February 28 & March 1: CPR Quartet, Part Three
EC70, Eloise, a little older
HB84, a quiet, canny woman, early forties
CSIS Agent A
CSIS Agent B
CPR Quartet, Part Three: Non-Contradiction
A chair sits on the tracks. Eloise, wearing a grey jumpsuit labelled EC70, sits in it. A light snaps on from offstage, like the huge headlight of a train, illuminating her from the side.
EC70: You wouldn’t think it, given where things have ended up, but I used to like trains. In particular I always loved the story that the first time the Lumiere brothers screened their film “L’arrive d’un train en gare”, that people were so sure it was a real train that they panicked and fled the theatre. That probably didn’t happen. I like to think people are smart enough to tell the difference between the picture of a train and a train. (Beat. She looks at herself.) Then again.
Further up the tracks, in the darker patch, HB84 is also sitting in a chair. CSIS Agents A & B circle her.
CSIS Agent A: So you’re claiming that you know nothing about the derailment of CP 842?
HB84: Nothing. I don’t know anything about trains.
CSIS Agent B: But you did have a plot in the Hemlock Community Garden, didn’t you?
EC70: I used to take the VIA rail to Ottawa, the AMTRAK to Seattle and Portland. Press my face against the glass and watch the world fly by. I really got it, you know, the romance of the railroad.
HB84: What does that have to do with anything?
CSIS Agent A: And you participated in anti-corporate protests to prevent the bulldozing of the gardens?
HB84: I brought watermelon slices for a block party.
CSIS Agent B: You have an affiliation.
HB84: No. I had a watermelon.
EC70: You know, I even kind of liked Atlas Shrugged- even though Ayn Rand is pretty much a jerk- because I love the idea of the railroads. The lifeblood of industry, back when industry was really about the human spirit- if industry was ever about the human spirit. But that idea, this woman, fighting so hard to keep her railroad alive, because that was how she could make the world a better place? Man, I loved her, and I loved her railroad.
CSIS Agent A: You are aware that the gardens were implicated in a number of terrorist threats. Threats including murder.
HB84: That was about a dog!
CSIS Agent B: Not according to your manifesto.
CSIS Agent A: An online video called C-P-R-A-P.
HB84: Oh god. Do you mean the rap video?
EC70: But if you think about it, there was always another side to railroads. All those stories about them running people off their land. All those women tied to the tracks. All those stories about ‘bomb-trains’ carrying oil on decaying infrastructure. I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised.
CSIS Agent A: Sure. It’s all fun and games until someone tampers with the tracks and causes a major derailment in a densely populated area.
HB84: No one from the gardens would have done that. Most of us live in that area.
CSIS Agent B: CPR is alleging that the damage was not typical of railroad wear-and-tear. That someone must have tampered with the tracks. And community gardeners are essentially one step away from environmental activists, and this government considers any environmental or anti-corporate action terrorism.
CSIS Agent A: Which is great for us, since that means you don’t so much have rights anymore. Takes a lot of the pressure off. We can spend days on you alone, before we even start with your friends.
EC70: I didn’t even really feel that strongly about the gardens, you know. I just thought it was too bad. But then the railroad guys started acting like bullies and no one seemed to care, and I got so mad. Not mad enough to derail a train, mind you. But mad enough to spray paint a wall. “There’s a special place in hell for the assholes who bulldoze gardens.” Didn’t think that would get anyone in trouble but me. And yeah, maybe I did notice that the tracks were decaying- but they’d been decaying for awhile. We built gardens over them. You’d think, if they were going to run trains again, they’d have to repair them properly. I mean, if they were going to do all that damage the least they could do was make sure the trains run properly. Right? Right? (Beat. From the distance comes the long, lonely sound of a train whistle.) You know. I really used to like trains.
The light goes out.