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FENCES Screenplay by August Wilson Based upon his play 24249 BLACK SCREEN TITLE: AUGUST WILSON’S FENCES The screen remains black. The sound of a truck rumbling along a street. Two men are heard talking: bono (v.o.): Troy, you ought to stop that lying! troy (v.o.): I ain’t lying! The nigger had a watermelon this big. Talking about . . . “What watermelon, Mr. Rand?” I like to fell out! “What watermelon, Mr. Rand?” . . . And it sitting there big as life. bono (v.o.): What did Mr. Rand say? troy (v.o.): Ain’t said nothing. Figure if the nigger too dumb to know he carrying a watermelon, he wasn’t gonna get much sense out of him. Trying to hide that great big old watermelon under his coat. Afraid to let the white man see him carry it home. 9780735217867_Fences.indd 1 11/15/16 1:50 PM a u g u s t w i l s o n 2 24249 EXT. WYLIE AVENUE, THE HILL, PITTSBURGH— EARLY SEPTEMBER—MORNING The rear of the garbage truck, god’s point of view: Troy Maxson and Jim Bono hang on to either side of the truck as it heads toward its next collection point. Troy is fifty-three years old, a large man with thick, heavy hands; it is this largeness that he strives to fill out and make an accommodation with. Together with his blackness, his largeness informs his sensibilities and the choices he has made in his life. Of the two men, Bono is obviously the follower. His commitment to their friendship of thirty odd years is rooted in his admiration of Troy’s honesty, capacity for hard work, and his strength, which Bono seeks to emulate. bono: I’m like you . . . I ain’t got no time for them kind of people. troy: Now what he look like getting mad ’cause he see the man from the union talking to Mr. Rand? bono: He come talking to me about . . . “Troy Maxson gonna get us fired.” I told him to get away from 9780735217867_Fences.indd 2 11/15/16 1:50 PM f e n c e s 3 24249 me with that. He walked away from me calling you a troublemaker. (anxious) What Mr. Rand say? troy: Ain’t said nothing. He told me to go down to the commissioner’s office next Friday. They called me down there to see them. The truck halts. Troy gets down and heads for heavy garbage cans at the curb; Bono uses Troy’s shoulder to ease himself down. bono: Well, as long as you got your complaint filed, they can’t fire you. That’s what one of them white fellows tell me. troy: I ain’t worried about them firing me. They gonna fire me ’cause I asked a question? That’s all I did. I went to Mr. Rand and asked him—“Why? Why you got the white mens driving and the colored lifting?” Told him, “What’s the matter, don’t I count?” TITLE: THE HILL, PITTSBURGH TITLE: 1957 troy: You think only white fellows got sense enough to drive a truck? That ain’t no paper job. Hell, anybody can drive a truck. How come you got all the whites driving and the coloreds lifting? The truck’s white driver watches the collectors in his side mirror. 9780735217867_Fences.indd 3 11/15/16 1:50 PM a u g u s t w i l s o n 4 24249 troy: He told me, “Take it to the union.” Well, hell, that’s what I done! Now they wanna come up with this pack of lies. bono: I told Brownie if the man come and ask him any questions . . . just tell the truth! It ain’t nothing but something they done trumped up on you ’cause you filed a complaint on them. Bono returns the last empty can. Troy climbs up on the truck. troy: Brownie don’t understand nothing. All I want them to do is change the job description. Give everybody a chance to drive the truck. Brownie can’t see that. He ain’t got that much sense. Bono in place, Troy slaps the truck. As it starts moving, Troy pulls a lever and the compactor crushes the trash. EXT. SANITATION YARD—AFTERNOON Men stream out of the yard, Troy and Bono among them. How you figure he be making out with that gal be up at Taylors’ all the time . . . that Alberta gal? troy: Who? bono: Brownie! 9780735217867_Fences.indd 4 11/15/16 1:50 PM f e n c e s 5 24249 troy: Same as you and me. He getting as much as we is. Which is to say nothing. bono: It is, huh? I figure you doing a little better than me . . . and I ain’t saying what I’m doing. troy: Aw, nigger, look here . . . I know you. If you had got anywhere near that gal, twenty minutes later you be looking to tell somebody. And the first one you gonna tell . . . that you gonna want to brag to . . . is gonna be me. bono: I ain’t saying that. I see where you be eyeing her. troy: I eye all the women. I don’t miss nothing. Don’t never let nobody tell you Troy Maxson don’t eye the women. bono: You been doing more than eyeing her. You done bought her a drink or two. troy: Hell yeah, I bought her a drink! What that mean? I bought you one, too. What that mean ’cause I buy her a drink? I’m just being polite. bono: It’s all right to buy her one drink. That’s what you call being polite. But when you wanna be buying two or three . . . that’s what you call eyeing her. troy: Look here, as long as you known me . . . you ever known me to chase after women? bono: Hell yeah! Long as I done known you. You forgetting I knew you when. 9780735217867_Fences.indd 5 11/15/16 1:50 PM a u g u s t w i l s o n 6 24249 troy: Naw, I’m talking about since I been married to Rose? bono: Oh, not since you been married to Rose. Now, that’s the truth, there. I can say that. troy: All right then! Case closed. EXT. THE HILL DISTRICT—TROY AND ROSE’S STREET—AFTERNOON Troy and Bono make their way down the street to a narrow house. A pair of lawn chairs sit on the small front porch. They take the short cut through the side alley into the back yard. It is Friday, payday, and the one night of the week the two men engage in a ritual of talk and drink. bono: I see you be walking up around Alberta’s house. You supposed to be at Taylors’ and you be walking up around there. troy: What you watching where I’m walking for? I ain’t watching after you. bono: I seen you walking around there more than once. troy: Hell, you liable to see me walking anywhere! That don’t mean nothing because you seen me walking around there. bono: Where she come from anyway? She just kinda showed up one day. 9780735217867_Fences.indd 6 11/15/16 1:50 PM f e n c e s 7 24249 troy: Tallahassee. You can look at her and tell she one of them Florida gals. They got some big healthy women down there. Grow them right up out the ground. Got a little bit of Indian in her. Most of them niggers down in Florida got some Indian in them. bono: I don’t know about that Indian part. But she damn sure big and healthy. Woman wears some big stockings. Got them great big old legs and hips as wide as the Mississippi river. troy: Legs don’t mean nothing. You don’t do nothing but push them out of the way. But them hips cushion the ride! bono: Troy, you ain’t got no sense. troy: It’s the truth! Like you riding on Goodyears! Troy cracks the seal of the bottle of gin, pours some out on the ground . . . for the folks that are long gone. EXT. TROY’S AND ROSE’S BACKYARD— AFTERNOON In the center of the yard, a large tree, two chairs beneath it. A battered baseball hangs from a rope tied to a tree limb; a big weathered bat leans against the trunk. The yard is bordered on either side by fences and houses. At the rear, 9780735217867_Fences.indd 7 11/15/16 1:50 PM a u g u s t w i l s o n 8 24249 there’s a derelict wooden house with boarded windows. The remnants of a fence are strewn between the wild lot behind the abandoned house and the Maxsons’ yard. Materials for a new fence . . . a couple of wooden sawhorses waiting for the lumber stacked under a tarp. One or two chairs of dubious value sit at one end where the kitchen window opens onto the porch. An old-fashioned ice box stands silent guard at the other end. Rose maxson comes out onto the porch, holding a bowl of snap peas. She is ten years younger than troy. Her devotion to him stems from the recognition of the possibilities of her life without him: a succession of abusive men and their babies, a life of partying and running the streets, the church, or aloneness with its attendant pain and frustration. She recognizes troy’s spirit as a fine and illuminating one and she either ignores or forgives his faults, only some of which she recognizes. Though she doesn’t drink, her presence is an integral part of the friday night rituals. 9780735217867_Fences.indd 8 11/15/16 1:50 PM f e n c e s 9 24249 rose: What you all out here getting into? troy: What you worried about what we getting into for? This is men talk, woman. rose: What I care what you talking about? Bono, you gonna stay for supper? bono: No, I thank you, Rose. But Lucille say she cooking up a pot of pigfeet. troy: Pigfeet! Hell, I’m going home with you! Might even stay the night if you got some pigfeet. You got something in there to top them pigfeet, Rose? rose: I’m cooking up some chicken. I got some chicken and collard greens. troy: Well, go on back in the house and let me and Bono finish what we was talking about. This is men talk. I got some talk for you later. You know what kind of talk I mean. Go on and powder it up. rose: Troy Maxson, don’t you start that now! troy (puts his arm around her): Aw, woman . . . come here. Look here, Bono . . . When I met this woman . . . I got out that place, say, “Hitch up my pony, saddle up my mare . . . there’s a woman out there for me somewhere. I looked here. Looked there. Saw Rose and latched on to her.” I latched on to her and told her—I’m gonna tell you the truth—I told her, “Baby, I don’t wanna marry, I just wanna be your man.” Rose told me . . . tell him what you told me, Rose. 9780735217867_Fences.indd 9 11/15/16 1:50 PM a u g u s t w i l s o n 10 24249 rose: I told him if he wasn’t the marrying kind, then move out the way so the marrying kind could find me. troy: That’s what she told me. “Nigger, you in my way. You blocking the view! Move out the way so I can find me a husband.” I thought it over two or three days. Come back— rose: Ain’t no two or three days nothing. You was back the same night. troy: Come back, told her . . . “Okay, baby . . . but I’m gonna buy me a banty rooster and put him out there in the backyard . . . and when he see a stranger come, he’ll flap his wings and crow . . .” Look here, Bono, I could watch the front door by myself . . . it was that back door I was worried about. rose: Troy, you ought not talk like that. Troy ain’t doing nothing but telling a lie. troy: Only thing is . . . when we first got married . . . forget the rooster . . . we ain’t had no yard! bono: I hear you tell it. Me and Lucille was staying down there on Logan Street. Had two rooms with the outhouse in the back. I ain’t mind the outhouse none. But when that goddamn wind blow through there in the winter . . . that’s what I’m talking about! To this day I wonder why in the hell I ever stayed down there for six long years. But see, I didn’t know I could do no better. I thought only white folks had inside toilets and things. 9780735217867_Fences.indd 10 11/15/16 1:50 PM f e n c e s 11 24249 rose: There’s a lot of people don’t know they can do no better than they doing now. That’s just something you got to learn. A lot of folks still shop at Bella’s. troy: Ain’t nothing wrong with shopping at Bella’s. She got fresh food. rose: I ain’t said nothing about if she got fresh food. I’m talking about what she charge. She charge ten cents more than the A&P. troy: The A&P ain’t never done nothing for me. I spends my money where I’m treated right. I go down to Bella, say, “I need a loaf of bread, I’ll pay you Friday.” She give it to me. What sense that make when I got money to go and spend it somewhere else and ignore the person who done right by me? That ain’t in the Bible. rose: We ain’t talking about what’s in the Bible. What sense it make to shop there when she overcharge? troy: You shop where you want to. I’ll do my shopping where the people been good to me. rose: Well, I don’t think it’s right for her to overcharge. That’s all I was saying. bono: Look here . . . I got to get on. Lucille be raising all kind of hell. troy: Where you going, nigger? We ain’t finished this pint. Come here, finish this pint. bono: Well, hell, I am . . . if you ever turn the bottle loose. 9780735217867_Fences.indd 11 11/15/16 1:50 PM a u g u s t w i l s o n 12 24249 Troy hands him the bottle. troy: The only thing I say about the A&P is I’m glad Cory got that job down there. Help him take care of his school clothes and things. Rose straightens up. Cory is a sore subject. troy: Gabe done moved out and things getting tight around here. He got that job . . . he can start to look out for himself. rose: Cory done went and got recruited by a college football team. troy: I told that boy about that football stuff. The white man ain’t gonna let him get nowhere with that football. I told him when he first come to me with it. Now you come telling me he done went and got more tied up in it. He ought to go and get recruited in how to fix cars or something where he can make a living. rose: He ain’t talking about making no living playing football. It’s just something the boys in school do. They gonna send a recruiter by to talk to you. He’ll tell you he ain’t talking about making no living playing football. It’s a honor to be recruited. troy: It ain’t gonna get him nowhere. Bono’ll tell you that. bono: If he be like you in the sports . . . he’s gonna be all right. Ain’t but two men ever played base9780735217867_Fences.indd 12 11/15/16 1:50 PM f e n c e s 13 24249 ball as good as you. That’s Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson. Them’s the only two men ever hit more home runs than you. troy: What it ever get me? Ain’t got a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. rose: Times have changed since you was playing baseball, Troy. That was before the war. Times have changed a lot since then. troy: How in hell they done changed? rose: They got lots of colored boys playing ball now. Baseball and football. bono: You right about that, Rose. Times have changed, Troy. You just come along too early. troy: There ought not never have been no time called too early! Now you take that fellow . . . what’s that fellow they had playing right field for the Yankees back then? You know who I’m talking about, Bono. Used to play right field for the Yankees. rose: Selkirk? troy: Selkirk! That’s it! Man batting .269, understand? .269. What kind of sense that make? I was hitting .432 with thirty-seven home runs! Man batting .269 and playing right field for the Yankees! I saw Josh Gibson’s daughter yesterday. She walking around with raggedy shoes on her feet. Now I bet you Selkirk’s daughter ain’t walking around with raggedy shoes on her feet! I bet you that! 9780735217867_Fences.indd 13 11/15/16 1:50 PM a u g u s t w i l s o n 14 24249 rose: They got a lot of colored baseball players now. Jackie Robinson was the first. Folks had to wait for Jackie Robinson. troy: I done seen a hundred niggers play baseball better than Jackie Robinson. Hell, I know some teams Jackie Robinson couldn’t even make! What you talking about Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson wasn’t nobody. I’m talking about if you could play ball then they ought to have let you play. Don’t care what color you were. Come telling me I come along too early. If you could play . . . then they ought to have let you play. Troy takes a long drink. rose: You gonna drink yourself to death. You don’t need to be drinking like that. troy: Death ain’t nothing. I done seen him. Done wrassled with him. You can’t tell me nothing about death. Death ain’t nothing but a fastball on the outside corner. And you know what I’ll do to that! Lookee here, Bono . . . am I lying? Handing Bono the bottle, Troy picks up the bat and takes a gentle whack at the tethered ball. He assumes a batter’s stance. troy: You get one of them fastballs, about waist high, over the outside corner of the plate where you can get the meat of the bat on it . . . (he swings, smacking the ball hard:) 9780735217867_Fences.indd 14 11/15/16 1:50 PM f e n c e s 15 24249 And good God! The ball flies in fast circles around the tree limb. Troy looks up into the sky. troy: You can kiss it good-bye. Now, am I lying? bono: Naw, you telling the truth there. I seen you do it. troy: If I’m lying . . . that 450 feet worth of lying! That’s all death is to me. A fastball on the outside corner. rose: I don’t know why you want to get on talking about death. troy: Ain’t nothing wrong with talking about death. That’s part of life. Everybody gonna die. You gonna die, I’m gonna die. Bono’s gonna die. Hell, we all gonna die. rose: But you ain’t got to talk about it. I don’t like to talk about it. troy: You the one brought it up. Me and Bono was talking about baseball . . . you tell me I’m gonna drink myself to death. Ain’t that right, Bono? You know I don’t drink this but one night out of the week. That’s Friday night. I’m gonna drink just enough to where I can handle it. Then I cuts it loose. I leave it alone. So don’t you worry about me drinking myself to death. ’Cause I ain’t worried about Death. I done seen him. I done wrestled with him. Rose could recite this story herself. 9780735217867_Fences.indd 15 11/15/16 1:50 PM a u g u s t w i l s o n 16 24249 troy: Look here, Bono . . . I looked up one day and Death was marching straight at me. Like Soldiers on Parade! The Army of Death was marching straight at me. The middle of July, 1941. It got real cold just like it be winter. It seem like Death himself reached out and touched me on the shoulder. He touch me just like I touch you. I got cold as ice and Death standing there grinning at me. rose: Troy, why don’t you hush that talk. troy: I say . . . “What you want, Mr. Death? You be wanting me? You done brought your army to be getting me?” I looked him dead in the eye. I wasn’t fearing nothing. I was ready to tangle. Just like I’m ready to tangle now. The bible say be ever vigilant. That’s why I don’t get but so drunk. I got to keep watch. rose (to bono): Troy was right down there in Mercy Hospital. You remember he had pneumonia? Laying there with a fever talking plumb out of his head. troy: Death standing there staring at me . . . carrying that sickle in his hand. Finally he say, “You want bound over for another year?” See, just like that . . . “You want bound over for another year?” I told him, “Bound over hell! Let’s settle this now!” It seem like he kinda fell back when I said that, and all the cold went out of me. I reached down and grabbed that sickle and threw it just as far as I could throw it . . . and me and him commenced to wrestling. We wrestled for three days and three nights. I can’t say where I found the strength 9780735217867_Fences.indd 16 11/15/16 1:50 PM f e n c e s 17 24249 from. Every time it seemed like he was gonna get the best of me, I’d reach way down deep inside myself and find the strength to do him one better. rose: Every time Troy tell that story he find different ways to tell it. Different things to make up about it. troy: I ain’t making up nothing. I’m telling you the facts of what happened. I wrestled with Death for three days and three nights and I’m standing here to tell you about it . . . All right. At the end of the third night we done weakened each other to where we can’t hardly move. Death stood up, throwed on his robe . . . had him a white robe with a hood on it. Troy mimics a Klansman’s hood. Bono laughs at this; Rose does the same in spite of herself. troy: He throwed on that robe and went off to look for his sickle. Say, “I’ll be back.” Just like that. “I’ll be back.” I told him say, “Yeah, but . . . you gonna have to find me!” I wasn’t no fool. I wasn’t going looking for him. Death ain’t nothing to play with.