BIG DADDY. (Crosses to Above Brick, at his R.) Look, Brick, I can understand, I can understand anything. Christ! The year I came here, in 1910, I wore my shoes through, hocked my gear, hopped off a yellow dog freight car half a mile down th’ road, slep in a wagon of cotton outside th’ gin—Jack Straw an’ Peter Ochello took me in, hired me to manage this palce, which grew into this one—when Jack Straw died, why, old Peter Ochello quit eatin’ like a dog does when it’s master’s dead, an’ died, too!
BIG DADDY. I’m just sayin’ I understand such—
BRICK. Skipper is dead—I have not quit eatin’!
BIG DADDY. No, but you started drinkin’.
BRICK. (Whirls on him.) YOU THINK SO, TOO! (Circles above Big Daddy to his R.) You think me an’ Skipper did, did, did—sodomy—together?
BIG DADDY. (Turning to Brick.) Hold—
BRICK. That what you–?
BIG DADDY. –ON—a minute!
BRICK. You think we did dirty things between us, Skipper an’—
BIG DADDY. Who are you shoutin’ like that? Why are you—
BRICK. – me, is that what you think of Skipper, is that—
BIG DADDY. – so excited? I don’t think nothin’. I don’t know nothin’. I’m simply telling you what—
BRICK. You think Skipper an’ me were a pair of dirty ole men?
BIG DADDY. Now that’s—
BRICK. Straw? Ochello? A couple of—
BIG DADDY. Now just—
BRICK. –duckin’ sissies? Queers? Is that what–? (Strikes out at Big Daddy).
BIG DADDY. Take it easy, son.
BRICK. – think? (Brick loses his balance, stumbles against Big daddy, his face averted.)
BIG DADDY. Jesus! Whew! Grab my hand!
BRICK. (Turns, starts for bed.) Naw—I don’t want your hand! (Falls head down across L. side of bed.)
BIG DADDY (Crossed below Brick to below bed, leans over, touching Brick’s shoulder.) Well, I want yours. Git up. You broken out in a sweat!! You’re pantin’ like you run a mile— (Sits at Brick’s R. on foot of bed.)
BRICK. (Gradually raising himself.) Big Daddy, you shock me, Big Daddy you, you—shock me! Talkin’ so—casually—about a thing—like that. Don’t you know how people feel about things like that? How, how disgusted they are bythings like that? Why, at Ole Miss, when it was discovered that a pledge in our fraternity, Skipper an’ mine, did a, attempted to do a —unnatural thing with— We not only dropped him like a hot rock, we told him to git off the campus, an’ he did, he got!—all the way to—
BIG DADDY. Where?
BRICK. North Africa, last I heard!
BIG DADDY. Well, I have come back from further away than that, I just now returned from the other side of the moon, death’s country, son, an’ I’m not easy to shock by anything here. Always, anyhow, lived with too much space around me to be infected by th’ ideas of other people. One thing you can grow on a big place more important than cotton—is tolerance! I grown it.
BRICK. (Sitting up, recovering crutch.) Why can’t exceptional friendship, real, real, deep, deep, friendship between two men be respected as somethin’ clean an’ decent without bein’ thought of as—fairies!
BIG DADDY. It can, it is, for God’s sake. I told Mae an’ Gooper—
BRICK. To hell with Mae an’ Gooper! (Rises, crosses D. S.) To hell with all dirty lies an’ liars! Skipper an’ me had a clean, true thing between us, had a clean friendship practically all our lives, till Maggie got the idea you’re talkin’ about. Normal? NO. It was too rare to be normal, any true thing between two people is too rare to be normal. Oh, once in a while he put his hand on my shoulder or I’d put mine on his, oh, maybe even when we were toruin’ the country in pro football an’ sharin’ hotel rooms, we’d reach across the space between th’- two beds an’ shake hands to say good night, yeah, one or two times we—
BIG DADDY. (Circling above Brick to C.) Brick, nobody thinks that’s not normal!
BRICK. Well, they’re mistaken! It was! It was a pure an’ true thing an’ that’s not normal! (Across the horizon, a burst of fireworks. Mae and Children appear in the lawn area, U.R.)
MAE. Big Daddy, they’re startin’ the fireworks! (Mae and children run off, U. R. Shouts, whistles and applause accompany the burst of fireworks, which dies out.)
BIG DADDY. (A step to L.C.) Yeah—it’s hard t’—talk.
BRICK. All right, then—let’s let it go.
BIG DADDY. No, sir! Why did Skipper crack up? Why have you?
BRICK. (Crosses above to L.C., toward bar.) All right. You’re askin’ for it, Big Daddy. We’re finally goin’ to have that real, true talk you wanted. It’s too late to stop it now, we got to carry it through an’ cover ev’ry subject. (Fireworks reflected U.R. Cheers, whistles, etc., off U.R. Brick turns to bar, picks up bottle, puts it down, turns to Big Daddy.) Maggie declares that Skipper an’ I went into pro football after we left Ole Miss because we were scared to grow up, wanted to keep on tossin’ those long, long, high, high passes that couldn’t be intercepted except by time, th’ aerial attack that made us famous! An’ so we did, we did, we kept it up for one season, that aerial attack, we held it high! Yeah, but—that summer Maggie, she laid down the law to me– ( Crosses D.L.C. to front.) said now or never, and so I married Maggie.
BIG DADDY. How was Maggie in bed?
BRICK. Great! She went on the road that Fall with th’ Dixie Stars. Oh, she made a great show of bein’ the world’s best sport. She wore a tall bearskin cap! (Fireworks reflected U.R. Cheers, whistles, etc., off U.R.) A shake, they call it, a dyed moleskin coat, a moleskin coat dyed red. Cut up crazy! Rented hotel ball rooms for victory celebrations, wouldn’t cancel ‘em when it turned out—defeat. MAGGIE TH’ CAT! But, Skipper, he had some fever which came back on him which the doctors couldn’t explain, an’ I got that injury—turned out to be just a shadow on th’ X-ray plate, an’ a touch of bursitis. I lay in a hospital bed, watched out games on TV, saw Maggie on the bench next to Skipper when he was hauled out of the game for stumbles, fumbles!—burned me up the way she hung on his arm! Y’ know I think that Maggie had always felt sort of left out, so she took this time to work on poor dumb Skipper! Poured in his mind the dirty, false idea that what we were, him an’ me was a frustrated case of that ole pair of sisters that lived in this room, Jack Straw an’ Peter Ochello! He, poor Skipper, went to bed with Maggie to prove it wasn’t true, an’ when it didn’t work out, he thought it was true! Skipper broke in two like a rotten stick—nobody ever turned so fast into a lust—or died of it so quick. Now—are you satisfied?
BIG DADDY. Are you satisfied?
BRICK. With what?
BIG DADDY. That story.
BRICK. What’s wrong with it? (Off L. Phone rings.)
BIG DADDY. Not completed. Something’s left out—( Off L. Phone rings.) What did you leave out?
GOOPER. (Off L.) Speaking.) Hello—
BRICK. Yes, I left out a long distance phone call which I had from Skipper—
GOOPER. (Off L.) Speaking. Go ahead—
BRICK. – in which he made a drunken confession to me a’ on which I hung up.
GOOPER. (Off L.) No.
BRICK. Last time we spoke to each other in our lives.
GOOPER. (Off L.) No, sir.
BIG DADDY. (Crosses toward Brick.) You musta said somethin’ to him before you hung up.
BRICK. What could I say to him?
BIG DADDY. Anything! —something!
BIG DADDY. You just hung up?
BRICK. Just hung up.
BIG DADDY. Uh-huh. (Brick turns U.S., Big Daddy crosses to above Brick, then to Brick’s R., as Brick turns D.S.) Anyhow now we have tracked down the lie with which you’re disgusted an’ which you are drinkin’ to kill your disgust with. It wasn’t Maggie. Maggie, nothin’! It was you! You been passin’ the buck. This disgust with mendacity is disgust with yourself you dug the grave of your friend an’ kicked him in it!—before you’d face truth with him!
BRICK. (Turns to Big Daddy.) His truth, not mine!
BIG DADDY. His truth, okay, but you wouldn’t face it with him!
BRICK. Who can face the truth? Can you?
BIG DADDY. Now don’t start passin’ th’ rotten buck again, boy!
BRICK. How about these birthday congratulations, these many, many happy returns of th’ day, when ev’rybody but you knows there won’t be any! (Pause.) Let’s—let’s go out now, let’s go out now, let’s go out now an’ watch the fireworks. (Slaps himself, starts through C. to R.) Come on, Big Daddy—
BIG DADDY. Oh, no! No one’s goin’ out! What did you start to say?
BRICK. (At R. gallery good.) I don’t remember—
BIG DADDY. Many happy returns—
BRICK. Aw, hell, Big Daddy—
BIG DADDY. When there won’t be any–?
BRICK. Forget it. Come on out on the gall’ry an’ look at th’ fireworks they’re shootin’ off for your birthday.
BIG DADDY. First, you finish that remark you were makin’.
BRICK. Look, now, Big Daddy—
BIG DADDY. FINISH! FINISH WHAT YOU WAS SAYIN’!
BRICK. Leave th’ place to Gooper an’ Mae an’ their five little same monkeys. All I want is—
BIG DADDY. LEAVE TH’ PLACE—did you say?
BRICK. All 28,000 acres of th’ richest land this side of th’ Valley Nile.
BIG DADDY. Who said I was leavin’ the place to Gooper of anybody? This is my sixty-fifth birthday. I got fifteen, twenty years left in me! I’ll outlive you! I’ll bury you! I’ll buy your coffin!
BRICK. Sure. Many happy returns. Now let’s go watch the fireworks, come on, let’s—
BIG DADY. Brick, have they been lyin’? About the rrport from th’ clinic? Did they—did they find
— somethin’? Cancer—maybe?
BRICK. Mendacity is a system that we live in. (Off R. the field hands commence singing. Song continues until Curtain. Mae and Gooper hurry into lawn area, U.R.)
MAE. Oh, Big Daddy, the field hands are singin’ fo’ you!
GOOPER. Field hands singin’ fo’ you, sir. (Mae and Gooper hurry out, U.R. Big Daddy stands transfixed, D.L.C. Brick hobbles to him.)
BRICK. I’m sorry, Big Daddy. My head don’t work any more. Maybe it’s bein’ alive that makes people lie, an’ bein’ almost not alive makes me sort of accidentally truthful. I don’t know, but anyway, we’ve been friends—an’ friends is tellin’ each other th’ truth. You told me! I told you! (Drops his head against Big Daddy’s shoulder.)
BIG DADDY. (Shouting, suddenly.) CHRIST—DAMN—
GOOPER. (Off, U. R., managing the fireworks display.) Let—‘er go–! (Off U.R. and across the horizon, THE FIREWORKS BLAZE FURIOUSLY.)
BIG DADDY. (Crossing U.S.C., out hall door, and along R. gallery.) – DAMN ALL—LYIN’ SONS OF—LYIN’ BITCHES! YES—ALL LIARS, ALL LIARS, ALL LYIN’, DYIN’ LIARS! LYIN’—DYIN’—LIARS! LIARS! LIARS! (THE LIGHTS DIM OUT.)
By Tennessee Williams, from CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, copyright ©1954 by The University of the South. Use by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.