Category Archives: Stage/Screen Writing

A KIND OF MARRIAGE

E.M. Forster, the great British novelist and champion of individual liberty and responsibility lived a homosexual life concealed from the public eye. In 1931, at the age of 52, Forster takes as his lover, a young London policeman Bob Buckingham who in turn begins a passionate relationship with a young nurse, May Hockey. Forster, along with his own hidden homosexuality, is forced to face the bisexual preferences of his new lover. How Forster, Bob and May come to terms with their own affections and the sexual nature of their relationship is the fertile dramatic material of A KIND OF MARRIAGE.

EXTRACT OF THE PLAY

Characters in this extract:

MORGAN, 52, professionally known as E.M. Forster, a famous novelist.

BOB, 29, a London policeman.

MAY, 20s, a nurse at Fulham Maternity Hospital, London.

EDNA, 20s, May’s friend and fellow nurse at Fulham Maternity Hospital.

BARMAN at the Fulham Palace Road Pub.

DORA CARRINGTON, late 30s, professionally known as “Carrington,” a painter and decorative artist who lives in a ménage à trois with her husband and the author Lytton Strachey.

***

Scene 4

(From Act One: London. Summer 1931. Morgan’s bedsit flat in Brunswick Square. Mid-day. A small table is set for a simple meal for two. A neatly made double-bed to one side. BOB in his undershirt, trousers and braces, serving up a freshly made omelette on to two plates as MORGAN enters. A gramophone record is playing a Mozart Piano Sonata.)

BOB

I got the afternoon off. Come sit down and tuck in. It’s an onion omelette and I grated some cheese in it. (The gramophone Mozart record finishes playing.) You can open the tinned salmon. (HE hands MORGAN the tin of salmon and a tin opener. MORGAN struggles with the opener, dropping the tin, then the opener.)

MORGAN

Infernal gadgets. It takes a Hercules to operate this thing.

BOB

Give it to me, luv. You have no patience, Morgan. Change the record on the gramophone, will you? (BOB easily opens the tin, serving out the salmon.) Put on some of that Beethoven. The one that goes, “DEE-DEE-DEE–DUM!”

(MORGAN goes to the gramophone, lifting the needle arm off the record.)

MORGAN

Your sergeant Harry Daley was at Joe Ackerley’s this morning.

BOB

Was he then? Harry’s all right. A bit of a show-off, but all right. Tuck in, luv.

(MORGAN takes his place at table with BOB. THEY eat.) 

MORGAN

He was talking rubbish about you. I worry about what he might be saying at the station house.

BOB

I wouldn’t mind much about Harry. He’s a sort of licensed lunatic. That, at least, is the way I take him. Now eat your omelette. I’ve been listening to that Mozart fellow on the gramophone. He uses a lot of notes, doesn’t he?

MORGAN

A lot of notes. Yes. Quite a few.

BOB

Just think of all those notes going round in his head. I guess that’s why he had to write them down.

MORGAN

Writing them down helps.

BOB

To get them out of his head. Otherwise he’d have to be carryin’ them around in his brain all the time. Like I’m trying to memorise these manual regulations for the police sergeant’s examination. I tell you!

MORGAN

You are a dear, Bob. Sometimes I think I enjoy showing you off. Like some sort of trophy. Is that shameful of me?

BOB

You’ve won me, Morgan. Completely. “Notice to All: Constable Buckingham is owned by E.M. Forster. Please do not interfere!”

MORGAN

Please don’t talk about “owning.” It makes me nervous. 

BOB

It’s all right. We don’t have to talk about it.

MORGAN

You are so extraordinarily understanding.

BOB

Not as understanding as May. But you’ll find that out soon for yourself. She’s keen to meet you.

MORGAN

An occasion, the anticipation of which, I do not relish.

BOB

You mean you don’t want to. You could say it right out. You don’t have to say it with the words twisted all ‘round.

MORGAN

I didn’t say I didn’t want to. What I said was that I wasn’t looking forward to it. I have certain trepidations. Fears. About our meeting.

BOB

Fears? Then you should say so, straight out.

MORGAN

In summary, my dear Bob, at present, she is, as you say, “keen” to meet me, but one knows all too well how it will end.

BOB

You might be surprised. You’ll like May. She’s no-nonsense. Don’t go in for make-up and silly clothes. And a nice sense of humour.

MORGAN

Always good for a giggle, is she? 

BOB

She doesn’t hold with all that religion and sentimental woman stuff. A regular chum of a girl, who’s rather nice-looking, too.

MORGAN

I’m not the one to judge about that.

BOB

You will be. You have a bit of egg in your moustache. (HE dabs it away with his napkin.)

MORGAN

Don’t fuss me.

BOB

You want taking care of and I intend to do an awfully good job of it.

MORGAN

As you do. (Pause.) Does she know about us?

BOB

That’s our business. It has nothing to do with May. (HE finishes his meal, gets up, taking his plate to the side.) This place needs a good sweep. (HE takes up a broom from the corner.) Feet up, please.

(MORGAN lifts his feet. BOB sweeps under them.)

MORGAN

Bob, you should know that I don’t intend to give up any of my rights, either to your affections or your time to this woman.

BOB

MAY. Her name is May, and speaking of rights, I’ve something else here. (From his trouser pocket, he takes out a small ring box, opening it). I picked it up in a little pawnshop just off Hammersmith Grove. It’s real gold.

MORGAN

I’m sure May will like it.

BOB

It’s for you! A gentleman’s little ring. Give me your hand. The left one, please. (HE slips the ring on MORGAN’S little finger.) Let this be our pledge, Morgan. We are an “us” now. (HE crooks his own little finger around MORGAN’S ringed finger, holding tight.) Say it. US.

MORGAN

Us.

BOB

We’re together now, nothing else matters. It’s a chance in a million, we’ve found each other, Morgan. I’d do anything for you, even die for you if I had to.

MORGAN

Please don’t say such things. (HE starts to pull his hand away, BOB holds fast.)

BOB

From this moment. In true faithfulness, we are! I want you to wear this ring and never take it off.

(MORGAN twists the little ring uncomfortably on his little finger.)

MORGAN

It will take some getting used to.

BOB

Give us a kiss. (HE takes MORGAN’S face gently in his hands, and kisses him on the lips.) No backing out now, luv. That seals it.

(BOB puts the broom away and undoes his braces, undoing his trousers.) 

BOB (Cont’d)

Now put on that Beethoven and come to bed. It’s time I had my German lesson, Herr Professor. (HE steps out of his trousers and his underpants, getting into bed naked except for his undershirt.) “DEE-DEE-DEE– DUM! DEE-DEE-DEE–DUM!”

(MORGAN goes to the gramophone, taking a record out of sleeve, putting on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.)

MORGAN

I do believe Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man. As for your May, I’m sure she shall have all she wants, but I can still deny her my company.

BOB

Sprechen Sie Deutsch, please!

(MORGAN moves to the bed, standing at the side. BOB loosens MORGAN’S tie and collar, unbuttoning his shirt, undoing the belt of his trousers.)

MORGAN

“What is the fare to Berlin?” Was kostet die Fahrt nach Berlin?

BOB

(helping MORGAN undress, repeating)

Was kostet die Fahrt nach Berlin?

MORGAN

“I’d like a room with a double bed.” Ich möchte ein Zimmer mit Doppelbett.

BOB

Ich möchte ein Zimmer mit Doppelbett!

MORGAN

Sehr gut, mein Schüler!

(BOB pulls back the sheet, welcoming MORGAN into bed.)

BOB

Kommen sie hier, Herr Professor.

(MORGAN, still in his undershirt, steps out of his trousers, getting into bed. BOB draws MORGAN to him, kissing him tenderly, as the lights fade.

The Beethoven on the gramophone crossfades to the tinny sound of–

A popular dance band tune plays, Jack Hylton & his Orchestra, “Life Begins At Oxford Circus.”)

Scene 5

(A corner table in a working class-pub in Fulham Palace Road near May’s Fulham Maternity Hospital. Late afternoon. Dirty glass windows and faded lace curtains hung at the windows. MAY sits with her friend EDNA, 20s. Both are dressed in their nursing uniforms.

To one side, a BARMAN stands behind a bar, polishing glasses.)

EDNA

I brought my autograph book. Do you think he’ll mind?

MAY

I’m sure he’s used to it. 

EDNA

I got John Gielgud at the Old Vic last month. Oh, he was lovely! And Gertie Lawrence signed it at the Adelphi stage door for me. I don’t have any famous authors yet.

BARMAN

Excuse me, Ladies? Can I get your anything?

MAY

No thank you. We’re waiting.

EDNA

For the gentlemen.

BARMAN

Ah. The gentlemen. Right. (BARMAN turns brusquely away and exits.)

MAY

Mr. Forster is very accommodating. So I understand.

EDNA

Aren’t you nervous? I mean meeting him for the first time?

MAY

I’m not keen. But it’s important to Robert. That I meet him.

EDNA

It’s so lovely that he’s Robert’s friend. I guess a policeman meets all sorts of famous people in his line of work. Not like us. Nobody famous comes to have their babies at Fulham Maternity.

MAY

Maybe they decided not to come.

EDNA

I’m sure they’ll be here. Your Robert is the reliable sort. Meeting you at the hospital after your shift to walk you home. I wish I could get my Freddie to do that.

(BOB in his constable uniform, his helmet under his arm, enters with MORGAN in a rumpled, ill-fitting suit and an old tweed cap.)

BOB

Here they are. Hullo, Girls!

MORGAN

(Removing his cap, a slight awkward inclination to the ladies)

Good afternoon, Ladies.

(EDNA gets quickly to her feet, tugging at MAY)

EDNA

May! Up!

BOB

May and Edna, this is Mr. Forster. Morgan, this is my friend May and her friend–

EDNA

Edna. EDNA PICKLES. I know it’s a terrible name. But that’s who I am.

MORGAN

I think it is a charming name, Miss Pickles.

MAY

(Offering her hand directly to MORGAN)

Hullo, I’m May Hockey.

(MORGAN takes her hand, awkwardly.)

MORGAN

Yes. May.

EDNA

HOCKEY. And don’t ask her if she plays, ‘cause she don’t!

MORGAN

No.

MAY

I’m a nurse at the Fulham Maternity Hospital around the corner. I’m sure Robert has told you.

MORGAN

Yes. Bob has.

EDNA

We both are. Mothers and babies are our business! (A nervous laugh.) Sorry.

MAY

We’ve only a short time before our shift starts.

BOB

Come sit down, Morgan. What are you drinking, Girls?

MAY

Only ginger beer for me, Robert. We’re on duty at four.

EDNA

Ginger beer for me as well, I suppose. Have they got any pork scratchings? A couple of packets would be lovely.

MAY

For goodness sakes, Edna, but you just had your lunch.

EDNA

But I like pork scratchings.

BOB

You can have whatever you want. Morgan?

MORGAN

Please. Everyone. Have whatever you like.

EDNA

You’re certainly the kind of gentleman I like to spend time with, Mr. Forster! There, I’ve said it! I always say, “Honesty is the best policy.”

MORGAN

I favour reciprocal dishonesty, myself.

EDNA

Oh, my. Whatever can that mean?

MAY

A literary turn of phrase.

BOB

I’ll have a ginger beer, too. Morgan?

MORGAN

Yes, a ginger beer is fine, Bob.

BOB

All right. Ginger beers all around. 

(HE steps away to the bar to order the drinks from the BARMAN.

EDNA calls after BOB.)

EDNA

And a packet of pork scratchings!

(Pause. EDNA, MORGAN, and MAY sit silently at the table, while BOB gets the drinks.)

MAY

I read your novel.

MORGAN

Have you? Which one was that?

MAY

A Passage to India.

MORGAN

I hope you enjoyed it.

MAY

Adela should have told the truth. It would have saved a lot of trouble.

MORGAN

But trouble is the whole point of fiction.

MAY

But not in life.

EDNA

I can’t believe this is happening. Sittin’ right here with a famous author. Wait until I tell Freddie. Oh, before I forget, Mr. Forster, could you sign my book? I’ve never had an author before.

MORGAN

Certainly. Do you have a pen?

EDNA

Just a pencil.

MAY

Here, use mine. (Taking a pen from her uniform pocket, handing it to MORGAN.)

MORGAN

Thank you, Nurse Hockey. 

MAY

May. Just May.

MORGAN

Of course. May. How shall I inscribe it, Miss Pickles?

EDNA

Write, “To Edna, who brings new life into the world.”

MORGAN

Yes. New life. I rather like that. (HE begins to write.) “To Edna, who brings new life—” (completing the inscription in silence)

BOB

Here we are, Everybody. (Returning with four bottles of ginger beer, glasses, and the packet of pork scratchings, setting them on the table.) You’d think this was the Café Royal, the way the barman put his nose up.

EDNA

Have you been to the Café Royal? Golly.

MORGAN

Everyone enjoys Bob’s stories about his work.

MAY

Crime and passion amongst the working classes, is it?

MORGAN

In a way, yes. A window to a very different world.

EDNA

Well, somebody needs to give a good wash to these windows. Not much crime and passion to be seen through this one! I guess I’ve gone a bit literary on you, Mr. Forster. It must be catching!

MORGAN

It’s a very good turn of phrase, Miss Pickles. What’s this? (HE picks up a beer mat, reading it.) “ONLY WORTHINGTON BEST BITTER SERVED HERE.”

MAY

What a pity. When you haven’t got the ‘bob and ask for the BETTER instead.

(MORGAN bursts out in a spontaneous guffaw of laughter.)

MORGAN

HA! YES! Haven’t got the ‘bob, the BETTER BITTER instead! Indeed!

(BOB and EDNA join in the laughter.)

BOB

The BETTER BITTER!

EDNA

Indeed! I’ll have a pint of the BETTER, Mate!

MAY

But it is the “BEST BITTER SERVED,” after all. Good value there. (SHE replaces the beer mat on the table, with a smile to MORGAN, who returns her smile, uncertainly.)

BOB

It’s nice to see everyone getting along.

(A moment’s awkward pause.)

MAY

Robert tells me you’ve asked him on a motoring tour for his holiday week?

MORGAN

Yes. I thought he might enjoy seeing the West Country. 

EDNA

Oh, the West Country! That’ll be lovely.

BOB

I’ve never seen the West Country. Never seen much of the any country, for that matter. When I was a kid, the Council used to herd us all on to a bus and take us up to Hampstead Heath. Potted meat sandwiches. But that was about as much of the country I ever saw.

MORGAN

I’ve bought a car. I need a driver. I don’t drive myself.

MAY

That must be difficult. Having a car. When you don’t drive.

(A pause.)

MORGAN

Difficult. Yes. It’s second-hand. The car.

BOB

An old Essex, a real beauty.

MORGAN

I don’t really know about motors. I’m leaving all that to Robert.

EDNA

A nice motoring holiday. It’s a shame May can’t get away to go with you.

MORGAN

Yes. (Pause.) It is.

MAY

I’m afraid we have to cut this short.

EDNA

Oh, May, don’t be such a wet blanket. You’re not Matron yet. Matron’s always putting the damper on a bit of fun.

MAY

We need to check with Matron about the fresh surgical supplies before the shift starts. And you, Robert, need to get back to the station. It’s nearly Four.

BOB

It’s all right, May. Morgan cleared it with my Sergeant.

MORGAN

I cleared it.

EDNA

We’ve got time, May, I already checked the supply cupboard—(a kick under the table, a look from MAY) Oh, right, we need to check those supplies. (To BOB.) The drinks were lovely, Robert. It’s a shame we didn’t touch the scratchings. No need to waste. (SHE puts the packet of scratchings into her handbag.) I’ll save them for my tea.

MORGAN

Please do, Miss Pickles. No need to waste.

EDNA

It’s been such a pleasure, Mr. Forster.

MORGAN

It’s been mutual, Miss Pickles.

EDNA

I’ve got to get back to the babies. I love my job. I really do. I love babies.

MORGAN

You must, Miss Pickles. Babies are the meaning of everything.

EDNA

Yes, yes, they are, aren’t they? Do you have children, Mr. Forster?

MORGAN

No. I’m not married.

EDNA

Well, if I may say so, you’d be quite a catch.

MAY

Edna, you go on ahead. I need a word with Robert.

EDNA

Yes, Matron! (A little salute.)

MORGAN

I’ll be off then. Drinks are my treat.

EDNA

It’s oh, so good of you, Mr. Forster!

MAY

Yes, so very. But we’d rather pay. (Taking up her handbag.)

BOB

May, put that away! This is Morgan’s treat!

MORGAN

I always say money’s a thing to use, if you’ve got it.

EDNA

Oh, Mr Forster, do walk me back! We can talk about babies.

MORGAN

Yes, babies. Good afternoon, Miss Hockey. It’s been most pleasant meeting Robert’s friends.

MAY

And most pleasant meeting you, Mr. Forster.

BOB

(To MORGAN.)

I’ll be just a moment with May, if that’s all right.

MORGAN

Of course. I’ll see Nurse Pickles to the hospital. BARMAN?

(EDNA links her arm in MORGAN’S as THEY exit.)

EDNA

You really ought to have babies of your own, Mr. Forster. (Exiting.)

BOB

He likes to pay. He really does.

MAY

I can see that.

BOB

I thought that went well. Except for you wanting to pay.

MAY

We mustn’t take advantage, Robert.

BOB

No. We mustn’t. (Pause.) So what do you think?

MAY

He has beautiful hands. It’s always the first thing I notice. But more importantly, I think your Mr. Forster cares very much for you.

BOB

He’s a good person, May. I told you. He knows so much and he’s been everywhere. He wants me to better myself, May.

MAY

I’m sure he does. (Pause.) Do you think there’s room for me?

BOB

Room for you? What do you mean?

MAY

In your friendship.

BOB

I love you, May. You know that.

MAY

And I love you, Robert. You are such a good, good man. Maybe that’s what Mr. Forster sees in you. Just be careful, Robert.

BOB

Careful? Careful of what? Morgan sees the good in everyone.

MAY

Does he? Then I hope he sees the good in me.

BOB

He will, luv. Just give him time.

MAY

“Time’s winged chariot,” Robert.

(BOB leans in and kisses her cheek.)

BOB

You are a wonder, May Hockey. It’s a miracle I found you.

MAY

Little miracles seem to be happening all around. Here we are, two quite ordinary people and we can say the famous E.M. Forster is our friend.

BOB

He is, May. Morgan is the best of people.

(MAY leans in, kissing him.)

BOB (Cont’d)

What was that for?

MAY

Because you are a sweet, loving, believing person.

BOB

And you’re not?

MAY

No, I don’t think I am. Not in the normal way. I think what I believe in most is people–and what they have between them. That seems to be a more reliable belief than a belief in God.

BOB

That’s funny. That’s what Morgan says.

MAY

Does he?

BOB

Maybe you’re more alike than you think.

MAY

Maybe. We shall see.

BOB

Good ol’ May! Do you want to come ‘round the flat after your shift? Morgan’s going back to Surrey to see his Mum.

MAY

I’m on night duty. I’d better be getting back with Edna.

BOB

But you do like him, don’t you, May? It’s important to me. I want you to like him.

MAY

Yes, I like him, Robert. More than I thought I would. More than I wanted to, actually. (SHE gets up to leave.)

BOB

Thursday, then?

MAY

Thursday then. 

(SHE kisses him again and exits.

BOB drinks from his ginger beer, picks up the beer mat, reading aloud.)

BOB

“—Best Bitter, Better Bitter.” HA! (Raising a hand, signaling the BARMAN.) Make it a large whiskey, mate! (The lights fade.)

Scene 6

(Dora Carrington’s painting studio Ham Spray House, Wiltshire. A late summer afternoon. CARRINGTON, late 30s, in paint-dappled man’s shirt, trousers, boyish haircut, stands at a paint easel, painting a portrait of MORGAN. MORGAN sits posed awkwardly in a chair opposite.)

CARRINGTON

You are looking quite the old grump this afternoon. Confess, Morgan. What’s troubling you? 

MORGAN

People are becoming increasingly irritating and exhausting, Carrington. I am losing patience with human beings and their personal relations.

CARRINGTON

A serious handicap for a novelist. Perhaps you should consider a change of profession. You might take up a professorship somewhere. Professors, in my experience, have little interest in human beings or personal relations.

MORGAN

I am not joking.

CARRINGTON

Neither am I. Do sit still, Morgan, and stop fidgeting. And kindly sit up, you look like a sack of potatoes.

MORGAN

I hate posing. Can’t you take a photograph and work from that?

CARRINGTON

NO. I want to capture the “LIFE” in you, Morgan! And stop clutching your left hand like that. You look like a nervous schoolgirl called before the Headmistress.

MORGAN

Please don’t boss me. (HE releases his hand.) Women and their rights have got quite out of hand, Carrington.

CARRINGTON

Have we? How inconvenient.

MORGAN

If women ever wanted to be by themselves all would be well. But I don’t believe they ever want to be. Their instinct is never to let men be by themselves.

CARRINGTON

AH! The Destruction of Club Life! We women will not rest until it is complete. Storm the Athenaeum! Deal me in at Boodles! Whiskey and cigars all around! We want to get in everywhere, Morgan, and we will.

MORGAN

You actually believe that.

CARRINGTON

My dear Morgan, a man can run away from women, turn them out, or give in to them. No fourth course exists. (Pause.) So what’s she like? The girlfriend? Pretty?

MORGAN

No, rather ordinary. Doesn’t wear make-up or lipstick. Very direct in her manner.

CARRINGTON

Ah. Mannish, you mean?

MORGAN

Not at all. A round face. But a softness to it. She looks directly at one. But she does have a rather irritating voice.

CARRINGTON

How so?

MORGAN

It’s not the voice. It’s the manner. Rather too authoritative.

CARRINGTON

Well, you said she was nurse. She’s used to giving orders.

MORGAN

It’s very off-putting. Especially in regards to Bob.

CARRINGTON

Unnerving that, I suppose. Considering the circumstances. Does she know that Policeman Bob is sleeping with you?

MORGAN

No, I don’t think so. Bob would have told me. No, our meeting was all very cordial and civilized, if rather chilly.

CARRINGTON

Well, it is a beginning. It all might sort itself out quite tidily. You, your sweetie, and his nurse friend.

MORGAN

Sort itself out? If you’re implying a ménage à trois arrangement, Carrington, I will have none of your triangular relationship business.

CARRINGTON

It’s quite practical and satisfying, actually. It solves a lot of problems. Ralph loves me, I love Lytton, and Lytton loves Ralph. I want to have sex with Lytton, which doesn’t suit him, but he has sex with Ralph and Ralph has sex with me. So it all balances out, doesn’t it? One must take people as they are, Morgan, and work from there. The only requirement is a fairly large and sturdy bed.

MORGAN

Please, Carrington, spare me the details.

CARRINGTON

Don’t shut your mind to it, Morgan. You might find a way to sort it all out. Triangularly speaking.

MORGAN

I could never be with a woman in that way.

CARRINGTON

Oh, rubbish! With your Policeman Bob to urge you on!

(BOB enters in rolled shirtsleeves, grease-stained, wiping his hands on a greased and oil-stained cloth.)

BOB

The ol’ girl should be humming nicely now. I cleaned up the carburettor and the spark plugs and adjusted the fan belt.

CARRINGTON

Whatever those are. Morgan, why don’t you buy yourself a new car and make Bob your chauffeur, with a smart cap and spiffy uniform, and not have all this motor engine annoyance? You can afford it.

BOB

Oh, no, Ma’am. It’s part of the fun, fixing up and taking care of the old Essex. A new car wouldn’t be nearly as much.

CARRINGTON

Spoken like a born mechanic, Constable.

BOB

I’m sure it’s no problem but, your husband Mr. Carrington and the bearded gentleman are sunbathing naked in the front garden.

CARRINGTON

There is no Mr. Carrington, Bob. You mean, Ralph and Mr. Strachey. And not to worry–the hedgerow is quite high. We will not frighten any bicycling spinsters or holiday motorists.

BOB

Mr. Strachey is lying in your husband’s arms. Awfully private business to be doing in public, don’t you think?

CARRINGTON

Was Mr. Strachey lying beard up or beard down?

BOB

Beard down I think.

CARRINGTON

Then he will have a very burnt bottom tonight. Morgan, your turn.

MORGAN

It’s all right, Bob. Mr. Strachey is a very close friend.

BOB

Oh. Then it’s all right then. Good mates, are they?

CARRINGTON

We are all good mates here at Ham Spray House.

BOB

Miss Carrington, I was wondering–

MORGAN

Just “Carrington,” Bob. She prefers it.

BOB

Sorry. Carrington, you wouldn’t have an extra can of petrol you could spare? I hate for us to be caught short crossing the Downs.

CARRINGTON

I believe there are several cans in the shed. You’re welcome to them.

BOB

Thank you, Ma’am. How’s the picture coming? May I see?

CARRINGTON

Only if you understand it’s not finished.

BOB

All right. (HE looks at the painting.) Oh, very good. I think you’ve got him to the life. One thing, tho’.

CARRINGTON

ONE thing?

BOB

The little gold ring on his left little finger. You missed that. It would be nice to get that in.

CARRINGTON

Oh. Right. Didn’t catch that. Morgan, you were clutching that hand, but now I see it quite clearly. (SHE dabs at the canvas.)

BOB

You’ve got it now, Miss Carrington. I mean–Carrington.

CARRINGTON

Thank you, Buckingham!

BOB

Buckingham? Oh, right! Ha!

MORGAN

When can I see it, Carrington?

CARRINGTON

Not until it’s finished. I don’t ask to read your stories before you’ve finished them, do I?

BOB

Don’t worry, Morgan’s not writing anything now.

MORGAN

No. Not now.

BOB

Let me get the petrol in the tank and clean up a bit, and we’re ready to go, Morgan. Are you ready?

MORGAN

If the sitting is over. 

CARRINGTON

Yes, the muse has moved on. To the pottery wheel! You have a good eye, Policeman Bob.

BOB

Thank you, Ma’am. Give me ten minutes to clean up, Morgan, and I’ll be out in the car. It’s been good meeting you, Carrington–and thanks for the beer. Ten minutes, Morgan. Let me change this shirt. (HE removes his shirt, exiting.)

MORGAN

We are so completely unalike–Bob and I.

CARRINGTON

Ah, but that’s the beauty of it, don’t you see? That you found each other. Policeman Bob is the man for you, Morgan.

MORGAN

You’re not just saying that?

CARRINGTON

Your Policeman is charming and extremely attractive to look at, if I may say so–and quite easy to get on with.

MORGAN

I’m glad you like him. I am so very proud of the lad.

CARRINGTON

As well you should be. He’s lovely and he loves you, Morgan. Anyone can see that. If he wasn’t so gone on you, I might try to steal him.

MORGAN

Is it that obvious?

CARRINGTON

You are a great baby sometimes.

MORGAN

I know it’s not the customary thing. For a young man and a man of my years.

CARRINGTON

I suppose you must find the love of Policeman Bob a bit overwhelming.

MORGAN

It is unsettling. Especially the situation. The woman and all. Love can get so awfully complicated.

CARRINGTON

Welcome to the human race, Morgan. (SHE kisses MORGAN tenderly on the cheek.) Don’t worry, these things have a way of sorting themselves out.

MORGAN

Let me know when the portrait is finished. Or if you want another sitting.

CARRINGTON

(Looking at her canvas.)

No. I think I’ve got you now. As your Bob says, “to the life.”

MORGAN

All right then. Say good-bye to Ralph and Strachey for me. I shan’t disturb their sunbathing. (As MORGAN is about to exit.)

CARRINGTON

If I might say, you ought to screw your courage to the sticking place and live your life as you really want to. Isn’t that what you advocate for your characters in your novels? The courage to live honestly as one wishes?

MORGAN

An easy position to support in fiction, but real life can be an entirely different matter.

CARRINGTON

But not impossible, I dare say, if I am any example. Give it a go, Guv’ner.

MORGAN

I haven’t your moral courage, Carrington, when it comes to these sexual matters. Your public daring, dear girl, has always been a wonder to me.

CARRINGTON

Pushing the boundaries, am I?

MORGAN

Fearlessly, my dear.

CARRINGTON

I’ll take that as a compliment. Talking of the real world, Forster, it is a curious thing, isn’t it?

MORGAN

What is?

CARRINGTON

That more female writers don’t have affairs with female policewomen.

MORGAN

Oh, but they do, Carrington, only not in your section of Wiltshire. You should talk to the Mitford Sisters. (HE exits as CARRINGTON picks up her easel.)

CARRINGTON

Motion carried. Time to throw a few pots. 

(Exits.

MORGAN slips a black mourning band on his coat sleeve as HE crosses to.) 

Scene 7

(Evening, August 1932. A year later. A first-class carriage compartment of the Great Western Main Line, Hungerford to Paddington Station train. MORGAN takes a seat opposite BOB. Sound of a train in transit. THEY sit facing one another, each with a black mourning band on his coat sleeve. The clicking sound of the train wheels on track. PAUSE. Then.)

MORGAN

What time is it?

BOB 

(Checking his wristwatch.)

Eight-Forty-Eight. Do you want me to stay over at the flat tonight?

MORGAN

No. No, not tonight. I’d rather be alone. It’s been a horrible year, Bob. Today has brought it all back. What possible horror could be coming next?

BOB

I always say guns should not be in the hands of the Public. Especially women.

MORGAN

I can’t believe they are both gone. I thought Carrington came through Strachey’s death so well, joking about us all going out on a jolly pheasant shoot together.

BOB

I remember him saying, “If this is dying, I don’t think much of it.” He made me laugh.

MORGAN

He was so cheerful and clear-minded up to the very end. Stomach cancer be damned.

BOB

She must have loved Mr. Strachey very much. I suppose her husband wasn’t enough.

MORGAN

What?

BOB

The gentleman she was married to. Ralph.

MORGAN

No, Ralph wasn’t enough. In the usual way.

BOB

She loved them both, I think. But in very different ways.

MORGAN

Yes. Very different ways.

BOB

I can see that.

MORGAN

The main difference being that she could not go on living without Strachey.

BOB

May says it can happen like that. In hospital. When one person in the marriage dies, the other won’t go on living without them, and dies soon after. Of course, Miss Carrington wasn’t married to Mr. Strachey. She had Ralph. But you can never be sure with the way love works, can you?

MORGAN

(Vaguely, looking out the darkened train window)

No, never sure.

(Pause.)

BOB

It was a funny sort of memorial. Us scattering her ashes under the laurel bush in her garden and that dance band record playin’ on the gramophone, “TOOT-TOOT-TOOTSIE, GOOD-BYE.” She had a sense of humour, Miss Carrington did.

MORGAN

A rare and gifted artist, Bob. The best of all possible women friends. We shall not see her like again. (HE starts to break down, BOB comforts him.)

BOB

Easy now, luv. Easy.

MORGAN

I don’t have the courage to live as bravely as she would have me do. I feel such shame, Bob. I am not the man Carrington believed me to be. I have failed her and now I don’t know how I shall survive her death. I really don’t.

BOB

(Taking MORGAN’S hand.)

There’s love, Morgan. And life. And beautiful babies coming into the world. Like you said, when you met Edna and May, remember last summer? “Babies are the meaning of everything.”

MORGAN

Did I? Well, it must have been in the context of the conversation.

BOB

There’s new life coming, Morgan. May is pregnant.

MORGAN

Pregnant? She’s a nurse, for Godsakes! Doesn’t she know about birth control?

BOB

She’s going to have my baby. I’m going to marry her, Morgan.

MORGAN

You don’t have to marry her. She can go away somewhere and have it quietly. How much money does she want? We’ll give her all the money she wants.

BOB

You talk too much about money. May doesn’t want anything. She doesn’t even want to marry me.

MORGAN

Thank God for that. At least she shows some sense.

BOB

But I want to. I want to marry May and have our baby. I want a family of my own, Morgan. I never had a family. Never had a father to speak of. I want to be a good husband and father and have a family life.

MORGAN

But that’s no reason to throw your life away on this woman.

BOB

I want to be with her, Morgan. May’s a good woman. I want to marry her and make a home for our baby.

MORGAN

I will not discuss this. I have tolerated the presence of this woman in our lives for the past year. But this is the end of it. This is a closed topic. I need a drink. I’m going to the buffet car.

BOB

Sit down, Morgan.

MORGAN

What?

BOB

I love her and I love the child that’s growing inside of her.

MORGAN

And where do I fit into this cozy family picture?

BOB

I want you to love them as I do.

MORGAN

This is madness.

BOB

No, this is love, Morgan. What you taught me. You know I will never love anyone like I love you. Nothing can change that.

MORGAN

And May and her wee bairn?

BOB

They are a part of me now. Can’t you love them with me?

MORGAN

I think what you are asking is outrageous and unnatural.

BOB

I’m sorry you feel that way. It’s already set. We’ve booked a date at the registry office.

MORGAN

At least it’s not a church wedding. That would be a travesty.

BOB

May doesn’t hold with that religion stuff. It’s what she wants–and we want you to witness it. Give me your hand. 

MORGAN

What for?

(BOB takes MORGAN’S hand and wraps his own left little finger around MORGAN’S ringed left little finger.)

BOB

We are bound for life, Morgan.

MORGAN

But I certainly hope NOT for the wedding night.

(BOB bursts out laughing, and MORGAN in spite of himself, laughs.)

BOB

Will you try? Say you’ll try.

(MORGAN takes BOB’S hand in his kissing it, pressing it to his cheek.)

MORGAN

Oh, my boy, my precious boy. Yes, I’ll try. I will try.

(BOB put his hand gently to MORGAN’S head, smoothing his hair.)

BOB

Shhh, shhh, luv. My Morgan. 

(HE kisses the top of MORGAN’S head.

The lights fade.

A recording of Lohengrin’s Wedding March is heard as–)

END OF EXTRACT. 

KHALASS (ENOUGH)

Characters: Sara–American woman, 20-40 years old. Khalid-Egyptian man, 20-40 years old

Setting: The top of the great pyramid of Egypt. Full moon.

Time: Night.

(Night. Full moon. On top of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Spooky and beautiful at the same time. The top of the pyramid is an uneven surface of worn stone blocks, forming two or three playing levels. The surface area on top is larger than one would think. Many of the stones are covered in graffiti. A moment of moonlit peaceful silence, then Sara emerges, climbing up over the edge to the top. Out of breath, she looks around, realizes she’s made it, raises her arms in victory!)

SARA

(In a loud whisper…)

YES!

(Spins around gleefully.)

YES! Awesome! Been there! Done that!

(She checks the view from front of stage.)

My God!… Check… this… out!!

(She rushes back to where she first appeared, loud whisper over edge…)

Cal! Come on! This place is incredible! (Pause.) Cal? Where are you? Cal!

KHALID

Quiet! They will hear you!

SARA

What’s wrong?

KHALID

I’m taking a rest. 

SARA

You’re not still scared?

KHALID

No, I’m not still scared.

SARA

Then come on. I’m on the top. 

KHALID

I’m more scared.

SARA

Come on. Only six more feet and you can say you’ve done it. 

KHALID

Up. Only six more feet up but how many feet down?

SARA

Hand me the backpack.

(She pulls up the backpack.)

Ok, now grab here and put your foot in that crack. 

KHALID

Show the flashlight. 

SARA

We can’t. They’ll see us.

KHALID

Maybe they will rescue me.

SARA

You big weenie. 

KHALID

Weenie… what is this?

SARA

(Sara lies down, reaching over.) 

Give me your hand… ok, put your foot there… left, left. No! Right foot but move it left. Got it?

KHALID

Yadi el nila ana eih kan gabne fi el hebaba di! [Oh shit, what the hell am I doing in this mess?!]

SARA

What?!

KHALID

My new jeans! They are cut open.

SARA

Oh my god, we’re all gonna die! Ok, come on, one, two, three… heave!

(He comes sprawling over the edge onto the top. Lies stunned, afraid to move.)

You did it! See, no problem. Check it out. Amazing! Ladies and Gentlemen, you’ve read about it. You’ve seen it on TV. You are now, in fact, standing atop one of the Seven Wonders of the World… The Great Pyramid of Egypt. 

KHALID

How are we going to get down? 

SARA

Open your eyes. 

KHALID

Everybody says going down is even worse. 

SARA

Come on, get up or… (Tickles him.)… Gootchy-gootchy-gootchy… 

KHALID

Ok, ok, stop it. Don’t fool around like this! 

SARA

Gootchy, gootchy! 

KHALID

It’s dangerous! 

SARA

Look how far you can see.

(She opens backpack, takes out water bottle, tangerines, chocolate. Khalid looks down.) 

KHALID

Oh my God! 

SARA

I told you! You can practically see all of Cairo. The stars look so close.  

KHALID

The ground looks so far.

SARA

Ohhh… Do you want me to hold your little hand. 

KHALID

People fall off here every year. 

SARA

Come over here. I’ve got chocolaaate! 

KHALID

You don’t know. They do! Crazy fools… like us. Dead! 

SARA

It’s magical up here. 

KHALID

Backs broken. Heads open. Ha tilai’i emkhakh fi khul hetta. [You’ll find brains everywhere.] 

SARA

Quiet. 

KHALID

The government covers this up so it won’t frighten tourists. I’m Egyptian so I know these things. Smashed like bugs. 

SARA

Ssshhh! Listen… 

KHALID

(Jumps up scared.)  

What? What?!

(Stumbles.)

Oww, oww!

SARA

Listen! 

KHALID

(Pause, whispers…) 

I don’t hear anything! 

SARA

Beautiful, isn’t it? The music of the stars. 

KHALID

My God… I’ve twisted my ankle. 

SARA

Look at that moon… it’s huge! 

KHALID

They’re going to have to send a helicopter to bring us from here. We’ll be arrested, then fired. Maybe they will cancel the film crew’s permit for the pyramids or maybe for all of Egypt. How would you like this? The whole film crew kicked out of Egypt because we break the rules. 

SARA

Come on, enjoy the moment. 

KHALID

Look at the moon, listen to the stars! Do you think I’m enjoying this damn moment? 

SARA

Doesn’t it make you want to kiss? 

KHALID

(Dead stop.) You are serious? 

SARA

(She nods. He leans in and is just about to kiss her when she jumps away, prepares to flee.)

But first you gotta catch me! 

KHALID

Oh my God.

(He gives up and slumps down.)

SARA

Come on! Let’s play scarab, scarab, who’s got the scarab! I’ll be Cleopatra and you be King Tut.

KHALID

They were from different centuries.

SARA

You’re from a different century. 

KHALID

I’m not going to chase you around the top of the pyramid! It’s dangerous. 

SARA

You chased me all the way up here. 

KHALID

I didn’t chase you. 

SARA

What do you call it? 

KHALID

I volunteered to help you. 

SARA

You’re afraid of heights. 

KHALID

So? 

SARA

I practically had to carry you. 

KHALID

I’m sorry you feel this way. 

SARA

Admit it, you’re attracted to me so you did the macho thing and followed me up here. 

KHALID

(Examining the embarrassing hole in the crotch of his jeans.)

These are real Levis! My cousin brings them all the way from China! 

SARA

You probably figured you get me up here all alone, a full moon, a million stars, a loose American woman.

(She leans over to get a playful look at the hole in his jeans.) 

KHALID

Don’t look!  

SARA

“Come with me to ze Casbah, where we will make beautiful music together.” 

KHALID

(Pause.) What is this Casbah? 

SARA

You’ve never heard of the Casbah? 

KHALID

It is for music? 

SARA

The Casbah is where you’re supposed to take me on your magic carpet to kiss me, ravish me, make me wear see-through silky things and write bad checks. 

KHALID

Wait, maybe I know it. In the Cairo Trade Center? 

SARA

I’m devastated. Don’t you ever watch cartoons? Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves? Flying carpets! Men with big mustaches and long curvy knives shouting, “open sesame” and sweeping women off to their harems! 

KHALID

Maybe this is Yemen. 

SARA

And what about Anthony and Cleopatra? My god! They probably stood right here! And the English Patient? This is supposed to be the land of mystery and romance!  

KHALID

I like this movie very much, the English Patient. 

SARA

And you’re telling me that my life-long romantic fantasy is just another urban myth. 

KHALID

Sorry? I don’t understand. 

SARA

Well at least you chased me up the Great Pyramid. How many women can say that? 

KHALID

I didn’t chase you. 

]SARA

So, you’re saying you don’t want to kiss me? 

KHALID

(Pause.) 

Of course, I want to kiss you. 

SARA

See! 

KHALID

But that isn’t why I climb here. 

SARA

And I was getting all weak in the knees. 

KHALID

You laugh at me. I am a joke, yes? 

SARA

I didn’t say that.

KHALID

Yanni, because I am afraid. You make fun of me. 

SARA

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to rag on you. 

KHALID

Ma’alisch. [Doesn’t matter.] It is nothing. I am a big boy. 

SARA

Really. I’m sorry. Peace, Ok?

KHALID

Sure, sure. Peace. It’s ok. 

SARA

It is beautiful though, isn’t it? Like the dark side of the moon. Spooky and beautiful at the same time. 

KHALID

Enti zayy il amer. [You are like the moon.] 

SARA

What? 

KHALID

Maybe like you. You are like the moon. 

SARA

Ohh… you sweet talking man. Maybe you do have potential. 

KHALID

Shofti baa’. [See!] Like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic! 

SARA

Oh please! 

KHALID

I love this movie! (Holds arms out like the famous scene.) 

SARA

Cal… 

KHALID

Kate Winslet! So beautiful! 

SARA

Cal! 

KHALID

Sixteen times I have seen this movie! 

SARA

I can’t get romantic thinking about Leonardo Di Caprio. 

KHALID

No? 

SARA

No. 

KHALID

Oh.  

SARA

So… what would happen if they caught us up here? Arrest us? 

KHALID

My god, I don’t know. Make us pay a million pounds baksheesh. Which I don’t have. 

SARA

Why’d you come up here then? If not for little old me. 

KHALID

(Pause.) I wanted to see if I could do it. 

SARA

Because you were afraid? 

KHALID

Yes. 

SARA

That’s so fantastic! It’s very empowering to overcome fears. Fear is just of the unknown. You know what I mean? We’re scared of what we don’t know. Like the dark. Like death. Like Egypt! 

KHALID

You were afraid from Egypt? 

SARA

I was about to pee my pants. I got the call for this job and my first thought was, “No way, Jose!” I’m too young to be massacred.  

KHALID

Egypt is not like this!

SARA

It was fear of the unknown! My god, all we ever hear about the Middle-East is hotels bombed, tourists slaughtered, and guys with funny beards shouting, “Death to America!” Like everybody hates us. 

KHALID

We don’t hate you! 

SARA

Exactly! And I love it here! The people! 

KHALID

Egyptians are the friendliest people in the world! 

SARA

The history, sailing on the Nile, Siwa! I’ll never forget Siwa as long as I live. Running down those sand dunes. The oasis. All the little kids shouting, “What’s your name?” “What’s your name?” It’s changed me. The way I look at the world. If I had listened to everybody else I’d still be sitting in Silver Lake, clutching my latte, scared of anybody in a turban. What’s ironic? I feel ten times safer here than walking around LA. And certainly more welcome. 

KHALID

Il ham du lileh. [Thanks to God,] I was here before you know. 

SARA

Wait! Here? On top?  

KHALID

Not all the way. When I was little. For school trip. They give permission for students to climb. 

SARA

You’re kidding. How old were you? 

KHALID

Maybe ten years. I didn’t want to and my friends make fun of me. Calling me names. So, I try but I got sick. 

SARA

Uh oh. 

KHALID

I think I drink too much Pepsis. I… ragaat… (Mimes throwing up)… I don’t know it in English. 

SARA

Throw up? You threw up? 

KHALID

Yes. On the Great Pyramid. 

SARA

Oh, you poor thing. You must have been scared to death. 

KHALID

So maybe many can say they have climbed the pyramid but I think I am the only one who can throw up on it. 

SARA

Ohhhh… was that the most afraid you’ve ever been? 

KHALID

I don’t know. 

SARA

That was my favorite scene from the English Patient. Remember? When he asks her that? “What’s the most afraid you’ve ever been?” 

KHALID

Most afraid? 

SARA

(Looking into Khalid’s eyes.)

And her heart’s pounding and she looks in his eyes and says, “That’s the way I feel right now.” 

KHALID

(Blowing it.) I don’t remember this scene. 

SARA

You have to! 

KHALID

It is from the English Patient? 

SARA

Yes! When they were in the bathtub together? After he ripped her dress off?

KHALID

I think the censors, maybe they cut this scene. 

SARA

That was the best part! He had this great apartment in the old part of Cairo. Totally went native. Carved wood.  

Slow, steamy fans. This huge bathtub. Brrr… it still gives me a shiver. Although maybe it’s just the wind. 

KHALID

You are cold? 

SARA

A little. 

KHALID

I’m sorry. Here… (He tries to put his jacket around her.) 

SARA

No, no really. I didn’t mean that. 

KHALID

No. Ma’alisch [Doesn’t matter.] 

(He puts it around her.) 

I am used to this. 

SARA

Thank you. 

(He sits closer.)

SARA (Con’t)

Hey, look! A shooting star! 

KHALID

Where? 

SARA

There… you missed it. Make a wish. 

KHALID

I wish we get down alive. 

SARA

Something good. 

KHALID

I wish I have seen this bathtub scene. 

SARA

I’ll bet. 

KHALID

I wish to know you more. 

SARA

That’s better. 

KHALID

You think this is possible? 

SARA

You still haven’t answered the big question.

KHALID

What? 

SARA

The most scared you’ve ever been. Now? Sitting here on the edge of the world with the crazy American woman? 

KHALID

No. You are crazy but I am not afraid from you. 

SARA

Come on, what then?

KHALID

I don’t know. 

SARA

I may have to tickle you again… 

KHALID

Ok, ok… maybe… maybe it is when I am a student… at the university. I like to draw, you know? 

SARA

You’re an artist? 

KHALID

No, not really. Cartoons. My friend had a website, a blog. 

SARA

Like a comic strip? 

KHALID

No, no. Political. Political cartoons…about what was done at the university… and here in Egypt. 

SARA

Uh oh. 

KHALID

The police come to my house in the night and take me to the jail. 

SARA

Oh shit. You’re kidding. 

KHALID

They tell me stop. If I want to continue at the university, I must stop.  

SARA

They threatened you? 

KHALID

I sit for many hours with my eyes covered. Blind fold. My friend was also arrested, beaten. I was very afraid. 

SARA

Jesus. 

KHALID

For me. For my family. I prayed very hard. I think they will beat me too but finally they let me go. My father, he is very angry. 

SARA

I guess! 

KHALID

He slaps me. Here in the mouth. 

SARA

He hit you? 

KHALID

He is very angry from me. 

SARA

Why? 

KHALID

I think he is afraid too. The government is very powerful, very serious. Not for cartoons. Not for laughing. 

SARA

I’m sorry. 

KHALID

I don’t think they would do this in your country? 

SARA

My god, sometimes our country is a cartoon. Or a made for TV Fox movie. “Mission accomplished!” “Axis of Evil!” 

KHALID

Ah yes… Bush. 

SARA

Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan. 

KHALID

This is wrong. This invasion. 

SARA

Well, no shit, Sherlock. 

KHALID

You agree with this? 

SARA

Anybody with a brain agrees with this. 

KHALID

What about Israel? 

SARA

What about it? 

KHALID

Invading Lebanon, Palestine. Taking their land. Bombing the poor peoples. 

SARA

Nobody should bomb anybody. 

KHALID

But you are American. 

SARA

And? 

KHALID

America gives them the bombs! 

SARA

You agree with everything your government does? 

KHALID

Of course not. 

SARA

So, why would I? It’d be like me blaming you for all the rude remarks I have to listen to from men in the streets here. 

KHALID

This is a bad thing. Shebeb rewesh. [Flashy young men.] 

SARA

Shebeb assholes! I mean what is this?… (Long disgusting kissing noise.)…Why do Egyptian men do that? Is that genetic or just genital? “I want practice make love you.” Why do women have to listen to that? 

KHALID

I think they watch too much western movies. 

SARA

Right. If that was the case then men in the States would be ten times worse and, believe me, at the moment I’ve got a whole new respect for their gender sensitivity. 

KHALID

I’m sorry. I am ashamed for Egypt when I see this. 

SARA

Do Egyptian women have to put up with this? 

KHALID

I think maybe we eat now. 

SARA

Chicken. 

KHALID

No, only chocolate and mandarin. Please? Ok, peace? 

SARA

How do you say peace in Arabic? 

KHALID

Salaam. 

SARA

Salaam? 

KHALID

Bazzapt. [Exactly.] Peace. Sit please… I am your tour guide. Sit! 

(She does.)

I studied Egyptology you know. Yanni, I know all about pyramids. I think you don’t know there are 97 of them.  

SARA

No way. 

KHALID

Giza, Saqquara, Dahshur, Abusir, many. Maybe more still buried. 

SARA

Wow. 

KHALID

That way is Saqquara and Dashur. During the day, you see them from here. There, Cairo. 

SARA

Looks like an ocean of light.

KHALID

Sixteen million peoples. See there… the Cairo Tower that Nasser built… and there is the Sheraton and the Hilton. 

SARA

Major landmarks. 

KHALID

Yes. And here the Sphinx. In Arabic called Abul Hol. “The Father of Horrors.” 

SARA

Whoooaa… 

KHALID

And that way desert… all the way to Libya. Forty days by camel.

SARA

Right. 

KHALID

No, no. I’m serious. Forty days and, maybe for us, 1001 nights. We put our camp under the stars, yes? The camels grazing. The oud and flute playing. Incense. Our tent with many rich carpets made of finest wool. 

SARA

Sure. And we’re eating sheep’s eyeballs and I’m wearing one of those slinky, red belly-dancer things we saw at the bazaar. 

KHALID

Meshi Khalass, [Ok, sure,] as you like… and black khol for your eyes. And I will buy for you the same perfume Cleopatra wears. 

SARA

And I’ll feed you grapes that I peeled with my own teeth.

(She demonstrates on a tangerine.) 

KHALID

You dance barefoot on the sand and then we will, how do you say it? Enjoy the moment? 

SARA

Dream on sucker!

(Playfully mashes tangerine in his mouth.)

After you wouldn’t play hide the scarab? 

KHALID

I wait for more stars to fall and make this wish. 

SARA

Did you really study Egyptology? 

KHALID

Like my father. This is why he names me Khalid. Khalid means immortal. Like the pharaohs. Like the pyramids. 

SARA

Wait, what’s your name? I thought it was Cal. 

KHALID

Khalid, but you Americans call me Cal. This is easier I think. 

SARA

Oh my god. I’ve been calling you the wrong name? Why didn’t you tell me? 

KHALID

Mish mushkilla. [No problem.] No problem. Maybe it is difficult for you.

SARA

Duh! Stupid American! Calling you Cal, like some Texas used car dealer. 

KHALID

Ma’alisch. [Doesn’t matter.] Really! 

SARA

(Tries to pronounce it.)

Ok, Khalid? 

KHALID

Khaaalid. 

SARA

Khaaalid? 

KHALID

Mumtez! [Excellent!] Your Arabic very beautiful. 

SARA

So, then Khalid, how come, if you were destined to be an Egyptologist, you’re working on a movie crew? 

KHALID

This is first time for me. My cousin knows the assistant director. When I leave the university, the only job I am offered is tour guide. But after the Sinai attacks there is no work for me. 

SARA

Sinai… oh my god! That hotel. I saw it on TV. Over and over I saw it. 

KHALID

These are very bad men. Not real Egyptians. This is not the right way of Islam. 

SARA

Same all over I guess. We’ve got our own share of crazies back home. Oklahoma, Texas militias, Cheney. (Pause.) The world should be like this… peaceful… quiet. 

KHALID

Beautiful. 

SARA

Sitting here I feel like I belong. Like I’ve been here before. 

KHALID

Maybe you were a queen here in another life. Very beautiful wife of Pharaoh. 

SARA

More like kitchen slave in the Pharaoh’s palace scraping leftover peacock off the royal plates. 

KHALID

I’m serious. You look very Egyptian. 

SARA

Right. 

KHALID

I think Egyptian women are the most beautiful in the world. 

SARA

And I think the moonlight’s starting to affect your brain. 

KHALID

And your name, Sara, is very Egyptian. [Sara in Arabic rhymes with bar… Sar-a] 

SARA

Really? 

KHALID

Yes, of course. Many girls here have this same name. You pass for Egyptian. 

SARA

I guess I ought to… my family moved from here a long time ago. 

KHALID

Really? You are serious? 

SARA

Ever heard of the Exodus? 

KHALID

Exodus? What is this? 

SARA

When all the Jews left Egypt, and went to Israel. You know Moses? The Red Sea? The Burning Bush? All that? 

KHALID

What are you saying? I don’t understand. You are Israeli? (Laughing.) No. 

SARA

No, but I’m Jewish. I’m going to visit Israel after I leave here. 

KHALID

You are Jewish? 

SARA

Yes. 

KHALID

Why? 

SARA

Why am I Jewish? 

KHALID

Why don’t you tell me this?

SARA

Well… mish mushkilla. (Imitating him.) I think maybe it is difficult for you. 

KHALID

Jewish?! 

SARA

Why should it matter? 

KHALID

So, you think the Israelis are right in everything they do! 

SARA

I don’t think anybody’s right in everything they do. I admit I used to be a bit prejudiced but now I see that there are two sides. 

KHALID

There are no sides! They are wrong! 

SARA

God. Mr. Open-Minded. 

KHALID

(Accusatory.)

Why do you go to Israel? 

SARA

I have relatives there. I want to see them. I want to see Jerusalem. 

KHALID

The Israelis have stolen Jerusalem. They are the terrorists.  

SARA

Maybe they have, maybe they haven’t. I really don’t know. But I think it’s only fair to go see for myself instead of just listening to everybody else. 

KHALID

Jewish, Israeli. These are the same thing. Of course, you are on their side! 

SARA

I’m not on anybody’s side! 

KHALID

Keeping Palestinian people prisoners in their own country? 

SARA

I’m keeping an open mind! Can’t I have an open mind? Can’t you have an open mind? 

KHALID

It’s not us. It’s them. 

SARA

It’s us. It’s them. It’s us. It’s them. I get so sick of that. Don’t you? 

KHALID

What do you know of this? Nothing! My friend, she is Palestinian. When she is young, her family is taken from their land. Everything! Their house destroyed! Her father now has no job. No money. Nobody to hire him. He becomes very angry and his wife leaves him. What of this? Hunh? All is taken from him because of the Jews! Because they want his country! You think this fair? This is open-minded? This is two sides? 

SARA

Khalid… 

KHALID

Why doesn’t America stop this? 

SARA

I don’t want to fight with you. 

KHALID

Because the Jews control America! 

SARA

Well, my god, so much for international relations! 

KHALID

I think maybe it is not a good idea I be here with you. 

SARA

So now suddenly you have to hate me cause I’m Jewish? What happened to the thousand and one nights? Hunh? Same perfume Cleopatra wears? 

KHALID

I didn’t know this before. 

SARA

I knew you were Muslim and it didn’t matter to me. 

KHALID

You don’t understand. 

SARA

Oh brilliant! Great comeback!  

KHALID

I’m sorry. I am leaving. 

SARA

Good. Fine. Take a hike. Who’s stopping you? 

KHALID

My jacket.

(She removes jacket, throws it over the side.)

Hey! Hey! My god! You are crazy. 

SARA

I’m an Israeli terrorist! Remember? 

KHALID

I don’t know why I come here. 

SARA

To overcome your fears, wasn’t it? Only I don’t think you’re doing a very good job of it. 

KHALID

I’m going. (Starts to leave.) 

SARA

And to think… you almost kissed a JEW!

(She turns around and sits down, huddled up, staring out at audience. He looks over the edge, looks back at her, looks over the edge… sits down and puts head in hands. Long pause…)

Afraid? 

KHALID

You have the flashlight. 

(She grabs it out of the backpack like she’s going to throw it too.)

No! Please… please. 

SARA

(She hesitates then puts it down on the rock.)

Take it!

KHALID

(He goes to pick it up very carefully as if she might attack him.)

What about you? It is harder going down. 

SARA

What do you care? 

KHALID

I think we must go together. It is safer this way. 

SARA

Safer for who?! 

KHALID

Please, I am responsible for you. 

SARA

No wonder Cleopatra killed herself. 

KHALID

You don’t understand, this is difficult for me. 

SARA

I think sometimes that people love to suffer. You ever notice that? It’s like a worldwide contest to prove who’s suffered the most. If you’ve suffered the most, then 

somehow it puts you in the right! The Palestinians have suffered so they must be right. The Jews have suffered so they must be right. It seems to me like everybody’s suffering and nobody’s right! 

KHALID

(Pause.)

Sometimes I don’t know what to think. 

SARA

I really liked you!! 

KHALID

I like you also! (Pause.) You are shaking. You are cold again.

(He touches her shoulder, she shakes him off.) 

SARA

No! 

KHALID

Sara… 

SARA

I thought you were leaving. 

KHALID

Please… It’s crazy but I still want to kiss you. 

SARA

Oh yeah? And what if your friends found out? You’d get thrown out of the Arab League or whatever. World’s friendliest people!  

KHALID

It’s not so easy to suddenly change. 

SARA

What do you see when you look at me? Hunh? 

KHALID

Please… 

SARA

What do you see?!

KHALID

Sara. I see Sara. 

SARA

Sara the Semite? Sara the loose American woman? 

KHALID

I see Sara that is very friendly, very kind to people working on their first movie. 

SARA

That’s all? A minute ago, it was Sara, Queen of the Desert! 

KHALID

That is also not afraid from anything. Not from the pyramid… not from Egypt…not even from me. (Pause.) I’m sorry. 

SARA

Don’t say it unless you mean it. 

KHALID

I do! 

(No answer from Sara.)

We have a saying in Egypt. “Min el alb lilalb.” … From heart to heart.

(No answer.)

From my heart to your heart… I’m serious. I mean it. 

SARA

(Pause.) 

Say it again? 

KHALID

Min el alb lilalb. (Pause.) It’s very strange I think… if we would kiss now it will mean more than before… yes? Before it was just… how did you say? “Hide the scarab”? Now it is serious. Now it is political. How is this? How can a kiss be political? But you are right… if my family knows this thing… that we are here… my friends… 

SARA

Maybe they should all get their heads out of their asses. 

KHALID

(Shocked.) 

What do you know of my friends? You say this? 

SARA

Well? 

KHALID

And my family also? Heads in ass?! 

SARA

No. 

KHALID 

My mother? My father?! 

SARA

Cal… 

KHALID

I love my family. My friends. 

SARA

I’m sorry! 

KHALID

We are close! Egyptians are very close! 

SARA

I know that. 

KHALID

I am to give them up because they don’t think as you?! 

SARA

No! 

KHALID

Maybe you are right! Maybe we are too angry about the Jews. But this is many years. Many wars! 

SARA

I know, I know… 

KHALID

And the Israelis too! The Americans! They also must pull heads from ass. 

SARA

Yes. 

KHALID

The British! And the French! 

SARA

And the Iraqis? The Palestinians? 

KHALID

(Pause.) 

SARA

Hello?… Suicide bombs? 

KHALID

This is wrong also, this bombing. 

SARA

You think? Maybe? 

KHALID

But what else can they do?!

(She gives him a look and turns away.)

Ok, yes! Khalass! Enough! Everyone, everywhere pulling heads from asses. This is best, yes?

(Sara nods.)

Including me.

(Sara nods.)

… You think maybe in this “Casbah” there are no politics?

(Sara shrugs.)

… Peace? Ok?

(He tentatively touches her. She pulls away…)  

SARA

Tomorrow too? 

KHALID

Yes. 

SARA

Or is this just some treaty of convenience? 

KHALID

No! 

SARA

And your friends? 

KHALID

(Pause.) 

This peace is harder. 

SARA

Maybe like going down the pyramid by yourself with no flashlight. 

KHALID

Maybe we should just jump. It is easier I think. 

SARA

Aww… you want me to hold your little hand? 

KHALID

Yes.

(She thinks about it and doesn’t. Pause.) 

Sara? 

SARA

Khalid?105 

KHALID

I think this is the most afraid that I’ve ever been…right now. 

SARA

Good line. 

KHALID

Peace… Ok?… Please? 

SARA

(Pause… nods.) 

Salaam… I wish…

KHALID

What?

(She shrugs… No answer.)

Me too.

(Pause.)

Maybe we wait for another star. 

(They both look up at the stars.) 

END

A HOLY THURSDAY LAMENT or THE LAST NIGHT ON EARTH

CAST OF CHARACTERS

PROFESSOR: A homeless, mid-40’s African-American man, who obviously grew up in a decent neighborhood and had a very good high school education.  A very philosophical type yet physically domineering.  He goes from a contemplative reverie to friendly communication with CRISPUS during the play.

CRISPUS: Another homeless, African-American man, mid 30’s who, unlike Professor, has spent almost all of his life working.  Very little education.  A bit hardened by his experiences but he does like and respect PROFESSOR.

TIME:  It is present day.  A night in early spring.

SETTING:  Some vacant lot in the city. A wall full of graffitti is in the background and mounds and mounds of garbage.

A HOLY THURSDAY LAMENT or THE LAST NIGHT ON EARTH

(Curtain opens with a scene of piles 

and piles of trash, under which, hidden from the audience, CRISPUS 

is sleeping.  PROFESSOR kneels

center stage, gazing up at the sky.

He says his lines without looking at CRISPUS.)

PROFESSOR

What goes through one’s last night on earth?  What thoughts flutter like demonic butterflies or lay heavy like anchors on your chest?  Men . . . women . . . teenagers! . . . yes, even children!  Awaiting execution or lying in hospital beds knowing that the fight is over, the end is soon.  Jesus . . . or Bigger Thomas . . . or Plato . . . or Saddam Hussein — how did they deal with the scant, dim hope that must arise that somehow — somehow! — the absolutely inevitable might not take place!

CRISPUS

(Sitting up, rising out of the trash.)

Shit, man!  What kind of smack you talking when you should be sleeping?

PROFESSOR

I’m talking about . . . the Unsayable.   The Unspeakable.

CRISPUS

You mouth sure moving an awful lot for something Unsayable.

PROFESSOR

Crispus, did the thought ever take hold of you — I mean really possess you — that we are essentially no different than, say, a brave person who performs a heroic act?

A Holy Thursay Lament, p 2

CRISPUS

What the — we live in a shithole.  We live where no one can ever find us or really help us or see us.  We broke.  We fuckin’ invisible.  What we got in common with some superhero?

PROFESSOR

The darkness!  We somehow have wound up running our fool heads off deeper and deeper into the darkness.

CRISPUS

(Leans closer to PROFESSOR.)

Man, the way you talking it sound like you gonna off yourself.

PROFESSOR

(Laughs.)

No, no.  Not at all.  I’m talking about why we are here?

CRISPUS

‘Cause we broke.

PROFESSOR

Aw, I know that.

CRISPUS

‘Cause we poor.  ‘Cause we ain’t got shit.  ‘Cause no one want us.  That enough “causes” for you?

PROFESSOR

But that’s just it!  That’s the darkness!  What is the very reason for our existence?

CRISPUS

Aw, fool, don’t be so poetic.  Shit bad.  We survive one day or a few — we doin’ good.  Case closed.  Now, lemme sleep.

(Lays back down.)

A Holy Thursday Lament, p 3

PROFESSOR

  (Turns to CRISPUS.)

What are you running from?

CRISPUS

(Rising up quickly.)

Running!  Do it look like I running?  I had a job, home, a bit of family!  I lost it all.  Lost it!  Weren’t no running.

PROFESSOR

And you ended up lost in this night of — what? . . . Nonexistence?

CRISPUS

Look.  One day or another, unless a miracle happen, you and I gonna die.  Maybe, it be soon.  Maybe not.  Maybe it stupid fighting it off —

PROFESSOR

And, maybe, if we just give it up, death will come to us like a puppy.

CRISPUS

(Pauses, leans closer.)

Ah, look, man.  If you thinking of offing yourself, lemme have your boots.

PROFESSOR

(Laughs loudly.)

Hey, when I’m gone you can have it all!

CRISPUS

You ain’t got nothing but them boots.  Why you talking all this shit anyway?

PROFESSOR

Crispus, do you realize what day it is?

 

A Holy Thursday Lament, p 4

CRISPUS

It you birthday or something? Anniversary of bein’ broke?

PROFESSOR

Naw, I mean today is a day everyone knows about.

CRISPUS

Ain’t it Thursday?  We got grub at the Jewish place so it be Thursday.

PROFESSOR

Yes, but it’s Holy Thursday.  You know what that is, don’t you?

CRISPUS

That the day Jesus served bread and wine to everyone.  Now shut the fuck up.  You making me hungry.

(Lies back down.)

PROFESSOR

(Looks back at the sky.)

But, also, the night He agonized over His death in the garden — His last night on earth.

CRISPUS

And like I say, if you thinking it you last night on earth lemme have them boots.

PROFESSOR

I’m wondering if all men and women have the same feeling — wanting to hope but not wanting to give in to it because of what is inevitable, because if you’re going to die you want to do it right.

CRISPUS

Naw!  You just die, kicking and fussing and yelling at God to help your dying ass!

A Holy Thursday Lament, p 5

PROFESSOR

The way I’m thinking, hope might be the enemy.

CRISPUS

(Rises on elbows)

If hope the enemy then giving up the friend.

PROFESSOR

You see, Crispus!  You see!  It’s like we’re sandwiched between the two, hoping and giving up pressing in on us.  And we don’t want either because each could overwhelm us . . . and kill us!

CRISPUS

(Rolls over, back to audience.)

Shit!

PROFESSOR

(Sings in heavy metal, headbanger style.)

“I’m a social reject from the Christian Church

because I didn’t wear a tie on the Feast of Christ’s birth.

(CRISPUS  rolls over.)

And my shoes weren’t shined and my hair wasn’t combed

on the night when He prayed in the garden alone.”

CRISPUS

(Lifts himself up on an elbow.)

Where you get that, Professor?

PROFESSOR

(From this point on his reverie ends.  He talks to CRISPUS.)

I wrote it.

A Holy Thursday Lament, p 6

CRISPUS

Wrote it!

PROFESSOR

Yes, sir!  I wrote that when I was playing in a Christian rock band.

CRISPUS

Christian rock!  What black folks need rock when they got R and B . . . and gospel.  Rock ain’t nothing but the blues gone flat and funky.

PROFESSOR

We were part of the Afro-punk scene.  There’s a whole movement of black people who are into heavy metal — a whole movement, Crispus!  So some friends and I, being church kids, we formed what may have been the very first Christian Afro-punk band.

CRISPUS

Wanting to serve the Lord and all?

PROFESSOR

Well, that’s certainly what we said.  We were quite young, you know.  We just thought that it would be a cool job — writing songs and making music all our lives and having people love us for it.  We actually played at a few Afro-punk festivals.

CRISPUS

No, shit!

PROFESSOR

    (Gets on his feet.)

Oh, we had this really great song — a lot like Zeppellin’s “Black Dog.”

    (Plays air guitar.)

“Jesus was a guru.

He was a buddha, too.

Krishna and the others —

unfit to tie his shoe.”A Holy Thursday Lament, p 7

It had this driving bass line.  And I played a good rhythm to it.  And it was tight, so tight.  We were always so in sync when we played it.  It was like it was just impossible for us to miss a beat.  And the singer!  The singer did it like a black Pentecostal preacher.

(Mimics a preacher.)

He would criss-cross the stage, pointing his finger and staring down the 

crowd.  And the crowd!  Oh, my God, the crowd would just go nuts!  They were just a mass of energy and enthusiasm and enlightenment.  Like they were suddenly turned on by this one idea.  Just bopping their heads and gyrating and giving off this vibe like they were saying, “Preach it, brother!”

CRISPUS

(Leans forward, smiles mischievously.)

Lots of chicks, huh!

PROFESSOR

(Sits down, stretches out legs, more relaxed.)

There was this cute, little cinnamon color girl who used to follow us.  I don’t know where she got the money to do that.  First time I saw her, I thought, “Oh, that’s cool.  An Indian girl into our scene.”  But when I finally talked to her, I found out one parent was Black and Native American and the other was Afro-Guatemalan or something like that.  I talked to her a few times.  I really thought we might have had something.

(Pauses.)

CRISPUS

Oh, you ain’t leaving the story hanging there.

PROFESSOR

Well, the scene we were into, there was this vibe that sort of carried us.  Of course, we all thought it was God.  I was so certain, so freaking certain —

(Looks at palm of hand.)

as certain as I am that my hand is in front of my face  — that the band was going to make it.  Not make it big.  We all knew we’d never be big stars.  But successful.  We would be successful and the cute cinnamon girl and I would hook up, get married and I’d be teaching my sons and A Holy Thursday Lament, p 8

daughters to play guitar.  When it ended, Crispus, it wasn’t just the end of a band.  Or the loss of a dream.  It was the loss of feeling alive.

CRISPUS

So what happened?

PROFESSOR

Drugs.

CRISPUS

Yep.  Always.

PROFESSOR

We were really touring, really working.  All of us were just busting our ass to make it work.  It just got to be too much — and, well, prayer didn’t kill the pain or perk us up the way blow did.  I was lucky I wasn’t into it as heavily as our bass player.  My God, he was in rehab for years and years until he couldn’t take it anymore.

CRISPUS

What he do?

PROFESSOR

He jumped off a bridge.  He climbed all the way up in sub-zero weather, all the way to the top of that steel web.  Some asshole filmed the whole thing instead of calling the police.  Then he jumped.

(Sighs heavily.)

They found crumpled pieces of paper in the wastebasket.  It seems he made a few attempts to write a suicide note but just couldn’t find the right words.

CRISPUS

The Unsayable?

PROFESSOR

(Kneels again.)

It could be, Crispus.  It could be.A Holy Thursday Lament, p 9

(Sings slower, in a whisper.)

“I’m a social reject from the Christian Church

because I didn’t wear a tie on the Feast of Christ’s birth.

And my shoes weren’t shined and my hair wasn’t combed

on the night when He prayed in the garden alone.”

(Pauses.)

CRISPUS

(Kneels, too.)

You never get passed the garden part.

PROFESSOR

(Laughs, sits back, relaxed.)

I don’t remember anymore.  I just don’t remember what I wrote.  And it’s strange, Crispus, because I remember every single line of every single one of our songs but that one.  And it happened so quickly, too.  We just finished touring and we were partying, partying really hard. Well, I woke up on this bitterly cold winter afternoon in this unheated, skank apartment with the sun just blaring through the windows.  Everyone, everyone in the band was just lying all strung out and unconscious on the floor.  I started singing that song to perk me up because I felt just awful.  I stopped at that line, looked around at everyone, half-dead and blown away, and I said, “My God, we’re fucked!”  I left that day and went into rehab.  When I got out I didn’t have a dollar to my name and didn’t feel any sense of life at all.  So I just drifted.  I started running.

CRISPUS

You pray, Professor?

PROFESSOR

You know . . . if you asked me that at any other time, on any other night, I would have replied with an emphatic “Not anymore.”

CRISPUS

But?

A Holy Thursday Lament, p 10

PROFESSOR

But tonight, with all that my mind has been taking in and the feeling that’s growing in my soul here tonight, I can say that I’m not really sure.  I’m just not sure if I’m praying or not.

CRISPUS

How you mean?

PROFESSOR

Well, it could be this running in the dark of night is somehow prayer.  It could be this fine line between not letting hope take too much control and yet not going the other way and giving into despair  — this is in some way a form of prayer.

CRISPUS

It just survival instinct.  We do what we do to survive.  No different than fish or squirrels or bears.  Just humans more complicated and talk smack and call it “the Unsayable.”  Ain’t no prayer, Professor.

PROFESSOR

I don’t know. Crispus.  The survival instinct is something that keeps you alive just for the sake of being alive.  But what if in this situation of ours, this continual last night on earth we always experience, what if there’s something we can find or discover here.  Some . . . well, some new thought or new idea or new experience that no one else has had.  Or only people like us, like we are, we’re the only kind of people who can find it.

CRISPUS

(Leans closer, whispers)

Professor, you know the Holy Thursday story?  

PROFESSOR

Of course, I do.   I was a church kid.  I heard that story year after year after year.

A Holy Thursday Lament, p 11

CRISPUS

Yeah, well, you don’t remember it too well.  Know what Jesus found that night?  Judas!  Judas come, give Him a kiss and then the cops rush in and haul off his ass.

PROFESSOR

But do you remember the guy who ran off naked?  They grabbed him by that linen cloth he had wrapped around him and as he pulled away it ripped off.  And he ran into the night.  What did he find eventually?

CRISPUS

Cops, fool!  Cops somewhere beating his ass then arresting him ’cause he got no clothes on.  Now lemme get some sleep.

(Lays back down, arms across chest.)

PROFESSOR

Ha!  The spirit is willing . . . 

(Sings softly, slower.)

“I’m a social reject from the Christian –“

CRISPUS

    (Sits up, quickly.)

You ain’t gonna let me sleep, is you?

PROFESSOR

An important meeting early in the morning?

CRISPUS

SHIT!

PROFESSOR

(Looks at him.)

Do you pray, Crispus?

A Holy Thursday Lament, p 12

CRISPUS

Naw.  Maybe when I was a kid.  My Ma drank so we really never got into church a lot.  I worked.  Soon as I could.  Lied about my age and worked after school and weekends.  Let me tell you, I worked.  Barely got out of high school, I sleep so much in class.  But no, I never did pray.  Still don’t.

PROFESSOR

Never?

CRISPUS

Naw.  But there be this one time, weren’t too late at night when I’m walking down Jackson toward the Mission and I goes by the Holding Pen.  You know that little park they got there, we used to sleep before Bossman beat us outta there.  Well, I was going along and they have them hedges there.  Well, I hear someone singing that ole Sam Cooke song  — what’s she called?  Change — change comin’ down.

CRISPUS and PROFESSOR

“A Change is Gonna Come!”

CRISPUS

Yeah, that it.  Well, I hear this baritone, he sing about — how it go? — being born on the river and he and the river still flowin’.  Something like that.  Anyway, it be the voice, the voice and the way the words carry out into the night.  Well, it makes me stop, just stop and say, “So this what church folks feel.”  That the closest I come to anything like prayer.

(Still kneeling, PROFESSOR leans close to CRISPUS.)

PROFESSOR

Do you remember the night LaShaun was killed?

CRIPSUS

(Lays back down.)

Fuck off!

A Holy Thursday Lament, p 13

PROFESSOR

It’s sad.

CRISPUS

Fucking sad.  Now, leave it alone.

PROFESSOR

Her life was a series of “if’s.”  If her mother wasn’t alcoholic, if she didn’t get involved with crack, if she didn’t meet Bossman that night —

CRISPUS

(Jumps up quickly, grabs a board, starts swinging it violently.)

If she had a better bigger brother!  Huh?  If her bigger brother be a better man!  Right, Professor?  Right?  That if, too.

PROFESSOR

Yes.  That if, too

CRISPUS

(Makes to attack PROFESSOR.)

You goddamn son of a bitch.

PROFESSOR

Is it true, then?

CRISPUS

No! . . .  No.  Shit!  

(Flings the board down, violently.  Paces back and forth.)

I did everything I suppose to do.  Work 40 hours a week.  Grab me all the overtime I can.  Get me a weekend job.  I work and work and work and I bring the money into the home and it go out by Mama’s drinking and her drugs.  In the end, I couldn’t trust neither of them!  You know how many times I have to sweet talk the judge and kiss cops butt to get her black ass out of jail.  LaShaun owe me big time and she ain’t never gonna pay me back.  I shoulda pushed her ass out into the street — that’s what I should A Holy Thursday Lament, p 14

have done.

PROFESSOR

But you didn’t.

CRISPUS

(Collapses on the floor, sits holding knees.)

She my sis.  She kin, that’s why.

(Sighs, heavily.)

Shit, I remember her as a little kid with these braces, you know.  And tall — ooh, that girl be tall!  Taller than any girl her age, a real beanpole of a girl with this big smile full of braces.  Use to think, “Damn, those braces expensive!”  And I see that smile, like . . . like the Cheshire Cat —

PROFESSOR

Alice in Wonderland!

CRISPUS

Through the Looking Glass.

PROFESSOR

Oh.

CRISPUS

Anyway, I see that smile and I think she gonna be beautiful.  She gonna be one real pretty girl and have every player in the neighborhood gettin’ in her drawers and she never gonna be able to tell the difference between a player and a real straight guy.  And then she get pregnant and lose all that prettiness.  Then I worry she ain’t gonna be pretty.  She gonna wind up being some old sour church lady thinkin’ the world so bad that Christ coming soon — though He ain’t shown up in two thousand years.  And she gonna look down on young people because they havin’ fun and living.  And then I don’t know what the fuck to wish for.

PROFESSOR

So what did you do?A Holy Thursday Lament, p 15

CRISPUS

Bury myself in work and hope I have ‘nough money to fix things if they go wrong.

PROFESSOR

And they did.

CRISPUS

There this one time, this — one — time.  She come in with those braces and that smile and those skinny beanpole legs sticking outta shorts and she got this puppy.  This little black puppy all squirming around in her bony fingers and licking her face and she got just this big goddamn beautiful smile! 

(Rises and starts pacing back and forth.)

Well, I launch into “What’s the matter with you, girl, pets is expensive and don’t you care none that your Mama got allergies?”  — which be the lie I used to cover Mama’s drinking and she knew it a lie.  And don’t she want to go to college and better herself and all.  And then I tell her to take that puppy back where she got it.

(Stops suddenly, stares into space, begins to tremble.  He speaks haltingly, as if he can’t breathe.)

And I never see that smile again.  Never again.  The braces come off and no smile.  Big birthday parties and no smile.  Driver’s license. Good grades in school —  “I’m proud of you, girl!”  And no smile.

(Begins to cry.)

A fucking puppy.  A fucking puppy.  Her insides die over a fucking puppy.  I killed her.  I did.  Years before that son of a bitch copper Bossman.  That fucker and I — we both did it!

(Comes over and towers over PROFESSOR.)

And me?  Me?  I’d give anything for another chance.  I’d cut off both arms, live in a wheelchair and piss in a bag.  I’d gladly end up like this again and die right here —

(Points to where he was sleeping.) 

Yes!  Right here in this shitpile with a big shitass grin on my face if I could go back and just let her keep that mother fucking puppy.

A Holy Thursday Lament, p 16

PROFESSOR

But here you are.

CRISPUS

Ain’t that simple.  Or maybe it is.  I just didn’t get out of bed one day.  I just shut down.  Didn’t even make the decision.  Didn’t say, “I give up.”  I just couldn’t get out of bed.  They stick me in a mental hospital and I’m in there for weeks and weeks.  Then they kick me out.  Lost my jobs. 

LaShaun and Mama lost the apartment.  And like you — whatever inside, it gone.  But there’s no running.  Just drifting.

(Collapses to the floor, head between his knees.)

LaShaun dead.  No matter who kill her or how she die.  And it happen long ago.  Why bring it up now?

PROFESSOR

It was a life that was touched by uncertainty.

CRISPUS

She dead, fool. Ain’t nothing uncertain about that.

PROFESSOR

But, Crispus, don’t you see?  Her life was such a long series of “if’s.”  I suppose every single life is.

CRISPUS

‘Spcially after you dead.  Can say all the “if’s” you want.  Don’t change nothing.  You dead.

PROFESSOR

But we’re not dead, Crispus.  We’re alive, still.  But why are we here?  Why are we sitting in some vacant lot instead of me touring with that cinnamon girl and you and LaShaun and your Mama living in a nice house somewhere and not busting your ass anymore?  What “if” did we not see or overlook?  Or could we have seen it?  And — and is there something to discover in this darkness that we wouldn’t find in, say, a penthouse?  We have memories, thoughts, ideas wrapped around feelings 

A Holy Thursday Lament, p 17

and dreams and emotions.  Bears and squirrels don’t have that.

CRISPUS

So what you gonna do?  How you gonna figure this out?

PROFESSOR

Listen,!  Do me a real big favor, Crispus.  Let’s keep a vigil.  A holy vigil.  Let’s stay awake all night until the sun rises.  And . . . and . . . well, let’s remember LaShaun and think why Bossman is such a mean, badass cop.  

Let’s go back and retrace how we got so fucked up; maybe, what we should have done instead.  Let’s try to remember as much as we can and see if we can find some truth in our lives.  Bascially, let’s sing and pray and wait.

CRISPUS

Like Christ waited for Judas to bring death.

PROFESSOR

Maybe.  Maybe.  But, let’s see if we can dig some truth out of our lives.

CRISPUS

Well, you ain’t gonna lemme sleep anyway.

(Moves closer to PROFESSOR.)

What you want to try to remember first?

PROFESSOR

Well, let’s see.  We should start with something simple I guess.  Hmm.  Okay.  Let me see if I can remember all the lyrics to that song first.

“I’m a social reject from the Christian Church”

(Lights begin to go down slowly.)

“Because I didn’t wear a tie on the Feast of Christ’s birth.”

PROFESSOR and CRISPUS

“And my shoes weren’t shine and my hair wasn’t combedA Holy Thursday Lament, p 18

on the night when He prayed in the garden –“

(Lights out.)

 

THE NEXT TABLE

Two cafe tables sit side by side onstage. TOBY is already seated at one table, his back to the other table. ERICA sits in the seat directly behind him so they are back to back. When she pulls out her chair, he turns around, they make brief eye contact and share a smile, and then she sits. They both read the menu. After a second, ERICA sneezes.

Beat.

TOBY: Cute sneeze.
ERICA: What?
TOBY: You have a cute sneeze.
ERICA: Oh. Thanks? You should hear me cough sometime. (she quietly rolls her eyes at herself in a “what is wrong with me” way and goes back to reading the menu.)

Beat. TOBY:Gesundheit, by the way.

ERICA:Thank you.

Beat.

ERICA:Do you speak German?
TOBY: What?
ERICA: Sorry… Gesundheit is German. I just… nevermind.

Beat.

TOBY: It’s just a thing people say when you sneeze. ERICA: Right, like “bless you.”
TOBY: Right.

Beat.

TOBY: If I had said “Bless you” would you have asked if I was a priest? ERICA: No.
TOBY: Okay.

ERICA: Are you?
TOBY: What?
ERICA: A priest?
TOBY: No… I just… you sneezed. ERICA: Right. Yes. This is my fault. TOBY: For sneezing?

ERICA: Kind of. TOBY: That’s silly. ERICA: Yeah.

Beat.

ERICA: Gesundheit is a fun word.
TOBY: I was just thinking that.
ERICA: Yeah. (realizing she’s interrupting) Sorry. I’ll let you… go back to… not being a German speaking priest or whatever.

Beat.

TOBY: Have you (clearing his throat) ever been here before? ERICA: Like… do I come here often?
TOBY: No, like, have you ever gotten the salmon?
ERICA: Oh. Yes, actually.

TOBY: How was it?
ERICA: I got food poisoning.
TOBY: What!?
ERICA: Oh my- I was totally kidding. I really didn’t. That was just a stupid joke. TOBY: Okay.
ERICA: Really, I don’t know why I said that. It just slipped out.
TOBY: Yeah, okay.

Beat.
ERICA: You’re not going to get the salmon now, are you? TOBY: I’m thinking no.
ERICA: Really, I didn’t/ get food poisoning
TOBY: I’m kidding. I wasn’t going to get it anyway. ERICA: Oh. Good.

Beat.

ERICA: Soup is good.
TOBY: Which soup?
ERICA: No, sorry, just… in general, I find soup to be… good… most of the time. TOBY: Ah.

Beat.

TOBY: Are you eating with anyone? ERICA: No.
TOBY: Oh?
ERICA: No, I like eating at restaurants alone. TOBY: Is that a joke?

ERICA: That one’s actually not a joke. TOBY: Oh.

Beat.
ERICA: How about you?

TOBY: I don’t know if I ever thought about it. ERICA: I meant, are you eating with anyone? TOBY: Oh, no, I mean yes, I mean… not right now. ERICA: I can see that.

TOBY: I’m on a blind date.
ERICA: Ew.
TOBY: I’m sorry?
ERICA: (lying) Nothing… I just sneezed again… is all.

Beat.

TOBY: What’s wrong with blind dates?
ERICA: I really sneezed! I wasn’t-
TOBY: My friends set it up for me. I’ve never met her. ERICA: That’s, like, part of the point… right?
TOBY: Yeah… I guess you’re right.

Beat.
TOBY: She could be perfectly wonderful.
ERICA: Or she could be awful or… a Republican… or eat cotton balls or something. TOBY: Eat cotton balls?
ERICA: People do weird things.

Beat.
TOBY: If she turns out to be the love of my life, you’re going to feel pretty stupid. ERICA: I feel pretty stupid all the time, not much changes that.
TOBY: Sorry… I shouldn’t have-

ERICA: (laughing) You were kidding, I can appreciate that. Beat.

TOBY: At least my joke was funnier than saying that the salmon gives you food poisoning. ERICA: Are you still on that?
TOBY: I’m just saying.
ERICA: You should focus on your date.

TOBY: She’s not here yet.
ERICA: Well, then maybe focus on the fact that she could have very well have already come in and left the second she saw you.

Beat.

TOBY: Do people really do that?
ERICA: I was kidding!
TOBY: No, like really, do they really just leave before getting to know you?
ERICA: I don’t know. I mean… I can imagine it happens. But I only ever imagine the worst things happening, okay? So, don’t take my word for it. I don’t know you, I don’t know her, I’m just going to sit here and eat soup because I happen to like most soups.

Beat.

ERICA: Though, it’s a little hot outside today for soup, so/ maybe I’ll get-
TOBY: I’m not like you, okay. I’m an optimist. I give most people the benefit of the doubt and assume they wouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.
ERICA: Sure.
TOBY: And I think if she did show up and she did walk out… then it’s her loss. Not my loss. Her loss.
ERICA: This is a really good pep talk.
TOBY: Or she could just be running late.
ERICA: Which is also rude.
TOBY: Sometimes people run late.
ERICA: You know, if you eat alone you can avoid that issue altogether.
TOBY:But then who would I talk to?

Beat.

ERICA: What’s her name?
TOBY: What?
ERICA: Your date? These friends of yours, they told you her name, right?
TOBY: Tiffany.
ERICA: Tiffany. And what’s your name?
TOBY: Why?
ERICA: I wanted to know if your names go well together. Like, my name is Erica so I can’t date an “Eric” or an“Aaron” or a “Cole.”
TOBY: (pronouncing the names) Eric, sure… (Aaron) Errr-on… sure… Co- (wait)… Cole… Why not a “Cole”?
ERICA: I just think Cole is a stupid name.
TOBY: Oh.

Beat.
ERICA: If you’re not going to tell me your name, I’m going to assume you’re a spy or something.
TOBY: I’d be okay with that.
ERICA: Fine. I’m just saying I have an instinct for these things and you not telling me your name is not a great sign.

Beat.
ERICA: Unless… is your name Cole? TOBY: No.
ERICA: Did I totally offend you, Cole? TOBY: No, no, it’s… I’m Toby. ERICA: Toby.

Beat.
ERICA: Toby and Tiffany. T-t-t-Tiffany and T-t-t-Toby. Sittin’ in a T-t-t-tree. TOBY: (a little annoyed) Yes, I know, two “T” names.
ERICA: Caught that, did ya?
TOBY: Why do you think I didn’t want to tell you?
ERICA: Relax. You shouldn’t care so much what other people think.

Beat.

ERICA: (singing DEEP BLUE SOMETHING under her breath) “And I said ‘what about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?’ You said ‘I think I remember the film’-”
TOBY: It’s doomed. This is going to be terrible.
ERICA: T-t-t-terrible.

TOBY: I’m serious.
ERICA: Don’t- You’re going to be fine.
TOBY: What if I’m not? What if she’s… I dunno, what if she hates me?

ERICA: This is why I don’t like blind dates. There’s all of this expectation and build up over someone you don’t even know.
TOBY: Aren’t all dates like that?
ERICA: I don’t know… It’s just dinner. Shouldn’t you eat with someone you’re comfortable with? Who you can talk to like they’re, like, ordinary.

TOBY: Well, yeah, ideally. But how often does that happen?

Beat.

TOBY: You’re probably right.
ERICA: Who knows, anyway.
TOBY: I didn’t mean to disrupt your dinner or anything. ERICA: I’m actually not that hungry.
TOBY: Oh?
ERICA: I mostly came in to… nevermind.
TOBY: What?
ERICA: It’s embarrassing.
TOBY: Okay.

Beat.
TOBY: I’m not going to push it or anything, but I am imagining a lot of embarrassing things you could say right now and none of them are as embarrassing as the salmon-food-poisoning joke. ERICA: I just- I came in to feel busy.
TOBY: What?
ERICA: See, nevermind.
TOBY: No, I’m not… I don’t think I understand.
ERICA: When you’re sitting in a restaurant you have things to do. Decisions to make. Things to read. It’s better than just wandering aimlessly.
TOBY: Do you wander aimlessly?
ERICA: Everyone’s gotta have a hobby.
TOBY: Okay.

Beat.
TOBY: I don’t think that’s embarrassing.
ERICA: Really?
TOBY: No more embarrassing than being on a blind date.
ERICA: Yeah. I mean, no, but… yeah, thank you for saying that anyway.

Beat.

ERICA: Do you think- TOBY: I think that’s her. ERICA: What?

TOBY: My date. Tiffany.
ERICA: Oh. Tiffany. Well. There ya go. She didn’t come in and leave. TOBY: Or she changed her mind.
ERICA: That too.
TOBY: So.
ERICA: Well, have fun.
TOBY: Hopefully.

ERICA stands to leave.

ERICA: You should get the salmon. TOBY: (laughs) Okay.

ERICA exits. TOBY looks after her possibly? Or is he looking at the girl walking in? You can’t tell. Lights down.

END OF PLAY

Negotiations

CAST OF CHARACTERS

DECLAN 33, musician

OLIVIA, 33, designer

SETTING

Declan’s city apartment

The stage represents a

kitchen/dinning room of a city

apartment. The kitchen is upstage

left, a dining room to the right.

ii.

Scene 1

TIME: 8:00 am.

At rise: OLIVIA, in an oversize

shirt obviously DECLAN’s, is in

the kitchen unloading the

dishwasher and generally clearing

up wine glasses and dishes still

on the table from the night

before. DECLAN enters in sweats

and watches her confusedly for a

moment without her noticing him.

DECLAN

What are you doing out here?

OLIVIA

(A little surprised but

casually.)

Cleaning up. Don’t like to leave things in disarray.

DECLAN

So, you’re leaving?

OLIVIA

I have to at some point. Does this go on the high shelf? Or

under.

DECLAN

Under.

OLIVIA

Good, I’m not that tall anyway.

DECLAN

We just had sex.

OLIVIA

And this?

DECLAN

The side. Are you going to tell me what’s happening?

OLIVIA

We had sex.

DECLAN

Why?

OLIVIA

We wanted to?

DECLAN

I’ve known you for more than fifteen years, and we’ve never

had sex.

OLIVIA

Why is that, do you suppose?

DECLAN

Probably, because it leads to awkward discussions like this

one.

OLIVIA

Quite right. Let’s not have an awkward discussion. Where’s

the coffee? I have to have coffee to get started.

DECLAN points to the cupboard with

the coffee, watching her.

OLIVIA

(She takes down the coffee

and filters)

I thought it was excellent sex, by the way.

DECLAN

I live to serve.

OLIVIA

Don’t do that.

DECLAN

Do what?

OLIVIA

You know.

DECLAN

Does this make us friends with benefits now?

OLIVIA

Would that be so terrible?

NiCK

I don’t know yet. Sex changes things . . .

OLIVIA

Do we have to stick pins in it and fix it to the wall?

DECLAN

I might have to, yes. I like things clear. Written

instructions, contract law.

OLIVIA

That takes most of the fun out of it, don’t you think?

DECLAN

You’ve just been unfaithful to a man you’re planning to

marry. I think I’m entitled to an explanation.

OLIVIA

I haven’t.

DECLAN

I have it on good authority he means to ask you.

OLIVIA

I broke it off with Breme three weeks ago.

DECLAN

What? And you’re just getting around to telling me?

OLIVIA

I wasn’t aware I was expected to report the details of my

personal life to you.

DECLAN

Expected, no. But usually you share every nuance of your

life. You . . . doted on him.

OLIVIA

I didn’t. I never dote.

DECLAN

You do, you did. You were ecstatically happy.

OLIVIA

I wasn’t. He showed me the ring, by the way.

DECLAN

(Gasping)

Good god, you’ve turned him down? And now, I’m Rebound Guy.

OLIVIA

Don’t do that.

DECLAN

You keep saying “don’t do that” but I don’t know what “that”

you’re talking about.

OLIVIA

Don’t start regretting the sex. By the way, he told me you

picked the ring. What were you thinking?

DECLAN

He gave me three to choose from, and it was the least

offensive.

OLIVIA

You know I don’t like diamonds.

DECLAN

I mentioned that, but he was convinced that if he didn’t get

a diamond, you‘d think that he wasn’t serious about marrying

you. And I had to agree that might be so.

OLIVIA

Imagine his surprise when I pointed out he obviously didn’t

know me if he bought a diamond. He blamed you for picking it

out.

DECLAN

Chump. Well, it seems he’d lose either way.

OLIVIA

He’s rich, and he expects me to take what I’m given and be

quiet about it. Like a little lap dog.

DECLAN

He loves you. And until last night, I believed you loved him.

OLIVIA

He knew I wanted a sapphire.

DECLAN

So you going to punish him for picking out a mind-blowingly

expensive, albeit traditional, piece of jewelry?

OLIVIA

Well, if he can’t get that right . . . Never mind, men can’t

understand this sort of thing.

DECLAN

You have lost your mind!

OLIVIA

Actually, I’ve found it.

DECLAN

This is hysterical. You are being hyster . ..

OLIVIA

Men say women are hysterical when they find it difficult to

manage them.

DECLAN

I admit to that. I don’t know how to deal with you

sometimes. You run whenever someone gets close though.

OLIVIA

I wouldn’t talk if I were you. Just to be clear, I broke up

with him before he asked. I didn’t expect him to pick a ring

without consulting me.

DECLAN

So that’s the issue, he hadn’t consulted you? I need to sit

down.

OLIVIA

Maybe you should marry him then.

DECLAN

You are being irrational.

OLIVIA

I’m not.

DECLAN

It’s just a ring. An expensive one at that.

OLIVIA

It is never just a ring, Dec.

DECLAN

But you said you broke up with him before he showed you the

ring.

OLIVIA

I did.

DECLAN

Why?

OLIVIA

I felt inertia.

DECLAN

Inertia? What do you . . .

OLIVIA

Yes. Like everyday from there on out would be exactly the

same as every day had been for the past two years. Stable.

Steady. Uneventful.

DECLAN

You told him that?

OLIVIA

Something along those lines.

DECLAN

But you were happy. I saw you laughing and feeling great.

You went on endlessly about him like he . . . he was a super

hero. You never stopped chattering about him.

OLIVIA

Maybe, I was trying to convince myself.

DECLAN

You can’t be serious. I know you, this is just a detour . . .

OLIVIA

(Getting angry)

Look, it’s my decision. Or is it just hotter screwing an

almost-married woman than a single one?

DECLAN

Hey, I don’t deserve that.

OLIVIA

Don’t you?

DECLAN

You’ll be back together before the end of the month, and

he’ll ask me what happened. You’ll expect me not to tell him

I slept with you, and I’m a very bad liar.

OLIVIA

(Begins tossing pans,

erratically into the

cupboards.)

That might have been possible before I saw the ring, but

after it, the decision was clear.

DECLAN

(Watching her, gets up.)

Let me do this, you’ll hurt yourself. And me.

OLIVIA

I’m not helpless, you know.

DECLAN

Believe me, I am aware of that.

OLIVIA

I mean about the dishes.

DECLAN

Ha. Domestically, you leave a lot to be desired.

OLIVIA

Do you want to make a list of all my shortcomings, so I can

consult it whenever you’re not around to remind me?

DECLAN

I’m simply pointing out the limits of your domestic virtues.

OLIVIA

Oh, here it comes.

DECLAN

What comes?

OLIVIA

The lecture about how I’m always so “challenging.”

DECLAN

Well, you don’t make it easy for men to date you or care

about you. Most of them are completely baffled by your moods,

your idiosyncracies. What woman doesn’t like diamonds, for

example? It’s weird.

OLIVIA

Oh, bite me. And I’d like to point out that what you just

said–lecture!

(She slams a pan onto the

counter.)

DECLAN

Could you at least stop tossing the dishes around? I’m

entitled to one request before the firing squad, I hope.

OLIVIA

So why did you have sex with me, since I am so moody and

idiosyncratic?

DECLAN

I said you had those things, not that you were those things.

OLIVIA

I make it hard on men who date and care for me. Like you?

DECLAN

Well, no. I just always feel like I have to coach your

boyfriends into understanding you.

OLIVIA

Perhaps you should mind your own business.

DECLAN

I’ve only ever wanted to be helpful.

OLIVIA

So you could get somebody to take me off your hands.

DECLAN

What? No.

OLIVIA

You want me off your conscience, admit it.

DECLAN

Why would you say that? Have I ever treated you like a

burden or millstone?

OLIVIA

You are right now.

DECLAN

Exactly what is it you’re mad about? That I’m shocked that

you gave Breme the heave-ho or that we had sex?

OLIVIA

(Laughs.)

The heave-ho! What a funny expression!

DECLAN

You’re not answering the question.

OLIVIA

I’m just pointing out that you are more upset with my breakup

than I am.

DECLAN

Not really.

OLIVIA

Seems so.

DECLAN

I don’t care that you broke up, but you seem unnerved, coming

out here doing something you’d never normally do at this time

of day.

OLIVIA

So I’m a slacker, to boot?

DECLAN

I don’t know what’s going on with you. You usually tell me

everything. You’ve finished with a man you were crazy about

a month ago. And adding casual sex to our relationship could

change everything.

OLIVIA

Like what?

DECLAN

Well, I don’t know. That’s why I want to clarify things.

OLIVIA

It wasn’t casual, as I remember it. The sex.

DECLAN

(Pauses)

Admittedly, it wasn’t.

OLIVIA

(To the skillet)

So, it’s established it wasn’t casual.

DECLAN

I just said it wasn’t.

(Takes the skillet from her.)

OLIVIA

And? I assume you’ve had sex before.

DECLAN

Not with you I haven’t.

OLIVIA

Was it different than you expected?

DECLAN

What? I didn’t expect. I never expect . . .

OLIVIA

Well, don’t be a bastard. Am I so unattractive that in

fifteen years you’ve never imagined us in the sack?

DECLAN

Of course, you are, but . . .

OLIVIA

We’ve kissed before.

DECLAN

Yes. I remember we kissed.

OLIVIA

But you’ve never made a pass until last night.

DECLAN

You were the one that made the pass last night.

OLIVIA

Me?

DECLAN

Yes, you. You kissed me.

OLIVIA

Okay, let’s just say, for the sake of argument only, that I

kissed you. All the more curious that you never made a pass.

DECLAN

I didn’t imagine I was, you know, even in the running.

Besides, that is a loaded question.

OLIVIA

Is it? How so? Was it because of our friend, Daniel, that you

never . . . ?

DECLAN

What does Daniel have to do with this? Is that what this is

about? You want Daniel back?

(Tosses the skillet.)

OLIVIA

Oh, please, I want to know why you and I never had sex

before? Was it because once in 15 years Daniel and I dated,

and you’ve been unnecessarily loyal?

DECLAN

That’s ridiculous.

OLIVIA

We’ve known each other long enough. It wouldn’t have been

surprising if we’d had sex. People certainly expected us to.

DECLAN

Who expected us to?

OLIVIA

Daniel, for one.

DECLAN

See, we’re back to Daniel.

OLIVIA

Okay, Margaret. Margaret actually refuses to believe we

haven’t had sex.

DECLAN

My sister, Margaret?

OLIVIA

The very same.

DECLAN

Well, she’s just being nosy.

OLIVIA

Alas! The question remains.

DECLAN

Alas?

OLIVIA

Alas.

DECLAN

Have you been drinking?

OLIVIA

That’s it! In the time it took you to shower, I’ve been out

here downing Jello shots.

DECLAN

You had a considerable amount of brandy last night.

OLIVIA

Then I’d be hung over, not drunk.

DECLAN

Is that why we had sex? Because of all the brandy?

OLIVIA

I’d like to point out that we’ve had brandy before.

DECLAN

I know but we drank the whole bottle.

OLIVIA

It was only half full.

DECLAN

Three quarters.

OLIVIA

Fine. Three quarters, but the question still remains.

DECLAN

And what is your answer to that question?

OLIVIA

Chicken shit.

DECLAN

Who?

OLIVIA

Both of us.

DECLAN

Well . . . Well, what do you mean by chicken shit?

OLIVIA

You and me have been too afraid of what might happen if we

had sex.

DECLAN

Why should we be frightened by that?

OLIVIA

You spent the last ten minutes trying to clarify. For the

sake of world peace, was it?

DECLAN

I assure you, I . . . am . . . I’m not afraid of having sex

with you. I just did, didn’t I?

OLIVIA

(Laughing)

Oh, my god, you so are.

DECLAN

I just treat friends differently than lovers.

OLIVIA

Of course, you do. That’s why you’re still with the married

cellist.

DECLAN

Alright. I’m a little nervous, but only because it’s a

slippery slope to have sex with friends.

OLIVIA

Whereas sex with strangers is a cake-walk.

DECLAN

Why are you out here clanging pots and pans?

OLIVIA

I admit, it scares me shitless.

DECLAN

What am I, an ogre?

OLIVIA

Oh, for heaven sake.

DECLAN

Just asking.

OLIVIA

For clarity?

DECLAN

Yes, yes, for clarity.

OLIVIA

Yes, you are an ogre.

DECLAN

What? . . .

OLIVIA

You had to ask!

DECLAN

What exactly are we talking about here?

OLIVIA

Sex. We wanted to, we had the opportunity, and now we have

to pick it apart bit by little bit before it causes

complications.

DECLAN

What sort of complications?

OLIVIA

You tell me Mr. Needs-clarity.

DECLAN

I need to know whether we are opening up eh . . . eh

OLIVIA

Can of worms?

DECLAN

Pandora’s box.

OLIVIA

At least, that’s a better metaphor. Not by much though.

DECLAN

You said you wanted to.

OLIVIA

I did. Did you?

DECLAN

Yes, we wanted to and we did.

OLIVIA

Right.

DECLAN

So from time to time, we might have sex with one another. Is

that it? Since you and Breme are no longer an item.

OLIVIA

How often is time to time?

DECLAN

I don’t know, it could be once . . . a . . . a, once a month

perhaps?

OLIVIA

Or more? Maybe even regularly.

DECLAN

(Hesitantly.)

That could be a possibility.

OLIVIA

Or, now, just think about this.

DECLAN

Yes?

OLIVIA

We might have sex after going to a movie or dinner or a night

out.

DECLAN

Might we?

OLIVIA

Yes.

DECLAN

You don’t think that’s a gray area?

OLIVIA

It could be, but we often do all of those things a few times

a month anyway.

DECLAN

That’s true, we do, but would we be required to?

OLIVIA

After just one night, you’re worried the sex will be

obligatory?

DECLAN

We’re clarifying things. Hypothetically.

OLIVIA

No. Never required. Hypothetically.

DECLAN

But what? Expected?

OLIVIA

No, not expected? Maybe . . .

DECLAN

Anticipated?

OLIVIA

Hoped for?

DECLAN

Well, is that even possible? I mean when I go out with

someone, unless it’s you, that is, I anticipate a favorable

ending.

OLIVIA

And I provide an unfavorable ending?

DECLAN

No, of course not.

OLIVIA

But you’ve found anticipation works out for you?

DECLAN

More often than not.

OLIVIA

I’m sticking with hoped for.

DECLAN

Okay, I can live with that.

OLIVIA

The other area of concern is the personal.

DECLAN

What do you mean area of concern?

OLIVIA

Well, like you said before, I tend to tell you every nuance

of my life.

DECLAN

You do.

OLIVIA

And I think you’d agree, you share much of your life as well

with me.

DECLAN

Not everything though.

OLIVIA

I’ll chalk that up to you’re being a man. May we still share

our . . . What shall I call it? Dating details.

DECLAN

Ah.

OLIVIA

Will that be a problem?

DECLAN

Why should it be?

OLIVIA

So if I told you I’m going out with someone tonight, do I

still get to call you tomorrow and give details?

DECLAN

I see what you mean. Well, I don’t know.

OLIVIA

Would you feel jealous?

DECLAN

Jealous? No!

OLIVIA

Okay.

DECLAN

Not jealous but perhaps a little, just a tad, guarded.

OLIVIA

In other words, no, we should not share those things anymore.

DECLAN

Probably not.

OLIVIA

Okay.

DECLAN

Wouldn’t you feel a little jealous if I shared. . .?

OLIVIA

Depends on who it is.

DECLAN

What do you mean?

OLIVIA

Well, if you talking about the cellist, it’s actually pretty

entertaining.

DECLAN

And if you get back with Breme? Should I be entertained?

OLIVIA

What a ridiculous name. Why didn’t I see that before? Why

didn’t you see it?

DECLAN

I thought you were happy.

OLIVIA

It sounds like a household product, for goodness sake.

DECLAN

Back to the question at hand.

OLIVIA

Which is?

DECLAN

Sharing dating details.

OLIVIA

I thought we agreed not to.

DECLAN

I think we could still share, but we should have a code word

if one of us feels . . .

OLIVIA

Guarded?

DECLAN

Yes.

OLIVIA

Like what?

DECLAN

Like . . . featherbed.

OLIVIA

What?

DECLAN

Or something else.

OLIVIA

(Laughing)

Featherbed? Is there some reason that word springs to mind?

DECLAN

Maybe.

OLIVIA

Is it from the cellist?

DECLAN

No, it’s from a John Denver song.

OLIVIA

John Denver? Who is John Denver?

DECLAN

He’s a singer from the seventies. My dad listens to him.

Grandma’s Featherbed is the song. It just came to mind.

Really, it doesn’t matter, we can use anything.

OLIVIA

Grandma? Sex with me brings Grandma to mind?

DECLAN

A code word to derail the discussion about our exes.

18.

OLIVIA

(Pauses to look him over)

Featherbed is okay. It’s just weird enough to serve.

DECLAN

Good.

OLIVIA

So. Anything else?

DECLAN

What if we, or one of us, starts to feel, I don’t know, a

greater degree of affection, shall we say, than the other,

what then?

OLIVIA

Ah, well, then we have to renegotiate.

DECLAN

Renegotiate? Are we negotiating?

OLIVIA

If one of us wants to see the other more frequently than two

or three times a month, say.

DECLAN

That’s another awkward conversation.

OLIVIA

What do you suggest?

DECLAN

I think we have to agree to stop if one of us wants more than

benefits.

OLIVIA

Ah, so, no conversation, just becoming unavailable.

DECLAN

Not necessarily. We should have the right to call the end of

the game though.

OLIVIA

So it’s a game?

DECLAN

I’m better with sports metaphors.

OLIVIA

But what if one of us thinks the other is getting more

“affectionate,” and it’s not that at all?

DECLAN

What do you mean?

OLIVIA

It’s not the end of the game, just the end of an inning, say.

DECLAN

Ah, an inning.

OLIVIA

It might be just another turn at bat that’s mutually

beneficial.

DECLAN

I see.

OLIVIA

One of us could be thinking the game is over, and it’s really

a . . . a . . . change of innings.

DECLAN

It’s the seventh inning stretch!

OLIVIA

Exactly. There’s still 2 innings left to play.

DECLAN

Yes. Maybe there’s a change of pitchers. Or, the bases are

loaded, and a full count, two outs, but the guy on third is

poised to steal home.

OLIVIA

Yeah, I have no idea what you are talking about now.

DECLAN

You know baseball.

OLIVIA

Yes, but I have never applied it to my love life.

DECLAN

Well, I mean, it could also be a pop fly that could go fair

or foul.

OLIVIA

I got nothing.

DECLAN

Never mind. Still, it’s one thing to lose benefits but

another to loose a fifteen year friendship.

OLIVIA

True. That wouldn’t be good.

DECLAN

No. Definitely not.

OLIVIA

Maybe we should just forget benefits altogether.

DECLAN

Meaning, no sex again. Go back to being friends only.

OLIVIA

Yes.

DECLAN

Yes. (Pause) That would keep the boundaries clear. We

wouldn’t need a code word.

OLIVIA

Or the awkward conversations.

DECLAN

Right. Or . . .

OLIVIA

Or?

DECLAN

We set one day aside every few months to reevaluate. No

pressure, just give a scouting report on how we see the . . .

game progressing.

OLIVIA

Once a month.

DECLAN

That often?

OLIVIA

Yep.

DECLAN

Once a month?

OLIVIA

Today’s the 12th, so we reassess next month on the twelfth.

DECLAN

Sure, but February only has 28 days, so it wouldn’t

technically be a month.

OLIVIA

Actually, technically, it would be the month of February.

DECLAN

Yes, but it’s four weeks and . . . well . . .

OLIVIA

We can skip February altogether. It’s a risky month with

Valentine’s day, and a couple is lucky to make it through

that month at all.

DECLAN

Deal.

OLIVIA

Deal.

They shake hands.

DECLAN

(awkwardly)

Alright. Yes.

OLIVIA

Great.

DECLAN

Seems we ought to have something more than a handshake.

OLIVIA

Well, we could, shall we say, return to the field.

DECLAN

That would definitely be in order.

(He moves in closer to her.)

They kiss.

OLIVIA

(Drawing back.)

You said, I run away whenever someone gets close.

DECLAN

That was probably a little harsh. I didn’t mean . . .

OLIVIA

I’m not saying you’re wrong, mind you. Heaven knows, I’ve had

a slew of love affairs. Before Breme, there was Allen and

before that Jeffery, and Michael . . .

DECLAN

Featherbed, featherbed.

OLIVIA

Sorry. But it’s just as possible that I’m . . .

DECLAN

(Wanting to kiss her again)

Let’s just forget . . .

OLIVIA

(Ignoring him.)

Not running away from anyone. I might be simply coming back

to same person again and again.

DECLAN

The same person? Like Daniel?

OLIVIA

(Laughs.)

The person who picks me up when I’ve broken down, who feeds

me dinner.

(Gestures to the table.)

Buys me brandy. Explains me to my boyfriends . . .

DECLAN

That’s . . . even a possibility?

OLIVIA

(She kisses him.)

Hypothetically speaking.

DECLAN

I admit . . . I . . . much prefer that explanation.

OLIVIA

Do you?

DECLAN

Yes.

OLIVIA

Well, then . . .

(She moves in closer to him)

They kiss and exit toward the

bedroom, tossing clothes as they

go.

End of play.

Man’s Best Friend

SYNOPSIS

When Jane goes to visit her elderly parents, she discovers that her father has acquired a

dog. An invisible dog. Her concern for his mental stability soon gives way to anger at

her mother for allowing him this delusion. But the root of her father’s need for canine

companionship is more complicated than simple dementia, and Jane comes to realize the

sad but necessary truth about coping with loss.

ESTIMATED RUNNING TIME

20 minutes

CAST REQUIREMENTS

2 female actors, 1 male actor

SET

The suggestion of a living room – the only essential piece of furniture is a sofa, but this

could be suggested by a line of chairs, cubes, etc.

MAN’S BEST FRIEND

Characters

JANE about 45 years old

CELIA about 70 years old

HAL about 70 years old

Afternoon, the living room of an elderly married couple.

Lights up on CELIA, who is knitting.

A knock on the door, and JANE opens it,

poking her head in.

JANE

Anybody home?

JANE enters carrying a brown bag full of

books, and an overnight case. CELIA starts

to get up.

JANE (continued)

No, no. Don’t get up.

CELIA

Don’t be silly. I’m not a cripple.

JANE

Sit down. I haven’t forgotten my way around.

CELIA

It’s been so long since you last visited, I thought maybe

you might have.

JANE

And I’m sure you’d be happy to have me still living here?

CELIA

I only meant that I wish we could see you a bit more often.

JANE sets down the bag and case, and gives

CELIA a hug.

JANE

I do, too. You know I do. It’s just hard for me to come

up here that often.

CELIA

It’s only two hours.

JANE

It’s not just the drive, Mom.

CELIA

Sometimes, I think that you don’t like coming to visit.

JANE

Mom, you know it’s not like that. Anyway, I’m here now,

and you and Dad have me until Sunday.

(beat)

Where is Dad? I bought him this bag of books at the

library sale. They let you fill up a whole bag for three

dollars. And there was one table that looked like they

sorted it just for him. All his favorites. I snagged him

five or six Zane Grays. He’s probably read most of them

before, but I figured he wouldn’t remember.

CELIA

(abruptly)

Your father’s mind is fine. You have no right to—

JANE

I didn’t mean it like that. I only meant that—

Mom, Dad never remembers anything he reads. Or movies, or

TV. It all just goes in and right back out again. He’s

always been like that. Why would you think—?

CELIA

I’m sorry. You’re right.

(beat)

He hasn’t been reading much lately.

JANE

Dad not reading?

(a moment)

He’s not going blind, is he?

CELIA

No, no. He can still see a bug on the fencepost. He just

doesn’t have so much time for reading now.

JANE

What do you mean? Why?

CELIA

It’s since… since he got…

JANE

What? Come on.

CELIA

Since he got the… dog.

JANE

You guys got a dog?

CELIA

Yes. Well, your father did.

JANE

Mom, that’s great! You know they say having a pet helps

you live longer. It keeps you happier and healthier.

CELIA

Well, it keeps your father from reading. And from doing a

lot of his chores and other things around here. He’s

out… walking it now.

JANE

See, exercise. Healthy. You should be out walking, too.

CELIA

It’s really his dog. He spends a lot of time, um… taking

care of it.

JANE

Mom, are you jealous? You’ve become a dog-widow. What

kind is it?

CELIA

Well… you’ll see when he gets back.

JANE

I love those funny little pug dogs. But they’re a bit too

precious for Dad. And you’re not supposed to get purebred

dogs anymore. So many perfectly good mutts in shelters

need homes. Where’d he get it?

CELIA

I really don’t know. He just… had it when I came home.

JANE

He didn’t even ask you?

CELIA

I didn’t think it would be a problem. Look, it seems to

help him, so…

JANE

You don’t like the dog, do you? Mom, I can tell. It’s

not fair to you if you don’t like it. You need to tell

him. But do it before he gets too attached, or the dog

starts to feel at home. How long has he had it?

HAL’s voice is heard calling from offstage.

HAL

Is that Janie’s car in the driveway? Janie?

HAL enters.

JANE

Hi Dad.

JANE and HAL hug. He looks her over.

HAL

You get prettier every time I see you.

JANE

Yeah, right, Dad. You look good, though. And you’re

moving great compared to last time I saw you.

HAL

I feel great.

HAL does a quick little jig.

CELIA

Hal, stop acting like a child. You’ll hurt yourself.

HAL

Your mother envies my perennial youth.

JANE

It must be the dog walking. Where is this new family

member?

CELIA

Yes. I told her about your new dog.

JANE

Where is he? Or she?

HAL

She. She’s playing out in the front yard.

JANE goes quickly to the door.

JANE

Dad, there’s no fence. You can’t leave her there. What if

she runs into the street? She could get hit—

HAL

She’s not gonna run into the street, honey.

JANE has swung open the door, looking out.

JANE

There’s no dog out here. She’s gone. Dad!

She crosses back to HAL.

JANE (continued)

What were you thinking, letting her run loose?

HAL steps out the door, and whistles.

HAL

(offstage)

Daisy! Here, girl. C’mere, girl.

(brief pause)

Atta girl. Good dog.

(calling in to JANE)

She’s right here, Jane. Good God, you’re as bad as your

mother, thinking I can’t even take care of a dog.

HAL enters, and stands inside the door. A

few moments pass, as he looks at the two

women, and JANE looks at him.

HAL (continued)

Well? I think you owe me a small apology. Don’t you?

JANE looks to CELIA for some guidance, but

CELIA just continues knitting.

JANE

Dad, I don’t understand. Where’s—

HAL

She doesn’t understand.

HAL kneels down and hugs the imaginary dog.

HAL (continued)

(to his imaginary dog)

You understand me, eh, girl? No generation gap between us.

JANE

Mom, what’s going on?

CELIA

What do you mean?

JANE

I mean this “dog” thing.

HAL

Janie, she is not a “thing”.

(to the dog)

She didn’t mean it. You’re the best dog in the world,

aren’t you girl.

JANE

Dad, stop this. It’s ridiculous.

CELIA

It’s okay, Jane.

HAL

Just because a dog isn’t purebred, that doesn’t make it any

less loving, or loyal.

(to the dog)

Does it, Daisy. You’re such a good doggie.

JANE takes CELIA aside.

JANE

What is going on?

CELIA

He… has a dog. I told you that.

HAL sits on the sofa.

JANE

How long has he been like this?

HAL reacts as the dog jumps onto the sofa.

HAL

Daisy. No, Daisy. Get down.

CELIA

(to HAL)

Maybe you should take the dog out back, Hal. Here. Take

her ball and throw it for her.

CELIA picks up the imaginary dog’s imaginary

ball, and hands it to HAL.

HAL

We just got back from our walk. Let me talk with Janie,

for god’s sake. Come sit down and talk, Janie.

CELIA

Hal, take Daisy outside.

(brief pause)

Jane’s allergic to dogs.

HAL

You always loved dogs.

JANE

It… sorta just developed in me. A few years ago.

CELIA

That’s why she won’t go near the dog, dear. Now take it

outside, before your daughter…breaks out in a rash, or

something.

HAL gets up, bounces the imaginary ball, and

leads the dog out.

HAL

Come on, girl. Ball? Ball? That’s a good girl. Let’s

play ball.

JANE looks to make sure HAL is gone, then

goes to CELIA.

CELIA

Now don’t you start with me.

JANE

Start what? Mom, he’s sick. He needs help.

CELIA

Your father is not sick. He’s…

JANE

He’s what? What do you call a man with an imaginary dog?

Eccentric? Interesting?

CELIA

You don’t understand. Daisy… comforts him.

JANE

“Daisy” is not there. There is no Daisy. Does he see

other things that aren’t there?

CELIA

Of course not. Except for the dog toys, and leash, and dog

food. Just those “dog” things, you know.

(beat)

He needed a dog. That’s all.

JANE

That’s not all. He’s delusional. You need to have him

looked at. For Christ’s sake, Mom, it might be

something…physical. A tumor or something. Even if it’s

not, if it’s some mental problem, either way, he’s sick,

Mom. He needs to see a doctor.

CELIA

Your father is not sick. You said it yourself, he looks

great. And his dog is why. What’s the harm, if it makes

him feel better.

JANE

I’m not going to argue with you, Mom. He’s sick and I’m

taking him to the doctor.

CELIA

He’s not sick.

JANE

He is.

CELIA

He isn’t sick!

(very long beat)

I am.

JANE

(a silence)

Mom?

CELIA

It’s why I asked you to come down. I couldn’t tell you

over the phone.

JANE steps away, and she looks out a window.

JANE

What is going on here? Dad’s in the yard with an invisible

dog, and you’re… What?

CELIA

It’s come back. The cancer. In my pancreas this time.

It’s—

JANE

Mom, did you…? I mean, what are they doing about it?

CELIA

There’s nothing they can do. Oh, I’m getting some

treatments to slow the growth, but it’s really just a

matter of time.

JANE

Are you just going to County? There’s other places.

Better places.

CELIA

Jane, I’m dying. I’m passed denying that. I’m beyond

fighting it.

JANE steps away, and again looks outside.

JANE

Does he know?

CELIA

Yes, honey. Of course he knows.

JANE

Well, Jesus, mom. What the hell is he doing?

CELIA

Jane, there’s no call for that kind of language.

HAL enters, behind his imaginary dog.

HAL

(to the dog)

Hey! Hey! Settle down, now. You’re inside, Daisy. Go

easy. That’s a good girl.

JANE approaches HAL.

JANE

How could you?

HAL

Could I what?

JANE

How dare you treat her like this?

HAL looks to the dog.

HAL

Janie, she has to behave in the house.

JANE slaps HAL.

CELIA

Jane!

JANE

She needs you.

HAL grabs hold of JANE’s wrist.

HAL

Just what has gotten into you, young lady?

JANE

Let go of me.

HAL

Not before I know why my own child has hit me.

CELIA

Both of you. Please, stop!

JANE

I know what’s going on. Mom told me.

CELIA

Hal, let go of her. Jane, stop struggling. There’s no

reason—

JANE

How can you act like this when Mom’s dying?

CELIA

Just drop it! Please!

HAL releases JANE in response to her

question. The room is uncomfortably quiet

and still. Then HAL goes to CELIA.

HAL

I’m gonna take Daisy down to the park. Let her chase the

pigeons. She likes to chase the pigeons.

CELIA

I know she does. You go ahead, dear.

HAL

(to the dog)

Come on, Daisy. Let’s get your leash on.

HAL starts to exit, passing JANE without a

look or word. He stops at the door and

turns back to CELIA.

HAL (continued)

Maybe while I’m gone, you can remind our daughter about

respect for her parents in their own house.

(to the dog)

Come on, girl.

HAL exits.

JANE

You can’t encourage him like that, Mom. He needs to be

helping you. You need him… helping you.

CELIA

I need him to be happy.

JANE

I know how hard it must be for you, but you can’t just let

Dad…fall apart, too. How long’s he been acting like this?

CELIA

I’ve told you already. You’re father is not crazy. He’s

completely aware of what’s going on, in this house, in the

world. It’s not like you think it is. He isn’t “acting”

like anything.

JANE

Mom!

CELIA

He just has a dog. He’s got Daisy a few days after we

learned about my…

(beat)

Oh, Jane. Was I worried? Of course I was, at first. But

when I stopped worrying about it, I began to see that your

father was happier with the dog.

(beat)

When the doctor told us… well, your father…started

crying. I think he was more upset than I was. Your father

hadn’t been like that since your grandmother died. For two

or three days, he was… He just sat around the house. He

didn’t seem to know what to do.

(CELIA continues)

It got to the point where I was angry at him, for shutting

down on me. That he should feel sorrier for himself than

for me. After all, I’m the one who’s dying.

JANE

Oh, Mom, don’t…

CELIA

So I made him go out. I made him leave the house and take

a walk. I had to scream at him, but he finally left.

(pause)

And when he came home, he had Daisy.

(beat)

I thought why is this happening now? Why, when I’m so

sick? And I told the doctor.

JANE

So you did ask him about Dad? What did he say?

CELIA

He told me not to worry about it. He told me if it helped

Hal, that I should let him have his dog. Let him rely on

her. Especially when we have to deal with my situation.

JANE

I bet it’s not that uncommon. Right? I mean…

CELIA

That dog helped your father come back to life. And that’s

all I need from him right now. That he not die with me.

JANE

(long pause)

Did the doctor say…? How long do they think?

CELIA

It’s different for everyone. Three months, or if I’m

lucky…

(sad laugh)

Lucky. Well, then maybe even a year.

JANE hugs CELIA.

JANE

Oh, Mom. I don’t want you to die.

CELIA

Neither does your father. And certainly I don’t want it

either. But it’s going to happen. And it doesn’t make it

any better to let it get the best of you.

JANE

(pause)

Do you think the dog will still… I mean, do you think

Dad will still have the dog… you know, after you’re gone.

CELIA

I doubt it. But if he does, I think that’s just fine. And

he’ll still have you, and you’ll have him.

CELIA goes to a shelf and gets a photo

album. She sits on the sofa.

CELIA (continued)

Come sit down. I want to look at some of our pictures.

JANE

Yeah. That would be nice.

JANE sits next to CELIA.

CELIA

Look at you, with your bicycle. That was when your father

took off the training wheels.

JANE

That was such a cool bike. I hated when I got too big for

it. There’s you and Dad in Hawaii. You look so young.

CELIA

We were young.

HAL enters with the dog.

CELIA (continued)

Back already?

HAL

There wasn’t a single pigeon at the park today. Old Daise

must’ve scared ‘em all off last week.

(to the dog)

Is that what you did, you silly dog?

CELIA

Jane and I are looking at the family album. Come sit down.

HAL looks at JANE. JANE goes to him.

JANE

I’m sorry, Dad. I was… I’m tired, and it was a long

drive. I’m really sorry.

HAL

(making it a joke)

Sorry? For what?

(beat)

Ah, Janie, you don’t ever have to be sorry for anything to

me.

HAL hugs her.

CELIA

Come sit down, you two. Look at these ones. When we took

that camping trip to Yosemite.

They sit on the sofa, flanking CELIA.

HAL

I miss a good camping trip. Dark starry skies, roaring

campfire.

JANE

Toasted marshmallows.

CELIA

I don’t miss the mosquitos.

The dog apparently jumps onto the sofa.

HAL

(to the dog)

Daisy, no! Down! You know you’re not allowed on the sofa.

JANE looks at her father, and then at the

invisible dog. She gestures to the dog, and

pats the sofa next to herself.

JANE

(to the dog)

Here, girl. Come on. Up!

HAL

Janie…

JANE strokes the dog, next to her on the

sofa.

JANE

Dad, she’s one of the family. She can sit with us, can’t

she?

CELIA smiles at JANE.

HAL

I suppose it couldn’t hurt anything. She’s a good dog,

isn’t she?

JANE

She really is.

Lights down.

END PLAY

Inside/Out

CAST

Sam: Male, 25-30 years old, African-American. Jill’s husband. He’s in the third year of a four year prison sentence.

Jill: Female, 25-30 year old, white, Sam’s wife. They have a seven year old son that she’s supported while waiting for Sam’s release. She’s a strong person, not a whiner or whimperer.

SETTING

All the set really needs is a bed. Takes place in a small mobile home or trailer inside the prison yard. This trailer is used exclusively for conjugal visits. In the trailer are minimal, spartan furnishings, basically a bed and maybe the counter of a very minimal kitchen.

There is an exit to a bathroom.

TIME

Present

Note

Jill has visited Sam many times in prison, however, this is the first conjugal visit. A conjugal visit is an overnight visit by a prisoner’s husband or wife. These generally take place close to the end of prisoner’s sentence with the goal of providing a controlled/safe environment for the couples to get to know each other again. Also used to reward good behavior in prisoners. The play opens with two monologues, one by Sam, one by Jill. I see these pieces as being spoken in a sort of limbo. They are not audience address pieces but rather letters that might have been written and never sent. I picture Sam and Jill on opposite sides of the stage. Jill speaks first in a spotlight, then Sam. Whether the person who is not speaking should be doing something is left to the director. Sam might be smoking, Jill might be packing. The idea of these monologues is to reinforce the idea of their separation/isolation.

(Spotlight up on Jill)

JILL

I never take a book or magazine on the bus with me. I do it on purpose so that I spend that time thinking of you. It’s a good time to do it, think about you, gone. First thing in the morning on the way to work and then afterwards, going home. So I spend time each day with you, so you’re part of everyday. It’s a good place too, there on the bus, cause I won’t cry in front of all those people. And the week of our visit, I plan what I’m going to tell you. What Donny said, and how your Mom came over, and about painting the backporch. I make a list in my mind of all the outward things that make up our lives. That pass the days and nights, and weeks, and years.

I almost never cry anymore. I’ve gotten way better, but sometimes something will set me off. Like last last night I was laying in bed and it was real hot. I had the sheets off and was just laying there in the dark, listening to some talk show. They’re the best for putting you asleep. Anyway, they said something and it made me remember the first night we met and you came home with me. I was never like that, you know, and I thought, “Jesus, he’s gonna think I’m like that.” But we sat up in bed and it was hot, just like this, but I had all the covers pulled up cause I was nervous. And you talked, god you talked. You told stories all night. Just held my hand and told stories. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. it was like you’d saved up everything you’d ever done just to tell me that night. And it wasn’t till the next morning that we did it. And I was glad, you know? That we waited till it was light cause I could see the way your skin looked against mine, black on white. Then I went into the bathroom and I remember my knees were shaking. I thought to myself, “I better sit down before I fall down.” And I cried just a little there on the toilet, just a little. Just like I did last night and like I’m doing now.

Anyway Donny came into my room, he must’ve heard me and you know, he’s real good about it. I mean he’s getting old enough to understand. It still scares him though, I mean to see his Mom crying like that. So I stop myself. I think of words that don’t mean anything. Unimportant words… like aluminum… or powdered sugar. Wool. It almost always works. Pepper. Lemon Pledge. And I picture each thing in my mind, I mean really concentrate on each thing for like five seconds. Sometimes it even makes me laugh, the different things look so damn ridiculous just sitting there in my mind. Casserole. Corned beef. And I think to myself…” I’m going down to the store for a squash… or a gourd. The only time it doesn’t work is when I think of how many unimportant… how goddamn many unimportant words have somehow got into my life since you’ve been away.

(Spotlight dims on Jill, then comes up on Sam)

SAM

Thing was big, man. I mean it was a big damn ship and I was all the way at the top. I remember’d coming up through the decks, all these stairs up. They was after me and I was runnin’ and now there was nowhere else to run to. I looked out the window and it was white everywhere, snow and ice. Flashin’ in the sun like off glass. Glitterin’ like some giant parkin’ lot covered busted glass. I haul ass out on to this balcony. And way down there, solid fuckin’ ice. Sheer white. I start panickin’ man, cause now I know what’s that’s comin’ after me. The ice-monster. He’s down there coming for me. I gotta get outta here. Someone comin’ up the metal stairs. Tryin’ to close it, somethin’ to block it up with. Then I see it’s you comin’ round the corner, up the stairs. “Honey, you’re here, we gonna make it out ok,” But you pointin’ back sayin’ there’s two men comin’, “gonna help us, gonna save us.” They two guards from the prison. I know they helpin’ the iceman. They got you fooled. I slam the door fore you get in. I slam it, tears streamin’ down my face. I lock you out Jill honey, cause they tricked you. You screamin’ at me. I run across to the other door. Wood splinterin’ behind me. He’s comin’. I can’t let him get me. I’m through the other door and slam it, smashin’ his ice hands and ice fingers, but it won’t close. I run to the rail of the balcony and he right behind me. I dive off and try to fly. I flap my arms but I’m fallin’. The solid ice comin’ up fast and it’s all on fire, white flames lickin’ across it. I’m gonna die. I know I’m gonna die, but then I realize, just before I hit, that it’s better. It’s better to die than let the ice monster get me. Way better. I think to myself, “I choose to die. I want to die than let the ice man get me.” Then I hit. I wake up and look at the springs, the stained mattress above me, dirty white sheets caught in the steel mesh, ripped. it’s still kind of dark and I lay there. I think bout that dream and look at the top bunk. Outline of the guy’s body pressin’ down through the foam and I remember last night a couple hard-timers slappin’ this new guy around. Hasslin’ him for some smokes. They don’t even want the cigarettes. Just want to break in the new punk, cause he been outside free while they been in here. They leave and I hear him cryin’ in the dark…and I was happy. Happy it ain’t me. Happy they just leave me alone.

I wake up from the dream and I know right away where I am. Used to be that I think I was still dreamin’ when I see that damn bunk over me and look over at a window got bars on it. I lay there thinkin’ if maybe that dream come part out of a book I read. Tryin’ to remember the last time I read a book. I’m layin’ there and I suddenly think about you and I remember what day it is. You comin’ here to the prison, to stay overnight. I close my eyes. It’s been so long. I been through so many changes now. It all seem like another dream.

(Spotlight dims on Sam. Sam, then Jill enters the trailer space as the lights come up. She is carrying her overnight bag and a bag containing food, gifts, etc.)

JILL

Sam?

SAM

Hello mama.

JILL

God Sam, is that really you?

(They move into each other’s arms and kiss.)

SAM

Yeah.

JILL

I mean is this real? We’re really here.

SAM

I’ll show you somethin’ real, you put this stuff down, sweetheart.

(Kiss)

Jesus, I’ve missed you.

JILL

Ok, ok. Just hold on.

(She pushes him away and puts the bags on the counter. She surveys the room.)

So this is it? I mean the place we’re staying?

SAM

Yeah, not too damn bad, hunh? Lemme give you the grand tour.

(Sits on bed and pats it invitingly.) This is the bed.

(She walks around the bed, hesitant.)

JILL

I mean is there even a bathroom?

SAM

Damn girl, I give you the rest of the tour later. Come on over and at least say hello.

JILL

(Jill approaches bed and smiles.) Hello.

SAM

Come over here, lover.

(Sam pulls her into an embrace which quickly escalates to more than just a kiss and a hug.)

JILL

Sam…

(Pushes him back a bit.) hold on a minute… wait.

SAM

Wait for what?

JILL

Just give me a minute. Least tell me how you are.

SAM

How am I?

JILL

Yeah.

SAM

I’m three years worth of horny for you girl. (He tries to pull her in again.)

JILL

No, come on… honey… Sam. Stop… come on…

SAM

You come on.

JILL

No, I mean, wait a minute. Ok?

SAM

Wait a minute.

JILL

Yeah.

SAM

What’s the matter with you? First time we been alone in a room for three years and you tellin’ me wait a damn minute.

JILL

I don’t know. It’s just that…

SAM

What? Just what?

JILL

I just want to… just give me a minute. Talk to me first.

I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Just hold me and talk for a minute. Ok?

(Pause)

SAM

(He holds her.)

I love you baby. I just missed you’s all.

JILL

I know. I love you too. I miss you so much.

SAM

Damn, I’ve missed you woman.

JILL

(She pulls away.)

I know, I know. I’m just nervous or something. I don’t know. It’s just not… I mean this isn’t how I pictured things. You know?

SAM

Ah, Jill honey.

(Reaches for her hand.)

JILL

I think that search just upset me.

SAM

What d’you mean? They do somethin’ to you?

JILL

No, no. I mean I knew I they was gonna search me and all but it was just so… dirty. The room was dirty and this woman smelled like… I don’t know… sour. And I thought, “Oh god.” And she pulled all my stuff out and held up the new nightie I got, like maybe she was thinking of buying it or something. Like it was merchandise, like I was merchandise at some cheap sale. Hold my arms out.

Spread my legs. Her fingers on me. Touching me. And then she said to get dressed and go into this little trailer out in the yard, all surrounded with barbwire. I thought it was just another waiting room and I came in and saw you but I wasn’t expecting you… and I… I… I don’t know. It was just so dirty.

SAM

Hey, it’s all right, honey. It’s ok. hey, I get searched everyday. It don’t mean nothin’.

JILL

I know, I know…

SAM

What’d you ‘spect? They gonna search you in a doctor’s office or somethin’?

JILL

No… I didn’t know.

SAM

Hey, come on now. It’s just us here now. Come on…come on over here. It’s my turn to search you.

JILL

Can I take a shower first?

SAM

A shower?

JILL

Yes, please?

SAM

You just got here.

JILL

I know. I just feel dirty, that’s all. And I want to take a quick shower. It’ll calm me down.

SAM

I don’t want you calmed down.

JILL

You know what I mean. Just get freshened up.

SAM

So I guess I make you feel dirty.

JILL

No! Come on Sam, please. It was just that woman and…

this place and I feel like… I just want to get clean, change my clothes. Start fresh. I know I’m being silly.

SAM

What’d you expect here? This is all we got babe.

JILL

I know, I know.

SAM

You know what they call this place, you wanna feel dirty? They call it Motel 69. Yeah. Motel 69.

(Not shouting, sad and bitter.)

They be after me all week, “Hey Sambo, you gonna get a little off your wife? Hunh? She able to swallow the whole thing?” Yeah, and I got to just take it cause I say one word and I’m down in the hole and you ain’t comin’. I got to lick ass for months to get here and now it makes you feel dirty.

JILL

Sam…

SAM

“Hey Sambo, how come you got a white woman? You don’t like dark meat? She as good as everyone say she is Sambo?”

JILL

Please…

SAM

“Think she forgot how to do it or maybe she been practicin’ while you been inside. Maybe she got some new tricks she…”

JILL

Sam!

SAM

I ain’t goin’ nowhere.

JILL

Stop it.

SAM

Go on. Take your damn shower.

JILL

SAM… please! Stop it.

SAM

Not for another year I ain’t going nowhere. Go ahead on, wash it all away.

JILL

Stop it!!! (Pause)

I’m sorry! I wanted everything to be perfect. I just want to be clean and put on my new things. Let’s just start over. Calm down. I’ll wash my face and it’ll be all right. Ok? Please?

SAM

Sure… like I say… I ain’t goin’ nowhere.

(She’s hurt, starts to say something but then just grabs her bag and goes toward the bathroom. He stops her.)

Just don’t be gone too long or I’ll come in to get you!

JILL

Promise?

(He jumps at her and she slams the door. He lays down whistling. Then he gets up and listens at the bathroom door. He undoes his pants, opens the door and flashes her.)

SAM

Whoooeeee!

JILL

Hey! Out!

(He laughs and backs out. Sam goes over to the bag of food and starts rummaging through. As he does he sings a little song to himself that he makes up as he goes along. The bluesy/ jazzy lyrics may go something like this “My baby does it in the morning, my baby does it at night, etc.” He dances and sings and sorts through the things in the bag, unwrapping things, tasting and smelling. Generally making a happy mess. He finds the dessert and takes a bite or two. Jill comes out dressed in robe and negligee. She is clean, calm, sexy… strikes a seductive pose…)

Well, what do you think?

(Sees Sam with mouthful of dessert and the general mess.)

Oh no, Sam!

SAM

Hey, this pretty good Mama. Almost tastes as good as you!

JILL

That’s supposed to be for dessert.

SAM

Darlin’ you my dessert and I’m gonna eat you all up.

JILL

Sam, come on, stop eating that.

SAM

I’m hungry.

JILL

So you’re hungry, you eat? You can’t wait for me? You can’t see I’ve got something special planned.

SAM

Hey come on now, a man’s hungry he got to eat.

JILL

I was gonna make you dinner. A nice dinner.

SAM

Shit, the way you actin’ I thought you just come to take a damn shower. I thought maybe the shower facilities at home busted or somethin’, so you thought you’d…

JILL

Stop it and stop eating that.

SAM

I’m not sposed to eat this?

JILL

No.

SAM

(Quietly)

Then what did you bring it for? Hunh girl? What in the hell did you bring it for?

(He drops the dessert on counter.)

JILL

Sam! What’s the matter with you?!

SAM

Me? Woman, what d’you think’s the matter with me?

What are you thinkin’ bout? We finally alone together after three years, I want to and it make you feel dirty, you gotta take a shower. I’m hungry but you say “no, you can’t eat.” What the hell’s the matter with you?

JILL

I don’t know! I’m just too nervous and it’s making me upset.

SAM

So now I make you feel nervous.

JILL

No! It’s not you. I’m just scared it’s not gonna work out. That everything’ll go wrong, and now it has. I just wanted… I just want tonight to be perfect. Just the two of us alone. Shut out everything else. Just us two. I guess I just imagined something different.

SAM

What? You think this was gonna be the Garden of Eden or somethin’? Cause it ain’t. You understand? This is prison baby. Inside! We lucky to have this!

JILL

No. I know it sounds dumb but I thought maybe we could act like, well… pretend we was at home. Like maybe we sent Donny over to your Mom’s and it was just us two having a nice quiet night at home. A normal evening at home. Like everybody else.

SAM

Hell, why not pretend we at the Hilton Hotel? Then we cold just call up the damn room service. “Bring us up some strawberry daiquiri and be damn quick about it.” That ok with you baby or maybe we can get some of them maitais, “Yeah, two double maitais and don’t forget the umbrellas.”

JILL

(Forcefully)

I… just… wanted… to give you one night… at… home. The way it’s sposed to be, should be. Just for one night to act

like we was at home together. Just one night. That’s all I wanted. That’s all.

SAM

You talkin’ crazy woman.

JILL

I don’t care if it is crazy. It’s better than being in prison. Isn’t it? What’s wrong with just wanting to feel like you’re at home for one night. I mean you aren’t getting out for another year. For now this is all we got. If that’s crazy I say fine, so what. You just sit there and I’ll cook dinner and we can talk… or you can read the paper. I brought you the sports.

SAM

Read the paper.

JILL

You just sit and relax while I get dinner ready. Stay there, ok?

SAM

Pure bullshit.

JILL

For me please? It’s all I’ve asked for in all this time. You just do it.

SAM

Ok, ok… crazy bullshit though. Ok.

JILL

(Pause)

I got us a nice big porterhouse steak. You should’a seen the look on the man’s face when I asked for it. I mean, like I was the first person in ten years to order one. He got real excited and started telling me all about how porterhouses was the best cut and you could tell people that knew good meat and stuff like that. I made his day.

SAM

Porterhouse.

JILL

Yeah… and you know what’s wild? I didn’t even know what one was. It just came into my head while I was standing there. Just a word. I wanted something special for you and it just came out of my mouth. Porterhouse. And then he gave me this. I mean look at it. It’s huge.

(Pause)

And then you know when I got home I was in the kitchen talking to Donny. Oh Sam, you should’a heard him. he wanted to come along with me. To stay here overnight with you. He couldn’t understand how come he couldn’t come and I was trying to explain, but I mean he’s only seven and well I couldn’t tell him that we was gonna be, well you know. Anyway, it was kinda sweet and funny.

SAM

You bring that picture of him?

JILL

Yeah! I had it blown up. (Gets picture out.)

Don’t he look cute. With his little bat and all.

SAM

Darlin’ he look just fine.

JILL

Oh yeah. Anyway, what I started to tell you was that while I was talking to him, our neighbor, old Mrs. Holstein?

SAM

Who?

JILL

You know, that really big woman that lives next door? I told you. TV addict. Anyway she comes running out her back door chasing her dog. And you should see this dog, it’s like a little swelled up sausage itself. It’s got one of her slippers and she’s chasing it in her housecoat and curlers and wearing the other slipper, and she’s going (country accent) “Candy Cane! You bring Mama’s slipper back you hear me? You bring Mama’s slipper right back here.” Can you believe it? The dog’s name? Candy Cane. I swear me and Donny bout had a fit.

SAM

(Flat) Candy Cane.

JILL

It about killed us.

SAM

All right. How bout bringin’ me a nice, cold Colt 45 out the fridge.

JILL

Come on Sam, please?

SAM

Oh, I thought this was sposed to be like home.

JILL

It is.

SAM

Yeah, well then bring me a cold beer and turn on the stereo. I think I just listen to some relaxin’ music, or maybe we can catch somethin’ on the TV. How bout that?

JILL

Why are you doing this?

SAM

Cause this ain’t our fuckin’ home. You understand that? You standin’ there tellin’ me bout things that don’t make any sense. Porterhouse. And I sure don’t know anythin’ bout your damn fat ass neighbor. I never even lived in that house. You keep talkin’ bout things that I don’t know nothin’ about. And I ain’t gonna pretend that this shithole is our home. So don’t talk like it is.

JILL

Well, you tell me something then. I don’t care. I just want to talk to you. You never tell me anything about your life here. We gotta talk Sam. We got to. We don’t got anything else left.

SAM

My life here? You don’t even want to know. You wouldn’t believe it, cause it’s real. i feel like I was walkin’ round with my eyes closed till I got here. I thought life was somethin’ good till I got here. It ain’t. Life ain’t no pretend Candy Cane bullshit! It’s black and white and this place here, this is the black. It’s so black, you can’t remember that there is anythin’ else.

JILL

Sam…

SAM

You want to hear bout my life? I’ll tell you. How bout a couple weeks ago there was this white boy, worked in the kitchen with me. He an all right kid and he bout to parole. Anyway, there these three brothers and drinkin’ some homebrew and gettin’ fucked up. They gettin’ drunk and mean thinkin’ how they in the joint and this here white punk gettin’ out. You know, and they get pissed off, gonna give the boy somethin’ to remember, for when he get out. They come and haul his ass out of the bunk and the boy start yellin’. So they stuff his head in an old laundry bag and tie it shut, start beatin’ him. He still making noise so they drag him down to the toilets. And these are brothers I talk to everyday. I mean I know these dudes and I know this kid and I couldn’t say nothin’. I just lay there. I mean it, I just lay there and never said a damn word. They shove this guy down in one of the stalls, start rapin’ him and you could hear his head thumpin’ into the toilet bowl. They bend him over so that every time they ram it in, his head get crammed into the toilet. You could hear that thud every time they shove it in. Wham, wham, wham, and every time he struggle, they kick him down.

(Jill starts to get up and come to Sam.)

No!… just sit. After while all you heard is that head thuddin’. After they all finished with him, they come back through the room laughin’, get in bed, go to sleep. An’ I just lay there awake, searing to god I’d get those fuckin’ bastards. Do somethin’. Next mornin’ no one got outta bed, we all just lay there till the guards come in and find that boy still wrapped over that toilet bowl, red blood all soaked through that bag. And he dead. Suffocated in that bag. Then the guards start carryin’ him out and one of them guards slip on the blood that’s all over the floor and fell on his ass. I remember that place was dead silence, nothin’ moved, nothin’. And then this guard explode, ripping up beds and shit and screamin’ that we was all fuckin’ animals, over and over. Finally he run out and the other guards carry the body out and say we better have the whole fuckin’ place spotless by the time they get back. I never seen people clean like that in my whole life. I scrub that floor till my hands bleedin’ and I feel like I’m gonna cry any second. Me! And I keep tellin’ myself “you motherfucker, you fuckin’ chickenshit, coward-ass motherfucker.” I scrubbin’ up this kid’s blood cause I ain’t got the guts to help him. I ain’t man enough to help him. I ain’t human being enough to help him.

JILL

What could you do? They would’ve…

SAM

Standin’ on my head pissin’ my pants been better than what I done. I done nothin’ cause that’s what I’ve become, nothin’. Nothin’ but a fuckin’ animal.

JILL

You’re not an animal. Nobody can say that!

SAM

Society say I’m an animal! That’s why I’m locked in this fuckin’ cage! And they right!

JILL

I say you’re not!

SAM

Oh yes, they right.

JILL

Listen to me…

SAM

I can’t.

JILL

Yes, you will. Listen! You’re not some animal. You’re my husband. You’re Donny’s father. That boy!

(Points to picture.)

That boy right there! You think that’s what he wants to hear you say after all the faith he puts in you? You’re the man we love and need. We love you so much it hurts! Don’t you understand that?

SAM

That’s all I do is hurt you.

JILL

You stop it. You hear me. Stop. You listen to me. (Tries to force her way into his arms.)

SAM

I wanted to do things for you so bad, give you things.

JILL

Sam…

SAM

I wanted to give you so much and…

JILL

I need you.

SAM

Stead you got no one to take care of you.

JILL

You.

SAM

No one.

JILL

I just want you.

SAM

I wanna do things for you, but I’m stuck here. I can’t get out.

JILL

Then do something here.

SAM

I can’t.

JILL

Yes, you can! Listen to me…

SAM

What?

JILL

Hold me.

SAM

I can’t. I’m ashamed.

JILL

Just love me and hold me.

(She forces herself into his arms.)

SAM

(Pause)

I’ll hold you baby. I’ll hold you.

THE END

Mend the Envelope

A One Act Play

CAST OF CHARACTERS

HENRY DAVIS ……………………. A man in his mid 30s

JOANIE DAVIS …………………… His wife; in her mid 30s

VOICE …………………………. Male

Time: Sunday morning; pre-dawn; the end of October.

Place: A small town outside Buffalo, New York.

Setting: A dusty, dismal one-car garage in a pre-dawn glow. A feeling of emptiness permeates the room and its furnishings. A few light bulbs with pull-strings hang from the ceiling. At right are a chair and a desk with a computer, drafting paper, pencils, a swivel light and a telephone. Various machines covered in white sheets and cabinets are around the grim room. One open cabinet reveals various spare parts [washers, screws, nails, pipes, etc.]. A large, mobile trash bin stands in the rear of the room in front of a series of shelves on a wall filled with tools, boxes, and awards. A banner falling off the back wall reads “DAVIATION Takes You Away!”. In a far corner sits a piano covered by a white sheet. At left is a wooden table with vices around the corners. A large container that continues offstage rests in front of the table.

The curtain rises to reveal HENRY DAVIS, a man of iron in his mid 30s, solemnly gazing down at a closed container. He is wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and a bandage on his index finger. He opens the container and takes out a portion of a hot air balloon- an envelope- and waves it about dreamily. He finds an area of the envelope that has been freshly repaired and begins, as if sewing it himself, to mend the tear. After a few threads, he begins to sing the Jewish funeral prayer, ‘El Male Rachamim’.

  HENRY

(Singing)

El maley rakhamim shokhen ba-m’romim ha-m’tzei m’nukhah n’khonah.

MAN

(V.O.)

We’ve tried everything.

Pause.

HENRY

(As before)

Takhat kanfei ha-sh’khinah.

MAN

(V.O.)

There was just too much damage.

Henry trembles.

HENRY

(Struggling)

B’ma’alot…

MAN

(O.S.)

I’m sorry, Henry.

His legs fail him, and he collapses to the ground, dropping the envelope. The lights change, revealing a wheelchair nearby.

HENRY

(Yelling)

Awwwww-aaaaAAAAAHHHHH!

JOANIE

(Far O.S.)

DANNY! DA—HENRY?! Henry where are you? Henry? Answer me!

Unseen, she runs through the house.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

(O.S.)

Jesus! WHERE ARE YOU HENRY?! Answer me! Answer—

JOANIE DAVIS, an exhausted woman in her mid 30s, appears at the door dressed in sweatpants and a shirt.

JOANIE (CONT’D) —me! Henry…? Are you—

HENRY

What?

JOANIE

What are you doing in here?

HENRY

Are you just going to stand there or—

JOANIE

Sweety…

She goes to him.

HENRY

You called out his name again.

Pause.

JOANIE

Let me help you.

She tries helping him into his chair.

HENRY

I’ve got it.

JOANIE

Will you—

HENRY

I said I’ve got it!

She lets go. He falls.

HENRY (CONT’D) What are you doing?!

JOANIE

If you’d let me help you once in awhile then—

HENRY

Stop teaching me!

JOANIE

I’m not teaching you, I’m—

HENRY

Just…! Give me a hand.

He lets her help. She notices the envelope.

JOANIE

What balloon is that?

HENRY

How many years and you don’t know it’s called an envelope?

JOANIE

Don’t snap at me Mr. Expert.

She puts him in the chair, then looks closer at the envelope.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

Is this— What is this doing in my house?

HENRY

Calm down and let me—

JOANIE

CHRIST ALMIGHTY! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING WITH THIS THING?

HENRY

Don’t blaspheme!

JOANIE

Why is this…?

She goes to the trash bin and pushes it in front of him.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

Get rid of this now Goddammit!

HENRY

What did I just say?

JOANIE

You don’t even believe in Christ!

HENRY

God is God. Respect Hashem.

JOANIE

I’m so sick of your quotes.

HENRY

He divided my light from my darkness. He—

JOANIE

Stop!

HENRY

He’s the only one who’s been getting me through it all.

JOANIE

Does God drive you to PT every week and stock up on suppositories?

HENRY

Don’t be crude.

JOANIE

Don’t tell me some invisible man is helping you when I’m taking double and triple shifts to pay for this, this…

HENRY

This what?

JOANIE

I don’t know what to call this. How can you have faith in anything that gives in one breath and takes away in the next?

HENRY

If you took the time to see that The Abundant One has—

JOANIE

The Abundant—

HENRY —blessed this house with our—

JOANIE

Blessed?! Are you out of your mind?

HENRY

Yes, we are blessed to be alive and we should be grateful to God because He is kind, and if you’d pray for forgiveness you’d see that—

JOANIE

Shut up… just shut your stupid mouth and stop making me feel guilty you—

The phone rings.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

Ughh!

She goes to the phone and picks it up. During the conversation, Henry tries to get her attention.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

Hello?! Oh, Mrs. Cooper, hi. Yes, yes, everything’s fine.

We’re just… cleaning. This early. Oh, that was a… hammer. Henry dropped a hammer on his— It’s funny, I didn’t

realize the walls were so— You know, it’s a mess in here and things are just— (To Henry, in a loud whisper) WHAT?!

He grabs the phone.

HENRY

Mrs. Cooper! Sorry to wake you, but we were just going through some things and— Yes, everything is A-okay! Huh? Me? Never been better. Yeah. I’m anxious for the unveiling. Sorry, the headstone unveiling. It’s a Jewish tradition when we dedicate the headstone a year after— Yeah. Well, that’s very kind of you. Thanks for calling. Sorry again. Bye.

He hands the phone to Joanie, who hangs it up. She looks at the envelope and back at Henry.

JOANIE

You’re anxious?

HENRY

Of course I’m anxious. It’s the first time I’ll get to see him. Next to Papa and Dad. You know, I need to thank you. For what? For following the law, even when it’s not yours. That’s special, Joanie. The headstone is such an important—

JOANIE

Let’s just stop talking about it.

HENRY

What’s the matter?

JOANIE

And why are you— Having this thing here—

HENRY

If you get upset again she’ll call back.

JOANIE

You think I’m upset now?

HENRY

Calm down.

JOANIE

Tell me how this got in here!

HENRY

Someone from the shop brought it over.

JOANIE

Someone?

HENRY

Yeah.

JOANIE

When did someone bring this over?

HENRY

Recently.

JOANIE

When recently?

HENRY

Just recently.

JOANIE

Why would someone bring this here recently?

HENRY

I needed to fix it.

JOANIE

For what?

HENRY

I’ll tell you later.

JOANIE

You’ll tell me now!

She moves the wheelchair so Henry faces her.

Silence.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

(Tenderly)

Henry. This isn’t healthy for you or me or this house, do you understand?

HENRY

It’s helping me.

JOANIE

Falling out of your chair in an empty, dusty garage when the sun is still down is not helpful. All of your accidents happen when I’m farthest away from you.

HENRY

No they don’t.

JOANIE

I came home the other day and your finger was gushing.

HENRY

I was trying to peel an apple.

JOANIE

With a steak knife.

HENRY

Accidents happen.

JOANIE

Stupidity happens, and you’re not doing yourself any favors keeping me as far away from you as possible.

HENRY

What’s that mean?

She starts to leave.

HENRY (CONT’D)

Hey!

JOANIE

I’m going to lie down and stare at the ceiling, and when I wake up this thing had better not be here.

She goes to leave.

HENRY

Well set an alarm because Steve is coming to get us at nine.

She stops.

JOANIE

Steve?

HENRY

Yeah.

JOANIE

Why?

HENRY

How else are we getting to the cemetery?

JOANIE

Henry—

HENRY

What?

JOANIE

I…

HENRY

What?

JOANIE

Already rented a car, so there’s no reason for Steve to—

HENRY

You did?

JOANIE

Yeah.

HENRY

How much did it cost?

JOANIE

Nothing too expensive.

HENRY

What kind of car?

JOANIE

It has a… big trunk for your chair. Plenty of—

HENRY

Big— What are you talking about? What kind of car is it?

JOANIE

What does it matter what kind of—

HENRY

If I can get a ride from my brother then I’ll do that instead of throwing money away on a big trunk.

JOANIE

Well, it’s already done.

HENRY

There’s a car outside?

Henry wheels himself downstage a bit to look out a window. He tries to lift himself up to see it, but fails.

HENRY (CONT’D)

We’ll deal with it later. Steve’s coming to get us.

JOANIE

Excuse me?

HENRY

That’s the way it is.

JOANIE

That’s not the way it is; you told me to take care of everything.

HENRY

I told you to take care of everything when I couldn’t, but I’m home now.

JOANIE

Yeah, and you’re calling The Great Steve when you should be asking to me about arranging things.

HENRY

You’ve got something against Steve now?

JOANIE

Yeah, him and his half-stories.

HENRY

What?

JOANIE

Nothing.

HENRY

What half-stories?

Silence.

HENRY (CONT’D)

Did- Did you talk to Steve?

JOANIE

…Yes.

HENRY

When?

JOANIE

Recently.

HENRY

Don’t pull that with me.

JOANIE

Don’t like your own game?

Pause.

HENRY

Was it yesterday? Was it yesterday?

JOANIE

When I was at work.

HENRY

What part of yesterday?

JOANIE

What does it matter what—

HENRY

Just tell me.

JOANIE

In the afternoon.

HENRY

Why’d you call him?

JOANIE

He called me.

HENRY

He— And what did he say to you?

JOANIE

That’s between me and him.

HENRY

Oh well, so now you’ve got secrets with my brother?

JOANIE

Come on…

HENRY

Well if you can’t tell me then it must be a secret then, right?

JOANIE

What’s—

HENRY

You can’t tell me?! Well then I guess you’re sleeping around with him?

JOANIE

WHAT?!

HENRY

What else am I supposed to think?

JOANIE

Oh come on!

She goes to leave.

HENRY

How long has this been going on?

JOANIE

Nothing’s going on.

HENRY

After the first surgery? The second?

JOANIE

I’m your wife you idiot!

HENRY

Yeah, and he’s not stuck in a chair with nothing working down here, you don’t want to tell me what you talked about so what the hell else am I supposed to think?

JOANIE

You’re— Ugh!

HENRY

He’s not even that good looking.

JOANIE

You want to talk about sneaking around, like you waiting for me to fall asleep so you could sneak in here?

HENRY

Don’t change the subject.

JOANIE

Then don’t accuse me of messing around with your brother.

HENRY

He had no reason to call you.

JOANIE

Yesterday he did.

Silence.

HENRY

Well…?

JOANIE

That’s between me and him.

HENRY

Oh yeah! Nothing’s going on! Right! Not a thing!

JOANIE

Do you have a clue what he’s been going through?

HENRY

What he’s been— What HE’S been going through!

JOANIE

He was shaking and pale as a ghost.

HENRY

You saw him?!

JOANIE

Yes, I saw him, and he was a complete wreck, but he—

She looks at the envelope.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

It was yesterday, wasn’t it?

HENRY

What?

JOANIE

You made him bring this over yesterday. That’s why he was—

HENRY

Why are you pretending you didn’t know?

JOANIE

Because he didn’t say anything! Why are you putting us all through so much shit? You think you’re the only one in that chair?

HENRY

I am the only one in this chair!

JOANIE

No, you’re not. Christ!

HENRY

Respect Hashem.

JOANIE

Do you know how much it hurts to hear you say something like that?

HENRY

I’m Jewish.

JOANIE

Not that you— You haven’t been out of the house since you came home last month, and I’m out so much of the

day, but how you can think that after everything? And what you’re doing with this garbage bag is—

HENRY

Papa made this garbage bag by hand and built Daviation from the ground up, and when Dad took it over—

JOANIE

Don’t give me the sales pitch.

HENRY

It’s about family, and you never understood that.

She goes to the sign and looks at it.

JOANIE

You’ve got a hell of a sense of family.

HENRY

It’s all I have.

JOANIE

It’s time get back to what you know. Your tools are all waiting for you.

He holds up his weak hands.

HENRY

My tools are broken.

JOANIE

Your fine motor skills just need to redevelop and then—

HENRY

Oh, they just need to— Do you listen to yourself?

JOANIE

If you don’t make some kind of effort then you have no chance of getting back to where you were.

HENRY

Yeah, I’ll be back on my feet in no time if I start telling my toes to wiggle.

JOANIE

You need to do something constructive.

HENRY

What about my eyes? Of course I’m bumping into things and knocking stuff over.

JOANIE

Wear your glasses.

HENRY

They’re annoying.

JOANIE

Then—

HENRY

What?

JOANIE

Tell your company to pair you with someone who will draw your ideas and that you’ll go on-site to manage things. It’ll be good for you.

HENRY

I hadn’t thought of that.

JOANIE

You see?

HENRY

I’ll describe building plans to someone else who will render them… and let my crew shit on me every day. You’re a genius.

JOANIE

They won’t shit on you. How many times were they over here in our yard for barbecues and… and birthdays…?

HENRY

How come none of them came to visit me at the hospital?

JOANIE

Everyone came. You didn’t want visitors. There are so many people who care about you, do you realize that?

HENRY

He cares about me.

JOANIE

Who?

HENRY

The God of Abraham.

JOANIE

Come work with me at the store and then I won’t have to be the only one supporting us.

With great effort, he wheels over to the shelf where the awards stand. Struggling, he reaches up, takes a medal, and shows it to her.

HENRY

You see this?

Silence.

HENRY (CONT’D)

Do you see it?

JOANIE

Yes, I see it.

HENRY

“The Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture, 2003.” I am the youngest recipient since they started giving it out almost half a century ago. And these others…? No one’s got my credentials. I changed the skylines of Shanghai, Bangkok, Hanoi, Manilla—

JOANIE

God, your ego!

HENRY

You didn’t say a word when you were front row at any of those symphonies in Singapore or drinking twenty-five year-old Chivas on the roof of a club in the center of Shanghai.

JOANIE

That’s not import—

HENRY

So don’t tell me I can greet customers or stuff eggs—

JOANIE

Please…

HENRY

—and milk into shopping bags, and wheel my ass around the aisles with a price gun labeling cookies and diapers—

JOANIE

It’s work!

HENRY

—when you could’ve given me some steel and bolts and a cement mixer the size of a bowling ball bag and I could’ve built you an oasis in the middle of the Gobi Desert! DON’T TELL ME ABOUT MY PRIDE!

He lamely throws the medal, which does not get very far across the room.

JOANIE

Nice. Throw things around like a—

HENRY

Like a what?

JOANIE

An ass.

HENRY

That’s what you were going to say?

JOANIE

Yes.

HENRY

Are you sure?

JOANIE

I hate when you get like this.

HENRY

Like what?

JOANIE

Can it, will ya?

HENRY

Like at Shop ‘N’ Save?

JOANIE

Don’t step on what’s keeping food and treatment coming in!

HENRY

I can’t step on anything Joanie.

JOANIE

Don’t roll over it.

He laughs.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

Are you okay?

HENRY

Peachy keen jelly bean.

JOANIE

Oh my dear.

He wheels away from her.

HENRY

(Singing)

Oh my dear Joanie/ Mind me no more./I’m just your fool/Don’t you know it?

JOANIE

Hankie…

HENRY

(Singing)

Oh My dear Joanie/Mind me, won’t you?/ Don’t you see/ That I’m a fool for—

JOANIE

No songs.

He turns to face her.

HENRY

When are you going to start playing again? I bet all those kids in the cancer ward miss you. And your students at school. You should be back in the music room all day with your baton and your sheet—

JOANIE

No.

HENRY

They told you to take your time. Call your principal and they’ll have the janitor in there tonight cleaning all the music stands for first period Monday.

JOANIE

I can’t.

He wheels himself over to the piano. He partially removes the sheet. She turns away.

HENRY

Then do one-on-ones.

JOANIE

Cover that back up.

HENRY

You can earn so much more if you don’t want so many—

JOANIE

Cover it!

He plays a few notes.

HENRY

I always thought you were better than your mom, and she was something, huh? Roll this back in the living room and stick it where it was that first winter when we had music before we had heating. It would be so easy.

JOANIE

Uh-huh.

HENRY

You’re more able than I am to get back to what you know.

JOANIE

How can you expect me to play for another child when I can’t play for my own?

Beat.

HENRY

I’ve got one for you. There once was a lady who was tired of living alone. So she put an ad in the paper which outlined her requirements. She wanted a man who 1) would treat her nicely, 2) wouldn’t run away from her, and 3) would be good in bed. Then, one day, she heard the doorbell ring. She answered it, and there on the front porch was a man in a wheel chair who didn’t have any arms or legs. “I’m here about the ad you put in the paper. As you can see, I have no arms so I can’t beat you, and I have no legs so I can’t run away from you.” “Yes, but are you good in bed?” “How do you think I rang the doorbell?”

JOANIE

Is that supposed to be funny?

HENRY

From where I’m sitting, yeah.

JOANIE

What’s funny about your condition?

HENRY

My— Joanie, look at me. Can’t you look at me?

She makes a face.

HENRY (CONT’D)

What was that?

JOANIE

What was what?

HENRY

That face you made.

JOANIE

I didn’t make any face.

HENRY

I’m not completely blind.

JOANIE

I need to go lie down.

HENRY

I’m here! I’m in this chair! You see?

Beat.

HENRY (CONT’D)

How can you get off on humiliating me?

JOANIE

I don’t get off on—

HENRY

So you are humiliating me!

JOANIE

Stop twisting my words around!

HENRY

Then look at me!

She moves away.

JOANIE

I can’t because your face is his face and your chair is his chair, and I’m always going to be taking care of someone who can’t take care of themselves.

HENRY

I didn’t ask for this!

JOANIE

Did I?

Beat.

HENRY

We were happy overseas. Everything was there. Hop a flight and end up somewhere—

JOANIE

We had Danny here.

HENRY

I’m talking about before.

JOANIE

You were happy before, but not after we had—

HENRY

Don’t put words in my mouth.

JOANIE

I don’t understand.

HENRY

I’m talking about how we could have done things differently. We could’ve had him earlier or—

JOANIE

There’s no reason to do that when everything is set in its way.

HENRY

I can still dream it’s not.

Beat.

HENRY (CONT’D)

I dream of the whale sharks.

JOANIE

Whale sharks.

Lights and sound change.

HENRY

It’s a bright sunny day. Not a cloud over that island with the fireflies everywhere.

JOANIE

Henry…

HENRY

Just the two of us and the owner with the French accent. You’re sleeping on a bed of roses. I’m in a… sun salutation and then a mountain pose on that little piece of land that juts out above the lagoon. I walk…

He stands and walks away from the chair and moves with his story. At one point, JOANIE joins him. Lights and sound continue to change.

HENRY (CONT’D)

I walk down that staircase of sea shells built into the rock and go swimming while chocolate crepes and mango lassies are cooking. I swim out a hundred meters. Everything is so calm, so removed from the things that get in the way of enjoying life. Paradise. Then, something hard brushes up against my foot. I look down and the biggest fish I’ve ever seen—blue, with white spots and a mouth this big, surrounded by these small white fish with whiskers—is dancing beneath me, gliding through the water as if weightless in this bottomless ocean. I come up for air… and see the endless horizon… and when I look down there are three of them now, the unit. And as they swim they change—

JOANIE

Henry…?

HENRY

—into us. And we are dancing weightless. Maybe if you’d come up there with us we’d have this story.

JOANIE

Maybe I’d e in that chair? Or in the dirt? Or—

HENRY

That’s not what I meant.

JOANIE

Do you know what I’ve dreamed about every night for the last year while you’ve been dancing with whales?

Sounds and lights change.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

I close my eyes and see you push Danny into the basket and I smell the cotton candy and feel the sun on my face—

HENRY

I—

JOANIE

—and you’re there, in the basket, already lifting off and pulling the cord and the flame is shooting out and you’re going higher and drifting away and then the next thing I know is something sparks and there’s, there’s BURNING above you and Danny and, and I’m in the basket and—

HENRY

Joanie!

JOANIE

—the wind howls like a pack of banshees and I’ve lost control of everything and Danny is bawling because there’s a fire spreading and now we’re—

HENRY

I don’t want to hear it!

Sound and lights of sirens.

JOANIE

—dropping like a rock and the ground is flying at us and we CRASH the ground and the sirens are blaring from the distance and getting closer I’m lying over him and he’s not moving and you’re—

HENRY

I said enough!

JOANIE

I SEE IT! AND I LIVE WITH IT!

He sits.

Silence.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

How can you tell me if you could do it over again you would still go up there?

HENRY

There’s a plan for everyone.

JOANIE

Don’t tell me that there was a plan that included my husband being broken and my son dying because of his father’s stupidity.

HENRY

We were meant to go up and you—

JOANIE

No, YOU took our son with cerebral palsy up in this garbage bag, and—

HENRY

You let him go.

JOANIE

Don’t you dare, after so many years of listening to you go on and on and on about ballooning and Daviation and how beautiful and safe it all is! Do you know what expert even means?

HENRY

Joanie—

JOANIE

It means, IT MEANS that when something goes wrong you can handle the situation and nothing bad happens!

HENRY

You can’t blame me for—

JOANIE

Yes, I can blame you because you are the expert and I trusted you!

She pushes the bin into him.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

This is my house, and I say what goes. This goes.

HENRY

(To himself.)

Up, up and away.

JOANIE

Out. Now.

HENRY

(Quickly)

After Danny’s unveiling Steve’s taking us to the fair grounds and we’re going up.

JOANIE

What did you just say?

HENRY

(Deliberately)

I’m going to finish fixing this, and Steve will load up the truck in the morning, come on over to get us, drop us off, and while we’re at Danny’s grave he’ll be setting up the basket and filling this up so by the time he comes for us and brings us over—

JOANIE

Oh…

HENRY

—everything will be ready. By noon we’ll be up in that heavenly sky and we’ll eat Danny’s favorite strawberry frozen yogurt together and—

JOANIE

God…

HENRY

—we’ll look down on the whole town and keep rising til we see clear to Niagara Falls and we’ll finally be—

JOANIE

Stop! Listen to me: I’m going to wheel you out of this room, and I’m going to help you onto the bed, and you’re going to rest.

HENRY

Can’t you see the beauty in it?

She approaches him.

JOANIE

I see that you’re very upset, and you need to—

He grabs her hands.

HENRY

Stop talking to me like I’m a child! We have to go up there! It all makes sense. You were afraid, and God punished us for not keeping the family unit together at that critical, defining moment of a tradition. We should have all been weightless, dancing in the air, and we will be, but first we have a sacred duty to perform. I’ve been practicing the El Maleh Rahamim prayer, and—

JOANIE

There is no unveiling.

Pause.

HENRY

What?

JOANIE

(Tears in her eyes)

I’m sorry, Hankie.

HENRY

What are you talking about?

JOANIE

You told me to take care of everything, and I did. He’s on my family’s plot at St. Paul’s.

He starts to laugh.

HENRY

Oh! Oh! Holy— Oh, Joanie Melissa Thompkins Davis. You got me! I’d bow down if I could and kiss those wonderful feet of yours. Whoo! Bless me, Oh Lord, King of the Universe, I thought I was the funny one. Did I or did I not marry the right girl? Come here and give old Hankie a kiss.

She sobs.

JOANIE

We didn’t know how to tell you. I tried… but you, you were broken. Steve asked me what I wanted, and so that’s what we did, and it’s… been killing me.

HENRY

A good joke knows when its course is run.

JOANIE

Danny’s buried with my family in Eden.

Pause.

HENRY

He’s buried in Eden?

She nods.

HENRY (CONT’D)

He’s in… Eden?

JOANIE

I was just going to bring you there today. Just me and you.

HENRY

Steve told me everything is ready to— Danny’s next to Dad. The whole family’s coming tomorrow.

Joanie shakes her head.

HENRY (CONT’D)

No. My brother wouldn’t stand here and lie to my face.

JOANIE

People lie. Family does it the best.

HENRY

You promised me to keep it Jewish.

JOANIE

I’m sorry.

HENRY

He’s—Danny’s Jewish, and he cannot be buried in a—

JOANIE

Just stop pretending! You didn’t even know one prayer til you were three months into traction, and we only ever celebrated my holidays.

HENRY

You kept this from me for a year! He— That’s not the Eden that God promises to—

JOANIE

God isn’t there for people to latch onto when they’re desperate for something and you’re despicable for even thinking that I would—

HENRY

He’s not there to be thrown away, either, when things turn rotten!

JOANIE

Stop pretending you believe in anything beyond you. I’d be damned if I was going to let my son rest with your family!

HENRY

How could you do this to ME?

JOANIE

You bastard!

She lunges for Henry. After hitting him she picks up the envelope and begins tearing at it. He tries to stop her.

JOANIE (CONT’D)

You son-of-a— You damned him! You’ve damned him! You’ve damned him! You killed him!

HENRY

Stop it! Let go! Dammit stop!

JOANIE

You killed him! You killed him! You killed my baby! You killed my—

HENRY

Let go!

As the tug-of-war reaches its peak, the envelope tears and Henry is pulled out of his chair.

HENRY (CONT’D)

Ah!

JOANIE

I hate you!

They both wail. Then, Henry looks at her, the envelope, and around.

HENRY

Why? Why this?! It was just a second that I turned away to— Why did you let him pull the—… He pulled the…

because I turned and— Oh… God. I didn’t think anything could—

Joanie rocks in place.

HENRY (CONT’D)

Joanie…? Joanie…? I know it was my— Joanie? I held onto him and told him everything would be okay and not to look, but… he laughed. He had no idea what was happening, and just laughed and kept laughing til— I swear to you, he was laughing like it was the greatest thrill in the world. He was laughing.

She stands apart from him. Henry begins to cry.

HENRY (CONT’D)

He was laughing. He was…

Henry wraps himself in the envelope, brings his hands together and prays.

HENRY (CONT’D)

Baruch dayan haemet. Baruch dayan haemet. Baruch dayan…

Henry continues repeating “Blessed is the true judge…” Joanie is frozen. The cover over the piano slips off. After a moment, Joanie floats toward the piano, touches it and sits. She plays a song. Henry’s prayers quiet. As she plays, the lights change. Henry rises and floats over to Joanie. He watches her play. He sits beside her without her acknowledging his presence. At the end of the song, Henry rests his head on his shoulder.

Blackout.

The End.

COME BACK TO ME

by Susan L. Lin

 

Scene: A room with glass panels on one side and a door. Shelves of books cover the back and sidewalls. In the foreground, a girl in her early- to mid-twenties sits in a leather armchair. In her lap is an open book. She is lit softly by a light from above. To the back right corner of the room, a redheaded man hunched over a desk, working with great concentration. He is a shape in the darkness.

 

GIRL IN ARMCHAIR

I love this room. I always have, I loved its sound, I loved its voice, and when other kids were tripping each other on the playground, I was watching words spill out its throat. Mom told me stories here, she told them standing at the doorway, right outside, when I was sleeping. At school, I crawled all over the furniture: I couldn’t sit still. It was like I had too many legs—they were always moving, always propelling me forward and forward, but then back again. To the side. Forward. (Pause.) I always felt like I had too many legs.

REDHEADED MAN

(writing as he speaks) “The wings of the Ulysses Butterfly are iridescent blue-green when fully open and extended…”

 

 

 

GIRL IN ARMCHAIR

Sometimes I wasn’t sleeping, sometimes I was just pretending to. I could hear her feet on the carpet outside the door, her hands fingerprinting the windowpanes. Through my half-open eyes, I would see her looking through the glass at me. Her voice sounded oddly far away. She told me about people I didn’t know. A boy who flies too close to sun. A man who leaves home only to return twenty years later. A girl who tries to avenge for her father’s death by killing her mother. Later, she told me he kept books in the trunk of his car. She told me I was too old for this room. She was closing the door and I had to walk away. (Pause.) Art was powerful. Or could’ve been. She told me that too. Art caught her by surprise, left her wanting. She wanted to reach out and touch it.

 

The man sits up abruptly.

REDHEADED MAN

Where the hell’s my eraser?

 

He flips through the papers on his desk.

 

GIRL IN ARMCHAIR

Art was everlasting. I learned that one myself. The day I dropped all of her photographs, I picked them up and put them all back where I’d found them, all but one. That first photo that had fallen onto the floor—I slipped you under my shirt when Mom wasn’t looking and took you to my room. How old were you then? Twenty-two? Twenty-three? I’ve never been able to get that picture out of my mind. The way the lines of your body instinctively left one place and entered a new one: the past meeting the present, meeting the future. I didn’t care anymore then whether I had a right to touch the photo, claim it as my own. In art class, chalk pastels coated my fingertips with dust. (Pause.) Everywhere I went, I left fingerprints.

 

REDHEADED MAN

It’s getting dark. I need a light.

 

He strikes a match and lights the birthday candle on a frosted cupcake, creating a yellow glow around his work area.

 

GIRL IN ARMCHAIR

They were in small glass jars we kept in our desks. I never knew where the second grade teachers got them from exactly. Is there such a thing as mail-order caterpillars? Is there a catalog for these things? There must be. This is what I remember: each day we had to record our observations on worksheets like we were scientists. How fast were the caterpillars growing? How much were they eating? How old were they when they started forming their chrysalis? (Pause, softly.) Undergoing their metamorphosis.

 

REDHEADED MAN

(whispering) I’ll never finish this.

 

GIRL IN ARMCHAIR

A metamorphosis. That’s what the teachers called it. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the word, but when they said it, it felt different, not at all like the echoes of my mother’s voice late at night. The day all the butterflies finally came out, we let them go in the garden behind our school. It was my eighth birthday that day. In the cafeteria during lunch, I brought everyone cupcakes and they sang “Happy Birthday” before I blew out the candle on my cupcake. That day… (Pause.) I wished for the impossible.

 

The lights on the girl start to dim.

 

REDHEADED MAN

(flinches visibly, suddenly) Shit.

 

The man reaches around for a tissue and presses it to one of his fingers, then gets up and walks quickly out of the room.

 

A moment passes.

 

The girl gets up and walks to the desk, closing her book and setting it down in the space where the man had been working.

 

GIRL IN THE ARMCHAIR

Come back to me.

 

She blows out the candle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reservations

A short play

 

CHARACTERS

MAE: A woman in her mid-seventies. Edgar’s wife of many years.

EDGAR: A man in his late seventies. Mae’s husband of many years.

 

SET

Edgar and Mae’s kitchen. A simple set is preferred. A kitchenette set with a table and two chairs, a stove, a sink; perhaps a refrigerator.

 

 

(Mid-morning.

 

LIGHTS UP on EDGAR and MAE.

 

MAE stands at a kitchen sink washing and drying morning dishes. EDGAR sits at a kitchen table, reading a newspaper.)

 

 

EDGAR

Good breakfast, Mae.

 

(MAE turns to him.)

 

MAE

Thank you, Edgar.

 

(Slight pause.)

 

EDGAR

Damn good breakfast.

 

(Beat.)

 

MAE

The secret’s in the skillet.

 

EDGAR

How so?

 

MAE

That’s my secret, not yours.

 

EDGAR

That’s right, that’s right. Your secret, not mine.

 

(Pause. EDGAR returns to reading his newspaper. MAE picks up a skillet. She looks it over. She gently runs the skillet under the kitchen faucet, and gingerly dried it with a paper towel. She looks toward EDGAR.)

 

Mae

You don’t wash it.

 

Edgar

What?

 

Mae

The skillet. You don’t wash it. With soap. You don’t scrub it.

 

Edgar

Why not?

 

Mae

It ruins the seasoning.

 

EDGAR

The what?

 

MAE

The seasoning. (Beat.) The flavor.

 

EDGAR

What flavor?

 

MAE

Maintaining the seasoning improves the taste and flavor of the foods you cook in it.

 

EDGAR

Where’d’ya learn that?

 

MAE

 

(Slight pause.)

 

EDGAR

(Smiling at MAE.)

You and your cookbooks.

 

(MAE smiles back at him. Pause.)

 

Mae

What do you want for dinner?

 

EDGAR

Dinner?

 

MAE

 

EDGAR

I’m still digesting my breakfast, Mae.

 

MAE

I need to defrost something.

 

(Slight pause.)

 

EDGAR

What about lunch?

 

MAE

Liverwurst sandwich, Edgar.

 

EDGAR

Right, right. Of course.

 

MAE

And I have bologna.

 

EDGAR

Right, right.

 

MAE

(Tenderly.)

Edgar. We decided lunch years ago.

 

EDGAR

Right, right. Of course.

 

(Pause.)

 

MAE

What about dinner?

 

EDGAR

I’m thinking. (Slight pause.) What are my options?

 

MAE

(Exasperated.)

Chicken, chop meat, pork.

 

EDGAR

Is that all?

 

MAE

All what?

 

EDGAR

All my options.

 

MAE

(Confused.)

That’s what we got, Edgar.

 

(Pause.)

 

EDGAR

What if I wanted, say, I dunno … fish?

 

MAE

Fish?

 

EDGAR

 

(Beat.)

MAE

We never have fish.

 

EDGAR

But what if I wanted fish?

 

MAE

You hate fish.

 

EDGAR

Do I?

 

MAE

If memory serves me right, Edgar, you do hate fish.

 

(Beat.)

 

EDGAR

But what if I did want fish?

 

MAE

Why would you want fish?

 

EDGAR

Humor me, Mae.

 

(Pause.)

 

MAE

I suppose I would go to the market.

 

EDGAR

Today?

 

MAE

Yes, today.

 

EDGAR

Not Thursday?

 

MAE

(Smiling.)

No. Today.

 

(EDGAR smiles back at MAE. He returns to reading the newspaper. Pause.)

 

MAE (CONT’D)

Should I…?

 

EDGAR

(Looking up from his newspaper.)

What?

 

MAE

Go to the market….

 

(EDGAR looks at her inquisitively.)

 

MAE (CONT’D)

For fish.

 

EDGAR

I hate fish, Mae.

 

MAE

Of course you do.

 

(EDGAR returns to his newspaper. Pause.)

 

MAE (CONT’D)

Chicken, chop or pork?

 

EDGAR

(Looking up from his newspaper.)

What was in that breakfast?

 

MAE

Same thing as always.

 

EDGAR

Something was different.

 

MAE

Three sunny-sides, two American bacons, two links, slice of toast, orange juice.

 

EDGAR

What did you have?

 

MAE

My breakfast, Edgar. (Beat.) Scramble.

 

EDGAR

Right, right. (Slight pause.) Something was different.

 

MAE

(Emphatically.)

Nothing was different, Edgar. Chicken, chop or pork.

 

(Pause.)

 

EDGAR

What if we went out?

 

MAE

Out?

 

EDGAR

 

(Slight pause.)

 

MAE

Out where?

 

EDGAR

For dinner.

 

(Beat.)

 

MAE

Why would we do that?

 

EDGAR

Something different.

 

(MAE crosses to the table. She sits. Pause.)

 

MAE

Where would we go, Edgar?

 

EDGAR

(Putting down the newspaper; with emphasis.)

Anywhere we want to.

 

(Beat.)

 

MAE

I don’t know.

 

EDGAR

(Taking her hand.)

Come on, Mae.

 

MAE

Where?

 

(Pause. EDGAR thinks.)

 

EDGAR

(Smiling.)

Toscano’s.

 

(Beat.)

 

MAE

Toscano’s?

 

EDGAR

You remember Toscano’s.

 

MAE

Of course I remember Toscano’s.

 

EDGAR

I proposed to you at Toscano’s.

 

MAE

Of course you did.

 

EDGAR

And you accepted.

 

MAE

Of course I did.

 

EDGAR

Then, let’s go to Toscano’s.

 

MAE

Are you sure, Edgar?

 

EDGAR

Come on, Mae.

 

(Slight pause.)

 

MAE

Alright. Alright. Let’s go to Toscano’s.

 

(Pause, as they look at each other.)

 

EDGAR

Let’s get us a reservation.

 

MAE

Alright. Alright. (Beat.) When? What time?

 

(Pause. EDGAR thinks.)

 

EDGAR

We eat dinner at five.

 

MAE

Five, then.

(Slight pause.)

 

EDGAR

(An epiphany.)

No. Make it five-thirty.

 

MAE

Edgar!

 

EDGAR

(Confidently.)

Five-thirty, Mae.

 

(Beat.)

 

MAE

Alright, Edgar. Five-thirty.

 

(They look at each other.)

 

EDGAR

You gonna make the call?

 

MAE

Alright, I will.

 

(MAE stands and crosses to a kitchen wall phone.)

 

EDGAR

You got the number?

 

(MAE leafs through an old battered address book that had been hanging on a nail on the wall next to the telephone.)

 

MAE

In my book.

 

EDGAR

You got the number in your book?

 

MAE

Of course I do.

 

(Beat.)

 

EDGAR

All this time?

 

MAE

(Locating the phone number.)

Here it is.

 

EDGAR

(Lower voice; almost to himself.)

All this time.

 

(MAE dials the phone number.)

 

MAE

Hello. I would like to make a reservation for tonight for two people at five-thirty… What?… Is this Toscano’s?… Toscano’s…. Do you have the new number, then?… What?… When?… Oh, my…. Alright, then…. You have a nice….

 

(She places the receiver back on the hook.)

 

EDGAR

What?… Well…?

 

(Pause, as MAE crosses to the table and sits.)
MAE

That was…. That was….

 

EDGAR

(He takes her hand.)

Go on, Mae.

 

MAE

Toscano’s closed, Edgar. (Beat.) More than twenty years ago.

 

EDGAR

Who was that, then?

 

MAE

Some oriental lady.

 

EDGAR

I don’t think we’d like Chinese food.

 

MAE

No. (Beat.) It wasn’t a restaurant at all, Edgar. (Beat.) She was just an oriental lady. (Beat.) She’s had the number for years.

 

EDGAR

Oh. (Beat.) Well, then.

 

MAE

Well, then.

 

EDGAR

 

(Slight pause.)

 

MAE

Now what?

 

EDGAR

Well. (Beat.) We’ll have dinner here.

 

(Pause.)

 

MAE

Edgar?

 

EDGAR

What?

 

MAE

Why Toscano’s?

 

(Beat.)

 

EDGAR

No reason.

 

MAE

Why breakfast?

 

EDGAR

Mae?

 

MAE

Why fish?

 

EDGAR

No reason.

 

MAE

Edgar!

 

(Slight pause.)

 

EDGAR

I’ve been to my doctor. (Beat.) I’m sick, Mae.

 

MAE

What?

 

EDGAR

 

MAE

You’ve been sick before.

 

EDGAR

Not like this.

 

(Pause.)

 

MAE

Oh, Edgar.

 

EDGAR

Sorry, Mae.

 

(Slight pause.)

 

MAE

Bad?

 

(Beat.)

 

EDGAR

 

(Slight pause.)

 

MAE

When were you going to tell me?

 

EDGAR

Yesterday. Last night. This morning. Tonight at Toscano’s. (Beat.) Maybe never.

 

 (Pause. EDGAR and MAE silently look at each other. EDGAR breaks their stare to look at a wall clock. He stands and crosses towards the kitchen door.)

 

MAE

Where are you going?

 

(EDGAR points at the wall clock.)

 

EDGAR

 

MAE

Now what, Edgar?

 

(Slight pause. EDGAR stops at the doorway and turns to MAE.)

 

EDGAR

I don’t know.

 

MAE

Edgar?

 

EDGAR

Yes?

 

MAE

(Smiling.)

Chicken. (Beat.) Chicken. We’ll have chicken for dinner, Edgar.

 

(Slight pause.)

 

EDGAR

(Smiling.)

That sounds real good, Mae.

 

(EDGAR exits. MAE sits silently for several beats. She stands and crosses to the sink. She picks up the skillet. She turns on the water faucet and grabs a bottle of dishwashing liquid. She pauses over the sink. Holding the skillet in one hand and the dishwashing liquid in the other she begins to weep as the LIGHTS SLOWLY FADE TO BLACK.)

 

THE END.

 

*This piece may not be archived, reproduced or distributed further without the author’s express permission.