In Brimstone Run, Bubber Rooks speaks to us from his house next to the junkyard by the dump up Shite Creek just outside of Armitage, a small town in east Ohio, around 1856. He says he became a falling down drunk because he wanted to sleep with his wife’s sister. Every time he would fornicate with Dolly, his wife, he would think about her sister. When the sister came to live with them after Dolly got pregnant, he couldn’t stop diddling Dolly who made noises like a squealing pig, only louder, knowing her sister Aggie could hear her through the paper-thin wall. Right in the middle of doing it he would get leg cramps but Dolly wouldn’t let him go so they just kept doing it, she squealing like a pig and he screaming in pain. He says his brother Jackson, who went off to the Mexican War and never came back, told him that the Devil lived out by Indian Caves near the spring where Brimstone Run starts. A long time ago someone had dug a bunch of deep holes to mine something and Bubber thought he could hear the Devil whispering although he couldn’t tell what the message was. He says when Dolly was nine months pregnant he got drunk and walked into the wrong bedroom where Aggie was standing naked. Dolly found them and started screaming and then her water broke and she fell backwards down the stairs and died, but the baby boy survived. He called his son Egg and married Aggie and they had two girls, Tootsie and Koralee. But every time he did it with Aggie he thought about Dolly. He continued drinking heavily and walked out to Brimstone Run and, leaning down into one of the holes to try to hear what the Devil was whispering, he fell and landed at the bottom of the hole like a broken toy. When he looked up he saw the moon and then his son Egg, five years old, looking down at him, and then he died. Ever since he’s been dead, he tells us, he’s been trying to figure out why things happened the way they did. Being dead is like being in a dream and Dolly follows him wanting more and more sex. When he makes love to her he doesn’t think of her sister but every now and then Dolly yells out the name of his brother Jackson. What he remembers all the time is his little boy looking down at him and he wonders who the boy is going to kill when he grows up, because the only true thing he taught him is that love kills somebody sooner or later. He says he still hears voices whispering that death is a dream. He says he wants to wake up.
Another two-character play, Annabel Lee, takes place around midnight in the office of Reynolds, an English professor, late forties, and a student, Annabel, in her early twenties. Lights come up on Reynolds drinking at his desk.. Annabel says she wants to talk with him about her paper on Poe’s poem, ‘Annabel Lee.’ He tells her it’s late and she should go home and write her paper. She says that she was named after the poem and that the poem was an inspiration for Nabokov when he wrote Lolita. She talks more about the poem, but Reynolds says he is very tired and doesn’t care what she writes her paper about. She says she thought the poem might mean a lot to him because his daughter died recently and his wife left him. She says she thinks the narrator of the poem is unreliable because he feels guilty. She says that Reynolds is lonely and mentally undresses her in class. She says Poe died in a drunken stupor raving about looking for somebody named Reynolds, and she thinks Poe was talking to her teacher, telling him that love is stronger than anything. She says she stopped taking her medication and tells him that she knew his daughter in high school, that she wrote beautiful poetry about him. Annabel tells Reynolds to forgive his wife for sleeping with someone else and try to love somebody else. She says he needs what she needs, company, the illusion of contact. He tells her the angels will kill her if she gets too close to him, but she says, “Until then it is a poem,” and rests her head on his shoulder as the light goes out and we hear the sound of the wind.
Traven is a longer one-act for a man in his late fifties and a woman in her twenties set in a hut in a Mexican jungle in the middle of the twentieth century. We hear muted jungle sounds and a typewriter as the lights come up on Traven typing. Marisela says she has been wandering in the jungle since she fell and hit her head on a rock. She tells the man that he is a great writer whose name is B. Traven. He says his name is Croves, but she says he goes by that name when he pretends to be his own agent but Croves does not exist. She wants to translate his work and needs a definitive text. Traven says the work she’s referring to is “a massive celebration of anarchy.” He says she wants to kill Traven and that every translation is a lie. He says there is no way for either of them to distinguish reality from illusion. He says he was given a steamer trunk full of worm-eaten manuscripts by a man named Traven who sometimes claimed to have written them and sometimes insisted that somebody else wrote them. He tells her she is searching for a man with no face because she wants to be hurt and is afraid to be loved. He gives her a peach and invites her into the hut because a storm is coming. She eats the peach as he lights the kerosene lamp, telling her that “the secret to life is to learn to tell a story so well that it sounds so much like truth that nobody can tell the difference.” He says that truth is a house of mirrors and that Traven is the mad god of the worlds he creates. He hands her a knife; she holds it then gives it back. He opens the trunk and hands her some old manuscripts which she says are the unpublished work of B. Traven and worth a fortune. She insists, again, that he tell her who he really is. He says he is her father and that she is delusional. She says she remembers fragments of things but doesn’t know what’s real. He then says that they are lovers and tells her to lie down on the bed. She does and we hear the sound of thunder. She says he should touch her if her wants to, and he says her secret is that she wants to be violated. We hear rain and more thunder as she gets off the bed, saying she doesn’t want lies. But, he says, lies are the only way to the illusion of truth. He denies, with increasing intensity, being a series of people and actions and throws her on the bed, getting on top of her and clutching her neck. He accuses her of being a spy who has come to cut his throat and steal his manuscripts. He says he is a nobody and she is nothing. He tries to set fire to the manuscripts but the matches are too wet. She says she is somebody, takes the knife, grabs him by the hair and cuts his throat, standing over him as he bleeds all over the manuscripts. Well, she says, you finally got your wish, you are nobody. And, she says, her secret is that she is B. Traven and she must now begin to translate herself. We hear rain and thunder as the light fades and goes out.
We hear the sounds of a large railroad station as Juliet, 29, and Ben, 64, talk in Grand Central Station. Juliet tells Ben that the name was changed to Terminal in 1913. She explains that a station is a node in the labyrinth, a place you pass through, but a terminal is the center of the labyrinth, the end of the line. She tells him the building is a work of art that is being constantly rebuilt, like a living cathedral. She says it is a place as full of ghosts as any place in the world, a place that inspires an eerie sense of the tremendous mystery of things. She ask who Ben is waiting for but he can’t remember that person’s name. She says that she seems very familiar to him and calls him by his name, saying that she is the person he is there to meet. He asks if he is dreaming, and she says that he is among friends, that there are spirits everywhere, gathering at the terminal. And now, she says, it is time to go. We hear murmuring voices and footsteps as the light fades and goes out.
In Hallucination, Becky, 87, Lester, 87, and Ben, 65, sit in chairs representing, in the first scene, the front seat of Lester’s truck, in the second a sofa in Becky’s trailer and a chair in Ben’s house, and, in the third, the sofa. In the first and third scenes, Ben is in the dark and Becky and Lester are in the light, while in the second scene, Ben and Becky are in two circles of light and Lester is in the dark. As if in the truck (no steering wheel), Becky complains that her children never call her. Then she screams because she thinks she sees a cow in the middle of the road. But there is no cow. Then she screams that there is a brick road in the middle of the road, and Lester says he is going to drive right through it. Becky says she has been seeing things, faces of horrible old men and women, like a layer of reality between her and everything else. Lester says he is going to drive her to the doctor.
In the second scene, Lester eats walnuts in the dark as Ben and Becky in the light talk as if on the phone. Ben tells Becky she is not losing her mind, that the problem is in her optic nerve. She says the doctor gave her a shot in her eyeball but she wonders how she can trust her brain if she feels the hallucinations are real. She says she is a better person than she used to be, better than when she ran off and left Ben’s father. Ben says his father had phantom pain after his leg was amputated. Ben says he hears voices before he goes to sleep and when he is writing. He says Becky might learn to enjoy the experience. She says it could be like a vaudeville show in her head, except that she couldn’t control it and wouldn’t know what’s coming next. She asks Ben if she is real and he says she is. “Not for long,” she says as the light fades on Ben and comes up on Lester.
As they watch television, Becky tells Lester that Ben told her to enjoy her hallucinations. She complains that her children never call her and says she sees the red eyes of a panther in the dark. She says that everyone who loved her is dead. She says the panther is kind of beautiful and tells Lester to look at the panther’s eyes. Lights fade out.