The following short play is a “ghost” story of memory, in which a man recalls his lover, and the music that was integral to their love.
BANDO: Male. About 50 and 25.
BOBBY: Male. 40–50.
OLIVIA: Female. 25–40.
SETTING: A bare stage with one chair.
TIME: Approximately the present, and the mid-1980s.
NOTES: The music to Cowboy Nocturne by Robert Savage is available on CRI Records’ CD 790. This play is dedicated to Allen Hagler, Aimee
McCoy and Jon Moor. For Roxanna.
AT RISE: Music—Cowboy Nocturne—up. BANDO is discovered.
BANDO: Let me tell you about love: About real love. About being in love. With a butterfly. I met Bobby when I was 25; he was, oh—older. Olivia introduced us; she was his roommate back then. Bobby’d been around the block a few times. (Smiles) Me too. But going around the block was what you did in those days, what ev’ryone did. It was 1983. (Wryly) Didn’t none of us know no better; then. Bobby, he was a butterfly: Light, delicate. Beautiful. Seemed like he floated.—Like this. (The music) And, he was a cowboy—and before you break out the Brokeback Mountain jokes, he never set foot west of the Hudson but, you know—we both were: I mean, I always liked boots and chaps and spurs and leather vests. And ropes; and—stuff. And he liked me—in them.
(Lights rise on OLIVIA, dancing, and BOBBY)
BANDO: (cont’d) Played the piano and wrote music, too. This is one of his: Cowboy Nocturne, he called it….He wrote it for me. One night, a little while after I moved in with them. I came home, Olivia was there, doing—that. He just raised his one hand, real slow, to his lips. “O’s dancin’,” he mouthed, and he kept playing till he finished it, three or four times; and O kept dancin’, big smile. On both of ’em. And when he finished, they smiled at each other and he got up and came over to me.
BOBBY: That’s for you.
BANDO: He whispered.
BOBBY: Like it?
BOBBY: Good. I hoped you would.
BANDO: And he put his arms around me and held me in this, kind of dance, kind of swaying. (BOBBY continues to move, his arms around BANDO.) And Olivia, she danced around us.
BOBBY: Like a cocoon. My little butterfly.
BANDO: Course, he was the butterfly. His wings were his music, Olivia says. (BOBBY moves away and off. OLIVIA continues to dance.) Butterflies don’t fly very long. But he still—visits me. In the dark; when I’m dark. I can feel him, his arms. We—sway. And I still got this. (He indicates the MUSIC) Maybe it’s not the same. But I still got—this.
(OLIVIA extends her arms to him. BANDO moves into her embrace as lights fade. In black, the music fades.)
Evan Guilford-Blake’s prose and poetry have appeared in numerous print and on-line journals, as well as in several anthologies, and won thirteen contests. Noir(ish), his first novel, was recently published by Penguin. He’s also won forty playwriting competitions; eighteen of his plays are published. More information is at www.guilford-blake.com/evan.
Brent Calderwood, A&U’s literary editor, on our Summer Reading feature, “A Growing Legacy”: A&U’s Summer Reading Issue has become an annual tradition, an opportunity for us to showcase new work by both established authors and emerging talents. This year, we’re thrilled to share work by the winners of A&U’s newly established Christopher Hewitt Award. (Poet Christopher Hewitt, now deceased, was a founding board member of A&U and served as its literary editor for many years.) Given each year to the best unpublished poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and drama that addresses HIV/AIDS, it’s our chance to recognize and encourage quality work that not only builds upon the legacy of thirty years of literature about our community, but also helps to enrich and expand our ideas of what “literature” and “community” mean when we speak about AIDS in the new millennium.
This month, we introduce you to the First Place winners in each genre. Terry M. Dugan’s nonfiction piece “Like Taking Blood from a Baby,” an excerpt from her memoir in progress, uses startling details to capture the heady urgency of the early days of AIDS research. In “Greyhound, 1984,” fiction winner Lisa Sandlin grabs and holds onto the reader with terse, rhythmic language, unique imagery, and a story that’s both unsentimental and poignant. Evan Guilford-Blake, meanwhile, gracefully blends monologue, dialogue, and dance in “Cowboy Nocturne,” his short play about love, loss, and remembrance. And Oklahoma poet Dorothy Alexander’s “Trip to Wyuka” is remarkable for its specificity of character and place, and a last line that cuts right to the bone.