A tiny, one room apartment in an old tenement building in the South Bronx. José, a tall, sturdy, fiery, socially active 16 year old. His mother, Elena, a short, slim 33 year old, her former beauty and vivacity fading. Elena is in the kitchen, which is not separated from the living room. Sheets divide the other side of the apartment into sleeping areas. José has been working up his nerve to talk to her.
José: (calls) “Mami. I need to talk to you.” Elena: (offstage) “I’ll be through in uno momento.” José paces up and down, rehearsing what he’s going to say. (enter Elena) “Que pasa, querido?” José: “Speak English, Mami.” Elena: “Don’t say that. I hear it all day at the laundry from Mr. Riley. I speak good English. Some words just come out in Spanish.” José: “You’re still young and smart. If you speak better you can get a better job.” Elena: “So now you’re my guidance counselor?” José: “I just want things to be easier for you.” Elena: “All right. I’ll try when I’m not so tired. Now what’s so important you gotta talk
to me about? Are you in trouble in school?” José: “No, Mami. It’s not school… I’m going to join the Occupy Wall Street Movement.” Elena: “Those locos protesting in the streets?” José: “They’re not locos, Mami. They’re good people who want to change the way the Wall Street manipulators get rich at the expense of the people.” Elena: “Que es manipulator?” José: “In English, Mami. It means to use the system to benefit yourself.” Elena: “Isn’t that what Los Estados Unidos is for?” José: “When it’s a fair chance for everyone. When it just helps a few that’s wrong.” Elena: “And you’re going to change that by yelling and screaming in the street like locos?” José: “They’re not loco. They’re trying to correct injustice.” Elena: “They make too much noise and La Policia come and shoot them like they shoot black people. I don’t want that happen to you. You’re all I got.” José: “That’s not going to happen, Mami. It’s a peaceful protest.” Elena: “Si. Until the locos start throwing things, then La Policia bust heads.” José: “After what happened to us, you should go there with me.” Elena: “You think that make old, greedy landlord let us back in with fair rent. No. He only want more money. He don’t care that Papi dead and I needed time to get a job. No. He raise rent to get us out. I asked officials I vote for to help us, but they can’t do nothing. I ask Legal Aid. They say landlord can charge what he want. So we here. Until you go to college on scholarship… Whatever that pay your way…” José: “What about you? What kind of life will you have? Any better then what you have now?” Elena: “I do for my son now… When you safe in college I see what I do.” José: “That’s wrong. You’re a good person. You’re entitled to a better life.” Elena: “You think I get it when they kill you?” José: “They’re not going to kill me, Mami. I’m going to do my part to try to change the system that hurts poor people and helps the rich.” Elena: “If I let you go, will you come home for dinner every night?” José: “No, Mami. We occupy Wall Street. We live there, until they agree to change things.” Elena: “We’ll talk about it another time.” José: “No, Mami. I’m going tomorrow.” Elena: “What about school?” José: “They’re letting me go as a special social sciences project.” Elena: “They loco too. Now school send you to get hurt.” José: “Don’t worry. I’ll be careful.” Elena: “That’s what your Papi said, then he went on strike with his union and they kill him.” José: “This is different.” Elena: “That what he said.” José: “You’ll see. I’ll be alright.” Elena: “You promise me you won’t get hurt and come home soon.” José: “I promise, Mami.” Elena: “I love you José.” José: “I love you, Mami.”
Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn't earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 26 poetry collections, 10 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 1 collection of his one-act plays. His short story collections include: A Glimpse of Youth (Sweatshoppe Publications). Now I Accuse and other stories (Winter Goose Publishing) and Dogs Don’t Send Flowers and other stories (Wordcatcher Publishing). The Republic of Dreams and other essays (Gnome on Pig Productions). The Big Match and other one act plays (Wordcatcher Publishing). Forthcoming: Collected Plays of Gary Beck Volume 1 and Four Plays by Moliere - (Translated and Directed by Gary Beck). Plays of Aristophanes will be published by Cyberwit Publishing. Gary lives in New York City.