A Leaf Turns Over on the Ground
GIRL 14-18 years old. She is dressed in black; not as any kind of style or statement, more likely she just wore black today.
A bare stage. Or maybe there are some leaves scattered about. Maybe some flowers. Perhaps she is in a park, on a bench. Maybe she is addressing an assembly. Maybe she is talking to herself.
I’ve always wondered what it meant to “turn over a new leaf.” My grandmother said it meant a new page. A leaf of paper. Something fresh to write on. I think that’s kind of stupid. Because it should be a leaf, right? Like a leaf from a tree. Once when I was walking with my sister I saw a leaf on the ground. A beautiful leaf. I was a lot younger then. I still thought leaves were pretty, you know.
I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. This is stupid.
My family has always been happy. Very happy. So… I guess I’ve been happy. I always felt happy so that’s something. I guess I shouldn’t speak for everyone. But if I had to guess I’d say generally happy.
We had a dog. But it died. It got hit. On the road. They didn’t even stop. Just… my Mom found him dead on the road. Put him in a garbage bag so I never saw him. Never saw him dead. When we got home from school I knew. No one told me, I just knew somehow. I came in the house and the first thing I said was “Beetle is dead, isn’t he.” No clues or nothing. I just knew.
I thought I was psychic for a while. Like I could sense things. But… well… sometimes you can’t sense things. Some things you just don’t know.
We had a funeral for the dog. We dressed up. Dad dug a hole in the back yard, then we dropped Beetle in. Garbage bag and all. And that was it.
Sometimes things are sudden. Sometimes you’re out having an adventure. Out exploring the neighborhood then BOOM! You’re gone. You’re garbage bag gone. One minute you’re happy, you’re enjoying life. Then you’re not. You’re gone.
I’m sorry. This is stupid. It’s cliché. I wish I was better at explaining things. How can something be new and fresh and still be cliché at the same time? Maybe we’re just both. Maybe people just think they’re new or different but really they’re exactly the same. Maybe that’s why some people do terrible things. Just so they don’t feel the same anymore. But… no. There’s no excuse. There’s no reason. People look for reasons but…
My grandma used to always tell my sister and I that we were special. But we’re not. We’re the same as everyone. And that’s not bad. That’s life. We’re not more or less capable than anyone in this room. I’m not sad about that. I think that’s something we should all remember.
Bees used to make me sad. They just work, you know? They spend all day out in the sunshine, smelling the flowers and… I mean they’re just surrounded by beautiful things and they don’t care. They don’t see it. They don’t appreciate how beautiful they are and how wonderful their life is. It’s just work to them. That’s always made me sad. I used to have nightmares like that. I would be wandering through a field of flowers and suddenly my mouth would be full of bees. I’d spit and spit but still… full of bees. No emptying. They’d come out of my mouth and my eyes and all I could ever hear would be their buzzing. Like I was a hive. I couldn’t even feel the sun. All I could feel were thousands of bee feet on my skin.
I guess I should talk about love. I guess maybe that’s appropriate. Maybe.
I don’t know that much about love.
People always think they know a lot about love but I don’t think anyone really does. Not even God. And if you think I’m wrong you should read the news. Maybe I’m just not an optimist.
Here’s a fairytale. My Dad said I should tell a story up here. So this is it.
Once upon a time there was a little pony. Just a normal pony. Not cursed. Not a princess in disguise. Just a regular pony. Every day, or at least every other day, the boy whose family owned the pony came into the pony’s pen and beat it with a willow switch. Every day, or every other day, he would beat the pony. Maybe the boy’s father was cruel, or maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he beat the boy, or maybe he loved him dearly, or maybe both. Or maybe the kids at school teased him because he had a clubfoot, or maybe he was really, really popular and everyone loved him and he was perfect in every way. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the boy beat the pony. Until finally one day the pony just snapped and kicked the boy in the head and trampled him to death. And the villagers came together and everyone cried for the boy and told his parents what a sweet child he was and they all decided that the pony was cursed. So they took the pony into the field and everyone beat it to death with clubs and hatchets and whatever they could find around the house. Then everyone went back home. And the mother and father of the boy were still sad. And the boy was still dead. And the pony was dead too. The end.
And I don’t know what the moral is so don’t ask. Or ask someone else. The Big Bad Wolf had puppies to feed. Maybe that’s the moral. Witches are somebody’s daughter, someone somewhere will miss them. Maybe that’s it. Maybe there isn’t a moral. Maybe this is just a story and there’s no point to it at all. Life sucks. Story’s suck too sometimes. The world turns.
I wish the world was more honest. Not just people but the whole world. The Earth. The world is a liar. I guess if you want to survive you have to be a liar. People too maybe. Think about it. Rock fish, stick bugs, chameleons, venus fly traps. It’s all lies. Honest things don’t live. Maybe that’s the problem with some people. Maybe that’s why some people go a little crazy sometimes. Maybe they’re too honest. Maybe they don’t lie enough to themselves to be able to function in the world. In a world of lies honesty is madness. Maybe. That should be a song lyric. Maybe it already is.
I remember once I was walking with my sister. We were camping, the whole family, and she and I went out exploring. We came to a little stream, so we took off our shoes and rolled up our pants and walked in the water. Like the water was a path. And after a while I started to get really scared. I thought I would get stuck in the mud or trip and drown or something. I was pretty young and still thought stupid stuff. But my sister was older. And she didn’t tease me or anything, she just turned around and picked me up and carried me to the riverbank. We sat on some rocks there, and after a second or two I noticed a snake right by where we were sitting. Blending in to the rocks. I pointed it out to my sister and she screamed and grabbed me and put me on her back and walked all the way down the stream to where we had left our shoes. She said it was a rattlesnake and I remember hating that rattlesnake because it was a liar. It hid what it was. Tried to blend into the rocks. Become a rock when it was a snake. But I guess it was just surviving.
She carried me on her back the whole way.
That was the same trip that I saw the leaf. The turn-over-a-new-leaf leaf I was talking about. We found it when we were out walking. It was red and gold and looked like a sunset or a firework on the forest floor. We turned it over to look at the other side, to see if it was just as pretty, but it wasn’t. It was rotten. It was brown and wet and disgusting and bugs scattered from underneath it. One side bright and beautiful and the other side ugly and decaying. The same leaf at the same time. Two things and the same thing all at once.
That’s what I thought “turning over a new leaf” meant. Seeing something for the way it really is. Seeing everything about it. Making it honest. And once you see it you can know if you can really love it. Or if it makes you sick. Or both at the same time.
I don’t have much more to say. I guess I should finish.
Two weeks ago my sister took a gun to school and killed two girls, a boy, and a teacher, before shooting herself in the head. And I don’t know if I should love her. And I don’t know if I should hate her. Or both. But I miss her. I don’t know. The end.
END OF PLAY
A Leaf Turns Over on the Ground was commissioned by the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America, and supported by the Aurand Harris Fellowship. Kemuel DeMoville is an Aurand Harris Fellow by designation of the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America in 2009.