The final installment of Act One in James Olm’s Mulberry.
Scene 6. A mile from the farm. The railroad tracks. The tracks are on a mound above them. A windmill is to the side. Enter Mick, Bean, June, and Thomas.
C’mon. It’s right up here.
This is gonna be so cool.
My goodness, I’m glad you told me to put on my sneakers. This has been quite the hike. So what is the big surprise?
Got your penny, Bean?
Bean – checking his pants pockets
It’s in one of my pockets. I just can’t remember which one.
What are you boys up to? Do you know, Thomas?
I’ll let them do the explaining.
C’mon, c’mon. Get the penny out.
Bean – rummaging through old candy wrappers
I’m lookin’. Here it is.
He hands it to Mick.
See this penny? It’s nice and shiny and small, right?
We’re goin’ to put it on the railroad track.
Couldn’t that derail the train?
Heck. Look at it this way, mom. Branches and rocks and stuff fall over the tracks all the time, and that never derails ‘em.
That’s right! I’m goin’ to college someday.
Mick climbs up the mound to the railroad tracks and places the penny on the tracks.
There. Now we wait for the Soo Line freight train.
With the yellow caboose!
That’s time enough for a sit. You two tuckered me out.
June sits down to the side as Mick climbs onto the railroad rail and starts balancing on it.
Hey mom. Look at me!
Now don’t go and break a leg on me. That wouldn’t be a very nice birthday present.
At that moment, Mick stumbles and almost falls off the rail. He regains his balance and continues to walk.
Let’s have a contest!
He runs up the mound and gets on the other rail.
You go first, Mick.
June – standing
The rules: Whoever goes furthest wins. One foot balance is okay. A foot grazing on the ground stops you where you’re at. I’ll be the judge.
Thomas goes way to the end of the rail. Mick starts first. He walks slowly, but steadily. Mid-way he almost loses his balance, but regains it, and makes it almost all the way to Thomas.
Very well done!
Nice job, Mick.
Mick – standing at his point of fall
Beat that, Bean.
Bean gets on his rail and gathers confidence and concentration. He really is determined to beat his brother.
That’s it, Bean. Keep plugging away.
He starts off very carefully, a little uneasy in his steps. About three-quarters of the way there, he starts getting excited and goes faster. This however, gets him to be unsteady, and he eventually falls off the rail, right on his butt.
Ouch! Get up and rub it!
And the winner is, with a length of twenty feet, eight and one half inches…Mr. Mick Miller, Age 14.
June – checking on Bean
Are you all right, Sweetheart?
Bean – brushing himself off
Sure! That’s a part of the hazards.
June – sitting back down
So why are we watching a train run over a penny, anyways?
Good luck – for your birthday.
You two are the only luck I need.
Did you ever balance on a railroad track?
Sure, but most of the time though, I’d just sit up on Blackridge Hill and wait for the trains to pass.
We do that!
Jumping on one of those boxcars was always my big dream.
Did ‘ya ever do it?
June – smiles
Why don’t you kids have a rematch?
Yeah! C’mon Mick!
I’m first this time, though.
The kids fade into the distance.
So did you try it – jumping onto a boxcar?
June – closing her eyes and breathing in
It smelled just like today.
Lights change. June is young, walking along the tracks.
Clanking down the tracks.
The boxcars bounce and sway as if they’re enticing me to say,
You can take me where you want to.
I’m in no hurry.
I don’t care where I go.
I’ll just follow you,
That you’ll take me to a big, wide-open
A train starts passing her, boxcar after boxcar.
Oh, how I love that power,
Tugging, pulling, tugging,
The freight car is right there to hold my hand,
To sweep and drive me away.
June grabs hold of the sidebar of the boxcar and jumps onto the train! The wind blows through her hair. An amazing feeling!
The wind blows in my face and hair!
I don’t know where I’m going!
But I’m flying through the air
So I really don’t care!
Just new places to see,
June calls Thomas over to join her.
Thomas joins the dream, and jumps on with her. Wind, freedom, exhilaration for the both of them!
June and Thomas:
Weeeeeeeeee! Soak it in, Thomas!
I’m a bird flying!
I’m a wild running horse!
Last one off is a rotten egg!
June jumps off the moving train. Thomas hesitates, then jumps. The train continues off into the distance.
Clanking down the tracks.
Where it goes is not so clear.
But I know this girl belongs right here
With all of you,
Listening and singing with the whistle!
The lights change back. June’s last singing “Wuooo” blends in with the actual train whistle in the distance. The kids come back into the scene. Mick and Bean are up by the tracks.
Everybody away from the tracks.
Follow us, mom.
They run over to the windmill and start climbing.
Climb up, mom!
Oh, my goodness. I don’t think I can – I have my dress on!
C’mon mom. For us. Please?
June looks to Thomas, and he shrugs.
How do you say no to that?
June laughs at that, as Thomas helps her up. All four find a spot as we hear the freight train get closer.
Watch this, mom!
The train is very close now. Mick, Bean, and Thomas raise their hands and wave to the engineer as the train starts to pass. The engineer blows the horn in hello as it passes by.
Well, look at that!
June starts to wave also, and the engineer blows his horn one more time for her. They all laugh and cheer. The train slowly disappears in the distance.
And a big hello to you too, Mr. Engineer!
Rolling – Reprise 1:
I know this girl belongs right here
With all of you,
Listening and singing to the whistle!
Stay right here mom.
Mick and Bean get off the windmill and run to where they had left the penny. We see them grabbing a rock and pulling a nail out of Mick’s pocket. They start banging on the railroad tie.
I wonder what they are up to.
I can’t remember such a wonderful birthday.
Me either. Mick always has said that this windmill is his favorite spot in the whole world.
Yeah. He’s a windmill himself in many ways. He’s driven by the wind.
There’s a wind in both of you.
We get it from you, Mom.
June smiles. Mick and Bean put something behind their back and walk up to the windmill.
Mom, c’mon down.
Dare I trust you?
Just come here. Please?
June makes it down and stands next to the two kids. Mick pulls out something from behind his back.
Mick and Bean
It’s a necklace made of shoelace and the copper penny, flattened by the train. June is speechless.
Don’t you like it?
It could bring ya good luck…
It’s the most beautiful present I’ve ever received. Thank you. Thank you so much.
She starts to hug them both. She puts on her new necklace and they head for home. Thomas watches on, still up in the windmill, feeling and listening to the wind hit his face.
Rolling – Reprise 2:
Clanking down the tracks.
Where it goes is not so clear,
And I’ve got to find out what’s bringing me here…
Fade to black.
Scene 7. That evening. Outside of the Miller house. Gus is grilling bratwurst on an open grill. June is setting the picnic table for dinner. The boys and Thomas are on the porch step, shucking corn.
Bean – singing
Happy birthday to you.
Happy birthday to you…
Not now, Bean. You halfta’ wait until after dinner when we light the candles on the birthday cake.
I’m just singin’…
You can sing as much as you like, Bean. I love to hear you boys sing.
I don’t like singin’.
You have a beautiful voice, Mick. You just need to let it out.
That’s ok. Singin’ ain’t necessary when you’re a farmer, but the animals sure love it. They don’t care how you sound. (Sings to My Country Tis of Thee) Moo moo moo moooooooo moo moo.
Bean – joining in
Moo moo moo moooooooo moo moo,
All join in, including Mick
Moo moo moo moooooooo.
They all laugh. June exits back into the house to get more items for the table.
I think it sounds like fun, bein’ a farmer.
It’s a great life, Bean. Your great grandpa Muller was a farmer in Mittenwald, right in the heart of the Bavarian Alps. He plowed fields by the pull of his horse and the sweat of his brow.
How ‘bout grandpa?
Your grandpa left the homeland and came over here. He settled and farmed this area when he was in his twenties. Hard work.
Did he come in through Ellis Island?
He did. That’s when he changed our name from Muller to Miller – right underneath the eyes of the Statue of Liberty – wanted to fit in right away.
Did he meet grandma here? Where were you born? Did Grandpa speak German to you? Where did…
Whoa. Hold your horses Bean. Give your brother a chance to ask a question too. What do you want to know, Mick?
How about something about the farm or grandpa?
Well, did grandpa go to school, to college?
Not many folks went to college in his day. He didn’t have the money. But he had the guts and determination to start over and build a new life here. You can be pretty proud of this place. It’s been a good life for me, and it’ll be a good one for you, too.
I’m thinking of maybe going college, maybe being a teacher. Mr. Goessling says I’ve got a knack for history.
Yeah. He says I can do anything if I put my mind to it.
What about the farm?
I don’t know. I guess, I don’t think farming is for me.
Gus – turning the brats
Give it time.
I think that sounds great, Mick. It’s a big world out there.
He didn’t ask you.
Now Gus, it’s my birthday. Thomas, help me get the roaster from the top shelf in the kitchen, will you?
So, why don’t you want to be a farmer?
I don’t know. I guess I’m just not interested in it.
There’s quite a bit of tradition planted below our feet here.
I want to be a teacher.
You’ll come around when you grow up a bit more.
You keep sayin’ that. I’m tired of never being heard!
Walk The Line:
Why don’t you ever listen to me?
I have an opinion,
Perhaps even three.
But whenever I give one
It’s plain to see,
You’ve already made up your mind.
You watch your tongue and you listen to me.
You’re still pretty young
To set down a decree.
I’m fourteen years old!
Then show some maturity,
And don’t walk around like you’re blind.
Why is it so hard to see me going to school,
To be a good teacher?
I think that’s cool!
Not being a farmer
Isn’t breaking a rule.
It’s leaving your expectations behind.
Who are you to make these proclamations?
This from a boy who’s only fourteen years old?
I am through with these silly frustrations.
You do as you’re told
And we’ll be just fine.
You work on the farm.
It’s in our bloodline.
Gus, suddenly angry, slaps the side of the grill with his tongs.
There’s a moment of uncomfortable silence. The lights change. Enter Grandpa. He walks over to Gus.
Vhat are you doin’ dere, Gustav?
Of all the people to be asking that question. You should know better than anybody, pop.
I’ll ask you again. Vhat are you doin’ dere?
Pop, what does it look like? I’m grilling brats. How can you forget? We would grill brats every week in the summer.
Jah. Mit hot kartoffel-salat.
Gus – smiling
Stirred with bacon grease.
Jah, das vas gute. But not enough onions. Grandma vas always skimpin’ on da onions.
She didn’t like onions.
Jah, dis I know, unt I still married her.
We hear the brats sizzling.
So what are you getting at, pop?
You say you are grillin’ da bratwurst, and I say you aren’t.
Look at dem. See how you’re grilling dem? All wrong.
What do you mean?
You never grill da bratwurst perpendicular on da grill. See, da brats git dose burnt rings arount dem. Always…
Gus finally gets it. He remembers.
Grandpa and Gus
“…grill da/the brats parallel with da/the lines of da/the grill.”
Yeah, yeah, I remember now.
Grandpa takes the tongs from Gus and hits the grill, just like Gus did, to make a point.
You’re right. Sorry.
With the tongs, Grandpa tries to throw the brat on the ground. Gus intercepts.
Hey, wait a minute. What are you doing? Are you crazy?
But it’s grilled wrong. Da lines are goin’ da wrong way.
It still tastes good.
Yah, unt sometimes the lines of our children aren’t followed, unt they are still gute…
This angers Gus. He takes the tongs away from Grandpa, and puts the brat back on the grill.
Gustav, da Bible says, “Beholt, I show you da’ mystery; Ve shall not all sleep, but ve shall all be changedt.”
Grandpa starts to walk away as Gus continues to focus on his brats. He exits. Lights change back. Mick is back shucking corn with Bean.
Bean – shouting to her
We’re done shuckin, the corn, mom.
June enters with dinnerware.
Carry them inside and put ‘em in the big roaster pot. The water is boiling. Bring the napkins with you when you come back out.
Bean carries the corn inside.
We’ll be ready to eat in about five minutes, hon.
Gus – still irritated
Let it go, Gus.
There’s an uncomfortable silence again. June continues to set the table. Mick is picking up the rest of the shucks and putting them in a brown bag.
Gus: (to Mick)
For all you care,
Tradition doesn’t matter
I didn’t say that.
For all you care,
The family line can shatter
I just don’t want to be a farmer.
Be a student scholar.
Wear a suit to make a dollar.
For all you care
Our heritage can splatter,
Gus, drop it.
You just don’t listen to what I’m sayin’.
Thomas enters. He stays up on the porch, observing, holding the napkins.
There’s no respect
It’s now a thing of the past.
There’s no respect
It should be made to last.
Who are you to say you’re no farmer-
Instead an intellectual charmer?
A one knight stand in shining white armour
Leaving the farm to die once I’ve passed?
This die’s not cast!
This farm will last.
There will be respect!
Gus, that’s enough.
Gus – glancing at June
You stay out of this.
I most certainly will not. This is my birthday dinner. Don’t spoil it.
Enter Bean with plates.
Gus: to Mick
Throw your whines in the garbage can.
Why can’t you just stand up like a man?
There’s only respect
Where the man sets the law.
There’s no respect now,
It’s all blah blah blah blah.
Throw away a life of tradition,
Without a thought of the human condition.
Lead your life in total ambition.
Let your cause be your ammunition.
Make yourself the number one mission.
Well boy, in the end, this is MY decision.
Gus – Pointing to June’s birthday necklace
This present – a tradition, right? Well let me tell you something, boy. Tradition and family are all or nothing!
Gus, in a fit of rage, violently pulls the necklace off of June’s neck and throws it into the grill.
Gus: June Mick
There’s no respect! GUS!
No respect! NOOO!
Mick, furious, runs off. Bean stands frozen, in shock. There’s a moment of dead silence.
June – glaring furiously at Gus
Are you finished?
June exits into the house. Bean starts to cry and runs to the Mulberry tree. Gus sets down the tongs, realizing what he’s done.
What the hell have you done?
I’ve done what is necessary for our family. I’ve made the tough choices. How about you?
Thomas is silent.
You can’t do it, can you? That’s what I thought. You haven’t changed a bit.
Gus exits. Thomas walks to the grill, takes the tongs, and pulls out all that is left of the necklace – a burnt penny. He drops the penny in a cold drink, pulls it out, and dries it off. He looks at the coin.
Mulberry – Reprise #1:
Damn it, Mulberry.
Am I going insane?
There are too many unanswered thoughts that remain
All I need is a sign
That will give me some hope,
That when it’s time
I’ll do the right thing.
He walks to the tree.
My tall and fearless Mulberry tree.
The strength of your limbs lift us high,
But the depth of your roots feed our souls.
He sadly stares at the coin one more time, looking for inspiration, but finally gives up, the question unanswered. He drops it into his pocket, sighing. Black. End of Act 1.
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