Tom at the Farm

By Michel Marc Bouchard
Translated by Linda Gaboriau

Tom at the Farm
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Lambda Literary Award, Drama: Michel Marc Bouchard, Tom at the Farm, translated by Linda Gaboriau (Winner)

 

Following the accidental death of his lover, and in the throes of his grief, urban ad executive Tom travels to the country to attend the funeral and to meet his mother-in-law, ... Read more


Overview

Lambda Literary Award, Drama: Michel Marc Bouchard, Tom at the Farm, translated by Linda Gaboriau (Winner)

 

Following the accidental death of his lover, and in the throes of his grief, urban ad executive Tom travels to the country to attend the funeral and to meet his mother-in-law, Agatha, and her son, Francis – neither of whom know Tom even exists. Arriving at the remote rural farm, and immediately drawn into the dysfunction of the family’s relationships, Tom is blindsided by his lost partner’s legacy of untruth. With the mother expecting a chainsmoking girlfriend, and the older brother hellbent on preserving a facade of normalcy, Tom is coerced into joining the duplicity until, at last, he confronts the torment that drove his lover to live in the shadows of deceit.
The lover – the friend, the son, the brother, the nameless dead man – has left behind a fable woven of false-truths which, according to his own teenage diaries, were essential to his survival. In this same rural setting, one young man had once destroyed another young man who loved yet another. Like an ancient tragedy, years later, this drama will shape the destiny of Tom.
In a play that unfolds with progressively blurred boundaries between lust and brutality, between truth and elaborate ?ction, Bouchard dramatizes how gay men often must learn to lie before they learn how to love. Throughout 2011 and 2012, Tom at the Farm was produced in Quebec and France, as Tom à la ferme, and in Mexico, as Tom en la granja. Award-winning Quebec director Xavier Dolan adapted the play for the screen in 2013, with Caleb Landry Jones in the leading role.
Cast of 2 women and 2 men.

Linda Gaboriau

Linda Gaboriau is an award-winning literary translator based in Montreal. Her translations of plays by Quebec’s most prominent playwrights have been published and ­produced across Canada and abroad. In her work as a ­literary manager and dramaturge, she has directed ­numerous translation residencies and international exchange projects. She was the founding director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. Most recently she won the 2010 Governor General’s Award for Forests, her translation of the play by Wajdi Mouawad.

Excerpt

Tableau 1[Excerpt]

Evening. The kitchen. The melody of a rumba can be heard outside. Tom is seated, wearing an elegant black overcoat.

TOM
Butter. Butter on the table. A stain. Yellow, dirty, soft. I can’t take my eyes off it. All I want to do is make it disappear. There are no flies. It’s fall. I imagine a fly on the knife. I think of something else. I say I’m thinking of something else, and the other things rush back to haunt me. Obsess me. Torment me. A fly that won’t go away. Beat. I imagine you when you were little. You’re trying to climb onto the kitchen counter. For a glass of milk. A cookie. You climb onto the counter. Your mother says: “You’re too little. You’ll hurt yourself. ” Beat. No. No. It’s not working. I’m in your house and it’s not working.

AGATHA (as she enters)
Can you tell me what you’re doing in my house?

TOM (surprised)
All I had was your address. I drove all the way without stopping. It was a lot farther than I thought. My GPS kept saying: Recalculating! Recalculating!

AGATHA
Were you one of his friends?

TOM
I’m Tom. Tom who can’t get up, can’t stand up, can’t straighten up. Tom nailed to his chair. Chained, restrained, soldered, glued to his chair. Tom who should hold out his hand. Tom who should take her into his arms.

AGATHA
Excuse the mess. We’re not ourselves these days. We weren’t expecting his death. The lunch after the ceremony. Have to know how many people.

TOM
I couldn’t find a hotel.

AGATHA
Hotels around here are only open in the summer, and when I say summer, I’m mean from 8am on July 2nd to 8 pm on July 3rd. Not enough tourists. They tried guided tours of the farms. When you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. You’ve got a nice car.

TOM
I’m too young for this. Condolences. Mourning. Too delicate. I hate suffering. (Tom stands and extends his hand. ) My condolences, Ma’am. I should have begun with that. My sincere sympathy.

(Agatha shakes his handmechanically. )

AGATHA
Call me Agatha. I’m glad you’re here, Tom.

TOM
She said my name. Called me by my first name. The distance between her and me shrinks.

AGATHE
He never mentioned you to me.

TOM
The distance between her and me is there again. Say something. I almost hit a moose. Crossing the road. A male with a big rack.

AGATHA
Take off your coat.

TOM
She could tell me: Go back where you came from! Hit the moose! Die on the highway! I take off my coat.

AGATHA 
I’m glad you came, Tom.

TOM
Never mentioned me?

AGATHA
We haven’t heard from his other friends.

TOM
A huge white rack.

AGATHA
 I was beginning to think he didn’t have any.

TOM
The moose appeared from nowhere.

AGATHA
A smart guy like him… must’ve made a lot of people jealous.

TOM
He could have charged.

AGATHA (touching his face)
I don’t want you to tell me you’re leaving tomorrow. That’s what he always said as soon as he arrived: I’ll be leaving tomorrow! But you’re going to stay.

TOM
I don’t know about that.

AGATHA 
You’ll say a few words at the funeral.

TOM
Yes.

AGATHA
You speak well. If you say a few words, people will know that my son was a fine man.

TOM
I prepared something.

AGATHA
You’re a good-looking boy, Tom.

TOM
She keeps saying my name, as if she was trying to make me real.

AGATHA
Some nice trout! Should I thaw one or two for you?

TOM
I’m not hungry. Two. If you’d like.

AGATHA
His brother caught them.

TOM
Who?

AGATHA
His brother!

TOM
Someone turned the music off.

AGATHA
Milking is over.

TOM
You had a brother?

AGATHA
Francis!  I’ll thaw them in the microwave. Does the noise of the microwave bother you? Francis takes care of the farm. Ever since my husband died.

TOM
She’s talking to me.

AGATHA
Forty-eight dairy cows.

TOM
She’s talking to me.

AGATHA
Cows are an every-day thing. Every morning. Every evening. Even Christmas day.

TOM
Pay attention.   Cows?

AGATHA
And Sundays. If you want to go out, have to milk first. And when you get home at night, same thing all over again.

TOM
Never mentioned me.

AGATHA
What do you do in life, Tom?

TOM
Answer her.

AGATHA 
Tom?

TOM
Assistant to the art director. In an ad agency.

AGATHA
Assistant to the art director!

TOM
Said like that in the kitchen on a dairy farm, with the noise of a microwave in the background, it sounds ridiculous. An ad agency. House music, the tapping of high heels, the scent of Galliano, Miyake. House, high heels, Miyake. My words crash into the walls of the kitchen, one after the other. House, high heels, Miyake. I worked with him.

AGATHA
Oh, really?

TOM
In the same agency.

AGATHA
In the same agency!

TOM
Colleagues, collaborators, co-workers.

AGATHA
You were co-workers!

TOM
Co-workers. Let’s start with that.

AGATHA
You want them cooked in butter or breaded?

TOM
Breaded!

AGATHA 
You can sleep in his bed.

TOM
I’m not sure.

AGATHA
The sheets are clean.

TOM
I’m not sure.

AGATHA
I wash them once a month. Even though no one ever sleeps in them.

Agatha wipes up the butter stain.

TOM
The stain is gone. All that’s left is the moose. On the highway. First snow. Big rack. I can’t talk about that forever.

AGATHA
I don’t know why, but I didn’t scream when I saw you. I should have. A woman walks into her house and finds a stranger.

TOM
All I have to do is stand up and leave, re-become a stranger.

AGATHA 
The only person who should have come isn’t here.

TOM
Who is “the person who should have come?”

AGATHA
No manners. Maybe that’s the modern way, but I think it stinks.

TOM
Who is “the person who should have come?”

AGATHA
You have nothing to say, Tom?

TOM
There are so many stains.

AGATHA
You’re wearing his cologne.

TOM
There are so many stains on the wall.

AGATHA
Francis leaves his dirty fingerprints everywhere.

TOM
I came to the wrong house. That’s the problem. They’re in mourning here, too, but I came to the wrong house.

Reviews

"Extremely well written, a work of great density. "
– Catherine Perrin, CBC

“Funny, harsh, tender, and terrible, the play engages us in a twisted game that plays itself in a rural setting where innocence and boiling anger collide. ” – Montreal Sun

“Mother, brother and lover fall into a nightmarish relationship where all play dangerous roles. … Tom moves us in and out of the narrative by frequently addressing his dead lover or himself. Through this dual consciousness, the audience must share the pain and violence of homophobia. ”
Canadian Literature

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