from Aurora

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Chicago, 1989. A strike that has been going on for some time has finally collapsed. The union is facing ruination and the company has filed suit for millions in damages. On the eve of the trial, Gil, the union’s lawyer, stumbles into a romantic triangle between his North Side ex-fiancée and the union leader’s South Side daughter. Unwitting of her daughterhood, he has asked Ann, only 23, on a date.

Scene: The North Avenue Beach. Gil and Ann are at the water’s edge.

Ann: (twirls around) How could you be so cool as to take me to Hubbard Street?

Gil: You, uh, like, dance?

Ann: Like it? Oh, yes! That’s why I like this city…. It’s so flat, perfect to dance on.

Gil: Perfect to land on … that’s all it’s good for, isn’t it? Just a big place, for an airport….

Ann: Oh, no!

Gil: Only I can’t escape. I feel like I’m stranded.

Ann: (mocking) But what about by sea? Look at all the little boats, baby boats….

Gil: Oh, yes, poor baby boats, little baby white wine, they’re trapped here too…. But you like it, huh? Lately I’ve begun to wonder, “Do women really like the Midwest?”

Ann: We like Marshall Field’s.

Gil: I have a friend, a woman, she says we ought to take a knife and divide up the country, sexually … the women’d get the coasts, the men’d get the middle….

Ann: (shocked) Take … a knife, and … cut off the men’s middle?

Gil: No, it’s … (pause) No … you know … I don’t even know your last name.

Ann: (groans) This is like the South Side! “What was her last name?” (burrows in purse) Hey, want to see my I.D.?

Gil: No, no….

Ann: No, I’ll take my finger and just write it in the sand….

Gil: Oh! Don’t put your finger—

Ann: (looks up) Why?

Gil: (shivers) It’s full of lead, asbestos—

Ann: Oh, no, see? It’s just sand, like up in Michigan! But I turn around and there’s the Sears!

Gil: When I see the city, like tonight, the turrets, and music boxes, and minarets, it’s aglow, it’s like on fire, like a burning bush…. I want to take off my shoes, like I’m standing on holy ground.

Ann: Good! Let’s take off our shoes…. (She flips hers off.)

Gil: (aghast) What are you doing?

Ann: (sets them down) You don’t do this on first dates?

Gil: Oh, Ann…. I have to say … when we came out of the theater, the way you took off your socks, and gave ’em to the beggar….

Ann: I didn’t have any change, I thought, “Oh, give him something.” (now writes name with toe.)

Gil: I mean, he’s wearing them … your socks! (pause) Oh no, you’ll get asbestos….

Ann: (still writing) Sorry, kind of a hard name…. But you don’t like Chicago?

Gil: Oh, most of the old Chicago is so empty now. Empty Goldblatt’s, empty el cars at night, headed the wrong way…. Even the lake, here, looks a bit empty. Look, the damn thing doesn’t even gurgle.

Ann: It’s resting. (fondly, to the lake) Oh, it’s such a dear.

Gil: (coming to see what she wrote) Can I read this? “G-E-R” … “G” … oh, “Y,” oh why? (slaps head) Why me! Why? (to Ann) You! You’re D-D’s … his daughter!

Ann: I had to laugh when you came up to me on the el…. (laughs) Good thing I gave you my phone at work!

Gil: Laugh? Oh shit!

Ann: Oh so what? So we went on a little date….

Gil: This very night, your dad, he begged me, “Come to the hall,” and here I am, up on the North Side, ab-ducing his daughter!

Ann: Is it true what my father says? How can you leave us?

Gil: (groans) I’m trapped…. Look, I.…

Ann: You think the strike was wrong? My father, all these men, should have taken all those wage cuts…. Eight dollars an hour for the people my age? My father says, “Our fathers, our grandfathers, fought for those things … we have no right to give them up!”

Gil: Maybe we should have given them up, anyway!

Ann: But didn’t you say that, too, down at the hall one night, “We have to fight back”?

Gil: I said that? Oh stop it … (He picks up sand, lets it run through fingers.) See? “Sand like up in Michigan!” I feel, these men, like I’ve led them into the desert, led them here to die.

Ann: Don’t give up! But how did all this happen anyway? Is it because … all the people without shoes in the Third World, with all their low wages?

Gil: Oh no, that’s not it.

Ann: Well, then, what happened? I’m 23, nobody tells me.

Gil: People your age don’t really know…. Well, it’s simple: You don’t have the right, under American law, to join a union.

Ann: Prove it.

Gil: O.K., you work for me, right?

Ann: (salutes) Right!

Gil: You put on a union button.

Ann: Hurray!

Gil: You’re fired!

Ann: I’ll file a complaint!

Gil: O.K., but it’ll take four years….

Ann: Aaah! Four years?

Gil: First the Ad Law Judge, that’s two years … then the full board in D.C., that’s another year…. O.K., but you win. Win. So, do I have to take you back?

Ann: Yes!

Gil: No! Now you have to file a case in a court … not a little court either, but a big court … U.S. Court of Appeals … three guys in black dresses who sit around reading Ayn Rand … But O.K., O.K., let’s say you finally win. Now do I owe you money?

Ann: Yes!

Gil: No! Because you got a job, like, at Fresh Fields. I don’t owe you anything. In fact, at my place, I’m now paying a wage even lower than at Fresh Fields.

Ann: I want to come back anyway!

Gil: Yeah? Well, I warn you … better not!

Ann: No, I’m back! Just to spite you.

Gil: Fine. Welcome back. You’re fired.

Ann: I have to go through all this again?

Gil: (looks at watch) See you back here in four years.

Ann: No wonder why we’re the only union left!

Gil: That’s why they’re just going house to house now, like in World War II, shooting people like your father.

Ann: What can we do?

Gil: Just stand right here on the beach and watch the city burn.

Ann: (shrugs, steps off stage) After what you said … I feel safer stepping out in the water.

Gil: (gapes at her) It’s … freezing … isn’t it?

Ann: Oh well, I’m a real Trojan!

Gil: Spartan?

Ann: (mocking) Whatever! You’re one too! Still standing there on all that sand. All that sand, it’s full of lead and asbestos….

Gil: (looks down) Well, maybe I’ll just put a foot in….

Ann: Come on!

Gil: God it’s cold!

Ann: (cups her hands, full of lake) Here, take the chill off … take a little sip….

Gil: “Take a little sip”? Are you out of your mind?

Ann: (she sips) Do this every day, mmm-mmm … guess what happens?

Gil: (edgy) What?

Ann: You’ll get polio! No, no, I’m only kidding … here, sip!

Gil: Absolutely not!

Ann: Oh! Watch out for that wave!

Gil: What? (A wave falls, vertically, and douses Gil) I’m wet. I’m in Lake Michigan. And I’m wet.

Ann: (laughing) We’re soaked.

Gil: Do I need a tetanus shot? (licks his lips) My God …

Ann: What?

Gil: It tastes like … beer, like really lousy lite beer.

Ann: You didn’t know?

Gil: You mean those pumping stations?

Ann: (delighted) They’re breweries! (A second wave falls, douses them.)

Gil: Oh shit!

Ann: (splutters) The lake is mad … cause you said it didn’t even gurgle!

Gil: (licks his arm) Hell … maybe we should fight back, I mean … a little … not too much, just a little ….

Ann: I knew you’d say that if you got out here….

Gil: I do feel better … no, I do … I love to look up at the stars….

Ann: (closer to him) You do?

Gil: You know about the Big Bang?

Ann: No, I went to DePaul.

Gil: (dreamy) I was in it, you were in it, Daniel Barenboim playing Bach was in it … all the Bach partitas came out of the Big Bang!

Ann: I wish I’d known you then.

Gil: Oh, but you and I … it’s not … (moving back, nervous) I … I was born in the decade they had World War II.…

Ann: You weren’t in it, were you?

Gil: No, I was in the sixties.

Ann: (purrs) So braaave….

Gil: (nervous) Oh, don’t you see? You’re my … my … daughter’s client … and … (as Ann moves closer) a lawyer should avoid even the ap-p-pearance of incest….

Ann: (touching him) Can I ask you something?

Gil: What?

Ann: Did you think, back in the Big Bang, we were going to date?

(A kiss: Third wave crashes down.)

Thomas Geoghegan is a Chicago lawyer whose latest book is Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement.

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