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Covering Fire

A play in one act with one scene

by Alfred de Grazia

© copyright 2001 by Alfred de Grazia

Time: March,1945. Dawn on the Italian Front.

Cast: Sonny, American soldier, corporal, full combat gear plus binoculars, sprigs on helmet.

Honey, American soldier, private, disheveled, different sprigs on helmet, speaks nervously, tense.

(The setting is several clumps of brush on a Northern Italian mountainside. Slightly left of center the bushes part. Rocks and pebbles are strewn about the rough ground. Artillery fire is heard clumping from not too far away, and occasionally the scream of a shell. An American soldier in camouflage, stooping low, moves cautiously around center of the stage. A second moves cautiously in the opposite direction. It is hard to tell, but both are black, and speak in a deep South Central accent, hardly well imitated here, but easy enough to find among true black actors.

Honey: Who dat?

Sonny: Who dat who say who dat?

Honey: Who dat who say who dat who say who dat?

Sonny: Aw, shit and fuck, man, you a buddy.

Honey: Buddy, Sonny, Ah'm Honey!

Sonny: Honey!? No sheeit.

Honey: Honey hisself. Here he is. Give me five. (They shake hands. Then they embrace, chuckling incredulously and exclaiming.) What you doin up here? This muddafuckin place ain't no place for nobody. Only reason I'm here is they hates me. They wanna see me git killed.

Sonny: Hold on, brutha, yuhgonna git some help.

Honey: Don't shit me, man, they'se after me, both sides - what am I saying? Three sides. Damn but you guys hit us all the time. If ah don git it up front ah gits it from behine. You goddam cannons, who you shootin at? I near got killed yisterday. You folks not very friendly, yuhknow? ...When's this help comin?

Sonny: Tonight, maybe?

Honey: Well, git it up here. Ah needs all the help ah can git.

Sonny: Don't worry, ahm leaving as soon as I find a place furar guns. Ahm reconnaisizing.

Honey: (incredulously) Here? Why this is front line! Nowhere for no cannon here.

Shit, see that light, that purty light, know what that is,? It's the dawn. You know what? I cant move any more. You caught me jes takin a shit in the dark.

Sonny: (scared) How do I get back?

Honey: Don't rightly know. Lookie here. Jes watch this. (He holds up his helmet on a branch and waves it. Nothing happens. He does it again and whistles. A shot is heard and a bullet whizzes by, simultaneously).

Sonny: Gawdalmighty!

Honey: Missed. He musta bin sleepin when I whistled. You cant git no further without you sprechen deutsch, yuh know what ah mean?

Sonny: Goddam, Honey, Ah wisht ah was gonna do sompin for you. Taking this shit night and day - don't you ever git out?

Honey: Yeah, carried out. I only got put here yesterday was it? Man here before got hurt. It's a fuck-up job. But I tell yuh, they wanna git me killed..... Hey! Wait a minute, hold it right there. Did you say you was reconnasizing for the big guns, really? what fo?

Sonny: Yeah.

Honey: Sonny, why you come up here, man? You bad news!

Sonny: (solemnly) Yeah, the Lieutenant say go find us some good places for our guns, corporal, about three, four, hundert yards up from here. Well, you know, that't not really how he said. (Now he mimics perfectly a peculiar, hemhawing, but unmistakeably northern white accent.) "Corporal Hemming. (Cough,cough)We have eight guns. (Cough, cough) As you know. We need a proper (hem,hem) location for them. Be-a be-a beahind a low hill. Follow the line of the gully which is straight (huh,huh) ahead, as you can see (cough,cough), or almost see. I shall expect you back here within (tah, ah ah) two hours. It is now 0600 hours. Repeat."

Honey: Did you repeat all that?

Sonny: Sho, took me twice. You know how he is, a perfecturist..

Honey: Yuhsonna bitch, we're dead duck!

Sonny: Whatayamean, Honey ?

Honey: Ah mean we is gonna go on attack, that's what ah mean.

(He grabs Sonny's shoulder) How did the 'tenant say it, the mudafukah, was he happy? did he say when you'd be moving? -- tell me.

Sonny: I ain't heard nuthin. But no dogface hears nuthin. Makes no difference. Sure sumpin's up. (He's looking thru binoculars for a good place to drag a cannon up ahead) Thass a good place, behind a hill, and you can jest wheel it in...

Honey: Oh shit Jesus, we gonna attack.

Sonny: You gotta do what the man says.

Honey: Ah don't figger it thataway. You know what happened to that sergeant, you know that's why you here, not him. I gotta tell you, what happened to you friend Sarge Rawlin's. I blew him away -- (He catches the fearful startled disbelief on Sonny's face) -- yeah, the muddafucca said to us go get that piece. You guys artillery, we's infantry, you can't order us, ah said, we'se get killed. Then I winked at other guys and says, let's you 'n me go, sarge, you guys stay back. Ah blow him away and stuck a grenade where the hole was and blow him up. Then ah went back and then we got your supporting fire, and we just stuck in our ditch because nuthin happened to the kraut fire at all. It was comin in anyway like a lotta Febrary rain drops.

Sonny: (petrified) Don't tell me! don't tell me! you crazy do a thing like that!

Honey: ( neutral dead tone, ignoring him) Brother over there (he gestures to his left), maybe he knows the way back. I can't yell though. Maybe when they bring me somepin to eat, tonight maybe.

Sonny: You crazy, noone bring you up somepin eat, not now, nobody. It's day.

Honey: How many coming up the line? My whole squad, I hope?

Sonny: Maybe..nuthin sure about nuthin.

Honey: Eyetalians, in that house over there.(Points to ruin.) They's gone .. Not much of a house left..

Sonny: You know what I'm gonna do for you, ol buddy, I'm gonna tell the 'tenant there least ten kraut there, and jest you and your buddy -who's it? -- and you need a lotta help and a lot of fire before you can move out.

Honey: That's good, Sonny. There's gotta come more than jest a couple of other guys from my squad, but I need lots of fire, and tell him there's hostile fire coming in, an there must be a lotta Fritzies over der. Tell him to pour it on, you know what I mean.

Sonny: Don't worry, buddy, I'll get you fire, I'll get you ten guns. It'll look like Hollywood made it.

Honey: Hot dawg, a one-man-army, Hey, Sonny, that's a promise now. Back in Deetroit. Hot diggity dawg! Back to Deetroit, don't yeh think we'll be back in Deetroit soon, Sonny?

Sonny: Yeah man, we made real dollahs there, dint we? Think we'll get our jobs back when we git home?

Honey: We better, that's all I can say, we better, that's all we talk about -- no use talkin about fuckin --- That goes with the job, yuh know what I mean. (They chuckle.)

Sonny: (looking bothered) Sonny, did you really do that what you said you did, I mean, you know what I mean..

Honey: Fergit it, you know, maybe I was jest thinkin bout doon it.

Sonny: Man, I better git goin.

Honey: Sure thing, buddy. You better git goin. (He seems abstracted for a moment, then abruptly springs up.) Ahll take yuh a ways mahself.

Sonny: (Alarmed) Watch it, don stand up!

(Too late - Honey stands up, silhouetted in the breach of the bushes, a distant shot, and a bullet strikes him in the neck. He falls, blood gushing from his throat, he gurgles and subsides. Sonny looks up and crawls to him, bawling and cursing. ) Shit, muddafucca, don't die, Honey, come on back. (He grabs Honey's rifle and fires it off through the bushes until its clip is empty. He jerks the hand grenades from Honey's belt and throws them wildly in the direction of the sniper. There is stillness, except for his whimpers of anguish.)

"Come on, boy, let's git out here..We show dem the fire we need."

(He crawls offstage dragging the body of Honey along with him. As he disappears there is a shot and the defiant whine of a bullet.)


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