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Deborah Bloodworth

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Stories From Bermuda
By Deborah Bloodworth
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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I have spent half my life on the island of Bermuda. These are the beginnings of tales spun by locals that I befriended.

Opening of Programme

In the early hours of March 23rd, 1603, Queen Elizabeth lay dying. Over a century had passed since the first English crossing of the Atlantic. Yet, despite the prowess of her sea captains and the superiority of her ships, England had still not established a permanent settlement in the New World.

It was not until 1607 that a permanent settlement was founded on the James River in Virginia. The expedition was financed by the Virginia Co. of London. Within the first few years, however, the infant colony was all but destroyed by disease, Indian attacks and starvation. Some historians even theorize that there was some kind of dissension among the settlers and they
were actually killing each other. In either case, the mortality rate was appalling.


In response to their desperate state of affairs, a relief fleet was
dispatched to the colony in 1609. Six hundred colonists were to embark in nine of Queen Elizabeth's finest vessels under the watchful command of her most experienced sea captains. The 'Sea Venture: 'Blessing: 'Diamond: 'Unitie', 'Falcon: 'Lion: 'Virginia: 'Swallow' and 'Catch' set sail for the New World.


Whether by fate or chance, Bermuda was now to be inhabited and to be called by many, home.

PROLOGUE

INT. PUB

A single SPOTLIGHT shines on a female tourist standing in the
middle of the stage.


 

TOURIST
To ask if one believes in gypsies is like asking
if one believes in fairies.
In ghosts.
Santa Claus.


Or even love itself.
When do we stop believing?
Begin ignoring the unknown?
Lose our curiosity and hide behind the auspices
of security?


I met a gypsy on this island
Hailed to be from Kent.
Milk chocolate skin,
Brown saucers for eyes.


He said he was left on this island by his tribe.
He was eight then.
The colour of his skin made it dangerous for him
to continue his journey.


He became a glass blower.
Intricate craftsmanship.
Beautiful sculptures dancing with
The most vibrant hues.


The gypsy is colour blind.
Could we all be so lucky?


She smiles.

TOURIST
"Human beings love each other. And they cherish
other human beings. Plants. Animals. Places.
Even stones. The quest for happiness and the
promotion OF happiness is in all these things.
That and the power of imagination."


Bermuda is full of rich history and wonderful
stories. But if you, as our guests, choose not
to believe, to see ...we'll understand.
(pause)
Even so, it is here we begin our mutual journey.


SPOTLIGHT FADES.
SCENE 1.


Through the darkness, hearty laughter is heard. Glasses
clank and we hear banging on the tables. It is a somewhat
tribal chorus, the sound of joyous people. They begin to
sing "Rowdy Sea Shanty".


CHORUS
Safe and sound at home again
Let the waters roar George
Safe and sound at home again
Let the waters roar George


Oh, long we've tossed on the rolling Maine
Now we're safe ashore George
Don't forget your old shipmates
Rolly, rolly, roily rido


We've worked the self-same guns
Water, deck division
Took our mate's extended watch
Through the whole commotion


Safe and sound at home again
Let the waters roar George
Safe and sound at home again
Let the waters roar George


The LIGHTS COME UP on the BARTENDER as the voices fade out.
He continues to sing, as he cleans his bar. The tables on
the stage remain in very low light, their occupants frozen in
time.


A LOUD CRACK of lighting and the BOOM of thunder roars as the
TOURIST enters the bar, drenched and seeking shelter from the
storm. The LIGHTS BRIGHTEN as she removes her scooter helmet
and she looks around the bar.


BARTENDER
(in thick Bermudian dialect)
Cheekum girl, you're soakin' vet!


TOURIST
(laughing)
Yeah, I got caught in the storm.


BARTENDER
(smiling incredulously)
You call this a storm, do ya?


They stare at each other a moment, locked in one another's
gaze. He helps her out of her rain jacket and walks behind
the bar.


BARTENDER
How bout something hot to drink?


TOURIST
I didn't think you'd be open.


BARTENDER
We aren't.


She looks at him, strangely. He smiles.

BARTENDER
Have a seat, pretty, it's no affert.


TOURIST
Thank you, I'd love some ...


She scans the bar and looks back to the BARTENDER.

TOURIST
Coffee?


BARTENDER
Comin' right up.


He gets a mug and spoon and pours her coffee.

BARTENDER
Urn,urn, this your first visit to Bermewder?


TOURIST
Sort of, my fist time back since I was a child.


RAIN BEATS DOWN on the roof.

TOURIST
Why did you ask if I called this a storm?


A SCOTTISH WAITRESS enters and slams down a tray full of half
empty salt shakers.


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Bollocksl These salt shakers are half empty and
the coffee pots are filthy ...again!


BARTENDER
Easy girl: we have a visitor. Got caught In the
storm.


He hands the TOURIST a bar towel to dry off with.

SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Ya call this a storm, do ya?


TOURIST
(as she dries off)
Why does everyone keep saying that?


BARTENDER
Offer the lady a scone.


The SCOTTISH WAITRESS grabs a plate, throws a scone on it,
pushes it in front of the TOURIST and begins to fill the salt
shakers. The BARTENDER leans in towards the TOURIST.


BARTENDER
You know what Cap't. Somers used to ask his
mates?


TOURIST
Captain who?


BARTENDER
(ignoring the question)
If you saw two weevils make their way out of
that biscuit in front of you, which would you
choose? The larger one or the smaller one?


TOURIST
Neither. And I think I'd skip breakfast.


BARTENDER
No dear, if you were in a situation where you
were forced to choose. Which one would it be?


TOURIST
I don't know. I guess ...the bigger one?


BARTENDER
(starts to giggle)
No dear, don't ya know ...one should always
choose the lesser of two weevils.


The SCOTTISH WAITRESS mouths his words as if she hears this joke a million times a day. The BARTENDER laughs out loud at himself. As he realizes that he is the only one laughing he glances at the WAITRESS who has been spilling salt as she
fills the shakers and tossing it over her shoulder every time
she does, for luck.


BARTENDER
Jeez girl, there's more salt on the floor than
in the shakers!


He exits, upset that nobody laughed at his joke.

SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Spilled salt, it's bad luck, ya know!


She begins to put the lids on the shakers and place them all
along the bar.


TOURIST
Are you Scottish?


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Yes. Haven't been home in fourteen years
though.


TOURIST
You've been on the island all that time?


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
No. Been allover really.
(She pauses to think)
But, I know all about bad luck. Three days
after I got here, Fabian hit.


TOURIST
Who's Fabian?


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
No. Not who, love, what.


The TOURIST looks quizzically at her.

SCOTTISH WAITRESS
They say it was the worst hurricane in fifty
years. Category three. Fabian, they called it,
though I still don't understand why they name
'em. Winds up to 120 miles per hour, faster
than my scooter for sure. So I stayed horne.
I'll never forget it as long as I live.


Now mark you, I arrived on a Tuesday. Tuesday,
September 2nd. It was a tropical paradise,
beyond my wildest dreams.


She begins to wipe down the glassware.

SCOTTISH WAITRESS
I got me a job here the very next day. Everyone
is buzzing about a storm, but I pay no mind.
Where I'm from, we're used to the rain and the
har.


But the old timers here, they're whisperin'
about the shark oil being cloudy.


TOURIST
Shark oil?


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Yeah, real sea faring folk. Fishermen and the
like. They take shark oil, see, and place it in
a glass vial, hang it outdoors. Claim that if
the clear stuff remains separate from the white
stuff ...


She makes herself a cup of coffee, pours cream in it and
stirs it.


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Like the cream rising from the milk.
(pause)
Well, then the weather will be fine. But if
it's cloudy ...


She slams her spoon on the counter.

SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Trouble.


She considers her memory for a moment and picks up a salt
shaker.


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Well, I'm filling these very shakers while I'm
listening to me customers prattle on, when one
of 'em overflows.


It being my first day on the job and all, I
didn't toss the salt.
(she leans in towards the TOURIST)
By morning, I got this funny feeling in me
bones.


BARTENDER
(yelling from the back)
You and your silly superstitions voman!


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Silly superstitions my ...!
(to the Tourist)
Thinks he knows everything. By Thursday, the
air started to smell all funny, like fear
itself, I tell ya. And it grew thick, like you
could write your own name in it.


Everybody went home. My roommate, Lena, she's
the one got me hired here, said we had to 'get
ready' .


So we went about taping up the windows and
putting in cardboard and plastic in case they
should break. We filled countless buckets, plus
the tub and sinks with water.
It didn't take long before we lost power.
She leans In close to the TOURIST for a moment.


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Then it hit!
(as she bangs glasses onto the shelves)
I think it was the noise I wasn't prepared for.
Around five o'clock, the roof blew off.
(pause)
The roof blew off. Like some crazed bird
fleeing it's nest. I remember, Lena was as
close to me as that bar stool and I couldn't
hear a word she was sayin'. We just kept
screaming at each other.
I couldn't believe me own eyes.
Then it just stopped. The eye of the storm,
they called it. I just walked outside, didn't
know any better. Roads were turned up, houses
destroyed, some of the beaches even disappeared.


The biggest loss was four poor souls on the
causeway. A civilian and three police officers
who were try in , to save 'ern,against their
Sargent's orders no less. Most called em foolish,
but if you were to ask me, that's bravery. REAL BRAVERY.

Then there were these other blokes, father and
son no less. They were worried about their
boat, well not their boat, per se. See, they
had built it themselves, with their own bare
hands, mind you, so they knew how strong she
was.

They knew she would survive.
But they were actually worried about the other
boats, the ones who couldn't survive her wake.
She would have bashed them to pieces.
Well, the missus is scared to death, beggin' 'ern
not to go and cupping down a few sips to 'steady
her nerves' see, because she knew they were
going anyway.
So this father and son, they put on their
slickers and goulashes, or 'foul weather gear' ,
as they call it here. Oh, and firemen's helmets!
Keep in mind there are coconuts flyin' around
over a hundred miles per hour, talk about a
headache!


Six hours it took to get the boat anchored.
But, they did it.
Missus must have been real relieved, and real
tipsy, by the time they got horne.
Takes all kinds of heroes, I guess.


TOURIST
Weren't you terrified when you realized the
storm wasn't over?


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Nah, I just stood right in the middle of it that
time. You see, where I corne from, I knew I'd
never experience anything like that ever again.


The BARTENDER returns.

BARTENDER
You talkin' bout the storm?


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Not your storm.


BARTENDER
Girl, there was no other storm. Not like that
one. You go on and see to your shakers.


She makes one last toss over the shoulder, hitting BARTENDER
in the face with salt before exiting. The TOURIST giggles
and the BARTENDER offers her a refill.


TOURIST
So what great storm is this?


BARTENDER
(He pauses and looks at the TOURIST)
Urn, urn, you Americans know all about Jamestown.
But, did you know that when they were dyin' like
flies, the Queen herself dispatched a relief
fleet. It was 1609. Six hundred men, in nine
vessels, the Queen's elite captains, ya see and
only her most famous ships. It was the second
of June ...the 'Blessing', 'Diamond', 'Unitie',
'Falcon', 'Lion', 'Swallow', 'Virginia', 'Catch'
and the flagship, 'Sea Venture' ...set sail for
the New World.


LIGHTS DIM on the TOURIST and BARTENDER. A match is struck
at one of the tables and the CAPTAIN of the Sea Venture
lights a candle and begins to write.


CAPTAIN
Upon Friday late in the evening we break ground
out of the Sound of Plymouth, our whole fleete
then consisting of seven goode ships and two
pinnaces ...


LIGHTS UP on BARTENDER and TOURIST. The BARTENDER smiles.

BARTENDER
(to TOURIST)
Them's are smaller boats.



The CAPTAIN glares at the BARTENDER, who mimes the motion of tipping his hat at the CAPTAIN who snuffs out the flame between his thumb and forefinger, as if to snuff out the BARTENDER. The lights brighten on the CAPTAIN now.

CAPTAIN
(stands and speaks directly to the audience)
We all kept in friendly consorte together, not a
whole watch at any time losing sight of the
other. And all was well for the next seven of
weeks. The voyage, however, has been far from
pleasant, six hundred men crammed into such
small vessels and the weather showing signs of
changing for the worse. We were within seven or
eight days at the most of making Cape Henry when
on Saint James Day, his day, July 24th cloudes
gathering thicke upon us and windes singing and
whistling most unusually drew a dreadful storm
to blow most hideously from out the northeast.
Swelling and roaring as if it were by fits at
length did beete all the light from Heaven which
like a hell of darkeness turned blacke upon us.


A frantic BEATING OF DRUMS begins from off stage calling all hands to the deck.

EVERYONE
(overlapping the CAPTAIN)
Mr. Ives, strike the bell if you please!
Stand ready mates!
Clear away!
Mr. Divall lower the boats if you please!
All hands about the ship!
Come up on the wind!
Hold steady boys!
Hold your positions!
Starboard bow ahoy!
Quickly mates, quickly!
It'll be alright Captain Somers, hold fast!


LIGHTS UP on BARTENDER and TOURIST. {Throughout the story of
the storm, there will be softer shouts and cries from the
actors.}


BARTENDER
You see, this was no ordinary gale, my dear.
The Sea Venture was ripped from the rest of her
fleet ...
(pause)
In the tail of the hurricane.


CAPTAIN
(climbing up on the table)
For foure and twenty houres the storme in a
restlesse tumult, had blowne so exceedingly,
that six and sometimes eight men were not enough
to hold the whipstaffe. It could not be said to
raine: the waters like whole rivers did flood in
the air. Windes and seas were as mad as fury
and rage could make them ...I had been in some
storms before ...yet all that I had ever suffered
gathered together might not hold comparison.


BARTENDER
The ship was leaking badly now. The stress on
her hull was opening the seams between the
planks and before long there was several feet of
water in the hold. Sea Venture was sinking.
The entire company was pressed into backbreaking
service and for three and a half days
they pumped and bailed for their lives. Now on
the forth morning, the company was resigned to
inevitable death by drowning. It was at this
moment that Sir George Somers cried ...


CAPTAIN
LAND!


BARTENDER
Somers knew well where they were, but when it
became apparent to the ordinary seamen, their
bliss turned to fear. For these were the
dreaded Bermudas. Known as the Isle of Devils.


TOURIST
Island of Devils?


BARTENDER
Aye, inhabited by demons and evil spirits and
were avoided by any mariner.


CAPTAIN
As they would shun the Devil himself. We were
violently carried betwixt two rocks and there
stuck fast. The shyp being thus luckedly lodged
and lieing upright the wind suddenly gave waye
to a calm so that with great conveniencye and
ease we unshypped all goods, victuals and
persons and to their utmost arnazednesse all
arrived in safetye to the shore without losse of
anythinge save the shyp only.


BARTENDER
Saved the two cats and the dog was on board too.


He 'tips his hat' once more to the CAPTAIN, who salutes him in return, as if exhausted and allowing the BARTENDER to continue.

BARTENDER
They found in the next few days that there was
food in abundance and the climate, quite
agreeable. In fact, the island turned out to
be ...


BARTENDER/CAPTAIN
'Bothe the place of safetie and meanes of our Deliverance! '


The LIGHTS FADE on the CAPTAIN as he rests on his chair.

TOURIST
(excitedly)
What happened next?


BARTENDER
(chuckling at her enthusiasm)
Well, my dear, they quickly found the island
supple with cedar, an ideal wood for ship
building. And so, they went about their work.
Now, Captain Somers, realizing that one vessel
would not accommodate everyone, began the task
of building another pinnace.


TOURIST
(smiling)
A smaller boat.


BARTENDER
Yes love. And on launching, the larger ship was
christened ...


He leans in towards the TOURIST.

TOURIST
The 'Deliverance'?!


BARTENDER
Very good my dear, the 'Deliverance'. And the
smaller ship, built by the captains own hands,
was called, 'Patience'. They say there was so
much of his blood in the woodwork, she was
practically a relation.


TOURIST
Wait a minute, hold on ...this reminds me of
something.
(pause)
'The Tempest'! Shakespeare's 'Tempest'! The
hurricane, ship wreck, beautiful island
paradise ...


BARTENDER
Yes.


TOURIST
All that's missing is Calaban.


BARTENDER
(laughing)
Wait till you meet my brother.
She laughs.


BARTENDER
You're spot on, dear. They set sail on May
10th, 1610 ...10 months after they had arrived.
Now mind you, arrywun in London had taken them
for dead, thought they had lost their lives in
the storm. So when they got home full of
stories about the wreck, the island and all
their adventures, it spread through the city
like vild fire on a vindy night. Less than a
year later, 'The Tempest' was born.


TOURIST
So they gave up Jamestown to colonize here?


BARTENDER
Something like that. Actually, one ship went on
to Jamestown, the other to London.


The SCOTTISH WAITRESS re-enters.

SCOTTISH WAITRESS
Yeah, and three blokes ended up staying behind,
fighting over ambergris.


TOURIST
Ambergris?


BARTENDER
Whale oil. A very valuable commodity. In those
days, you couldn't make perfume without it.


SCOTTISH WAITRESS
And believe you me, those three ...


The BARTENDER turns her around and smacks her on the bottom,
sending her into the kitchen. He begins to,
enthusiastically, make himself a hearty fish sandwich.


BARTENDER
The ambergris aside, they found food in
abundance. Fish, 'fat and wholesome', wild
hogs, 'well fed with berries', turtles with oil,
'as sweet as any butter', eggs, 'sweeter than
any hen egg', sea birds, 'tender and well
relished', and a kind of palmetto leaf, 'far
tastier than the head of any cabbage'.


As he finishes making his sandwich, he cuts it in two and
gives the TOURIST half of it. She greedily digs in.


BARTENDER
Well, based on the glorious stories taken back
to Her Majesty of the island's beauty and the
rich and abundant sources of food and wood, the
Crown decided to colonize.


The BARTENDER takes a big bite of his sandwich and offers the
TOURIST a re-fill on her coffee.


TOURIST
Tell me more and make this a hot buttered rum.


BARTENDER grabs a bottle of Gosling's Blackseal Rum and
smiles.


ANOTHER HISTORY COMMENCES, FOLLOWED BY EIGHT MORE.

EPILOGUE

The TOURIST steps into the light.

TOURIST
(to the audience)
For those who live on this lovely island, or for
those who visit Bermuda today, it is perhaps
hard to imagine that it has ever been anything
different.


That it has ever been anything other than it lS.
Enticing stretches of pink sand, immaculate
gardens, pastel homes with bright colored
shutters, paved roads traveled by shiny cycles.
Yet, how often do we muse over what life was
like 100 ...200 ...300 ...400 ...or even 500 years
ago. A time when paved roads were merely sandy
lanes, traveled by horse drawn carriages and
parishes were but a smattering of humble
cottages across craggy coral cliffs.


We are so lucky, don't you think, that the
history and the stories of this beautiful island
have been preserved by her people.


If you would allow me to bend your ear, only a
moment longer, before we say good night, I would
like to share with you one last story.


A young girl comes into the light.

TOURIST
Her name was Rosabelle Hollis, a young Bermudian
girl whose parents were of sea faring families.


ROSABELLE
June 23rd, 1867. I intend in my diary to report
no remarkable qualifications unless, of course,
it be joking or flirting with boys. As I have
seen no boys today, (she curtsies) no attractive
boys, that is, I will share a song instead.
She straightens herself up and smooths her hair.


ROSABELLE
Memories of Bailey's Bay.


{This is a poem which has been set to a ballad}

ROSABELLE
Once upon a time, long, long ago,
When I was young and gay,
I lived for three whole happy years
In quiet Bailey's Bay.


Not really in the bay, you know,
But somewhere near the shore,
Where fishermen bring in their boats
Far from the breakers' roar.


It was and is, a lovely spot
Low hills all dressed in green,
And coyly peeping through the trees
White houses can be seen.
The people, sociable and kind,
Were nice as they could be,
And I just loved dear Bailey's Bay
And our house by the sea.


Nicknames were quaint and plentiful,
When I was young and gay,
And I just reveled in the names
I heard in Bailey's Bay.


Bush Benjie was a tall thin man,
I saw him only once
But I knew him from his bushy brows,
For I was not a dunce.


Backstay, Dick Turpin, Commodore,
Shark, pirate, Neighbour Jack,
Are names I see in memory's book
Sometimes when I look back.


All these and others that I knew
Long since have passed away,
But fishermen still bring their boats
For shelter in the bay.


As she finishes and curtsies, the TOURIST steps into the
light with her.


TOURIST
We all, from time to time, feel lost at sea.
And then suddenly, miraculously we are spat out
like a cork in celebration and given new life.
Perhaps our worlds are not so far apart.


The TOURIST takes ROSABELLE'S hand and they exit straight
upstage.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 


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Reviewed by Felix Perry 7/25/2007
Bravo, bravo, bravo
Take a dozen roses and a standing ovation for this play Deborah. As an old sailor and lover of the sea and stories of history past I truly enjoyed this write. With a perfect blend of drama, humour, and history and stunning characters it kept me enthralled from beginning to end.

Felix L. Perry


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