Category Archives: Stage/Screen Writing

Highway 16

by Claudia Barnett

 

Characters

RED
Red-hooded.

GRANNY
Big bellied, half-blind.

WOLF
Human-sized. She might resemble the Capitoline Wolf.

 

Setting

A one-room house: a bed, a table, a fireplace. A red neon sign flashes “Granny’s” from a distance, its reflection appearing as if through a wet window.

 

At rise. The sounds of rain and vultures. In the bed: GRANNY lies snoring. On the table: a book of matches and a mason jar. The sound of a door slamming shut. GRANNY sits up as RED enters, dripping wet. RED holds an empty basket.

 

GRANNY

Where’s my cigs?

 

RED looks at her empty basket.

 

RED

Oh, Granny. I walked the lonesome highway like you said but coming home I stopped to pick red berries. Suddenly I saw a shadow in the sky plummet toward me like a meteor, and then, as suddenly, it shot up in the air. I deduced it was a bird—a big, horrible death bird, bald and black and bigger than me. It landed in a tree where its friends crouched in the branches and looked like Satan with his minions. They stropped their beaks and flapped their hostile wings, so I ran and ran. Then it started to rain, and I slipped and fell three times, but I finally made it home. Oh Granny, I still hear them. Why would vultures chase me? I’m not dead.

 

GRANNY

You lost my cigs?

 

RED

They must have fallen from my basket.

 

GRANNY

You better go and find ‘em.

 

RED

They’ll be wet.

 

 

GRANNY

Then find a way to dry ‘em. You had a job to do and haven’t done it. Picking berries—I bet you lost the berries, too.

 

RED looks at her empty basket and nods.

 

Now turn yourself around and go back out that door …

 

RED

But Granny, don’t you hear those squawks, those claws, those beaks?

 

GRANNY

You’re getting the floor wet. I hear the dripping.

 

Suddenly, the noise stops and a very wet pack of Lucky Strikes falls down into the fireplace.

 

RED

Granny. Your cigs! They’ve magically appeared!

 

RED grabs the pack and shows it to Granny.

 

GRANNY

They better not be wet. Bring ‘em here so I can smell ‘em.

 

RED unwraps the pack, takes out a cigarette, and blows on it. SHE carries it over to Granny and waves it under her nose. GRANNY grabs the cigarette.

 

GRANNY

Smells wet. Where’s my hooch?

 

RED

I’ll just lay these out to dry.

 

RED removes all the cigarettes from the pack and starts laying them out on the table.

 

GRANNY

I said: Where’s my hooch?

 

RED looks at her empty basket.

 

You lost my hooch? Well, Little Red, you just march yourself back out that door and search the highway till you find it.

 

A pint of Canadian Club falls down into the fireplace.

 

RED

Granny! Your hooch! It’s magically appeared.

 

RED grabs the bottle, uncaps the mason jar, and pours whisky into it. SHE delivers it to Granny, who swigs it.

 

GRANNY

Where’s my change?

 

RED looks at her empty basket.

 

RED

Oh no.

 

GRANNY

You should have got eighteen cents change, Little Red—if you went to that backwoods store to save a nickel like I told you.

 

RED

I did, Granny. That’s why I took so long and ran so far and got so wet, but they raised the price and there was nothing left.

 

GRANNY

Then you owe me eighteen cents, Red, and you know what that means.

 

RED

You’ll add it to my tab.

 

GRANNY

That’s right. You’ll have to work it off. And what else?

 

RED

No puppy.

 

GRANNY

That’s right. No puppy. And what else?

 

RED

I’ll never see Mommy again.

 

GRANNY

Of course you’ll never see Mommy again. Your mother was a hitchhiking hooker who disappeared on the highway without paying her tab.

 

RED

That same highway where you send me to fetch your cigs and hooch?

 

GRANNY

I told you not to hitchhike.

 

RED

She loved me.

 

GRANNY

She traded you for a dirty needle. Get back to work, Red.

 

RED goes back to the table and continues to arrange the cigarettes. SHE blows on them. Silence as she works.

 

Light me a cig, Red.

 

RED strikes a match, but it won’t light. SHE tries repeatedly. Nothing.

 

You ruined the matches. You dripped all over ‘em. You better find more.

 

RED

But Granny, there aren’t any more.

 

GRANNY

You better find some way to light my cig, Little Red, or you’ll be sleeping with those death birds.

 

Suddenly, WOLF pops her head down from the chimney.

 

RED

My puppy! It’s magically appeared! Granny, it’s my puppy.

 

WOLF climbs out of the fireplace and shakes herself off like a wet dog. WOLF circles Granny’s bed.

 

GRANNY

You can’t keep it. You can’t afford to feed it. Besides, it smells.

 

RED

I can share my gruel with it.

 

WOLF

No thanks, Little Red. They call you “Little” because you don’t get enough to eat.

 

RED

A talking puppy!

 

GRANNY

(To Wolf.)

Add they call her “Red” ‘cause her mother was too illiterate to string more’n three letters in a row. And because her face looked like a rotting red potato. Still does. Her mother was a red-skinned wild-Indian welfare moocher.

 

WOLF

Your granny’s just plain mean, Red.

 

GRANNY

Granny’s my name. Doesn’t make me anyone’s progenitor.

 

WOLF

Then this isn’t Grandmother’s house?

 

GRANNY

It’s Granny’s Establishment. Least it was. Red’s helping me with the comeback.

 

RED

I fetch the cigs and the hooch. I’m in training.

 

GRANNY

I took her in when her slut mother flew the coop. Let her stay when she had no place to go. Her family were aborigines. If not for me, she’d’ve been raised by wolves.

 

WOLF

Romulus and Remus were raised by a wolf.

 

GRANNY

Well Red’s lucky. She’s got me.

 

RED

What’s an aborigine?

 

GRANNY

I keep her here out of the kindness of my heart.

 

RED

(To Granny.)

You never said Mommy had family.

 

 

 

WOLF

(To Granny.)

Your heart?

 

GRANNY

Yeah, my heart. My great big bleeding heart.

 

WOLF licks her lips and stands on her hind legs and sniffs Granny.

 

WOLF

 

GRANNY

Do you happen to have a light, puppy?

 

GRANNY puts her cigarette in her mouth. WOLF snaps her claws, and a flame appears. WOLF lights the cigarette. GRANNY inhales.

 

Thank you, puppy. Red!

 

RED scurries over with the mason jar lid and stands holding it like an ashtray for Granny.

 

I don’t much like puppies, but we’ll need a watchdog when we get clients. I might just let you stay. What else can you do?

 

WOLF peers closely at Granny.

 

WOLF

I’m useful in the kitchen.

 

RED

Oh, puppy! I’m so hungry. Can you make mac and cheese?

 

WOLF

Wouldn’t you rather eat meat? A nice steak? Or stew? Or liver.

 

GRANNY

Mmmm. Liver. You’re just full of surprises.

 

GRANNY pets Wolf.

 

My, what big ears you have, puppy.

 

WOLF

All the better to hear you with, Granny.

 

GRANNY

My, what bright eyes you have, puppy.

 

WOLF

All the better to see you with, Granny.

 

GRANNY

My, what sharp teeth you have, puppy.

 

WOLF

All the better to eat you with, Granny.

 

WOLF pounces on Granny and bites her throat. GRANNY screams, gurgles, and dies. WOLF takes a few puffs from the cigarette and then stubs it out in the mason jar lid.

 

RED

Puppy?

 

WOLF

I’m not a puppy, Little Red. I’m your fairy godmother.

 

RED

You don’t look like a fairy godmother.

 

WOLF

Put down that ashtray, Red. You’ll need a knife.

 

RED puts the lid on the table.

 

RED

I don’t have a knife.

 

WOLF

Well, get a bucket.

 

RED

I don’t have a bucket.

 

WOLF

What good are you, Red?

 

 

RED

I have a jar.

 

SHE holds up Granny’s jar.

 

WOLF

It’s small, but it might do.

 

WOLF suddenly slits Granny’s torso with one claw. SHE reaches in, removes the heart, holds it up for inspection, and pops it in the jar.

 

WOLF

Even smaller than I expected. Hooch!

 

RED pours some whisky into the jar with the heart. WOLF nods approval.

 

Cap it up.

 

RED screws the lid on the jar.

 

 

RED shakes the jar.

 

You show promise, Red. Now give it a minute to pickle.

 

RED

To pickle?

 

RED places the jar on the table.

 

WOLF

Come here, Little Red. You’ll want to see this.

 

WOLF reaches into Granny’s belly and pulls out a bunch of rag dolls. SHE holds up the rag dolls.

 

Granny preyed on girls.

 

WOLF drops the rag dolls onto Granny.

 

RED

Like a wolf!

 

WOLF

No, Little Red. Wolves don’t eat girls. We eat elk and moose and grasshoppers. Fairy tales give us a bad rap.

 

RED

I like macaroni. If you were truly my fairy godmother, you’d make me macaroni.

 

WOLF

Of course I’m your fairy godmother. I saved you from Granny, didn’t I?

 

RED

Granny saved me, too. I guess that means now I work for you.

 

WOLF

That’s right. Now you work for me.

 

RED

I’ll fetch your cigs and hooch?

 

WOLF

That’s right. You’ll fetch my cigs and hooch. And you’ll clean up my mess.

 

WOLF indicates Granny’s corpse.

 

RED

And I’ll clean up your mess. Um … I don’t know how to do that.

 

WOLF

Sure you do. You just need help. Don’t you know who your friends are, Red?

 

RED

You’re my friend.

 

WOLF

Who told you that?

 

RED

Granny said something about family—?

 

WOLF

No, Red. Listen.

 

The vulture sounds resume.

 

RED

Vultures? They’re not my friends. They want to eat me.

 

The vulture sounds get louder.

 

WOLF

They can help you, Red. Just lead them to the carrion.

 

RED

Just …?

 

WOLF

Get out there in the darkness, and let them chase you home. Trust your luck, Little Red, and this pickled potion.

 

WOLF shakes the mason jar, unscrews it, and holds it under Red’s nose.

 

RED

Granny’s heart in hooch. Smells like death.

 

WOLF

Smells like bait. Taste it, Red.

 

RED

What?

 

WOLF

You’ll be glad you did. It’ll make you strong.

 

WOLF drinks a shot of hooch from the jar.

 

 

SHE offers the jar to Red, who tastes it.

 

RED

 

WOLF

Now let’s recite our magic spell.

 

RED

Our magic spell? You mean … mine, too?

 

WOLF

Why not, Little Red? Make a wish.

 

WOLF kneels. RED kneels beside her.

WOLF howls. RED howls, too.

 

A red-hooded rag doll falls down into the fireplace. RED runs to it, picks it up, and clutches it.

 

WOLF licks her lips.

 

The vulture sounds become deafening.

 

– End of Play –

 

These names could be projected before or after the play:

Helen Claire Frost, age 17. Last seen leaving her apartment in Prince George, British Columbia, near Highway 16. 1970.

Virginia Sampare, age 18. Vanished at Gitsegukla, British Columbia, along Highway 16. 1971.

Shelly-Ann Bacsu, age 16. Vanished near Hinton, Alberta, walking home along Highway 16. 1983.

Cecilia Anne Nikal, age unknown. Last seen in Smithers, British Columbia, on Highway 16. 1989.

Delphine Nikal, age 16. Vanished from Smithers, British Columbia, hitchhiking east on Highway 16. 1995.

Tamara Chipman, age 22. Vanished from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, hitchhiking east on Highway 16. 2005.

 

Multimedia Credits

RED                                         Harley Walker

GRANNY                                Rani Wright

WOLF                                      Beth Ann Stripling

Produced by Patrick Jackson and Jon Jackson, Center for Educational Media, Middle Tennessee State University. Special thanks to Kyle Kennedy.

 

 

*This piece may not be archived, reproduced or distributed further without the author’s express permission.