Trouble in Old Man Maple (A Short Play)

31 Plays in 31 Days #3

(The Kingdom of the Sprites within Old Man Maple. A knot of the tree, on the side of a hollow, that juts out into the open air.)

SCENE ONE

(DONDARON, TALBUU, and AELATHIRA. DONDARON wears all green, has giant green wings, curly green shoes, a pointy green beard, and a big grin on his face. TALBUU is androgynous, wispy, dressed in the plainest brown clothes that sprites do wear, with folded wings, and is quietly observant. AELATHIRA is bedecked in a rainbow mishmash of leaves, berries, petals, seeds and other such things, and she is chewing nervously on one of her delicate wings.)

(The trio are all looking upwards.)

DONDARON
You can do it Keiri!

AELATHIRA
Don’t look down! Trust your wings! Deep breath!

DONDARON
The world is yours!

AELATHIRA
I can’t watch…

TALBUU
There goes…

(The trio all take a deep intake of breath in anticipation.)

KEIRI
(offstage)
AAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaa

(KEIRI comes plummeting down and lands with a puff in front of the trio.)

(Pause.)

(TALBUU takes out a tiny scroll. It takes several seconds to unroll. KEIRI’s body is not moving. DONDARON is paralyzed; AELATHIRA is hyperventilating.)

(TALBUU gets the scroll unrolled, then takes out a giant quill and makes a tiny mark in it. TALBUU laboriously rolls the scroll back up and puts it away.)

AELATHIRA
KEIRI!!!

TALBUU
Figures.

(AELATHIRA falls on KEIRI’s body, weeping.)

DONDARON
How many is that, Talbuu?

TALBUU
In a row? Four.

DONDARON
In total.

TALBUU
Oh. Let’s see.

(TALBUU starts to unroll the scroll.)

DONDARON
Just guess.

TALBUU
What, are you in that much of hurry to get somewhere, Dondaron?
Probably nineteen.

DONDARON
That’s nearly a whole harvest-team. The sap will overflow this year.

TALBUU
Yes, yes.

AELATHIRA
Somebody take over the wailing for me… I don’t have much left in me.

DONDARON
Well don’t look at the Greenmaster Grinner.
I wonder whether I should stop cheering them on.

TALBUU
Well, when they’re dead, they don’t appreciate the irony. So if it makes you feel better.

AELATHIRA
Keiri… Keiri… I was so sure this time.

TALBUU
If it’s any happier news, I think I’ve established the pattern.

DONDARON
Not your arithmeticals again.

TALBUU
The Old Ways of bark rituals and moon watching don’t seem to be helping anymore.

DONDARON
So we turn to even Older heresies. You’ll make me frown if you get caught.

TALBUU
It’s no different than counting. Numbers are all part of our lives. You do count, don’t you? I don’t mean in the sense of “you do matter, don’t you.” I mean as in one, two, three, four bottles of green dye.

AELATHIRA
Sprites! Enough! Help me here. Give me a hand and the Words.

DONDARON, TALBUU, AELATHIRA
Old Man Maple, Father Tree, stretch thy limbs, and lift up me. When I die, drop me down, spread thy roots, and feed thy crown. Leaf, bark, sap and soil.

(The trio dump KEIRI’s body over the edge.)

TALBUU
I’ve got one last bodge of crystals-in-rainwater back at my nook. Care to join me?

DONDARON
It all tastes like moldwater to me these days.

AELATHIRA
I’ll come and cry some leftover tears into it.

DONDARON
Oh, in that case, yes. Yours are sweet, Aelathira.

AELATHIRA
They’ll be my last good ones, unless we see a miracle. Glad someone will enjoy them.

(They exit.)

SCENE TWO

(TALBUU and CONDAMON. CONDAMON is tiny but imperious, with chains attaching his/her wing-tips to his/her hat.)

CONDAMON
On the verdant side, Yyilai and Marcher and Esthanora are all exceptionally strong fliers now for their age.

TALBUU
Taking on three committees each will do that.

CONDAMON
I had the grand thought: what if Old Man Maple has intended all this? The Old Man has always had a longer view towards death than we. Perhaps it is like in the stories; perhaps we are becoming Wood-elves.

TALBUU
Wood-elves don’t fly. You’re thinking Pixies.

CONDAMON
Right, yes, Pixies. Bigger. More birdlike. I swear, Esthanora’s wing-glaze has a distinctly feathery quality to it. I asked Hammon to have a look, just to give the hunch a chance…

TALBUU
Old Man Maple is not killing our nestlings in order to toughen us up into Pixies.

CONDAMON
Who can know such a thing? We bend with the wind and take the credit for where we are blown to. Leaf, bark, sap, soil.

TALBUU
If anything, Old Man’s trying to help.

CONDAMON
Help? Is he? Trying to help. Hmm, I smell pattern-picking.

TALBUU
No, no, of course not. I was just listening to the zephyrs. Breathe in. Breathe in deep.

(Pause.)

TALBUU
No, actually breathe in with me, that wasn’t rhetorical.

CONDAMON
Ah. All right.

(They breathe in.)

CONDAMON
Well? Crisp day, you can smell the crinkle in the first fallen leaves. Ah, autumn.

TALBUU
That’s like saying, “ah, starvation.”

CONDAMON
I hold out hope. What was the purpose of that?

TALBUU
Updraft, no?

CONDAMON
Up-?
Why yes, sure. There is an updraft.

TALBUU
Was like that when Keiri fell. And Loireluu. Crinamin. All of them.
But Yyilai and Marcher and Esthanora? Downdrafts.

CONDAMON
You sure you don’t have your “up” and your “down” confused? Because that would explain the whole lot.

TALBUU
Quite sure. It’s always the updraft when we set up, of course. Yyilai and Marcher and Esthanora – updrafts too. But theirs changed to downdrafts in the moment. Dondaron or Kyla urged them to wait, Aelathira or Miseraroma cried out in fear, but those three all went out anyways, and what do you know? They soared.

CONDAMON
Coincidence.

TALBUU
I think we should try first flights in downdrafts from now on.

CONDAMON
From now on?
Talbuu. My friend.

TALBUU
Old Man Maple has sensed a change in the young generation, and is fighting to accommodate their self-doubting attitude. The downdraft lifts their fighting spirits.

CONDAMON
My friend. Listen.

TALBUU
Speculation, of course. But it smells right on the breeze, no?

CONDAMON
No more first flights this season.
It’s been decided, but not announced yet. Of course your discretion is legendary.

TALBUU
We’ll surely be starving. We need at least five new flyers. We only have one enchantress in this class. How can we just give up? Frankly, even if we do send our fledglings to a plummeting death, that’s not much different then letting them and everyone else waste away. At least we can say we tried.

CONDAMON
Believe me, I was in favor of continuing. But Aelathira couldn’t take the pain; I think she’s letting the job get to her. And the rest of them- all so practical, I suppose. Emotionally acute. The right decision. But if we are undergoing a change, we must embrace it, say I.

TALBUU
“Sap never becomes honey.”

CONDAMON
Yes, yes, yes.

TALBUU
And if the fledglings decide of their own accord to take a flight?

CONDAMON
Backblowing?
What do you expect?

TALBUU
Will we punish them for trying to fly by throwing them out of the tree?

CONDAMON
We-
We hadn’t thought of that.
This is unprecedented.
But that won’t happen. I’ll go to the Pith-house immediately and call council.

(CONDAMON exits.)

TALBUU
I shouldn’t have spoken.

We’re doomed.

(TALBUU exits.)

SCENE THREE

(AELATHIRA alone. She hangs over the edge and rolls around despondently.)

(Enter YYILAI, hovering. YYILAI is dressed cleanly in autumn maple-colored robes.)

AELATHIRA
Don’t do that. Wing cramps are the worst.

(YYILAI lands, then immediately flies forward one step at a time, lifting up by wing instead of taking a pace by foot.)

AELATHIRA
Your sense of humor overwhelms me.

YYILAI
Riper Aelathira, if I’m going to perish soon from lack of sugars and collections, I’d like to get in as much flying as possible.

AELATHIRA
Do your fellows feel the same way?

YYILAI
Oh no way, twig, no way. Marcher doesn’t want anyone to know practically, feels bad about the others seeing.

AELATHIRA
And Esthanora?

YYILAI
You haven’t heard?

AELATHIRA
No.

YYILAI
Twig. I was hoping that was why you’re rolling around on the wood.

AELATHIRA
Getting it out of my system.

YYILAI
That work?

AELATHIRA
No but it’s oddly relaxing, flopping about. Really crumples the old wings.

(YYILAI lies down beside her and tries rolling around despondently.)

YYILAI
Woe! Woe! Woe!

AELATHIRA
You’re doing it wrong.

YYILAI
Sorry, Riper.

AELATHIRA
Get up please, leave it to the professionals.

YYILAI
Yes, Riper.

AELATHIRA
Thanks.

YYILAI
I’ll just be going now.

AELATHIRA
Okay, but no flyi-
Waaait.
Hey you sneaky bug.

YYILAI
What?

AELATHIRA
What happened to Esthanora that I didn’t hear and someone, probably Dondaron, told you to come out here and find me and tell me if I didn’t already know?

(YYILAI starts to look really upset, on the verge of tears.)

AELATHIRA
…What’s wrong? What happened to Esthanora? Don’t “twig” on me.

YYILAI
That’s not how you use the word, Riper. Now excuse me, I need to go hide my head.

AELATHIRA
No, I grant you a pass. Leaf, bark, sap, soil. Feel free.

YYILAI
Oh no.

AELATHIRA
Cry all you want.

YYILAI
Don’t wanna.

AELATHIRA
Come on. If there’s anyone who you can show outside emotions to, who but me?

YYILAI
I’m not a Tennae. I’m on three Flight Committees.

AELATHIRA
You’re young enough.

YYILAI
I don’t like this.

AELATHIRA
Fine, fine, all right. Lie down, roll around, it’ll go away.

(YYILAI lies down and rolls around. Almost immediately a horrible, pained wailing sound comes from her/his lips. YYILAI wraps his/her wings around him/her.)

AELATHIRA
Gotcha.

YYILAI
Nooooo.

AELATHIRA
I’m going to put it in the scrolls. The despondent rolling is such a help.

YYILAI
Oh, Esthanora.

AELATHIRA
What happened? Say it, share it.

YYILAI
That stupid-
Oh! Her wings.

AELATHIRA
What of them?

YYILAI
She-
She cut them off.

(Pause.)

AELATHIRA
Did anyone tell Talbuu?

YYILAI
It was Talbuu gave Esthanora the scissors!
Something about an unfair ruling, and the trouble with hope. So I heard, anyways… Oh…

(Pause. YYILAI almost rolls off the edge, but AELATHIRA snaps to and grabs him/her.)

YYILAI
Sorry. I’m going to go now.

AELATHIRA
Hover it all you want.

(YYILAI nods and floats off to exit. AELATHIRA steps over the edge and hovers in the open air. She looks upwards.)

AELATHIRA
Which is it, Old Man? Up or down? Send me a breeze.

(A breeze blows, but it is not clear whether it blows upwards or downwards.)

(End of play.)

writing time: 1:15

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One comment

  1. […] to her life Came from thinking about the idea of a dream telling you to expect something 3) Trouble in Old Man Maple – a pixie society living in a tree deals with a troubling trend amongst their youth Came from […]

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