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Excerpts from “Kayak”, by Jordan Hall

October 20, 2009

Excerpts from KAYAK, by Jordan Hall
KAYAK has received Canada Council support to attend Women’s Playwright’s International
(November 1-7, Mumbai, India) and will be presented as part of Tableau D’Hôte’s Series of
New Canadian Works this December in Montreal.
***
ANNIE IVERSEN, a tall woman with peroxide blonde hair, sits centre stage in a large kayak.
ANNIE: I don’t like kayaks. They’re unstable. One second you’re sitting there, the next you’re
upside down and underwater. This one used to belong to my son Peter. Peter’s not really
much of a kayaker either. Or- he wasn’t. He took it up because of Julie. Julie had this tiny
little kayak, barely longer than she was. She could roll that thing over as easily as you turn a
steering wheel. So fast you wonder how she’d have time to get wet. Not that it would matter
if Julie got wet, because Julie doesn’t wear make-up or believe in hair products. In case you’re
wondering, I don’t really like Julie much either.
I thought she was a phase Pete was going through. He’d had Susan (his goth phase), and Terri
(his actress phase)- Julie was just his politically correct phase. She’d left university to float
around the world spraying Japanese whaling boats with firehoses, planting trees and making
perfectly nice people uncomfortable at parties. She was supposed to be gone within a month-
and-a-half. She was going to Bolivia to dig a well, or chain herself to a tree or save some
endangered river or something. And Peter would head into another phase. Possibly some kind
of marry-a-nice-girl-with-a-job-that-didn’t-involve-the-Japanese-government-pressing-
charges phase. I didn’t even meet her before she left.
I began to suspect that Julie wasn’t going anywhere that Christmas. She’d been gone for three
months. Pete was home and I needed him to pick up the turkey from the butcher’s. He was on
his laptop, watching footage of this silly girl kayaking down some river as part of a protest
against developers diverting it. Paddling this tiny kayak down rapids so big you’d have
thought the little nitwit was suicidal. But Peter had that gleam in his eye. The same one he’d
had when he first saw the boys jumping off the ramps at the skateboard park, and you knew it
was going to take twelve bloody noses and a broken wrist before he’d listen to you about
what a bad idea this all was. So there was nothing to do but strain your eyes watching Julie
kayak down the Tuichi river and smile whenever Peter turned around to make sure you
thought Julie was just as amazing as he did.
Then he refused to pick up the turkey because it wasn’t certified free-range, organic and
cruelty-free. My son ate soy-protein at Christmas to protest the rest of us eating a perfectly
nice twenty-four pound butter-ball with chive stuffing. The Julie phase was becoming a
serious problem.
Annie’s watch beeps. She roots around in the kayak and pulls out a sleeve of graham
crackers, a crumpled up Hershey bar, and a marshmallow bag with one marshmallow in it.
She makes herself a S’more and tosses the empty marshmallow bag off into the water.
ANNIE: I know. I know. Littering. (She puts graham crackers and chocolate away.) I guess
that’s the last S’more.
She munches the S’more, and pulls out a mostly empty bottle of Evian. She washes the snack
down with a short swallow.
ANNIE: These are Peter’s favourite. And he always liked them with the Hershey’s milk
chocolate and the big marshmallow. Just like me.
PETER IVERSEN, a tall boy of twenty-four, enters and sits next to his mother in the kayak.
PETER: Mom. Before Julie gets here-
ANNIE: What, sweetie?
PETER: I’d appreciate it if you could try to be nice to her.
ANNIE: Why wouldn’t I be nice to her? I’m a very nice person Peter. Your father and I host
parties for the yacht club.
PETER: No. I know you’re pleasant. I meant: Could you just try to like Julie?
ANNIE: Why wouldn’t I like Julie? She’s a friend of yours and I’ll-
PETER: Mom. Stop dodging. I don’t mean pretend to like Julie because she’s my friend. I
mean try to like her for her because she’s-
ANNIE: She’s what?
PETER: She’s- good.
ANNIE: Good? Peter, of course she’s good. Everybody’s good.
PETER: No mom. They aren’t. And Julie is. Really. She’s unselfish and honest and she does
what she believes and everyone always tells me those are good things until they actually meet
Julie- and then- and then it’s like they can’t stand her because she’s good.
ANNIE: Peter, that doesn’t make any sense at all.
PETER: It doesn’t. But that’s what happens. And I want you to like her because I l-
JULIE: (Offstage) Peter!
JULIE DANIELS, a tiny girl in cargo pants and pig tails comes running up the other side of
the stage. The kayak separates her from Peter, but they kiss over its nose.
JULIE: I missed you. Surprising, but I missed you.
Peter laughs. Annie coughs uncomfortably. They separate.
JULIE: You should have come.
PETER: Did you hear yet?
JULIE: Shel texted while I was in Customs. It’s bad. They’re diverting everything but the
upper third.
PETER: I’m so sorry, sweetie.
JULIE: The whole ecosystem will go. And insult to injury, most of the water’s going to end
up in bottles.
ANNIE: Well. At least that’s something, then.
Peter and Julie both turn to her, Peter looks embarrassed, Julie horrified.
PETER: Uh. No, mom. That’s not good.
JULIE: Unless you prefer major corporations making people pay for access to a basic human
right.
ANNIE: Oh. I see. (She carefully slides her Evian bottle out of sight.)
PETER: Uh- well. Mom, this is Julie. Jules- this is my mom.
JULIE: Nice to meet you, Mrs. Iversen.
ANNIE: Oh. Call me Annie. And I just want to say that it is wonderful that you devote so
much of your time, especially when these things can be so discouraging.
A beat. Peter hangs his head.
JULIE: They’re only discouraging if you assume you can’t change anything, Mrs. Iversen.
ANNIE: (Awkward.) Of course.
Peter and Julie move upstage and begin pinning maps and diagrams to the back wall.
ANNIE: I definitely couldn’t stand her. Four-and-a-half years and she never stopped calling
me Mrs. Iversen.
Now I recognize that what Julie was doing was- good. Or- right. I knew about greenhouse
gases. I recycle. I do everything I’m supposed to do. I even saw that movie with Al Gore and
the big Powerpoint presentation. I respected that she was trying to make the world a better
place. But what I don’t do is walk around as though the place I grew up in is Sodom and
Gomorrah, and I’m waiting for the flood that’s going to cleanse the earth of scum.
***
The lights come up on Julie and her placard.
JULIE: This is not a new story. This is the first story. They told it every year in Sunday
School. There was a flood coming. Noah knew about the flood but he wasn’t scared. Because
Noah wouldn’t be drowned. Noah was rich enough to build an Ark. So Noah didn’t have to
try and stop the end of the world. Because after everyone else had been drowned the whole
earth would be his, and there wouldn’t even be anyone left complain about just how it came
to be that way.
Late at night after Sunday School I would wonder about Noah’s neighbours, and what they
did when the rain began to fall, so fast and so thick that they knew their world was ending.
All those tall, dark men with their beards in wet curls and women with their sopping veils,
and their children with those big brown eyes. Didn’t anyone think of Noah? Did they come
wading through the water? Calling out for help, holding their children out to be pulled into
the Ark and saved?
Maybe Noah believed that they were all wicked, or that if he let even one onto the boat with
his family that he’d have to let everyone on and there wouldn’t be enough room, or that it was
his boat built with his labour and his money and nobody had the right to force him to share it.
But there must have been so many of them. Hoping to be saved, clinging to the sides of the
Ark as the waters rose. Why didn’t they just climb on board?
I was nine or ten when I figured it out. Noah had known about the flood, so Noah had known
about this, too. He had built an Ark to save himself from the flood. What had he built to save
himself from them? Was it spears, or clubs, or arrows? Did he pour boiling oil down the sides
as they tried to climb up? Or was it as simple as pushing them away into the waves with his
oars? What else could Noah do? There was a flood, and he had to defend his Ark.
This is the lesson of Noah: The price of boarding the Ark has always been murdering the
people who don’t get saved, whether you do it up close and personal or from millions of miles
away. Your choice is a dead body in the water or a murderer on an Ark. Unless you want to
defy God. Unless you start working to stop the flood now.
***
Playwright and dramaturg, Jordan’s recent writing credits include: KAYAK (Big Ideas
2009); Asleep at the Wheel (New Ideas 2009, Big Ideas 2008); Annie & Izzy (Antigone
with Caffeine, 2008); Lifeboat (Toronto Fringe 2006); Reading Robertson Davies on
Rangitoto, (NZ Fringe 2006); and June, 2007 which received Honourable Mention for the
Bliss Carman poetry prize. Find her at www.jordanhall.ca.

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