My confidence in these pieces grew year on year, and I think of this wee dramatic trilogy, this one is my favourite. I was studying The Great Gatsby for the textual analysis part of my Higher English course in S5 (age 15/16) and I had taken an absolute shine to the prettiness of Fitzgerald’s writing so much that I wanted to incorporate it into my creative writing. I guess if you think about it, this is a Gatsby fan fiction but in my brain I like to think of it as a dramatic adaption of one my favourite novels from the perspective of a really interesting minor character, Myrtle Wilson. I enjoyed having a background laid out for me after digging into every possible detail I could glean from Fitzgerald’s writing but I also enjoyed being able to make up my own things to fill in the details. Again, it is pretty short because I was given a word limit but here is Colour in the Valley…
Stage is in black-out, lights slowly fade up during the voiceover.
MYRTLE (voiceover): I often fantasize about how one day I will just get up and walk out of the Valley; I would never come back. I have tried to escape before but somehow always find myself being dragged back into this dust-filled hell-hole. My trap, the Valley of the Ashes, is an industrial dumping ground between NYC and Long Island – and our place really does put the ‘dump’ in ‘dumping ground’.
Fully lit, the backdrop shows a barren wasteland. A dirt road leads diagonally from the back left of the stage to front right wing, going past Wilson’s Garage. The Wilson’s house is missing the front wall so we can see inside. Downstairs is Wilson’s Garage and office while the upstairs is their living area and bedroom. Everything is furnished but the house is dull and dusty. GEORGE can be seen working on a car in the Garage. MYRTLE is sitting in the chair by the window looking down over the Valley; she is dressed in a faded blue gown.
MYRTLE: (Gestures out to the Valley) I mean, just look at this place! It’s a Goddamn nightmare! (Stands up and motions towards the Garage downstairs) And that? (Raises hands in exasperation) It’s all just a joke. Much like my husband (sighs).
Stage lights change to a sunshine yellow that floods the stage. Myrtle speaks innocently.
MYRTLE: To begin with, things weren’t that bad. I first met George in a speakeasy. At first he was standing by the bar but I noticed that he kept on looking over in my direction. I motioned to him to come over, and he sat down at my table. George was a real handsome fella, bit on the short side but he was quite well dressed – well, in comparison to the other guys there. He was kind of all over me, and I loved it. He kept trying to kiss me. Of course, I played hard to get but I knew I’d give in, in the end. He went to the bar to buy me a drink, but as he was walking back with a glass in each hand, he collided with another guy and the drinks ended up all over the floor (laughs). Like an oaf, he rushed to clean it all up and repeatedly apologised to the other guy and the bartender. I giggled as he made his way back to the table. I always knew that I was the type of girl who should be fawned over.
Stage freezes, lights drop back down to grey. MYRTLE stands up and moves into a spotlight.
MYRTLE: As nice as all that attention felt at the time, and it lasted a while, but I soon grew tired of George’s damned puppy dog eyes. If all you eat is cake, sugar gets pretty sickening. After being stuck in the Valley so long it was like George had turned to ash himself, whatever life he had before disappeared. I wanted a man. I wanted someone to take charge. Thankfully, along came Tom. (Smiles deviously)
Lights rise up to a red glow. The sound of a train juddering along the track is heard. MYRTLE speaks languorously.
MYRTLE: I will always remember the day I met Tom Buchanan – that was the day my life began. I was taking the train into the city to go and visit my sister, Catherine. It was sweltering that day. It was goddamn typical that I’d be squashed in a single seat but then my day got better, a big, handsome man sat across from me. He had an aura that commanded you to look at him. We spent the whole train journey staring at one another; it gave me butterflies in my stomach. (Smiles sheepishly) That man, he just looked so strong, so sure of himself – the complete opposite of what George had become. He was actually dressed like a gentleman! I was disgusted at the thought of George’s oil-smattered rags. When we got into the station in the city, Tom got up and stood real close to me, pressing his chest into my arm. I jokingly threatened to call a policeman, but he just laughed. Then, he grabbed my wrist and pulled me off the train. He brought me over to a taxi and I got inside it the whole time thinking over and over and over in my mind ‘you can’t live forever’.
Lights fade up in grey on the Valley Of The Ashes set, GEORGE is seen talking to the passengers of a yellow car by the garage door. The car contains three passengers, two male and one female. MYRTLE stares down from the window.
MYRTLE: When I thought about how I’d die, I never imagined it would be so fleeting. (Sighs) Tom was there that day, but he couldn’t help me, he couldn’t stop the inevitable.
The car drives off and MYRTLE closes the curtain at the window. Lights fade to grey
MYRTLE: I remember the clawing heat that made my summer dress cling to my body. The heat seemed to bring out the worst in everybody. I was getting irritable with George and it seemed to make him snap. Finally! He had some life about him! He had started screaming some nonsense about how I may fool him, but (hand gestures quotation marks sarcastically) “God knows” what I’ve been doing (Rolls her eyes.) It’s not like I was just going to admit it though, because then this episode would be over and this was actually exciting! So I kept poking at George to see what he would actually do. But then he took me by complete surprise and actually grabbed me! But soon he got much rougher, it started to scare me and I tried to run away. I wasn’t going to just stand there and take it.
Lights go down on MYRTLE and come up on the scene below her. Headlights can be seen from upstage left moving down the road; the sound of an engine can be heard. MYRTLE runs out onto the road waving her arms and screaming for the car to stop. GEORGE yells at MYRTLE to come back. As the car gets closer she pauses and smiles. The lights fade down to black other than the headlights and the sound of an engine revving is heard as the headlights move faster towards MYRTLE. MYRTLE screams and then the stage turns silent. A few moments later you hear a heavy thud which pierces the silence. Lights fade up slightly on the scene below; MYRTLE is lying looking out towards the audience with glassy eyes, blood spreading across her chest. Lights go down on the stage below and come up on MYRTLE above. Blood starts to spread across her chest, staining her dress red.
MYRTLE: My chest was burst open and when I landed my body was still. Limp. Dead. (Pauses for a moment, lost in thought).
(Changes to an upbeat tone, smiling) I remember smiling as I saw that the driver was not Tom but was actually his wife, Daisy. It makes me laugh to think about that, it seemed fitting that it would be her responsible for my death after what I’d done to her. And hey, it meant that I was all that anyone in the Valley spoke about for weeks – I was famous! Someone had to finally bring entertainment to the Valley of the Ashes. I mean, I know it was the end, but it was so electrifying! For the past few decades, it was the drama that I had been dying for.