General Script posted September 4, 2022 Chapters:  ...17 18 -19- 20... 


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The Funeral

A chapter in the book The Incomparable Fanny Barnwarmer

Incomparable Fanny Barnwarmer 19

by Jay Squires


Summary of the previous scene: In the interest of space, and since the regular Fanny readers likely remember the closing scene, I have included a rather longish summary, for those new to the play, in Author’s Notes

The Epilogue in Three Parts (Part I)
 
CHARACTERS
Reporter: Robert Holmdahl. Mid-thirties. Back in Brady, Texas from New York City where he works for the New York Times. It was but a week earlier that he had been on assignment in Brady to write a human-interest story about the famous Fanny Barnwarmer.
Thomas Maples: Owner and editor of the
Brady Sentinal. The first person Fanny met when she moved to Brady, in 1885. Age 89, he is thin and spry, walks without support.
 

SETTING: Dusk at the Brady Cemetery. DOWN-CENTERSTAGE, a large pile of dirt skirts the edge of a wide, deep, rectangular hole. Alongside the opposite lip of the hole, a wider-than-usual, silver-lidded mahogany coffin rests on the lawn; coiled ropes, pullies, and other paraphernalia are piled at either end. Behind, and covering the remainder of the stage, are tombstones and plots, some current. As a backdrop, oak trees line the cemetery, and a few are scattered among the plots. A beautiful Texas sunset blazes through the trees (but dims to gray, then black as the scenes progress). DOWNSTAGE CENTER stands a podium; to its side, three chairs.

PLACE/TIME: Brady, Texas, 5:30 PM, Saturday, August 17, 1929.

AT RISE: THE REPORTER stands DOWNSTAGE LEFT, his notebook and pencil clutched in his hand at his side. A little to his left is MR. MAPLES.

REPORTER:
(Looking straight ahead at the audience, speaking confidentially, in a low and level voice—think of a golf announcer)
Good to see you again. Tom Maples and I arrived a few minutes in advance of what is anticipated to be a huge crowd for Miss Fanny’s and Miss Juniper’s burial. I’m here early to say a few words to you personally—you who were with me here in Brady a week ago. I was privileged to share Miss Fanny with you for three long, thoroughly enjoyable days—enjoyable at least for me. What began as a
New York Times interview with the Incomparable Fanny Barnwarmer, the entertainer, soon grew into a profoundly deep and troubling history of our times—or if not that broad a scope, then a history of death, love, and redemption as it affected two families.
(Beat)
As with all history, including news reporting … not all facts—and fewer feelings—get recorded. I had no doubts when I left Miss Fanny, at the end of my three days, that there were things left unsaid … uninterpreted smiles or gestures, sentences truncated by, well, by life’s interferences … hence unrecorded.
(Smiling to his right)
Excuse me for getting philosophical, Mr. Maples.

MAPLES
I suspect it’s the mood of the place. Besides, you’ve taken voluntary ownership of a lot of Fanny’s life over those three days—you and

(Gesturing to the audience)
the others who were there. You left, I gather, feeling there were still a few areas you’d like to have fleshed out a bit. Perhaps with ten minutes more … and a turn around that corner, or down the road a piece. Eh? Fanny does that to folks.

REPORTER:
(Turning back from Thomas to face front, and speaking again confidentially and low with just the trace of a smile)
Yes, ten more minutes … or an hour … or a day more … would have been sufficient. I felt so relieved when I learned about the train’s delay. I thought that a half-hour more was just what I needed … and yet—

MAPLES
When she gave me written instructions—I think it was after the first day of your interview—asking me to notify you when she passed and to wire you a hundred dollars for your expenses … I’m sure it was to give you a little more time to follow and gather together a few final threads to tie up her life in a tidier package. It wasn’t her expressed reason in her note, but I think it’s what she wanted.

REPORTER:
(Puzzled)
When she passed? Then she knew?

MAPLES:
Of course, she knew. She confided in me a month ago that Doc Hayhurst warned that her heart was failing her and that if she didn’t give up her performances at the tavern, with all its smoke and noise, and such … she’d likely collapse and die right there on stage.

REPORTER:
Did you wonder why she confided that in you?

MAPLES:
Pshaw! She’d been confiding in me for better than forty years, Robert.

REPORTER:
I recall from my notes that you were the first person she met in Brady.

MAPLES:
Went by Brady City, back then, before incorporating. But yep, back in eighty-five. She was fresh off the stagecoach. Still had the prairie dust on her dress and on her eyebrows. Came by to get a copy of the Sentinal whilst Juniper was visiting with Sherriff Peckham. 

REPORTER:
Miss Juniper was verifying information about someone, I believe. 

(Beat)
How much did Miss Fanny confide in you about their reason for moving to Brady?

MAPLES:
You mean about Juniper Albright’s plan to kill Thurston Flourney? 

(Shakes his head, slowly, frowning)
Sadly … no. I pieced that together, like most
Bradians, from the trial. I do believe that was the only thing she kept from me. It remained her and her sister’s dark secret.

REPORTER:
Her sister? You mean her step—kind of step—sister.

MAPLES:
I mean Juniper. Now there was a strange, sad, quiet … driven person. 

REPORTER:
But if you knew she was driven … you must have surmised something.

MAPLES:
You’re a reporter, Robert. You’re young—If you haven’t yet, you’ll learn over time to read people. You can see it in their expression. In their eyes. In Juniper’s eyes, certainly. 

REPORTER:
Miss Fanny called them rattlesnake eyes.

MAPLES
That’s it! That’s it exactly. Like the eyes of a rattlesnake about to strike.

(With a sudden, wounded look, and an attempt at a smile)
It appears that Fanny confided more in you about Juniper’s obsession than she did me.

REPORTER:
Well … I-I might have been doing some surmising, myself—some guesswork along the way.

(Beat)
Mister Maples?

MAPLES:
Yes?

REPORTER:
You—
loved Miss Fanny, didn’t you?

MAPLES:
(With a quick, dismissive laugh)
Why no—I wouldn’t call—no … not at all. I mean, I was older than her, by maybe five years, and I was a widower with two youngens … and a brand new newspaper that barely made ends meet. What would I have to offer a pretty, young lady with the whole world before her?

REPORTER:
Sorry. Just another hunch … gone to seed. I had to ask.

MAPLES:
(Watching something in the distance, smiling, raising a hand)
Jonathon. Good to see you.
(Back to REPORTER)
Looks like a few are starting to arrive. Did you have any other questions to ask me before someone interrupts us?

REPORTER:
So you were mentioned in her will …. Do you mind telling me—well, as much about her will as you or Miss Fanny would want me to know?

MAPLES:
I don’t know that there’s that much to tell. Doc Hayhurst notified me on the night of the day you left Brady, that Fanny had died. The next day, I got a call from Brady’s only law firm
Jinkins and Son, Attorneys at Law, that I had been named in Fanny Barnwarmer’s will. Well, I don’t mind telling you, I was flabbergasted. You see, Fanny had already told me, years earlier, that when Juniper Albright went to prison with a life sentence over her head, she turned over her entire fortune to Fanny.

REPORTER:
(Stares at him with open mouth)
I guess that was one of those things that Fanny hadn’t gotten around to telling me.

MAPLES:
It didn’t come all at once to Fanny. There were some legal snags and bickering among the Stockholders and the Bank trust department, but inasmuch as Juniper had no other living kin, the courts ruled she could do with her fortune as she pleased. Within a few years, Fanny was the sole beneficiary of the Thomas Albright fortune, and …

(Interrupting himself with a smile aimed at someone to the left of the REPORTER)
Yes, and you, too, Missus Frinzer. Good to see little Todd is back on his feet.
(To REPORTER, under his breath)
The little blighter! Got off with just a warning after he shot himself in the foot running away with the gun he stole from Charlie Powell.

REPORTER:
Yes … it’s a … whole … different world! 

(Glancing at what he’d just written in his notebook)
So, Jinkins and Son law firm contacted you about Fanny’s will?

MAPLES:
Right. You could have bowled me over with a feather. Fanny told me about the codicil she added to her will the first day you interviewed her. It had the instructions to notify you if—when she died.

REPORTER:
(Looking straight ahead, speaking in low tones to those who were with him during his interview)
It had never struck me with such force before, until just now, how desperately Miss Fanny needed to unburden herself of her past and carry the responsibility forward, even past her death, to bring the story to a conclusion. 
(Beat)
You know … I wonder if her father—if he had not died so suddenly—would have been as bedeviled as Miss Fanny to have his story told to the end.

MAPLES:
Her father?

REPORTER:
(To MAPLES)
Sorry, I let my mind ramble on past where it should have stopped. Tell me, though, Mister Maples … there was a poem Miss Fanny told me to ask you about.

MAPLES:
The poem, yes. It was one of the three things included in the rather well-stuffed envelope given me at the reading. It included … the poem, of course, and then a rather odd sheet with sums written on it.

REPORTER:
You mean like a statement of accounts?

MAPLES:
You know of it?

REPORTER:
There was another one, I think like the one you received. Only it ended with the purchase of “Li’l Liz” the gun that Miss Juniper used to kill Thurston Flourney with. After the cost of the gun was deducted it left a balance … of …

(Looking at his notebook)
$11, 641.10. 

MAPLES:
That was the balance on the sheet I received. I know because I added up the currency in the envelope which accounted for its bulge. There were eleven one-thousand-dollar notes—I had to verify their legality at the Brady Bank—a five-hundred-dollar note, a one-hundred-dollar note, two twenties, and a one. Then … tucked into the corner was a dime.

(Glancing to his right, then under his breath)
I was afraid this would happen. What a poor advertisement for his calling.
(To someone approaching)
Pastor Rabbins …

PASTOR RABBINS:
(Voice only … coldly)
Thomas … I’m not happy. We’ll talk.

MAPLES:
(To REPORTER)
Okay ... where were we …? Oh, yes, the money matched the balance sheet.

REPORTER:
Sorry about that with the … Pastor … Um … did you—I don’t suppose you have that balance sheet with you today? 

MAPLES:
Oh, no … It needed to stay with the currency, and I didn’t think it was prudent to bring that much money—

REPORTER:
Of course not. But do you recall the entries on that sheet?

MAPLES:
The only one that Fanny entered was the cost of the plot, the burial, and the marker for Thurston Flourney.

REPORTER:
Say again!—for Thurston Flourney?!

MAPLES:
(Nodding rapidly, eyes wide, a smile)
Yes! Yes! Thurston Flourney! One hundred and fifty dollars. The balance brought down … eleven-thousand, four-hundred and …
(scrunches his face in concentration)
ninety-one dollars … and a dime.

REPORTER:
And that's it. Well … I’ll be!

MAPLES:
Truth be told, there was another deduction of two-thousand, two-hundred dollars, but it was only entered as miscellaneous.

REPORTER:
What? Miscellaneous? What?

MAPLES:
It was a complicated undertaking, and it wasn't part of Juniper's original plan for the use of the money, which had ended with the marker.
(Scratching his head)
I don't think Fanny ever cleared it with Juniper who was, of course, in prison. She worked through me ... and I made all the arrangements.

REPORTER:
(Showing signs of impatience)
What was it, then?

MAPLES:
(Chuckling)

You should know Fanny better than that! The entertainer that she was ... she'd want you to wait for the big reveal.

REPORTER:
It was enough of a reveal when you told me Juniper's fund paid for the marker and plot for the scoundrel her Juni had murdered.

MAPLES:
Turns out Thurston Flourney had no living relatives at the time of his death. He had been a fairly well-to-do man, but all his money stayed with his cattle ranch. He was a miser and treated his ranch hands poorly. He was so disliked by the people of Brady, generally, because of his business dealings—and his employees specifically—that Juniper’s attorney said at her trial, that if
she hadn’t killed him first someone else would likely have preempted her.

REPORTER:
Not a good defense statement.

MAPLES:
There
was no defense. She knew she was guilty. All her defense attorney tried to do was to keep Juniper from the gallows. To get her a life sentence.
(Beat)
Anyway, after a lot of finagling, our Miss Fanny arranged, anonymously, to pay for Thurston Flourney’s burial—done without fanfare, of course—and for the small marker …. A hundred and fifty dollars. On the sheet.

REPORTER:
Here? He’s here in the Brady cemetery?

MAPLES:
Yep.

REPORTER:
I need to see that.

MAPLES:
(Smiling)
I’m sure Fanny knew you would.

END OF PART I OF THE EPILOGUE

 

 



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SUMMARY OF THE CLOSING SCENE:

With the three-day interview at its close, and the sound of the train whistle moaning in the background, Fanny attempts to rise to give the reporter a hug but slumps back to her rocker. She pooh-poohs his concern and he reluctantly leaves. Sitting there alone, she begins to get agitated, glancing about the porch, talking in disjointed sentences until her chin slowly dips to her chest, and her open eyes are staring at the floor. At this point, Juniper, dressed in a white gown ascends the steps, stoops to her knees before Fanny, and puts her head in Fanny's lap. THE CURTAIN.

I hope you enjoyed your time with The Incredible Fanny Barnwarmer. I'm confident you'll find the three-scene epilogue satisfying as well.
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