by Sam Shepard

"Splendid . . . a beautifully developed psychological thriller. . . . Shepard has a gift for the spare, edgy speech that combines the menacing and the comic." --The Daily Telegraph (London)

  • About the Book
  • Official Film Site
  • View the trailer


  • Excerpt

    Act One

    Scene: Lights come up on--a cheap, ground-floor apartment on the outskirts of Cucamonga. A sign with this single place-name, "CUCAMONGA", hangs above the set. The apartment is very sparse. A sink piled with dirty dishes against the stage-right wall. A bed with one blanket against the left wall. A pile of dirty clothes at the frot of the bed, on the floor. Rough stucco walls in pale green, absolutely bare with no attempt to decorate. A window in each wall trimmed in pale Mexican orange with sun-bleached plastic curtains. The windows look out into black space. No trees. No buildings. No landscape of any kind. Just black.

    Note: This set occupies most of the stage in Act One. In Acts Two and Three it takes up only part of the stage, on the stage-right side.

    Actors have entered in the dark. Lights come up on VINNIE, sitting on the edge of the bed, elbows on knees, staring at the floor. He's dressed in a dark blue long-sleeved shirt, dark slacks with no belt. Everything very rumpled as though he's been sleeping in his clothes for weeks. Bare fret. CARTER peruses the room, crossing from one window to the next, looking out, then moving to the sink. He's dressed in a very expensive beige suit, dark tie, brown overcoat slung over one arm and a briefcase containing his cellular phone. His shoes are alligator loafers with little tassels. Both men are well into their forties.

    CARTER: Well, this isn't bad, Vinnie. Cozy. Close to the mall. Little sparse maybe. Picture I had was that you were much worse off.

    VINNIE: What's sparse about it?

    CARTER: Well--it could use a lady's touch. You know--a few throw-rugs or something. What do they call those? You know--throw-rugs.

    VINNIE: All's I need is a bed.

    CARTER: Sixties style, huh?

    VINNIE: I didn't have a bed in the sixties.


    CARTER: Right. Well, you got someone looking after you? Someone to do the laundry? Dishes? I can get that arranged for you if you want. Local talent.

    VINNIE: I'm fine.

    CARTER: Okay. (Moves to pile of laundry.) But you shouldn't ought to let the laundry pile up on you, Vinnie. You let that happen, it starts to go sour. Gives you a bad impression of yourself.

    VINNIE: I don't need the laundry for that.


    CARTER: You taking care of yourself otherwise? Not too much booze?

    VINNIE: Not toomuch.

    CARTER: Get out for a uh--stroll now and then? Fresh air. Blood pumping?

    VINNIE: I walk everywhere.

    CARTER: Good! That's good. Gotta keep your health up. Funny how the mind follows the body. Ever noticed that? You get sick, first thing you know the mind starts going straight to hell.

    VINNIE: I walked clear to Glendora yesterday.

    CARTER: Glendora?

    VINNIE: Yeah. Clear to Glendora and back.

    CARTER: That's quite a hike.--Glendora. Out near where Shoemaker had his big wreck isn't it?

    VINNIE: You know very well where Glendora is.

    CARTER: What happened to that car I bought you?

    vINNIE: Sold it.

    CARTER: Why'd you do that?

    VINNIE: Jap car.

    CARTER: Well, you shoulda told me what you wanted, Vinnie. I could've got you an American car easy enough. Little Jeep Cherokee or something. All you gotta do is ask.

    VINNIE: Cherokees flip. They're unstable.

    CARTER: Well, a Mustang then or-- vINNIE: I don't need a car. I walk. Ever since I lost my Buick I walk.


    CARTER: Okay. Just seems like you might need some wheels to get around out here, that's all. We always used to.

    VINNIE: I don't.

    CARTER: All right. Good. Fair enough. I'm just trying to look out for you, Vinnie. (Pause.) Everything okay otherwise? Need some more cash? New shirts? You got that TV I sent you, didn't you?

    VINNIE: Sold that too.

    Small pause.

    CARTER: They don't make American TVs anymore, Vinnie. They don't exist. They haven't made a purebred Amen-can TV for over forty years now.

    VINNIE: I know that. "RCA".

    CARTER: Whatever.

    VINNIE: "His Master's Voice".

    CARTER: Yeah--

    VINNIE: Who was his Master anyway?

    CARTER: Look--You wanted to talk to me, right? You called me. You've got some kind of a major crisis going on. Something that couldn't wait.

    VINNIE: I do. Crisis is my middle name.

    CARTER: I flew all the way out here just to talk to you, Vinnie. Do you wanna talk or do you wanna be cryptic and weird?

    VINNiE: I appreciate that.

    CARTER: What.

    VINNIE: That you came all the way out here. Just to talk. I appreciate that.

    CARTER: No problem. Our friendship always comes first. You know that. Always has.

    VINNIE: If you say so.

    CARTER: I do.

    VINNIE: I haven't asked you for much special treatment over the years, have I Carter?

    CARTER: No you haven't. You've been very understanding about this whole business.

    VINNIE: Never called you collect in the middle of the night.

    CARTER: Never.

    VINNIE: Never interfered with your private life.

    CARTER: No.

    VINNIE: I've been extremely discreet.

    CARTER: You have, Vinnie.

    VINNIE: I've been a good boy.

    CARTER: Yes.

    VINNIE: Because I could really hurt you if I wanted to--

    CARTER: All right, look Vinnie--let's--

    VINNiE: I could demolish you if! really had a mind to. You haven't forgotten that have you?

    CARTER: No! (Pause.) I haven't forgotten that.

    VINNIE: Good. (Pause.) I still own all the negatives, you know. I still have them in my possession. All the early correspondence.

    CARTER: Could we just get down to this problem you're having. This big problem that couldn't wait.

    VINNIE: I'm not holding you up or anything am I?

    CARTER: I've got to catch a return flight in about two hours.

    VINNIE: Returning to the family?

    CARTER: That's right.

    VINNIE: Little wife? Little lady?

    CARTER: Hey, don't think you can trot right across my head, pal! Just because you did me a couple a' crumby favors a long time ago.

    VINNIE: Favors?

    CARTER: A long, long time ago! (Pause.) There's certain limits--certain parameters. I'm not gonna be black-mailed, Vinnie.

    VINNIE: Farthest thing from my mind.

    CARTER: Good. Now, what's the problem? Pause.

    VINNIE: Uh--I got arrested about a week ago.

    CARTER: Oh great! That's just wonderful! Arrested! Now you've gotten yourself arrested!

    VINNIE: Don't worry. Nothing showed up on the records. No trace of you anywhere. No trace of Simms. You've been very thorough about all that.

    CARTER: What'd you get arrested for?

    VINNIE: It was--kind of multiple charges.

    CARTER: Terrific.

    VINNIE: 'Trespassing". "Invasion of Privacy". And uh-- "Harassment".

    CARTER: Harassment?

    VINNIE: Yeah. Harassment.

    CARTER: You didn't assault anyone, did you?

    VINNIE: No. I don't do that. That's not my specialty. You know that.

    CARTER: Who'd you harass then?

    VINNIE: No one.

    CARTER: All right--Who charged you with harassment?

    VINNIE: A woman.

    CARTER: Here we go--

    VINNIE: But it won't stick. Told me to stay away from her house. Hysterical reaction on her part, is all it was. Petty--anti stuff.

    CARTER: Hysterical reaction to what?

    VINNIE: She felt I'd deceived her, I guess.

    CARTER: Deception is not harassment.

    VINNIE: Exactly my point.

    CARTER: What else did you do to her?

    VINNIE: Nothing. I didn't touch her. We never even kissed. Never hugged even.

    CARTER: So, it's just a uh--"psychological" thing with her, I suppose. Same old, same old.

    VINNIE: Must be. I can't figure it out.

    CARTER: What's the "Trespassing" deal? The "Invasion of Privacy"?

    VINNIE: Uh--See, I had her believing that I was a detective.

    CARTER: Oh, Vinnie--

    VINNIE: A real detective. She was absolutely convinced.

    CARTER: That's the deception part. I'm talking about the--

    VINNIE: She went right along with it. I showed her my badge, handcuffs, the gun, false ID. She got very excited about the whole thing.

    CARTER: You're not carrying a weapon again are you?

    VINNIE: Only on dates.

    CARTER: You can't take chances like that, Vinnie. Walking around here with a weapon. Did they find it on you? VINNIE: No. I ditched it. I'm very good at that. You know that. Went back two days later and picked it up, right where I'd left it.

    CARTER: You can't take those kind of risks! I've told you that.

    VINNIE: Not now anyway.

    CARTER: That's right.

    VINNIE: There was a time and place for risks and that time has passed.

    CARTER: That's what I've said!

    VINNIE: I was just repeating it. Just to reassure you that I've absorbed your instructions.


    CARTER (with patience): Where did you trespass and whose privacy did you invade?

    VINNIE: I met this woman--

    CARTER: We're going backwards, Vinnie.

    VINNIE: You'll have to bear with me. You've got no choice.


    CARTER: All right.

    VINNIE: I met this woman--like I said. Watched her walk into the bar.

    CARTER: I thought you weren't drinking these days.

    VINNIE (sudden violent explosion): NOT TOO MUCH, I SAID!! NOT TOO MUCH!! (Pause into sudden calm.) You're not listening.

    CARTER: I am. VINNIE (calm): You're interrupting. You've got to pay close attention to this. Try to grasp all the details.

    CARTER: I am. Take it easy. I'm just asking.

    VINNIE: I watched her. She had a movement to her. A kind of life. Like a dog caught in the headlights.

    CARTER: A dog caught in the headlights?

    VINNIE: Similar to that.

    CARTER: You were attracted to her. In so many words.

    VINNIE: I was. I admit that. I'm not ashamed to admit that. I had a thought. A thought came into my head as soon as I saw her and I'd never had this kind of thought before. I said to myself: "If I could have this woman--I would never ever ask for anything else again in my whole life." I said to myself: "Please, dear God in Heaven, deliver this woman to me and I will never pester you again for anything whatsoever. For all Eternity I will leave you alone." (Pause.) And a miraculous thing occurred.

    CARTER: What was that?

    VINNIE: She came straight over to me. As though I'd called her. As though I'd conjured her up. Sat down right next to me and smiled. Just like she was answering my little prayer.

    CARTER: Congratulations. So, then what? You started the scam on her? The "detective" scam? I can't believe you're still doing this, Vinnie.

    VINNIE: She asked me what I do for a living. Right off the bat. Very sincere eyes. Well, you know, that's the one question that always throws me.

    CARTER: What's that?

    VINNIE: The question of "occupation". What I do for a living.

    CARTER: I've offered you all kinds of jobs over the years, Vinnie. All kinds of opportunities.

    VINNIE: I worked for you once. Once was enough.

    CARTER: That was a partnership! We were absolutely equal.

    VINNIE: Could I continue my story? Please. Pause.

    CARTER: I thought you'd given all this up, Vinnie. You told me you'd stopped doing this.

    vINNIE: What.

    CARTER: All this business with women. Pretending.

    VINNIE: It's not a business!

    CARTER: How many times have you gotten yourself into a jam like this over a woman?

    VINNIE: Never. Not like this.

    CARTER: Oh, this one's different. I see.

    VINNIE: Are you listening to me or scolding me!

    CARTER: I'm telling you! This is exactly what I've been warning you about all these years. One little slip--up like this and the whole thing can come unraveled.

    VINNIE: There's no way they can connect you to me.

    CARTER: When you apply for a State Racing License what is the main prerequisite? Fingerprints! Right? Finger-prints, Vinnie! You've got no concept of how things are hooked up these days. How international files are kept. Information stored. Microchips. Fibre optics. Floppy discs. It's an art form now, Vinnie! An industry!

    VINNIE (sudden explosion again): I AM TALKING ABOUT A WOMAN!!


    CARTER: All right. Calm down. Jesus. We're just trying to have a conversation.


    CARTER: If you're going to scream, I'm going to leave.

    VINNIE (calmer): You're not listening to me, I don't think.

    CARTER: I am.

    VINNIE: I don't think so.

    CARTER: I am. It's just--

    VINNIE: So, tell me what I'm saying then. Tell me back. Pause.

    CARTER: You wanna take a walk? Go out and have a drink somewhere? Get some air?

    VINNIE: Tell me what I'm saying. I'd like to hear it. Back.

    CARTER: Let's have a drink.

    VINNIE: You don't drink. Remember?

    CARTER (pause): I've taken it up again.

    VINNIE: Oh? Things not so hot back home?

    CARTER: What?

    VINNIE: I said: (As though speaking to the deaf) "THINGS-- NOT--SO--HOT--BACK--AT--HOME?"

    CARTER: Everything's fine. Ijust have an occasional highball to take the edge off. Just to relax. That's all.

    VINNIE: Ah, the Occasional Highball!

    CARTER: Whatever, Whiskey sour. Now and then.

    VINNIE: No harm in that.

    CARTER: None whatsoever.

    VINNIE: Kids back in school are they?

    CARTER: They start this week.

    VINNIE: It's that time of year. PUMPKIN TIME!

    CARTER: Yeah.

    VINNIE: Rosie's happy?

    CARTER: I'd just as soon not talk about Rosie, if you don't mind.

    VINNIE: She still got those amazing tits that kinda sit up like little puppy dogs and bark at you?

    CARTER charges VINNIE, grabs him by the throat and throws him backwards onto the bed, then smashes him with the pillow. VINNIE smiles and lays there passively while CARTER stands over him. Long pause. CARTER backs off.

    VINNIE (sitting up on bed, smiling): So--You're back on the bottle my good man. I happen to have some of that Northern Irish stuff. "Black Bush". The best.

    VINNIE reaches under bed, pulls out bottle of bourbon and a short glass. Pours himself a drink as they continue.

    CARTER: No thanks.

    VINNIE: Too rough? Black Bush can be pretty rough if all you've been used to is the "Occasional Highball".

    CARTER: Are you going to finish telling me about this woman?

    VINNIE: You're not listening, Carter. Your mind is else-where.

    CARTER: Just don't talk about my wife, okay?

    VINNIE: Your wife?

    CARTER: That's right!

    VINNIE: I was just curious is all. We go off in different directions. Lota time goes by. Lota water under the bridge. You can't help but wonder.

    CARTER: Wonder to yourself.

    VINNIE: Green swimming pool. White Mercedez. Blue car phone. Must have a phone in every car, right Carter? Every bathroom. Keep track a' things while you're taking a dump. Cellular business. How is business these days?

    CARTER: Market's down. The Arabs have dropped out of the game.

    VINNIE: But the Japs--the Japs are coming on strong.

    CARTER: Not strong enough.

    VINNIE: The rich are clamping down!


    CARTER: Look, Vinnie. I gave you all kinds of options. I mean--

    VINNIE: Options!

    CARTER: I did. At one point in time you could have--

    VINNIE: The option to disappear, for instance. The option to perpetually change my name and address. The option to live like a ghost.

    CARTER: Look--You're here, you're alive. You're not in jail. So far anyway.

    VINNIE: Three pluses in your book!

    CARTER: Better than dead, Vinnie. Better than being locked away.

    VINNIE (sudden quiet sincerity): I am dead. I am locked away.


    CARTER: Maybe you'd be better off in Europe. What do you think? Did you ever think of Europe? We could set you up over there. Some little obscure village tucked away in Austria, maybe.

    VINNIE: What am I gonna do tucked away in Austria? Ski? Yodel, maybe?

    CARTER: I don't know--

    VINNIE: I'll tell you what the option is. Here's an option. You turn yourself in, Carter.

    CARTER: Hey!

    VINNIE: You walk right into the FBI and confess the whole fandango. Lay all your cards on the table. Worst they'll give you is a slap on the wrist and a little fine. Man of your position.

    CARTER: What the hell good is that gonna do? What're you saying?

    VINNIE: Let me off the hook.

    CARTER: Let yourself off the hook. I'm not your jailer.

    VINNIE: Let me off the hook, Carter! Pause.

    CARTER: I'm--perfectly willing to help you out in any way I can. You know that, Vinnie. I always have been. That's why I'm here, now. But--

    VINNIE: You're here, now, because you're scared and guilty. That's why you're here, now.

    CARTER (laughing): Scared and guilty?

    VINNIE: One or the other. Or both.

    CARTER: Scared and guilty!

    VINNIE: Neither one is the right motive.

    CARTER: Oh, well, I apologize for that!

    VINNIE: Neither one has to do with kinship or brotherhood or any sense of another man's suffering at the hands of a woman.

    CARTER: Oh, so now we're suffering! We're suffering now!

    VINNIE: One of us might be suffering!

    CARTER: But the other one has no conception of it! Is that the idea!

    VINNIE: That's the idea but the idea is a long way from the truth!

    CARTER: Aah! The Truth! The Truth! And only one of us is able to have a handle on that I suppose!

    VINNIE: One of us is a helluva lot closer to it than the other one!

    CARTER: And the other one is just blindly staggering! Just bashing into walls, leaving carnage in his wake!

    VINNIE (pause): One of us has forgotten.

    (Excerpted from Simpatico by Sam Shepard. Copyright © 1995 by Sam Shepard. Excerpted by permission of Vintage Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.)



    [Home]  [Featured Presentation]  [Coming Attractions]  [Also Playing]  [Vintage Books]  [Film Archive]

    Copyright 1999, Random House, Inc.