The Olive Fig Tree

A Drama in Two Acts

By: Michael C. Stepowany

Inspired by a true story

 

CHARACTERS : 7 total – 5 Female, 2 Male

HUMA - Female, freshman at NYU.  Pre-med.  Afghani female.

YONA -  Female, freshman at NYU.  Undeclared major. 

TAMERA - Female, freshman at NYU. Full Scholarship – Tisch Drama

ZOEY - Female, freshman at NYU. Physics major.

UNCLE WASIM – HUMA’s uncle. Afghani. Late 40’s to mid- 50’s. 

AUNT KINA –  Married to UNCLE WASIM.  Afghani. Early 30’s.

FEDA - An Afghani male.  Barely 20.

 

Setting:  A large fifth floor loft near Chelsea in Manhattan.  It is sparsely furnished.  Stage Right is a small freight elevator with a sliding door.  Next to the elevator is a beat-up metal door with a broken exit sign above it.  Moving across stage is a large brick wall with a small futon against it, Center.  Towards stage left, is a small wooden door leading to a bathroom.  Stage left is a large double-hung window without a drape.  An ornate radiator spans the width of the window.  The only thing visible from the window is a brick wall across an alley.  The futon has an unsightly ‘Afghan’ over it.  There is a chair.  There is a thrift store desk with a laptop computer on it.  A swivel office chair and a trashcan are at the desk. There is a small dresser with drawers.  There is a large basket of clothes next to the dresser.  There is a small electric keyboard.  There is an electric guitar connected to a small amplifier. There is a guitar stand. There is a cricket bat leaning against the futon.

 ...PAGE 6

 

ZOEY

Damn-it … Brackish.  My god, I couldn’t think of it.  My mind went blank. 

TAMERA

Surprise, duster.

ZOEY

Hey I’m not dusted.  Not now.  It’s the neutrinos. 

TAMERA

Here we go.

YONA

What the fuck is a treeno?

TAMERA

“A tree knows how to grow.”  Wow.  I want to write that down.

YONA (Shaking her head ‘no.’)

Treenos?  Really? (Pointing around the room.) This!  Fuck me.  Look, you both gotta’ promise. We are all of us pitching in and getting this girl some damn furniture … for Christmas.

TAMERA

At least let’s get her a fifty-six LED, curved screen, with Netflix.

ZOEY

She uses her laptop. 

YONA

I am so over this.  This fifth floor flat is so bargain basement gross.

TAMERA (To YONA.)

Know what this joint is?

ZOEY

A hole in the wall?

TAMERA

Remember last week at the Met?  (Romantic description.) “Living in a garret with the distant light of the Eiffel tower glowing as the snow gently wafts…” 

ZOEY

Yea.  All we need is a skylight with a hole in it.

TAMERA

Egg-zactly.  (To YONA.) This joint is “Bavarian” T-F. 

YONA

Tamera, I think you mean “Bohemian.”  Zoey’s tree-knows are splitting your brain.

 

                          (YONA pulls out her phone and looks at it)

 

ZOEY

All of you laugh.  We are continuously being bombarded by tiny particles that can pass through every goddamn thing in the world.

YONA

Even through Pookies chastity belt?  (Pressing buttons on her phone) No mom!

ZOEY

They pass right through the earth as if it wasn’t even there.

TAMERA

I don’t got nothing passing through me.  Unless I wants it to pass through me.

ZOEY

They are invisible.

YONA 

Then how do you know they exist?

ZOEY

Duh?  Cosmology.

YONA

Bergdorf has the best. 

TAMERA

I am a Virgo.

ZOEY

The Cosmos!  You know… out there?

 

                        (ZOEY goes to the large window and points.)

YONA

Get away from that window. 

ZOEY

What’s wrong with being in front of this window?   I could rip every stitch off and nobody but that brick wall would enjoy the show.

TAMERA

Show?  Get me a refund from that joint ya’ ll. 

YONA

Manhattan.  Seven million eyes.

 

                           (ZOEY leans to the edge of the window, straining to look down the alley.)

 

ZOEY

No eyes over here unless you look way over there…

 

                          (TAMERA holds her phone out as she crosses to the window.)

 

TAMERA

Why can’t I get a single bar in this firetrap?  Let me try by the window.

 

                           (TAMERA pushes her way past ZOEY.)

 

ZOEY   (Sarcastically to TAMERA.)

Excuse me darling.  Like I was saying.  A gigantic portion of the universe is missing.

YONA

Oy.  Missing?

 

                           (YONA puts on her guitar and plays softly.)

 

ZOEY

Yup.

TAMERA

I got nothing. 

ZOEY

So they started looking for them.  Looking for shit that can’t be seen.

 

                           (YONA slams a chord and stops.)

 

YONA

I want a job like that.

TAMERA

Looking for them that’s invisible.  Nice job.

ZOEY

And guess what?  Uh huh! 

TAMERA

Don’ tell me.  Them tree-noes are from Jesus!  Praise the lord! 

ZOEY

Hell no.  They discovered ‘em miles under ground, in a frozen cave.

 

                          (TAMERA hits a button on the keyboard.  An electric pulse plays.  YONA plays a chord on her guitar in rhythm.)

 

 

TAMERA (Singing.)

In the frozen cave a tree knows …. Through the… what rhymes with knows?

YONA (Pulling up imaginary stockings.)

Hose. 

                           (TAMERA plays a chord on the keyboard and sings mockingly.)

 

TAMERA

Even though we all knows Pookie is a ho… oh, oh, oh,…ohhhhh  Hose!

 

                             (TAMERA plays a long chord flourish.  YONA slams a chord loudly then stops.  TAMERA hits a button and the                                   keyboard stops playing.)

 

YONA

That makes no sense what-so-evah!  And she is not a ho.  You a ho.

 

                             (TAMERA and YONA laugh.)

 

ZOEY

I am stone cold surias, ya’all  (To YONA.)  Neutrinos are real Yo Yo. (Nickname for YONA.)  It’s all very scientific.  Like DaVinci she-ite.

YONA

So the universe is missing?   And they are looking for it in some ice cave hundreds of miles under the earth?  Oy.  Zoe Zoe, you are a proverbial font of knowledge. 

 

                              (AUNT KINA enters from metal door.  YONA hurriedly puts her guitar down.  ZOEY and TAMERA are

                              pole-axed.)

 

AUNT KINA

Sorry to bother you and your beautiful …music.  When you see Armagn,  (are MAHN) Please ask her to see me.  She has a very important letter.  Thank you.   

 

                                  (AUNT KINA exits through the metal door.  The three women watch silently as AUNT KINA exits from view.)

 

TAMERA

Did you see her face?  No sunshine tonight.

YONA

Old lady Feisal didn’t look none too happy. 

ZOEY

She is all up in a twist.   Who the hell is Armun?

YONA

Aunty means the Pookster.  

TAMERA

I don’t think she likes us.

YONA

What’s not to like.  Four beautifully talented violets gonna’ score.

TAMERA

With a little help from Yo-nee’s cousin.  Right Yo Yo?  Gonna get us to the top?  Pretty please?

YONA

(Humphrey Bogart imitation.) You know it sweetie.  Stick with me kid.  Yer’ aces.

TAMERA

All we need is some good rehearsal time.

ZOEY

Well, if Auntie had her way…

TAMERA

(Quickly disagreeing!) We’re gonna’ get on the The Late Show ya’all!  Have some faith.  (Emphatically.) We needs…  dis here …                

YONA

(Cutting TAMERA off and picking up TAMERA’s boots.)  If you say “joint” one more time I am going to throw these boots out that fucking window.

TAMERA

Establishment.  We needs this establishment.

 

                                              (YONA puts the boots down.)

 

YONA

Thank you.  You are about as ratchet as Betty White. 

ZOEY

Woah!  Throwing big-time shade yo!  OK.   But, where the hell else can we practice? 

TAMERA

Like there is room in our tiny closet at the Reuben?  Praise Jesus.  Zoey keeps the door open just so we don’t feel like we are in jail.

ZOEY

Crampola.  Not like you, Yona.  Your double across the hall is like a palace.  How’d you manage that?

YONA

Just lucky I guess.

ZOEY

Hell, my drums would almost fit in her room.

TAMERA  (To YONA.)

Ain’t no dorm on planet earth gonna’ allow a drum set, darling roommate.

YONA

We can all head out to the Hamptons.  Plenty of room out there.

ZOEY

You ain’t gonna’ get Pooky off this island. 

TAMERA

Anyway, this fine establishment ain’t a bad ways coming from the Reuben.  Check?

 

                                                (YONA looks at her phone and texts.)

 

YONA & ZOEY together

Check.

YONA

Yes.  She is on her way.  Finally.  (Bewildered.)  I am so over this delivery crap. 

ZOEY

Not all of us got a full ride princess.

TAMERA

I do!

YONA

I am paying my way thank you.

TAMERA

Right “Trust fund”.  Your mammy be paying.

YONA

Grand-mammy be payin’, thank you.

ZOEY

Hey, that’s what we should name our group.  “The Half-a-rides. “

TAMERA

How bout the “Neutrino’s?”

YONA

It’s almost dark, and her desert ass is probably wearing flip-flops.

TAMERA

Girlfriend doesn’t own any flip-flops.

ZOEY

I think she only has one pair of shoes.

TAMERA

Kicks are my life ya’all.  (Picks up one of her boots.) Check? 

ZOEY

(Matter of fact.) We know…Gucci.

TAMERA

Only the best.

YONA

(Matter of fact.) China Town.

ZOEY

China town?  Really?

TAMERA

Check.

YONA  (Looking out the window.)

Can’t stand it.  I ain’t got all night.  I got a paper due. 

 

                                         (The sound of a truck is heard careening in the alley.)

 

YONA

Oh my God!

ZOEY

What?

YONA

That was way close.

TAMERA

What?

YONA

This old women was nearly … crushed. 

ZOEY

Cool.

YONA

Shit.

TAMERA

If you axe me.   We get us on The Late Show.   Then she can kiss this pizza delivery stuff sayonara.

ZOEY

I worry bout her and some cabbie mixin’ it up with her single gear frame.

YONA

Cabbie wins.

TAMERA

The good lord Jesus will protect those that keep him.

ZOEY

Shit girl, she is a Muslim.  As if you haven’t noticed. 

TAMERA

My lord and shepherd loves all his children.  Heathen or not.

ZOEY

That’s me.

YONA

Amen.

 

                                   (The sound of the freight elevator is heard stage right)

 

ZOEY

Finally

TAMERA

Halleluiah.

YONA

It’s about damn time.  I am going to take her over my knee.

TAMERA

Ohh, whip me, beat me.

ZOEY

Jesus, pile it on why donchya?  Keep kissing up to Yona. 

TAMERA

Yona love me right?

YONA

Right.

TAMERA

…and only myself …

ZOEY

Tamera… give it up!  Better chance of lightening shooting out yer’ behind!

TAMERA

Yona and me are best buds fo shizzle.  To the top for bofe of us.  You just play your little alleg-ed drum set, and leave the star-making to Yona and me.

 

                                 (The elevator door opens and HUMA enters.  She is holding her head with one hand. She is wearing baggy                                    pants with her right leg pants leg strapped.  She is wearing a headscarf (hijab) and baggy Afghanistan type                                    blouse over a collared shirt, tie, and suspenders.  She is carrying a tattered backpack.)

 

TAMERA (Continuing.)

Bout time girly.

ZOEY

Where you been lady?

 

                                   (YONA runs to HUMA to hug her.  YONA grabs HUMA by her shoulders and stops.)

 

YONA

What the fuck happened?

HUMA

A rock hit me.  I’m ok.

YONA

What?  Let me see.

 

                                    (YONA begins to help remove HUMA’s hijab)

 

HUMA

Ouch. 

 

                                     (YONA continues to take off her headscarf showing HUMA’s very short black hair.)

 

YONA

Jesus.  You are bleeding baby.

TAMERA

911 hello!

HUMA

I will be fine.  (Pause.) What are you all doing here?

TAMERA

It’s Thursday night remember?

ZOEY

Band practice?

YONA

How’d a rock hit you?

HUMA

I have no idea.  I think a truck may have you know… kicked it with it’s tires?  Who knows?

ZOEY

Some Muslim hater is more like it yo.

 

                                    (HUMA begins taking off her worn out shoes and placing them next to the others by the elevator.)

 

YONA

You gonna be ok? 

HUMA

I’m fine.  It just grazed me…I think.

 

                                     (YONA holds the hijab.)

 

YONA

Um…this is blood.

HUMA

Barely a drop.

 

                                       (YONA hugs HUMA.)

 

YONA

Thank the maker you are ok. Where have you been? 

HUMA

Had a delivery.  All the way to Avenue B.  It was fun. Except for my head.

TAMERA

You crazy.  Get me a cab.  We on Tenth!

YONA

Just glad you are back.

HUMA

I am fine.  I love riding in the city.

TAMERA

(Holding her phone out.)  Don’t nobody move.  I got a bar.

ZOEY

You are gonna’ end up wrapped around a light pole or worse.

YONA

At least let me get you a helmet.

HUMA

I enjoy the freedom.

ZOEY

Oh, FYI.   Auntie says she has a letter or something for you. 

 

                                     (HUMA immediately exits through the metal door.)

 

TAMERA

She don’t want no helmet.  Her scarf thingy …

YONA

Hijab …

TAMERA

Yea.  That.  It keeps her hair from blowing.

ZOEY

What hair?

 

                                      (TAMERA moves closer to the window while looking at her phone.)

 

Still there …

YONA

I hate all this ‘riding her bike from one end to the other’ shit.

TAMERA

Two bars.  Oh yea.

 

                                       (TAMERA types on her phone.)

 

TAMERA

Dag.  Lost ‘em.  (Sarcastically.)  She enjoys the freedom.

ZOEY

Free to have her brains smashed all over Tenth Avenue. 

TAMERA

You ain’t got to scare the poor girl.

ZOEY

Truth be told yo. Bicycles be busted up all the time here in the sit-tay.

YONA

If it ain’t bad enough … and now some asshole is throwing stones at her …

ZOEY

Not good, for real.

 

                                       (HUMA enters carrying an opened letter.  She is in her own light.  She addresses the audience.  She has                                          a small Band-Aid on her forehead just next to her hairline.)

 

HUMA

It’s a letter.  Postmarked Afghanistan.  It was written a week ago.  I miss my sister.  She writes that she is terrified for her life.  Her husband beats her.  It is the way in my village. For many young women.  She thinks many young girls … have died by setting themselves on fire in order to avoid the abuse from their husbands.  I shall not sleep tonight. 

 

                                     (Lights restore.)

 

 

YONA

Welcome back, baby.  What did the wicked witch of the east want?

TAMERA

Play nice.

ZOEY

Probably official NYU information I bet

HUMA

It’s a letter from my sister.  She is having a difficult time with her husband.

ZOEY

Is that a letter?

HUMA

Yes.

 

                                     (YONA grabs the letter.)

 

YONA

(Sarcastically.)  See?  This is called a letter.  Take a good, close look everybody.  It is hand written.  And this part is called a postage stamp.

TAMERA

(Sarcastically.) Shocking.

 

                                      (HUMA takes the letter back.)

 

HUMA

Thank you.  I am just happy to hear from her.

 

                                      (HUMA goes to the desk and begins typing on her laptop.  YONA follows HUMA to the computer and                                                looks over her shoulder.)

 

ZOEY

Oh shit!  I just remembered.

TAMERA

News flash!

ZOEY

The word I was thinking of.   ‘Brackish.’

YONA

Not this again.  What is with you?

ZOEY

It is not me, its Auntie Gypsy out there?

HUMA

Khala.  My Aunt.  My Aunt Kina. (kee NAH)

YONA

So that makes her Kahla Kinah?

HUMA

Just…Kahla.

ZOEY

Yeah.  Her.  I mean come on.  Taking all those writings literally?

TAMERA

Don’t be sassin’ the good book.

YONA

I don’t think she is talking about your particular book Tamera. 

ZOEY

Ok.  Auntie Keee-nah down there, insists her book teaches…

TAMERA

Yes?

ZOEY

The Qur’an says that fresh water cannot be mixed with salt water.

HUMA

So it is written.  And in Afghanistan the Qur’an is the law.

TAMERA

But we are in New York City.

YONA

Chelsea yo ho.

TAMERA

Yo da ho.

ZOEY

The point is … it is called brackish water.   Like the water where a bay, say the Chesapeake, meets an Ocean.  That is freshwater mixing with salt water.  So the teachings are wrong.

TAMERA

The good book speaks the truth.

ZOEY  (To HUMA.)

If you drink salt water you die.

HUMA

Yes.

ZOEY

So….?

TAMERA

What does all this have to do with her book?

ZOEY

What I’m saying is… all that malarkey is just a life lesson.  You know.  You are out in the boat.  You have bottles of fresh water.   Jesus, you guys are so dense.  Don’t mix the salt-water with the fresh water or you will die!  Get it?

YONA

Makes sense.

HUMA

In our village we are taught strictly from the Qur’an.  Verily, it is impossible to mix salt water and fresh water.   No matter how hard you try to explain it, Kahla will never believe it is so.  (Pointing to the computer screen.) Look… here in your King James Bible.  Umm…. The book of James.  Chapter 3 verse 12.  “Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries?  So no fountain shall yield both salt water and fresh.”

ZOEY

Cause it’s a fountain!  Duh!

YONA

What was that part about the trees?

TAMERA

(Proudly reciting the Bible.) The good book says, ‘Can the fig tree bear olive berries?”  So says the Lord.

YONA

Figs and olives together, huh?   I see it differently.  (To HUMA.)  I say you can be my fig…and I can be your olive.  Check?

TAMERA

More like olive oil and vinegar.

ZOEY

More like vinegar and baking soda!  Fizzzz ammm!

TAMERA

Well you’ all don’t be talking no trash about what is writ I say. 

ZOEY

How about dead folk need to be buried right away?

HUMA

Within three days. God willing.

ZOEY

Exactly.  That’s another one.  Ever want to smell a dead body lying around in the hot dessert sun? 

TAMERA

Gross.

ZOEY

You see?  It’s just logical shit. 

YONA

Don’t pay the professor any mind.  One month of Physics 101 and she is an expert on everything from Einstein to parallel universes. 

TAMERA

Parallel?  My god and savior created us…here.  On Earth.  Period.

YONA

Well according to Zoe Zoe… there may be another universe right here next to your face where you are Hindu, and dinosaurs roam London.

ZOEY

And the butterfly flaps it’s wings and causes a hurricane.  Don’t get me started.

 

                                   (HUMA stops typing. She looks at the screen.)

 

HUMA

Butterflies and hurricanes?  I am a little confused.

YONA

Welcome to Zoey’s world.

HUMA

Goodness.  The time.

YONA

Almost that time.  (Looking at her phone.)  Mom!  Shit, she never stops.

HUMA

I have to get to the laundry.

TAMERA

You don’t have a washer and dryer in this five star Hotel?

HUMA

Out of order.

TAMERA

Next time you can use the machines at our dorm?  Right?

HUMA

No thanks.  I enjoy the Laundromat.  It is peaceful.  And it has Wi-Fi.