In 1962 Lawrence Ferlinghetti, former Poet Laureate of the fine city of San Francisco, sat down and composed a series of plays, “beat-up little dramas taken from Real Life” collectively called and published under the name Unfair Arguments With Existence. The volume includes Three Thousand Red Ants, The Alligation, The Victims of Amnesia, Motherlode, and The Customs Collector in Baggy Pants. All are short one-acts, written for various poetry festivals. In the introduction, Ferlinghetti (also the co-founder of the fine North Beach establishment, City Lights Books) says "it is for audiences and directors to decide whether these Arguments are 'unfair' to life or to those who argue with it, to some God or to the actors. We all act out strange scenarios in photo clothing."
A particular play in this book is of interest to this documentation, “The Alligation.” The play concerns itself with Shooky, a “six feet long alligator” and an elderly woman named Ladybird who treats Shooky like the very most loved feline. And then there’s a Blind Indian (of course).
The alligator is a major character in the piece, providing the role as pacesetter and final catalyst. Thus the part must be played by a human life form, but with a level of representational subtlety that could be found in one trained through a school of miming or that suchness. After being cuddled and cushioned by Ladybird there is a knock on the door. Ladybird opens it up, to find a Blind Indian with tin cup, glasses, and a white cane. He says: “How. I Blind Indian. Mine eyes have seen the Glory. Blue Movies for sale. Help! Have no doubt Man born in Central Africa. Have no doubt Africa original Garden Eden. No doubt.” He goes on to explain in his way that his ancestors came to America on the Ark, he’s been here a long time. This, at first to the viewer will appear as a tactic to obtain money, perhaps food as he is rattling his tin cup all the while.
Ladybird shoos him away, then proceeds to make tea for herself and Shooky. A nice detail is that the tea kettle “sings,” which contrasts Ladybird who never sings. The Blind Indian knocks again, she opens, and he says: “How. I come back since I hear two people in room. But only one speak when I here. How come? Maybe second one need help? Something funny go on here—Need help. No doubt.” And there is his refrain once more, no doubt.
He is shooed away once more. She contiues talking to Shooky, and we find out she’s had him since he was a baby. Apparently, as the Indian comes once more we learn that he can hear the plaintive voice of the alligator. Without summarizing the rest of the plot, it can be said that the relationship between the alligator and Ladybird becomes more developed. The alligator has begun to learn to walk on two legs, adapting to the environment. The Indian doesn’t go away very easily. He wants to free Shooky.
Towards the end, the Indian delivers a monologue that is worth reprinting here:
"Where you think you go? You make zoo, you live in zoo. You no get out so easy from own jail you make so easy. You make teepee, you live in teepee. You grow jungle, you live jungle. Jungle Jim take over! Listen, lady! Listen small voice! Like I say, what happen to country? Noble Redskin drink firewater, Noble Redskin see red, begin see who steal America, begin see what happen America—Sweet Land! America lose Indian Path, America no care, America keep pet alligator, America do snake dance, America smoke big black cigar, America big mad movie!"
After this speech Shooky suddenly roars and rolls over on top of Ladybird, “Shooky can be seen fucking Ladybird.” And that’s the jungle coming back to haunt her, alright. The Indian screams out for help, but of course, no one can hear him. Is this argument unfair?
This book was published by New Directions in 1964. It cost a dollar then.