Second film made from my short plays. A romantic comedy. A man who is saving himself for marriage believes he has found a suitable partner. In Spanish with English subtitles. ~13 min.
Please share the link. Already 400 views in less than a week!
Second film made from my short plays. A romantic comedy. A man who is saving himself for marriage believes he has found a suitable partner. In Spanish with English subtitles. ~13 min.
Please share the link. Already 400 views in less than a week!
Getting Back in the Game tells of a man asking his ex-wife over for tips on getting back into the dating scene. At least, that’s what he told her.
This is a 2-character comedy for actors ~60 years old with a 20-minute run time. Copyright 2015.
RICHIE: 61, but young-looking and a few pounds overweight. He’s retired.
RENEE: 60, attractive, fit and also retired.
Place: Richie’s apartment
(Lights up on a living room. There’s a sofa, an armchair, a couple of end tables, shelving with a few books and a CD player. Two big floor pillows. There’s a 1970’s era tapestry hanging on a wall.
RICHIE plays some popular music from the ’60s or ’70s. He checks his hair in the face of his cell phone [anything but a mirror]. He plumps the floor pillows, lights some incense and other last-minute touchups.
There is a knock on the door. RICHIE primps one last time, walks to the door and opens it.)
(Richie walks to the sofa and sits.)
RENEE: You don’t know?
(RICHIE walks to the door.)
RICHIE: (waving his arm) Have a seat. Come on.
(RENEE enters and stands at the door. RICHIE walks back to the sofa and sits.)
RENEE: I’m wearing a coat.
RICHIE: Yeah, looks great on you. Is it new?
RICHIE: I’m Richie now. Sounds younger, don’t you think?
RENEE: Oh, brother. Well, okay, Ri-chie, get over here and take my coat.
RICHIE: For her I would, but for you…it’s not like we don’t know each other.
RENEE: You’re wasting my time. Bye…Dick.
(RENEE walks out the door.)
RICHIE: Come on, Renee, you’re not serious.
(RENEE closes the door.)
RICHIE: You are. (Loudly) Ok, ok, knock again. I’ll do the coat thing. (5- second wait) So, knock already.
(No knock. RICHIE hurries to the door and opens it.)
RICHIE: (talking down the hall) Renee. Stop. Come back. Please.
RENEE: Last chance, buster. Let’s start over.
RICHIE: Ah, you do still love me.
RENEE: Still the jokester.
RICHIE: My best characteristic. So nice to see you, Renee. You look lovely. May I take your coat?
(RICHIE tosses it on a chair. RENEE reacts)
RICHIE: Wanna drink? Beer? Shot of tequila?
RENEE: Women like wine.
RICHIE: I don’t think this one does. She’s a little on the wild side.
RENEE: I’ll take a beer and then you can tell me about her.
(RICHIE takes a beer from a cooler on the floor next to the sofa and hands it to RENEE)
RENEE: A cooler?
RICHIE: Saves walking to the kitchen.
RENEE: Yeah, those ten feet could be fatal. And the can, classy.
RICHIE: Won’t break if dropped.
RENEE: You plan on getting that wasted?
RICHIE: No, of course not. But in the throes of passion, a flailing arm might…never mind.
RENEE: Why did you call me? I mean, you could have called a boatload of women. Why me?
RICHIE: From what I’ve seen you’re pretty active in the dating arena.
RENEE: And you know that how?
RENEE: I unfriended you years ago.
RICHIE: Yeah, I know.
RENEE: So, you don’t know what I’ve been up to.
RICHIE: Not exactly true. I’m still friends with your sister and she gave me her password.
RENEE: I’ll kill the witch.
RICHIE: You should be honored that I chose you. I respect your expertise in all things love.
RENEE: So, tell me more about this lady who’ll launch you into the throes of passion.
RICHIE: It’s not important. This is supposed to be a practice date so I can sharpen my skills.
RENEE: I need to know so I can decide if you’re making the right decisions. I need to be her, Dick.
RICHIE: That’s my job. I know, bad joke. Listen, Renee, I called you because I want, need your help. In the ten years we’ve been divorced, I haven’t been on a single date. I might be a tad rusty and getting back in the game is scary, frankly. Damn scary. So, help me with technique, what to say and all that, but who I’m dating is my business. I don’t ask about your personal life.
RENEE: You don’t ask about anything. The last time you called me was seven years ago. And that was to get my sister’s number so you could date her.
RICHIE: Explore the possibility only. I didn’t follow through.
RENEE: Only because the boyfriend you didn’t know she had threatened to kick your ass.
RICHIE: (throwing a couple of air punches) So not true. Anyway, maybe I didn’t call because I respected your privacy.
RENEE: I could’ve moved to Jamaica for all you knew.
RICHIE: No way. You hate the beach.
RENEE: Whatever, but the way I see it, you need me more than I need you, In fact, I’ve shown that I don’t need you at all. So, if you want my advice we play by my rules. Capiche?
RICHIE: Damn you. Ok.
RENEE: Wow, she must be something for you to give in so quickly. What is she, young or loaded?
RICHIE: Not rich.
RENEE: How young?
RICHIE: Age is just a number.
RENEE: Under thirty? Do you have a death wish?
RENEE: Let’s see. Two heart attacks, a double bypass and a pacemaker. And that was before we divorced.
RICHIE: I’m aware of that, but I figure it means I’ve had a complete overhaul, and since I’ve been stress-free and dateless for ten years, I’m still as good as new. (beat) Gonna help me or not?
RENEE: God knows you need it.
RICHIE: Coolio. Where should we start?
RENEE: How about your attire?
RICHIE: Groovy, right? A real American outfit. I’m trying to show her some of our culture. She hasn’t been here very long.
RENEE: Tie-dyed t-shirt, flares; along with the tapestry and incense, all you’re missing is a Grateful Dead album.
RICHIE: It’s the next CD.
RENEE: What, no 8-track?
RICHIE: Well, actually, it is the next 8-track.
RENEE: She won’t have a clue what you’re trying to do.
RICHIE: I’ll explain it. Besides, I don’t have a clue about today’s music or art. And you know the ’70s was the best decade of the 20th Century in so many ways.
RENEE: That it was. We reaped all the benefits of the sexual revolution and no AIDS to worry about.
RICHIE: Ah, to go back, if only for a while. Whatya say we get comfortable?
RENEE: That’s not why I’m here.
RICHIE: I meant to sit down.
(RICHIE sits on a pillow on the floor. HE motions for RENEE to join him.)
RENEE: Will you be able to get up?
RICHIE: I’ll have you know I can lift myself up without grabbing on to anything.
RENEE: That I would love to see.
(RICHIE tries to rise. Failing he tries again.)
RICHIE: Just a little out of practice. This time I’ll get it for sure.
(One more fail. RENEE sits on a pillow.)
RENEE: That’s ok, gramps. I’ll help you up if you need it. (beat) This room makes me feel like 1974 all over again, except for my wrinkles, saggy boobs and arthritis.
RICHIE: Nonsense. You look great. You haven’t changed at all in ten years.
RENEE: That redeems you for throwing my coat on the chair. Remember the party we had the day we got back from winter break senior year?
RICHIE: Do I? Best impromptu party ever. Randy had brought a bottle of Seagram’s 7 back with him; I had a quart of Smirnoff. And within twenty minutes of calling you and Amy, our apartment was bursting at the seams.
RENEE: Amy got so drunk she spent half the party topless.
RICHIE: Randy was so mad. Every time he tried to put her shirt on, she threatened to take off her pants.
RENEE: She was very proud of her boobs.
RICHIE: I’ll bet today they’re somewhere south of her bellybutton. She had 5 kids, right?
RENEE: Six. And she never wore a bra.
RICHIE: Thankfully, you never had to worry about that. Did I tell you how great you look?
(RICHIE tries to put his arm around RENEE, but she pushes him back.)
RENEE: I’m here to help you move forward, not rekindle the past.
RICHIE: You’re right. Sorry.
(RICHIE takes another beer from the cooler.)
(RICHIE gives one to RENEE.)
RENEE: So, what did you cook? Chef Boyardee?
RICHIE: Something more Americana.
RENEE: Hot dogs?
RICHIE: I thought about them, but went with a real classic. TV dinners. Wanna guess dessert?
RENEE: Chocolate pudding?
RICHIE: Good guess, but I wanted to class it up a bit.
RENEE: Hmmm. Let me think a minute. Ah, got it. Cheesecake.
RICHIE: (singing) Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee. (speaking) Hope you’re hungry. I’ll go preheat the oven.
RENEE: Really, Dick, er, Richie, don’t go to any bother.
RICHIE: You don’t know what you’re missing. Ok, hang on.
(RICHIE exits and returns with a plate of Ritz crackers and Cheese Whiz.)
RICHIE: Appetizers. Nice touch, right?
RENEE: Do you really think this will impress your date? Does she have a name?
RICHIE: Mai. M-A-I. It’s different, you have to admit that.
RENEE: Yes, Mai is not a common name.
RICHIE: I meant the food.
RENEE: True, but different isn’t always effective.
RICHIE: It’ll be fine. I’m sure of it.
RENEE: How do you know?
(RICHIE opens a small decorative box that sits on an end table and takes out a joint.)
RENEE: You’re kidding.
RICHIE: It’s what snagged you.
RENEE: Did not.
RICHIE: Liar, liar, pants on fire.
RENEE: Ok, yes, I was a big pothead, but it’s not why you “snagged me.”
RICHIE: No? What was it, then?
RENEE: Let’s stay on topic. You said she hasn’t been here long. You mean in Milwaukee?
RICHIE: Uh, right, new to town.
RENEE: Where’s she from?
RICHIE: Out east.
RENEE: New England?
RICHIE: A little further east than that.
RENEE: Oh, lord, don’t tell me. Thailand?
RICHIE: No way. Cambodia.
RENEE: So, you’re one of them, now? You’ve really reached rock bottom, Richie.
RICHIE: Have not. First of all, I didn’t move to or vacation in Cambodia with the expressed reason of finding a young girlfriend or bride. Second, I may be old enough to do that, but not desperate enough. And third, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity, so I teach IT at the community center down the block. That’s where we met. Satisfied?
RENEE: Impressed, actually. You were always more hedonist than philanthropist.
RICHIE: People evolve.
RENEE: Sounds like it.
RICHIE: It’s a lot of fun. You should come with me. You could tutor high school kids in math.
RENEE: I’m really not in the market for a boyfriend, Richie, and I prefer them to be over eighteen.
RICHIE: How do you spend your time? (beat) If you don’t mind me asking.
RENEE: I keep busy. Relatively.
RICHIE: Ooh, sounds exciting. I also deliver meals on wheels and read to residents of St. Ann’s. Some of them can’t see so good.
RENEE: Ok, who are you and where’s the real Dick?
RICHIE: I know. I ask that myself every so often. I’ve totally morphed into a caregiver. When I retired a few years ago, I had no plan. Just wanted to enjoy myself. I was never a big traveler, as you know, and I think golf and fishing are boring, so I was hanging out at bars. Problem was, the happy hours were starting earlier and my waistline was creeping perilously close to forty. I knew I wouldn’t see seventy unless changes were made. That’s when I began volunteering. And working out.
RENEE: You look like a thirty-four.
RICHIE: Thanks, but it’s thirty-six. Don’t want to get too thin. Gotta give the ladies a little something to hold on to.
RENEE: Well, you definitely have a little something.
RICHIE: Are you talking about—ok, time for you to leave.
RENEE: You don’t know what I was talking about.
(RICHIE jumps up, pulls RENEE up, too, and pushes her towards the door.)
RENEE: What the hell are you doing, Dick?
RICHIE: Good-bye. Thanks for your advice. Have a good life.
RENEE: Are you—
(RICHIE forces RENEE out of the apartment and closes the door)
RENEE: (from the hall) –serious?
(RENEE dials her cell phone. RICHIE’s phone rings.)
RENEE: Open the door.
RENEE: For what?
RICHIE: For the shot you just gave me.
RENEE: That wasn’t a shot.
RICHIE: Definitely a shot.
RENEE: You want a shot? A real shot? I’ll give you a real shot.
RICHIE: You’re the queen of shots. No more shots. Just an apology.
RENEE: (Softly) Oh, brother. The male ego. (normal voice) You were always more than I could handle, you porn dude.
RICHIE: A little sincerity would be nice.
RENEE: Take it or leave it.
RICHIE: I’ll take it.
RENEE: Then open the damn door.
(RICHIE opens the door and RENEE enters.)
RENEE: You are such a baby. You may be emotionally younger than that child you want to date.
RICHIE: I simply have a sensitive nature.
RENEE: Do you think she’ll be able to put up with your quirky, overly sensitive nature?
RICHIE: In time.
RENEE: You’re no spring chicken.
(RICHIE sits on the floor and lights a joint.)
RICHIE: Join me? (beat) One for old-time’s sake?
RENEE: Let’s stay on topic. Do you have any more questions about your prom date?
RICHIE: This is really good stuff (shit, if allowed).
RENEE: I know what you’re up to.
RICHIE: You do.
RENEE: Yes, I do. You know what used to happen every time I got high.
RICHIE: I remember very clearly. (tapping the pillow next to him) So, have a seat, Rennie, and see if we can recreate some of that magic.
RENEE: I’ll smoke, but no magic.
(RICHIE hands her the joint and she takes a hit. Then another. Richie uses the remote to find a 70’s song on the stereo. Something by “Yes.”
RICHIE: Better slow down. This ain’t 1975 weed.
RENEE: No lie. This is killer. Turkey.
RICHIE: What about it?
RENEE: Her TV dinner. With mashed potatoes, gravy and peas. And an apple turnover in the corner.
RENEE: And for Mister Meat-eater, Salisbury steak.
RICHIE: One hundred percent pure beef.
RENEE: And sawdust shavings. Do they even make Salisbury steak anymore?
RICHIE: I have no idea.
RENEE: That’s what I thought. I’ll bet there isn’t even a girl.
RICHIE: You think not?
RENEE: I not think. I mean, I think not.
RICHIE: It’s possible.
(They each hit the joint again.)
RENEE: Do you want to know?
RICHIE: Know what?
RENEE: How you snagged me?
RICHIE: You want to tell me after all these years?
RENEE: Yup. Chicken.
RENEE: Burnt chicken.
RICHIE: Oh my god. Really?
RENEE: You were cooking me dinner, but the music, the wine, the timing…
RICHIE: Our first time.
RENEE: And even when you smelled the chicken burning, you didn’t stop. I had a feeling then that we had something special going.
(RENEE moves to the pillow and sits close to RICHIE. RICHIE clicks off the stereo and plays a song on his phone. It’s “Do you Believe [in Magic]?” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.)
RENEE: There’s no girl.
(They sing the song. Lights down.)
As always, these plays are royalty-free. Anyone interested in producing this or any other play on this blog, please contact me.
I decided I wanted to film my short plays (about 12 in all) and I chose ¿Importa? (Does It Matter?) as the first. It was selected to be part of the Awake! Theater’s Prizm Festival in Manhattan in June 2017, and was also one of the eight plays we produced in Oaxaca in June 2018 (translated into Spanish).
I also chose this play because I knew it would fit well with being filmed on the Andador Turistico, the pedestrian street in El Centro de Oaxaca.
In the two weeks since its premiere (Nov 5, 2019) it’s had almost 200 views. The movie is 12.5 minutes long and was shot in a single-take style. Enjoy!
The next film is scheduled for production in July 2020.
This is the most personal play I’ve written to date. A theatre colleague called it “powerful, but sensitive.” It’s a full-length play and will take about an hour to read. I believe it will be worth your time.
Of all my unproduced plays, I truly believes this one deserves a production the most. I’m not sure if it will ever be staged because of the three characters, two are over 70 years old. Finding actors has been a struggle (even ones in their 60’s), but being the optimist I am, maybe one day it will.
Here is Shoes.
Scene 1 Early Saturday afternoon
Scene 2 Later that afternoon
Scene 1 The next morning
Scene 2 That afternoon
Scene 3 That evening
(MARY and PAUL sit at the kitchen table. She with a legal pad; he looking at a photo album)
MARY: Seventy-three, seventy-four, seventy-five. There. One guest for every year. Some of these people we haven’t seen in ages.
PAUL: These pictures are ancient.
MARY: We were all so close at one time.
PAUL: I don’t understand the logic of inviting people you might not recognize.
MARY: They’ll tell us who they are.
PAUL: These shots of me at the hospital. I was a big baby. I still can’t believe dad’s not in at least one of them.
MARY: He was too busy taking them.
PAUL: He’ll spend all night talking to the same four people he’s been hanging with for fifty years.
MARY: Oh, no. He’s a social butterfly when the spotlight’s on him. Telling jokes, making people laugh.
PAUL: He told me he could do without this party.
MARY: That’s what he says, but if we didn’t have it, he’d be crushed. You know him, Paul. Unless he’s bellyaching about something…
PAUL: If I’ve lost touch with someone, it was for a good reason.
MARY: You always cut people off so quickly.
PAUL: Yeah, the cut’s always quick, but not the decision. I mean, I was tired of Angelo’s bullshit ten years before I stopped calling him. But, once I did…
MARY: You may wish you had some of those friends in your later years.
PAUL: Hey, they weren’t adding anything to my life before, what good are they later?
MARY: Is that it? If they’re not helping you, they’re out?
PAUL: It goes both ways. Some I’ve dropped because I wasn’t adding anything to their life. Or they dropped me.
MARY: I don’t want you to end up like your Uncle Sid. He cut himself off and nobody went to his funeral.
PAUL: Maybe that’s what he wanted. Problem is you never know if you get your wish.
MARY: Well, I just pray that you don’t grow old alone.
PAUL: If I do, I do.
MARY: I truly believe there’s somebody for everyone.
PAUL: True, but I may die before I meet him. Gotcha. You want some coffee?
MARY: No, thanks. Have you written your speech?
PAUL: What speech?
MARY: For the party. Didn’t I tell you?
PAUL: No, but after all these years…
MARY: You can read my mind.
PAUL: On some things. I’ve started it, but…
MARY: I’m sure it’ll be wonderful.
PAUL: Actually, it’s not going so well.
MARY: You’re a natural born writer.
PAUL: I write stories, ma. And plays. Not tributes.
MARY: Pretend it’s one of your characters talking to his father.
PAUL: Jeez, that’s what I’m trying to do, but the words aren’t coming.
MARY: Think back to your sisters’ weddings. People are still talking about your speeches.
PAUL: That’s different. I mean, the girls and I are close, but a father…I need my class A material.
MARY: Just say how he’s influenced you.
PAUL: Right now all I could say is I’ll never be the man he is and the only mark I’ve left on this world was burning grandpa’s barn to the ground.
MARY: You’ve lived a lot of places.
PAUL: A sign of floundering.
MARY: Had multiple careers.
PAUL: Can’t find anything I’m good at.
MARY: Why do you always go negative?
PAUL: I’m trying to write a poem. That’s positive.
MARY: He’ll love that.
PAUL: But I’m telling you now, if I don’t finish it, I’m not saying anything.
MARY: Maybe you could read what you have.
PAUL: No, let one of the girls do it. They always have something to say about life. Usually mine.
MARY: That’s not true.
PAUL: Really? Jenny calls me the other day and says I should move back here because Bob has a job for me. When I told her I didn’t want to, she goes into preacher mode and says I need a focus in life; that fifty year olds need to start looking towards retirement. Then she finished by saying I’ll never find peace because I avoid life.
MARY: Do you?
PAUL: I don’t know, but A), I could never move back here and B), there’s no way in hell I’m going to deliver ice for a living.
MARY: She and Bob live very well.
PAUL: So do I, ma, based on what I consider very well.
MARY: I don’t want to argue.
PAUL: We’re not. All I’m saying is, ah, never mind.
MARY: You’re doing well. Very well. You should hear your father. He’s always talking you up.
PAUL: I’m not doing that well.
MARY: Pauly, have you called that number I gave you?
MARY: These negative spells, they used to only happen in the fall, but now…
PAUL: I’m not calling anyone, okay?!
MARY: I’m just trying to help.
PAUL: You think I’m nuts, don’t you?
MARY: You don’t want to hear what I think.
PAUL: I’m sorry, yes, I do. Go on.
MARY: Maybe, it’s the stress of job hunting.
PAUL: A lot of it. Whoever said it’s better to cast for talent over type never applied for a writing job at 50.
MARY: People don’t read newspapers like they used to. Maybe you should consider working for Bob.
PAUL: I’ve had offers but I had to turn them down.
MARY: Why in heaven’s—
PAUL: The cities are too small. I need to live in a city with professional sports teams.
MARY: You can’t be too picky at your age. About anything. Why can’t you start small?
PAUL: You know why.
MARY: He’d be happy for you.
PAUL: He deserves better than Paducah.
MARY: I don’t understand. You quit a good sales job to change fields and then you don’t take a job in it.
PAUL: Can I see the list?
MARY: Sure. You want coffee?
PAUL: I do.
MARY exits and returns with coffee while PAUL scans the guest list)
Man, some of these people I haven’t seen since I was a kid.
MARY: We could have invited so many more. I felt so bad we couldn’t include cousin Sherman.
PAUL: I thought he was dead.
(JOE enters and kisses MARY)
JOE: He is.
MARY: He is not, Joseph, and you know it.
PAUL: Hey, dad. Nice haircut.
JOE: Better be. They’re up to ten bucks. You’re looking good.
PAUL: I’ve looked better. Starting to get a gut.
JOE: The party’s not until tomorrow.
PAUL: Mom wanted me here today.
MARY: Because we don’t see him so often.
JOE: How’s the search? Have you applied to the Tribune?
PAUL: (To MARY) See what I mean?
JOE: Don’t be afraid of those big papers.
PAUL: I’m not. I’m holding out for a major daily.
JOE: That’s the spirit. What’s that, Irish coffee?
PAUL: Haven’t had a drink in over a week.
MARY: Thank you, Lord.
PAUL: You make it sound like I’m a lush.
JOE: You wanna play some golf?
PAUL: My clubs still in the basement?
MARY: Are you going to find time to visit your Aunt Martha?
PAUL: Jeez, mom, she never even knows I’m there.
JOE: What are you doing to the list?
PAUL: Adding cousin Sherman.
JOE: Why? I haven’t seen him in over 40 years.
PAUL: He used to visit a lot. What happened?
JOE: Is the mail here yet?
PAUL: He gave the best presents.
MARY: He still sends us a card every Christmas.
JOE: Fine. We’ll put a picture from the party in his this year.
PAUL: You grew up together, right? I mean, the way I heard it, you were like brothers. Even looked alike.
JOE: I can’t afford any more guests.
MARY: Quit your fibbin’, Joe.
PAUL: How much is it?
MARY: Fifteen dollars a person. You’d think it was fifteen thousand.
JOE: Fifteen here, fifteen there.
MARY: You talk like you have one foot in the poorhouse. You know, Sherman only lives an hour away, so he’s not far, but with just his Social Security . . .
(PAUL takes a twenty from his pocket)
JOE: Keep it. (To MARY) I’ll pay for the dinner, but you want him there, you call him.
MARY: He doesn’t have anyone to drive him down.
PAUL: Put him on a bus. I’ll go pick him up.
MARY: No, we made the limit seventy-five and that’s what we have.
JOE: Nothin’ like a little drama, eh, Mary? I’m going to take a little nap and then we can go play nine. How’s that sound?
MARY: I thought you wanted to plant your garden this weekend.
JOE: Today, tomorrow. That’s the beauty of retirement.
PAUL: How can I work in Paducah when he wants me at the Tribune?
MARY: He’d be thrilled to death with any job you took.
PAUL: Maybe, but a small paper like that, I’d feel like I failed him. He worked two jobs so I could go to college. I’ve done nothing to make his sacrifice worthwhile.
MARY: He wanted you to have opportunities he didn’t.
PAUL: I know, but it’s about more than just the opportunities.
(Later that day. JOE’s driveway. PAUL, with pen and pad in hand, occupies one of two lawn chairs. He doodles. JOE stands next to a flat of plants, broom in hand, a blank look in his eye. Short silence)
PAUL: Go on.
JOE: What was I—?
PAUL: The Cubs.
JOE: Oh, right. So, here’s the deal. The Cubs will never play in another World Series.
PAUL: What if they play for another million years?
JOE: Make it a billion, Pauly, they’ll never get there.
PAUL: Do they know this?
JOE: If they did, they’d close up shop.
PAUL: But, they’re so lovable and Wrigley Field…it doesn’t get any cuter than that.
JOE: True, but cute can’t change the course of fate.
PAUL: In my experience, cute has been all aces.
JOE: The reason being…(JOE looks skyward)
PAUL: God issued a decree.
JOE: I believe the proper word is edict.
PAUL: Banning the Cubs from the World Series.
JOE: Too many missed opportunities.
PAUL: How did he let them know?
JOE: Mysteriously, as always.
PAUL: Ok, why that year? Why not 1932 when The Babe called his home run?
JOE: You can’t punish a team that loses to Babe Ruth. But in ’45 they lost to Detroit.
PAUL: And that was the last straw.
JOE: Yup. They hadn’t won a Series since 1906. In ’45 a lot of good players were fighting in the war. And they still couldn’t win the damn thing. So, even though it hurt him to the quick, he pulled the plug on them.
PAUL: Your God is a Cubs fan?
JOE: He loves cute. And he’s everybody’s God.
PAUL: Not everybody be—but he’d seen enough, that what you’re saying?
JOE: The proof is in the pudding. 1969.
PAUL: The stinkin’ Mets.
PAUL: Leon Durham’s error.
PAUL: Okay, but 2003, if that fathead just lets Alou catch the damn ball…Five lousy outs from going to the Series.
JOE: God has a wonderful sense of humor.
(JOE begins sweeping)
PAUL: Wouldn’t it be great to come back, like in a hundred years, to learn they’d won the last twenty World Series? The Killer Cubs.
JOE: All I’m trying to say is, don’t be the Cubs. Take advantage because you only see so many opportunities in this life.
PAUL: I thought he was all forgiving.
JOE: He is, but also very busy. If he presents and you always pass, pretty soon you fall off His radar screen.
PAUL: So, I should take the job in Spokane?
JOE: How many have you turned down?
PAUL: Three, but my God, dad, Paducah, Cedar Rapids and Little Rock. Not a professional franchise in the bunch.
JOE: You’re too good to cover high school football?
PAUL: No, but you were talking Tribune earlier today.
JOE: I was?
PAUL: (nodding) Spokane is not a good enough return on your investment. Thirty years later, I still owe you.
JOE: How do you figure?
PAUL: Now, if I land a job in New York, Chicago or LA, that’s a satisfactory return. Even a Seattle. Spokane is not.
JOE: Listen, Moses first gig wasn’t the Ten Commandments. He worked his way up from the bush leagues.
PAUL: Good one, pops, but at the very least, I need a city with a major college team.
JOE: We plan and God laughs.
PAUL: He must be having a ton of fun with me. A month from fifty, still trying to find my way in the world.
JOE: You should be happy as hell. Obviously you have talent or the papers would’ve offered a kid right out of college.
PAUL: I don’t have to stay there forever, do I?
JOE: Some guys are late bloomers. You’re still growing.
PAUL: (Looking down) Not as often as I used to. (beat) So, what is it, Spo-kan or Spo-kane? I s’pose it doesn’t matter. Hell is hell no matter how you say it. (beat) Ready for the big party?
JOE: Not really.
PAUL: You think everybody will show?
JOE: One or two may not.
PAUL: Hey, it’s summer. People are busy.
JOE: Yeah. Dying.
PAUL: Come on.
JOE: I’m serious. Two guys may not make the weekend.
PAUL: How old?
JOE: Younger than me.
PAUL: So, what does seventy-five feel like?
JOE: I guess it’s different for everybody.
PAUL: Yeah. You’re healthy, maybe seventy-five feels a little worse than fifty. You’re sick, it’s just a little better than dead.
JOE: I’d say I feel like I did at sixty, only slower.
PAUL: Listen, considering forty years in a foundry, with all the shit flying around in there, I’m happy as hell you’re still here.
JOE: Giving up the smokes helped. You still smoke?
PAUL: According to my definition, I’d say no because I don’t do it very often.
JOE: Either you smoke or you don’t.
PAUL: Well, if you’re going to be close-minded about it…
JOE: I was about your age when I quit.
PAUL: Yeah, but you were a smoker’s smoker. Luckys, at a pack a day times how many years?
JOE: I didn’t smoke so many as you think. Most of ‘em at work burnt themselves out.
JOE: You’re right. That’s why I quit. And so should you.
PAUL: Maybe, but here’s the thing. Let’s say I give up the booze and the smokes and I live to be a hundred. The last thought I’ll have is, “Shit, I coulda smoked and drank all I wanted and still seen ninety.” Think of all the fun I’da missed.
JOE: Yeah, but if you’re suffering with lung cancer like your uncle—three years of agony, dead at 65-what kind of life is that?
PAUL: I’ve got that covered. As soon as the doctor tells me it’s terminal, I walk straight to the el and jump in front of a train.
JOE: Suicide is a sin.
PAUL: Would you really like a beer right now?
JOE: I could have one, but I can wait until five.
PAUL: See, this is what I don’t get. Given the temporary nature of our existence, why delay any type of gratification? You want a beer, drink one. What if tomorrow never comes?
JOE: Jeez, Pauly, relax. I’ll have one in a little while.
PAUL: Must be the Marines in you.
PAUL: Your rigidity.
(PAUL exits to the garage and returns with a can of soda)
JOE: No beer?
PAUL: I quit for good this time. I can’t believe you still have my little college fridge. Did I ever tell you about the time I wanted to test the tiny freezer in it?
JOE: Yes, about fifty—
PAUL: I go out and buy some ice cream. Two hours later I open the door and it starts running out like—
JOE and PAUL: Diarrhea from a donkey.
PAUL: Man, I’ll never forget those days.
JOE: You live in the past.
(JOE goes back to planting)
PAUL: I had my choice, I’da stayed twenty-two forever.
JOE: That means I’m paying student loans forever. No thank you.
PAUL: Just think, when you were my age, you had three kids out of college. If I had a kid tomorrow, I’d be over seventy.
JOE: So, you don’t want a family?
PAUL: I don’t know. I mean, yeah, it’d be cool, but if it were meant to be, I’d have one already, yeah?
JOE: He only gives what you can handle. Maybe now you’re patient enough to have one.
PAUL: If that’s the key, how’d you have three?
(JOE breaks a plant in half)
JOE: Damn thing wouldn’t stand straight.
PAUL: How about the time you left for church without your grandchildren?
JOE: Their mom was here.
PAUL: That’s not the point. You left the house at nine-twenty for ten o’clock mass.
JOE: I don’t like to be late.
PAUL: It’s a seven-minute drive! The first mass wasn’t even over yet.
JOE: That way I get to see the comers and the leavers.
PAUL: (Pause) Ever think about how long is enough? To live, I mean.
(JOE takes a seat)
JOE: All the time. When I made it to 70, I thought 75 would be a nice life. Now, that I’m here, and healthy, I want to stick around a while.
PAUL: To see if my ship finally comes in, I’m sure.
JOE: That and I’d like to get to Italy…and Africa and I’ve always wanted to play the banjo.
PAUL: You’re in good shape. Eighty-five is a real possibility. Let’s see, if you make it to 90, I’ll be 65. And dead, more than likely.
JOE: Why do you talk like that?
PAUL: It’s just a feeling I get, that’s all.
JOE: Drop a couple bad habits and—That reminds me, you got some mail the other day. AARP.
PAUL: What?! I’m not fifty. For a month.
JOE: Maybe they don’t want you to forget.
PAUL: People at work think I’m 39.
JOE: I bet they’re all young. Young folks have no sense of age.
PAUL: I know I don’t look mine.
JOE: It’s more about how you feel than how you look. I’ve always believed ugly and alive is preferable to the alternative.
PAUL: I feel like I could still run a six minute mile, but reality says I couldn’t do it under ten.
JOE: Soon you won’t see as well or heal so quickly.
PAUL: If I drink too much, I don’t get out of bed the next day until dinner. I’m telling ya, growing old is a bitch.
JOE: Oh, it’s not as bad as all that. Why…
JOE: What were we—
PAUL: Growing old. We were talking—
JOE: I know. I just…The other day I drove to the store. Got there and couldn’t remember why I went.
PAUL: Something in the store remind you?
JOE: Nope. Got back in the car and drove home.
PAUL: Hey, that happens to me already. A lot. Too much…
(PAUL makes a drinking gesture)
The worst part of all this aging thing is the women. Most of them don’t do it so well. That’s why I’ll always date women under 40.
JOE: Who are you, Peter Pan?
PAUL: No, but all I have to do is look at you guys to know I’ll look fine forever.
JOE: Going to the gym would help, too.
PAUL: So would eating better, but that’s not happening either.
JOE: God forbid you put any real effort into anything.
PAUL: Yeah, well…
(PAUL studies what he’s written and starts again)
JOE: What’re you writing, a letter?
PAUL: It’s a secret.
JOE: A book?
PAUL: No, although I’ve been working on it long enough to feel like one.
JOE: What’s it about?
PAUL: Rather not say.
JOE: Why, is it pornographic?
PAUL: Oh, God no.
JOE: Why can’t you say?
PAUL: All I’ll say is I’m under a deadline.
JOE: It better not be for tomorrow, cuz—
PAUL: Calm down, daddy-o.
JOE: I want no hullabaloo. Don’t even want the damn party.
PAUL: So, you wouldn’t mind if I didn’t—
MARY: Didn’t what?
JOE: We were talking about the party.
MARY: You’re not going?
PAUL: Did I say that?
MARY: I’m cooking your favorite meal for dinner.
PAUL: Cold pizza and Oreos?
MARY: Curry Roast Pork.
JOE: She never makes it like that for me.
MARY: You don’t like curry.
PAUL: She’s right, you know.
JOE: Well, even if I did…
MARY: Why do you go on like that?
JOE: Your sisters get leftovers and I get leftover leftovers.
PAUL: Maybe you should cook once in a while.
MARY: He’d just find something else to gripe about.
JOE: She won’t eat my franks and beans.
MARY: Is it too much to ask that you heat the beans? He sets the can right on the table. Cold.
JOE: Your mother has such a limited palate.
MARY: You’re going, aren’t you?
JOE: Now, Mary.
MARY: Just checking.
(JOE looks at his watch)
JOE: Almost five.
MARY: Happy hour.
PAUL: You ready?
PAUL: Cool. I’ll get it.
MARY: You sit. I’ll go.
JOE: Fifty-five years with your mother—she only gets my beer when you want one, too.
PAUL: You’re not the charmer I am.
JOE: Is that it?
(MARY returns with two beers)
PAUL: None for me, thanks.
MARY: You’re really serious?
PAUL: Yeah. It’s time.
MARY: You’ll be around longer.
PAUL: Hopefully. (To JOE) Mind if I try to plant one?
JOE: Be my guest.
(PAUL takes the small shovel and a tomato plant)
MARY: We always end up with so many tomatoes, we have trouble giving them away.
JOE: We don’t have that many.
PAUL: Maybe you could plant some herbs and cut down on the tomatoes.
JOE: Herbs I’ll grow on the windowsill.
PAUL: Is there a special way to do this?
JOE: Probably, but I just do what works for me.
(PAUL digs a hole)
PAUL: Deep enough?
JOE: Maybe another inch or so.
That’s it. It’s nice to know you’ve learned to take advice.
PAUL: I’ve always taken your advice. It’s the follow through where I—you know, I never like this kind of work until I do it. Like the deck we built for the house.
JOE: Hey, it came out okay for a couple of amateurs.
PAUL: You couldn’t even call me an amateur. More of a hindrance.
MARY: Your calling was to use your mind, not your hands.
JOE: A little dirt under the nails never hurt anybody.
MARY: Paul could’ve done blue collar, but he had—
PAUL: No, mom, I couldn’t. And it has more to do with aptitude than attitude.
MARY: See the wonderful way he uses words.
PAUL: Please. Listen, blame it on the Baxter boys. They got me into sports, so I don’t know squat about cars or machines, but I could hit a baseball a mile.
MARY: You could have been a pro.
JOE: When I was young, a man’s car was his world.
PAUL: After what happened to mine, I never want another one.
MARY: You live in the city. You don’t need one.
PAUL: If I lived here I’d need one. To drive as far away as possible. When I think of all the guys who never left this hellhole—guys my age—they must be suffocating from the boredom.
MARY: Jack moved to Hilldale.
PAUL: You make it sound like he’s a thousand miles away. It’s 15 minutes. Frank, Dave, Sammy. All still here. What a waste.
JOE: Those guys have families. This isn’t a bad place to raise children.
PAUL: Maybe, but it’s no place for a single guy. The worst stretch of my life was coming back here after college. I must’ve been drunk as hell the day I made that decision.
JOE: You could have stayed in Milwaukee.
PAUL: They let me go at the library.
JOE: Those jobs were for students. You graduated.
PAUL: My lease ran out.
JOE: You just wanted to play all summer.
PAUL: So, it’s all my fault.
JOE: It’s not mine.
PAUL: You could’ve kicked me back up there.
JOE: At twenty-two, I don’t tell you what to do.
PAUL: Well, you should have. Maybe my life—
JOE: Don’t blame me for your shitty life.
PAUL: Finally, you agree that I’m a failure.
JOE: No, that’s what you think. Hell, you’ve already made more money than I ever did and lived more places.
PAUL: It’s not about that. It’s about character, values, doing for others.
JOE: It’s my fault you don’t act like a Christian?
PAUL: Religion sucks!
MARY: Stop it! Both of you.
PAUL: I’m sorry, but…
JOE: But, what?
PAUL: You don’t know the enormity of the shadow that covers me. It’s huge, overwhelming at times. That’s why I—
MARY: Can’t write the—
PAUL: Yes, but it’s my life and I’m dealing with it. Maybe not always the right way, but I’m trying, nonetheless.
MARY: You want to talk?
PAUL: No, but thanks.
MARY: Why don’t you visit one of your sisters? Might do you good.
PAUL: They think I’m a bigger loser than I do. And that’s saying something.
MARY: Your sisters love you more than anything.
PAUL: On their best days, they treat me like a pebble in their shoe.
JOE: You know, when you were little, well, maybe you don’t remember, but every time you spilled some juice or broke a plate or whatever, Denny always took the blame.
PAUL: You’re kidding.
MARY: He’s not. When we could prove it wasn’t her, Jenny would chime in and take it.
MARY: You were their little brother. They didn’t want you to get spanked.
PAUL: Wow, then they—
JOE: Took a few for you.
PAUL: It’s amazing what we forget.
JOE: Or suppress.
PAUL: You never stop.
JOE: You just have a fear of the truth.
PAUL: Yeah, maybe.
MARY: I better check on dinner. Is it safe to leave you two alone?
(JOE nods. MARY hugs PAUL, then exits)
I didn’t mean to raise my voice.
JOE: I can’t remember you ever—but, that doesn’t mean you haven’t.
PAUL: Your memory’s not that bad.
JOE: What’s this about a shadow?
PAUL: It’s why I had to leave here for good. It was my only hope for a future.
JOE: A lot of those guys are doing pretty well. Business owners, executives.
PAUL: What are you saying?
JOE: Just that home is not always a bad place to be.
PAUL: What if you’d taken that job in San Diego after the war?
JOE: I still wonder that myself, but I had no choice but to come back. Your grandfather was sick.
PAUL: There’s always a choice. He died a couple years later. Why not move then?
JOE: My mother needed me. Sure, I’ve lived here all my life, but it hasn’t been so bad.
PAUL: Today it’s different. More mobility.
JOE: I think people’s priorities are out of whack. No job is good enough, no house big enough. They’re so busy moving up, they never know their kids. And then when the cops come knockin’, they’re surprised.
PAUL: I still can’t believe you quit the road, just to watch us grow up. And, took a pay cut, too.
JOE: It was important to be around my children. My only son.
PAUL: (proudly) You never missed a game.
JOE: ‘Course everything costs more now, especially college. I might not be able to make the same decision today.
PAUL: Somehow, I think you would. (beat) This town had nothing to offer me after Lisa.
JOE: You gave up on that woman too quick.
PAUL: It wasn’t her. I know that now. I hated my job, had no real friends here and—
JOE: Sounds like the problem wasn’t where you lived.
PAUL: But, it was. I need the energy a big city offers.
JOE: You lost two great women because of impatience. Shelly asked you to give her a year. One year when you’re twenty-two is nothing.
PAUL: My life has been all down hill since college. All the best things in my life happened there. I’ve never loved any woman more than her; the most fun I ever had was there. And then, then I came back here.
JOE: At that point in your life, no place was the right place.
PAUL: New York might have been.
JOE: If you’d gone to New York, I’d be having this conversation at St. John’s Cemetery. Your problem wasn’t place, it was perseverance. You took saxophone lessons for six weeks and quit. You wrote eight pages of a novel and quit. You worked on a stage crew for three shows—
PAUL: And quit. Yeah, I know. But New York, which wouldn’t have killed me, by the way—that place brings out the best in people. (sings) If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…
JOE: You would not have had a singing career.
PAUL: How many songs did you learn on the accordion?
JOE: One, but that was different. I didn’t choose it. My mother made me play that damn noise box.
(MARY opens the house door and speaks from there)
MARY: Joe? Just got a call. Ed Sims passed on.
JOE: Well, it’s a blessing. He was in a lot of pain.
MARY: Sheila’s going to make the party, but I told her Ed’s arrangements were first priority. You’ll be a pallbearer?
(MARY exits to the house)
See what I mean?
PAUL: Now Uncle Sherman makes number seventy-five. You guys go to a lot of funerals.
JOE: At least we stick to people we know. You remember the Smiths, don’t you? They go for the free lunches.
PAUL: They don’t know the deceased?
JOE: Not always.
PAUL: There’s something about them that I can relate to. It’s ballsy.
JOE: Although I’ve heard they’ll leave if they don’t like what’s being served.
PAUL: Crashers with discriminating palates. Nice. What if they get caught?
JOE: Just say you went to high school with the guy.
PAUL: But how would they—
JOE: From the paper.
PAUL: The Smith’s have money, right?
JOE: It’s not about that. That’s their social life.
PAUL: That’s it? Crashing funerals?
JOE: I hear they hit the occasional wedding, too. Especially if it’s at a country club.
PAUL: They invited to your party?
JOE: Naw, we aren’t that close anymore.
PAUL: They may come anyway. Listen, let’s email them the menu. Maybe save them a trip.
JOE: The dress is casual, in case you still don’t own a suit. And your mother wants you to say a few words.
PAUL: She already asked me.
PAUL: I’m working on it.
JOE: Newspapers have deadlines every day.
PAUL: That’s different.
PAUL: Listen, if you pressure me, I won’t even go.
JOE: Hey, don’t give the toast, I don’t care. But, the woman inside—
PAUL: Just tell her you’re adamant about no fanfare.
JOE: Not me.
PAUL: Come on, dad, I don’t ask for much.
JOE: You give speeches all the time.
PAUL: Yeah, at weddings, for friends I don’t care about. But this, this is special. And if I can’t give the best speech of my life for you, well…
JOE: That’s nice, but I’m still not telling her.
PAUL: Denny could say a few words.
JOE: She is. And Jenny, too.
PAUL: (sings) Two out of three ain’t bad.
(JOE is not amused)
Will you at least think about it?
(JOE ignores him)
I persevered at golf.
JOE: For several years, but you lost it there, too.
PAUL: I discovered girls.
JOE: That was your real sport.
JOE: I used to tell everyone that my son was going to be the next Arnie Palmer.
PAUL: That day haunts me still. Talk about stupid.
JOE: No, you made a decision.
PAUL: Something else to put on the “quit” list.
JOE: You didn’t quit. You left the team because you thought you broke a rule.
PAUL: Not a rule, exactly. Coach said anybody who missed that Saturday practice shouldn’t bother coming to the next one.
JOE: You forgot, that’s all. If you’d explained it to him…
PAUL: I felt like such a failure. That was the first time I remember feeling conflicting emotions. Anger, embarrassment, sadness.
JOE: If you’d just explained…
PAUL: The day before I shot a 73.
JOE: You could really smoke that ball.
PAUL: Maybe that’s where I lost it. The persevering spirit.
JOE: You did what you thought was right.
PAUL: Until the next year when I got booted off the basketball team.
JOE: Now, that was stupid.
PAUL: (sings) Smokin’ in the boy’s room. (Speaks) You don’t know how stupid. I never told you how it really went down. Mr. Nelson walks in and smells smoke. I’m the only one in there, but he didn’t actually see me do it. But, when he asks if it was me, like an idiot, I said yes.
JOE: You couldn’t lie.
PAUL: I’ve lied a gazillion times in my life. Why not then?
JOE: You knew you were wrong.
PAUL: I’ve got to get over that.
JOE: Could be why you’ve never been to jail.
PAUL: Never even been in a fight. Always talk my way out of ‘em.
JOE: I always felt it was my fault you smoked.
JOE: They were a temptation, lying around the house.
PAUL: Nonsense. I’d been getting them with a fake note since I was eight.
JOE: I shoulda made you smoke the whole pack that time, like I wanted. But, she wouldn’t—
PAUL: Face it, I was destined to smoke. I’ll be back in a sec.
(PAUL exits and returns with a putter and two golf balls. He takes a beer bottle and places it ten feet from JOE)
Here, take these. (beat) Okay, let’s see your stroke.
(JOE putts but misses the bottle)
Good speed, but your line…
JOE: I know, I always think I’m aiming right at it.
(MARY enters with another beer for JOE)
MARY: I just noticed you got your hair cut. I like it.
PAUL: You always say that and half the time you don’t mean it.
MARY: This time I do. Dinner’s ready.
JOE: Paul doesn’t want to talk tomorrow night.
PAUL: Telling her when I wasn’t around would’ve been nice.
MARY: But, you told me…
PAUL: Too many speeches, it sounds like a funeral.
MARY: You’re the only son.
JOE: He only does weddings now.
PAUL: That’s not—mom, it’s not, it’s not that easy to explain.
MARY: You don’t have to say a lot. Just one of your funny stories.
PAUL: Please, I’ll do anything else, I just don’t…
JOE: You can’t force him, Mary.
MARY: I know, but he’s such a good speaker. Everybody will be so disappointed.
PAUL: “Everybody” will not even notice. Only you.
MARY: Maybe by tomorrow you’ll have a change of heart. I need to set the table.
PAUL: I’ll do it.
MARY: He usually jumps at the chance.
JOE: I don’t know, but something is bothering him. Maybe it’s the job hunt. Or that shadow thing.
MARY: You think he’s drinking too much again?
JOE: You heard him. He said he quit.
MARY: I don’t think he’s coming tomorrow.
JOE: He’ll be there.
MARY: I had a dream.
JOE: Oh, boy.
MARY: He was sitting in a pile of shoes. Hundreds of pairs, maybe thousands. He kept trying them on, but they were all too big. Maybe he’s trying to run away from somebody or something.
JOE: Maybe he wants to be a clown in the circus.
PAUL: Table’s set and no, I’m not trying to run away or be a clown. I like Chicago. Especially since I have two theatres fighting over my latest play.
MARY: Two? Why, Broadway’s right around the corner. Maybe you could read part of it at the party.
PAUL: I don’t think so. Anyway, I had a reading last week and the next day, dudes from two theatres called. One said a full production was almost guaranteed. Non-equity, but still…
JOE: That city’s been good to you.
PAUL: And I haven’t been there that long.
MARY: We love having you so close.
PAUL: I’m enjoying it, too.
JOE: Your mother doesn’t think you’re coming.
PAUL: What else did you tell her?
PAUL: She had to have a reason.
MARY: Are you? Not coming?
PAUL: What did you say?
JOE: She has a right to know if her son will—
PAUL: No, she doesn’t. Not if I—you never understood the pressures of being—
JOE: Quit laying your shit on everybody else.
PAUL: I said I’d be there.
JOE: You say you’re going to do a lot of things.
JOE: Well, it’s true.
MARY: It is not. He’s a good boy.
PAUL: Yes, it is, mother. It’s so very, very true.
(PAUL exits quickly leaving the notepad behind. JOE sweeps. MARY looks at him. Lights down)
END OF ACT ONE
(JOE and MARY sit at the kitchen table. JOE reads the paper and MARY looks at PAUL’s notepad. Two cups of coffee sit on the table)
MARY: Anything in the paper?
JOE: Not that I can find.
MARY: Look in the local section.
JOE: I’m not done looking through the first section.
MARY: This is important.
JOE: He’s probably shacked—
MARY: The rest of the paper. Let me see it.
(JOE slides the paper towards MARY. JOE rises and looks out the window)
MARY: Did you check the basement? Sometimes he—
JOE: He’s not here, Mary. The Pontiac is still gone.
MARY: Maybe he ran into a friend.
JOE: He doesn’t have any. Not here.
MARY: Maybe he ran into Johnny.
JOE: Johnny lives with his mother. My guess is he—
MARY: Don’t say it.
JOE: It’s possible.
MARY: So is snow in Florida but nobody wants to think about it.
JOE: He’s always had a way with the ladies. Reminds me of—
JOE: My brother, Michael.
MARY: Oh. Let’s call Pauly’s cell phone.
JOE: What should I do if a woman answers?
MARY: At least we’ll learn if he’s alive.
(JOE dials. After several seconds…)
JOE: Paul, it’s dad. Please call home as soon as you hear this. Your mother is worried. (beat) We both are.
(JOE hangs up)
I still say he’s—
JOE: Yeah, sleeping.
(MARY shows JOE the pad)
MARY: Do you know what this is?
JOE: He wouldn’t tell me. Do you know?
MARY: It’s the poem he’s writing. It’s called “Shoes.”
JOE: Shoes? I don’t have my glasses. Can you read any of it?
MARY: Just a word here and there, nothing that makes any sense.
JOE: Let me see it.
(JOE takes the pad)
MARY: But, you don’t have—
JOE: If I hold it out far enough…It’s no wonder he crossed-out all the words. What’s poetic about shoes?
MARY: It’s what he wanted to read tonight. He said it wasn’t going so well.
JOE: Maybe he realized he has nothing to say.
MARY: No, Joseph, just the opposite. That boy thinks the world of you.
JOE: I’m nothing special.
MARY: You are in his eyes. That’s why it’s so hard—
JOE: When he gets home, I’ll set the record straight.
MARY: Why? Why not let him keep his vision of you?
JOE: Because it’s not true. I’m not the man he has in his head.
MARY: It’d kill him if…
JOE: It might make life easier for him.
MARY: It may take away his reason for living. You’re his motivation.
JOE: I’m an imposter.
MARY: Nothing good will come from it. (beat) He’d be fulfilled if only he’d followed his true calling.
JOE: One time, in the sixth grade, he mentioned being a priest.
MARY: He has all the qualities.
JOE: I think abstaining from sex is part of the deal.
MARY: He only spends time with those women because he’s lonely. He needs to turn his life over to Jesus. (beat) He’s almost fifty. He has no girlfriend and no prospects. That’s God talking.
JOE: While He’s at it, maybe God could give him directions to a church.
MARY: He’d make a wonderful priest.
JOE: Consoler of lost women.
MARY: Stop that, Joseph!
JOE: Listen, he’ll come home when he’s ready. Just act like nothing’s happened. We don’t even know that anything has.
MARY: He never stays out all night when he’s here. He may come in late, but…
JOE: Shouldn’t you get ready for church?
MARY: Aren’t you worried?
JOE: What do you want me to do, Mary?
MARY: You’ve always cared more about the girls.
JOE: That’s natural, I’m—
MARY: He wouldn’t get into these situations if you’d intervene.
JOE: If he doesn’t know responsibility by now, he never will.
MARY: Look what happened to Jenny. She never knew that Louis was a drunk until after they got married. Before that he was always a social drinker around her.
JOE: What’s that got to do with anything? (beat) Nobody has coddled that kid more than you.
MARY: Not true.
JOE: When was the last time he attended a family reunion?
MARY: My family?
JOE: Yeah, the picnic on the farm.
MARY: It’s always the same weekend as his golf outing with his college buddies. He can’t lose touch with them.
JOE: And the girls?
MARY: They go.
JOE: Because you guilt them into it.
MARY: I do not.
JOE: If they don’t, you play the grandchild card.
MARY: Well, everybody loves to see them.
JOE: Paul coming from Chicago is easier than the girls schlepping from—
MARY: If he had children—
JOE: You’d find some other excuse for him.
MARY: You can think what you want.
JOE: I’m not saying anything bad, just stating facts. The baby always gets spoiled.
MARY: You could talk to him, but you don’t.
JOE: A man’s got a right to live his life his own way.
MARY: Then why accuse me of coddling?
JOE: (Smiling) Somebody’s gotta take the blame.
(The doorbell RINGS)
One of the girls?
MARY: They have keys.
(The doorbell RINGS. JOE walks to the door, opens it a crack and steps outside, closing it behind him. MARY makes the sign of the cross)
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women…
(JOE enters with PAUL. His face is cut & bruised and his shirt is ripped. MARY rushes to him)
Pauly, my baby, what happened? Come here. Sit. Joe, get a wet cloth. And a clean shirt. Warm water.
PAUL: I’m okay, mom, really. A shower and some shuteye and I’ll be fine.
MARY: Did you go to the hospital?
(JOE enters with a face cloth and a t-shirt)
JOE: The cop said they offered.
MARY: Did they?
PAUL: Yes, mother, they did, but I didn’t feel—
JOE: Don’t get mad. It’s the nurse in her.
PAUL: I’m sorry, it’s just that, you know, in between jobs, no insurance. Too much hassle.
MARY: You didn’t take COBRA?
JOE: Nothing broken?
PAUL: Nothing physical.
MARY: How’d this happen?
PAUL: Playing the idiot, as usual.
MARY: I thought you quit drinking.
PAUL: I did. But, when I—It’s ok, I’m quitting again today.
MARY: Do you know who did this to you?
PAUL: Very well, but really I need some sleep. We’ll talk later, okay?
JOE: Did you file charges?
PAUL: S’pose I could’ve.
JOE: (Looking towards door) Maybe the police are still—
PAUL: But, I’m not going to.
JOE: I don’t see why not.
PAUL: Because then I’d have to say why it happened and—please, let it die.
MARY: That’s okay, dear. You know what’s best.
JOE: Sure, he does.
MARY: Go get some rest.
(Lights down. End of scene)
(Lights up on JOE at the table playing solitaire. PAUL enters carrying the pad and a pen)
JOE: You look like a million compared to—
PAUL: The piece of shit that pirouetted in here this morning?
JOE: Yeah, something like that. You hungry?
PAUL: Not really. Maybe some coffee.
(PAUL sets the pad on the table and exits. He re-enters with coffee and sits)
JOE: No, she’s getting her nails done.
PAUL: That’s good. I don’t want her to see me looking like this.
JOE: Well, unless you can heal in an hour…
PAUL: I wish I were a dog. (beat) Remember Katrina? Best damn dog in the world.
JOE: She took a lot of smacks on the ass before she was, though.
PAUL: Yeah, but she learned. That’s the key.
JOE: You saying I should have beat you?
PAUL: I don’t know but for a pretty smart guy, I never seem to get it. And not from lack of effort. You should read my journals. Fifteen years and hundreds of pages of vows to live better, broken promises to myself, and enough self-flagellation to wipe out an army of sinners.
JOE: For some, it’s a life-long battle.
PAUL: A thousand times I’ve asked myself, “Why can’t I be more like dad? He has everything under control.”
JOE: I wasn’t always like that. Still not.
PAUL: Coulda fooled me. You got married, stopped gambling, raised a family. Hello Saint Joseph.
JOE: Want to talk about last night?
PAUL: Never would’ve happened I hadn’t stormed out of here like a baby. You see? That’s not how you’d have handled it.
JOE: I was maybe a little hard on you.
PAUL: Nothing you said was a lie.
JOE: I know, but still…it’s just that…
JOE: You had, have so much potential and…
PAUL: I’ve wasted it.
PAUL: Yes! And not a day goes by that I don’t think exactly that.
JOE: You’re not the only one.
PAUL: Yeah, but your dream to be a lawyer—grandpa died. Supporting the family came before college.
JOE: I could have gone back later.
PAUL: And you had the GI Bill, too, right?
JOE: I did. So, you see…
PAUL: One of God’s opportunities, wasted.
(JOE briefly closes his eyes and lowers his head)
JOE: When you left here, you went to The Tap Room?
PAUL: Where else?
JOE: See anybody?
PAUL: Yeah, the sons of the guys I used to hang with.
JOE: One of them did this?
PAUL: No. Mitch did. You know, I knew him before he was my brother-in-law, ex-brother-in-law, and didn’t like him then.
JOE: He’s bigger than you.
PAUL: Yes, he is. Stronger and faster, too.
JOE: You want a beer? Little hair of the dog?
PAUL: One more before I quit again? Why not.
(JOE exits and returns with two beers)
How’d you do it?
PAUL: Quit the cards.
PAUL: Of bankruptcy?
JOE: Of your mother. There were a few games floating around the south end of town. Poker, mostly, but some dice, too. Anyway, I was on about a six-month streak where I couldn’t lose for tryin’. Bought myself a new car and put a down payment on a house from it. Now, your mother wasn’t too keen on me playing at all, but with the way I was winning she couldn’t really say anything.
PAUL: Were you the best?
JOE: One of ‘em. It was my face. No one could tell if I had ten high or aces full.
PAUL: Why’d you stop? Sounds like a pretty good part-time gig.
JOE: The week before the wedding I had a bachelor party. Poker party, really. Right before it started, your mother called me. She said that I better enjoy the game ‘cuz it would be my last if I wanted to be married to her. Went out a $300 winner. That was big money back then.
PAUL: If I had half of your willpower. Shit.
JOE: She knew me too well. We wanted a family and she knew the law of averages would come knocking soon enough. I didn’t want to be Bobby Giovingo.
PAUL: Nino’s dad?
JOE: One Sunday morning he told his family to enjoy their breakfast ‘cuz it would be their last meal. In that house, anyway. Word has it he put his house up against Jimmy Hall’s. Bobby was holding four queens, but Jimmy had all the kings. Part of the deal was the loser had to be out of their house by sunset.
PAUL: No shit? Is that why he—
(PAUL shoots his temple with a finger gun)
JOE: That came later, but yeah, maybe, I don’t know. Anyway, soon as she told me to quit, I did.
PAUL: There’s the difference between us. You hear it once and it’s mission accomplished. I tell myself a thousand times, I know it’ll be a thousand and one. One thing. The bars didn’t cause my divorce because Lisa liked going, too.
JOE: I think you still love that woman.
PAUL: Yeah, maybe. That’s sorta why my face looks like a horror show. (beat) Seems I’ve made a few calls to her over the past year.
JOE: That’s nothing. You’re still friends.
PAUL: Yeah, but these were made after a night out. Like, at three a.m., telling her—slurring to her, actually, how much I still loved her, how I wanted us to get back together. From there I’d move on to describing various parts of her anatomy and how much I miss them, too.
JOE: She’s remarried.
PAUL: Hello. What I didn’t know is that I really made the calls.
JOE: How do you know you did?
PAUL: I called from the bar and asked her.
JOE: After Mitch told you about them.
JOE: And for that, he did this?
PAUL: Yup. (beat) Well, not right away. First he told me to stop making them.
JOE: And you didn’t agree?
PAUL: Where’s the fun in that? I told him I didn’t care that he was her brother, that I’d call Lisa anytime I pleased and I’d tell her anything I wanted. I’d had a few pops already and was feeling exceedingly confident, so I called him a couple of choice names for good measure.
JOE: Oh, Lord. Is that when—
PAUL: Listen, Mitch ain’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s not gonna kick my ass in the bar. So, when he split I thought I was home free and ordered another drink, you know, to sorta celebrate. It wasn’t until I got to your car that I saw him sitting on the hood. I stopped, weighed my options—none of which were too good—and decided to run. That’s when I learned he was faster than me. Right after that I learned the stronger part. His punches really didn’t hurt but that was either the alcohol or the unconsciousness. Do you know that last night was the first time in my life that I’ve ever been hit? Over thirty years of drinking and these are my first visible wounds. When I came to the first thing I wanted to do was look in a mirror to see if there were any permanent scars. Shows you where my priorities lie.
JOE: Why, Pauly?
PAUL: Why am I like this?
JOE: Why do you constantly torture yourself?
PAUL: It’s certainly not for the satisfaction.
JOE: Are you sure? Some people find solace as a “perceived” victim. Even if they’re only a victim of their own actions.
PAUL: You sound like mom.
JOE: I occasionally read her Psychology Today’s.
PAUL: Solace. Hmmm. Okay, doc, tell me what you think. I’m dating this new lady and everything is going great. Last week she calls me to say she wants to spend Friday evening by herself. We originally had plans for dinner. Naturally—for me, that is—I go into a deep funk. I start creating these crazy scenarios, like she’s seeing someone else or wants to end it. I react by feeling sorry for myself, wondering if I’m worthless and I really do deserve this kind of treatment. Then I start thinking of all the other women I could date who would appreciate me. So, I call her and break it off, followed by my super-charged emotions kicking in and I cry for hours. Am I finding solace or satisfaction in this behavior?
JOE: Do you find the thought of being alone comforting?
PAUL: No, I want a woman in my life. I don’t want to grow old alone. But, at the same time, if I’m alone, no one can disappoint me like that. Does that make sense?
JOE: I’m not a professional. Just a pair of ears.
PAUL: But, you’ve always had the answers.
JOE: You think that because I never told you when I didn’t.
PAUL: You have more than me.
JOE: Maybe you need to talk to a shrink. Or a priest.
PAUL: I’ve always felt that we’re supposed to solve our problems alone; that asking for help is a sign of failure.
JOE: That’s crazy. If you think that way, then why do we need doctors, lawyers, plumbers?
PAUL: (chuckling) You’re right.
JOE: I gotta ask. You didn’t do this to get out of—
PAUL: Hell no! Give me some credit. But, since I can’t go looking like this, I can tell you why I was being so clandestine yesterday.
JOE: You don’t have to.
PAUL: I want to. You may already know.
JOE: What you’re writing?
PAUL: Yeah. It’s a poem. Or it’s supposed to be, at least.
JOE: About shoes?
PAUL: Yeah, but not just any shoes. Yours.
JOE: My shoes are nothing to write home about. Except for my Florsheim wingtips.
PAUL: It’s not—
JOE: (speaking over PAUL) I’ve had them for over forty years.
PAUL: Dad. I’m talking symbolic here.
JOE: Good, because I was wondering why a poem on shoes would keep you from the party.
PAUL: It’s something—it’s hard to explain.
JOE: Okay, forget the speech. Just tell a joke and sit down. I’ll make it okay with your mother.
PAUL: If you remember, that’s exactly what I did ten years ago. Do you know how long I’ve been trying to write this damn thing? Thirteen years. And the most I ever wrote was four lines. I’ve thrown away a redwood in paper.
JOE: Doesn’t seem it should be that hard. Lose, cruise, booze, snooze. Lots of words rhyme with shoes.
PAUL: It’s not quite that easy. Say what you will about my perseverance overall, but on this, I’ve been a pit bull.
JOE: Why’s it been so hard?
PAUL: Sometimes putting what you feel into words is the hardest part of writing, especially if there’s an emotional connection with the subject.
JOE: The stronger the connection, the harder—
PAUL: Exactly. Doing a story on an athlete is easy. Ask some questions, refer to some stats and type away.
JOE: But in this case…
PAUL: It’s the strongest connection there is.
JOE: So, this poem is about walking in someone’s shoes?
PAUL: You could say that. Maybe filling them is better.
JOE: Is it that writer from The Tribune, the one that gave you the internship? What’s his name?
PAUL: Quit playin’, pops.
JOE: It’s about me?
PAUL: You know it is.
JOE: Thirteen years?
PAUL: I got the idea when you were sixty-two and wanted to give it to you at sixty-five, but couldn’t—well, you know.
JOE: You didn’t have to do that.
PAUL: It was supposed to be your gift, my tribute to a great dad. But, just like everything else, I couldn’t finish it. And, honestly, I’d rather miss the party—one you don’t really want anyway—than expose yet another of my life’s failures.
JOE: Hey, nobody has to know about the damn thing. Our secret. I mean maybe you couldn’t write it because there’s nothing there. My life has been pretty uneventful. I’m just a retired foundry worker who did his best to make sure his children did better than he did.
PAUL: Your character is beyond reproach.
JOE: Hell, you’ve done more than me. Made more money, been more places. I could’ve taken the job in San Diego, but my roots were here.
PAUL: It’s not about material things. It’s about character. Things like letting relatives live with us; being involved in the church for forty years, lending money you didn’t have to spare. There are very few men who possess all of those qualities.
JOE: Guess I never thought about it that way.
PAUL: Trying to write this made it painfully clear how inadequately I’ve followed in your footsteps.
JOE: You’ve done okay for yourself. Maybe not what—but, hell, nobody meets their every expectation. The only thing that hurt me was you losing your religion. I sent you to Catholic schools thinking—
PAUL: You did the right thing. Bottom line, you’re a better man than me and that’s what I can’t put into words.
JOE: Don’t be so hard on yourself. At least you gave it a shot.
(MARY enters with a bag of groceries. She unloads them on the counter)
MARY: Who got shot?
PAUL: Where’s your hearing aid?
MARY: On the dresser.
MARY: What happened to your new girlfriend?
PAUL: How’d you hear—
MARY: Your sister. Her name is, was Kim. You dated two weeks and she’s Jamaican.
PAUL: You know, from now on, my personal life is classified top secret.
JOE: You broke up already?
PAUL: Ah, she works too many hours.
JOE: Man, it’s always something with you.
MARY: What your father means is sometimes you have to roll with the waves. Nobody fits all the criteria.
PAUL: There were other issues.
JOE: Do you think you’ll ever remarry?
PAUL: Why, just so you can have a grandson with our last name?
MARY: We worry that you’ll grow old alone. Once you hit fifty, well…
JOE: Maybe you need to widen your horizons.
PAUL: I date black women. End of story.
JOE: The two greatest loves of your life were white.
PAUL: That was then and race had nothing to do—listen, we’ve been over this a trillion times. Who I date has nothing to do with why I haven’t found someone.
JOE: Then what is the reason my name dies with you?
MARY: Paul, you remember Mrs. Ramirez, don’t you?
PAUL: From church.
MARY: Yes. Well, I ran into her at the nail salon just now and she told me her daughter, Celia, is divorced. Wasn’t she in your grade?
PAUL: She’s two years older than me.
MARY: She’s very pretty and lives in Chicago.
PAUL: I don’t date older.
MARY: She’s in town this weekend and doesn’t have any plans for tonight.
PAUL: I’m not meeting anyone looking like this.
JOE: You wouldn’t be in this predicament if you’d stayed with Lisa.
PAUL: Will you drop it?!
JOE: You could have worked things out.
PAUL: You don’t even know what the “things” were.
JOE: I know more than you think. I know you did cocaine.
PAUL: I’m sorry I didn’t have your perfect life or marriage.
JOE: It was not perfect.
MARY: Close enough.
JOE: Not close at all.
PAUL: Perfect enough in my eyes.
MARY: And we should leave it that way.
PAUL: Fifty-five years together. I barely made four. Three children to my none.
JOE: Lots of people stay married who shouldn’t and too many men have children but aren’t really parents.
PAUL: True, but that’s not you. You and mom are totally in love and you’ve always been there for us. Hell, ask anybody, and they’d all say you’re one of the greatest guys they know.
MARY: We could have invited 200 to the party.
PAUL: Maybe more. All the guys from my class would’ve come. You were everybody’s favorite dad. Remember the nickname they had for you?
JOE: “JoJo with the MoJo.”
PAUL: JoJo with the MoJo. Now you know that jerk-off dads don’t get that kind of praise from teenagers. You put it all together and it’s no surprise that I can’t write that poem.
JOE: Maybe I can make it easier for you.
JOE: Maybe you should leave, Mary.
MARY: Why can’t you—
PAUL: Leave why?
JOE: I should have done this years ago.
PAUL: Done what?
(MARY exits and brings coffee for all and sits)
Yesterday you said the pressure of being in someone’s shadow can be overwhelming.
PAUL: It can. It is.
JOE: Well, being held to that level of esteem, for lack of a better word, is equally overwhelming. Especially when a lot of it is unwarranted.
PAUL: Nothing you can tell me will change my feelings for you.
JOE: Reserve judgment until—
MARY: Are you sure you want to start this, Joe?
JOE: Where you going?
PAUL: I’m hungry.
JOE: Sit down, please.
PAUL: I’m happy with the JoJo I know.
(PAUL starts to exit)
JOE: Sit down!!!
(PAUL sits. MARY exits and returns with cookies)
Alright, so let’s start with broken dreams. Dad dying did not keep me from being a lawyer. He left ma well provided for and a college fund for me. I was ready to go until Willy Sims introduced me to a deck of cards.
PAUL: So what, you’re not a lawyer? The point is you worked on something ‘til you were the best, which I’ve never done with anything, and then kicked it cold turkey when you got married.
JOE: That’s not exactly—
MARY: Joe, I forbid you.
JOE: I’m sorry, Mary, but you have no say in this.
PAUL: Listen, this is pretty heavy stuff and I feel, with all due respect, unnecessary. So, if you don’t mind…
JOE: I’m not done yet. When you were still a baby, I lost three jobs in one year, had five mouths to feed. I had to take any odd job that came my way. You got nothin’ on me, son, when it comes to feeling like a failure.
PAUL: Most guys would have left town with that kind of adversity, but you stuck it out, did what needed doing, to put food on the table. That is so far from failure.
MARY: Let’s go out for lunch.
PAUL: Good idea. It’s on me.
Where do you want to go?
MARY: He’s a good man, no matter what.
PAUL: Maybe this is his cleansing, but I still think he’s—
(JOE enters with the photo album and lays it, opened, in front of PAUL)
MARY: Oh. Mi dios.
PAUL: I was looking at those yesterday.
JOE: Notice anything odd about them?
PAUL: None of you holding me, but that’s because you wouldn’t let anyone else use your new camera.
JOE: I wasn’t even there.
PAUL: (To MARY) But, you said?—Is that true?
JOE: It is.
MARY: We were separated. Temporarily.
JOE: She kicked my ass out of the house because I started gambling again. Well, technically, we didn’t have a house because I’d lost it the night before.
PAUL: You mean…
JOE: I told you it was Bobby Giovingo because I wasn’t sure I could tell you the truth. And it happened before you were born, so I figured…anyway, Bobby had the kings and we had to move.
PAUL: You know, there’s something pretty cool about having a father with the brass to bet his house on a poker hand.
JOE: What I had was a disease. I just didn’t know it. When your mother called me to say you were born I vowed to quit and asked her if I could come home. She’s a very forgiving woman.
PAUL: (To MARY) You’ve always been a saint to me. More than ever, now.
JOE: I haven’t fallen since.
PAUL: Do you know how many times I’ve sworn I’ll never take another drink? And the stories are getting worse the older I get. Remember last year when I called to say my car was stolen and they found it stripped in an alley?
MARY: Who needs a car in Chicago?
PAUL: That’s really not the point, ma. The point is I lied. What really happened is I got drunk, brought home a crack whore, who, after I passed out, stole the damn thing. And there’s no chalking this up as a youthful indiscretion since it happened when I was 48. Something is seriously wrong with me, but you, you always learn from your mistakes.
JOE: Not all of them. One cost me something I can never get back.
MARY: Please, Joe, I’m begging you.
PAUL: Dad, I appreciate you telling me what you have, but it won’t make writing the poem any easier, because I know I’ll never be able to fill your shoes. I won’t be there tonight but know that you’re the best father a son could want.
(PAUL starts to exit)
JOE: I’m not done.
MARY: Yes. Yes, you are.
PAUL: She’s right. Everything’s cool.
JOE: Not to me. (To MARY) And don’t look at me that way.
MARY: In fifty-five years I’ve never told you not to do something you wanted to do. But, now I am.
JOE: And if I say it anyway?
MARY: I don’t think you will.
(Long silence. PAUL hugs JOE)
PAUL: There is a bright spot in all of this. I’m writing a play about my inability to write the poem. It’s called Shoes. And I’m dedicating it to you. Happy birthday, dad.
MARY: Thank you.
JOE: I don’t like unfinished business.
MARY: It’s not. I just thank God he reacted the way he did. What he just heard could have been devastating. He’s going through a rough time right now.
JOE: I still think…
JOE: There’s more he needs to know.
MARY: Fine. Tell that fragile—
JOE: He’s not fragile. If he was, the booze woulda killed him years ago.
MARY: I don’t think Pauly needs to know the real reason you’re not in these pictures. Why you weren’t there. What purpose would it serve to tell him Sherman is his father? (beat) What would that solve? How does that make him a better man? Make his life happier?
JOE: Some day.
MARY: Maybe. After I’m gone. In my mind, I don’t want him to know everything about me like you do. Especially that I found comfort where I could when you weren’t there for me. I’m not proud of it, but he doesn’t need to know. He thinks I’m a saint and I can lively happily with that image. Very happily.
(End of scene)
(Lights up on JOE and MARY seated at a table at Joe’s party. They each have a glass of wine in front of them. PAUL stands next to JOE, a soda in his hands)
PAUL: Quiet please. Thank you. Good evening, everyone and thank you for being here on this super special occasion. I especially want to thank the Smiths for coming. You’re my kind of people. The roast beef was great, wasn’t it? So tender. (beat) Um, I also want to say a word about my appearance. Last night I was treated to some facial reconstruction. I didn’t want it, but can’t say I didn’t ask for it. A painful lesson learned. But enough about that. Let’s talk about the man of the hour. It’s rare that someone has the honor, privilege and pleasure to be the son of a great man. But, it’s been mine for almost fifty years. And I’ve been trying to write what this fabulous experience has meant to me for longer than I’d care to admit. Alright, I’ll admit. Thirteen years. With no success, I might add. I was so disappointed with my failure to accomplish this task that I had decided to skip this soiree and go back to Chicago this afternoon. Thankfully, my mind was changed. I had always, and incorrectly, thought that my inability to express my feelings for my father stemmed from being an inadequate follow-up to the man he was. Until this morning, that is. Believe me when I say I am a changed man. Today, I learned that we often mistake image for reality. Maybe because we don’t know any different; maybe because we choose not to. In an effort to fill my father’s shoes, I was chasing a false image. This does not tarnish any of his wonderful accomplishments and characteristics: his deep compassion, his unerring guidance, and his fifty-five years of marriage to name a few. They remain as they were, as they should be, held in high esteem. What has changed me as a man is finally knowing him as one. As a man and not as an icon. The poem I’ve been trying to write all these years is called, Shoes. My belief that I could never fill his has led me to abandon, prematurely, one hope and dream after another, feeling I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, achieve the greatness I thought necessary to win his approval. Funny, but I learned that I didn’t need to. I already had it. Now, I know that’s it’s not important to fill a father’s shoes, just to keep mine polished as I walk through life. So, here’s to JoJo with the Mojo. My role model, my friend and my father. My love and admiration know no bounds.
(They drink. Lights fade to black)
I’ve written two books about my life since I left the United States in 2008. This is an excerpt from the first one, “Mail from Kyryzstan: My Life As An Over-50 Peace Corps Volunteer” which I published in 2016. It’s available on Amazon for less than $1. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/Mail-Kyrgyzstan-Over-50-Peace-Volunteer-ebook/dp/B01LW9T04X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549134173&sr=8-1&keywords=michael+licwinko.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Peace Corps, it’s a government sponsored program that sends volunteers to dozens of developing countries for 27 months. For me it was the experience of a lifetime; it put the finishing touches on the type of person I had been striving to be.
The book contains the emails I sent from Kyrgyzstan with my added thoughts and opinions in italics directly following. These thoughts and opinions are ones that I didn’t feel I could express while a volunteer but had no restrictions placed upon when I wrote the book.
If I get a positive response to this post, I’ll add more. Feel free to share it.
PART ONE: Getting to Kyrgyzstan
May 8, 2008
Where am I going?!!?
That’s the big question left to be answered after receiving my medical clearance letter
yesterday. Yipppeeeeee!!!!!!! I expect the offer to be extended in the very near future.
It seems like I’ve been trying to get to this point forever, but I really haven’t. I was
nominated on December 21, so it’s only been 4 1/2 months which is pretty quick in PC
If Peace Corps Medical awards you their seal of approval, consider yourself in above
average health or better. It’s a comprehensive head-to-toe series of tests. And it needs
to be. Decent medical care in many Peace Corps (PC) countries can be difficult to come
by, hours away in many cases. Getting to the PC doctors in Kyrgyzstan meant a 5-hour
taxi ride for me. No surprise then to learn that one of the reference books we received
was titled, “When There’s No Doctor Around.” The PC can only accept the healthiest
candidates—age is not a consideration as the oldest serving volunteer during my
service was 83. I don’t recall where she was serving. Failing to receive medical
clearance must be the most common reason for rejection.
For most candidates the biggest outlay is time, not money, because the recent college
grads are still covered under their parents’ policies, while the older ones have employer
coverage. I fell into neither category having quit my job at Citi in June 2007. I didn’t take
COBRA and I temped for the year before I left. No insurance translated into paying for
everything out-of-pocket. Thankfully, I was near the top of the temp pay scale. I had
enough savings to cover the costs. Exams, both medical and dental, didn’t come cheap,
especially in New York City. But, I did save a significant amount of money when I
accidentally discovered two magic words: Peace Corps.
Like an idiot I ate the wrong food before my first cholesterol test, probably too much
honey in my oatmeal, which put it well over 200, the PC limit as I recall. A few weeks
later I went for another test to see if I’d lowered it to an acceptable level. Making
conversation with the lab tech, I mentioned why I needed the test and that I had no
insurance. She thought that being a volunteer was really cool, and then told me she
would only charge me what the lab charged them for the analysis, which was $75. That
saved me $200. After that I used it everywhere. A $750 stress test was knocked down
to $500. My dentist surprised me more than anyone. After telling her the PC deemed
one of my crowns to be substandard, i.e., old and ill-fitting, she put in a new one for
free. That saved me nearly $1500.
May 12, 2008
The Peace Corps Called and I Answered!!!
Hello to all,
It’s hard for me to believe that I’m going to be living a dream I’ve held for 30 years, but
it’s true. Beginning on July 3rd, and for the next 27 months, I will be a university English
teacher in The Kyrgyz Republic (KR), formerly a part of the Soviet Union. I won’t know
which city until I get there, but I’ve been told it will be a large one. I am so excited and
scared to death at the same time. I’ll have to learn Russian, which means a new
alphabet, too. Read more about what I know so far at the following link, as I will be
blogging my experiences at the link you’ll see below my name. Please make this a
favorite and pass the link on to anyone you might think would like to hear my life and
experiences in the PC in a faraway land. You’ll probably have to copy and paste the link
in your browser. (Link not included)
I am looking to sublet my apartment so if you know anybody who is apartment hunting,
have them contact me and I’ll discuss it with them.
Please keep me in your thoughts as you will be in mine in between Russian lessons.
Thirty years is a long time to wait for something—something positive, anyway. It would
be natural to wonder why I waited until I was 53 to act on a dream so important to me,
so I’ll explain it.
What has toppled empires, started wars and made men act like complete idiots since
humans appeared on the earth? Many things, obviously, but in my case it was a girl. By
the end of my senior year at Marquette (Go Warriors!!!), my ambivalence regarding my
future silently tortured me. On the one hand I loved my girlfriend of two years very
much—in retrospect more than I’ve ever loved any woman; on the other hand my desire
to explore the world tugged at me equally as forcefully. Marriage vs. Adventure.
The torment seemed to end when we unexpectedly broke up—or maybe not so
unexpectedly—a week before my graduation. Totally my fault, but that’s a story for
another book. A door closes, a window opens, right? I was heartbroken, but free to join
the Peace Corps, the first step in my world exploration. Not. Within a month I was on my
knees trying to woo her back. I succeeded, but the relationship was never the same.
Less than a year later we split for good. Where was my crystal ball when I needed it? By
this time I had a full-time job and the PC was no longer a priority; not forgotten, but not a
priority. My ex-wife recently reminded me that whenever our marriage hit a rocky patch
I’d say, “I should’ve joined the Peace Corps.”
Fast forward 10 years to 1987. I had moved to a new city and had a new job, both that I
liked. A personal issue, again involving a woman, actually two, but that’s not really the
point led me to seek a change of scenery to escape my female troubles. Once again the
PC forged to the front of my mind as the perfect solution. I completed the application
and drove to Minneapolis for the interview. After a while the interviewer asked me what
skill I possessed that would qualify me as a good volunteer. I sat there, wheels spinning,
but to no avail. My inspired reply: “None that I can think of. Thank you.” I stood and left
In 2007 I quit my job at Citibank with the intention of moving back to North Carolina. I’d
lived there for three years in the mid-90’s and enjoyed it immensely. The move was
derailed when I decided to produce my latest play. While the production was
hemorrhaging money, the Peace Corps popped into my mind again. The timing seemed
right. It felt right, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Am I being honest by saying that mending a relationship was the reason I didn’t pursue
the Peace Corps in 1977? Somewhat, but looking back I know now that there was a
larger obstacle. Somewhere deep in my 22 year old subconscious I knew I wasn’t
ready. I spent my 20’s as a dues paying member of The Hedonist Society. Seeing what
I did in Kyrgyzstan, watching the antics of some of my wilder and immature peers—or
maybe they were just homesick or unsure of where they were in the world, their world
as a recent college graduate and a lousy economic situation back in the states—took
me back to that time in my life where the next party was all that really mattered. I had a
lot of growing up to do. Deep down I knew I wasn’t ready. I probably would have been
booted out in less than six months. I was closer in 1987, but still not there. By 2007—
yes, it took me a long time to grow up—no obstacles stood in my way. Comfortable in
my own skin, sure that I could contribute to the PC, and confident I could be a pretty
good volunteer, I applied.
PC Book Cover ImageThe universe knew what it was doing by making me wait.
Y ahora para algo completamente diferente. “El demonio interior” es diferente a cualquier otro que haya escrito; Lo más intenso y lo más personal. Uno podría llamarlo un juego de venganza. También es uno de mis primeros guiones (1994). Lenguaje adulto y situaciones. Compártelo si te gusta.
This one-act play is totally different from any that I’ve ever written. It’s also one of the first plays I ever wrote (1994). It’s my favorite by far.
The man in the play is accompanied by four of his emotions: love, hate, lust and reason. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if he actually goes to his ex-girlfriend’s place or the play takes place entirely in his mind.
It may take 20 minutes to read this intense play, but you won’t regret it. Please share if you like it.
“The Demon Within” synopsis: Does a man visit the woman who broke his heart to win her back or does he have another motive?
WOMAN, 24, Hispanic
MAN, at least 30, white
TIME: The present
PLACE: A large bedroom in a huge house on the outskirts of a city.
(Lights up on a beautiful WOMAN seated on a chair trying on scarves. There is also some make-up on the table. A skirt and silk blouse hang on a coat rack. She is dressed in a short silk robe. MAN enters, but he is actually outside the house. He is followed by his FOUR EMOTIONS. Carrying a gym bag and a flashlight, he moves stealthily until he reaches a window. He looks in, unseen by WOMAN. As he moves away from the window he stumbles)
(MAN exits. WOMAN walks to the window, but doesn’t see anything. MAN re-enters; now he’s in the room)
I love you.
LUST: Silk robe, no bra, and the finest nipples known to man.
MAN: And I want you back.
WOMAN: How’d you get in?
MAN: Door was unlocked.
WOMAN: That door is never—you need to go.
LUST: (drowning out WOMAN) Look at those fucking legs. My God!
MAN: I’m sorry. Did you say something?
WOMAN: I said you need to go.
LOVE: I will not cry. I refuse to cry.
WOMAN: Is that really why you came out here?
MAN: And to celebrate.
WOMAN: It’s not your birthday, is it?
HATE: Twenty bucks says she forgot.
MAN: You don’t remember?
WOMAN: I haven’t laid eyes on you for, what, almost two months.
MAN: Fifty-seven days. (Beat) You look stunning. (Beat) When is it?
MAN: My birthday.
HATE: Pay up, peanut butter.
MAN: May. Gemini.
WOMAN: Got it. So, what are we celebrating?
MAN: You look like you’re going somewhere.
(WOMAN applies powder, teasing MAN, revealing a breast for a second)
I heard you—
LUST: Fuck, I knew it. My shit’s getting’ hard.
WOMAN: I’m what?
LOVE: One night of passion, that’s all it’ll take.
MAN: Uh, that you’re moving to St. Louis.
REASON: (fanning LUST) Quick, talk about the weather.
MAN: Where are you going?
WOMAN: St. Louis.
MAN: I meant tonight.
WOMAN: Out with friends.
LOVE: We’d have such beautiful children.
MAN: No date?
HATE: Double or nothing says she does.
MAN: That’s great. I’ll be your escort.
HATE: Do I know this bitch or not?
MAN: Why not?
WOMAN: I really need to get ready.
REASON: You’re losing her.
MAN: Can’t you be fashionably late? I mean, I came all the way out here.
WOMAN: All right, one quick drink.
LOVE: Back on track, now stay focused.
WOMAN: There’s some beer in the fridge.
MAN: Not for my girl.
(MAN takes wine from bag, already uncorked, two cups and pours the wine)
It’s not very expensive, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
LOVE: We’ll have a boy and a girl. The boy first.
LUST: She’s been hitting the gym, cuz that ass looks tighter than ever.
REASON: Keep it on a leash. You’ve been here before.
(WOMAN is clearly disappointed)
MAN: I thought crystal might break.
WOMAN: Always the planner.
LOVE: They’ll be a gorgeous shade of light brown. Maybe cinnamon.
MAN: You look better than ever.
WOMAN: So do you. Working out?
HATE: Why, was I fat?
MAN: Not eating a lot. A toast.
WOMAN: To what?
LOVE: You and me forever.
MAN: Seeing you again. Or your future. You name it.
WOMAN: How did you know where–
MAN: To find you?
WOMAN: Yeah, who told–
MAN: Me where you lived?
WOMAN: Old habits are hard to break.
REASON: Let her finish her thought, asshole.
MAN: Sorry. It’s just that I’m a little nervous. Refill?
LUST: Don’t ask. Pour.
(MAN refills glasses)
WOMAN: I really have to go.
MAN: Heard you got a job. That’s why you’re moving.
WOMAN: It’s a good starting point. I’ll be doing-
HATE: (Over her line) The whole fuckin’ city.
WOMAN: The morning news. The hours suck, but I don’t plan on doing it long.
MAN: It’s a foot in the door.
WOMAN: I figure after a year or so there I’ll move to a larger market. I’d love to move west. I always wanted to learn to ski. (beat) So, what’s up with you?
LUST: My dick. Now, get naked.
MAN: Nothing much. Still proof reading at the law firm. But, I just got—
REASON: Don’t go there.
HATE: Go on, tease the bitch.
WOMAN: You just what?
MAN: I just got . . .
LUST: Tell her. You came to get laid, didn’t you?
LOVE: You came to reclaim.
MAN: . . . got to wondering why you quit returning my calls?
WOMAN: Things got crazy. Graduation, finding a job, finishing that silly student film.
MAN: No social life?
WOMAN: None. A seven-minute film took the whole damned semester. Things got so bad I couldn’t eat. I was so sick, but I finished it somehow.
REASON: That’s not necessarily a lie.
HATE: Yeah, like the pope’s not necessarily a virgin.
MAN: So, it had nothing to do with me?
WOMAN: Why would you say that?
LUST: Because I love you, can’t you see that?
MAN: You stopped coming into the bar.
WOMAN: I just told you…
LOVE: Don’t give up now. You can taste those lips.
WOMAN: Maybe I’ll stop in before I leave.
MAN: That would be nice.
HATE: Come on, man, she ain’t gonna be around forever. Get what you came for.
MAN: The other day a couple of guys from the Toyota dealership stopped in and told me about their service manager. Seems he has this great scam going. There’s a woman—and I’m sure she’s not the only one—she had a real lemon. One day she needed an oil change, but didn’t have the money. Was there anything he could do for her? He asked her did she have any credit cards. She said no. Then . . .
LUST: Be gentle.
HATE: Fuck gentle. The bitch.
MAN: Then the manager figures, what the hell, I’ll give it a try. You know what he said? He said for a blow job, the bill was paid. Can you believe that?
WOMAN: He sounds like a pig.
MAN: Maybe so, but she agreed. Unbelievable, right? She said yes.
WOMAN: They wish.
MAN: Wait, it gets better. One day her car won’t start. Now, you know a (hummer) isn’t payment for a new engine. ‘Course she’s got no money, no credit. Well, you figure out what she did.
WOMAN: Who’s telling these tales? Marvin?
MAN: She drives a white Corolla with a black interior.
WOMAN: If this is your way of getting back at me . . . for us . . .
HATE: Slut, whore, bitch. Dick-sucking whore, cunt.
REASON: Come back tomorrow, you’re losing control.
(HATE pushes REASON to the floor. REASON moves to a corner)
MAN: (Calmly) Why’d you do it?
WOMAN: You’re dealing in fiction. It’s time you leave.
MAN: I’m not ready to go.
WOMAN: Don’t make me call the police.
MAN: Isn’t that a little dramatic?
(WOMAN grabs her cell phone. MAN pulls a gun from the bag)
REASON: Be cool. You wouldn’t last a week in prison.
MAN: Toss it here. I said, toss it here. Thank you. Now, I didn’t come over here to hurt you.
WOMAN: (seductively) Of course, you didn’t. Everyone knows you’re just a big old pussycat. And we both know you’re way too smart to be lured in by a bunch of jealous old fools, right?
LUST: She’s right. A couple of those guys were jealous.
HATE: ‘Specially Marvin.
LUST: Ugliest man in North America.
HATE: NASA could use that face for crater research.
WOMAN: You don’t really believe them, do you? You have the softest skin. And the biggest brown eyes.
LUST: Kiss her, you fool!
LOVE: My god, she’s so beautiful.
(WOMAN puts MAN’s hand on her breast)
REASON: That’s not fair.
LUST: Who cares?
(LUST and REASON emulate having sex)
WOMAN: You don’t believe them, do you?
LUST: What are you, an idiot? Touch the other one.
(MAN takes his hand away)
WOMAN: Don’t you like that?
MAN: She has a rose tattoo on her left thigh.
LOVE: Why? Why do I need to know? Just forgive her.
(LOVE separates LUST and REASON)
LUST: Yo, man. (I was at T minus three.)
MAN: Say, “It was me.”
WOMAN: It wasn’t me.
REASON: Am I buying that?
LOVE: It could be true.
MAN: It’s on video tape.
REASON: She sounds scared.
HATE: They’d love to watch it with you.
MAN: I can call them. They’d love to meet the star of the show.
LOVE: Are you really enjoying this?
HATE: She blows mechanics for oil changes. You bet your ass I am.
WOMAN: You’re not listening.
LOVE: I’m not listening?!!
LUST: I’ve never seen the video.
REASON: And I don’t want to, either.
(HATE knocks REASON to the floor. REASON stumbles off stage)
WOMAN: There is no tape.
LUST: Those tits are perfect. And they’re fucking real.
MAN: Sleep with me and I’ll forget everything.
WOMAN: Sexual blackmail, like any other kind, never ends.
MAN: You’re leaving town the day after tomorrow.
LUST: She never was the quickest thinker.
WOMAN: Believe what you want, but I’m not a slut.
MAN: How many others were there?
LOVE: Pain. Why do I love the pain?
MAN: How many?
MAN: You’re lying. I have proof.
WOMAN: Let go of me. What’s gotten in to you?
HATE: Do it. Give her what for.
(MAN hits her with the gun. She falls)
Come on, man. Once more breaks her neck.
LOVE: I love you. Can’t you see that?
HATE: She fucked you only four times in six months. She’s done the meter reader more than that.
MAN: Answer me. How many?
(MAN ties her arms to the chair with scarves. HE fixes her hair)
LOVE: Why inflict your pain on her?
MAN: Why did you make me hurt you? I’ve never hit—Nobody.
WOMAN: Is this how you get your rocks off?
(A door closes)
MAN: What’s that?
WOMAN: Untie me.
MAN: Who’s here?
WOMAN: I can handle this. Untie me. Quick.
LUST: Damn, those titties…face it, she’s the finest I’ve ever had.
(MAN unties her)
MAN: Whoever it is has a key.
WOMAN: You. Under there.
(MAN scurries under the table)
LUST: If it’s a chick, ménage à trois?
(WOMAN tosses his bag under the table)
WOMAN: Shut up.
(VANESSA enters, dressed elegant sexy. MAN peeks out from behind the cloth)
VANESSA: Hey there, sugar.
VANESSA: Dressed to stay in, are we?
WOMAN: No, I want to go out.
VANESSA: (seeing two glasses) Company?
WOMAN: Just you. I’m almost ready.
VANESSA: I disagree. I’d say you’re completely ready.
HATE: A fucking dyke.
(VANESSA kisses WOMAN who turns her head. The kiss lands on her cheek)
LOVE: Thank god.
(REASON enters wearing a head bandage)
VANESSA: What’s wrong?
WOMAN: You don’t want to be late for the exhibition do you?
(VANESSA pulls WOMAN’s robe open)
VANESSA: Venus with arms.
WOMAN: Aren’t you supposed to open the exhibit?
VANESSA: I just did.
LUST: That was fucking great. “I just did.” File that bad boy.
(VANESSA kisses WOMAN’s body; WOMAN gently pushes her away)
REASON: See, she’s straight.
HATE: Might be an act.
VANESSA: Something’s wrong.
WOMAN: No, really.
VANESSA: You know the deal. The house is yours, and you’re my toy.
WOMAN: Nothing’s wrong. I’ve been cooped up all day, that’s all.
LUST: I’ve never seen lesbians live.
(VANESSA tries once more)
WOMAN: Stop. Please. Vanessa, please.
(MAN appears. He points the gun at VANESSA)
VANESSA: Who the fuck are you?
MAN: She said please. That’s better. (To WOMAN) Nobody’s this desperate. (To VANESSA) Now, who the hell are you?
LOVE: She’s not very pretty.
LUST: Not bad for an older broad, though.
VANESSA: No, who are you? This is my house.
HATE: You’re asking for it.
WOMAN: He’s my—
VANESSA: Fiancee’? You must be the chump.
WOMAN: I was kidding. I call all men chumps.
VANESSA: You were serious as a heart attack.
(MAN shoots gun at ceiling)
What the hell do you think you’re doing?
MAN: Okay, now this is the deal. As soon as I get some answers, I’m outa here and you guys can munch on each other ‘til dawn. So, whatya do Vanessa, besides fuck sweet cheeks?
WOMAN: You don’t have to—
MAN: What do you do, Vanessa?
MAN: Now I know why they call it a bull market. (beat) How do you know angel face?
LUST: Because she belongs to me.
VANESSA: I know her boss.
MAN: Her new boss?
WOMAN: (To VANESSA) You’ve told him enough. (To MAN) You got your answers.
HATE: My god, what do you see in her?
MAN: Just a couple more.
REASON: Why do these people think they can have her? She doesn’t want them.
HATE: Mention her fuckin’ family. Double or nothing she’s got an old man.
MAN: I’m sure your family would love to learn about this.
WOMAN: She’s got no family.
VANESSA: What is it you want to know?
HATE: I can’t lose.
MAN: Well, now, that’s better. We could be friends, Vanessa, you and me. What’s your husband do?
VANESSA: He’s owns TV stations.
MAN: He know he’s your pimp, too?
REASON: Maybe you’ve put them through enough.
(HATE hits REASON. REASON exits, crawling. MAN lights a smoke)
HATE: Get the dyke to blow you.
LUST: Just don’t come too soon. Think about hanging wallpaper or something.
LUST & HATE: Do it. Do it. Do it.
(MAN unzips his pants)
MAN: She ever go down on you, V?
VANESSA: That’s none of your business.
(MAN points gun at VANESSA)
Yes, okay, yes.
MAN: Not me. Never. Not even a lick. You wanna know why? I thought about this for a very long time. Agonized, really. I mean, what guy wants to admit his girl won’t suck him off? First, I thought maybe it was because of religious reasons. Then, I started feeling insecure, like maybe my dick wasn’t big enough. But, I know it’s okay. Then I started hearing stories. All of her men had one thing in common. Money. So that was it, plain and simple. I just wasn’t rich enough.
WOMAN: That’s a damn lie.
LOVE: This is good. Explain. It’s therapeutic.
HATE: Don’t lose control.
LOVE: Talk. Listen.
MAN: Let’s talk. Can we do that? I mean, we got something in common, don’t we? Your old man ain’t giving you what you want either, right?
VANESSA: Yeah, yeah, sure, whatever.
MAN: Good. That’s good. Tell me, you blow Mister TV?
VANESSA: There’s no need to be vulgar.
MAN: You find the act disgusting.
VANESSA: It’s not my favorite.
MAN: Well, he’s getting’ it somewhere. Bet on it. (beat) You fuck—I’m sorry. Do you make love to him?
MAN: That’s nice. He know about your excursions to Sappho City?
MAN: Whatya think he’d do if he knew?
VANESSA: I, I wouldn’t want him to know.
MAN: No, I don’t imagine you would.
VANESSA: I love my husband.
MAN: I ain’t sayin’ shit to him, but we gotta have a little pact here, you and me. We never met. We weren’t even here, were we? I must be getting old, I didn’t hear what you said.
VANESSA: You live your life, I live mine.
LOVE: She’s a ball-buster. I like that.
MAN: Pour Vanessa some wine. Never mind, I’ll get it.
HATE: Find out who else she’s been fuckin’.
LUST: And what they’ve been doing.
LOVE: Knowing may be too painful.
HATE: I don’t need to know anything but who. That’s all.
LUST: Learning what she likes helps win her back.
LOVE: Talk it out. Work it out.
MAN: She actually thought I was rich. I think it’s because of the law firm. Assumed I was a lawyer. But, I’m not. I’m a lowly proofreader. Shit, they got lawyers at that firm make more an hour than I do in a week. I mean, I have a nice apartment, but rich? I wish. And that hurt me, cuz I loved her. I truly did. I thought to myself, here’s a woman who doesn’t care that I don’t have a lot of money. What a fuckin’ joke, huh?
WOMAN: Where’d you get this fiction? You want the real lowdown on why we don’t date anymore?
MAN: (Turns abruptly) Because you’ve been lying so long, you can’t tell when you’re not.
(WOMAN holds her finger in a limp fashion)
HATE: You can’t let her do you like that. Control, man. Don’t let her take it.
MAN: If I couldn’t get it up, it’s because you’re a walking igloo. Wanna hear something funny? She blew her mechanic, but not me. Consideration and passion just don’t cut it, I guess. You know about that, V? About her fuckin’ the service guy at the garage?
VANESSA: I don’t ask questions.
MAN: Yeah, so even all your benevolence can’t keep her in the corral. Ain’t that a bitch?
(REASON enters, this time with a crutch)
So who else? Besides us and the grease monkey.
REASON: Are you sure you want to know that?
LUST: Remember Sally Carlson from college? That girl could suck the rust off a tail pipe.
VANESSA: I don’t know.
(MAN pulls a knife from bag. HE traces a line on WOMAN’s arm)
MAN: You sleep with her so she tells you things.
VANESSA: (looking at WOMAN first) A couple of professors, but not for grades. She didn’t need to do it for that.
MAN: There’s more. There’s the high school math teacher.
WOMAN: Who told you? Nobody knows that.
MAN: Sex with the teacher or flunk math. Flunk math, no diploma. (To VANESSA) Your turn, V.
VANESSA: Bill Simpson.
MAN: My boss? (To WOMAN) You met him once. For two minutes. Damn.
LUST: How much more do you need to hear? Don’t be a stupid martyr.
LOVE: Spare yourself the pain. Stop now.
REASON: I told you you didn’t want to know.
MAN: Know what, lady? We’re both suckers; that’s a given. But there’s some small pleasure in knowing she stinks at all this. I mean, if she were good, she’d have found one guy and stuck with him, right? Ask yourself, why did she need so many? Probably cuz they dumped her after the first time. For such a great body, she’s not an all-star in the sack. (beat) Okay, one last thing, and we’re done. I wanna see a show.
WOMAN: You’re sick.
(MAN puts knife to WOMAN’s neck)
VANESSA: This game is over.
MAN: Say what?
VANESSA: You heard me.
LOVE: She’s really got balls. I could love this woman.
REASON: She’s sharp, too. She knows you’re all talk.
VANESSA: Get dressed.
MAN: Stop. Both of you.
VANESSA: And you get the hell out, cuz this show’s over. Pack your bag, go home and jack off ‘til your heart’s content. Mister Big Balls. Ha!
MAN: You’re right. I just wanted to come over and win my girl back. And I’m leaving, but before I go, could I ask a favor of you? Can I just have ten more minutes with her? Alone? You know I won’t hurt her. I just want ten minutes before she’s out of my life forever. I promise. Please?
(WOMAN nods that it’ll be okay)
VANESSA: I’ll be outside.
MAN: Can she meet you at the gallery?
VANESSA: I’m not stupid.
WOMAN: Go on. I’ll be okay.
VANESSA: Give me the weapons.
(MAN hesitates, but hands them to VANESSA. SHE exits)
WOMAN: That was quite a show.
MAN: Believe it or not, I know exactly what I’m doing.
ties WOMAN to chair again)
you allow me to be philosophical for a second? Thank you. Have you ever been possessed with a feeling for someone, one so strong, that no matter what you did, it wouldn’t go away? Of course you have. We all have. After a while it transforms into our own personal demon. (Beat) And guess what? You’re mine. My own personal Satan. That’s no surprise, is it? For the past two months, I’ve tried to forget about you, but I couldn’t. You still haunt me, terrorize me-you’re in my mind day and night. It’s gotten so I can’t eat or sleep or have sex with someone else. So, I decided to come over here and confront it. To purge it. I had no choice but to cleanse myself of the demon within me.
WOMAN: That was good a good speech. So, what next?
MAN: I’m not sure. I’m still a little confused.
HATE: A little? She’s a no good whore. Case closed.
LOVE: Tell her how you feel. Ask why she lied.
HATE: Because she’s a cheap slut, that’s why.
REASON: I wouldn’t say cheap, based on this place.
MAN: Why do you do this? Didn’t I offer enough?
LOVE: Slow down.
LUST: Get her on your side. You may score yet.
WOMAN: Pretty simple, isn’t it?
MAN: There are other ways to survive.
HATE: Not for whores.
LOVE: Maybe she’s not one.
MAN: I don’t know. Get a roommate.
WOMAN: I can’t live with anybody.
(During MAN’s speech, LUST and REASON make like they’re walking down the aisle, humming the wedding march)
MAN: I wanted to take care of you. Forever. I had it all planned. I’d work and support you, let you pursue any career you desired. We’d have been just fine. Not filthy rich, but fine.
LOVE: Find out why she does it. No, don’t.
HATE: She’ll just lie again.
MAN: I would have done anything for you, but you never shared with me.
WOMAN: Untie me, please? You couldn’t help. You didn’t have what I needed.
HATE: Fucking bitch.
LOVE: Ask why. You have to ask why.
MAN: It’s got to be more than money.
WOMAN: Money is there. You can see it. Touch it. Spend it. Without it, you’re nothing.
MAN: You’re wrong. Two people helping each other reach their dreams, that’s what matters.
You’re too old to be that idealistic.
And you’re too young not to be.
WOMAN: What do you want from me?
MAN: I want the truth. No more lies.
WOMAN: Is telling you gonna solve anything? Whatever, I really don’t care.
HATE: See? She wants to die.
LOVE: No, she’s crying for help.
WOMAN: (Unemotionally) My mother had me at sixteen. She lived in Chicago and worked at this restaurant where the baseball players hung out. She looked older, so these guys hit on her all the time. One night, the offer was too good to pass up. All I know about my father is he played for the Giants. A catcher, I think. The second string catcher, at that. You think a looker like her could’ve at least done it with someone who played a lot.
HATE: You believe that shit?
LUST: Keep her going. Women love listeners.
WOMAN: (More emotion) Then my sweetheart of a mother tossed me into foster homes until I was thirteen, when my aunt got stuck with me. I’d learned a lot by then, so I didn’t really need her. The most vivid memory I have of my mother happened when I was seven. She was coming to see me and I was so excited because I’d never seen her before. My foster mother bought me a new dress and fixed my hair real nice. We took a picture. I still have it. I was so happy and pretty. When she finally came, she threw me into the car-not even a hug-and took me to McDonalds. I asked her where we were going to live. She told me she lived in Milwaukee and I was going back . . . not with her, but to the foster home. I haven’t seen her since. My own mother abandoned me twice.
MAN: You aunt must’ve loved you.
WOMAN: Maybe, but like I said, I didn’t need anyone by then.
MAN: It’s not too late for us.
WOMAN: Don’t even think about it. You’re too nice for someone like me.
(MAN caresses WOMAN’s skin from head to toe. LUST masturbates)
LUST: That skin, that silky smooth skin.
(WOMAN moans occasionally, but is totally detached. MAN doesn’t see this)
I’ve missed this so much. Please don’t leave me again. I need you. All of you.
(MAN licks WOMAN’s foot. HE is in a position of adoration. As MAN kisses his way up her leg, he discovers her disinterest)
MAN: What are you doing?
WOMAN: (caught, trying to be sincere) Oooh, baby, don’t stop.
HATE: (over WOMAN’s line) You fucking cunt.
MAN: You, you—
WOMAN: It’s not what you think. Keep doing it. It felt good.
MAN: God, what a fool I’ve been.
WOMAN: That’s not true.
LOVE: You need me, I just know it.
LUST: What a waste of a body.
(MAN puts his hands around her neck)
HATE: Atta boy, slow and painful.
LUST: You want her bad. You know you do.
WOMAN: What are you-you’re crazy, you know that? Fuckin’ crazy.
(HATE and LUST arm wrestle. When HATE has the advantage, MAN has his hands around WOMAN’s neck. When LUST is winning, his hand is down her robe. Slow, haunting music plays)
WOMAN: You wanna fuck me, is that it? You’re crazy. Totally crazy.
MAN: I can save you.
WOMAN: Don’t play God.
MAN: I’m the only person who’s ever really loved you.
WOMAN: You don’t know what love is anymore than I do. You didn’t love me. You loved how you looked with me. So enlightened, so Mister Diversity.
MAN: I can save you. I know I can.
WOMAN: Untie me. We’ll have the best sex you ever had.
(REASON hobbles over to break up the match. MAN stops and collapses to the floor, mentally exhausted. HATE hits REASON, who is now unconscious)
LOVE: Take her somewhere. Help her.
MAN: I lived for you.
WOMAN: I didn’t do anything to make you feel that way.
MAN: You didn’t have to. Real people don’t need prompting. I used to watch you in the bar, never saying a word. But, then I made the leap, and we had the best conversations, remember? Nothing was out-of-bounds. Sex, race, our dreams for a better world.
WOMAN: I talk to lots of people.
MAN: We were different. We connected on a different plane.
WOMAN: You were easy to talk to.
MAN: And you were sweet and friendly, and funny. Now, now I see it was all part of the game. In the beginning, you were always there; for the walks, the picnics, the concerts. Then nothing. Just like that. But, it was too late, babe. I was in too deep. No, you didn’t make me feel that way. You didn’t have to.
WOMAN: It might not be too late. I have a job now. We were good once. We can be again.
MAN: It wouldn’t last for long.
WOMAN: But, it was good. You just said so.
LUST: Maybe she’s on the level this time.
HATE: You’re losing control. Don’t be a fool.
LUST: Give her what she wants. It’s all about sex.
LOVE: Remember your feelings. You need her.
(LOVE, HATE and LUST continue with the previous three statements until the MAN screams and bangs his head on the floor)
MAN: Stop it. Stop it. All of you. Just stop it.
WOMAN: What’s wrong? Are you okay?
MAN: You, me, everything. That’s what’s wrong. I love you and you don’t care. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t. Even when you thought I had money, I wasn’t enough for me. You had sex with a mechanic. Where’s the fuckin’ rationale in that? And you wanna know what’s wrong?
WOMAN: Is that all you want? Come here, I’ll do whatever you want.
LUST: Oh, man what are you waiting for? You’re hard as a rock.
(MAN takes a container and a 2nd gun from the bag)
LOVE: If Mohammed won’t come to the mountain.
HATE: She never appreciated anything I did for her.
WOMAN: What’s that?
MAN: My seed.
WOMAN: You really are sick.
HATE: You ought to know.
MAN: I’ve saved it-froze it-every day for fifty-seven days. Froze it and brought it here.
WOMAN: I told you, we can do it now.
MAN: You must experience this. It’s the one part of me you don’t know.
WOMAN: Oh shit. I’m sorry. I really am. I never wanted to hurt you. I just never knew how to let you down easy. I thought if I didn’t put out, you’d leave. Everything I’ve ever done has been out of desperation. Then when I finally set a goal for myself, no one was there to help me. You don’t know what it’s like to need someone and no one’s there.
MAN: Oh, but I do.
WOMAN: No, you don’t. You have a family. You don’t know a damn thing about being unwanted.
MAN: I loved you.
WOMAN: You loved an image. If it weren’t me it would have been the next flavor of the week.
MAN: Why is it we never see things for what they truly are until it’s too late? Everything about you fits like a fucking puzzle. Everybody was fair game. How could I miss it?
LOVE: Love blinds you, that’s why.
LUST: And sex.
MAN: Maybe I was stupid. How else could I miss it? You in this house, spending a thousand dollars on a class film; driving a new car. And I know you can’t get any more student loans. You told me that yourself. There were other things, too. Instead of saying you didn’t want to sleep with me you tell me you get two periods a month. And I fucking bought it. God, I was stupid. You’d die if you bled that much. And you say you studied seven days a week till two a.m.? An idiot, that’s me. A first class idiot.
HATE: Go on, man. The ultimate humiliation.
(MAN opens container, dips his thumb in it, and makes the sign of the cross on her forehead. HE pours the liquid over her face like a baptism)
WOMAN: You fucker. You’re no better than I am. At least my goal isn’t revenge. I don’t wallow in pity. At least I have a reason for what I do.
LOVE: It’s not too late. You can still redeem yourself.
HATE: She deserves every bit of this.
LOVE: It’s not too late. It’s never too late
(HATE knocks LOVE to the ground)
HATE: This is it, man, the home stretch. This is one race you’ll win, by god.
LUST: You still want her. You know you do.
WOMAN: Go on, kill me, you loser motherfucker. You’ll meet me again. Women like me are everywhere. And you’re always ready to play the savior.
MAN: You joined me for Christmas, just to see if my family had any money.
WOMAN: That’s a lie. Who told you?
MAN: Your aunt sent you money last year.
WOMAN: To pay my rent.
MAN: To visit your mother in the hospital. You didn’t go, but kept the cash.
HATE: You must have a heart made of marble, lady.
WOMAN: She never cared for me or helped me. Who told you all this, anyway?
(REASON tries to get up, but passes out)
Just tell me what you want from me!
MAN: Does it matter?
WOMAN: Yes, yes it does. Tell me.
MAN: Love. One hundred percent unconditional love.
MAN: Liar! You can’t give what you don’t have.
LOVE: I could teach her.
WOMAN: All the stories are bullshit. Really. I never fucked anybody for a grade or money or anything. Not even Vanessa. She pays me to strip for her, that’s all. I told her all those stories so she’d feel sorry for me and give me more money. You’ve got to believe me. All the stories are bullshit. Honest.
MAN: I want to believe you.
WOMAN: Kiss me. (He does) Again.
(MAN unties her)
LOVE: It’s going to work this time.
HATE: What’re you doing? Are you fucking crazy?
WOMAN: I knew you loved me, I just wasn’t used to it.
HATE: Why are you doing this?
MAN: How do I know you’re not lying again?
WOMAN: Things are different now. I have a job. It was never that I couldn’t love, I just had something to prove. I wasn’t going to be my mother, you know? She’s had to rely on men all of her life because she had nothing going for her except her looks. And all they got her was trouble. But, now that I’ve got a career, I can focus on you and me.
MAN: How do I know it’ll be different?
WOMAN: People change.
REASON: Listen to her.
HATE: You’re a fool.
LOVE: I can’t help it.
MAN: Go on.
WOMAN: It’ll be just like it was at the beginning. Walks in the park, picnics, all of it. Nothing will get in the way. Just plenty of time for you and me.
MAN: What about, you know, the other stuff?
(WOMAN caresses MAN)
WOMAN: It’ll be so much better now, you won’t believe it. Trust me.
LUST: Let’s get a down payment on that promissory note.
MAN: Let’s make love.
WOMAN: Not like this. Not tonight. I want the next time to be very, very special. Romantic. Come back in a couple of days and I’m all yours.
MAN: It’s a date.
HATE: You’re really buying this bullshit?
MAN: Wait a minute. You’ll be gone by then.
WOMAN: I’m only two hours away. And I’ll have my own place.
HATE: Double or nothing says she leaves town and you’re a distant memory.
(MAN takes gun from his waist and fires it. HATE dies)
WOMAN: What are you doing?
MAN: I had more demons than I thought.
(REASON walks towards MAN. He kills it)
WOMAN: I wish you wouldn’t do that. This isn’t my house.
MAN: Maybe I’ll move to St. Louis.
WOMAN: Let me get settled first.
MAN: Down the line, I mean. I know you need some time.
LOVE: I knew this would work out in the end.
(MAN walks slowly to LOVE. HE puts a hand over his eyes and shoots. LOVE dies)
MAN: It wasn’t all you, you know. I made some mistakes, too.
(MAN kisses WOMAN. HE grabs the bag)
I’ll call you.
(MAN and LUST exit. WOMAN applies her make-up)
(A gunshot. WOMAN’s reaction. Blackout)
I wrote “Deleting Discontent” in 2011 while I was living in China. I stayed there five years but not a semester passed that I wasn’t looking to live somewhere else, usually another foreign country. It will be included in our next project here in Oaxaca, being translated and performed in Spanish.
Synopsis: a man questions his place in the world.
BENNY, white male, 45
DEB, black or Hispanic female, 40
TIME: The Present
PLACE: New York City and China
(Lights up on BENNY sitting at a table. He’s handsome and looks at least 10 years younger than his age. On his table is a laptop, a glass of beer [almost empty], peanuts, ashtray and cigarettes. On the floor next to the table are five empty half-liter beer bottles [Chinese Beer].
DEB, a naturally beautiful Black or Hispanic woman sits in a comfy chair or sofa. She is drinking bottled water.
BENNY types and we hear the SOUND of a Skype call)
BENNY: Hello? Can you hear me? Deb? Deb?
DEB: Hey, Benny. I can hear you. Can you hear me?
BENNY: I can. And we have video, too.
DEB: For now.
BENNY: For now. You’re lookin’ good. How do ya feel?
DEB: Tired as hell. I really should slow down.
BENNY: Yes, the life of an actor slash director slash stand up slash blogger slash girl looking for a boyfriend. Did I miss anything?
DEB: No. And I may complain but I’m enjoying every bit of it. Like to find more sleep time, but…
BENNY: I need your advice.
DEB: Why? You never take it?
BENNY: I listen to it.
BENNY: I have three days to decide if I’m coming back to teach next year.
DEB: Stay. Why wouldn’t you? You love the country, the cuisine, your students—
BENNY: There’s lots of other reasons. Well, maybe only a couple, but conundrums they are.
DEB: What’s your friend, the universe, saying about all this?
BENNY: I’ve put it out to her.
DEB: She’s not returning your calls?
BENNY: Go ahead and laugh but if you’d just open your mind a little…
DEB: I am open-minded.
BENNY: Yeah, well, not about everything.
DEB: You’re right. No threesome with my sister.
BENNY: Now, there’s an open-minded—
DEB: Slut. Listen, if the universe works for you.
BENNY: Let’s talk about my problem, okay? Hey, where’re you going?
DEB: I gotta pee.
BENNY: Take your laptop.
BENNY: C’mon, for old time’s sake.
DEB: You forgot what it looks like?
BENNY: Hell no. Well, maybe the image is getting a little fuzzy. You know, my memory ain’t what it used to be.
DEB: (from off-stage) Use your imagination.
BENNY: (Louder) Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, know what I mean? You used to be more compassionate. You know how long it’s been since—
(The sound of a toilet FLUSHING. DEB enters and sits)
DEB: You lost your viewing rights when we split.
BENNY: Just wanted a little peek.
(DEB unbuttons two buttons of her blouse)
BENNY: That’s all I get? A little cleavage?
DEB: Take it or leave it.
BENNY: I’ll take it, I’ll take it. But, can you hold your computer above your head, looking down, like this? Give me a little better angle?
DEB: No. Pig.
BENNY: So, anyway, do you remember St. Louie Lucy?
DEB: Vaguely, although why you thought I’d be interested in hearing about all your –exes…
BENNY: She’s the one I really, really liked but never pulled the trigger on because I’m an idiot.
DEB: Duly noted.
BENNY: So, I found her on the Net. After twenty years. Can you believe it? We’ve Skyped a ton of times and she’s more beautiful than I remembered and it’s like everything I want it to be.
(BENNY waits for a response. None arrives)
We’re both available and we agree on all the important things, except one. Unless I move back to the states…
BENNY: She’s set in her law career, even though there’s a teacher here that gave up his practice to—it doesn’t matter. She’s forty and just made partner. My situation is a bit more fluid, although as my students are fond of saying, “Every coin has two sides.” I really like living here, the food is great, the people are friendly, I’ve traveled to five countries in three years and I’m doing three weeks in Europe this summer. Someone told me teaching is my part-time job.
DEB: And America’s not an option because…
BENNY: You got all day? (Beat) Ok, yes, I could go back and teach English to immigrants, but if I’m going to get Guatemalans to say ‘My name is Pedro,’ I want to do it in Guatemala, not Queens. And how long would anyone be my friend if every time they saw me I bitched about not living overseas?
DEB: Not long. (beat) Think back to when we were together.
BENNY: I never should have left you.
DEB: You had to leave. Or I would’ve. We both thought we could morph into someone we weren’t.
BENNY: I didn’t try and change you.
DEB: Do you really listen to me? Your life is all about change, adventure.
BENNY: You know my track record with relationships. It sucks.
DEB: It’s not about—arrgghh!! Okay, another example. My first time around doing stand-up I was opening for the biggest R&B acts in the biz. I was playing Vegas.
BENNY: Was what? You’re breaking up. Can you hear me?
DEB: Yes. Should I call you back?
BENNY: No, you’re back. So, you were playing with yourself—
DEB: I said I was playing Vegas.
BENNY: Let’s go with playing with yourself, cuz you know it’s been a while since I’ve had a woman.
DEB: You’re a sick man, Benny. I was playing Vegas and making very good money. I was happy as hell, but not content. I kept nagging my manager, where’s my three-picture deal; where’s my sitcom? All that discontent started eroding my happiness. I gave it all up. I was heading for my 19th nervous breakdown.
BENNY: So, it’s all about contentment?
DEB: It’s about maximizing both. (Pause) Oh, oh, you’ve got that deep thinker look.
BENNY: Doing a quick inventory. (short pause) Searching for my discontent.
DEB: Maybe you don’t have any.
BENNY: I can hear you.
DEB: Personally, I have very little of it.
(BENNY enters with another beer)
BENNY: Wouldn’t it be great if we could just delete our discontent and anything else we didn’t like about ourselves? You know, like on a computer?
DEB: Is that another beer?
BENNY: My second.
DEB: How many empties on the floor? You always liked to keep track.
BENNY: None. One. So, the way I see it, nobody is absolutely content. Not even animals. Birds always want a bigger worm. Squirrels want bigger nuts.
(DEB laughs loudly)
To eat, I mean. You know what I’m saying.
DEB: I know. And all I’m saying is that life’s a balancing act. Increase the happiness by decreasing the discontent to find a livable balance.
BENNY: For a creative type, Deb, you’re pretty damn logical.
DEB: We can’t all live on our feelings, Benny.
BENNY: I think things through.
DEB: Name the last time.
(BENNY lights a cigarette)
BENNY: I’m lonely. I need physical contact. Not sex, necessarily, although that would be nice. You know it’s been so long.
DEB: So, find somebody. You never had a problem over here.
BENNY: Maybe, but it’s a little different in this culture. First, there are my students. Beautiful, sexy, intelligent and fun…Do you think twenty-five years is too big a gap? Then there are the recent graduates working in the city. Beautiful, sexy, intelligent and fun. Do you think twenty years is too big a gap? Divorcees. Not as beautiful or sexy because they’re older and have had children, but still attractive. The problem is finding them. They work and go home to the kid. Foreigners are teachers, mostly. My choices are limited as they’re mostly white chicks, but a few are from the Pacific Rim. I’d have to go to the ex-pat bars to find them though and I did that for decades. Look for chicks in bars in the states. No thanks. And many of them are also under thirty. So, you see, I’m not exactly in an enviable position.
DEB: But, you don’t look your age.
BENNY: Babe, it doesn’t matter if I look twenty, the fact is I’m old and most of these women eventually want to get married and have a baby. Do I? I don’t know. There’s this one student. I’m afraid I’m falling in love, silly as it sounds. She’s twenty but only a freshman, so I’d have to stay here another three years. I haven’t even kissed her, but I can’t remember the last time a woman made me feel so content. So, there’s your word. My contentment lies with a twenty year-old.
DEB: How much do you still like Lucy?
BENNY: Maybe a lot.
BENNY: She smokes.
DEB: Oh, please.
BENNY: Yeah, but I’m a once a week social smoker. She’s a perennial all-star hall-of-famer. She’s the bloody Michael Jordan of smokers.
DEB: So, wait. The universe will provide, right?
BENNY: It always has.
DEB: Listen, I gotta run. I have an audition this morning. Off-Broadway with a decent contract.
BENNY: Good luck. And thanks for listening. Love you.
DEB: Love you, too.
BENNY: Come visit me.
DEB: You got the money?
BENNY: Wanna hear my new theme song?
DEB: I really gotta go, Benny.
BENNY: It’s short.
DEB: Let’s hear it.
(BENNY PLAYS “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” as he drinks his beer. Lights fade to black)
You can request the Spanish translation by emailing me at email@example.com.
I wrote this play after overhearing a tourist complaining to a local in Oaxaca for not being able to speak English. Granted, it would help her because she comes into contact with foreigners regularly at the souvenir store where she works. BUT, this is Mexico so I put all the fault on the tourist, with his white privilege and arrogance, for not learning even the basics of tourism Spanish. This happens more often that you think.
This play will be produced later this year as part of our second “Una noche de las obras cortas.”
“Terrible Tourist” synopsis: a tourist in Mexico who can’t speak Spanish learns a lesson.
Ray, an American, average build and good looking
Blanca, a Mexican, very attractive
PLACE: A side-of-the-road restaurant in a mountainous rural area in Mexico
TIME: The present
(Lights up on two small tables with two or three chairs at each. A chalk written menu hangs on the wall listing 4 or 5 food offerings in Spanish. A radio plays Mexican music. BLANCA, dressed casually and wearing a traditional Zapotec apron, sits at a table and reads a magazine. RAY, his t-shirt sweat soaked and his face a little grimy, enters and stops as he wipes his face with a small towel)
RAY: Oh my god, food. Finally. (To Blanca) Hello, uh, hola.
BLANCA: Hola. ¿Cómo estás?
RAY: I’m fine. Ok. Buena. No, Bueno. She’s a girl so maybe buena, but I’m a man, so maybe bueno. Speaker or spoken to. Dammit! I’m fine, thanks. Wow, you’re beautiful.
BLANCA: Boo-ti-ful. Ah, bonita. ¿sí?
RAY: I don’t know bonita. But, you are definitely beautiful, hot. Uh, like Salma Hayek.
BLANCA: Yo? Como Salma Hayek? Conoces a Salma Hayek?
RAY: Co-no says? Cono-six? Uh, no comprendo.
BLANCA: Te ves cansado.
RAY: This is not good. Do you speak English? (pronounces the ‘h’) Haba English?
BLANCA: No hablo Inglés.
RAY: I speak Chinese. Do you speak Chinese? Ni hao.
BLANCA: Hablo español.
RAY: Dammit. Oh, wait. Uno monumento. (Takes a cell phone from his backpack) Do you have WiFi?
BLANCA: No wee-fee.
(RAY puts the phone back in the backpack and rummages for something else)
BLANCA: ¿Hablas español?
BLANCA: ¿Un poquito?
BLANCA: (putting her thumb and forefinger close together) Poquito. Un poquito.
RAY: Small? Close? Little?
(RAY rummages in his backpack again)
Great. Just freakin’ great. I lost my notebook. I need food. (gestures eating) Food. Food.
RAY: What’s comida? No, I want food. You know, tacos, enchiladas.
BLANCA: No tacos. No enchiladas. Tenemos sincronizadas, enfrijoladas y tlayudas.
RAY: Toyotas? I’m hungry enough to eat one.
(RAY sits and drinks from a bottle of water he took from his backpack)
I’ll be adios-ing in a minute. (waving) Just let me rest for a minute.
BLANCA: ¿Cómo se llama?
RAY: Ah, finally something I understand. My se llama is Ray.
RAY: Ray. R-A-Y. Ray. Like a ray of sun.
BLANCA: Ray. Soy Blanca.
RAY: Soy Blanca. Interesting name.
BLANCA: No soy Blanca. Solo Blanca.
RAY: Ok, Solo Blanca. My bad.
BLANCA: No, no. Soy Blanca, pero no Soy Blanca. Solo Blanca.
(RAY is totally confused)
RAY: You know what? I’m just going to call you Blanca. It’s easier. And my favorite movie is Casablanca.
RAY: Ok? No, it’s great! A real love story.
(BLANCA smiles and nods. RAY gestures as needed during the following)
This has not been my best day. I started on a hike this morning, you know, walking, in the mountains. But, I never found the village I was looking for. You know village, right? Small place, only a few people, not many houses. Dammit, what’s that word? So, I’ve been walking for hours trying to find someone to help me. You don’t understand anything I’m saying do you? Let’s try food again. Do you have eggs?
RAY: Yeah, ex. Like from a chicken.
(RAY walks like a chicken while clucking. He gestures that eggs fall from his butt)
BLANCA: (laughing) Ah, huevos.
RAY: Yeah, ey-bos. Do you have ey-bos?
BLANCA: No hay huevos. Te voy a cocinar una tlayuda.
BLANCA: No, no. Tlay. Tlay.
BLANCA: Sí. Ahora dices tlay-uda. Tlayuda.
RAY: Tlayuda. Tlayuda. I got it!!! Sí, I want a tlayuda. What is it? Chicken, beef, vegetables? (No response) Ahh, this is useless. Where can I find a bus? (More gestures) You know, big car. Many people.
BLANCA: ¡Ahh! ¿El autobús?
RAY: Autobús. Yeah, that’s probably it. To Puerto Escondido. To la mer, la mar, la more. (beat) The ocean.
BLANCA: Sí. Mañana en la mañana a las ocho.
RAY: Tomorrow, tomorrow, eight. Two days from now?
BLANCA: Autobús. Mañana en—
RAY: I know, I know. Mañana, mañana. Ok, let’s try for a hotel. Somebody will speak English there. Uh, dónde hotel?
BLANCA: ¿Hotel? ¿Quieres un hotel?
RAY: Yes. Sí, sí. Hotel.
BLANCA: No hotel.
RAY: Okay. Adiós.
(RAY puts on his backpack and exits. BLANCA waits a few seconds, moves towards the exit and stops)
BLANCA: Hey, Ray. I thought you wanted a tlayuda.
RAY: What the hell? All this time you knew…
BLANCA: I’m sorry, it gets boring up here. This is just my way of having some wicked fun.
RAY: Fun for you, maybe.
BLANCA: Have a seat over here.
(THEY both sit)
RAY: Have you lived in the US?
BLANCA: Colorado. Ten years.
RAY: So, that’s where you learned English.
BLANCA: I actually knew a lot before I went. That’s what Americans want, right?
RAY: It is.
BLANCA: So, when I see foreigners in Mexico who can’t speak Spanish, I have some fun with them.
RAY: I’m such a terrible tourist. (beat) Do you finally speak English to all of us losers?
RAY: Why me?
BLANCA: Porque tienes unos ojos bien bonitos.
BLANCA: Never mind. One tlayuda coming up.