What We Do Together
by Charles C. Cole
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Installment 6: conclusion
Scene 10: Week Two, Friday
DEEGAN enters the rec room. He dribbles a basketball, then spins it on his index finger. Someone claps from offstage. NORMAN enters. He is impressed but confused at the company.
DEEGAN: (Embarrassed.) Hey. (He stops the ball.)
NORMAN: Hey, yourself, young man. (Focused on the ball.) You here to deliver a basketball hoop? Because I’ve been waiting for, like, six dog-years for someone to get me a Pro-Dunk Basketball Goal Hoop, the one with the glass backboard.
DEEGAN: Wow! Sorry. No, actually I’m meeting someone. I was supposed to come yesterday, but (Trying too hard to be hip.) did you see the weather we had? Talk about wow! This girl/lady-friend of mine texted me completely unexpectedly. I couldn’t say, “No.” You know? Sometimes you just need a day in the sun to get recharged.
NORMAN: Not at my age. That wouldn’t be such a great idea at my age. (Considering.) I may be old and out of the loop, but wasn’t yesterday a school day?
DEEGAN: Yeah, but I’m suspended anyway. Long boring story.
NORMAN: (Wryly.) Good for you. A real nonconformist. I’m sure you make your parents proud. (Still focused on the ball.) Look, if you’re not going to be needing that for the next hour or so. Ours are a little low on air.
DEEGAN: (Tentatively.) Yeah, sure. Why not?
NORMAN: Or you could just give it to me. You probably got two more just like it at home, right? A jock like you? (Taking it.)
DEEGAN: Not really, no.
NORMAN: So take one from school, when you get back. They won’t miss it. If they catch you, tell them your parents’ tax dollars paid for it. (Starts to exit, practices dribbling.)
DEEGAN: Hey, wait! Mister!
NORMAN: Jesus, kid! A little possessive much? I’m not going to hurt it. Fine, I’ll bring it back when I’m done.
DEEGAN: What’s your name anyway?
NORMAN: What do you need that for? Wait. You want the one I was born with or the one they gave me in Witness Protection? It’s Sid, Sid Baron. Ask for me at the front desk. They’ll take you to my room. (Snickers quietly.)
DEEGAN: That’s not your name.
NORMAN: (Defensive.) Sorry?
DEEGAN: That’s not your name.
NORMAN: I think I know my own damn name. Where do you get off, coming in here and making the rules?
DEEGAN: I know Mr. Baron. He’s a friend of mine.
NORMAN: (Caught.) No lie? Well, you know, I’m old: I get confused. It happens. I probably heard it on the intercom recently. “Sid Baron.” It’s got a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
DEEGAN: Just give me your name and you can take off.
NORMAN: Ask for Norman Convery. That’s my real name. They’ll find me. Unless you want me to keep the damn thing. Sure, you could donate it as tax write-off. Use the money to buy another one.
DEEGAN: I don’t even know what that is.
NORMAN: No kidding? (Thinking.) They got forms at the front desk. Ask for one on your way out. You’ll thank me.
DEEGAN: (Considering.) Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
NORMAN: Kid, at my age, every second I’m standing here talking to you, I’m getting closer and closer to death. Do you really want to see that? I don’t think so. It’s not for the faint of heart.
DEEGAN: “Sid Baron.” Why did you use that name?
NORMAN: (Dawning awareness.) Right! You’re that kid. Sid talked about you: the future high school drop-out. Poor old fart thought he could make a difference. Doesn’t sound like it took. Well, lucky you, you just got a second day off in a row. Take it easy.
DEEGAN: Why? Where is he? Did he... die?
NORMAN: (Gently.) What? Nah, his daughter came in for him. It’s “Take Your Grandparent to School Day” or something. “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
DEEGAN: All right then. Good for him, getting out and everything.
NORMAN: (Studying him.) You think that’s a good thing?
DEEGAN: Absolutely! He’s a bright guy. This place probably sucks the life out of him. He needs to get out more and... get those old-people discounts and... the free donuts.
NORMAN: So, you’re happy for him?
DEEGAN: Sure. Anything’s better than here, right?
NORMAN: Well, then you’re probably going to be ecstatic when I tell you he died yesterday.
DEEGAN: What?! No! How?
NORMAN: It was his time. But, hey, it’s good news, right? If you follow your logic, anything’s gotta be better than counting down to nothingness.
DEEGAN: I didn’t mean it that way. You’re crazy! You’re one mean old prick, you know that?
NORMAN: Sounds right. You should have seen me when I was your age: a mean young prick who didn’t take crap from anyone. Those were the days.
DEEGAN: Is Sid really dead or are you just messing with me?
NORMAN: He really freaking is. (Remembering.) Damn! Damn! Damn!
DEEGAN: What is it? Do you need me to call someone? What’s wrong?
NORMAN: (Answering.) I’m getting old, or is this (Gesturing at himself.) too subtle for you? I forgot why I came in here. The mesmerizing power of a shiny, new basketball. You made my day, kid. Enjoy your life.
DEEGAN: (Frustrated.) Why are you here?! Do you have something for me? From Sid?
NORMAN: (Remembering.) Right. Sid had this on his dresser. I took it. (Pulls an envelope out of his pocket.) I think it’s for you, if you want to go back to school. Maybe you don’t. Sounds like the jury’s still out. And you’re talking to a guy who knows about juries. Anyway, take it. Now we’re even. (Starts to EXIT.) Hey, if you got some time on your hands, ask the Front Desk where the hoops are. It’s the corner of the playground covered in the most cobwebs.
(ESTHER enters unseen.)
NORMAN: I’ll be out there, by myself as usual. Sorry about Sid. He was funny with that thing he did with slurping the Jell-O between his teeth. You ever see that? Of course, you did; he was a freaking one-trick pony. (Noticing ESTHER.) I mean: a good egg, that one, if you’re into eggs. (To ESTHER.) Mrs. Kingsley.
ESTHER: Mr. Convery.
NORMAN: Mom?! Now I get it.
ESTHER: A little privacy, Mr. Convery, if you don’t mind.
NORMAN: What if I did mind? Would it make a difference?
ESTHER: I’m sorry for your loss. I know he was a friend.
NORMAN: Damn right, he was. A good guy who died after spending the day riding around on city buses looking for your son. Thought you should know.
ESTHER: (Defeated.) I just heard. And I also heard it was you who lit the smoke bomb.
NORMAN: Are you kicking me out?
ESTHER: Everybody deserves another chance.
NORMAN: (With attitude.) Damn straight! (Starts to exit, softer.) Thank you. (EXITS.)
DEEGAN: Is it true, about Sid?
ESTHER: You had no idea. Sometimes they just wear out. He wasn’t in the best of health to begin with. (Noticing the letter.) Is that the letter? Where did you find it?
DEEGAN: Mr. Convery had it.
ESTHER: Mr. Convery — Norman — found him. (Changing the subject.) Do you want me to read it to you?
DEEGAN: It’s not going to say anything bad, is it?
ESTHER: Sid liked you but, let’s be honest, you’re not always easy to get along with.
DEEGAN: Meaning what?
ESTHER: Meaning, maybe I should read it first.
DEEGAN: Okay, okay.
DEEGAN opens the letter and passes it to her. (ESTHER reads silently.)
DEEGAN: Out loud would be nice.
ESTHER: “To whom it may concern, I’m asking you to consider giving Deegan Kingsley another chance. During his recent suspension, we spent significant time together at Charlotte-by-the-Sea where his heroic mother looks out for all of us... and I am a full-time resident. Though his visits were involuntary and our elderly community completely alien to him, Deegan only rarely took his frustration out on me. He listened attentively and even opened up that hard transparent shell he wears wherever he goes, a little. I’m, by no means, suggesting he is a changed man—”
DEEGAN: Prick. That’s gonna help.
ESTHER: “But I do believe he sincerely wants to do the right thing and that, without the structure and inherent rules of the public school system, I fear we will lose him entirely with no road back.”
DEEGAN: He really thought that? I thought he “got” me. I’m no lost cause. I never stole anything in my life. I never hurt anybody. I don’t even do drugs.
DEEGAN: Once in a while. Peer pressure, Mom. Ever heard of it?
ESTHER: Do you want me to continue?
DEEGAN: Read it.
ESTHER: “Deegan is so close to giving up on himself and he doesn’t even see it. My best guess is he’s going to need to hit rock bottom before he can turn it around. I wish we could stop him, but he’s got a lot of momentum. I wish his mom all the luck in the world.”
DEEGAN: I’m not that bad. Has he seen what’s outside these walls? So I swear and I skip school sometimes. It’s just letting off steam. Everybody does it.
ESTHER: “I know Deegan’s mother is going to... ” (Reading silently ahead.)
ESTHER: (Dismissively lying.) It goes on from there.
DEEGAN: So, read it. Let’s get this over with.
ESTHER: “I know Deegan’s mother is going to hate me, but he deserves to know. She told me once in confidence that when his father was texting—”
DEEGAN: I don’t want to hear this. It was a stupid, crappy thing to do. No excuses.
ESTHER: “His last words were: Worried about Deegan.”
DEEGAN: That’s bullcrap! Right? There’s nothing to worry about! I’m here, aren’t I? I’m fine; it’s the world that’s all screwed up.
ESTHER: Honey, I’m sorry you had to hear that.
DEEGAN: So what? Dad was texting about me when he died? His accident was my fault?
ESTHER: I didn’t say that.
DEEGAN: Dad died because of me? That’s a big freaking lie. Talk about blaming the victim.
DEEGAN: Mom, he made a stupid choice and it cost him his life. How is that my fault?
ESTHER: You were sneaking out nights. Your friend, Tuggle, had just gotten himself arrested. Dad was concerned that it was just a matter of time...
DEEGAN: Tuggle was not my friend. He was a hanger-on prick who never listened to anybody. I only hung out with him because he could drive.
ESTHER: At your age, hanging out with a kid old enough to drive? What were you thinking?
DEEGAN: I turned out okay, didn’t I?
ESTHER: Do you really want me to answer that now?
DEEGAN: I don’t hang out with him anymore, do I?
ESTHER: Because he’s in jail!
DEEGAN: Same results!
ESTHER: I don’t blame you for Dad’s death. I never wanted to shut you out. We’re all we have, you and I.
DEEGAN: You blamed me? Nice one, Mom.
ESTHER: That’s not what I said! Listen to me, young man: you are not an innocent bystander in all of this. Deegan, please! Really? Just own it!
DEEGAN: Own what? That I had a hand in...
ESTHER: I want to send you back to school, I really do, but why would they take you? What you do affects other people, and you need to recognize that.
DEEGAN: People make their own stupid choices.
ESTHER: To be sitting in a crowded school assembly when someone throws a smoke bomb? Who made that choice? You did.
DEEGAN: If the weather had been nice and we’d been outside...
ESTHER: But you weren’t. If the crowd had panicked and someone had been trampled to death that would have been on your head. I know there are kids in that school that you still care for. What about Missy Hamel?
DEEGAN: What about her? We broke up ages ago.
ESTHER: But you’re still friends. Would you want her to get hurt? Or your friend the art teacher, Mr. Lowell, who walks around with a cane. You think he can move fast enough to get out of anyone’s way when they’re scared and running and pushing? It could have gone so much worse! We were so lucky!
DEEGAN: People are sheep, Mom, I’ve seen ’em. Mindless, sleepwalking sheep.
ESTHER: Does that include you? Does that include me?
DEEGAN: I just want everyone to wake up, you know? There’s more to life than rules.
ESTHER: But some of these so-called rules keep us safe. We can agree on that, can’t we? What Dad did wasn’t safe! Throwing a bomb—
DEEGAN: Smoke bomb.
ESTHER: Into an unsuspecting crowd wasn’t safe. Was it?
DEEGAN: Missy hates me now. A lot of kids do.
ESTHER: Is throwing a smoke bomb into a crowd safe? Answer me.
ESTHER: Was it a good decision?
DEEGAN: I didn’t think I was such a screw-up. I thought you were all overreacting to one mistake that only happened because of the rain. But, fine, I see your point.
ESTHER: Thank you. That’s one baby step in the right direction.
DEEGAN: And Dad?
(ESTHER throws up her hands, then crosses her arms and cries.)
ESTHER: Don’t ask me, Deegan.
DEEGAN: (Punching his own forehead with both hands, hyperventilating.) A little lightheaded here! The room’s spinning.
ESTHER: Breathe, honey, slowly.
DEEGAN: (Calming.) Okay. Okay. I’m sorry about Sid. I’m sorry about Dad. I’m sorry about everything. What do I do now?
ESTHER: Earn their sacrifice. Make it worthwhile. Can you do that?
ESTHER: It’s a start. You okay?
DEEGAN: You know, until this week, I never even thought of old people as having first names. Isn’t that funny? I guess they’re not so different from us after all.
ESTHER: Us, huh?
ESTHER: Did I mention I defended you to the fire marshal? That wasn’t a pretty sight. Let me fax this letter to the principal. He’ll probably want us in his office on Sunday to see for himself if you’re worth saving. Oh, and did I tell you that you’ll still have to apologize, in writing and in person? (Slides free hand into her pocket.)
DEEGAN: I can do it; the hard part is tempering it. You know, making it sound sincere. (Solemnly.) “I’m gonna try.” How’s that?
ESTHER: Very convincing.
DEEGAN: I really am, though.
ESTHER: I’m glad, because I hold the key to your happiness in my hand.
DEEGAN: The testimonial, I know. Can I see it?
ESTHER: I meant your cigarettes. (Removing them from her pocket.) I found them in the car. Don’t lie to me.
DEEGAN: I’m trying to quit, I swear.
DEEGAN: Yeah, I’m moving on, to e-cigarettes, the cool socially acceptable way to kill yourself.
ESTHER: Deegan, walk me back to my office; we’ve got a lot to talk about.
Copyright © 2016 by Charles C. Cole