Time Flies and Other Short Plays

Time Flies and Other Short Plays

by David Ives

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Playwright David Ives's follow-up collection to the award-winning collection All in the Timing pushes his gift for wacky one-act comedy to new heights: two mayflies on a date realize they have only twenty-four hours to live; a washing-machine repairman falls in love with a perfect washer (should he tell his girlfriend?); an out-of-work shmo decides to spend


Playwright David Ives's follow-up collection to the award-winning collection All in the Timing pushes his gift for wacky one-act comedy to new heights: two mayflies on a date realize they have only twenty-four hours to live; a washing-machine repairman falls in love with a perfect washer (should he tell his girlfriend?); an out-of-work shmo decides to spend his day being painter Edgar Degas; two Babylonian blue-collar workers have to build the Tower of Babel -- or else. Zany, thought-provoking, and always original, this anthology brings together all the one-acts from the Off-Broadway hit Mere Mortals and from the all-new Lives of the Saints, as well as several new and uncollected plays, including Bolero, Arabian Nights (which premiered at the celebrated Humana Festival in Louisville), The Green Hill, and Captive Audience.

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.51(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.68(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Evening. A pond. The chirr of tree toads, and the buzz of a huge swarm of insects. Upstage, a thicket of tall cattails. Downstage, a deep green love seat. Overhead, an enormous full moon.

A loud cuckoo sounds, like the mechanical "cuckoo" of a clock.

Lights come up on two mayflies: HORACE and MAY, buzzing as they "fly" in. They are dressed like singles on an evening out, he in a jacket and tie, she in a party dress—but they have insectlike antennae; long tubelike tails; and on their backs, translucent wings. Outsized horn-rim glasses give the impression of very large eyes. May has distinctly hairy legs.

HORACE & MAY Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

Their wings stop fluttering, as they "settle."

MAY Well here we are. This is my place.

HORACE Already? That was fast.

MAY Swell party, huh.

HORACE Yeah. Quite a swarm.

MAY Thank you for flying me home.

HORACE No. Sure. I'm happy to. Absolutely. My pleasure. I mean—you're very, very, very welcome.

Their eyes lock and they near each other as if for a kiss, their wings fluttering a little.

Bzzzzzzzz ...

MAY Bzzzzzzzz ...

Before their jaws can meet: "CUCKOO!"—and Horace breaks away.

HORACE It's that late, is it. Anyway, it was very nice meeting you—I'm sorry, is it April?

MAY May.

HORACE May. Yes. Later than I thought, huh.

They laugh politely.

MAY That's very funny, Vergil.

HORACE It's Horace,actually.

MAY I'm sorry. The buzz at that party was so loud.

HORACE So you're "May the mayfly."

MAY Yeah. Guess my parents didn't have much imagination. May, mayfly. HORACE You don't, ah, live with your parents, do you, May?

MAY No, my parents died around dawn this morning.

HORACE Isn't that funny. Mine died around dawn too.

MAY Maybe it's fate.

HORACE Is that what it izzzzzzzz ...?

MAY Bzzzzzzzz....

HORACE Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

They near for a kiss, but Horace breaks away.

Well, I'd better be going now. Good night.

MAY Do you want a drink?

HORACE I'd love a drink, actually ...

MAY Let me just turn on a couple of fireflies. (May tickles the underside of a couple of TWO-FOOT-LONG FIREFLIES hanging like a chandelier, and the fireflies light up.)

HORACE Wow. Great pond! (indicating the love seat) I love the lily pad.

MAY The lily pad was here. It kinda grew on me. (polite laugh) Care to take the load off your wings?

HORACE That's all right. I'll just—you know—hover. But will
you look at that ...! (Turning, Horace bats May with his wings.)

MAY Oof!

HORACE I'm sorry. Did we collide?

MAY No. No. It's fine.

HORACE I've only had my wings about six hours.

MAY Really! So have I ...! Wasn't molting disgusting?

HORACE Eugh. I'm glad that's over.

MAY Care for some music? I've got The Beatles, The Byrds, The Crickets ...

HORACE I love the Crickets.

MAY Well so do I ... (She kicks a large, insect-shaped coffee table, and we hear the buzz of crickets.)

HORACE (as they boogie to that) So are you going out with any—I mean, are there any other mayflies in the neighborhood?

MAY No, it's mostly wasps.

HORACE So, you live here by your, um, all by yourself? Alone?

MAY All by my lonesome.

HORACE And will you look at that moon.

MAY You know that's the first moon I've ever seen?

HORACE That's the first moon I've ever seen ...!

MAY Isn't that funny.

HORACE When were you born?

MAY About seven-thirty this morning.

HORACE So was I! Seven thirty-three!

MAY Isn't that funny.

HORACE Or maybe it's fate.

They near each other again, as if for a kiss.

    Bzzzzzzz ...

MAY Bzzzzzzzzz ... I think that moon is having a very emotional effect on me.

HORACE Me too.

MAY It must be nature.

HORACE Me too.

MAY Or maybe it's fate.

HORACE Me too ...

MAY Bzzzzzzzzzz ...

HORACE Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

They draw their tails very close. Suddenly:

A FROG (amplified, over loudspeaker) Ribbit, ribbit!

HORACE A frog!

MAY A frog!

HORACE & MAY The frogs are coming, the frogs are coming! (They "fly" around the stage in a panic. Ad lib:) A frog, a frog! The frogs are coming, the frogs are coming! (They finally stop, breathless.)

MAY It's okay. It's okay.

HORACE Oh my goodness.

MAY I think he's gone now.

HORACE Oh my goodness, that scared me.

MAY That is the only drawback to living here. The frogs.

HORACE You know, I like frog films and frog literature. I just don't like frogs.

MAY And they're so rude if you're not a frog yourself.

HORACE Look at me. I'm shaking.

MAY Why don't I fix you something. Would you like a grasshopper? Or a stinger?

HORACE Just some stagnant water would be fine.

MAY A little duckweed in that? Some algae?

HORACE Straight up is fine.

MAY (as she pours his drink) Sure I couldn't tempt you to try the lily pad?

HORACE Well, maybe for just a second. (Horace flutters down onto the love seat:) Zzzzzzz ...

MAY (handing him a glass) Here you go. Cheers, Horace.

HORACE Long life, May.

They clink glasses.

MAY Do you want to watch some tube?

HORACE Sure. What's on?

MAY Let's see. (She checks a green TV Guide.) There is ... "The Love Bug." "M. Butterfly." "The Spider's Stratagem." "Travels With My Ant." "Angels and Insects." "The Fly ..."

HORACE The original, or Jeff Goldblum?

MAY Jeff Goldblum.

HORACE Eugh. Too gruesome.

MAY "Born Yesterday." And "Life on Earth."

HORACE What's on that?

MAY "Swamp Life," with Sir David Attenborough.

HORACE That sounds good.

MAY Shall we try it?

HORACE Carpe diem.

MAY Carpe diem? What's that?

HORACE I don't know. It's Latin.

MAY What's Latin?

HORACE I don't know. I'm just a mayfly.


And we're right on time for it.

May presses a remote control and DAVID ATTENBOROUGH appears, wearing a safari jacket.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH Hello, I'm David Attenborough. Welcome to "Swamp Life."

MAY Isn't this comfy.

HORACE Is my wing in your way?

MAY No. It's fine.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH You may not believe it, but within this seemingly lifeless puddle, there thrives a teeming world of vibrant life.

HORACE May, look—isn't that your pond?

MAY I think that is my pond!

HORACE He said "puddle."

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH This puddle is only several inches across, but its stagnant water plays host to over fourteen gazillion different species.

MAY It is my pond!

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH Every species here is engaged in a constant, desperate battle for survival. Feeding—meeting—mating—breeding—dying. And mating. And meeting. And mating. And feeding. And dying. Mating. Mating. Meeting. Breeding. Brooding. Braiding—those that can braid. Feeding. Mating ...

MAY All right, Sir Dave!

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH Mating, mating, mating, and mating.

HORACE Only one thing on his mind.

MAY The filth on television these days.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH Tonight we start off with one of the saddest creatures of this environment.

HORACE. The dung beetle.

MAY The toad.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH The lowly mayfly.

HORACE. Did he say "the mayfly"?

MAY I think he said "the lowly mayfly."

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH Yes. The lowly mayfly. Like these two mayflies, for instance.

HORACE May—I think that's us!

MAY Oh my God ...

HORACE & MAY (together) We're on television!

HORACE I don't believe it!

MAY I wish my mother was here to see this!

HORACE This is amazing!

MAY Oh God, I look terrible!

HORACE You look very good.

MAY I can't look at this.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH As you can see, the lowly mayfly is not one of nature's most attractive creatures.

MAY At least we don't wear safari jackets.

HORACE I wish he'd stop saying "lowly mayfly."

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH The lowly mayfly has a very distinctive khkhkhkhkhkhkhkhkkh ... (He makes the sound of TV "static.")

MAY I think there's something] wrong with my antenna ... (She adjusts the antenna on her head.)

HORACE You don't have cable?

MAY Not on this pond.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH (stops the static sound) ... and sixty tons of droppings.

HORACE That fixed it.

MAY Can I offer you some food? I've got some plankton in the pond. And some very nice gnat.

HORACE I do love good gnat.

MAY I'll set it out, you can pick. (She rises and gets some food, as:)

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH The lowly mayfly first appeared some 350 million years ago ...

MAY That's impressive.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH ... and is of the order Ephemeroptera, meaning, "living for a single day."

MAY I did not know that!

HORACE "Living for a single day." Huh ...

MAY (setting out a tray on the coffee table) There you go.

HORACE Gosh, May. That's beautiful.

MAY There's curried gnat, salted gnat, Scottish smoked gnat ...

HORACE I love that.

MAY ... gnat with pesto, gnat au naturelle, and Gnat King Cole.

HORACE I don't think I could finish a whole one.

MAY "Gnat" to worry.

They laugh politely.

That's larva dip there in the center. Just dig in.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH As for the life of the common mayfly ...

HORACE Oh. We're "common" now.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH ... it is a simple round of meeting, mating, meeting, mating—

MAY Here we go again.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH —breeding, feeding, feeding ...

HORACE This dip is fabulous.


MAY Leaf?

HORACE Thank you.

May breaks a leaf off a plant and hands it to Horace.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH Mayflies are a major food source for trout and salmon.

MAY Will you look at that savagery?

HORACE. That poor, poor mayfly.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH Fishermen like to bait hooks with mayfly look-alikes.

MAY Bastards!—Excuse me.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH And then there is the giant bullfrog.

FROG (amplified, over loudspeaker) Ribbit, ribbit!

HORACE & MAY The frogs are coming, the frogs are coming!

They "fly" around the stage in a panic—and end up "flying" right into each other's arms.

HORACE Well there.

MAY Hello.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH Welcome to "Swamp Life." (David Attenborough exits.)

MAY (hypnotized by Horace) Funny how we flew right into each other's wings.

HORACE It is funny.

MAY Or fate.

HORACE Do you think he's gone?

MAY David Attenborough?

HORACE The frog.

MAY What frog. Bzzzz ...

HORACE Bzzzzz ...

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH'S VOICE As you see, mayflies can be quite affectionate ...

HORACE & MAY Bzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH'S VOICE ... mutually palpating their proboscises.

HORACE You know, I've been wanting to palpate your proboscis all evening.

MAY I think it was larva at first sight.

HORACE & MAY (rubbing proboscises together) Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

MAY (very British, "Brief Encounter") Oh darling, darling.

HORACE Oh do darling do let's always be good to each other, shall we?

MAY Let's do do that, darling, always, always.

HORACE Always?

MAY Always.

HORACE & MAY Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

MAY Rub my antennae. Rub my antennae. (Horace rubs May's antennae with his hands.)

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH'S VOICE Sometimes mayflies rub antennae together.

MAY Oh yes. Yes. Just like that. Yes. Keep going. Harder. Rub harder.

HORACE Rub mine now. Rub my antennae. Oh yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. There's the rub. There's the rub. Go. Go. Go!

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH'S VOICE Isn't that a picture. Now get a load of mating.

Horace gets into mounting position, behind May. He rubs her antennae while she wolfs down the gnat-food in front of her.

HORACE & MAY Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH'S VOICE Unfortunately for this insect, the mayfly has a life span of only one day.

Horace and May stop buzzing, abruptly.

HORACE What was that ...?

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH'S VOICE The mayfly has a life span of only one day—living just long enough to meet, mate, have offspring, and die.

MAY Did he say "meet, mate, have offspring, and DIE"—?

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH'S VOICE I did. In fact, mayflies born at seven-thirty in the morning will die by the next dawn.

HORACE (whimpers softly at the thought.)

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH'S VOICE But so much for the lowly mayfly. Let's move on to the newt.


HORACE & MAY We're going to die ... We're going to die!
Mayday, mayday! We're going to die, we're going to die!

Weeping and wailing, they kneel, beat their breasts, cross themselves, daven, and tear their hair.


HORACE What time is it? What time is it?

MAY I don't wear a watch. I'm a lowly mayfly!

HORACE (weeping) Wah-ha-ha-ha!

MAY (suddenly sober) Well isn't this beautiful.

HORACE (gasping for breath) Oh my goodness. I think I'm having an asthma attack. Can mayflies have asthma?

MAY I don't know. Ask Mr. Safari Jacket.

HORACE Maybe if I put a paper bag over my head ...

MAY So this is my sex life?

HORACE Do you have a paper bag?

MAY One bang, a bambino, and boom—that's it?

HORACE Do you have a paper bag?

MAY For the common mayfly, foreplay segues right into funeral.

HORACE Do you have a paper bag?

MAY I don't have time to look for a paper bag, I'm going to be dead very shortly, all right?


HORACE Oh come on! That wasn't a whole hour!


Time is moving so fast now.


HORACE & MAY Shut up!


HORACE (suddenly sober) This explains everything. We were born this morning, we hit puberty in mid-afternoon, our biological clocks went BONG, and here we are. Hot to copulate.

MAY For the one brief miserable time we get to do it.


MAY Talk about a quickie.

HORACE Wait a minute, wait a minute.

MAY Talk fast.

HORACE What makes you think it would be so brief?.

MAY Oh, I'm sorry. Did I insult your vast sexual experience?

HORACE Are you more experienced than I am, Dr. Ruth? Luring me here to your pad?

MAY I see. I see. Blame me!

HORACE Can I remind you we only get one shot at this?

MAY So I can rule out multiple orgasms, is that it?

HORACE I'm just saying there's not a lot of time to hone one's erotic technique, okay?

MAY Hmp!

HORACE And I'm trying to sort out some very big entomontological questions here rather quickly, do you mind?

MAY And I'm just the babe here, is that it? I'm just a piece of tail.

HORACE I'm not the one who suggested TV.

MAY I'm not the one who wanted to watch "Life On Earth." "Oh—`Swamp Life.' That sounds interesting."

FROG Ribbit, ribbit.

HORACE (calmly) There's a frog up there.

MAY Oh, I'm really scared. I'm terrified.

FROG Ribbit, ribbit!

HORACE (calling to the frog) We're right down here! Come and get us!

MAY Breeding. Dying. Breeding. Dying. So this is the whole purpose of mayflies? To make more mayflies?

HORACE Does the world need more mayflies?

MAY We're a major food source for trout and salmon.

HORACE How nice for the salmon.

MAY Do you want more food?

HORACE I've lost a bit of my appetite, all right?

MAY Oh. Excuse me.

HORACE I'm sorry. Really, May.

MAY (starts to cry) Males!


He plucks another leaf and hands it to her.

MAY Thank you.

HORACE Really. I didn't mean to snap at you.

MAY Oh, you've been very nice.

"CUCKOO!" They jump.

Under the circumstances.

HORACE I'm sorry.

MAY No, I'm sorry.

HORACE No, I'm sorry.

MAY No, I'm sorry.

HORACE No, I'm sorry.

MAY We'd better stop apologizing, we're going to be dead soon.

HORACE I'm sorry.

MAY Oh Horace, I had such plans. I had such wonderful plans. I wanted to see Paris.

HORACE What's Paris?

MAY I have no fucking idea.

HORACE Maybe we'll come back as caviar and find out.

They laugh a little at that.

I was just hoping to live till Tuesday.

MAY (making a small joke) What's a Tuesday?

They laugh a little more at that.

The sun's going to be up soon. I'm scared, Horace. I'm so scared.

HORACE You know, May, we don't have much time, and really, we hardly know each other—but I'm going to say it. I think you're swell. I think you're divine. From your buggy eyes to the thick raspy hair on your legs to the intoxicating scent of your secretions.

MAY Eeeuw.

HORACE Eeeuw? No. I say woof. And I say who cares if life is a swamp and we're just a couple of small bugs in a very small pond. I say live, May! I say ... darn it ... live!

MAY But how?

HORACE Well, I don't honestly know that ...

Attenborough appears.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH You could fly to Paris.

MAY We could fly to Paris!

HORACE Do we have time to fly to Paris?

MAY Carpe diem!

HORACE What is carpe diem?

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH It means "bon voyage."

HORACE & MAY And we're outta here!

They fly off to Paris as ...


Excerpted from Time Flies and Other Short Plays by DAVID IVES. Copyright © 2001 by David Ives. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Healing Earthquakes

By Jimmy Santiago Baca

Grove Press

Copyright © 2001 Jimmy Santiago Baca. All rights reserved.

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