by Jack Gilhooley
It’s the evening of November 22, 1963, in rural Ireland. Three mid-teenage girls grapple with the news that U.S. president John F. Kennedy has just been assassinated.
CHARACTERS: Deirdre, Moira, and Eileen all speak with a brogue
PLACE: A basically empty town square (A bench? A streetlamp?). There’s a shabby sign reading “Doyle’s Public House” inconspicuously situated far left or right. The pub itself is offstage.
TIME: Evening, Nov. 22, 1963.
Deirdre and Moira are heavily dressed. Each carries an unlit flashlight (“torch”)..
DEIRDRE: How close did you get?
MOIRA: I could touch him.
DEIRDRE: So did ye?
MOIRA: Lord, no.
DEIRDRE: Why not?
MOIRA: I was afraid.
DEIRDRE: Of who?
MOIRA: Not a person. Just the situation.
DEIRDRE: Were you afraid of Kennedy?
MOIRA: Course not. But he had these big bruiser-type guards.
DEIRDRE: He shoulda left them home. He didn’t need them here. In the states, yeah. But not in Wexford. We’re civilized over here. Except on the football pitch. Rumor had it that he’d move over here when his presidency was over. And why not? He’d be able to walk into any pub in the land without guards. The gents wouldn’t let him buy a round. Lift a jar an’ have a bit of craic with the boyos. A game of darts or two. Then home for dinner with Jackie and the kids. Little John-John woulda been old enough to join a football club. His da would have been a sponsor. Take alla the lads out after a match. Treat them to sweets and such.
MOIRA: Somehow I never saw that happening.
DEIRDRE: Why not? He had plenty of money. In that case ye should’ve reached out to him. He was shakin’ hands with any bogtrotter who could reach him. You mighta lifted his wallet.
MOIRA: I was frozen.
DEIRDRE: How could you freeze in June? If you were that close you coulda kissed him. If I was that close I’d’ve kissed him.
DEIRDRE: That’s what I’d’ve done. I’d’ve snogged John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Right in front of Jackie.
MOIRA: I’m sure she would’ve panicked over that. Imagine, Deirdre Flanagan as JFK’s teenaged mistress.
DEIRDRE: That’s somethin’ you could brag about to your grandkids . . . snoggin’ the president of the United States.
MOIRA: I wasn’t thinkin’ about grandkids as the president of the United States was approachin’. I was thinkin’ I might wet myself. And I’d hardly tell my grandkids that I kissed the American president. They’d think their auld granny was a cheeky slag.
DEIRDRE: Then you could tell them that you wet yourself.
MOIRA: I wouldn’t tell them that even if I did. And I didn’t.
DEIRDRE: Congratulations, Moira. Discipline is yer middle name. Y’know, you’ll get nowhere in life bein’ fearful. Look at Marilyn Monroe.
MOIRA: What’s Marilyn Monroe have to do with it?
DEIRDRE: She sang “Happy Birthday” to him.
MOIRA: Big deal.
DEIRDRE: But not like any “Happy Birthday” I ever heard.
MOIRA: I seen it onna telly. And right there in fronta his family. It’s certainly not the way I sing “Happy Birthday.”
DEIRDRE: You’re hardly Marilyn Monroe. How would you sing to your lover?
MOIRA: Stop that kinda talk. I’ll never have a lover. I’ll have a husband. When the time comes. Lovers are for sluts.
DEIRDRE: I hear that Marilyn was Kennedy’s lover.
MOIRA: You’re bonkers. You been readin’ those supermarket trash sheets. He’s a fine Catholic man with a wife and two lovely children.
DEIRDRE: So’s yer da.
MOIRA: Three lovely children.
DEIRDRE: I wasn’t countin’ you.
MOIRA: Me da would never cheat on me mum.
DEIRDRE: Who’d have ’im?
MOIRA: Yer not funny, Deirdre.
Geez, now it’s too late.
DEIRDRE: It’s too late for you to snog Kennedy.
MOIRA: Geez, it was only last June. I’ll never have another chance to touch him.
DEIRDRE: They’ll probably have an open casket for the viewin’. You could fly over to Washington, get in line and touch him when you pass by. Kiss ’em even. No need for security, now.
MOIRA: I wouldn’t touch a dead man.
DEIRDRE: Not even Kennedy? Why? Death is not contagious.
MOIRA: Well, snoggin’ seems to be contagious with you. You even kissed Gerald O’Malley behind the stables.
DEIRDRE: Where’d ye hear that?
MOIRA: Everybody saw it.
DEIRDRE: Who’s everybody?
MOIRA: Mary Catherine Monaghan. And my sister.
DEIRDRE: That’s everybody?
For your information, he kissed me. It was not mutual. He snuck up on me. And it wasn’t on the lips. If Gerald O’Malley had kissed me on the lips, I’d have run home and washed my mouth out.
MOIRA: So it was a . . . well . . . a sneaky snoggin’. Did you confess it?
DEIRDRE: Course not. I was an innocent party.
MOIRA: Did you enjoy it?
DEIRDRE: (Shrugs) I might’ve enjoyed it if it hadn’t been Gerald. There was nothin’ to confess.
MOIRA: What if it had been Billy Darby?
DEIRDRE: There’s no comparin’ Billy Darby to Gerald O’Malley. If it had been Billy I would certainly be goin’ to confession on Saturday. I probably wouldn’t even be brushing my teeth.
Eileen enters. She, too, carries a flashlight. It is lit upon her entry but she turns it off immediately.
DEIRDRE: H’lo, Eileen.
EILEEN: H’lo, mates.
MOIRA: Hey Eileen, did ya hear?
EILEEN: That Kathy Doyle is preggers? Big surprise.
MOIRA: Old news. She fingered poor Robbie Ryan.
EILEEN: Everyone knows it was Billy Darby done the dirty deed.
DEIRDRE: BILLY DARBY? No, he wouldn’t’ve.
MOIRA: Did you think he was savin’ it for you, Deirdre?
EILEEN: So she and Robbie Ryan are gettin’ married.
DEIRDRE: It’s either that or the Magdalene Laundry for Kathy.
EILEEN: Not a bad deal for Kathy. Robbie’s father owns a service station. Cars will always need gas. She couldn’a done better on the up an’ up. An’ maybe the baby will look like him an’ not like her.
MOIRA: Him? Billy Darby or Robbie Ryan?
EILEEN: Robbie, I guess. Not that he’s any great shakes. So what more could a homely girl ask? Sometimes it’s not such a bad idea to get yerself up the pole—
DEIRDRE: Kennedy’s dead.
EILEEN: Yer kiddin’.
DEIRDRE: Shot to death.
EILEEN: Who done it?
DEIRDRE: They got a guy but he’s only a suspect.
EILEEN: Bridie Keough musta done it. She never forgave Dermot for givin’ her the boot and takin’ up with Bridget O’Shea. An’ Bridie’s da is a hunter with plenty of rifles in the house. If the garda needs any evidence, I’ll be glad to offer my opinion.
MOIRA: G’wan, Bridie wouldn’t harm a fly.
EILEEN: You dunno Bridie the way I know—
MOIRA: Will you get over Bridie and Kevin Keene? Kevin never knew you existed. It’s not like Bridie set out to steal him from someone who never had him.
EILEEN: I never had him cause I never wanted him. I was playin’ hard to get.
MOIRA: Well, you sure succeeded at that game. When you decided to warm up to Kevin, Bridie got him. Then he dumped her.
DEIRDRE: You two stop yer babblin’. We’re not talkin’ of Dermot Kennedy.
MOIRA: Course not. It’s John Kennedy been murdered.
EILEEN: Lucky Dermot. Who’s John Kennedy? That’s Dermot’s cousin from Cavan?
DEIRDRE: JACK KENNEDY, YOU NIT!
EILEEN: (Calmly) Oh, Jack Kennedy. Why didn’t ye say so? Well, that’s America for ye.
MOIRA: “That’s America for ye.” That’s all you have to say?
EILEEN: Whataya want me to say? Hooray for America? Ye killed yer own president.
MOIRA: The greatest man in the world is dead.
EILEEN: Don’t gimmee that. I thought you girls figgered the pope is head man.
MOIRA: One or the other. Depends on who you talk to.
EILEEN: Not if yer talkin’ t’me. Ask me, why don’tcha? I’d vote for Gary Cooper.
Moira, I know you traveled to Wexford to see him last summer. An’ he looked like a movie star.
MOIRA: But not Gary Cooper. Is that what yer sayin’?
EILEEN: But “the greatest man in the world”?
MOIRA: You weren’t there. You didn’t feel the excitement. You couldn’t have known.
EILEEN: True. I’m no fool. I watched it on telly at me sister’s house. An’ me da says Kennedy took orders from yer very same pope. Says that they’re building a special addition to the White House for the pope’s personal quarters.
DEIRDRE: Did he figure that out drivin’ his lorry?
EILEEN: There’s nothin’ shameful about drivin’ a lorry. (To Moira) Least he’s not a butcher. (To Deirdre) Or a postman.
MOIRA: (To Eileen) Spoken like a true atheist.
EILEEN: PROTESTANTS AREN’T ATHEISTS! TAKE THAT BACK!
MOIRA: MAKE ME!
They skirmish briefly. Deirdre intercedes.
DEIRDRE: Enough. This is a solemn time.
They desist. Suddenly, Eileen starts to cry.
MOIRA: There’s her true colors. I hardly hit ya an’ here comes the water works.
EILEEN: I’m not cryin’ from you. I’m cryin for . . . Kennedy.
Deirdre and Moira look to one another.
DEIRDRE: You changed yer tune.
EILEEN: I knew he’d . . . been shot. I got outta the house cause I can’t cry over Jack Kennedy at home.
Me da would hit the ceilin’. Give us a fag, Dee.
DEIRDRE: I stopped smokin’.
EILEEN: You just started smokin’. An’ yer stoppin’ already? That’s dumb. You wanna be some kinda weird duck? Everybody smokes.
DEIRDRE: That’s why I stopped. Plus, it stunts yer growth.
EILEEN: Well then, I’m glad I started at thirteen. I’m just the height I wanna be.
MOIRA: Christy Brady’s six-foot-five an smokes like a chimney.
DEIDRE: He’d be six-foot-ten if he didn’t smoke.
EILEEN: Who’d wanna be six-foot-ten?
DEIRDRE: Christy Brady might. Then he could go to the States and play basketball at some college.
MOIRA: That’s the only way Christy could get to college. He’s dumb as a rock.
Sorry, Moira. I was way outta line at a time like this.
They shake hands, unenthusiastically.
EILEEN: An’ this guy they caught. His name is Oswald.
DEIRDRE: Oswald? He musta been mad at the world with a name like Oswald. He shoulda killed his parents for naming him Oswald. Why take it out on Kennedy?
EILEEN: That’s his last name.
MOIRA: Still, it’s no reason to kill the president.
EILEEN: I gotta go home. Listen to the old man gloat. And lift another jar in praise of Oswald. Crikey.
MOIRA: You just got here.
EILEEN: I tole ye’. I come out for a good cry.
DEIRDRE: Why doesn’t yer da move to the North if he can’t stand most of his neighbors?
EILEEN: He doesn’t move north cause me mum wouldn’t go with him. Nor would I.
MOIRA: And where else would ye find such lovely friends as us, eh Eileen?
EILEEN: I was just cryin’, Moira, and now you’re makin’ me laugh.
She smiles and exits as she lights her flashlight.
DEIRDRE: Prots aren’t atheists.
MOIRA: I know.
DEIRDRE: You still believe what Sister Agatha told us back in third class.
MOIRA: I never listened to Sister Aggie. If I ever thought about a vocation, she put the kibosh on it.
DEIRDRE: What’s “kibosh”?
MOIRA: Figger it out.
DEIRDRE: You mean you thought about the convent back in third class?
MOIRA: Well, Aggie planted that seed in me head.
DEIRDRE: So what happened?
MOIRA: I started noticin’ boys.
DEIRDRE: I should hope so. You’ve got six brothers.
MOIRA: You know what I mean. I started noticin’ boys like you started noticin’ Timmy Reilly.
DEIRDRE: Nothin’s gonna come of that.
MOIRA: Yeah, that’s what Timmy told ye.
DEIRDRE: You’re a little bitch, Moira.
MOIRA: I’m goin’.
DEIRDRE: The assassination will be all over the telly.
MOIRA: Why can’t they just let him rest in peace?
DEIRDRE: It’s what people want. It’ll be on for days to come.
MOIRA: Me mum was sayin’ a rosary when I left the house.
DEIRDRE: What good would that possibly do now? Will it bring him back to life?
MOIRA: She’s locked into tradition even if it makes no sense.
DEIRDRE: There’s no mention of the rosary in the Bible.
MOIRA: You’ve never read the Bible.
DEIRDRE: So what? I have it on good authority.
MOIRA: What good authority?
DEIRDRE: My cousin Brendan is in the sem. Studyin’ for the priesthood. He says that even the mass isn’t in the Bible.
MOIRA: Some priest he’ll make.
DEIRDRE: I don’t think he’ll stick it out. Father Molloy pushed him in.
MOIRA: Misery loves company.
DEIRDRE: I think that’s confessable talk.
MOIRA: Why? It’s not a curse.
DEIRDRE: True. But it sounds like you blasphemed.
MOIRA: So be it.
I kept me gob shut with mum. Her rosary is a habit. Leave her to her habits. No harm done. I’m goin’ right to bed. Try to kip.
DEIRDRE: We’ll get over this.
MOIRA: No, Dee. We’ll never get over it. Tomorra I’m gonna write a poem about JFK’s death.
DEIRDRE: That should be fun.
MOIRA: It’s not meant to be fun. It will be an elegy.
DEIRDRE: You an’ yer poetry. It sounds pretty but none of it makes any sense. It doesn’t even rhyme.
MOIRA: It’s not meant to rhyme.
DEIRDRE: Then it’s not poetry. It’s just some gibberish that you call poetry. So what’s the point?
MOIRA: Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme to be poetry.
DEIRDRE: That sounds like an excuse from someone who can’t make words rhyme.
MOIRA: They’re exercises.
DEIRDRE: If I wanna exercise, I ride my bike.
MOIRA: It’s an instinctive thing with me.
DEIRDRE: Emphasis on “stink.”
Eileen reenters. Her flashlight is out.
EILEEN: My torch went out an’ I have no batteries.
MOIRA: So? You know the road. You’ve walked it every day of your life. Just follow the sound of yer drunkin’ da’s cheering Kennedy’s death.
DEIRDRE: You don’t need a torch.
EILEEN: I can find my way home. But it’s time soon at the pub. These boozers will never see me in the road without a torch. So Dee, you live just beyond me an’—
DEIDRE: I know where I live, Eileen.
(To Moira) At least we got a day off from school on Monday. Don’t be jealous now, Eileen.
MOIRA: I’d rather we went to school an’ this never happened.
DEIDRE: OK, OK, Eileen. Let’s head off.
Deirdre lights her flashlight and she and Eileen head off.
DEIRDRE: Slan, (PRO Slawn) Moira.
MOIRA: Slan, Deirdre.
EILEEN: Slan, Moira.
MOIRA: Slan, Eileen.
Moira is alone now and she reflects . . .
MOIRA: (To herself) I shoulda reached out an’ touched him.
She stares straight ahead then exits opposite, with her lighted flashlight.
JACK GILHOOLEY has been awarded two National Endowment for the Arts grants, two Fulbright Guest Artist Fellowships (Spain and Ireland), NYFTA grant, a Eugene O’Neill Conference selection, two Puffin Fdt grants, five Ford Fdt development subsidies, four Florida Arts Council grants, the first annual John Ringling Arts Fellowship Award, the 2018 Free Speech Play winner (The XXX-RATED GENIUS), etc. He has been a guest artist at Yaddo, MacDowell, Millay, Edward Albee Fdt., Djerassi, Hawthornden Castle (Scotland), Tyrone Guthrie Institute (Ireland) artist colonies. His plays have been presented at NY Shakespeare Fest., Circle Rep., 59e59, The Phoenix, Shubert Theatre (Phila.), Asolo, ACT/SF, Indiana Rep (twice), Theatre of the First Amendment, Harry Chapin’s PAF Theatre, Focus (IRE), etc. He’s been a guest artist at Mount Holyoke, Utah State, U de Salamanca, and National University of Ireland/Maynooth, etc.