DUET FOR BEAR AND DOG
By Sybil Rosen
CHARACTERS: Woman, Man, Bear, Dog, She
SETTING: Empty Stage. A stepladder can serve as a tree. (WOMAN and MAN enter.)
WOMAN: (Two-way radio noises) 203, this is 364. What’s your 20?
MAN: 209 North above Kerhonkson. What you got?
WOMAN: Bear up a tree on Main Street in Woodstock.
MAN: I’m on my way. How’d it get there?
WOMAN: Would you believe, a little rat dog?
(They exit. DOG chases BEAR onstage. She goes up on ladder.)
BEAR: Oh, shoot.
DOG: (Triumphant) Ah ha! I’m a dog! I’m a dog! (Pisses on tree.) Take that, you Rottweilers, you shepherds, you Labradors. Up yours, you pachyderms and raptors and primates! You can cut off my balls, but I’m still a man! I’m a dog!
BEAR: Ah, the call of the wild. Are you finished?
DOG: (Over) Cousin to the wolf, brother to the jackal, helpmate of the homo sapien–!
BEAR: Oh my God.
DOG: I’m a dog. And you—are mine!
BEAR: You’re nuts! (She growls, takes a bluff swipe at him.) I never ate a dog before, but there’s always a first time. I had a pig once. It was a bad year. I’m not scared of you.
DOG: Then what are you doing up a tree?
BEAR: It’s called instinct. You wouldn’t know about that.
DOG: Very funny. What I lack in instinct, I make up for in finesse. They’re coming for you.
BEAR: (Panicked) Who? Who’s they?
DOG: I don’t know. Some guys got called.
BEAR: Who called them?
DOG: The one I belong to. Who belongs to me. (Sings) “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, I gotta love one man ‘til I die—” She does nails and facials.
BEAR: That explains the ribbon. (Laughs as DOG rips ribbon from head.) You guys have a curious thing with these humans. I bet you have a name.
DOG: (A sore point.) What’s it to you?
BEAR: I knew it. Look, I got lost. I took a wrong turn. Just let me get down. Who knows what they’ll do to me?
DOG: I don’t know. Put you in a zoo maybe? (Finds this hilarious)
BEAR: Don’t laugh! I have a cousin that was captured by these circus people. Last thing I heard he’s walking a tightrope and wearing a tutu.
DOG: You got what you deserved—plundering those garbage cans, sucking up to dumpsters.
BEAR: Oh? I’ve seen your handiwork. You and your kind. You’re not above delving into garbage.
DOG: I don’t do garbage. I’m a lap dog. I get cashews by hand.
BEAR: (Hungry) Cashews?
DOG: Yeah. And potato chips. Raspberries even.
DOG: I’m highly evolved.
BEAR: The little red ones? The nubbly kind you roll around on your tongue?
BEAR: (Swoons) I love those. It was a dry year for raspberries. Blueberries too. That’s why I had to go to dumpsters. Me, I’m basically an herbivore.
DOG: What about the pig?
BEAR: Like I said, it was a bad year. Okay, I admit I’m not above a fish or two. When they’re running. How about you? You like fish?
DOG: (Shrugs) Only to roll on. (Looks around, sees something, growls at bear.)
BEAR: Hey! Quit that! What’s the big idea?
DOG: (Growling) She’s coming. I gotta make it look good. Could be some cashews in it. (Growls more.)
(SHE speaks with a thick Russian accent.)
SHE: Good boy, Boris
SHE: Keep up there. They come soon. Good boy, Boris.
BEAR: (Mocking) Good boy, Boris!
DOG: (To BEAR) Shut up!
SHE: My God, that is big bear! Look at that behind. Is big as Kremlin.
BEAR: I take that as a compliment. And this is just August. I have to put on 50 more pounds before I den and birth my babies.
SHE: Would look good, lying on floor in den, yes?
DOG: There’s a thought.
BEAR: Shut up, Boris!
SHE: In Russia, we have bears. Brown bears. They drink vodka and come down chimney at Christmas time. (MAN and WOMAN enter.)
BEAR: Oh God, they’re here.
WOMAN: There it is.
MAN: Jeez, nice bear.
WOMAN: What do you think? 150 pounds?
SHE: You come for bear?
MAN: Yes, ma’am. Garth McGowan. Department of Environmental Conservation. You the woman that called? (WOMAN walks around ladder checking out bear.)
MAN: Is that the dog?
SHE: That is Boris.
BEAR: (To WOMAN) What are you looking at?
MAN: What happened?
SHE: I am in shop, making motion circles on face of customer. With cucumber facial. I make myself. And I am telling how I leave in Russia bad husband and mother of rotten heart—
MAN: Ma’am? Excuse me, we—
SHE: Wait! I tell you. So Boris is barking. Yip, yip, yip, yip, yip.
DOG: That’s not how I sound.
WOMAN: I’ll get the equipment. (Exits.)
SHE: I look. Oh my God. Staring in window—is bear. Standing on legs with paws on window. Like this. (Demonstrates) First I think is bad husband from Russian come to finish me. I am shaking in booty.
MAN: These are brown bears, ma’am. They’re very docile.
SHE: What means docile?
MAN: Gentle, timid, shy.
SHE: I should marry one. You are married?
MAN: Yes ma’am.
SHE: Why do I know that?
WOMAN: (To Man) Let’s go, let’s go—
SHE: Let me finish story. Please. I jump. (Demonstrates) Bear jumps. (Demonstrates) I go to close door. Out goes Boris. Yip, yip, yip, yip, yip. Bear goes up tree. I make phone call. Customer gives big tip. End of story.
MAN: Got it.
SHE: What do you do now?
MAN: First we’ll dart the bear. Tranquilize it. Then when it’s on the ground, we’ll take some data, pull a tooth—
SHE and BEAR: A tooth?
MAN: Yes, ma’am. That’s how we age them.
MAN: Then we’ll give it some ear tags, put it in the trap we brought, take it to the mountains, and let it go.
SHE and BEAR and DOG: (Surprised) Oh. That sounds nice.
MAN: Yes, ma’am. It’ll be a lot happier up there. So if you’ll just stand back—you can call off your dog now.
DOG: (To MAN) Wait a second. You don’t get it.
SHE: Here, Boris.
DOG: Jeez. I treed that bear.
SHE: Boris. Come, Boris. Come to mama.
DOG: (Moping over) Times like this I wish I was a dingo.
DOG: Merde. (Sits)
BEAR: It’s your own fault. You gave in. For the easy bone and winter hearth. For the soft bed and the cashews.
DOG: We didn’t give in! It wasn’t like that at all. Heck, it was our idea, we thought of it. They had scraps, for Goodness’ sake. These human beings. Just laying around. They couldn’t eat everything. You know how big a mastodon is? It seems like a good idea. It was a good idea. It still is. I could do without the ribbon.
BEAR: You call that evolutionary? I call it quits. Adaptation? Please. Let’s not mince words. You capitulated. You should have been out there with us. In the Pleistocene. Working out the kinks of hibernation. Learning how to give birth in our sleep.
DOG: So sue me.
(Bam! WOMAN fires the dartgun. MAN steps a stopwatch. Bear starts. Dog barks.)
MAN: Good shot.
WOMAN: Are you timing?
MAN: (Nods) I give it 60 seconds max.
SHE: Boris. Stop. What is wrong?
BEAR: (Beginning to slow down) What do you know? I have a dart in my ass.
SHE: What happen now?
MAN: It’ll come down. Watch.
(BEAR begins to get very loose and woozy. Her tongue goes in and out.)
BEAR: I hear bees. Back and forth between nectar and hive. Follow the buzz to the succulent grubs, socked away in the waxy comb, swimming in sweet honey. Rip the hive, the paper breaks like an egg. Bees zing around my head. Sting my nose. I don’t feel them. I don’t feel anything. (She falls slowly down ladder to the ground.)
MAN: (Stopping watch) Fifty-two seconds.
(ALL go to BEAR. DOG sniffs at BEAR.)
SHE: Is hurt?
WOMAN: No. It makes a big boom, but they’re very limber. They have a lot of fat to cushion them.
SHE: It and me both. Is sleeping?
WOMAN: Not exactly. More like immobilized. Now if you could just step back, ma’am, until we’re finished.
SHE: It will wake?
WOMAN: No. We just want to move as quietly as we can around the bear. If you could back up ten feet. When we’re done, you’ll have a chance to touch it. If you want. And the dog too, ma’am please.
SHE: Boris, come.
DOG: Smells like a dream I had once. One of those where your paws gallop and your jowls blow. (Demonstrates) Wish I could remember what I was dreaming about. Something about savannahs, and a fire, and bones, big as a house.
SHE: Boris! Boris. Come
(DOG and SHE go to one side.)
MAN: Nice bear.
WOMAN: It’s a female.
MAN: Wonder if she’s pregnant.
WOMAN: Hang on, honey. We’re taking you home.
DUET FOR BEAR AND DOG