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Eugene O’Neill (1888–1953). Three Plays. 1922.

Scene VII I. The Hairy Ape

In the city. About a month later

SCENENearly a month later. An I. W. W. local near the waterfront, showing the interior of a front room on the ground floor, and the street outside. Moonlight on the narrow street, buildings massed in black shadow. The interior of the room, which is general assembly room, office, and reading room, resembles some dingy settlement boys club. A desk and high stool are in one corner. A table with papers, stacks of pamphlets, chairs about it, is at center. The whole is decidedly cheap, banal, commonplace and unmysterious as a room could well be. The secretary is perched on the stool making entries in a large ledger. An eye shade casts his face into shadows. Eight or ten men, longshoremen, iron workers, and the like, are grouped about the table. Two are playing checkers. One is writing a letter. Most of them are smoking pipes. A big signboard is on the wall at the rear, “Industrial Workers of the World—Local No. 57.”

YANK—[Comes down the street outside. He is dressed as in Scene Five. He moves cautiously, mysteriously. He comes to a point opposite the door; tiptoes softly up to it, listens, is impressed by the silence within, knocks carefully, as if he were guessing at the password to some secret rite. Listens. No answer. Knocks again a bit louder. No answer. Knocks impatiently, much louder.]

SECRETARY—[Turning around on his stool.] What the devil is that—someone knocking? [Shouts:] Come in, why don’t you? [All the men in the room look up. YANK opens the door slowly, gingerly, as if afraid of an ambush. He looks around for secret doors, mystery, is taken aback by the commonplaceness of the room and the men in it, thinks he may have gotten in the wrong place, then sees the signboard on the wall and is reassured.]

YANK—[Blurts out.] Hello.

MEN—[Reservedly.] Hello.

YANK—[More easily.] I tought I’d bumped into de wrong dump.

SECRETARY—[Scrutinizing him carefully.] Maybe you have. Are you a member?

YANK—Naw, not yet. Dat’s what I come for—to join.

SECRETARY—That’s easy. What’s your job—longshore?

YANK—Naw. Fireman—stoker on de liners.

SECRETARY—[With satisfaction.] Welcome to our city. Glad to know you people are waking up at last. We haven’t got many members in your line.

YANK—Naw. Dey’re all dead to de woild.

SECRETARY—Well, you can help to wake ’em. What’s your name? I’ll make out your card.

YANK—[Confused.] Name? Lemme tink.

SECRETARY—[Sharply.] Don’t you know your own name?

YANK—Sure; but I been just Yank for so long—Bob, dat’s it—Bob Smith.

SECRETARY—[Writing.] Robert Smith. [Fills out the rest of card.] Here you are. Cost you half a dollar.

YANK—Is dat all—four bits? Dat’s easy. [Gives the Secretary the money.]

SECRETARY—[Throwing it in drawer.] Thanks. Well, make yourself at home. No introductions needed. There’s literature on the table. Take some of those pamphlets with you to distribute aboard ship. They may bring results. Sow the seed, only go about it right. Don’t get caught and fired. We got plenty out of work. What we need is men who can hold their jobs—and work for us at the same time.

YANK—Sure. [But he still stands, embarrassed and uneasy.]

SECRETARY—[Looking at him—curiously.] What did you knock for? Think we had a coon in uniform to open doors?

YANK—Naw. I tought it was locked—and dat yuh’d wanter give me the once-over trou a peep-hole or somep’n to see if I was right.

SECRETARY—[Alert and suspicious but with an easy laugh.] Think we were running a crap game? That door is never locked. What put that in your nut?

YANK—[With a knowing grin, convinced that this is all camouflage, a part of the secrecy.] Dis burg is full of bulls, ain’t it?

SECRETARY—[Sharply.] What have the cops got to do with us? We’re breaking no laws.

YANK—[With a knowing wink.] Sure. Youse wouldn’t for woilds. Sure. I’m wise to dat.

SECRETARY—You seem to be wise to a lot of stuff none of us knows about.

YANK—[With another wink.] Aw, dat’s aw right, see. [Then made a bit resentful by the suspicious glances from all sides.] Aw, can it! Youse needn’t put me trou de toid degree. Can’t youse see I belong? Sure! I’m reg’lar. I’ll stick, get me? I’ll shoot de woiks for youse. Dat’s why I wanted to join in.

SECRETARY—[Breezily, feeling him out.] That’s the right spirit. Only are you sure you understand what you’ve joined? It’s all plain and above board; still, some guys get a wrong slant on us. [Sharply.] What’s your notion of the purpose of the I. W. W.?

YANK—Aw, I know all about it.

SECRETARY—[Sarcastically.] Well, give us some of your valuable information.

YANK—[Cunningly.] I know enough not to speak outa my toin. [Then resentfully again.] Aw, say! I’m reg’lar. I’m wise to de game. I know yuh got to watch your step wit a stranger. For all youse know, I might be a plain-clothes dick, or somep’n, dat’s what yuh’re tinkin’, huh? Aw, forget it! I belong, see? Ask any guy down to de docks if I don’t.

SECRETARY—Who said you didn’t?

YANK—After I’m ’nitiated, I’ll show yuh.

SECRETARY—[Astounded.] Initiated? There’s no initiation.

YANK—[Disappointed.] Ain’t there no password—no grip nor nothin’?

SECRETARY—What’d you think this is—the Elks—or the Black Hand?

YANK—De Elks, hell! De Black Hand, dey’re a lot of yellow backstickin’ Ginees. Naw. Dis is a man’s gang, ain’t it?

SECRETARY—You said it! That’s why we stand on our two feet in the open. We got no secrets.

YANK—[Surprised but admiringly.] Yuh mean to say yuh always run wide open—like dis?


YANK—Den yuh sure got your noive wit youse!

SECRETARY—[Sharply.] Just what was it made you want to join us? Come out with that straight.

YANK—Yuh call me? Well, I got noive, too! Here’s my hand. Yuh wanter blow tings up, don’t yuh? Well, dat’s me! I belong!

SECRETARY—[With pretended carelessness.] You mean change the unequal conditions of society by legitimate direct action—or with dynamite?

YANK—Dynamite! Blow it offen de oith—steel—all de cages—all de factories, steamers, buildings, jails—de Steel Trust and all dat makes it go.

SECRETARY—So—that’s your idea, eh? And did you have any special job in that line you wanted to propose to us. [He makes a sign to the men, who get up cautiously one by one and group behind YANK.]

YANK—[Boldly.] Sure, I’ll come out wit it. I’ll show youse I’m one of de gang. Dere’s dat millionaire guy, Douglas——”

SECRETARY—President of the Steel Trust, you mean? Do you want to assassinate him?

YANK—Naw, dat don’t get yuh nothin’. I mean blow up de factory, de woiks, where he makes de steel. Dat’s what I’m after—to blow up de steel, knock all de steel in de woild up to de moon. Dat’ll fix tings! [Eagerly, with a touch of bravado.] I’ll do it by me lonesome! I’ll show yuh! Tell me where his woiks is, how to git there, all de dope. Gimme de stuff, de old butter—and watch me do de rest! Watch de smoke and see it move! I don’t give a damn if dey nab me—long as it’s done! I’ll soive life for it—and give ’em de laugh! [Half to himself.] And I’ll write her a letter and tell her de hairy ape done it. Dat’ll square tings.

SECRETARY—[Stepping away from YANK.] Very interesting. [He gives a signal. The men, huskies all, throw themselves on YANK and before he knows it they have his legs and arms pinioned. But he is too flabber-gasted to make a struggle, anyway. They feel him over for weapons.]

MAN—No gat, no knife. Shall we give him what’s what and put the boots to him?

SECRETARY—No. He isn’t worth the trouble we’d get into. He’s too stupid. [He comes closer and laughs mockingly in YANK’S face.] Ho-ho! By God, this is the biggest joke they’ve put up on us yet. Hey, you Joke! Who sent you—Burns or Pinkerton? No, by God, you’re such a bonehead I’ll bet you’re in the Secret Service! Well, you dirty spy, you rotten agent provocator, you can go back and tell whatever skunk is paying you blood-money for betraying your brothers that he’s wasting his coin. You couldn’t catch a cold. And tell him that all he’ll ever get on us, or ever has got, is just his own sneaking plots that he’s framed up to put us in jail. We are what our manifesto says we are, neither more or less—and we’ll give him a copy of that any time he calls. And as for you—[He glares scornfully at YANK, who is sunk in an oblivious stupor.] Oh, hell, what’s the use of talking? You’re a brainless ape.

YANK—[Aroused by the word to fierce but futile struggles.] What’s dat, yuh Sheeny bum, yuh!

SECRETARY—Throw him out, boys. [In spite of his struggles, this is done with gusto and éclat. Propelled by several parting kicks, YANK lands sprawling in the middle of the narrow cobbled street. With a growl he starts to get up and storm the closed door, but stops bewildered by the confusion in his brain, pathetically impotent. He sits there, brooding, in as near to the attitude of Rodin’s “Thinker” as he can get in his position.]

YANK—[Bitterly.] So dem boids don’t tink I belong, neider. Aw, to hell wit ’em! Dey’re in de wrong pew—de same old bull—soapboxes and Salvation Army—no guts! Cut out an hour offen de job a day and make me happy! Gimme a dollar more a day and make me happy! Tree square a day, and cauliflowers in de front yard—ekal rights—a woman and kids—a lousey vote—and I’m all fixed for Jesus, huh? Aw, hell! What does dat get yuh? Dis ting’s in your inside, but it ain’t your belly. Feedin’ your face—sinkers and coffee—dat don’t touch it. It’s way down—at de bottom. Yuh can’t grab it, and yuh can’t stop it. It moves, and everything moves. It stops and de whole woild stops. Dat’s me now—I don’t tick, see?—I’m a busted Ingersoll, dat’s what. Steel was me, and I owned de woild. Now I ain’t steel, and de woild owns me. Aw, hell! I can’t see—it’s all dark, get me? It’s all wrong! [He turns a bitter mocking face up like an ape gibbering at the moon.] Say, youse up dere, Man in de Moon, yuh look so wise, gimme de answer, huh? Slip me de inside dope, de information right from de stable—where do I get off at, huh?

A POLICEMAN—[Who has come up the street in time to hear this last—with grim humor.] You’ll get off at the station, you boob, if you don’t get up out of that and keep movin’.

YANK—[Looking up at him—with a hard, bitter laugh.] Sure! Lock me up! Put me in a cage! Dat’s de on’y answer yuh know. G’wan, lock me up!

POLICEMAN—What you been doin’?

YANK—Enuf to gimme life for! I was born, see? Sure, dat’s de charge. Write it in de blotter. I was born, get me!

POLICEMAN—[Jocosely.] God pity your old woman! [Then matter-of-fact.] But I’ve no time for kidding. You’re soused. I’d run you in but it’s too long a walk to the station. Come on now, get up, or I’ll fan your ears with this club. Beat it now! [He hauls YANK to his feet.]

YANK—[In a vague mocking tone.] Say, where do I go from here?

POLICEMAN—[Giving him a push—with a grin, indifferently.] Go to hell.