The Anthology 
Air






Watching the Guthrie Burn


By Kory LaQuess Pullam




(A black woman stands before a huge, burning building in downtown Minneapolis. She smiles.

Firefighters arrive. Loud. Urgent. Helpful. One firefighter, a native man, approaches the woman.

Still smiling.)


MAN: Excuse me ma’ am, I’m gonna have to ask that you walk at least 100 feet in that direction as we begin to block off this area.

….

MAN: (Louder.) Ma’ am…excuse me. (Beat.) Ummm...ma’ am, can you hear what I’m saying?

WOMAN: Yes.

MAN: Ahh...sooo, you’re just not listening to me.

WOMAN: Correct.

MAN: Ma’ am, I don’t know if you noticed but this building is on fire. Soo...

WOMAN: (Small laugh.) It is, isn’t it?

…..

MAN: Look lady, if you’re on drugs or whatev—

WOMAN: I am not. I wish that I was, but I am not. Shrooms would probably be amazing right n—

MAN: Listen, I need you to walk that way. 

…..

WOMAN: (Still smiling.) Do you know what this building was?

MAN: I think shows happened here or whatever. Why does it matter?

……

WOMAN: A friend of mine invited me to this place one time. She was in a play here. I don’t even remember what that shit was called, but it was long and I hated it.

MAN: Most plays are long and bad.

WOMAN: True, but when my friend invited me she told me she was an essential actor in the...the uhhh, you know. Group of acto—CAST! (Laugh.) Cast. She told me she was an essential in the cast. Like, when they hired her, they specifically said she was an “essential actor.”

MAN: Ma’am—

WOMAN: She was Black too.

MAN: …..uumm

WOMAN: Is Black too. She's not dead.

MAN: (At this point..) ….So, she was the lead or…

WOMAN: That’s what’s funny. It was a play about slavery. But she wasn’t. Like, at all actually. It was a bunch of white people talking about slavery with black people being slaves in the background. (He laughs) Because, of course, right? My girl had, like, no lines. But then, there was this break in the play where we could use the bathroom and smoke and shit. So, when we came back, the main white guy started to catch feelings for my girl, the house slave. I’m like, oh snap. My girl’s about to you know...speak and shit. But naw. She never spoke. In fact, not to be a downer, but there’s a rape scene. That main white dude, who we’re supposed to believe is charming enough to look passed him owning niggas, rapes my girl. Because he loves her, he says. My girl gets pregnant. Still no lines. He has her and the baby killed. He says it’s to protect his family’s name. Even then, she had no lines. None. Then, the play ended a whole damn other hour later. Standing ovation. I’m walking out, all these old white people crying and goin on. Damn, I wanted to cry too. I was in that bastard for like eight hours.

MAN: Did…did you burn this building down?

WOMAN: My girl is the first one to come out and bow. The bastard clown white nigga who raped my friend bowed last.

MAN: His character. His character did the rapi—

WOMAN: Irrelevant. I’m just tryna figure out why my girl is bowing first? Don’t the stars usually bow last?

MAN: Typically, yes.

WOMAN: Well then, if she’s sooo esseeennttiiaall, why ain’t she got any lines? Why can’t she bow last? Hell, why have her there at all?

MAN: Because they can’t tell the story without her. (Silence.)

…..

WOMAN: You gonna tell on me?

MAN: Naw.

WOMAN: Cool.

MAN: But I do legitimately need you to walk that way. My boss keeps looking over here, I think he’s about to walk o—

WOMAN: If you tell on me and they arrest me…do I get to stay here a little longer?

MAN: Uhhh yes..

WOMAN: Cool.

MAN: …..cool.

…….

(They both look at the institution. Burning. He looks at her. Smiling.

He looks back to the fire. He smiles too.)


End of Play