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Marc Blitzstein

The Cradle Will Rock, Scene 7 (midi)

 


 

Scene 7: Night Court

 

(The MOLL sits on the railing. Halflight.)

 

MOLL

It was Tuesday last week, yeah, Tuesday. I had breakfast at Andy’s—Coffee-and; for lunch, I had coffee-and again; for dinner I could only afford coffee. Then I looked on the floor, and I see a nickel shinin’ there. Gee!

 

(MOLL steps on it.)

 

MOLL

Coffee-and, Andy! Then I looked closer—That wasn’t no nickel. Not coffee-and, Andy, just coffee, Andy—cute, huh? Mister, you don’t know what it felt like, thinkin’ that was a nickel under my foot.

 

(Moll has been talking over music; now the tune carries her with it.)

 

MOLL

Maybe you wonder what it is makes people good or bad: why some guy, an ace without a doubt, turns out to be a bastard, and the other way about. I’ll tell you what I feel: It’s just the nickel under the heel…. Oh, you can live like Hearts-and-Flowers, and every day is a wonderland tour. Oh, you can dream and scheme and happily put and take, take and put…. But first, be sure the nickel’s under your foot. Go stand on someone’s neck while you’re takin’; cut into somebody’s throat as you put—for every dream and scheme’s depending on whether, all through the storm, you’ve kept it warm: the nickel under your foot. And if you’re sweet, then you’ll grow rotten; your pretty heart covered over with soot. And if for once you’re gay, and devil-may-careless, and oh, so hot: I know you’ve got that nickel under your foot.

 

(The lights come up. The COP appears.)

 

COP

Which of you guys wanted to see the man who made the speech?

 

REVEREND SALVATION

Hey, Larry Foreman, now make a speech!

 

(Instantly the LIBERTY COMMITTEE is in a dither.)

 

REVEREND SALVATION

That’s the man who made the speech!

 

REVEREND SALVATION/DAUBER

He’s the one who started this!

 

DR. SPECIALIST

Wait till Mr. Mister comes.

 

REVEREND SALVATION/DAUBER

Did you phone to Mr. Mister? What’d he say? What’d he say?

 

EDITOR DAILY

Mr. Mister’s not at home.

 

YASHA/PREXY/TRIXIE

Not at home?

 

EDITOR DAILY

At a meeting with the Board.

 

REVEREND SALVATION/DAUBER

With the Board?

 

EDITOR DAILY

Says the Judge is with him, too. He’ll come over right away: just as soon as they get through.

 

YASHA/PREXY/TRIXIE

What’d he say? What’d he say?

 

REVEREND SALVATION/DAUBER

He’ll come over right away.

 

(Enter LARRY FOREMAN. LARRY is the hero of the piece. He’s not very good-looking—a humorous face, and an engaging manner. Confidence is there, too; not self-confidence; a kind of knowledge about the way things probably have to work out. It gives him a surprising modesty, and a young poise.)

 

DR. SPECIALIST

That’s the man who made the speech!

 

REVEREND SALVATION/DAUBER

He’s the one who made the speech!

 

PREXY/TRIXIE

He’s the one who started this!

 

LARRY

(LARRY has already started on a long note which breaks.) O-o-o-h, boy! I just been grilled. Say, who made up that word, grilled? I also been barbecued, frizzled and (LARRY tries to sit) pleated. Now I know what the dirty foreigners feel like. I guess I am a foreigner at that. Our property’s been in the family for over sixty years…. But it’s nine miles outa town, so that makes me a foreigner. Not that it’s a good property…. If it was, we wouldn’t have it no sixty minutes. Ever hear of Mr. Mister? There’s an A-number-one homesnatcher; a lotta hard work and perseverance went into that reputation… (LARRY turns, sees the LIBERTY COMMITTEE all eyeing him balefully.) Saaay, what’s the whole Liberty Committee doin’ in a night court? And on the wrong side of the bar? Wait till I tell my Aunt Jessie… She’s got a comeback for everything. “Allus said they was the biggest cheats and whores in town.” Excuse the language, Miss, (LARRY says to MOLL.) My Aunt Jessie gets all them big words outa the Bible. (LARRY looks at MOLL more closely.) You’re new here. What’s the matter, they catch you on the streets, kid?

 

MOLL

Uh huh. Whatta they got you for?

 

LARRY

Who, me? Makin’ a speech and passin’ out leaflets! The fawmal chahge is Incitin’ to Riot—Ain’t you ever seen my act?

 

(LARRY goes into it.)

 

LARRY

Well, I’m creepin’ along in the dark; my eyes is crafty, my pockets is bulging! I’m loaded, armed to the teeth—with leaflets. And am I quick on the draw! I come up to you… very slow… very snaky; and with one fell gesture—I tuck a leaflet in your hand. And then, one, two, three—There’s a riot. You’re the riot. I incited you… I’m terrific, I am!

 

MOLL

That don’t sound like nothin’ to get arrested for; besides, you don’t seem very worried.

 

LARRY

Listen, girlie, you don’t want to talk that way, that’s dangerous talk. First thing you know they’ll have you deported as well as fumigated…. But it’s a good leaflet, we printed it ourselves. We got a committee, too, farmers and city people, doctors, lawyers, newspapermen, even a couple of poets—and one preacher. We’re middle class, we all got property—we also got our eyes open. This crowd here?

 

(A chord.)

 

LARRY

Hidin’ up there in the cradle of the Liberty Committee?

 

(Another chord.)

 

LARRY

Upon the topmost bough of yonder tree now, like bees in their hives, the lords and their lackeys and wives—a-swingin’ “Rockabye Baby” in a nice big cradle. Then they remark the air is chilly up there; the sky beetle-browed; can that be a cloud over there? And then they put out their hands and feel stormy weather! A birdie ups and cries… “Boys, this looks bad; You haven’t used your eyes; you’ll wish you had.” That’s thunder, that’s lightning, and it’s going to surround you! No wonder those storm-birds Seem to circle around you! Well, you can’t climb down, and you can’t sit still; that’s a storm that’s going to last until the final wind blows… and when the wind blows… The cradle will rock! That’s thunder, that’s lightning, and it’s going to surround you! No wonder those storm-birds seem to circle around you! Well, you can’t climb down, and you can’t say “No’! You can’t stop the weather, not with all your dough! For when the wind blows… Oh, when the wind blows… The cradle will rock! The cradle will rock! Do you think we don’t know what that fight tonight’s about? Why Murphy from the rolling mills and Brown from the roughers, and Young from the boilermakers, is sittin’ together in Union Headquarters? Why more people than Steeltown ever saw at one time are crowdin’ around in the square? Those boys don’t know it, but they’re fightin’ our fight, too. They’re makin’ onions grow all over the land where nothin’ but cactus grew before… and they’ll have the machinists and the blasters with ‘em before the week is out… try and stop ‘em.

 

YASHA

Did he say onions?

 

DAUBER

Yes, but he means unions!

 

YASHA

Oh.

 

LARRY

Did you see the people… the tons of ‘em? And the order, the quiet? I lost my Aunt Jessie in a crowd of boilermakers, bunched together with their wives and kids on one side of the square… the kids all had bugles! I’ll find her blowin’ a bugle, I guess! Unless they pull her in for carryin’ concealed deadly leaflets—two-gun Jessie herself! Over on the other side of the square, the roughers with their kids… and their kids had drums.

 

DRUGGIST

I saw them. In the middle of the square were the rolling mill workers—their kids out in front, too, with fifes.

 

LARRY

Do you know what it takes a kid from blowin’ his bugle or bangin’ his drum? They’re all there now, not makin’ a sound— Just waitin’, waitin’—ready to strike up the band as soon as they hear the good news.

 

DRUGGIST

I asked one little boy why he wasn’t playing his fife—and he said to me, “Mister, that’s discipline.”

 

LARRY

Tonight’s the night! O boy, if they get together! O boy, O boy, O boy! Good-bye, open shop in Steeltown! Hello, closed shop!

 

(MOLL comes over and sits by LARRY.)

 

MOLL

What’s the difference?

 

LARRY

The difference? Open shop is when a boilermaker can be kicked around, demoted, fired, like that—he’s all alone, he’s free—free to be wiped out. Closed shop—he’s got fifty thousand other boilermakers behind him, ready to back him up, every one of them, to the last lunch pail. The difference? It’s like the five fingers on your hand. That’s (Tapping one finger.) the boilermakers—just one finger—but this— (Pointing to finger for each.) rollers, roughers, machinists, blasters, boilermakers—that’s closed shop! (Makes a fist of it.) That’s a union! (Thumbing nose with that

hand.) O boy! O boy! O boy!

 

(The LIBERTY COMMITTEE seem curiously the target for the gesture.)

 

CLERK

Order in the courtroom! Next case. Name?

 

PREXY

I am President Prexy of College University, and these are Professors Mamie and Trixie of the same institution.

 

CLERK

Charge?

 

LARRY

(LARRY Imitates his Aunt Jessie.) Maintaining a disorderly house!

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