Divisions of Loveliness — Hank Nadler

The scene: A room suggestive of a men’s locker room. There’s a bench in front of two standing lockers and upfront, stage left are two full-length wooden mirror frames, only the mirrors are missing. Two men are on the scene, both dressed in women’s clothes, though two more unlikely types in drag could hardly be imagined. FLANNAGAN, a thick, burly man, stands, with his back to the audience, putting make-up on in a mirror on his locker door. REILLY, overweight and on the soft side, sits schlumpishly on a bench putting on a pair of stockings. At least that’s what he’s trying to do. Nothing about this setting clues the audience that it is situated somewhere in the bowels of a New York City police precinct.

                    REILLY

(Gets stockings on, stands up and they fall down) They won’t stay up. I pull them up and they fall right down. Listen, Flannagan, what a my gonna do? I can’t get ‘em to stay up. What did you do? How’d you get yours to stay up?

                    FLANNAGAN

I didn’t get nothin’ to stay up. I ain’t wearin’ any. I shaved my legs, instead. It’s about the same thing—even a little sexier too, I think.

                    REILLY

Yeah, I shoulda done that too. Only now I ain’t got the time. What a my gonna do?

                    FLANNAGAN

Hey lissen, Reilly, I got my own problems too, you know. Puttin’ this crap on ain’t so easy. (He turns to Reilly, lipstick half across his mouth) Ha!—look at him—Tina Tampax. Not bad for a gorilla like you. You come together pretty good as a broad, a babe—whatever you are.

                    REILLY

Come on, what a you jokin’ or somethin’? What kind a taste you got anyway?

                    FLANNAGAN

You need work of course.  But you got the makin’s all right. Here lemme look at you. Stand up.

                    REILLY

I can’t, I tole you, these stockin’ things won’t stay up.

                    FLANNAGAN

Here, lemme fix ‘em. (He goes over, helps Reilly roll stockings up his legs)

(Reilly stands up, takes a few steps and the stockings slide down again)

                    REILLY

I’m tellin’ you they won’t stay up. There’s somethin’ wrong. Maybe I stretched  ‘em. I dunno. Or maybe they don’t fit my kinda legs. (he sits down, dejected)

                    FLANNAGAN

Naw—there’s gotts be somethin’. I seen much worse than you wearin’ them.

Wait a minute, lemme think. Lemme see—yeah—I know. (He goes over, opens his locker, rummages around, then comes up with a couple of rubber bands) Here ya go. (He helps Reilly roll stockings up again and puts rubber bands the tops of Reilly’s stockings) Now you can say you’re the only guy wearin’ a rubber two legs.

                    REILLY

I hope they’re not too tight, that they don’t cut off the circulation.

                    FLANNAGAN

That what you tell yer girlfriend: your rubbers a too tight?

REILLY

That’s different. I don’t usually go walkin’ around in ‘em either. (He gets up, walks cautiously) Hey, that’s good. They’re a little tight, but it’s good they’re holdin’ real good.

                    FLANNAGAN

Okay now, you gotta see if they’re really gonna hold. You gotta test ‘em. Sit down and cross your knees. (Reilly obeys. Flannagan gets down on his hands and knees and looks up under Reilly’s dress. Reilly starts making obscene movements with his legs, ‘testing’) That’s good. Yeah, very good. They’re holdin’. Now get up and bend over.

                    REILLY

What for!?

                    FLANNAGAN

Like you was pickin’ nickels up from the sidewalk, that’ what for.

                    REILLY

(naively) Oh. (He bends over and Flannagan gets down on his knees, looking up under Reilly’s dress in the back. Reilly starts wiggling his ass in Flannagan’s face.)

                    FLANNAGAN

It’s gonna work nice. They’re gonna hold all right, don’t you worry. (He gets up, pats Reilly on the ass and goes over to one of the full-length, mirror-less frames, facing the audience.) Lemme finish puttin’ this stuff on my face and we’ll be ready to go.

(Reilly walks over to Flannagan and stands in front of the other full-length mirror-less frames. Flannagan busies himself putting on lipstick, preening himself. Reilly stands clumsily looking at himself in the ‘mirror’.)

                    REILLY

I look all right?

                    FLANNAGAN

Yeah, like a squashed grape. I mean, you look like you just got a beauty treatment in a garbage dump.

                    REILLY

What can I do? I ain’t ever been a broad before.

                    FLANNAGAN

You gotta do somethin’ about your face. (he looks at Reilly). I mean whatever can be done.

(Flannagan takes powder puff, applies it to Reilly’s face in a cloud.) Stand up straight. (he straightens Reilly’s posture) Hold your head up and your chest out. You gotta bring your tits up and make ‘em stick out. (he unzips Reilly’s dress in the back and tightens his bra) Yeah, that’s the way I like ‘em, mean and hard, stickin’ out ready for action. Your hair’s alright, but you gotta fluff it up a bit. (he fluffs Reilly’s hair) Give it a little style the queers are always creamin’ about. And your dress gotta hang right. (he smoothes Reilly’s dress) Now, lemme see you walk, that’s important. If you don’t walk right no one’ll believe you. (Reilly takes a few steps awkwardly) Naw, no good. Come ‘ere, lemme show you.

(A walking session follows now. Flannagan demonstrates for Reilly his notion of a sexy walk until Reilly is doing it as well, if not better than Flannagan. Reilly walks back and forth, getting sexier and slinkier with each pass. Flannagan stands by admiring him.)

                   
                    FLANNAGAN

Yeah, you’re doin’ it with aptitood now. Look out—when you walk by the only thing those girls on Broadway will be able to sell is noosepapers. (Reilly slinks past Flannagan, flirting with him) Meet me on the launching pad, baby, I’m gonna send you to the moon. (suddenly the rubber bands holding Reilly’s stockings up snap. His stockings slide down. He’s deflated)

                    REILLY

It’s no good. I’ll never make it. My hair’s cockeyed, my stockings, my walk–everything’s cockeyed. What good’s a cockeyed broad? (he sits down, defeated)

                    FLANNAGAN

Come on, what are you talkin’ about? You’re doin’ great. Don’t punish yourself. Cheer up, it’s nuthin’. Okay—look—now tell me this. In what way is an accountant and a circus clown the same? (Reilly shrugs, he’s too dejected to answer) They’re both jugglers, that’s how. (Flannagan delivers this like part of a vaudeville routine) Okay now, are you lissenin’? You failed miserably on that one. Let’s see how you do on this one. Please, Mr. Reilly, how are they different?

                    REILLY

Who?

                    FLANNAGAN

The circus clown and the accountant, you dummy. I asked for a straight man and they gave me a hernia instead. Okay, come on now, don’t gum up the works. Hey, Mr. Reilly—(he gestures to Reilly to respond).

                    REILLY

Er—yeah—

                    FLANNAGAN

Now, Mr. Reilly, would you be so good as to answer this little question for the edification of this kind and generous audience? In what way is an accountant different from a circus clown?

REILLY

Er—I dunno.

                    FLANNAGAN

One plays with his books, the other plays with his balls. (he does a quick little vaudeville turn with song and dance step)

(There follows now a facsimile of an old-style vaudeville routine. A very bad one, which is as it should be. Flannagan wants to cheer up Reilly and this is the way he chooses to do it. Of the gags used, some are original, some are borrowed. There is nothing absolute about any of this and, if the actors have better or worse ones, they are invited to make substitutions. Interspersed between the gags there should be some incidental music and a couple of soft shoe dance steps.)

                    FLANNAGAN

Hey, Mr. Reilly, you know what my doctor told me last year?

                    REILLY

All right, Mr. Flannagan, what did your doctor tell you last year?

                    FLANNAGAN

He said if I don’t stop drinking at once, I’d become feeble-minded.

                    REILLY

You should have stopped. (music and dance)

                    FLANNAGAN

I know a couple, both very high types.

                    REILLY

Oh yeah?

                    FLANNAGAN

He in business, she in the bust. (music and dance)

                    REILLY

Says the judge to me: have you ever appeared as a witness before? Says I: Yes, your honor. In what suit, says he? In my blue serge, says I. (music and dance)

                    FLANNAGAN

Last night I got home late.

                    REILLY

A-huh, and what did your wife say?

                    FLANNAGAN

She says: You drunk again, you old sot. Couldn’t you think of anything better to do than come home in that condition?

                    REILLY

And Mr. Flannagan, what did you tell her in your shame?

                    FLANNAGAN

I said, yes my dear. I can think of something better to do, but she’s out of town tonight.  (music and dance)

                    REILLY

Talk about false women.

                    FLANNAGAN

Go on, talk about false women.

                    REILLY

I have this girlfriend. Everything about her is false but then, so are my teeth and I’d rather be unhappy with them than without them. (music and dance)

                    FLANNAGAN

You know, Mr. Reilly, that whiskey you drink is slowly killing you?

                    REILLY

Oh, that’s all right, Mr. Flannagan, I’m in no hurry.

(They dance and cavort, then suddenly Reilly remembers his drooping stockings.)

                    REILLY

Flannagan, what am I gonna do?

                    FLANNAGAN

Wait a minute, there’s somethin’ I saw in the locker. (Flannagan goes to locker, brings out a garter belt) I never use these things, but it looks complicated enough to do the job. Come ‘ere, Reilly. (Reilly goes over and Flannagan gets down on his hands and knees and up under Reilly’s dress, trying to get the garter belt on. Reilly giggles as Flannagan adjusts it)

(Just then, in walks O’Conner, another cop in uniform. He stops short on seeing them)

                    O’CONNER

Flannagan! Reilly! What da hell! That’s carryin’ things too far. I know youse guys are supposed to work as a team but you don’t have to fall in love!

FLANNAGAN

(extricating himself from under Reilly’s dress) Lissen, punk, what do you think you’re sayin’?

                    O’CONNER

Look it you guys. If I didn’t know youse guys better I’d report you to the Sarge.

                    FLANNAGAN

What’re you gettin’ at, you little Mick bastard?

                    O’CONNER

Well, fer chrissakes, you two are actin’ like a couple of fruits.

                    FLANNAGAN

(Grabs O’Conner menacingly) Who you callin’ a fruit? I got a good mind to bash your fuckin’ head in. (he raises his fist but Reilly grabs it, restraining him)

                    REILLY

Flannagan, don’t!

                    FLANNAGAN

(straining to get at O’Conner) The little shit—lemme go!

                    REILLY

(holding Flannagan tightly) Don’t do it Flannagan. It’s not worth it. Think of your career. Twenty years down the drain. Your pension—everything. It’s not worth it. If you’re gonna punch anyone, it should be me. Yeah, that’s right. It’s all my fault. If I wasn’t so clumsy and stupid this wouldn’t a happened.

                    FLANAGAN

(still struggling to get at O’Conner) What a you talkin’ about? That punk deserves it, dropping’ insinuations around her like shit balls. 

                    REILLY

But you punch him and it means a departmental trial, your stripes, maybe even your pension. You’re still young—that’s your future.

                    FLANNAGAN

I never liked that little chicken-shit. I bin itchin’ to pop him for a long time.

                    REILLY

Then, Flannagan, pop me.

                    FLANNAGAN

Don’t talk stoopid. You know you sound stoopid now?

                    O’CONNER

(moving away from the two of them, across the room) You two are just too romantic for words (Flannagan charges O’Conner but Reilly intercepts him) Get him, Reilly!

                    FLANNAGAN

(restrained by Reilly) I’ll kill him. Now I gotta kill him.

                    O’CONNER

The stripes, Reilly. Tell him about the stripes and the pension and his future

(in mock terror) Calm the wild beast, Reilly.

                    REILLY

Flannagan! Flannagan! (he struggles to hold him)

                    O’CONNER

Lissen, you bums, the Sarge wants you upstairs and ready to go in fifteen minutes. Mustn’t keep Operation Round Heels waitin’. Gotta keep the perverts happy—huh Flannagan? (Flannagan redoubles his efforts to get at O’Conner but Reilly trips him and falls on top of him. O’Conner begins to leave, looks at them entangled on the floor) Da visions of loveliness. (he exits)

                    SCENE TWO

Central Park. Trees. A park bench. Reilly and Flannagan enter)

                    FLANNAGAN

Those bastards, every one of ‘em. I’ll get even. And that O’Conner specially, the little blabbermouth. When I get hold of him I’m gonna knock his teeth out one by one.

                    REILLY

Calm down Flannagan, calm down.. You know they’re gonna ride you more if you let it get to you.

                    FLANNAGAN

Fuck ‘em all.

                    REILLY

You’d do the same thing yourself. What do you care anyway? You know what’s true and what’s not.

                    FLANNAGAN

Aah, after this assignment I’m through with the Snatch Patrol. I’ve had it.

REILLY

But Why? You’re the best man they got. Nobody’s got a record like yours—twenty-five convictions in two years. Everybody on the force knows about you. Even before I got transferred I’d heard all about you. How you’d studied all the movies on forty-second street to learn the latest styles the sluts were wearin’. How you went in the park once like a bum yourself to pick up some loose pussy. The way you was so good you got picked up and was almost convicted of rape before they found out what you was really up to. I gotta admit I was impressed. I’ll tell you a little secret; it was mainly because of you that I asked for this assignment.

                    FLANNAGAN

Naw, it’s no good, Reilly. Too much bullshit; I’m through after this last one. It’s back to the Riot Squad for me. At least there ya go out and break heads and no one breaks ya balls about it. It’s not as—I dunno, what would you say—imaginative or creative as this work here but it’s got its good points. Oh what da hell. We better get going, it’s gettin’ late and the bomber-boys will be out soon.

                    REILLY

Hey, Flannagan, what about this bench over here?

                    FLANNAGAN

Yeah, that’s a good one. Caught me a real beaut right here last year, an old creep wearin’ a long coat with nothin’ on underneath. He comes up to me on the bench, opens his coat and tries to ram it in my face. A couple of fast chops and I laid him out good. Then we took away his coat and made him go to the station naked. I mean if the creep wants to expose himself why not give him a chance to do it right.

                    REILLY

Ha, ha, ha, Flannagan, you’re a pip. I bet you got plenty of stories.

FLANNAGAN

Oh, I dunno, I guess I’ve had my fair share of moments.

                    REILLY

Say, Flannagan, what do I do? (he sits sloppily on the bench) Just sit here and wait?

                    FLANNAGAN

Yeah, only not like that. Lean back, cross yer legs. (Flannagan adjusts Reilly’s position) Make yourself sexy. The idea is to make yourself desirable so the creeps will come on to you. (Reilly makes adjustments) That’s right, that’s good. If I was a creep I’d find you irresistible. Remember, if you have any trouble, blow your whistle. I’ll be nearby and I’ll come quick. (Flannagan gives Reilly a quick squeeze on his tit) Take care of yourself.

(Flannagan exits. Reilly, alone now, adjusts himself, trying to be sexier. After a bit, he gets up, looks around uncomfortably. He starts scratching himself in the crotch. Suddenly, from behind a tree, a wild-looking nut with a knife jumps out. He’s unshaven, wearing a dirty sweatshirt with the sleeves ripped off, sloppy, ripped pants and sneakers.)

                    NUT

(crouching with one hand outstretched, fingers wiggling towards Reilly) Here, let me scratch it for you. I’ll scratch it nice. I can’t stand it no more. I been followin’ you and your girlfriend. I knew you was two hot babes right away. I seen her grab your tit. I thought I’d whack out. I love lesbians. Then I see you scratchin’ your twat and I knew you was hot. I couldn’t stand it no more. Here, lemme rub it for you.

                    REILLY

Wait, wait, wait. Yeah, I’m crazy hot, you’re right but wait. I can’t do nothin’ till I hear the sound of a whistle. Like a dog. Yeah, you know those dogs get hungry and hot when they hear a whistle. Here I got a whistle right here. (he takes out whistle from his purse) Lemme blow it, then I’m yours.

(The Nut lets out a whoop and charges after Reilly, who drops the whistle and runs around behind the bench.

                    REILLY

That’s no good. You don’t sound nothin’ like a whistle.

(The Nut tries to catch Reilly. He picks up whistle, blows it, then captures Reilly behind the bench. The Nut jumps on Reilly who squeals and shouts, trying to fend him off. Flannagan comes running and jumps on top of Nut on top of Reilly. Flannagan pummels the Nut,  then twists his arm behind his back and subdues him.)

                    FLANNAGAN

(shouting at the Nut) What did you do, you horrible freak? I should break your arm. If you hurt Reilly you won’t be safe, even in jail I’ll get you. (sound of sirens, off-stage. Flannagan walks Nut roughly off-stage. Reilly adjusts clothes and sits sedately on bench).

                    FLANNAGAN

(Off-stage) That’s right boys, break his head, rip his arms off, the lousy bastard. (Flannagan enters, shouting heard off-stage) Hold him till later, Leave a little piece for me to break. He put his hands on Reilly. (he turns to Reilly) Reilly, Reilly, you all right? What did he do to you? (he sits and puts his arm around Reilly’s shoulder) Did he touch you? Did he hurt you? Reilly, speak to me.

                    REILLY

(whimpering) Oh, I was scared, Flannagan, so scared.

                    FLANNAGAN

What did he do? Did he touch you?

                    REILLY

Yeah.

                    FLANNAGAN

Where? Show me.

                    REILLY

(touching his ‘breasts’) Here.

                    FLANNAGAN

(grabbing Reilly’s ‘breast’) The freak. You poor Reilly. Where else?

                    REILLY

(touching his crotch) Here. I didn’t know what he was gonna do next.

                    FLANNAGAN

(puts his hand between Reilly’s legs, rubs) I shouldn’t a left ya alone. It was stoopid of me. You poor Reilly. I’m here now and there’s nothin’ to worry about. It’s gonna be all right now. Poor Reilly—poor baby.

(lights)


***
Hank Nadler spent many years as a filmmaker at CBS, ABC and National Geographic. In 2008 he became an independent producer, writing, directing and producing documentaries and children’s films. Since 2018 he has been writing full-time, completing 8 children’s books, an adult literary novel, a non-fiction novel and a short story collection.