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Dziadza and Red Squirrel


Dziadza and Red Squirrel


John Biggs

Dziadza is pronounced phonetically "d-ja-d-ja", with the same accents as ZsaZsa. It translates to grandpa. The other Polish words in the dialogue will be in phonetics in italics.

Cast of Characters

Kash Jablownski - A red haired, fairly large girl of 16. Her full name is Kasia (KASH-A).

Linda Jablownski - The mother of Kash and Charles. A rather thin woman with dark hair and features. She is 40, though stress has made her look much older. Mother to Kash and Charles. Her accent is mild.

Charles Jablownski - A thin waif with dark hair. He is 17 and trying desperately too look older. He skulks in leather and a spike hair cut but Linda will not allow him to look any "worse" than that i.e. no earrings or tattoos.

Dziadza - An old man. His red brown hair is streaked with gray. He is almost never lucid, though his eyes are very expressive and say what his mouth cannot. He suffers from senility bordering on Alzheimers. He sits in the dining room from 6AM to 11:30PM, then sleeps. His accent is thick and real. He often mixes languages, saying "bess" and "bessout" often, "bes" meaning without.

Nero - Charles' friend. He is everything Charles is not allowed to be. His personality swings from raucous and wild to mild and philosophical. He is quite older mentally than physically. He is eighteen.

Act 1, Scene 1

The play is set in a Polish dining room in a city like Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. It is fairly small, about 15 feet on it's longest side. It is papered in a dark red pattern, floral with vertical lines. On the wall facing the audience is a large picture window with a settee about a foot in width. It is covered in a long, tan fringed cotton rug. The window faces out into some trees. It is light at the opening of the play, an Indian summer dark, and the lights outside darken as the scenes progress. On the left side of the window, about head high on the wall, is a picture of the Pope. Next to the portrait is a cabinet of plain, dark wood, filled with crystal glasses and bowls, looking like both a planned collection and a set of "good" silverware and place settings. None of it looks terribly expensive.

To the right of the window is a bookcase. The bottom two shelves are filled with knickknacks with a distinct Slavic tone to them. A pair of dancers in costume flank a large, rough statue of Jesus or a particularly sad looking man. The rest may be curios from any Slavic area. The top two shelves contain small thin books as well as many larger tomes, looking like college textbooks. One large book is a Bible.

In the center of the room is a large, oblong dinner table surrounded by three simple chairs. There is a fireplace on the far right wall with a few black and white and color portraits suspended on the wall over it. The most important article in the room is a high backed, well cushioned chair with a small table next to it. On the table is a clock, a pile of neatly stacked newspapers, and a water glass. The chair is left of the window and faces outside at an angle, so the audience will be able to see anyone seated in it fairly well. Detail can be sparse around the chair, but the chair itself must look old and well-used. The chair is to be well lit, the best lit object in the entire room.

There are entrances on opposites sides of the set, one next the fireplace and on in the center of the left wall. The right exit leades to the kitchen and outside while the left leads to the other rooms of the house and to the basement.

It is 6 PM when the play opens.

(Enter Dziadza holding a newspaper. He looks contented, a half smile on his face. He walks to the chair and sits, placing the newspaper onto the neat pile on the table. Two minutes pass. Dziadza alternately looks out the window, checks his pulse with the clock, or straightens the newspaper. Enter Kash, winded, who drops a bookbag on the center table and looks at the window, evidently at her reflection.)

Dziadza: You are not going somewhere, now, Kasia, are you?

Kash: No, Dziadza, I'm staying right here.

Dziadza: Because you run around too much. You are young, yet. Stay to home for now.

Kash: I know, Dziadza.

(Kash turns sideways, evidently looking at her bust or stomach)

Dziadza(distantly): Where is Mama?... Kasia? Where is Mama. It is time for the pills... Kasia?

Kash: MOM! There, she's coming, Dziadza.

Dziadza: I cut out all the comedies you like. I told Mama to put them on your bed for me. I cut out this Garfield and Peanuts, like you like them.

Kash(gently): You didn't have to. I can just read them out of the paper. And I stopped reading funnies two years ago.

Dziadza: You are a girl, yet. You can still read comedies, I think.

(Kash crosses to the table and sits down, pulling books out of her bag. Linda enters from left, wiping hands on a dish towel.)

Linda: Don't yell for me, Kash. Especially with Dziadza in the room. It hurts his ears. Yes, Papa?

Dziadza: I think it is time for the pill. Six 'o clock the doctor says, no? I need to get a new doctor. I think he is bad at surgery...

Linda: Yes, it's time for your pills. (Reaches under the table and brings out a metal canister and a pill bottle. She shakes out one of the pills and hands it to Dziadza)

Dziadza: And the Ludens? This is for my heart?

Linda: Yes, the pill is for your heart.

Dziadza: The Ludens? I need the Ludens, too.

Linda: No, Papa, you don't need these.

Kash (under her breath): Give him the damn cough drops.

Dziadza (distantly): Asha gave me cough drops... where is Asha? Where is she?

Linda(frazzled): Young lady, do not use that language around me or Dziadza. Don't give me that look. You know he doesn't need the Ludens. It's just more sugar...

Kash: Asha is dead, Dziadza.

Dziadza: What's that, Kasia? I couldn't hear you, darling...

Linda(To Asha): Get out of this room.

Kash: I'm doing my homework...

Linda: You get the hell out of here right now. Get out of this room. (Exit Kash, left)

Dziadza: What did she say, Mama?

Kash: Nothing, Dziadza. Here's your Ludens.

Dziadza: Good. I need. I can't breathe besout it.

(Continued activity in the room. Eventually Linda leaves left, leaving Dziadza alone. He sits, reads the paper, looks out the window, and will occasionally mutter something to himself, presumably in Polish. He is an animated fixture in the room, a piece of furniture that just belongs there. This activity occurs whenever he is alone in the room. Kasha enters left, visibly upset.)

Dziadza: Finish all your studies?

Kash: Yes, Dziadza, all finished. All done. And I'm not going anywhere tonight and I'll read the comics when I go upstairs. And...

Dziadza: You look like Babcia(BAB-CHA), you look like Asha. And one time we took to you when you was very little to see where I worked with the big trains. And there they always asked Babcia if you was her little daughter. Your mother was sick, then, so you stayed very much with us. You remember?

Kash(distractedly, trying to concentrate on her books): I don't think I do.

Dziadza: You were very little. You stayed in the apartment with us, before we bought this house. And your Papa always said that if you ever caused any trouble just to leave you for the gypsies for your Mama could not take care of you. And I laughed at this, and Papa laughed, his big voice like a train going through the little apartment.

Kash(loudly): I don't remember that, Dziadza.

(Slamming of doors off stage. Enter Charles and Nero, left)

Charles: Bitch! Bitch... Jesus Christ, Mom is on the rag or something.

Dziadza: Hello, Charles. Hello, Nero. It is early and you are here?

Kash: Hey, Chuck. Nero...

Nero: Hello, Mr. Jablownski. We came by for a little while to listen to music. Downstairs.

Dziadza: That's nice. It's good you have friends, Charles. Watch out for this other bad boys. And on these streets when you cross...

(Charles crosses to Dziadza. Nero looks at Kash, who looks away, down at her books, her eyes red and pleading.)

Charles: Hello, Dziadza. Did you take your pills?

Dziadza: Yes, my heart medication and my Ludens, right? This is what doctor said?

Charles: Yes, Dziadza.

Nero: Let's hit it, Chuck.

(Nero looks one last time at Kash and exits right. Lights down.)

Scene 2

(When lights go back up, Dziadza's chair is empty but still lit. Kash still sits in the same spot, trying to concentrate. She is less shaken now, but stress is still visible. After a minute, enter Nero, right.)

Nero: Hey, Kash. Ok?

Kash: Yeah, real good. Just fine.

Nero: Your Mom again?

Kash: Where's Charles?

Nero: Downstairs. Want to talk about it?

(Kash stands and looks around. Walks to Dziadza's chair and tests it's seat. Then looks out the window.)

Kash: So much tension in this house. Since Dad died, and Grandma... since they died Dziadza has been worse and Mom's been bitching so damn much, and she's been talking in Polish a lot, sometimes to herself, and... I just want out of this house.

Nero: Want to go for a walk? I can tell Chuck we're going for pop or cigs or something.

Kash: I want to be alone, right here, in this house. Alone without Dziadza babbling or Mom screaming or those goddamn pictures of Dad and Grandma looking down at me from the mantle and the walls of every room in this house... it's so sick, the way she put them up, making some damn shrine in every room.

Nero: Take them down. It's been a year.

Kash: It won't work. Nothing ever works, here. All of Mom and Dad's plans: to move out of here and into a real house, all my college plans, the plan to move Grandma into a home when Dziadza died... they're shot. It's like we never even thought about them, now. I just want to be alone, so I can figure stuff out by myself.

Nero: I'll go.

Kash: Whatever. I still won't be alone. Dziadza's coming back from the bathroom or the back porch or wherever he went. Nothing matter, in here at least.

(Exit Nero, right. Enter Dziadza and Linda, left)

Linda: Didn't you hear him calling? He almost fell in the bathroom. I came in and he was holding onto the towel bar.

Dziadza: Don't yell to her. She was doing her work. I'm ok, nothing harmed, honey.

Linda: She needs to start taking on a little more responsibility in this house. All she does is go out until all hours and comes home smelling of smoke and beer and she's a...

Dziadza: Quiet, Asha. She is girl yet. Don't yell to her so much.

Kash: That's not Asha, Dziadza. That's your daughter-in-law.

(Dziadza is led to his chair)

Linda: Young lady, that was entirely uncalled for. I tell you to do things around here to help out and all you end up doing is hurting everyone. Where did you get these habits?

Kash: You?

Linda: You're not going anywhere tonight. And you're not going anywhere tomorrow night. Nowhere, the whole month. You are a... little brat. If your father were...

Kash: If Daddy were what?... Leave me alone.

(Linda stops, as if to say something, then exits, left. Time passes. Dziadza pulls out a pair of small school scissors and cuts some comics out of some newspapers.)

Dziadza: You know, Kasia, you are my little red squirrel.

Kash: What?

Dziadza: I have a little squirrel, outside, who I feed bread through the window. And he is so small and gentle and he never looks through the window...

(Kash walks to window)

Kash: There's no bread out there. I don't see any bread anywhere out there.

Dziadza: He eats with his little hands out there, but is always afraid to look in window because he will see me in there, and I think he wants to think he found this bread alone. In Polska, you never see squirrels with other squirrels, because they know that if they are with other squirrels there will be a fight when they find food. So they like to think that the food they find is only theirs, so they never look around. And you are my little red squirrel, no? So small and gentle and kind.

Kash(Giving the old man a peck on the cheek): I might be, Dziadza.

Dziadza: Don't be so bad to mother. She has troubles, like all of us.

Kash: I know, Dziadza. I know... I'm going downstairs now. Do you need anything?

Dziadza: Nothing, please. You are good girl, Kasia.

(Exit Kash, right. Dziadza busies himself. He looks up for a moment and puts his hand on his chest, then looks down, as if he had forgotten something. Charles enters, right)

Dziadza: Charles... did I get my medicine? Bo (BOA) I think I did not get them. I am cold.

Charles: I think you took them. I can ask mother...

Dziadza: No, no. I think so, too. Is cold, though, I think is the window. Do you have Ludens?

Charles: They're in the little box under your table. Here they are.

Dziadza: Just one. And some water, please, Charles. This would be very nice.

Charles: Water's right here next to your clock. Are you ok, Dziadza?

Dziadza: This is very hard for you, all of this life, huh Charles? Kasia cries, I see her. How are you doing?

Charles(pauses, looking at Dziadza. Dziadza is distant): I miss Dad and Babcia, but I'm doing fine. I have you and Mom and Kash. And Nero, he's a good friend. And sometimes I think I hear Dad or Babcia's voice at night, sometimes. But...

Dziadza: You are holding on good, then? I took medicine?

Charles: Yes, Dziadza. You took your medicine. Everything's fine. Are you sure you're alright?

Dziadza: Yes, darling. I am fine. I'm just a little cold, but this is from thin blood. How you get old you will see how nice it was to have thick blood. You are good, just like your sister. I think everything will be ok.

Charles: Yes, Dziadza. I think so.

(Charles stands looking at Dziadza who picks up his cup and slowly drinks. Dziadza mumbles something, something sounding like "Good boy" or "Dobry Hopek (DUB-REE HWHOA-PECK) Charles stays for a moment and then exits right. Lights go down)

Act 2, Scene 1

(In this scene the room is a cage. Dziadza is present, but seemingly invisible to the others in the room. The tension builds, but wanes as soon as one of the characters looks at the silent old man. The room is very dark except for Dziadza's seat. It is about 9 or 10 at night. When the lights go up, Kash is seated at the table and Linda paces the room, a caged animal.)

Linda: Why can't you understand what I'm trying to say to you? I asked you to do a simple thing. I asked you to wash the dishes. I asked you to call Charles up, you couldn't do either of those things. You just couldn't. Why not? All you gave me was argument, and...

Kash (with hostility. She stands.): I don't know, Mom...

Linda: I work, and I pay bills, and I take care of you. Without Father and Babcia around, I just can't manage.

Kash: What do you mean without them around. They're not on vacation. They're...

Linda: Don't start with me. I understand perfectly what has happened. I think a little more perfectly than you. With them gone, it is ten times harder around here. I understand all of this, and you don't understand anything about what I'm trying to do.

Kash: Then why are their pictures up. So every time I walk by, I remember them, and the night they went out, and the call, and the hospital...

Linda: I didn't put them up to bring back bad memories. I put them up to remember them.

Kash: To remember them in every room? To remember everything? All the time. I just want to be alone, sometimes. And with them staring down at me...

Linda (Pausing): Does it bother you that much.

Kash: Yes.

Linda: I does bother you, doesn't it. To see them. I just wanted to remember... I didn't get to see your father that whole day before he took Asha to the hospital. The only time I saw him... no, I didn't even really see him. I glanced and closed my eyes. And had a closed casket... and I closed everything... And sometimes I wish I could have seen them. Just that moment before everything happened, and your Father and Asha were calm and happy, their faces. And I just didn't want to see that rainy street and the car... I thought if I couldn't see them... And all I want you to do is understand what I'm feeling. And how hard it is, for all of us.

Kash: I know how it is...

Linda: I loved them.

Kash: I did, too. But I want to remember them myself, alone. Without them all over the place.

(Dziadza tries to stand suddenly, clutching the arms of the chair for support. There is a silence as Kash and Linda both turn to look. Dziadza looks at them pleadingly.)

Dziadza: My Ludens, Asha. Please...

Kash: He looks bad, mom. He looks real bad. The phone...?

Linda(She looks around, unsure of what to do. She looks as confused and child-like as Kash. She yells right.): Charles, come up here. Dziadza needs help. Charles. Charles!

Dziadza(Looking around hysterically, shaking but slowly relaxing): It's raining, Asha. Let the dogs inside. Asha...

(Enter Charles and Nero. Charles rushes to Dziadza's side, helping him down into the chair.)

Charles: What did you do to him?

Kash: What?

Charles: What did you guys do. I heard you yelling. He doesn't have a heart that can handle you guys arguing in the same room. Jesus Christ. Dziadza...

Dziadza: I'm OK, Charles. Is ok. Everything was hard to breath for a moment but is ok now.

Charles: Call the ambulance. What were you arguing about now?

(Nero begins to head left but Dziadza stops him.)

Dziadza: Is ok, Nero. Is ok. Don't worry. Is ok...

Linda: What were we arguing about? Charles, you know damn well what we were arguing about. Why are you always downstairs, or upstairs, or gone when we need to talk. We need to take care of Dziadza and you're never here...

Charles: Don't even give me that shit, Mom. Don't even. I'm probably the only one here who gives a damn about Dziadza. And you two know it.

Kash: Charles... don't start it up again...

Charles: Don't start it up. Dziadza's condition is getting worse while you're sitting here yelling at each other. Don't start it up again... You know his heart is bad. Real bad. The doctor said that. He can't be excited or surprised, and I think that's exactly what you did, you... bitches.

Linda(Startled, in a position of punishment. Charles shrinks into a defensive posture.): You little... You little... punk. You have the nerve. If father... Get out of here.

Charles: What? You get out, you withered old bitch.

Linda: Get out.

(Kasha collapses into a wooden chair. Nero stands and watches, silent. He almost moves to Kasha's side.)

Charles: To hell with you all... you too, Nero. Stay with your girlfriend.

(Exit Charles, right. Linda collapses into a chair and Nero leaves after Charles. Lights go down.)

Scene 2

(When the lights go up, Dziadza is alone in the room. He busies himself, occasionally looking up and out the window. He looks fine, though for a few moments his gaze is unfocused and vague. His light is low, almost as low as the surrounding lights. Kash enters and sits, running her hands through her hair and looking agitated.)

Dziadza: Kasia. There is nothing to worry about.

Kash: Yeah. I want to be alone, Dziadza. Just alone. Please?

(Dziadza turns, hurt. He looks out the window. There is something different in his eyes, fear. He looks like someone else entirely. Enter Nero, right.)

Nero: Kash? Kash, we've got to go out and look for him. Your mother's out there already. You know how he gets.

Kash: Emotional... yeah. I know. The whole damn family was and is like that. Come here.

Nero: What?

Kash: Come here.

(Nero walks over to her and she stands. They kiss. Nero is limp and confused while Kash is passionate, like a woman looking desperately for some support before drowning or falling. She then pushes him away.)

Kash: It's not the same anymore. Nothing is the same anymore...

Dziadza(Stands suddenly. Yells wildly): Mama! Mama! Kasia and Jezey (YE-ZEE) kzeeka (KSHEEKA). Kuri ne bendze zrobic jajek!(KU-REE NYE BEND-ZEE-A Z-ROB-ICH YAYEK)

Nero: What did he say?

Kash: He said 'Kasia and Jezey are screaming. The chickens won't lay eggs.'

Nero: What? Who's Jezey?

Kash: That's his name. Dziadza! Are you alright. Dziadza.

(Dziadza shakes and falls back into his chair. He looks into the distance and is silently. Enter Linda, left, with haste.)

Linda (Urgently): Get out here, Kasia. Your brother's gone crazy. I swear to God he's gone crazy. He's two streets down breaking windows with rocks. I can't talk to him. We have to get him home. We have to get him...

Nero, come on, you know how to talk to him. Come on...

Kash: But Dziadza...

Linda: Come on! Jesus... Come on!

(Exit Linda, Kasia, and Nero, left. A minute passes on a quiet stage. Dziadza looks around, as if searching for something. He reaches for his newspapers and decides against it. He realizes he is alone. And, very slowly, he begins to look puzzled. His stage light goes down as he begins to smile. And finally, when his head falls to his chest, his eyes open, his light goes out completely. Then, after a few moments, the surrounding lights fall.)