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Happenstance

HAPPENSTANCE

A Play in One Act

by

Scott C. Sickles

Copyright © 1992 by Scott C. Sickles

  1. Chapel Drive Pittsburgh, PA 15237

Home: (412) 366-3239 VOX: (412) 734-8951

Cast of Characters

Ian Mendelsohn: 25, social worker Fredrick Smith: 25, childhood friend of Ian's Casper Mendelsohn: 20, Ian's brother, art student Rudy Romero: 19, Black, Casper's lover Edgar Mendelsohn: 55, Ian's father, disabled veteran Annabel Mendelsohn: 49, Ian's mother Natalie Smith: 53, Fredrick's mother Pete Smith: 55, Natalie's husband Wendy Smith-Newsom: 34, Fredrick's sister Xavier Newsom: 36, Wendy's husband

Scene The Mendelsohn and Smith homes and various random locales

Time The Present

Scene 1 SETTING: Two home-like settings upstage right and upstage left are concealed by darkness. The down stage and center stage areas should form an inverted T separating the two residences and providing a neutral territory for other locales. AT RISE: The stage is dark. Ian Mendelsohn addresses the audience directly from a spotlight in neutral territory.

IAN I was never a terribly popular child. As a result, I make it a point not to dwell on my pre-adult life. However, every now and then I run into a friend of mine from that era. Fredrick Smith and I were pretty close. We went crazy over Legos and Star Wars toys. I remember he was especially imaginative at role playing games - Dungeons and Dragons, specifically, but what else was there back then? He'd get so into his characters, other kids became nervous. For years, we were outcasts together. Then junior high came and we were scorned separately. We haven't seen each other much since. We run into one another occasionally and that's nice. (Spotlight on FREDRICK, elsewhere in neutral territory.) In fact, it happened quite recently on the bus Downtown.

FREDRICK (Approaches IAN; their spotlights merge.) Working mostly. Telephone fund raising. It's horrible. You?

IAN I just finished my MSW. I've circulated resumes throughout most of the known world, but I haven't heard anything. How's the family? Are you still living at home?

FREDRICK It's like Stepford. I mean, I'm not stupid. I can tell something's going on. Strange silences; glances. They tell me everything's fine. But it's too trouble free. Nobody knew how to react when Robin and I broke up. You hear about that?

IAN Casper told me. I finally found out: he was named after my great uncle who died the day he was born. Apparently, the

IAN (cont'd) coincidence was overwhelming and he was punished with the name of the deceased. Of course, if they did blame him, they'd never say so outright.

FREDRICK Remember during the Iran hostage crisis: you broke a flower pot and your mother yelled, "That damn Ayatollah!"

IAN Now we have CNN. Bangladesh floods; light bulbs burn out: it's all connected. I made the monumental sacrifice of living at home through college, this degree, my brother's adolescenceŠ Fortunately, I'm not there as often as they'd like. In fact, this last term I've been spending school nights atŠ at a friend's house.

FREDRICK Don't tell me: alternative lifestyle. I figured you out years ago. Do your parents know? I can't see them dealing with both of their sons-

IAN Both of their sons aren't. Casper is going through some stupid rebellious phase. They originally thought he was doing it to dodge the draft that never happened during the Gulf War. When the war stopped and he didn't, they blamed the Kennedys. In an environment like this, fabricating a sexual preference isn't all that odd. Be grateful, Fredrick. I would much rather not be involved in all the stupidity in my household.

FREDRICK I'd like to be given a choice.

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 2 SETTING: The Mendelsohn home should be cluttered and claustrophobic, taking up a good portion of up stage right. (As they are an unusual family, the audience should see them left of center.) There is a main doorway, A stairwell or a passageway leading out of the living room, and a small kitchen area. A couch and a chair face where the TV would be. The coffee table in front of the couch should have a copy of Architectural Digest and some gay-oriented literature. Lights come up on the Mendelsohn residence. AT RISE: Evening. EDGAR sits in an armchair watching The 700 Club. CASPER and RUDY sit necking on the couch. They kiss noisily and each holds a lit cigarette. EDGAR actively ignores them. ANNABEL fusses in the kitchen. After a moment IAN enters with shopping bags.

IAN Okay, break it up, gentlemen. You've made your point. (CASPER and RUDY separate.) And put those out. You guys know the rule: Cappy's room or outside; not in common areas.

RUDY Your parents didn't say anything.

IAN Am I my parents? The cigarettes go out or you do. (CASPER puts them out.) Okay, Dad. Here's your Motrin. Don't forget to eat when you take these. I don't want to hear about stomach aches, if you don't.

EDGAR Thank you. Did you get my Pinwheels?

ANNABEL (from kitchen) Don't give your father those cookies!

(IAN sneaks EDGAR one Pinwheel cookie.)

IAN I'll put them in the kitchen. Here's your change. I filled the tank. Casper, when you use the car, it would be courteous to return with as much gas as when you left.

CASPER Yes, Ma'am.

IAN If you must address me in a ridiculous fashion, call me "Sire" or "Fuehrer" or something like that. Drop the stereotypical shit.

RUDY He's not a stereotype. He's finally expressing himself honestly.

IAN Who are you to talk about honest expression? You deny you're Black. (Exits into kitchen and kisses ANNABEL.)

RUDY I'm not Black. I'm a dark Italian.

ANNABEL Hello, Dear. Will you be eating here tonight?

IAN (Dumping the Pinwheels into a cookie jar.) Yeah. Tommy's going to a benefit at the Symphony tonight and I'm just not up for it.

ANNABEL Why don't you invite him to dinner sometime? (In the living room, RUDY lights a cigarette.) If you don't tell your father about the two of you, I'm sure he won't mind.

IAN That's sweet, Mom. I'll ask. Oh, I stopped by Oasis and they don't have thatŠ (sniffs) PUT THAT OUT! (RUDY does and points his middle finger toward the kitchen. EDGAR glares at him and he stops.) Anyway, they don't have that particular Johnny Mathis in stock, so I special ordered it. Don't worry, it won't cost any extra.

ANNABEL Thanks, sweetie. Could you tell your father dinner will be ready in two minutes? If I knew how to pry him away from the TV and his marshmallow cookies, I would. He's been growing more and more distant ever since this whole killer bee thing started. Little children are getting stung to death in school yards along with computer viruses and IŠ while my life is decomposing right before my eyes.

IAN Mom. Dare I ask this? What do killer bees have to do with anything?

ANNABEL You're so young. (Pause) Just remember: what's important is your happiness. Mine doesn't seem to matter anymore. Could youŠ?

IAN Fine. (Exits into the living room. CASPER crosses to IAN) Dinner's almost ready. Dad, turn that crap off. You're not even religious. (To CASPER:) What?

EDGAR I never had to be before.

CASPER You're just green because you're alone and I have a beautiful, hung dark Italian.

IAN You're amazing, Cappy. I've never known a closet hetero before. Tell me: why do you have a recent collection of Playboys in your room, for the articles? You were in the bathroom with one for twenty minutes yesterday.

CASPER Just because I'm struggling to accept who I am-

IAN You're struggling to get your father's attention by necking with a member of your own gender on his couch. Just so you know, when one represses and denies, one generally acts out the truth privately and the lies in public. I recommend being selective about who you try to fool. Back to my first point: how do you expect to get your father's attention, if you keep doing something he goes out of his way to avoid? If

IAN (cont'd) you want to be noticed so badly, why don't you just talk to him?

CASPER When? He's always watching the God damn television.

IAN That's not trŠ Okay, granted. But you can interrupt at an appropriate time.

CASPER What's the point? We don't have anything to say.

IAN Then quit trying so hard.

ANNABEL Dinner's ready!

(IAN, CASPER, EDGAR and RUDY cross toward the kitchen.)

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 3 SETTING: Up stage left should comprise the Smith home. The Smith residence is very neat, orderly and bright. A print of something nice by Norman Rockwell should be framed and suspended in the living room, not necessarily on the wall. Coffee table books on art history or other impressive subjects should be present. Lights cross fade to the Smith residence. AT RISE: NATALIE, PETE, WENDY, XAVIER and FREDRICK enter the pristine living room. The couples sit as couples. FREDRICK sits by himself. WENDY wears only white, black and grey clothes and is pretty without makeup.

NATALIE The chairman of my firm is coming to town next month. Pete's finding him a place to stay and I'm planning on holding a dinner party in his honor. The theme will be signs of the Zodiac. I don't subscribe to astrology myself, of course, but he does. I can't complain. He's become very successful following his stars. I hope you two will be available.

WENDY Well, that depends on when it is. Xavier and I are planning a little trip next month.

XAVIER To Europe. There's a pediatrics forum in London. I had to go and we decided to extend our plans. We're pretty excited about it. It's been years since I was on the Continent and I'd love Wendy to see it. We're going everywhere, even to Moscow.

FREDRICK I know someone who was in Moscow. Her boyfriend was with the American Embassy. The entire place was bugged. They also permit livestock on the airline. It probably smells. I wouldn't mind. It'd be better than hanging around at home.

PETE Life is what you make of it.

FREDRICK Depends on your tools.

WENDY Actually, I think travelling would be good for you, Freddy.

XAVIER You know, Fredrick, I was in Vespucci's Books and saw a guide to hitchhiking across Europe. I'll pick it up for you. Who knows; it might come in handy.

PETE I don't know, Xavier. Fredrick doesn't have much experience being on his own.

NATALIE Come on, Pete. Have some confidence in your son.

FREDRICK (To WENDY and XAVIER:) Where are your wedding rings?

WENDY (Pause.) They're at the jewellers. We're having them cleaned.

FREDRICK Overnight? How filthy are they?

XAVIER If you want it done right, it takes a little longer.

WENDY We're also having the stones reset. Mine, anyway. It became loose. Somehow.

NATALIE Speaking of jewelry, we're developing a lovely campaign for Kay's.

WENDY Excuse me. (She rises and exits.)

FREDRICK Are you okay?

XAVIER She'll be fine.

FREDRICK Of course she will.

NATALIE Fredrick, not everything is worth your attention. When we're in a restaurant, do we tour the kitchen and observe preparation? Of course we don't. We just enjoy the food.

PETE Of course, it couldn't hurt to learn.

XAVIER I don't know. A little knowledge can be dangerous.

FREDERICK Silence equals death.

(WENDY returns. She almost successfully conceals that she's been crying.)

PETE Your brother was concerned about you.

WENDY I hope he wasn't the only one. I'm not feeling well. I'm going home. Xavier, I can take a taxi, if you want to stay.

XAVIER That's okay. I could use an early night.

NATALIE Well, if you must goŠ

WENDY I'm afraid so.

(WENDY and XAVIER get their coats.)

PETE Call us soon. We'll get together again before you leave.

XAVIER I'd like that. WENDY There's so much preparation, we probably won't have a spare second.

NATALIE If you can, then.

(XAVIER shakes PETE's hand and WENDY kisses her mother on the cheek. FREDRICK remains seated and just waves to everybody. XAVIER kisses NATALIE. PETE reaches for WENDY who avoids him and blows a kiss to FREDRICK. PETE withdraws.)

WENDY (To FREDRICK:) I'll call you. (She and XAVIER bid all a "Goodbye" and leave.)

NATALIE Ah. It's nice to see two people still so much in love.

PETE I find it very nostalgic. Don't you, Natalie?

FREDRICK You don't actually buy that business about the rings, do you?

NATALIE What's not "to buy," Fredrick?

PETE Good night. (Crosses. Pats FREDRICK on the shoulder. Kisses NATALIE. Exits.)

NATALIE Really. It's almost as though you're wishing they'd have problems. (Kisses him good night.) Don't stay up too late.

FREDRICK You know, Mom-

NATALIE Fredrick. One very important lesson I've learned is that it's often best not to confront issues beyond our control. It just leads to a lot of pain.

FREDRICK I'm twenty five years old. Shouldn't I have learned that for myself by now?

NATALIE I hoped you'd never have to. Good night.

(FREDRICK remains seated as NATALIE exits.)

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 4 SETTING: The lights cross fade to a spotlight on downstage center neutral territory. AT RISE: IAN stands in the spotlight.

IAN Fundamental things apply As Time Goes By. The problem is how to tell what's fundamental. Kisses are "more than kisses" more often than they're "just kisses," and sighs are seldom "just sighs." It might look and sound right, but Sam never plays it again the same way. What am I babbling about, you ask? Whenever Fredrick and I run into each other, we always say the same things: job update, love life update, family update, comments and criticisms of all categories. It never seems like we actually accomplish anything from these encounters. I wonder, if I could remember them in relation to my life with any clarity, if the earlier conversations prompted any decisions that otherwise might not have been made. I'd probably be surprised. Or not.

(Lights come up to illuminate upstage center. IAN looks pensively at a fixed point out of the perimeter of the light. Fredrick enters the light behind IAN.)

FREDRICK Get one with a lazy Susan base: Krishna dodging. Travel plans?

IAN Wishful thinking, actually. I'm hoping to move soon. I haven't made up my mind yet.

FREDRICK Forget luggage. Use garbage bags and drawers. How's things?

IAN On the up-swing. I'm looking for a place closer to work and a twenty four hour Eat'N'Park. Tommy could stay over my place once in a while. We could just move in together, but I don't want to rush anything. Besides, after being surrounded by people for an eternity, I need some solace. How about you?

FREDRICK I met someone. At a flea market. Recipe for disaster, huh? Her name's Wren. I have this thing for women named after

FREDRICK (cont'd) birds, I guess. She's very nice. It's justŠ I want to say, "I don't know if she's ready to get involved with someone who has as much excess baggage as I do." But, I don't have any excess baggage.

IAN You do. It's just empty. Fredrick, if it bothers you so much, ask them questions. Don't just hint that you don't know what's going on. Guess. Demand. Listen through keyholes, if you have to Just don't get caught until you know something. And what do they know about you? How much do you share with them?

FREDRICK They rarely ask anything important.

IAN Don't wait for them to ask. Bring it up yourself and don't let them change the subject to logo designs and yard acreage. Let them know you're there; that you're interested. My family is never mysterious. I know, when I've moved, they're still going to call and ask me to do their shopping and make their video selections. My parents will still complain to me about Casper. They never complain to each other. I haven't heard them converse directly with one another in years. It's sadŠ They seem to be under some impression that I have the answers to their problems. Even when I was a child, they'd talk to me about everything. I was the only kid in my Kindergarten who knew exactly where Saigon was and that it was responsible for the bum radiator in my Dad's Buick. Mystery why other children wouldn't play with me, huh? That's probably why I've pursued this field. I'd always be the one to look up words in the dictionary. Guess I needed a more appropriate reference section.

FREDRICK Hell, Ian. Let 'em look up their own words.

(END OF SCENE)

SCENE 5 SETTING: Lights come up on the Mendelsohn residence. AT RISE: In the kitchen, ANNABEL loads Tupperware into bags. CASPER sits reading Architectural Digest, smoking. EDGAR and IAN enter.

IAN I think that's everything. Outside of what Casper stole from me that I've never found.

CASPER And never will.

IAN Put that out. If there is anything we've overlooked, let me know. I'll come and pick it up.

CASPER Are you sure you don't want us to send it to you? That way you can disinfect it before you let it into your home.

IAN What is your problem?

CASPER (Rises, crosses) Fuck you is my problem. (Exits.)

EDGAR Don't worry about him. He's had a bug up his ass for weeks. He was fine until you signed that lease. I don't see why you have to moveŠ

RUDY (off stage) Casper, I'm ready to come out now.

IAN Dad. Stop it. It's not like I'm unappreciative. I just need to get out on my own.

(RUDY bursts into the room and twirls across it wearing his usual garb and a large tutu made of newspapers.)

EDGAR Your mother made about a million dinners for you to freeze. If you wondered why you did all that grocery and Tupperware EDGAR (cont'd) shopping, now you know. You can even share it with your friend Tom out there. He's a nice kid.

RUDY (strikes a pose) Ta-da! Casper? Where are you? (exits)

IAN Thanks. I'm glad you approve.

CASPER (Entering) You still here? (ANNABEL enters from the kitchen with grocery bags.)

IAN I'll be out of your way in a minute.

CASPER You friend's real sweet. Does his mother know he's gay?

ANNABEL Here you go. (EDGAR and IAN take the bags.) All your favorite foods and a few I'm sure you hate and never told me about. You know I cried while I was cooking this for you. Your last meals.

IAN Come on, Mom. It's not like I'll never eat again.

RUDY (sticking his head in) There you are! Okay, get ready. (disappears off stage for a moment and bursts in like before)

CASPER You won't. She's poisoned them. I'd better watch out. I may be next.

RUDY Ta-da! (No one has noticed him.) Casper.

ANNABEL I think this is his way of saying he'll miss you.

RUDY Casper!

CASPER What's there to miss? I'll get the bigger room. Rudy and I need more space.

RUDY Nobody ever pays any attention to me.

ANNABEL I thought you were going to convert your room into a studio.

RUDY You people are just like my parents.

CASPER I am. Rudy and I will take his room.

RUDY Maybe you'll notice me if I burst into the room on fire.

ANNABEL If that's what you want, then I'm sure we'll talk about it later.

CASPER That'll happen.

RUDY I said I'm going to burst into the room on fire.

IAN Cappy. I hope you and Rudy have many happy years together in my room before visiting his ancestors in Sicily.

(RUDY bursts into tears and exits US.)

CASPER Fuck you. (CASPER exits again SR.)

EDGAR Come on. Let's take these out to the car.

(EDGAR exits with IAN. ANNABEL watches them from the door. CASPER reenters and lights a cigarette.)

CASPER He makes me sick. It's disgusting the way everyone clamors to the door to beg him not to go. I know all I'd hear would be sighs of relief. No one would have to worry about me bothering them anymore.

ANNABEL We don't worry about you like that.

CASPER You don't worry about me at all. Where the hell did Rudy go?

RUDY (off stage) I'm nowhere!

CASPER Come out. I want to see your costume.

RUDY (enters without tutu) No you don't.

EDGAR (reenters with IAN) Well, Son. Have a good life. I just wish we could undo all of our mistakes. But I want you to know: we tried our best. I'm sorry it wasn't good enough. Good luck. I have to shit. Say goodbye to your brother, Casper (exits) CASPER Of course I do.

RUDY I came out and showed it to you and nobody cared. If I wanted to be treated like this I would have stayed with my parents. (exits)

CASPER Bon Voyage, Number One Son!

IAN Casper. If you have an unresolved issue with me, I'll gladly discuss it.

CASPER Your friend's waiting.

IAN He can wait.

CASPER Don't do me any favors.

ANNABEL Ian. Ian, I want to thank you for listening to me. I'm sorry if I loved you too much. Don't forget: robes catch fire easily.

(Kisses him and exits out the kitchen way. IAN stands there.)

CASPER I thought you didn't live here anymore. (IAN turns to go. CASPER intercepts him at the door.) How can you leave me here with them? It's bad enough when I have to put up with the silences and her nonstop cooking. You talk about me trying to prove something? How about you? You can run away and not deal with anything. I have to stay here and take it!

IAN I don't see any guns at your head, Pal. Look at you: you're twenty and you act like some fifteen-year-old who's pissed he's not old enough to drive yet. And what do you have to put up with? Can't you leave a room, rent a movie, eat out, for Christ's sake?

CASPER What's the point of leaving a room when no one notices you're in it in the first place?

IAN How about so you can be happier outside of it. Who gives a shit if anyone notices? If they do, maybe you'll be missed. If they don't, they didn't deserve your company in the first place. You are an adult, Casper. You can make your own decisions.

CASPER Why? No one respects my decisions. You certainly don't.

IAN You make decisions about things that aren't yours to decide. You didn't choose your eye color or what hand you use. But you'd change those things too if you thought it could get a rise out of people. I don't object to Rudy because he's Black or gay. What I can't stand is his artificiality. He presents himself as a bad artwork and not as a person. So do you. You use the people around you like mirrors. All you have been doing for years is trying to prove to everyone that you are not "Ian Mendelsohn's brother;" you are "Casper." Well, who's that? I'm not sure I know. I've a hunch he may be a very interesting person. I'd love to meet him sometime. And I don't want to hear any speeches about respect. You don't respect my decision to do what you want most. I'm leaving. I can't keep everyone afloat anymore. If you had any idea what you're jealous of, you wouldn't be. Who knows? Maybe you'll find out.

CASPER I hate you for this.

IAN You'll get over it. (IAN exits.)

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 6 SETTING: On the dark stage, slight whispers escalate into a violent, yet unintelligible, whispered argument and are suddenly silent. Lights come up on the Smith residence. AT RISE: NATALIE, PETE and FREDRICK stand there frozen. Pause.

FREDRICK Continue. Please.

NATALIE Don't worry, Fredrick. I think we're finished.

PETE I don't know, Natalie. We've gone this long.

FREDRICK Is it Wendy? I wasn't sure. You whisper. But, I-

NATALIE Don't worry about anything, Fredrick. Wendy's fine-

FREDRICK (with NATALIE:) -"fine." I'm not blind. What's going on?

NATALIE It doesn't concern you.

FREDRICK What doesn't? Whatever it is, I'm very concerned. WhatŠ I justŠ

NATALIE I have to meet a client.

FREDRICK Mom, please. I'm here. I'm interested.

NATALIE Don't be. I promise you, it's not worth it. We're just over-reacting to nothing, aren't we, Pete? Trust me.

FREDRICK You don't trust me. My opinionsŠ My feelingsŠ mean nothing to you.

NATALIE Of course they do.

FREDRICK Like what? Name one. You don't know any of them. I can neverŠ No oneŠ They can't mean anything. I have nothing to baseŠ I have no opinions. (Pause) MaybeŠ Maybe I couldŠ We don't have to talk about WendyŠ or whoever. I mean, there is me. If you want to know. I'm not very happy. I hate my job.

PETE Well, you can get a different job. No one expects you to develop photographs for the rest of your life.

FREDRICK No. No, Dad. I don'tŠ I'm a telephone fund raiser. I call strangers and ask them for help. Across the nation. For all kinds of organizations, butŠ I don't Š AnymoreŠ I'm seeing a woman. Wren. She's very nice. She says she loves me. I believe her. She has this complaint. I'm not open. Enough. She says. I don't tell her everything. Funny, though, because I do. Just comes out as nothing. Doesn't believe me. Like I have mysteries. But no. No mysteries here. Wendy wrote me from Europe. She said everything's fine. But, her handwritingŠ shaky. Didn't always hit the lines. She always hits the lines. Didn't mention Xavier. At all.

NATALIE Fredrick. When you call these people, do you tell them your name?

FREDRICK No, Mom. I tell them yours. I tell them I'm Natalie Smith calling for such-and-such organization trying to save such-and-such person or rain forest and no I didn't know they were eating or just got out of the hospital or had died. Just found out: My friend Joseph Cole. Missing in action in Saudi Arabia. It bothered me, even if his family doesn't eat dinner here. Someone I used to know named Mike Malinowski was killed in a car accident last summer. Weren't friends but he was nice to me. In front of his friends, too. That took balls. My friend Ian Mendelsohn is leaving his family home. You remember Ian. He was that odd, little boy. You used to call him. But, his family tells him too much. Wish I could say the same. I care. I do. Don't know what about. Don't know anything. Except nothing is fine. And I don't develop photographs.

PETE I'm sorry. I didn't know. Did you tell us? Weren't we listening?

NATALIE I'm sorry, too, Fredrick. I want you to know I love you very much.

FREDRICK ThenŠ Tell me.

NATALIE I just did.

PETE I don't think that's what he meant.

NATALIE (Pause) I have to go.

PETE You have a client.

FREDRICK Fine.

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 7 SETTING: The lights cross fade to the Mendelsohn residence. AT RISE: CASPER sits on the couch, nervously smoking a cigarette. EDGAR paces behind him, occasionally looking out the window. ANNABEL moves like a whirlwind around the kitchen, preparing several very different items at once. EDGAR sits down and turns on the TV.

CASPER Could you please turn that off.

EDGAR I just figured, while we were waitingŠ

CASPER Why are we waiting? What can the great Ian Mendelsohn do about this? I don't want him here. It's not even like you care about Rudy. Or me for that matter. But, he's on his way. So if we must wait, can we wait in silence? (EDGAR turns off the TV. ANNABEL enters with a tray of food.)

ANNABEL Is anyone hungry? I've made stuffed mushrooms, bran muffins, and salmon patties.

CASPER (As EDGAR grabs a stuffed mushroom and a salmon patty; to ANNABEL:) How can you think of eating?

ANNABEL I was just thinking of you, dear.

CASPER You've made three of his favorite things.

ANNABEL You like them too.

CASPER I don't like anything.

(ANNABEL returns to the kitchen, while EDGAR eats.)

(Pause. IAN enters in a coat and goes to CASPER. EDGAR and ANNABEL cross to them.)

IAN I came as quickly as I could. Are you alright?

CASPER I'm just a little shaken up. I really don't want to talk about it right now.

ANNABEL The doctor said Rudy has brain damage.

EDGAR He was hit in the head with a baseball bat.

ANNABEL Casper could have been killed too.

IAN Was someone killed?

EDGAR No. But I'm not surprised this happened.

CASPER Yeah. We were asking for it.

IAN That's not what he meant. Now, what brought this on? EDGAR In some ways you were.

CASPER He was walking me to class, tonight. There were these guys across the street. They yelled "Hey, faggots" or "Kill the faggots" or something. Rudy started yelling insults at them. It went back and forth. I asked him to drop it, but you know Rudy. Everything's a San Franciscan standoff. So, his way of ending it was kissing me square on the mouth right there in the street. While I waited for the elevator inside, I heard noises. I came out and he was on the sidewalk. Blood pouring out of his head. I just stood there. It was strange because I was angry at him for the kiss. The police came and the ambulance. I ended up at the station filing a report. They needed descriptions. You know me, I never wear my glasses. It's hopeless. It's justŠ

EDGAR It's horrible, sure. But it's not like those people have loving relationships.

IAN Did you read that in the Klan's Bi-Laws for Gay-Bashers or someplace? I'm sure Casper hadŠ very strong feelings for Rudy.

CASPER I don't know exactly how I felt, butŠ I liked him. (Pause.) No one knows how he's going to come out of this or ifŠ And I'm trying so hard to feel a loss. All I feel is guilty.

ANNABEL But this isn't your fault.

EDGAR He could have prevented it.

IAN He tried. It didn't work. Could I please be with him, alone? (EDGAR and ANNABEL go to the kitchen. ANNABEL cleans and EDGAR eats.) Okay, listen. I'm not pretending I know what you're feeling. But you really should share your feelings about this.

CASPER That's not going to help him.

IAN I'm not here for him; I'm here for you.

CASPER No. You left.

IAN Cut the shit, Casper. You want me here when I'm not. When I am it's not good enough. You're jealous because he used you the same way you've been using him and his statement got a response. You're still invisible. Well, too bad. I think you could at least feel some shame that he was almost killed acting out a lie. Not his. Yours. You didn't love him because he isn't your type. I'm certain other reasons exist, but the main thing is: you're a non-smoking straight boy playing masquerade and somebody got hurt. You've got to realize, it's not what you do that defines who you are; it's why you do it. And you really went overboard.

ANNABEL (Sticking her head out) Am I interrupting?

CASPER (pre-empting IAN)

CASPER (cont'd) No.

ANNABEL Good. Ian, would you like some linguini salad? I just made it.

IAN I have a few more things to talk to Cappy about.

CASPER More? How could you possibly say more?

ANNABEL Actually, Ian, I'd appreciate it if you'd come into the kitchen. I want to talk to your brother before your father eats everything. He's gained ten pounds since you moved.

EDGAR I have not!

IAN He's all yours. (To CASPER:) I'll be back. (CASPER reacts with mock terror. IAN enters the kitchen. Lights to half on the kitchen area.)

ANNABEL Cappy. I know things are difficult for you. I mean, the world's a strange place when towns have to unleash armies of chickens to devour scorpions. But if they didn't, everyone would get stung. (Pause) I'm not a callous person, Casper. I'm also not the happiest. But don't ever think that I don't love you. Your father too. I know he loves me. And we both feel bad that this happened. But parents are selfish. The world can shatter. Nothing matters, as long as our kids are okay. I called Ian because I needed to check up on him. I can't trust the telephone, mainly because they're connected to computers now, and with that Kahdafi personŠ But it's not like seeing, and I can now see that everyone's alright. And I'll feel good about that, even amidst all this trauma, until one of you walks out that door again. I never told you where I met your father did I?

CASPER Millions of times. In the VA hospital, when he was wounded in Viet Nam.

ANNABEL Which VA hospital? You don't know, do you? It was in Tokyo. Japan. I've been everywhere. Don't think it doesn't disappoint me that all the colors in my life have faded. I lost a fiancé the year before I met your father. We marched in a civil rights parade. He was beaten to death by some people who disagreed with us. They called us names, too. So, you're not alone. I've seen a lot of history happen. I probably told Ian all of this when I'd babble on about my life. I think we might need him too much. We should have needed you more. And I hope your friend is okay.

CASPER His name is Rudy, Mom. And he's not going to be okay.

ANNABEL I know his name. And the least we owe him is our hope.

(Lights go to half on the living room and to full on the kitchen.)

EDGAR It all comes out wrong. And you people complain I don't talk more. Isn't that a kick in the pants?

IAN Why don't you and Mom talk? You just ricochet comments off each other. It's weird.

EDGAR Well, you mother's a great cook. (Pause) What I mean is, when we try to make conversation, it takes forever. I don't have much to say anymore. I haven't worked in almost thirty years. Bum back, bum hip. They take hot metal out of your body and put cold metal in. But when we're not trying to talk, she cooks. And I appreciate that. I figure it's our new way of communicating.

IAN I'm not sure she sees it that way. It's not my place to say, really. But maybe if you tried talking to her while she cooked, the two of you might reach a happy medium. For starters, you can discuss why you haven't been conversing with words. Then, I'd recommend moving to all the things you talk to me about. Like Casper and serial killers and fiber. The world. Avoid politics, religion and the weather.

EDGAR We could try that. Tonight gave us enough material.

IAN Though I shudder at the concept of a hate crime being denigrated to conversational potpourri, that's within the realm of possibility.

EDGAR Did you mother ever tell youŠ?

IAN The fiancé? Yeah. You'd be surprised how often I think of that. If it hadn't happened, she might not have met you. Consequently, I might not exist. It makes me feel like some sort of cosmic consolation prize. It's strange. Who knows? I mean sure, Rudy egged them on, but that doesn't justify anything. I know you know that, but you've got to be careful. Don't make him feel worse. That's my job. Casper needs you to tell him it's all going to be okay. He needs to know that it'll matter if that's not true.

EDGAR But, how do I do that?

IAN Wing it.

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 8 SETTING: Lights cross fade to about one third on the Smith residence. AT RISE: FREDRICK sleeps on the couch with a book. PETE enters and goes directly for the liquor cabinet. He pours himself some whiskey, tosses it back and pours another. He nurses the second drink. FREDRICK stirs.

FREDRICK Oh, hi. I must haveŠ (yawns) Time?

PETE Too late.

FREDRICK For what?

PETE Everything. (Gets another glass out and pours one for FREDRICK) Have a seat. Son. (FREDRICK moves uneasily to his father and takes the glass.) Cheers. (They toast.) What are you reading?

FREDRICK Peyton Place. It's pretty juicy. Lots of secrets. Lots of lies.

PETE The movie was interesting. So, son. Let's chat. I've been thinking. Maybe you should get away. Europe would be good for you.

FREDRICK Doubt it's doing much for Wendy and Xavier.

PETE Pandora's box, Fredrick. There are lots of things in this worldŠ in this houseŠ You don't need to be put through them. Really, none of it has anything to do with you.

FREDRICK You're wrong. It's destroying me. I have a right to know what the enemy is.

PETE No one here's your enemy. Why don't you try looking elsewhere? Find your own truths.

FREDRICK I have to leave something behind. Nothing's here. If I don't fill up this space, I won't be able to consider any others. I need to know.

PETE What, then? Ask me the right questions, boy, I'll give you answers. The truth might not be as bad as we think it is. Who knows? Go ahead. Ask.

FREDRICK What's wrong with Wendy and Xavier? Why does she hate you so much? What are you all trying so hard to hide?

PETE You're a smart boy. What do you think? What clues do you have?

FREDRICK Shadows and whispers. Nothing of substance.

PETE Maybe I can give you a clue. What do you remember about your early childhood? Do you remember any of the people you were in kindergarten with? I'm sure you can recall some of the first graders, but not the kindergartners.

FREDRICK I don't know what you're getting at. I vaguely remember moving. Switching schools. I mean, it was twenty years ago. Wendy was very upset. The strange way she used to look at you.

PETE You have a good memory. Now, here's the hard part: Where was I? Where was the person you call your father? Do you have any memories of me then? Sure, most people forget. The question is: was there anything for you to forget? Did you ever notice your mother's husband never drinks at parties. Rarely drinks at all. But when he's bad, he's bad in the middle of the night, alone on the occasions when he isn't speaking to his wife's progeny.

FREDRICK Why are you talking this way? Impersonal. LikeŠ Like IŠ

PETE What? What is it, Fredrick? Take your time. I'm sure it's difficult to figure. Bloodlines aren't usually so blurry. Maybe they are.

FREDRICK How much have you been drinking?

PETE Yes. You've heard your mother complain. I exaggerate when I'm drunk. Spin tall tales of an unbecoming design. Well, Fredrick. Who's to say? Truth or dare. What's more influential: Daddy's intoxicated imagination or Mommy's sense of pride? We both know who always wins. But how could she ever be victorious, if I didn't keep up my end of the battle? Not that she's the enemy. She's more likeŠ a curator of porcelain figurines. They all have to be beautiful and orderly. Like she was. I thought, if she kept her world in such perfect repair, maybe she could remodel me. Not anymore. She's become like the figures: fragile and hollowŠ (Pause) So, what have you concluded, Dr. Watson?

FREDRICK This conversation. You're not making sense. Or I can't make sense of you. Either way. I'm going to bed.

PETE What if I weren't to talk in circles and whatever? What if I answered all of your questions directly? Do you think you could take it?

FREDRICK I don't know if I could believe you.

PETE Why not? The truth might hurt, but I wouldn't tell you to punish you. If anything, I'd tell you things to punish her. And what hurts her more than the truth?

FREDRICK Good night.

PETE If you don't want to know, that's fine with me. Just remember: you had your chance.

FREDRICK Okay, fine. Tell me. Slide me anything you want. I'll deliberate and get back to you later as to whether or not I believe any of this shit.

PETE Well, if that's your attitude, maybe we should forget it.

FREDRICK No. You're rubbing my face in it. You got something to say. Say it. Spit out whatever deep dark secrets you have. Enlighten me about my invisible Kindergarten and my sister's expressions. I'm not the one here with anything to lose. Just realized that. Felt good. Go on. Let me have it.

NATALIE (enters) What's going on?

FREDRICK Truth or dare.

PETE Sorry, kid. (Puts bottle and glass away.) Game's over.

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 9 SETTING: The lights cross fade to a spotlight on downstage center neutral territory. AT RISE: IAN stands in the spotlight.

IAN On one hand, there are ideals; on the other, reality. It's my job to make a match between them. I take someone's realistically difficult situation and attempt to bring it closer to their ideal goal. Being involved in the business end of this, I hadn't realized to what extent most people do this. The difference is most of us don't have some nebby control freak like myself to help expedite our petty crusades. It's often also true that the closer we come to our ideals the less worthy they seem. Be careful what you wish forŠ blah, blah, blah. But I wonder if the opposite is true. Do those who shy away from what they want, those cosmic cowards, eventually find fulfillment in the antitheses of their dreams? Doubtful. Since I ran into Fredrick at the library, these fortune cookie philosophies have been filling my head like so much ticker tape in the Sea of Tranquility. That of course makes no sense. What the hell. I'm tired of trying to make sense.

(From the darkness, FREDRICK enters the spotlight which grows to accommodate him. During their conversation, they pace back and forth, followed by the spotlight, pausing to mime getting their books checked out. They whisper throughout the scene.)

FREDRICK (enters talking) I hesitated. Nothing since. Not like there's been a single opportunity.

IAN Everybody makes that mistake. You'll get another chance. If not, force the issue.

FREDRICK I can't. They'd shut me down. No point to it.

IAN Don't let them.

FREDRICK Like you've managed to keep your family off your back.

IAN To a degree. No, listen. They're not calling more than once or twice a day. They ask me to recommend videos for them, but I do it in a way that shouldn't work. They'll either stop asking or their taste in film will improve dramatically. Either way it's worthwhile. Tommy, on the other hand, has been driving me crazy. For instance, if I say it's okay for him to go away to Ireland and visit his relatives, I don't care. If I say it's not okay, I'm restricting him. If I change my mind, I'm telling him he needs my permission. He has this habit of putting the roll of toilet paper on the dispenser any old way. Everybody knows the sheets are supposed to drape towards the user. Otherwise, it makes no sense. The other day, I screamed at him. I said, "Listen, in your house hang your paper any way you want, but while you're here, please extend me the courtesy of loading the toilet paper correctly so that the hole in the ozone layer over Peru doesn't cause people to declare war on neutral nations with poor economies." Then he tells me, "You are just like your mother." He actually said it. To my face!

FREDRICK He was right.

IAN I know. It almost killed me. You know what the worst part was? During that argument, I made a lasagne, a batch of fudge brownies and fourteen tuna salad sandwiches on whole wheat toast. Fredrick, this was at seven o'clock in the morning.

FREDRICK Have you thought about seeing a therapist?

IAN Tommy gave me a referral from his, but I lost the number. I think I did it accidentally. Besides, I think it was an associate of the same guy Casper's been avoiding seeing since the Rudy thing.

FREDRICK Whatever happened to the dark Italian?

IAN He never came out of it. I confronted Casper about it. He said he didn't want to be told he was grieving incorrectly. I wonder if I really am that out of touch. For God's sake, Fredrick, it's been years since I've cried outside a movie

IAN (cont'd) theatre. I've always wanted to be able to handle it. No matter what it was, I could bear it. And I can. So where does that leave me?

FREDRICK With a grip. Falling apart isn't all it's cracked up to be. You probably don't know this. Back in high school, I used to take knives, razors, paper clips. I'd make scratches and incisions in my wrists for people to see. My family never asked me about them. I hid them from Wendy. Some kids at school noticed one day. Told a guidance counsellor. She called my parents. When I got home, my mother freaked. She told me to go see the counsellor the next day and tell her I was fine. My father called me weak for not facing things. I thought: in a way he's right. I have nothing to face, so I'm weak. And I'm so weak, I couldn't face anything anyway. I had to wait until I was in college to actually try to kill myself. I got drunk. Swallowed some valium. Crashed on the couch. My mother woke me up the next morning, furious that I scuffed the good furniture. I told her why I was lying there. Without a word, she left the room. A week later the furniture was re-upholstered.

IAN Well, if things are that impossible, forget it. Know when to leave the room.

FREDRICK I need to know more than the stork brought me and everything was wonderful in my snare-mined cabbage patch. They're keeping my identity from me.

IAN Bullshit. This is who you are. If you don't think it amounts to much, do something about it. Sure, you're starting twenty five years late, but that's something. Get away from them.

FREDRICK I don't know if your solutions will work for me.

IAN I don't know if they'll work for me. Besides, what do you care about solutions. You're in search of problems.

FREDRICK Who isn't?

(IAN and FREDRICK walk into the darkness.)

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 10 SETTING: Lights cross fade to the Mendelsohn residence. AT RISE: IAN enters neutral territory from stage left. As he crosses the stage, a spotlight comes up on the kitchen revealing ANNABEL and EDGAR. IAN stops to watch them. EDGAR watches ANNABEL fuss about. Silently, he approaches her and puts his arms around her waist. She smiles, relaxes and closes her eyes. She turns to face him. Then they kiss tenderly, almost shyly. IAN continues to watch them, astonished. CASPER appears extreme stage right.

CASPER Are you prowling? (IAN beckons him closer. They look at their parents holding each other in the kitchen.) Oh, this. One day, he actually spoke to her. She was so surprised, she couldn't respond. This pissed him off, so he didn't say anything else. The next day, she said something to him. He replied. They started talking to each other. After a while, they started talking to me. Both of them. At the same time. Last week, he got her six balloons. One a day, except for Thursday.

IAN Because of the Hindenburg? That's so sweet. (Pause.)

CASPER Come on. Let the kids have their fun. There's something I want to show you.

(Lights fade on the kitchen. IAN and CASPER cross to the entrance of the house, go through the living room and to the stairs during the following.)

CASPER You won't believe who I saw last week: Richie Grobeki.

IAN Last I heard he was in Hawaii training for some triathlon. How's he doing?

CASPER Well, you know their family has never been lucky. Remember how during that one week week back in, oh, nineteen-eighty-something, his brother died from contaminated Tylenol, and when his father was flying home his plane crash-landed in Lake Superior, and his sister was accidentally electrocuted, and everyone sympathized with them, especially for Mrs. Grobeki for being so strong, until she became hysterically blind, and then everybody had quite enough of them. Well, the curse continues. Richie's left leg was bitten off by a shark. He seems rather stoic about the whole thing. But after his childhood, who wouldn't? Anyway, Richie says, "Hi."

(They exit. Lights cross fade to a vacant area down stage right. IAN and CASPER enter into the light.)

CASPER I guess what I'm trying to say is, I've never been able to handle crises. Probably because I've never had any. Let me finish. Mom and Dad feel they put quite a burden on you. You know, having to deal with the arguing and not talking and power changing hands in the Kremlin so often between Brezhnev and Gorbachev; you had to have been overloaded. I used to wonder why you always seemed upset. I thought, you know, that IŠ Mom chalked it up to oversensitivity. Dad said you needed more iron. But they realize things now. And so do I. I remember meeting new relatives at funerals. You'd always say the right thing. Meanwhile, there I was, staring at the carpet wearing that red, white and blue plaid suit Mom made me. I don't mean to go off on all these tangents, but you see, when I saw Richie. All I felt was that you'd know what to say. And since the last thing I wanted to be was like you, I said something I would say instead of anything remotely appropriate. I mean, he tells me he's lost a limb and all I can say is, "Gee. Shit really does happen, doesn't it?" I can't imagine anyone being less profound. Anyway, let me get the reason I dragged you up here. (Exits)

IAN By the way, I like what you've done with my room. I thought of painting the walls black myself, but I never had the gumption.

CASPER (CASPER enters with an aisle and a painting and some

CASPER (cont'd) paints. He works on the painting.) Thanks. I like it too. Anyway, this is it. Before you blurt your opinion, let me first say it's a work in progress. Knowing how much you despise anti-representational art, I'll explain. These colors. Red. Black. Purple. White. The shades and the streaks. The blotches. They may not look like much. But they do represent. They are me. My anger. My jealousy of everyone. My loneliness. This is my grief. I could have done a self portrait, but that wouldn't have been adequate. Besides, I can't look in mirrors for very long. I'm afraid I'll see a soul as empty and alone as it was before the world started draining it. I hate you for being right, Ian. Was I so obvious? When a life is extinguished, it's supposed to matter. People are supposed to be able to see that it matters. But if I can't see it, how can they? So, I don't look anymore. I just feel these colors.

IAN You were right about some things too. My greatest fear was that someday, I would become desensitized. I wouldn't be able to feel emotions anymore. I know that if I were to suffer a loss, I'd cry at all the right times; be strong when I should. But I'm scared that inside it's all blank. And no matter what everybody else sees, I'm really just empty. When I saw Mom and Dad in the kitchen tonight, I felt warm. It was wonderful to see that. But I can't know for sure if I actually felt it, or if I thought I did because it was appropriate. Your emotions may be inappropriate. They may even be heinous. Maybe not. At least, they're honest. You have streaks and lines and shades on your canvas. I've got nothing left but shadows.

CASPER How do you know what I've got? I certainly don't. It's pretty pathetic when you don't know what you have and there's this little to take stock of. You'll be happy; I've quit smoking. As for other things, I don't know. I started liking them a little too much to be certain as to whether or not you were right. I suspect in time I'll figure it out. I don't know if you'll approve if I discover I'm not a conventional bachelor.

IAN Casper, I never criticized your actions; I criticized your motives. If it's real, fine. For Christ's sake, you should know by now. I figured it out when I was about six or seven. I had a crush on Kenny Duberman, the tallest kid in my second grade class. I've always gone for tall men. I'm not overwhelming you, am I?

CASPER No. Not really. I shouldn't even be this surprised. I mean, I suspected you and Tommy were, but then I thought, "NahŠ" Are you? And Tommy.

IAN Oh, yeah. Definitely. We're going on "the year." I hate calendar landmarks. Why should an anniversary be more special than any other day? Just because you've managed to be together for as long as it's taken the earth to revolve around the sun? That's astronomy. What does it have to do with anything?

CASPER You really are void of emotion.

IAN I'm just afraid I'll miss one and he won't. You've never seen him in a tizzy.

ANNABEL (off stage) Cappy! Come on down. Dinner's ready.

CASPER (calling to ANNABEL:) We're eating awfully late tonight. Why is that?

ANNABEL (off stage) Something was burning in the kitchen. It's out now.

CASPER (calling to ANNABEL:) Be right down. (to IAN:) How can we face them?

IAN You're horrible. Before we go downstairs, I need to ask you something. I know a lot of men who had or were older brothers. And not always, but often, they talk about how the big brother did things, like taught them about life and sex and cars and random vices. I don't remember us having heros. I keep thinking maybe I should have done more along those lines to give you some guidance, so you wouldn't end up as lost as I thought I was. I'm sorry.

CASPER You were a terrific role model. I just didn't want to play it. Anyway, what do you think of the painting? Does it look like Sherwin Williams threw up orŠ?

IAN I like it. I think it's you. And I believe that's a good thing. What are you calling it?

CASPER "Black Italy."

IAN That would be appropriate.

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 11 SETTING: Lights cross fade to the Smith residence. AT RISE: WENDY and FREDRICK look at a photo album. Natalie's footsteps can be heard approaching.

WENDY And this is me in front of Lenin's Tomb.

FREDRICK You look right at home.

WENDY Actually, I didn't feel at home until I entered Lenin's Tomb.

NATALIE (enters) I'm going to my meeting. When your father gets home, please tell him I plan on being back around eight o'clock and there are leftovers in the fridge. Oh, and Fredrick. You got a bill from Sears today. I paid it. You shouldn't be charging so much. (exits)

WENDY And this is XavierŠ (pause, sound of door shutting off stage) Okay, then what'd he say?

FREDRICK Nothing. Mom came in and he left. He hasn't brought it up again and I haven't been able to catch him drunk.

WENDY Mom probably chewed him out, so he's getting drunk in public. Has he been taking a lot of cabs home?

FREDRICK I don't know. I've been out. But it's weird. He acts like nothing happened.

WENDY He probably doesn't remember. He tends to black everything out when he drinks. Anyway, that's all he said?

FREDRICK Yeah. Why? What did you think he said? (Pause) Please. Nobody here is open. I need you to at least try.

WENDY I don't know, Fredrick. I don't know what he remembers.

FREDRICK What about what I remember? What is the big deal about kindergarten? I know we moved, but why? And you. You used to look at him real strange.

WENDY Did I?

FREDRICK Come on. You know why.

WENDY Shut up for a second. I'm tryingŠ I'm trying to figure something out. I thinkŠ Maybe I knew at the time and I justŠ

FREDRICK Does it have to do with moving?

WENDY Not exactly. One night he got very drunk. I remember Mom telling me he wasn't feeling well. He thought he had entered their room but came into mine by mistake. (Pause) It only happened this once. And it was almost like she said. He came into my room and got undressed. I got scared and screamed. Mom came in; pulled him out of my bed; started yelling at him. He started crying and left. He barely made it under my nighty. (Pause) She stood there for a while. Finally she told me about Daddy's mistake. I knew she would never lie to me. Mommies don't do that. So I believed her. ButŠ He was talking non stop, saying all these things I couldn't understand exceptŠ my name. He called me by my name. Oh, Jesus. (Pause) He knew. (Pause.) She told me at breakfast that Dad was going to be away for a while. And he was sorry. I'd talk to him on the phone every now and then and he'd tell me he was getting better. Then you were born and we stopped hearing from him. After a while, he came home. You were in kindergarten. And we moved again.

FREDRICK My God. How long was he in the hospital?

WENDY He wasn't in any hospital.

(Off stage a door opens and closes. Footfalls are heard. Without a word, WENDY rises and gathers her things.)

PETE Hi, Kids. Did your mother go to her meeting?

FREDRICK Uh, yeah. Food's in the fridge.

PETE Is anything wrong?

FREDRICK You know me. We were looking at Wendy's pictures. I started bitching. The usual shit. Boredom. Stagnation.

WENDY Which reminds me: I have something for you to read, Fredrick.

PETE Is it that Hitchhiking thing?

WENDY I'll bring it by. (She avoids PETE and exits.)

PETE Is she okay?

FREDRICK Sure. She's fine.

(Pause.)

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 12 SETTING: Lights cross fade to the Mendelsohn residence, which is almost tidy. AT RISE: ANNABEL and PETE sit on the couch together watching TV. A knock at the door. IAN enters.

IAN Hi, there.

EDGAR Come on in.

ANNABEL How are you? Hold on. Honey, could you pause the VCR please. I'd do it myself, but the last time I tried, I erased something or other. Although I'm not sure that was my fault. There was an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease somewhere right around the Oscars. What are you up to?

IAN Not much. I'm helping Tommy get ready to visit his family in Ireland. And I hadn't heard from anyone in a few days, so I thought I'd drop by. Check things out.

ANNABEL Well. Everything's fine.

IAN Ah. Great. So, what are you watching?

ANNABEL (Perhaps, too enthusiastically:) The Silence of the Lambs.

EDGAR Again. Your brother's out on a date.

ANNABEL With Leslie.

ANNABEL She seems very nice. EDGAR He seems very nice.

ANNABEL We haven't actually met her yet.

EDGAR He has a raspy voice that's high for a guy and low for a girl.

ANNABEL We really can't tell just now. And Casper won't say.

EDGAR Not like we've asked him.

ANNABEL Well, how do you ask a question like that?

IAN Maybe he's found a hermaphrodite. Considering Cappy at this stage in his life: who could ask for anything more?

EDGAR Maybe he could bring this person by sometime. You even brought Tom over once. (Pause) I know you said not to tell him and act surprised and all, if he ever did. But the plain truth of the matter is: I always thought you might end up this way. I'm not sure I understand it. Your mother's position is: it's okay, as long as you're happy. I never expected this from Casper. Even after he started drawing and painting. But I figure, after everything we went through with him and that Rudy fellow, there wasn't much we couldn't deal with. Though this hermaphrodite business might be pushing things. But I just wanted to let you know that I knew, so you didn't have to tell me something I already knew and be all uncomfortable about how I'd take finding out about it. That's all. (Pause)

ANNABEL So, Ian. Are you staying for dinner? I'm making lamb chops-

EDGAR For God's sake, woman, why do you do these things? (To IAN:) Last night, we watch Jaws, and she makes shark steak. She never made shark steak before. What'll happen if we rent a vampire movie?

ANNABEL Edgar. Eat a cookie. (Hands him a Pinwheel cookie and takes a bite out of one herself.) Dinner should be done in about twenty minutes. Want to watch the end with us?

IAN Sure.

(EDGAR puts an arm around ANNABEL who leans against him. IAN makes himself comfortable and watches them for a moment.)

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 13 SETTING: Lights cross fade to the Smith residence. AT RISE: PETE sits. NATALIE enters.

NATALIE He'll be down in a minute. I hope he takes this well.

PETE No you don't. You hope he'll be appalled just like you. You'd hate it if he accepted this.

NATALIE How could he? It's an unacceptable situation.

PETE To you, Natalie.

NATALIE (As FREDRICK enters.) Oh, good, you're here. What I have to say is very difficult. It seems that Wendy and Xavier have been under some stress for a while. They're considering a divorce. I'm sure you'll agree they should reconsider. Everybody has problems in their marriage as you someday will no doubt know for yourself. Even your father and I.

FREDRICK And that would be you andŠ him?

NATALIE (Pause) But - As I wasŠ As I was saying, it's one thing to have problems. It's another thing entirely to admit them to the world. Where is her sense of dignity; her sense of pride?

FREDRICK Isn't pride a cardinal sin? Like avarice, adultery and murder? (Pause) I know about Wendy and Xavier. I helped her move yesterday while he was at the hospital. I know her reasons. She'd became nauseous when he'd touch her. She withdrew. He started going elsewhere. She's found out why this happened. But, by the grace of God, can either of you guess why?

NATALIE I don't know what your sister told you, Fredrick, but it's not true.

FREDRICK So, she just imagined being molested by her father the night before he went to jail.

NATALIE That is a lie! PETE (whispers:) Oh, my God.

PETE You told me nothing happened.

NATALIE It was nothing! It was a mistake. You were drunk. You went into the wrong room.

FREDRICK He called her name. She remembers. He knew where he was; who he was withŠ

PETE Oh, my God. Fredrick, I have to explain something to you. I don't remember any of what you've just said. I assume your sister told you about my being away. All I've ever been able to piece together is that I went out; I got drunk; I argued about something with your mother, and I woke up in jail. They told me I hadŠ I crashed into somebody and they died. I've never been able to bring out that accident. When I saw your mother, I asked her why we were arguing. She said, "Nothing." All this time, I thought Wendy resented me for being away. Or she hated me because I was a drunk, or maybe she heard I had killed someone. I had these nightmares where I was hurting her and she was screaming. They were horrible. I had no idea they were memories.

NATALIE You didn't hurt her. She was just a little scared. She got over it right away.

FREDRICK You never gave her a chance to get over it. You just think that compared to the embarrassment and humiliation of admitting the problem to someone, it would be easier to bury. What would have happened if I succeeded with the valium cocktail?

PETE What is this?

NATALIE It was over. He was fine. There was no need to upset you.

FREDRICK You're so busy protecting everyone from the truth. Why are you so terrified to face it?

NATALIE I've faced it enough! Why are my mistakes so unforgivable? What can you do with this wealth of knowledge, Peter? Apologize? What good would that do?

PETE I don't know. Maybe, I should find out.

NATALIE No. This is why I couldn't tell you. I knew you'd act this way. You will not call her. What are you going to say? What can you possibly say now?

PETE What else can I do, Natalie? My family was dying and I didn't notice. I can't do this anymore. You've kept too much from me. We're finished.

NATALIE We're not finished yet.

FREDRICK I'm certainly not. There's something else I'm confused about, Mom. How was it possible for me to have been born a year after he went to prison? Were there conjugal visits?

PETE (Pause) Aren't you going to answer your son, Natalie?

FREDRICK Does it have something to do with night classes? Baby-sitters for Wendy? Who's my father, Mom? Do you even know? No wonder you're so sensitive about what people see. If they caught a glimpse at the truth, they'd puke. I did.

NATALIE Fredrick, you have to believe me when I tell you that I love you. All I've tried to do for the past twenty five years is protect you from my mistakes. Our mistakes. I didn't want you growing up with a stigma for things we had done. So we moved. Started over. I had everything under control. FREDRICK I don't have to believe anything.

PETE I'm sorry, Fredrick. I guess there were too many obstacles between us. I really wanted to love you. I didn't have the strength to overcome them. Or make them not matter.

FREDRICK Well, now what? Huh? I've spent years trying to find my identity! Now, I discover it was never here. It's just like you said. Nothing in my life has had anything to do with me. (Pause.) My things are packed. I'm staying with Wendy. She's expecting me to call for a ride. I'll get the rest of my stuff later in the week.

PETE Look at it this way: you have a perfect opportunity to start over.

And you wanted to know everything.

You got your answers.

I'm sorry it came back at you like this.

NATALIE It's obviously a little too late for us. (She crosses to the bar.)

You asked the questions. (She gets a glass.) You always said you'd prefer the reality of war to a rumor of peace. (She fills it with bourbon.)

Call your sister.

(NATALIE slides the glass in front of PETE who looks down into it.)

NATALIE We're finished, now.

(END OF SCENE)

Scene 14 SETTING: The lights cross fade to a spotlight on downstage center neutral territory. AT RISE: IAN stands in the spotlight.

IAN It's hard to say what I remember most about Fredrick. For someone who ended up an acquaintance, there's quite a bit. I think of him every time I see a set of Legos. And the torrid soap operas we enacted with our Star Wars action figures. But now he's off seeing the world, never to return. I ran into him at the airport, the day he left. It had been forever since I'd seen him. I felt odd that with all the more significant events and relationships in my life, none of them had such a sense of closure.

(The spotlight grows to include FREDRICK, next to IAN, with his suitcase.)

IAN We just passed our Second Anniversary. I remembered, he didn't. I wasn't angry. I forgot last year, which is worse in a way. But, we're okay. Whenever I turn into either one of my parents, he turns himself into both of his. They were third-generation Irish-Americans with high tolerances for alcohol and low thresholds for nonsense. I'm in therapy; he's in recovery. We're finally getting a place together.

FREDRICK Wonderful. How's the family? Still driving you crazy?

IAN No, actually. In fact, I call them more often than they call me these days. Mom and Dad are getting along fine. Casper's seeing an older woman. She's a twenty eight year old ex-nun who counsels recovering drug addicts. And she's a light Italian. It's funny in a way. I handled all of their problems for so long. Maybe if I'd let them just have it out instead of always mediating and appeasing everybody, they could have been happier a lot sooner. I had no idea how much I'd miss it. Sure, they were a big pain in the ass, butŠ I felt needed. More accurately, I felt crucial. I know it sounds selfish - it is selfish - but I'm almost disappointed they can manage without me. The devastating part is they manage better without me. Anyway, Tommy and I are going there for dinner as soon as his fucking plane lands. It's already an hour late. Two years running, he hasn't taken me with him. He'll pay for that. So, is Wren going with you? Or has thatŠ?

FREDRICK Oh, God. A long time. Too bad. She was terrific. I don't even know where she is now. After my parents died, we sort ofŠ

IAN Oh, God. I'm sorry about that. I feel so stupid. You know, here I am going on about my family andŠ

FREDRICK It's okay. (Pause) Can I confide something in you? The police report said they crashed because my father was drunk. My mother made it a point to never get into the car if he was drunk. He had become conscientious enough to take cabs. But this time, she got in. And he drove. I think I may have actually seen her pour the first drink that day. I thought the insurance company would figure it out. But when they asked around, you know what everybody said about them?

IAN "They were fine."

FREDRICK Exactly. It's confusing. I blamed them for everything. Resented them. Then this happens. Like an admission of guilt. Wendy wore a red ribbon in her hair at the funeral. First time she wore something with color sinceŠ a long time. She kept needing Xavier. Finally she wanted him. She wore light blue one day and they reconciled. He got that book he promised me. I'm going away to make my history. All the problems gone. The secrets revealed. No one left to blame. So now, in the center of all this misery and regret, I discover I loved them. I mean, why now? What's the point when it doesn't matter? Well. It does matter. A lot. It just doesn't make any difference.

IAN I'm sorry.

FREDRICK I guess we both ended up with what we wanted. It just turned out to be completely different from what we wanted. Who knew?

IAN Who, indeed. They just called Tommy's plane. Why don't you come with me. You can meet him.

FREDRICK Can't make new friends right now. I have enough to forget already.

IAN I'm going to miss running into you every however-often.

FREDRICK It's a small world. We might cross paths in Ireland next year, for all we know. (Pause) It's strange. Everything seemed so vacant before. So, vastly empty. I never imagined I'd have so much to miss.

IAN Are you okay?

FREDRICK Yeah. I'll be fine. Honest.

(The spotlight fades on FREDRICK.)

(IAN addresses the audience. As he does, the spotlight on him begins fading out.)

IAN I remember when we were children, we'd play Dungeons and Dragons. I would usually be a cleric. Job description: curing, blessing, and trying to make things right. Fredrick was always some sort of mage. Casting spells. Creating specters. Conjuring demons. Between the two of us, we'd always be compelled to change what was really there. Sometimes it worked and the party would be saved. Sometimes it wouldn't, and we'd end up devoured by dragons. In retrospect, it seemsŠ funny.

(BLACKOUT)

THE END

 

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