM:

Sorry.

DAN:

Why can’t I can’t think of his name? Ow!

DAN’s roach has burned his fingers. He tosses it.

Anyway, the movie was based on a book, which is supposed to be based on

this old Celtic legend that says that if you see a green flash at sunset, you’ll be

granted this like, profound insight. Something like that. But the whole thing

was made-up!

SAM:

Made-up?

DAN:

Yeah, there is no Celtic legend. It’s an excuse the writer made up for this

couple to travel the world, watching sunsets together.

SAM:

Like… Who needs an excuse?

DAN:

Exactly!

A pause while they look at the sunset together.

SAM:

I need an excuse. I haven’t watched a sunset in forever.

DAN:

And a legend is born.

(beat)                                      

SAM:

Celtic, huh? That legend.

DAN:

Yeah, supposedly Celtic. I’m into Celtic. I got this tattoo.

SAM:

Me too!

DAN

You have a Celtic tattoo?

SAM:

Does that surprise you?

DAN:

It does.

SAM lifts aside a hem to expose a tattoo.

SAM:

See?

DAN:

That’s pretty cool.

SAM:

It’s a cross.

DAN:

I can see that.

SAM:

It’s a Celtic cross.

DAN:

I know.

SAM:

It’s not a Christian thing. Everyone’s getting them. Well, I showed you mine?

Aren’t you going to show me yours?

DAN rolls up his sleeve and shows his.

 

DAN:

Mine’s based on a design from an old locket. The interlocking heart motif.

SAM:

That’s cool. I like authentic designs. Not like your legend. Made-up, not real.

It’s a cool idea, though. That legend. Made-up, or not.

DAN:

Yeah, real or not, since I heard it, whenever I have a chance to watch the

sun set, I do it. Even without the flash. It’s magic, a sunset. Any sunset.

Every.

SAM:

But there’s no special reason the green flash should happen tonight.

Just saying.

DAN:

Tonight, tomorrow… Gotta be optimistic.  Catch every opportunity

to try for it.

                                         

They both look toward the setting sun, which

bathes their faces in a warm glow.

SAM:

How long ‘til the sun sets?

DAN:

Dude, I don’t wear a watch!

SAM:

Look in my other boot.

DAN looks in her other boot, inverts it and

dumps the wristwatch into SAM’s palm.

SAM shows the watch to DAN;

                                                           

DAN:

(reading the watch still cupped in her palm)

T minus six minutes, and counting.

 

LIGHTS CROSSFADE. END OF SCENE 2.

 SCENE 3. While MR. BUSHNELL occupied himself with his camera,

MISS DELANO has been gazing at the sun, meditating on time and

timelessness.

MR. BUSHNELL comes to her, consults his watch

and starts to announce the time when he notices

her expression on her sunlit face.

MISS DELANO:

I know you’re not fond of the speculative genre, Mr. Bushnell, but

humor me?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Of course, Miss Delano.

MISS DELANO:

You’ll not have read, but have you perchance heard of The Time Machine

 by Mr. H.G. Wells?

MR. BUSHNELL:

He’s a novelist in the vein of Monsieur Verne, I assume.

MISS DELANO:

Mr. Wells, you’ll appreciate, trained as a scientist at Oxford. He imagines an

anachronic traveler who navigates time using a device that he has designed

and constructed precisely for that purpose.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Surely, Miss Delano, you regard time travel as an improbable fancy.

MISS DELANO:

The machine part, yes. But, Mr. Bushnell, I believe it is one of the most

incontrovertible facts of the universe that we travel through time.

Would that we could navigate it! Unfortunately, our journey through time

is in only one direction, dependable but irreversible, like an inconvenient

trade wind.

MR. BUSHNELL:

I’m sure young Mr. Wells would have to agree with that.

MISS DELANO:

I think old Mr. Wells will. The curious thing is that when Mr. Wells’ traveler

arrives in the future, he finds only backwardness, not progress. One would

like to believe in a better future, but it is hard to believe that, at times.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Well, next year marks the beginning of a new century. Though technically,

I suppose, it will begin in ought-one.

MISS DELANO:

Eastern mystics believe that last year marked the beginning of the Kali

Yuga, the Dark Ages, a cycle to be accompanied by social convulsions

as souls are freed from dogma and bigotry.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Well, social convulsions aside, freedom from dogma and bigotry

would be nice.

MISS DELANO:

Worldliness above all, that scoffs outright at the spiritual view of man

and nature.

MR. BUSHNELL:

But, my dear Miss Delano, worldliness can be considered the very hallmark

of Progress.

MISS DELANO:

What if there is no “Progress”? What if one day is pretty much like another,

and another, and there really is nothing new under the sun? What if all we

have is the happiness we can eke out of each and every day, from sundown

to sundown?

It makes you think, the sunset. Its terrible beauty, its link to yesterday’s

sunsets. And tomorrow’s, and tomorrow’s…

 

MR. BUSHNELL:

I have never thought before how beauty could be terrible.

MISS DELANO:

Beauty is so transient. Experienced only for an instant. And hence, somehow

unreal. Have you never felt like that?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Precisely why I want to photograph the flash.

MISS DELANO:

You think recording something proves it real?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Is there any other way of fixing a thing as real?

MISS DELANO:

Well, Science dictates that for something to be verifiably true, two people

must witness it. Which is of course what M. Verne and the Scottish legend

both suggest. Perhaps both possess more validity than you suppose.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Well argued, Miss Delano! You are quite the rhetorician. I wonder what you

might make of this argument: Here’s an alternative method of travelling

through time, an antidote to aging, if you will: a Record. A moment of

History, a Memory, fixed in time, as with a photographic plate.

MISS DELANO:

Ahh, but with history, or memory, Mr. Bushnell, you can only travel

backward. That’s not the way we live through time.

MR. BUSHNELL:

That’s not the way we live through it, Miss Delano. But I suggest that it is

the only way one can make sense of it.

MR. BUSHNELL closes his watch, busies himself with his camera as

MISS DELANO turn her gaze back to the sunset. LIGHTS CROSSFADE.

END SCENE 3.

 

SCENE 4. DAN & SAM, as before.

 

SAM:

So… your not at Muir anymore?

DAN:

Naw, I got disillusioned with the whole… aw, it just wasn’t my thing.

SAM:

So, what do you do?

DAN:

Clerique d’ Tarjay. That means “cashier at Target.” Photo department. You?

SAM:

Well, the demand for physical therapists was over-stated. I’m working

as a medical assistant in a chiropractor’s office. Not what I trained for.

But Russell, the guy I work for, is letting me reorganize the office.

I’m good at organizing things. He’s a really cool guy, Russ. Not like

the last guy I worked for. Greg. Selfish jerk.

A beat while DAN takes this in.                 

DAN:

Well, there’s lots of other stuff besides work. Or, there should be.

SAM:

Yeah. I surf, I do yoga. So, are you still into film? Cinema, I mean.

DAN:

Film, music… Different stuff. I’m a classic dabbler. Photography, mostly 

Black & white, sepia, old-school stuff. I even have my own darkroom.

SAM:

Your parents garage?

DAN:

Actually, it’s what used to be the carriage house.

SAM:

Ooooh, ”carriage house.”

DAN:

Aw, it’s not like that. Well, Gram’s father was well-off. He was a doctor, one of

the first in the east county, built one of the first houses in Lakeside on money

from some patents he held. They lost most of their money in the Great

Depression, though. Barely held onto the house. Anyway: the carriage

house. I used to play there when I was a kid. Like my own private little

clubhouse. The place was a full of wooden crates and broken glass and rusty

canisters full of chemicals. I don’t know why Grams let me.

SAM:

Where were your parents?

DAN:

They died when I was a four.

SAM:

I’m sorry.

DAN:

That’s okay. I was four. I don’t even remember them. Anyway, when

I turned eighteen I huffed all the chemicals and, in a rush of superhuman

energy, cleaned out the crates and glass and outfitted the place as a studio.

Put up a bunch of black curtains and infrared bulbs. There was tarpaper

already stapled to the walls and windows, so I can get it pretty dark in there.

SAM:

So, is that… just a hobby, or do you do something with it?

DAN:

I entered some contests. Won some prizes, if that validates.

SAM:

Hey, I didn’t…

DAN:

No, that’s cool.

SAM:

I wasn’t…

DAN:

It’s cool.

SAM:

No, it isn’t.

DAN:

It’s not a crime to be young and not know where you’re going. What you

want out of life. What you believe in.

He takes a drink of tequila.

SAM:

“I’ll drink to that.”

An awkward, uncomfortable moment.

He goes to propose a toast…

DAN:

To slackers!

…but she gently forestalls him.

SAM:

I never said that. You’re not a slacker.

He considers.

 

DAN:

No, I’m not really.

He puts the bottle down. She considers,

then picks it up and proposes a toast.

SAM:

To sunsets.

 

She takes a swig of tequila. It winds her,

though she tries not to show it.

 

DAN:

And seeing a green flash.

Suddenly, DAN digs into the backpack, and

comes up with a pair of matching sunglasses

of the cheap plastic variety we might buy at

the beach.

DAN:

Dig it! I got two pair. Ray Ban or Oakley?

SAM:

Ray Ban. For sure.

 

DAN and SAM don their glasses and

look toward the sun, in soft tableaux.

LIGHTS CROSSFADE. END SCENE 4.

 

SCENE 5. MISS DELANO gazing at the sun,

though MR. BUSHNELL has been gazing

at her for some time now.

 

MR. BUSHNELL:

You do want to be careful, Miss Delano, about gazing overlong at the setting sun.

MISS DELANO:

Did you know that there are religions of the Far East which claim a link

between sun-gazing and enlightenment? There are stories of Hindu adepts

who subsist on nothing else.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Where-ever did you read such a thing?

MISS DELANO:

Tracts from the Theosophy Society.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Theosophy?

MISS DELANO:

The Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Institute.

MR. BUSHNELL:

What, that building with the green glass dome? I thought that was some

sort of lighthouse.

MISS DELANO:

They tell me it’s visible at sea for miles, but no. That’s the Yoga Institute.

We call it the Homestead.

MR. BUSHNELL:

The Lomaland that you bicycle from every night?

MISS DELANO:

The WhiteCity of a New Century. Southwestern-most point in the U.S.

Ideal for sun-gazing.

MR. BUSHNELL:

My dear Miss Delano, are you aware of the risk of photic foleomacular

retinopathy?

MISS DELANO:

Heavens! We wouldn’t want to risk… what was it? Photic foleo…

MR. BUSHNELL:

Foloeomacular retinopathy. Light damage to the organs of sight.

MR. BUSHNELL:

It can lead to partial or even complete loss of vision.

MISS DELANO:

Are you a medical man, Mr. Bushnell?Are you a medical man, Mr. Bushnell?

MR. BUSHNELL:

I am currently, by trade, a store-clerk, at a rather busy shop. But as a matter

of professional training, I attended a college of ophthalmology, and am what

is known as a refracting optician.

MISS DELANO:

Surely there’s no shame in being a store-clerk.

MR. BUSHNELL:

If there is, I’m not sensible to it. I am working as an oculist at the shop.

MISS DELANO:

In the optical department?

MR. BUSHNELL:

I am the optical department. But I have saved what I can of my meager

earnings, and will soon have enough to set up shop on my own. I understand

that many towns in the Southwest that are in need of the service.

MISS DELANO:

I’m sure you’ll do well. This city has an unshakeable faith in the efficacy of

traditional methods of self-improvement.

MR. BUSHNELL:

At any rate, Miss Delano, you needn’t rely on my or anyone’s medical

acumen regarding sun-gazing. Really, common sense should suffice.

MISS DELANO:

Common courtesy, aside.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Forgive me. Out of pride, perhaps, or a misplaced passion for the topic,

for which I do apologize, but mostly motivated by an honest concern for

your welfare, Miss Delano, I assure you.

MISS DELANO:

Quite alright, Mr. Bushnell. I can be proud and even overzealous, myself.

But we mustn’t let that blind us to the good in others.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Someday, I believe, everyone will recognize the deleterious effects of the

sun’s rays, and people will quite commonly wear lenses to filter the sun’s

harmful glare.

(MISS DELANO suppresses a laugh.

MISS DELANO:

That sounds as fantastical as sun-gazing, doesn’t it, Mr. Bushnell?

MR. BUSHNELL:

I suppose it does.

 (Hetakes out a pocket watch)

 Three minutes.

MISS DELANO:

And what is it that you propose to do, exactly, Mr. Bushnell, when

the sun sets?

MR. BUSHNELL:

To record an impression of the moment on a photographic plate. I believe

the green flash is a real event, and not just an afterglow.  So, I am attempting

to demonstrate that, using a color system of my own devising.

MISS DELANO:

Color photography?

MR. BUSHNELL:

A primitive system, yet to be perfected; our rudimentary sensors pale in

comparison to what happens before our eyes, those fleeting moments of

brilliance, which appear as a blur. I haven’t got it yet, but I’m working on it.

MISS DELANO:

Why do you attempt it?

MR. BUSHNELL:

I can, at the least, demonstrate that the phenomenon is real. The colors may

not appear as the true colors do, but perhaps the colors are all in our eye,

anyway.

MISS DELANO:

You can’t be serious, Mr. Bushnell. What is more intensely real than a

sunset?

 

MR. BUSHNELL nervously takes out his watch and examines it.

 

MR. BUSHNELL:

Two minutes.

They turn toward the sunset, its glow on their faces.

LIGHTS CROSSFADE. END OF SCENE 5.

 

SCENE 6. SAM and DAN, as before. SAM takes off

her sunglasses to look at her watch.

 

SAM:

Two minutes.

DAN:

So, what’s next for you?

SAM:

With my life?

DAN:

After sunset.

SAM:

No plans. Go home, feed my cat.

DAN:

I’ve been thinking about getting a cat. There’s rats in the carriage house.

SAM:

What’s your grandmother think about that?

DAN lifts his sunglasses, rest them on his head

so that his eyes are visible as he breaks the news.

DAN:

Oh. Grams passed a couple years ago. Eighty-six, alone, in her sleep.

                                                            SAM:

Oh.

                                                            DAN:

You didn’t know. So me, I’m going home to an empty house. Yeah, a cat.

Gotta get me a cat.

SAM:

They’re nice.

DAN:

I been thinking I should sell the house, but it’s been in my family for years.

Grams grew up in there. Her father was the first eye doctor in the East

County.

SAM:

Oh?

DAN:

He was a pretty interesting dude. A tinkerer, old school. Part artist, part

scientist. Played around with colored glass. Invented these special lenses

for his wife. Like, polarized or something. She had cataracts, slowly going

blind, so he fitted her with these glasses he crafted, just for her.  Made it

easier for her to read. Then after she couldn’t anymore, he read aloud to her.

SAM:

Lucky woman.

DAN:

Grams said he doted on her. She must’ve been a pretty interesting lady in

her own right. She had volume after volume  of these musty old leather-bound books, each with her name written in it. Some going back to the

1880s. You could tell because she used her maiden name. This is Grams’

mother. Her husband must’ve spent a fortune on that library. Collected

Works of… oh, I don’t knownot Orson Welles, the other one… And… and—

(claps himself on the head)

 Jules Verne! That’s the French dude’s name!

SAM:

Dude!

DAN:

What.

SAM:

Why do you talk so much?

DAN:

What?

SAM:

Shut up and kiss me.

 

He does. END OF SCENE 6.

 

SCENE 7. LIGHTS UP on 1899, but we’ll call

the remaining minutes of the play, with the

two couples, a single scene.

 

 MR. BUSHNELL:

Miss Delano?

 MISS DELANO:

Mr. Bushnell.

MR. BUSHNELL:

You said I was no masher, but I must confess something

to you.                            

MISS DELANO:

Go ahead, then.

MR. BUSHNELL:

This evening is not the first one on which I’ve caught sight of you.

MISS DELANO:

No?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Last week. Last Sunday. I saw you, here on the Mussel Bed.

MISS DELANO:

“Mussel Beds.”

MR. BUSHNELL:

And I found myself more eager to see you again than to watch the sunset

itself.

 

MISS DELANO:

Indeed.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Yes. I feel I am almost irresistibly attracted to you. There: I’ve said it.

MISS DELANO:

“Almost irrestibly attracted.” Well, I must tell you that I have a problem

with that, Mr. Bushnell.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Yes?

MISS DELANO:

That word “almost.”

The two gaze at each other. Soft tableaux.

Back in the 2oth Century, SAM and DAN part lips.

DAN starts to speak, but SAM puts a finger to

his lips, points to the watch, and  then toward

the sunset, which they both now turn to.

 

The sunlight pulses red on their face for a moment,

and pulses out. And yes, a green light flashes

 briefly across the faces of all four lovers.

 

 But MISS DELANO and MR. BUSHNELL, so intent

on each other’s gaze, look up to find that they’ve

missed it.

MISS DELANO:

Oh my, Mr. Bushnell. I’m afraid we’ve missed our opportunity.

The sunset, I mean.

MR. BUSHNELL:

Ah. Then perhaps next week. Well, it will be getting dark soon. And quite

cold, I’m afraid.

MISS DELANO:

Oh, I’ll be alright.

MR. BUSHNELL:

I have a blanket in my carriage.

MISS DELANO:

You’ve a carriage?

MR. BUSHNELL:

Nothing very grand. Just a one-horse shay, an old phaeton I’ve adapted to

carry my glass plates and darkroom chemicals, with which to develop my …

MISS DELANO:

Oh my! Your photograph.

MR. BUSHNELL:

No matter. I shall return next week, and the next, and be patient. I’m usually

a very patient man, believe it or not. I hope I haven’t spoken or acted rashly

today, but since I do seem to be in the rare state to risk it, and  do have the

phaeton… Miss Delano, I wonder if I might offer you a ride to your home in…

is it Lomaland?

MISS DELANO:

A bit forward of you, Mr. Bushnell. I’m afraid I must decline. However, you

might conceivably call on me next Sunday. Meet my mother, sit down to tea.

Then, if you like, you may accompany me to watch that evening’s sunset.

MR. BUSHNELL:

I very much look forward to that.

                                               

 She offers her hand, and he takes it, tipping

his hat with the other. They stand in soft tableaux.

SAM and DAN are still staring in awed silence.

SAM:

You were going to say something?

DAN:

Whoa. That was awesome. That green flash wasn’t bad, either.

SAM:

Hey, how far east is La Casida?

DAN:

Twenty-five miles by motorcycle. It’s almost the same by microbus.

SAM:

How big is your motorcycle?

DAN:

It’s street-legal. A little 200cc.

SAM:

But you take the freeway, huh?

DAN:

Barefoot, and no helmet.

SAM:

Plus, the tequila. Toss your bike in the back of the microbus, and

I’ll give you a lift home.

DAN:

For real?

SAM:

You gonna make me regret it?

DAN:

Wouldn’t wanna do that, Sam, no. You wanna stop by your place and feed

your cat?

SAM throws two bronzed biceps across DAN’s shoulders.

                                                            SAM:

Don’t push your luck, Dan. Don’t push your luck.

                                                            LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.

                                                            END OF PLAY.

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