‘Fences’ (Troy): “Death ain’t nothing. I done seen him”

FENCES by August Wilson

From: Play

Type: Dramatic

Character: Troy Maxson was a former baseball player in the Negro Leagues who now works for the sanitation department.

Gender: Male

Age Range: 40's | 50's

Summary: Troy recalls a time when he fought death and won.

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TROY: Death ain’t nothing. I done seen him. Done wrassled with him. You can’t tell me nothing about death. Death ain’t nothing but a fastball on the outside corner. And you know what I’ll do to that! Lookee here, Bono… am I lying? You get one of them fastballs, about waist high, over the outside corner of the plate where you can get the meat of the bat on it… and good god! You can kiss it goodbye. Now, am I lying? If I’m lying… that 450 feet worth of lying!

Ain’t nothing wrong with talking about death. That’s part of life. Everybody gonna die. You gonna die, I’m gonna die. Bono’s gonna die. Hell, we all gonna die. Ain’t that right, Bono? You know I don’t drink this but one night out of the week. That’s Friday night. I’m gonna drink just enough to where I can handle it. Then I cuts it loose. I leave it alone. So don’t you worry about me drinking myself to death. ‘Cause I ain’t worried about Death. I done seen him. I done wrestled with him. Look here, Bono… I looked up one day Death was marching straight at me. Like Soldiers on Parade! The Army of Death was marching straight at me. The middle of July, 1941. It got real cold just like it be winter. It seem like Death himself reached out and touched me on the shoulder. He touch me just like I touch you. I got cold as ice and Death standing there grinning at me. I say… What you want, Mr. Death? You be wanting me? You done brought your army to be getting me? I looked him dead in the eye. I wasn’t fearing nothing. I was ready to tangle. Just like I’m ready to tangle now. The Bible say be ever vigilant. That’s why I don’t get but so drunk. I got to keep watch. Death standing there staring at me… carrying that sickle in his hand. Finally he say, “You want bound over for another year?” See, just like that… “You want bound over for another year?” I told him, “Bound over hell! Let’s settle this now!” It seem like he kinda fell back when I said that, and all the cold went out of me. I reached down and grabbed that sickle and threw it just as far as I could throw it… and me and him commenced to wrestling. We wrestled for three days and three nights. I can’t say where I found the strength from. Every time it seemed like he was gonna get the best of me, I’d reach way down deep inside myself and find the strength to do him one better. I wrestled with Death for three days and three nights and I’m standing here to tell you about it.

(Pause.) Alright. At the end of the third night we done weakened each other to where we can’t hardly move. Death stood up, throwed on his robe… had him a white robe with a hood on it. He throwed on that robe and went off to look for his sickle. Say, “I’ll be back.” Just like that. “I’ll be back.” I told him, say, “Yeah, but… you gonna have to find me!” I wasn’t no fool. I wasn’t going looking for him. Death ain’t nothing to play with. And I know he’s gonna get me. I know I got to join his army… his camp followers. But as long as I keep my strength and see him coming… as long as I keep up my vigilance… he’s gonna have to fight to get me. I ain’t going easy.

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