Setting: Eoghan’s bedroom, Ireland
Time: present, night time
Character: EOGHAN, late 20’s
Eoghan’s father Heber Harnett abused Irene, Eoghan’s older sister, in the field beside the lake—having enchanted all his children with the strange story of “the field of hands.” Eoghan discovers the disturbing story written by his father.
Eoghan is by a desk downstage in his room, in which is also a bed, many old toys. It is a cold, unloved room. Books on shelves and in boxes. There is a lamp on the table, and an open chest with many papers scattered out of it. He sits at the table and reads aloud:
“The Field of Hands by Heber Hartnett.
“Once upon a time there was a field where nothing familiar grew. Nothing familiar like corn or potatoes or poppies or wheat. And it stood out from all the other acres and half-roods because year after year there was no crop, nothing. Not even weeds. Local people began to think the field cursed, or worse—poisoned by some underground rot. But even rot would have been something and there was never anything but the wind settling on the dead soil.
“The location of this field was close to where the border had been drawn after the declaration of the Irish Free State. Though the field had always been there, in the Gap of the North, where the Worm’s Ditch meets the Black Pig’s Dyke—the ancient division between north and south. But anyone who saw the field at night had a different tale to tell. For at night a strange thing happened.
“In every corner grew the most extraordinary white flowers. They were like porcelain, white from stalk through to petal. They had stems like arms, and petals like long, pale fingers, and they opened up in rows towards the night sky. They searched for the moon, which would make them glorious. And during a full moon they would stand up straight, fingers aligned like the hand of Ulster. Whoever would see this field of hands, as it came to be known, with its row upon row of moon-lit flowers, would understand immediately why no crop grew in the field. For the white roots went through the field, through the feldspar and shale, into the core of the earth like a vine, throbbing with the ghostly milk of the moon, making the land cold and sad. And once seen, it became impossible to forget the image of the grasping flower-hands, for to do so would be to play a part in the slow death of the land. Only one thing would do: the flowers would have to be cut-down, wrenched out or poisoned.
“And thus, ordinary people who had come upon the field of hands—humble farmers, fishermen, children—were gifted with the chance to become great heroes and martyrs. The power was theirs to make familiar things grow day and night in the field—at least until the flowers would return again and who knew when that would be.”
(EOGHAN crumbles up the paper, sobs.)
Oh my sister! Irene, Irene!
copyright © 2010 Jaki McCarrick. All rights reserved. ___________________________________________
Jaki McCarrick is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. Her first play, The Mushroom Pickers, won the 2005 Scottish Drama Association’s National Playwriting Competition, and premiered at the Southwark Playhouse in London in May 2006 and in New York in February 2009. Jaki was Writer-in-Residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre for the Pushkin Trust in July 2007. She recently won first prize in the Northern Ireland Spinetinglers Dark Fiction competition and was selected for the 2009 Poetry Ireland Introduction series of emerging poets. Her play, Leopoldville, was selected as a finalist in the 2010 Yale Drama Series Playwriting Competition; the play has also just won the 2010 Papatango New Writing Award.