Hoofprints in Fog – Scene 2

Scene 1 (Courtship)

It is late afternoon in a small room in the Alzheimer’s wing of an assisted living facility. Their chairs pinch inwards and face a hospital bed. In the bed is a sleeping patient. The frail patient, a former horse trainer, is levered to an angle halfway between laying and sitting. Ryan, his great-grandson, and Mandy, Ryan’s girlfriend, are visiting.

(Intro music)

(Very light hospital ambient sounds)

MANDY: How long does his shower take?

RYAN: Not long, they want him on his feet, moving around, so he doesn’t get bedsores.

MANDY: For a guy in his nineties, he’s frail but physically okay.

RYAN: Yeah, his brain is the problem, in and out (sound of ruffling papers). Looking at his enlistment papers, photos, postcards, newspaper clippings, all this stuff in his box…they’re proof
that the things he says are not crazy dreams. They happened, he was in calvary charges shooting at airplanes from a horse for God’s sake!

MANDY: (sighs) And he was handsome and young. This is all surreal, trying to hold the past and the present in your head at the same time.

RYAN: (Pause) And one day he will be gone, and we will be old.

MANDY: Looking at him now, doesn’t it make you feel sad?

RYAN: Yeah. (sound of shaking a small box) Do you know what else is sad? When Martin dies, this box will be all that’s left. Nobody wrote down his life and his adventures. I’m telling you,
Mandy, when his mind is right, the stories he tells are amazing. I enjoy listening to them. Sometimes, he says funny things.

MANDY: Nothing in this place is funny.

RYAN: Remember yesterday I read you the story with the guy from the army, Edward Ramsey, his heroic Calvary commander?


RYAN: I looked him up. At the time of the battles, Ramsey was 24 years old.

MANDY: Younger than us.

RYAN: One day, they are doing their horse things; a few months later, they are galloping into machine-gun bullets. Isn’t that wild?

MANDY: Unbelievable.

RYAN: Edwin Ramsey was a kid from Indiana. He was a polo junky, a huge fan. A recruiter told Ramsey that the Army had a polo club, so the kid volunteered for the 26th calvary. Martin shoed horses in Michigan. The others came from horse racetracks or farms.

(suddenly, quick knock, the sound of a door opening)

NURSE: (southern drawl) Martin had a nice shower, he’s ready to sit a spell.

RYAN: Thanks, I’ll push him over here by the window.

NURSE: Push the button if you need me.

(sound of door shutting)

RYAN: (pause) Do you remember who I am?

MARTIN: Cecil?

RYAN: (pause) No, I’m Ryan, this is my friend, Mandy.

MANDY: Nice to meet you, Martin.

MARTIN: You smell like a flower.

MANDY: Thank you, Ryan tells me you are quite the ladies’ man.

MARTIN: (voice stronger) There was only one lady in my life, at least only one that mattered. I met her when I was fifteen years old. She was the prettiest girl in Eaton County. She was also the nicest and the richest, and it just didn’t seem possible that she ended up choosing ME.

MANDY: Well, she must have been quite a catch.

MARTIN: Her daddy, Wilson J. Wilson, ain’t that the silliest name you ever heard of, was a fat man who always wore a bowtie. He owned the bank, and he owned horses — racehorses, plow horses, draft horses, buggy horses. Hell, he owned half the horses in the county. Wilson J. had three daughters, Meredith, Mildred, and his baby, Mercy.

MANDY: Let me guess, Mercy was your sweetheart.

MARTIN: Yes she was. We first met on a hot summer day in the summer of 1939 when I worked for Mister Fairmont, the top farrier in Eaton County. Her daddy had a big house across the line in Clinton County, and one day he sent Seth, his one-armed deaf man, over in his best two-seater pulled by his top buggy horse, a trotting horse named Big Bay. Seth lost his arm, his hearing, and some of his mind in Belgium when a bomb went off in a trench during the First World War.

MANDY: Oh my.

MARTIN: Driving a buggy with one-arm is a chore, so setting next to Seth, holding the lines that day was the prettiest girl I’d ever laid eyes on. She had long black hair under a yellow bonnet, and when she got close enough, I could see she had a sprinkle of freckles, now you don’t often see a girl with black hair and freckles, but then you never seen a sight as pretty as Mercy.

MANDY: Didn’t you know her from school?

MARTIN: I’d heard her name and knew about her and her sisters, but we lived in different counties, so we went to different schools. Besides, her kin were city rich, and my kin were farmers.

She hopped off that buggy, walked up to me like a princess walking out of a fairy story, said her name, and told me that Big Bay needed a fresh set of shoes. She riled me so that I could hardly remember what my name was, but I got it out. I told her Mister Fairmont was over in Feasterville, visiting his sister. I told her I was working the forge while he was gone.

MANDY: And you nailed on the horseshoes, fell in love with the girl in the buggy, and she fell in love with you. How sweet. And you two got hitched?

MARTIN: Her daddy made a fuss, but Mercy had steel in her little backbone. The main thing was that Wilson J. Wilson did not have a son. I must have passed inspection, so he went along if we promised to finish schooling.

(Pause here, insert slow, low music and hoof trotting sounds to underscore Martin reverting to deep in his memory)

MARTIN: (Martin makes a click-click sound, shakes hands as if driving a horse) Now Mercy, I’m as torn up as you, half of me wants to stay, half of me knows I gotta go. (slap of rein ) Get on Big Bay.

(Pauses as he listens to the response only he can hear)

MARTIN: I agree, it isn’t fair that we have to be apart a week after we got hitched, but I’m just glad your daddy and momma can keep you in the big house till I get back and we build our place.


MARTIN: Now, now, don’t cry, the fighting might be done before I get there. Maybe before summer’s over I’ll be home and working for Mister Fairmont… Whoa there Big Bay. (Slight pause, tugs horse to stop, clopping stops) Now Mercy, Close your eyes and open your hand, the one with your ring on it.


MARTIN: That watch is one of a matching pair. I wound them up and set them to the exact same time. Now here’s what I want you to do. Every day, every…single.. day, at six o’clock in the evening, you and Seth are gonna sit in this buggy behind Big Bay, just like you and me are sitting right now. I want you to imagine that it’s me sitting next to you. Drive Big Bay right through town, drive him slow out to the bridge. (insert horse snorting) We done it a hundred times, we had our first kiss when we was courting in this buggy. Remember Big Bay was kind enough to look at the river running under that bridge and give us some privacy. If the weather is bad, sit in the buggy INSIDE the barn at six o’clock.


MARTIN: Yes, yes you can Mercy. You can do it, and you have to do it, because every day, no matter where I am, at six o’clock I will look at my watch. I will close my eyes and be here with you. My heart will be full just like it is now. Being in that buggy will get us through whatever we need to get through, and then we can turn our seven days into seventy years.


MARTIN: Now, now, wipe those tears off your pretty face. Rest your head on my shoulder. Practice for the rides ahead. Remember how we feel right now, remember the smell of Big Bay, dream about all we will have, and remember that nobody every loved anybody the way that I love you.

(All is still for a full ten seconds, then soft snoring. Background music stops, ambient hospital sounds to signal a return to present day )

MANDY: (in a whisper) How many years did they have?

RYAN: (pause) Not a year, not even a day. After all the bombs, the Calvary charges on Pep, the carnage of War, Martin shipped home in one piece and boarded the train in Chicago to Clinton County. While Martin was on that train, Mercy died of influenza, surrounded by her father, her mother, and her sisters.

MANDY: Oh my god! (sniffle) Oh my god, you call this a happy story!

RYAN: The thing is, he never talks about her death. When Martin tells this story, they are courting, or they are in that buggy behind Big Bay. I’ve heard Martin talk about Mercy many times, but he never gets off the train station in Clinton County. He never ever loses his smile when he talks about Mercy, and Big Bay, and Heavens Rein.

MANDY: Heavens Rein?

RYAN: A trotting racehorse, a filly. She was the other love of his life. She will be around shorty.

Fade to Music