The Dodo Bird

by Emanuel Fried

[SOUND: Two long warning blasts of factory whistle.

RUSS NOWARK runs in, holding raincoat over his head. He has washed up after quitting work. He wears ordinary street clothes such as a working man would wear to and from work in the foundry. His shirt is open at the neck. No tie. He is a husky man, like BULL. Very careless of his appearance, he is unconcerned that his shirt tail is half out of his trousers. In the corner of his mouth he grips a cigar stub which he subsequently lights frequently or readily stores temporarily behind his ear, in an empty pocket, or in any makeshift ash tray available]

RUSS: [Taking off raincoat and brushing water off pant legs] Hey, Nick, gimme a quick one. Before I catch pinoomonia. [Hangs coat on hook]

DODO: [Welcoming an ally] Hello, Russ!

RUSS: [Bowing mockingly] Gentlemen. [Starting back, as if recognizing BULL for first time] Oh, excuse me, sir, I didn't mean to include you. My apologies, sir. [Bowing mockingly to DODO and NICK] Gentlemen. [Bowing to BULL] And pisspot!

BULL: [Good‑humored roar] Mister Pisspot to you, buddy. [Sits at down center table]

What have you been doing since quitting time — sitting on the boss's lap — figuring out ways to make us poor bastards work harder?

RUSS: [Crossing to bar] Sir! You are now describing what you used to do — before the guys caught up with you and booted you out of office.

BULL: Oh, listen to the big union official. Listen to him, Nick. Next thing you know he'll be running for Business Agent. Fifteen thousand a year and whatever the company slips him under the table.

RUSS: It don't take no expert to figure out how your mind works.

BULL: No different from yours, buddy — or anybody else's around here. Only I'm more honest. I admit it.

RUSS: Careful, you'll break your wrist patting yourself so hard on the back.

BULL: I don't see where things are any better over in that shop since you become Chief Steward.

RUSS: Well, for one thing, sir, I'm not taking home double pay — pay from the union for lost time handling grievances after the company already paid me for supposedly working that time.

BULL: [Going to bar] Buddy, your trouble is you ain't been in office long enough. Wait! You'll wise up. — Why should those guys in the national office in Washington rob all our money? Let's be community‑minded. Let's steal a little and keep it here. [To NICK] This guy talks like he's an idealist — like he still believes in Santa Claus.

RUSS: And I put on a Santa Claus suit every Christmas, sir, so the kids in my parish will believe in it too. I'm a practical idealist.

BULL: Oh, goody for you. [Clicks his beer bottle against bottle held by RUSS]

RUSS: [Turning away from BULL] Hey, Dodo, what the hell you doing all dressed up? [Putting hat on DODO's head] Put your hat back on, you dumb sonofabitch. Nick, give my helper a shot before he catches cold. Make it a double. [Goes to shuffle board]

NICK: What d'you say, Dodo?

RUSS: [Gathering together rubber pucks on shuffle board] Don't ask him. He's my helper he works for me — and I'm telling you to give him a drink. Give him a double and put it on my tab.

BULL: [Roar up at the ceiling] Oh, listen to the big shot! "Put it on my tab." —

RUSS: [Sharply] Listen, Pisspot! Was I addressing myself to you, sir?

BULL: [Exaggerated warning] One of these days, buddy —

RUSS: What's gonna happen one of these days, sir?

BULL: One of these days, buddy —

[SOUND: Loud squeal of freight train's wheels. After freight train goes by —]

There's liable to be an accident over in that shop. [Going to jukebox to select record and insert coin] A wrench or a pipe might drop down on somebody's head. And if I were you, buddy, I'd start worrying right now about who that somebody's head might be.

RUSS: I wonder if you'd mind repeating that, sir. You shovel that stuff so high I'm too busy sidestepping to get what you're saying.

BULL: Wash out your ears and you'll hear better. [Goes into men's toilet]

RUSS: Listen, pisspot, I heard you, and if anything ever drops on me you better make sure it gets me good the first time — because if it don't there ain't gonna be no next time. Don't forget I climb around like a monkey up there in the rafters too — and if something ever drops down on your head it'll be something big enough to do the job right the first time, like a crane bucket or a whole turret lathe. And, sir, I don't miss —

BULL: Oh, he don't miss —

RUSS: You happen to be talking to the proud owner of a sharpshooter's medal in the Army of the United States.

BULL: [Coming out of men's toilet] The only thing you ever shot off in the army, buddy, was your big mouth.

NICK: All right, students, this is a highly respectable saloon. We don't debate here — we drink here! Whiskey! And beer!

[BULL hits jukebox with fist. Music starts]

RUSS: Were you invited to speak on this subject, madam?

NICK: No, sir, I volunteered an opinion.

RUSS: You been in the army, haven't you, soldier?

NICK: [Snapping to attention, saluting rapidly several times] Yes, sir.

RUSS: Didn't they teach you? The guy what volunteers when he should keep his mouth shut — he's the guy what gets hurt. Remember that, soldier. Lesson Number One.

NICK: [Saluting] Yes, sir.

RUSS: [Returning salute] At ease, sergeant.

BULL: [Seated at bar on stool] You forgot Lesson Number Two, Loo‑tenant. 'Keep your mouth shut and your bowels open!'

RUSS: Soldier, that don't apply to generals. We're supposed to be constipated.

NICK: [Saluting] Sir, the sergeant requests permission to speak to the general, sir.

RUSS: [Returning salute] What is it, sergeant?

NICK: [Brings RUSS a shot of whiskey] What I want to know, sir, is — are you drinking or are you only talking today, you tight sonofabitch?

RUSS: That's a good question, sergeant. [Downs drink, gives shot glass to NICK — jerks thumb toward BULL] Give this loud‑mouth another of whatever he's sucking down his gut — and a double for the bare‑faced Dodo Bird. [Back to shuffle board game]

DODO: [To RUSS] Hey, If you don't mind, Russ — I'll take a rain check, okay?

RUSS: I do mind. Come on, have a drink.

DODO: Not now, Russ.

RUSS: Sir, if you refuse to drink with me you are insulting me.

BULL: Sure you are. You better have a drink, Dodo.

RUSS: Sir, when I want your help I'll ask for it.

DODO: [Going to RUSS] You know I would never insult you, Russ. [To NICK and BULL] Russ saved my job for me. There ain't no better man in the whole shop than Russ Nowark. He fixes it up for me if I ever make a mistake — or if I'm a little shaky sometimes he tells me to sleep it off in an empty box car. [Shaking RUSS's hand] You're my friend, Russ. I would never insult you.

[Music stops]

BULL: [Angrily, resenting DODO'S praise of RUSS] This ain't the only guy who saved your job! I saved your job too, didn't I? — Didn't I?

DODO: I didn't say you didn't.

BULL: [To RUSS] You ask this sonofabitch if he wants me to tell you why he was arrested — when the company fired him and I was Chief Steward and I saved his job.

DODO: I was arrested for getting drunk.

BULL: That's all? — Tell this guy. I saved your job, didn't I?

DODO: I said you did.

BULL: [Thumb pointed at RUSS] Tell him!

DODO: He did, Russ. He saved my job too, Russ.

BULL: But I didn't get your vote. You should have been fired, you dirty bastard. But I wouldn't agree the company could fire a guy for something he did personal on his own time away from work. I talked the company into giving you another chance only because I didn't want no precedent that could hurt somebody else. Don't you forget that.

DODO: [Sitting at down right table] That happened a long time ago, Bull.

BULL: [Returning to bar] Two years ain't so long. Don't give me none of your lip about showing respect for decent women —

RUSS: [Trying to laugh away any serious implications] What'd you do, Dodo? Get drunk and let go on some old lady's bare ankle or something?

BULL: Tell your great buddy. Tell him.

DODO: You promised you'd never tell nobody, Bull.

BULL: Unless it happened again, I said.

DODO: It ain't happened again, Bull.

BULL: You mean you ain't been caught again, you sonofabitch. And this daughter you're meeting —

RUSS: What daughter?

BULL: I say any guy who does that could even be shacking up with his own daughter.

DODO: Bull, no!

BULL: Why not?


RUSS: Leave him alone. He ain't shackin' up with nobody.

BULL: He's meeting this broad here. [To DODO] Your daughter? [To RUSS] She could be some hustler from Sadie Smith's cat‑house in Lackawanna.

DODO: She's my daughter, Bull. I got her birth certificate to prove it. And my wife's name is on it.

BULL: What wife?

DODO: I got a wife.

BULL: I don't believe it.

DODO: She just don't live with me. Her name's on the birth certificate — and my name's on it too. I got it locked up in an iron box in my room. [Fishing inside shirt] And here's the key. [Shows key on chain]

BULL: That don't prove nothing. You could steal a birth certificate — or fake it —

RUSS: Lay off, Bull, that's his daughter.

BULL: How do you know it's his daughter?

RUSS: He told you it's his daughter, so it's his daughter.

BULL. I'm telling you I'm President of the United States.

RUSS: One look at you and I can tell you're president of nothing.

[DODO sits at down center table]

BULL: One look at him and I can tell he ain't no father. He's got a daughter, I'm sorry for the poor kid.

RUSS: That ain't for you or me to say.

BULL: Guys like this Dodo Bird should be castrated before they learn what it's for. Or better still they should be cooked in gas ovens like the Nazis did with the Jews. They had a good idea there — but they cooked the wrong people. If they would have cooked all the Dodo Birds there wouldn't have had to be no Hitler! — You tell me! This Dodo Bird! What good is he to the world?

RUSS: You tell me what good are you to the world?

BULL: Leave me out of it.

RUSS: Then leave Dodo out of it. Don't you get personal.

BULL: I got a right to get personal when it's self‑defense. Look at that bastard. Christ Almighty! It took a million years to develop that thing there on this earth. A million years and look what we come up with — a dead end! A million years shot to hell! — Don't tell me I did it to him. I don't buy that, Nowark. Save that for Sunday in church. I didn't shove this guy off the deep end. I didn't make him talk to chairs and tables and fire hydrants. I didn't make him slop it down until he sees pink elephants and pink rabbits. That's in him. He's screwing up his own life. — Not only this Dodo. All the Dodo Birds. They're all loused up. Whatever was human inside is extinct. Look around you, the woods is full of 'em. — You tell me why! Why should we waste food and clothes on this miserable sonofabitch? Why not get rid of them and give his job to some poor bastard who's still human?

RUSS: You mean some poor bastard who once run an Atlas multiple threader over at the Bolt Works?

BULL: Don't give me his Bolt Works. That's in the past, buddy. Now he's a Dodo Bird. His next stop is out the back door.

RUSS: You, sir, are not only ignorant, you are also stupid. I want to be there the day the boss comes to tell you you are obsolete material.

BULL: Buddy, for every job that's wiped out there's a new one for the guy that knows how to land on his feet. I'm no Dodo Bird.

RUSS: No! You're a big bag of wind who thinks he knows all the answers.

BULL: I know this, buddy. Either we lick them, or they lick us. That's nature. — The way things are going, letting all these Dodo Birds fly around loose, we're gonna end up with no way out except to drop the big stink bomb. So whoever's next in line gets the chance they're waiting for. Maybe the rats come next. And maybe after them comes the ants. And after the rats and the ants, the mosquitoes and the flies. Or maybe that's the end of the line. And that's when Dodo's pink elephants and pink rabbits take over. We still got a chance — but guys like you are blowing it for us. You're blowing it fast, buddy.  You got the brains, but you ain't got the guts to use 'em. You ain't got the guts to wipe out the Dodo Birds and save the human race.

RUSS: Guts?

BULL: Yeah — guts!

RUSS: You gutless loud‑mouth. You take off on Dodo only because you fell on your face.

BULL: [Facing RUSS] What the hell are you talking about?

RUSS: The only time you really had to fight that company you got all rattled and blew it —

BULL: I wanted to strike that plant.

RUSS: Sure, sure —

BULL: When the foreman told us we had to turn in a separate time card on every single job I knew it would end up with someone going out the back door.

RUSS: You got so rattled you didn't tell anybody what it was all about.

BULL: I knew what it meant. I hit the bricks. I set up a picket line. Where the hell were you?

RUSS: A one‑man picket line! Why didn't you call a meeting?

BULL: When we did hold the meeting how'd they vote?

RUSS: That was your own fault. They saw you got fired. And the National Office said a strike would violate the contract.

BULL: They went back into that shop and worked like scared rabbits.

RUSS: You were so anxious to be a big hero you couldn't wait until they voted before you set up your own picket line.

BULL: I stuck my neck out for them — and every morning they looked the other way and walked in — right past me. You and Dodo along with the rest of 'em.

RUSS: The majority voted to back the National Office.

BULL: Scabs. [Returns to bar]

[SOUND: Two loud warning blasts of factory whistle]

RUSS: [Confronting BULL] You got hired back.

BULL: I had to crawl on my belly to get the company to take me back. Then you guys squawk.

RUSS: [Returning to shuffle board] You made a deal for yourself and sold us out.

BULL: Who — sold — who — out? Who was left hanging out there at the plant gate all alone because you guys suddenly developed a case of shit in your blood?

RUSS: Well, don't take it out on Dodo.

BULL: Him and all the others like him! — Why keep this thing alive so it can get drunk and slobber around all the time — a menace to society?

RUSS: He's worth saving, you loud‑mouth.

BULL: A thing like that, we gotta clobber it before it runs wild and clobbers us. Kill it now! Kill all the Dodo Birds! While we're still in the majority! [Smashing fist down on bar] That's my vote!

DODO: I ain't drunk all the time, Bull. You're lying there. I ain't drunk all the time.

BULL: Great! Great! How long did you go today without a drink? Five — six hours? The level of alcohol in your body's gone down half an inch — so you can hear me when I'm talking to you.  But there's something extinct in your brain so it needs all that booze. It's been pickled so long it'll never be any good again.

DODO: That ain't so, Bull. My brain is still good. I can hear you, and I know I'm talking to you. That proves my brain is still working, don't it?

BULL: Two‑three quick shots down your gut and you'll end up like you do every night — schlogged and schlobbered. [To NICK who holds butcher knife he's been sharpening] How about it, Nick? Do you want to use that butcher knife to slit this Dodo Bird's throat? Give me your scientific viewpoint.

RUSS: I'll give you my scientific viewpoint. You got rocks in your head.

BULL: You wait your turn. What about it, Nick? Be scientific. Forget it's our Dodo. Theoretical. Is a thing like that worth keeping alive?

NICK: Remember, he still is a human being.

BULL: He never was a human being.

RUSS: He still is.

BULL: He never was.

DODO: You ain't got no right to talk about me that way, Bull.

BULL: Shut up. You're the guinea pig. The guinea pig ain't got nothing to say. We scientists do all the talking.

DODO: [Tearfully] My daughter's coming to see me, Bull, and I ain't had one drink since I come over here for lunch today. Not one drink!

BULL: Great! What do you want — a gold medal?

RUSS: Lay off him, you loud‑mouthed bastard.

BULL: You gonna vote to keep this useless sonofabitch alive? [To DODO] Tell your buddy the real reason why you got arrested — or do you want me to tell him?

DODO: Bull, you promised —

BULL: Tell him why you were arrested.

DODO: You said you wouldn't break your promise, Bull.

BULL: You'd break any promise you made to me —

DODO: No, I wouldn't.

BULL: If you were drunk you would.


BULL: If somebody offered you a drink and you were drunk you'd tell them anything — you'd do anything —

DODO: No, I wouldn't, Bull.

BULL: If you hadn't had a drink all day and somebody put a drink down in front of you —



DODO: No, Bull, no, I wouldn't — not if I promised.

BULL: [Going to bar] I'll show you, you sonofabitch. [Grabbing bottle and filling shot glass] I'll show you what you'll do. When's your daughter coming? How soon?

DODO: She's late. She should be here now.

BULL: [Putting bottle down] I bet she took a run‑out powder on ya.

DODO: She'll be here. She's driving in with her boy friend.

BULL: [Picking up filled shot glass, returns to DODO] You say you're not going to drink anything before she gets here. Isn't that what you said?

DODO: [Apprehensive] Leave me alone. I ain't bothering you. Why you bothering me?

RUSS: Leave the poor bastard alone.

BULL: [To DODO] I'm going to conduct a scientific experiment for the benefit of my two scientist buddies — so they can arrive at a scientific decision. We put the drink in front of the guinea pig. Then we step back and we watch. Don't you knock over that drink, you sonofabitch! Or I'll tell these guys why you got arrested.

[DODO rises]

BULL: [Slamming DODO down] Sit down.

RUSS: Hey‑y‑y. Hey‑y‑y.

BULL: You think this Dodo Bird is still human enough so we shouldn't slit his throat. I'll make you a little bet, smart guy, to make it more interesting. [Taking bill out of pocket] A sawbuck says he pours that poison down his gut before his daughter gets here. [RUSS turns away] Put your money where your mouth is.

RUSS: [Going to bar] Nick, get me a sawbuck out of the till.

NICK: No credit.

RUSS: I'll only use it a few minutes, sir.

NICK: [Sing‑song, reaching into till], Something tells me I'm gonna be sorry.

BULL: Nick, another sawbuck to you!

NICK: I'll sit this one out. I got one sawbuck involved already.

BULL: Kiss it good‑bye, Nick.

NICK: Please — don't say that!

RUSS: [Holding up his ten dollar bill, quietly and deliberately to BULL] Now let's get this straight, sir. You are laying ten dollars even money that the Dodo Bird is going to drink that shot of whiskey before his daughter gets here. If the Dodo Bird drinks that shot of whiskey before his daughter gets here — then you get my ten dollars.

NICK: You mean my ten dollars. Let's keep that straight too!

RUSS: [Lifting chiding finger] Don't inter­rupt, madam. [To BULL] If Dodo don't drink that shot of whiskey before his daughter gets here — then I get your ten dollars. Have I state the wager correctly, sir?

BULL: Cut away all the hot air to show you're smarter than everybody — and you got it right.

RUSS: [Slapping bill down on top of BULL's money on bar] You're on, sir. We have made a wager. [Rubbing and clapping hands together in anticipation] Okay, Dodo, let's show this loud‑mouth foundry yokel how we do things in the big city.

©1963, 1975, 2005 Emanuel Fried. All rights reserved. Published by The Autodidact Project with permission of the author. Further publication prohibited without the author's permission.

SOURCE: Fried, Emanuel. The Dodo Bird (Buffalo, NY: Labor Arts Books, 1975), pp. 31-46.

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