What We Do Together
by Charles C. Cole
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
ESTHER KINGSLEY: early-50s, single mom, senior center administrator
DEEGAN KINGSLEY: a 15-year old boy, social outcast, ESTHER’s son
TRINA: DEEGAN’s slightly older occasional companion.
SID BARON: Early 80s, a gentleman, possible mentor for DEEGAN
NORM “STORMIN’ NORMAN” CONVERY: Late 70s, rough around the edges
PRINCIPAL SANFORD: The voice of trying-too-hard authority
THE FEDEX MAN: A metaphor
OFFICER FRIENDLY: The cold, silent hand of crowd control
“Who’s this Sid Baron character?”
Scene 1: Week One, Wednesday
A uniformed FEDEX courier pushes a gurney across the stage. On the gurney is a zipped-shut body bag. He EXITS.
Scene 2: Week One, Thursday
DEEGAN, somewhere between stoic and sullen, is skipping stones across an unseen pond. He wears a Goodwill-purchased black trenchcoat and black combat boots, with an asymmetrical haircut, hair dyed a combination of bleach-blonde and pastel. TRINA is videotaping him from a stationary tripod while leafing through a notebook of his writings. She is dressed in bohemian comfort.
DEEGAN: I want to be in silhouette with patriotic music. Can you do that?
TRINA: Trust me. (Beat.) It better not be about me. That’s all I care. What we do together isn’t for publication.
DEEGAN: Depends on the publication.
TRINA: I’m serious.
DEEGAN: I solemnly promise.
DEEGAN: Why what?
TRINA: Why isn’t it about me? I’ve told you some cool stories from my life that really happened.
DEEGAN: Trina, no offense, but you’re just not that interesting. (Oops!) Neither one of us is that interesting.
TRINA: You mean for a story, right?
DEEGAN: Sure. Besides, if I ever get it published, the whole world would know all about you, and I want you to myself.
TRINA: Is that why you’ve never told your mother about me?
DEEGAN: Of course. Why else?
TRINA: You can tell a few people about me.
DEEGAN: You’re in some of it, parts of you, but I changed your name and your looks. She’s pieces of you and pieces of other people, like... Frankenstein’s monster.
TRINA: So she’s me but she’s not me. That’s something.
DEEGAN: She’s you as some hyper-evolved superbitch.
TRINA: So long as she’s partly me. So long as I can read it and go, “Hey, that’s me.” (Reading on.) Who’s this Sid Baron character?
DEEGAN: Some old guy my mom talks about from work, but this Sid Baron isn’t him; I just like the name.
TRINA: Is it partly him?
DEEGAN: We’ve never met, so it’s kinda unlikely, unless he motors around the old folks’ home in a hovercraft modeled on the Steven Hawking Death Mobile and he has an adamantium antenna behind his ear that lets him listen in on the president’s thoughts.
TRINA: Is there a Trina?
DEEGAN: No, but only because I was afraid I’d write her like you, and I wanted to free my imagination to create somebody more... exotic.
TRINA: Are you in there somewhere or some version of you?
DEEGAN: Sort of. It’s me, but a different me, the one I’d be today if my dad were still around.
TRINA: That’s twisted.
DEEGAN: I know, right?
TRINA: Are you gonna write about tomorrow?
DEEGAN: Don’t talk about it! Jesus! (Jumps down and stops the camera.)
TRINA: What? No one’s gonna hear.
DEEGAN: Somebody might. It’s a big deal. But I have the element of surprise on my side.
TRINA: Did you hear the forecast?
DEEGAN: It doesn’t matter. Revenge is mine, rain or shine.
TRINA: Funny. Do you want me to pick you up after? I could wait around the block, like a getaway driver or something.
DEEGAN: Forget it; I don’t want to get you in trouble. (Beat.) You want to help? Maybe you can videotape it. No one’s gonna believe I had the balls.
TRINA: You’ve got the balls, all right.
DEEGAN: No sex talk; I’m saving my energy; I need to focus. Maybe after, when we’re laughing about it, about how everybody spazzes out.
TRINA: We could use the audio for one of your animated monster movies.
DEEGAN: That would be a riot, literally. Let’s just get through this first.
Scene 3: Week One, Friday
In Blackout: Ambient chatter of students gathering for an assembly.
PRINCIPAL SANFORD: (Offstage, over a sound system.) Let’s settle down, people. Find a seat. I know we’re all excited about today’s events, so much so that’s it hard for some of us to contain ourselves. Am I right, Mr. Hungerbuhler? (Isolated laughter, “Go, Mr. H.”) Once a year we come together to celebrate school pride. (Cheers.) That’s what I’m talking about! And what better way to celebrate unity and team spirit than through a daylong battle between our four grade levels? Am I right? (Cheers.) First off, I want to address the ugly rumor about whether or not I will be shaving my head if the freshman class wins. The answer is the same every year, and I haven’t had to shave it yet: if you win, you decide. But you have to win. So, without further ado, let’s bring up Coach Larrabee—
The sounds of chaos erupt: many screams, metal chairs, running. Spotlight slowly dawns on DEEGAN crouched behind a folding metal chair. A gobo, with the effect of moving shadows, distorts his face. He is terrified, standing in a “puddle of smoke.” He stands, watching, then runs offstage. He is immediately escorted back across the stage by 6’4”, 240 pounds of non-nonsense police officer. DEEGAN, head hung low, does not resist. Blackout.
Scene 4: Week Two, Monday
Retirement community rec room. SID BARON, early 80s and in a wheelchair, and NORMAN CONVERY, late 70s, are playing cribbage.
SID: (Quiet, shell-shocked.) It’s so quiet.
NORMAN: (Joking.) Not my fault; some clown borrowed my tap shoes and never returned them. (Loudly fanning the cards.)
SID: (Denial.) It’s not like we were a “thing” exactly.
NORMAN: Nah, more like “frenemies” with benefits.
SID: We quarreled, sure. Who doesn’t quarrel?
NORMAN: Listen, it could have been worse; it could have been me.
SID: You? You’ll probably give Death the finger and shock him into moving on.
NORMAN: I can see that. (Standing into gunslinger position, then flicking his fingers like Colts.)
SID: Put those away before you poke someone’s eyes out.
NORMAN: (Sitting.) Sid, it was going to happen eventually. What was the alternative? They’d take you away. And, for the record, old man, I’m not letting that happen. I’ll staple you in your wheelchair and roll you around with a hat down low over your eyes. They’ll never catch on. So enough pouting.
SID: Mrs. Kingsley would catch on.
NORMAN: (Sarcastic.) Mrs. Kingsley, patron saint of Charlotte-by-the-Sea!
SID: She tries.
NORMAN: She’s management, man. Part of the system. When we finally overthrow the code-enforcers and the ruled become the rulers, I don’t want the other residents to be confused and think of you as “one of them.” You’ve got to keep your distance for your own safety’s sake. I’m just thinking of you.
SID: Norm, you’re a compassionate anarchist.
NORMAN: I just like company, and you’re the only one who’ll hang out with me. And routines. I like routines. And “Magnum, P.I.” And basketball, but nobody ever freaking plays basketball around here. What about you, Sid? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
SID: My enlarged prostate? I give up. You?
NORMAN: Jell-O! You love that gross stuff. Yeah, you do, you twisted bastard. Hey, that’s what you need! Why don’t I go get you some Jell-O? We’ll push some of that heartbreak right out of your system while we’re shoveling in some of that brightly colored “jiggle” made of boiled bones and cow hide. What do you say? I’ll even spoon-feed you.
SID: That’s not necessary.
NORMAN: (Stands. Checks his pockets.) What’s this in my pocket? Jell-O, warm now. And a shrink-wrapped disposable spoon! (He opens the Jell-O and the spoon, pulls up a chair next to SID, like one would with a toddler and starts to spoon-feed him, amid protests.) Who’s got the love? Who’s going to take care of his ol’ pal? Here comes the collagen-fueled fighter jet. Vroom! Vroom! Look out, men! It’s a vortex of dentures!
SID: Stop. I can’t.
NORMAN: Sure, you can. Come on, just one for the Gipper. You know you want to.
Enter ESTHER, not much for small talk with certain residents.
ESTHER: Gentlemen. Am I interrupting?
NORMAN: Mrs. Kingsley.
ESTHER: Mr. Convery. Sid.
NORMAN: (Silently mouthing the words with his back to ESTHER.) Sid?!
SID: (Warmly.) Mrs. Kingsley.
ESTHER: Mr. Convery, do you think Sid and I could have a few minutes?
NORMAN: (Insincere.) Sure, we’re not doing anything. I can come back. (To SID.) Holler if you feel unsafe; I’m right down the hall. Elder abuse is real. (He grabs a nearby aluminum walker,with a license plate wired to the front,one which he clearly doesn’t need, and starts to exit.) Hey, Mrs. Kingsley, watch this. Pretend I’m at a red traffic light. Got it? (He slowly spins around then grabs the walker again.) It’s a Chinese firedrill.
ESTHER: Very funny.
NORMAN That’s me. I’m all about the morale of the residents. You should try it sometime.
ESTHER: I’ll take that under advisement.
NORMAN: (Quoting Bugs Bunny.) “I knew I should have taken that left turn in Albuquerque.” (EXITS.)
ESTHER: How you doing, Sid?
SID: It’s like that first crisp fall day when it hits you that’s it’s time to take the kayak rack down but you’re not ready for summer to be over.
ESTHER: And Norman? How’s it going?
SID: He tries. That old boy’s got a lot of sharp objects in his lunchbox, but he’s harmless.
ESTHER: If you’re looking for distractions, I might have an opportunity, that is, if you’re up to it.
SID: In the dark old days, we were promised a certain amount of time for grieving before moving on.
ESTHER: You’re right. What was I thinking? I’m sorry. (Starts to feel the weight of every loss she’s ever suffered.)
SID: (Watching. Sympathizing.) What’s happened?
ESTHER: You don’t have to. I shouldn’t impose.
SID: Let me help. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
ESTHER: (Pulling herself back together.) You know when a group of kids come through and there’s one of them you really connect with and you think, “That must be what being a grandfather’s like. Watching an eager, inquisitive mind stumble forward as you help them navigate the world.”
SID: It’s Deegan.
ESTHER: Actually, it’s Deegan.
SID: Shouldn’t he be at school?
ESTHER: Something happened.
SID: Not again.
ESTHER: Involving more people.
SID: Nobody hurt, I hope.
ESTHER: He’s in a lot of trouble.
SID: I’m sorry to hear.
ESTHER: You were a teacher once.
SID: A couple of lifetimes ago. I was also a bouncer and a caddy. (Joking.) I had a thing for clubs.
ESTHER: He’s been suspended. I need to show the authorities that it was an impulsive, one-time event.
ESTHER: Let’s just say that if his father were still alive, this would have killed him for sure.
SID: Bad as that?
ESTHER: He tossed a smoke bomb during an assembly.
SID: (Joking.) Is that all? Well, just so long as he didn’t light it.
ESTHER: There’s a deal on the table, not one-hundred percent guaranteed. If I bring him with me this week (I certainly wouldn’t trust him home alone) and I can get someone objective and respectable and, let’s face it, male to write a testimonial of sorts, saying there’s hope yet, they will consider letting him back next Monday.
SID: Happy to write a letter. Bring him by. What’s the worst that could happen?
ESTHER: I was actually hoping he could hang out with you. He doesn’t want to hang out with his mother. Maybe you could be his “role model” for the week. (Half-joking.) I could pay you in Jell-O.
SID: So is there education involved or just general all-round babysitting?
ESTHER: Whatever you’re up for. I’d touch base periodically. Just don’t let him leave the building; I’m not sure where he’d go.
SID: Everybody else said, “No,” huh?
ESTHER: I wouldn’t go to anyone else for this. It might be good for you.
SID: Better than hanging out with Stormin’ Norman, you mean.
SID: I’d be honored. Sure. When do we start?
ESTHER: Actually, he’s at my desk, (Joking.) itching to meet you.
SID: Then I guess I better eat my Jell-O. Might just need some fastfood energy.
ESTHER: Thank you so much. I’ll send him right down. (EXITS/ENTERS.) He’s got some pronounced rough edges.
SID: Don’t we all?
ESTHER: If you can get the name of his accomplice, that might help, too. (EXITS)
Copyright © 2016 by Charles C. Cole