The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

62 Robert Gipe and Higher Ground Company

year underground, he made 52,000. I asked what he did. He said a little bit of everything. Ran a continuous miner. A scoop. Ran roof bolters. He said everybody starts shoveling at the beltline, mucking the belt. Said they were hiring, he’d put a word in for me. So now me and my master’s are mucking the belt, a back job if ever there was one. But it is a thinking job. I’m thinking what I could do to earn 52,000 doing something that doesn’t ruin your back and leave your wife crying for your safety every morning. Lights fade . *** Scene Fourteen: The Layoff MIKE and PICKLE in mining gear. REUBEN in a button down. Other men leave stage. PICKLE [ Open envelope and symbolic pink slip. ]: Well, I was waiting for that to happen. REUBEN: Pickle, you seem pretty happy to be getting laid off. PICKLE: Ya dang right I’m happy. I’ve been saving a little nest egg since the whole industry took the big swing-down, and that unemployment ain’t looking too bad either. Got me a pontoon and a map to the best fishing holes in Tennessee. If we’re careful, we’ll be all right. Retire early you know. Raise a big garden. We’ll make ends meet. REUBEN: Sounds like you got it all figured out. What about you, Mike? Why’d you get called in here this morning? MIKE [ Holding an unopened envelope, stuffs it in his pocket. ]: Forgot to pick up my paycheck on Friday. Well, fellers I gotta get back to work. I’ll see you later. Pickle, you let us know if there’s anything we can do. PICKLE: You’re a good man, Mike. Manly miner farewell back slapping all around. Lights down. Lights up on MIKE. MIKE: I sure hate to lie like that to ol’ Pickle. I guess I’m just not ready to tell people I’m laid off. What are they gonna think? And what’s my family supposed to think? I’m supposed to be the one they look up to, not the one that lets ‘em down. Carl don’t care for me much to begin with, and now I gotta go tell ‘em I’m laid off . . . . Maybe I just won’t. ***

Scene Fifteen: Lost Dog II Lights up. JAKE and JENNY crossing stage, BETTY following . BETTY acts out her story as she tells it. BETTY: Y’all ain’t found that dog yet? Buddy, I tell you what. Puts me in mind of a time I was coming home from courting Delbert Mays. It was the dark of the night. Not even starshine. And I’d been making joy with my boy, so my steps tended to wander in the way, if you take my meaning as I direct. JAKE: We gotta get a move on. BETTY: I was coming across the swinging bridge when I heard a whining and a floundering down in the bottom. I said “Devil, is that you?” He whimpered real pitiful in response. And I called out to my youngun up there at the house, I said, “Boy Ben, get down here and get yer dog.” Enter BEN. JENNY: We’ll see ya later. JENNY steps away; OLE BEN follows. BEN: See, we had a hound dog, weighed 200 pounds. Black as night. Mean as the devil. So we called him Devil. Now, it’d been real wet that spring and Devil he liked to hunt rabbit down in them bottoms. And I reckon he’d got mired up. I crossed the bridge, made my way into the thicket, called out to him soothing, called “Devil?” As I approached there came to my nostrils an odor most foul. Says I, “Lord a mercy, Devil, you been rolling in the stink of death, animal corruption, the flesh eat up by maggots and such.” JENNY: Oh! Gross! We gotta find that dog before— BETTY: But My Boy Ben done what needed to be done. Wrapped his arms around that dog and began to wrest him from the mire . . . . JENNY and JAKE turn their backs and walk away from him, offstage. OLE BEN follows, and all three exit stage, lights down. Then lights up on JENNY and JAKE reentering with OLE BEN following, talking before he gets into the light. BETTY: Yes, he wrapped these very arms around that dog. And he pulled and he pushed and he tugged. JAKE: Ma’am! We really gotta go. BETTY: You’ll want to hear this first. My Boy Ben planted his feet and heaved and prized and just about the time that dog’s body come loose of the mud there come an old

Made with FlippingBook flipbook maker