Category Archives: play

Randy Ford Author- DADDY’S PARTY

DADDY’S PARTY

by Randy Ford

CHARACTERS (in order of appearance)

Dr. David Wayne Johnson, Father
Nurse
Mrs. Johnson, Mother
Penny, Next to the youngest sibling
Clint, Oldest sibling
Jude, Youngest sibling
Olga, Jude’s wife
Alice, Next to the oldest sibling

Act One

(Part of exterior and interior of Dr. David Wayne Johnson’s home.

In master bedroom, Dr. Johnson lies in a hospital bed. Close by, a nurse sits at a small table. In same room, Mrs. Johnson lies in a small bed, where she rests and falls in and out of sleep. On wall, there’s a clock that ticks at the rate of Dr. Johnson’s heartbeat. When he dies at the end of the play, it stops. While nurse goes about business of attending to Dr. Johnson, Penny helps her mother get up from her bed and head for master bathroom. It is slow going.)

Penny
Come on, Mamma!
(Giving up on pulling her, Penny gets behind her mother and places her hands on the elderly woman’s waist.)
Let’s play choo-choo!

Mrs. Johnson
Goodness, Penny, I’m not a child.
Penny
(Winking at the nurse)
No you’re not. But train is late. Got to hurry.

Mrs. Johnson
Please.

Penny
Choo-choo!

Mrs. Johnson
I don’t need your help.

Penny
You don’t want to mess up your pretty party dress.

Mrs. Johnson
I can walk by myself, thank you.

Penny
Yes, but last time you didn’t make it. I don’t want to have to clean up again. You don’t want that. I know you don’t.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, please.
(Mrs. Johnson breaks away from Penny and goes to her dying husband.)
Dr. Johnson! Oh, my! Oh, Dr. Johnson, don’t leave me. Don’t.
(Penny tries to move her mother away from the bed.)
Can you believe how Penny has taken charge? See how she mistreats me? She mistreats me. She mistreats me all the time. No! Get your hands off me. You know how Penny is.

Penny
Okay! Wet yourself. No, no, no, I’ll have to clean it up. Come!

Mrs. Johnson
Let go!
(Penny gives in.)
Is that my baby? After sixty years, I don’t know why he’s leaving me. Why? Why would he do it? After sixty years? He’s such a kind man. Why would he leave us? He’s such a kind man.

Penny
Yes, he is.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, you’ve got to remember how much he loved you.

Penny
I do, Mamma. I remember.

Mrs. Johnson
When was the last time you told him you love him?

Penny
Just a while ago. Now don’t disturb him. Come on!

Mrs. Johnson
No.

Penny

Mama, you’re disturbing Daddy.
(The nurse starts to take over. Then both she and Penny decide to back off, while Mrs. Johnson looks intently into the dying man’s eyes.)

Mrs. Johnson
All of those lies! Those horrible lies! It’s bad enough to have to listen to them. Lies, lies, lies, all lies.

Penny
Mamma, he’s dying. Don’t torture yourself.

Mrs. Johnson
Yes, but Dr. Johnson never…. Well, Dr. Johnson, we don’t have to pay attention to them, do we?

Penny
Still he knows I’ve been here for him.

Mrs. Johnson
Yes, Penny, you may have been here for him, but has your heart been in it? We’re going throw him a big party, a big party with lots of balloons. He deserves it.

Penny
Yes, we’ll celebrate … like on his birthday, but first we have to get you to the pot … get you to the pot before you mess up.

Mrs. Johnson
(Kissing)
Oh, lover. Where is your charm? I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t sure. I was young. I wasn’t sure. You were impatient. You couldn’t wait. You knew what you wanted. Please say yes! Yes. Yes, yes. You wouldn’t accept no. It was 1942, with the war. There was a rush. You wanted to go over there. They needed you over here. There was a rush because of the war.
(She touches his face.)
Clammy. Oh, no! He’s not so yellow now, is he?
(She slowly and gently caresses his face.)
I hate you for this! The very idea … the very idea … the very idea …

Penny
Mamma!

Mrs. Johnson
(To the nurse)
His lips are parched. He’s thirsty. Can’t he have a drink?

Nurse
No, Mrs. Johnson, he can’t swallow.
(The nurse gets a popsicle swab from a cup on the table.)
Here! Moisten his lips and inside of his mouth with this.

Penny
Let me do it.

Mrs. Johnson
(Slapping Penny’s hands)
Let me!

Penny
Mamma!

Mrs. Johnson

Let me!

Penny

The same stubbornness! You have to be careful.

Mrs. Johnson
Please, Penny, don’t be mean.

Penny
Suppose now we let the nurse do it.
(Penny gives the swab to the nurse and guides her mother toward the bathroom. The nurse cares for Dr. Johnson.)

Mrs. Johnson
I now see what you’re trying to do.
(As Penny directs her toward offstage bathroom, Mrs. Johnson continues to talk.)
I can see you’re hell bent on interfering. But what’s new?

(In the living room, Clint returns one of his father’s books to a bookcase.)

Clint
All these books and not a one I’d want to get lost in.

(With long hair and an emaciated body, Jude watches him for a while.)

Jude

Clint. have you ever  been lost?

Clint

Yes, many times.  Jude, I’ve spent most of my life being lost.  I can’t think when I wasn’t lost.

Jude

Really?

Clint

Really.  Would I tell you anything that isn’t true?

Jude

I don’t know you well enough to know.  I used to think I knew you.  It’s has been a long time.

Clint

Yes, it has been a long time.  I’m sure we’ve both change.

Jude

We’re both older, had different experiences, been to different places.

Clint

Yes, I’m sure we’re different people.

Jude

But we’re still brothers.

why you would. You hate physics.

Clint
No, I don’t. I’ve just taken great care to avoid the subject.

Jude
Pop’s son. You surprise me.

Clint
And you?

Jude
Since I had to sleep and eat it, I hate physics too. But thanks to Olga, I’ve forgotten all of it. I’ve forgotten how to boil water. I’ve forgotten physics.

Clint
I have to do those things for myself.

Jude

What?

Clint

I have to make coffee and tea for myself. But I find no joy in it. I drove all night. Explain that to me! Can’t see much at night.

Jude
You love the bastard.

Clint
Sure. Let’s say I do. I don’t like controversy. What’s all this and what lack of sleep is doing to me?

Penny
(From off stage and in the bathroom)
When did you last give Daddy morphine?

Nurse
(Reading a novel)
‘Bout half an hour ago. That should last him for a while.

Penny
Just checking. Don’t want to disturb you. Mamma, let’s take off the dress. We can do this.

Mrs. Johnson
I can do it. I can do it.

Penny
Okay! Now sit!
(Penny reappears and goes to the living room. She ignores
Jude.)
Sorry, Clint. Mamma!
(Laughs)
I think we’re too much alike.

Clint
You’ve had your hands full.

Penny
With Daddy… before we had a nurse, we did have our hands full. Well, you know… It’s been hard… to see Daddy go so quickly. You know how he is. Goodness, I’ve even had to wipe his ass.

Mrs. Johnson
(Calling from the bathroom)
Penny!

Penny
Imagine that with Daddy. With Mamma, no sweat … Oh, she can be difficult. No sweat. So sweet. No sweat.
Mrs. Johnson
Penny!

Penny
With Mamma, you have to keep reminding her. But Daddy… as he lost control … you know. I suppose we’ll get our reward.
Mrs. Johnson
Penny!

Clint
You’re heading for sainthood, Penny.

Penny
In which world?

Clint
Take your choice. Since I’m here, use me.

Penny
Well, thank goodness for Olga. She’s … Well, Jude, it’s the truth. Clint, Jude doesn’t like to admit his wife is a dud. Clint, you look wretched.

Clint
Thanks. Coming out of exile has taken a lot from me. I drove all night.

Penny
I knew that by how quickly you got here after I called.

Clint
Shows how frightened I was. I couldn’t be late. Not with Pa.

Penny
I’m afraid he’s beyond caring. Anyway, you’ll find towels in the bathroom, and soap is shared here.

(Mrs. Johnson stumbles out of the bathroom in only her underwear. Before she straightens up, she takes a few steps into the room. She is more hobbled than when the audience last saw her. Reading her novel, nurse ignores her.)

Jude
Be kind to Clint, Penny. We don’t want to run him off.

Clint
I’m not going anywhere.

Penny
Good. And don’t listen to Jude. He’ll mislead you.

Jude
Snooty you! By the way, Clint tells me that he’s got dibs on Pop’s books.

Clint
I didn’t say that.

Jude
Tell the truth. But we agree. He can have Pop’s books. All of his books. I don’t want them.

(Mrs. Johnson stumbles to the head of her husband’s bed.)

Clint
We agree on one thing. We both hate physics.

Penny
All of us did: Alice, Sally, and me? Now you’re telling me Jude did too. That’s news.

Clint
I call it solidarity. Now all we have to do is act as a family. I sound pathetic, don’t I? But that doesn’t mean that if one of us coughs, all of us have to.

Jude
If we cough, we cough.
(Mrs. Johnson throws herself on top of her husband.)
Penny mentioned Sally. Clint, you never met Sally. It’s a shame that Sally was taken from us. Sherman!

(The nurse finally pays attention.)

Nurse
Aw! Aw!

Jude
What do you think really happened on that boat? I’ll never forgive him. Sherman!

Penny
We’ll never know. Never will. It won’t bring her back.

Jude

Sherman!

(The nurse goes over to Mrs. Johnson and pulls her up.)

Nurse
Come on!

Mrs. Johnson
Leave me with Dr. Johnson.

Jude
For me, there was no closure. I wouldn’t care, except Sherman walked. Have you met Sherman, Clint? Slick. Slick and dangerous as black ice and just as devilish.

Penny
Easy, now. You know how Mamma feels about Sherman.

Nurse
Come on!

Mrs. Johnson
Okay. But why are you so cruel?

Penny
Which reminds me that I left her on the pot.

Nurse
(Guiding Mrs. Johnson over to her bed.)
This way.

Mrs. Johnson
Will he get better?

Nurse
No, mum.

Penny
It’s pitiful how I’ve become her parent. Well, Clint, if you’re set, I’ve got to get back to Mama before she makes me pay.

Clint
You shouldn’t have left her because of me. Sooner or later we’ll get some time. Question is, will we be graceful about it? I don’t know what you’re going to do with Ma. I couldn’t handle her. I can’t handle myself, much less Ma.

Penny
Daddy would say, as I wiped him, “Look at that turdie!” and would just laugh.

Jude
Which would’ve made it a treasured moment. Relief comes with constipation.

Penny
He knew it wouldn’t be long before he wouldn’t been able to get out of bed. Knowing this, Daddy placed me in charge of Mamma. That was unfortunate … unfortunate that I’ve given her almost as much as I can. I can’t give her any more. I can’t do anymore for her.

Jude
About all I can do is embrace her legs. That’s about as high as I can reach while I know her weary heart might not survive grief.

Penny
I wish I were sure. I’ll let you know when I am. Now I’m off to see the witch.

Clint
Go!

Penny
Make yourself at home. Clint, it’s good you’re here. It was time you came.

Clint
Are you sure?

Penny
Of course. We’ve gotta find strength somewhere. We need to gain strength from each other. Gotta, gotta, gotta. Gotta give Daddy… a proper send off. He wants a party. Excuse me. We’ve gotta give him what he wants.
(Penny rushes to the bedroom.)
Oh, what’s next! Mamma! No, no, no.

Jude
Sooner or later she’ll have a coronary. She’s in mad pursuit of one.

Clint
And you’re more laid back?

Jude
Comparatively. I’m beyond caring while Penny obviously does. I can’t understand the rush. Not just that. You see, if I go into his room, Pop will get going again. It’ll set him back. He wouldn’t be able to resist taking a potshot at me. I’m afraid I’m like him. Sometimes I’m a villain, sometimes not. I can be a traitor, ugly, and only accidentally pleasant. So watch out.
(Pulling Clint to the side)
Say, Clint, loan me twenty bucks?

Clint
What?

Jude
A loan. Twenty bucks.

Clint
No. No, why should I?

Jude
Clint, Olga and I haven’t gotten our checks yet.

Clint
Don’t beg and ruin our fledgling relationship over a few lousy bucks.

Jude
We’re brothers and brothers remain brothers regardless. Twenty dollars won’t break you.

Clint
Nor would it help you. No! God! God no!
(Then he digs into his wallet and gives Jude all of his money.)
Here! And don’t ever put me in this position again.

Jude
(Accepting the money)
Thanks. Forty dollars. For you, small change. For Olga and me, equivalent of our life savings. We’ll pay you back.

Clint
I trust you will.

Jude
He trusts me.
(Jude stuffs money into a front pocket.)
Now excuse me. I’m sick.
(Jude goes back to his bedroom and disappears behind a closed door.)

Clint
(To himself)
Amazing; he does resemble Pa. But how would I know? I’ve been gone for so long.
(Penny comes out of the bathroom with Mrs. Johnson’s new party dress, dripping wet and wadded up.)

Penny
Mamma! What’s this? Your new dress! You’ve ruined your pretty new party dress! What are we going to do … do with you?
(To the nurse)
Please help! Take this and throw it in the drier. It’s in the garage.
(The nurse accepts the dress, walks through the house with it, and goes out the kitchen door into the garage.)

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, I didn’t mean to.

Penny
That’s hard to believe. Now we’ve got to get you dressed.
(As Penny looks for a dress in her mother’s closet, Clint looks for a specific book.)
Here we go.
(As a transition, Penny roughly pulls her mother downstage, where they struggle over brushing and dressing. Nurse comes back in and returns to her novel.)
Like it or not, I’m taking charge. Pretty for Daddy and pretty for all your kids.

Clint
Columbia, Pa’s Columbia. “You’ll go to Columbia, my boy.” “No! You can’t make me.” Pa: “Where are we today, Knucklehead? What have you learned?” “Today?” “Not tomorrow.” “I told you not to lie to me!” “I’m not lying.” Pa would slap me. “That’s for lying.” Slap, slap. He’d slap me, kick me, and pull my hair. Goddamn, him! “What did you learn in school today? On and on. “At this rate, you won’t be worth a tinker’s damn.” Well, Pa, guess what? You were right.
(Penny joins Clint in the living room.)
Clint (continued)
If I’d had a knife handy or a skewer, anything, I would’ve stabbed him.

Penny
Pardon?

Clint
Nothing. How’s Ma?

Penny
Mamma!
(Laughs)
I think we’re too much alike.

Clint
Don’t say that.

Penny
Do you hear my frustration? Well, we all get frustrated. However, more importantly, I see my big brother. It’s good to see him after we thought we lost him.

Clint
For sixty… not bad, eh?

Penny
For sixty… not bad: gray hair, a balding spot, and a slight paunch. Watch stooped shoulders.

Clint
I bowl.

Penny
Blue jeans and a T-shirt. Wouldn’t expect anything else. Handsome. Let me see your left hand. No wedding band.

Clint
Couldn’t stay in one place long enough. She got fed up with it.

Penny
That sounds lonely. Couch is yours.

Clint
That can be lonely too.

Penny
Luggage?

Clint
Just baggage. I wish I didn’t have it. But we all have our horror stories. I didn’t take time to pack. I’m sure I’ll pay for it. I’m basically happy. What about you?

(Mrs. Johnson wanders into the room.)

Mrs. Johnson
Is that you, Clint?

Clint
Yes, Ma!

(Mrs. Johnson sits in at the kitchen table.)

Penny
I won’t criticize you, nor will I loan you my toothbrush. Welcome home.

Clint
This will never be my home.

Penny
Nor is it mine. Remember I have a hubby.

Mrs. Johnson
Clint, you need a bone density test.

Penny
I’m beginning to think she doesn’t have a brain.

Clint
Henry? Well, how’s Henry?

Penny
I wish I knew. He’s been decent about this. For how much longer, I don’t know. He’s opposite of Daddy. He has more patience than I have.

Clint
You’re lucky. You didn’t marry someone like Pa.

Penny
Around our house, we bang pots and pans and slam doors. It’s a rule.

Clint
I haven’t had your luck. Right gal hasn’t come along.

Penny
Henry found me. I didn’t find him.

Clint
What was going on?

Penny
(Uneasy)
Man, you’re nosy.

Mrs. Johnson
Clint, you better get it checked. Osteoporosis runs in our family.

Clint
I’m told to be patient, but I waited a long time for Patience. She was an old-fashion gal and didn’t put up with me for long.

Penny
What went wrong?

Clint
I kept a harem.

Penny
Oh, Clint.

Mrs. Johnson
Have you heard from Sherman yet?

Penny
No, Mamma.

Clint
Sherman. That was Sally’s husband, wasn’t it? I always liked younger women.

Penny
Henry and I are exactly the same age.

Clint
You never answered my question.

Penny
About what? Oh, yeah! It was same-ol’ same-ol.

Clint
By and large, for me, wounds have healed.

Penny
Healed?
(Nervously)
Thank God nothing happened to me like it did to you guys. You and Jude! Only Jude won’t help himself.

Mrs. Johnson
Where’s Jude? Have you seen him?

Clint
Jude seems to deserve his problems.

Penny
I’m not so sure. Olga doesn’t deserve him. That woman’s not deserving. There are problems there, but I don’t know what they are.

Clint
Then we have Penny.

Penny
You don’t want to talk about her. We don’t wan’t to talk about Penny. But Alice.

Clint
Alice is not on my radar yet, so tell me about Penny.

Penny
Penny? Yours truly? I wonder about her, though I don’t put too much effort into it.

Clint
Be honest.

Mrs. Johnson
My back aches.

Penny
What are you looking for, Clint? Keep looking, but don’t expect to find it. Not here anyway. I moved out as soon as I could.

Clint
And you claim nothing happened to you?

Penny
Yeah.
(He sticks his finger up his nose and tweaks his finger.)
Gross!

Clint
Yeah. No disrespect intended.
(Silence)

Penny
Then … don’t do that in front of Jude. For God sake, don’t! Gross! He has enough bad habits.

Clint
Like farting in public or similar releases … similar satisfaction. Despicable. But for a boy who grew used to digging for buggers or farting for attention, it’s hard to change. Needed help to change. Take, for instance, wetting your pants or wetting your bed. Over sixty years old and I still wake up from nightmares about it.

Penny
Interesting.

Clint
I wouldn’t call it interesting. Not after having endured Pa’s pinning a wet diaper around my head and making me wear it like a crown of thorns.

Mrs. Johnson
That’s not true.

Penny
Christ, you’re dramatic.

Clint
Like a crown of thorns. You can’t make something like that up. Pa made clear his frustration. Each morning he greeted me with a diaper. I thought it couldn’t get worse. Why can’t we make clear our frustrations? I thought it couldn’t get worse, but it did. And for you, Penny?

Penny
Would it surprise you that I plucked my right eyebrow so that it matched my left?

Clint
No. But did it make you a candidate for Columbia?
`
Penny
You’re thinking of Alice. I hated Columbia. I see that perked you up. I survived Columbia for only one semester and then got married. Sort of like Sally.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, why are you ignoring me?

Clint
I wish I saw Pa’s reaction. All his children … except for Alice.

Penny
What happened to her? What happened to Alice? Where’s Alice? Is she really coming?

Clint
You’ll have to ask her yourself. As for me, I don’t know what happened after I left. That’s why I wanted to hear from you. I expected to hear that you had been …

Penny
Oh, no, no, no, no. Nothing of that nature happened to me. There came a point when Daddy assumed you were dead. We just figured you were dead.

Clint
I already asked you once, but I’m still curious. What was it like when you were young?

Penny
I had a normal childhood. Clint, believe me … so normal that it defined normal. We moved here right after Sally’s death.
(Pause)
I stood up for Sally. Stood up for Mamma. I even stood up for Daddy, but especially Sally. Sally, Sally! Catch Sally if you can. I said to Daddy, Sally had just died. Sally had just drown. I said, “Look here: forget all the bad things said about Sally, Sally wasn’t a bad girl, there’s more good in her than bad.” I’ve had to stand up for Jude too.

Clint
It sounds as if you were everyone’s big sister.

Penny
Oh, no.

Mrs. Johnson
Clint, you don’t want to be like me. You need to get your bones checked.

Penny
Clint, you make me feel unappreciated. Fact that I could approach Daddy means nothing to you?

Clint
Tell me….

Penny
But he wouldn’t buy it. Daddy told me, “I’m afraid your sister always had a propensity….” That was an example of his vocabulary… “a propensity for giving it away.”

Mrs. Johnson
My mouth is sure dry.

Clint
So even with you he wouldn’t observe boundaries.

Penny
“Give it away.” I told him I had more self-esteem than that.

Mrs. Johnson
My shoes hurt my feet.

Penny
Yes, Daddy, I do. Daddy always called me special. I thought I had him wrapped around my finger. He always called me special. Special, special, special, imagine!. Me, special.

Clint
I thought you were about to say that you gave him the finger.
(To himself)
What awakens an urge to find delight in crudeness? Penny, did he ever…?

Penny
No! Never!

Clint

What is it?

Penny

You sounded like daddy.

Clint
Are you sure? Why?

Penny
Now let’s remember he’s dying. Now we have to focus on Mamma. She can’t live by herself.

Clint
Speaking of Ma.

Mrs. Johnson
I can’t sit here much longer. See how my legs are.

Penny
She did her best.

Clint
Did she?

Mrs. Johnson
I’m hungry.

Penny
Why were you incontinent?

Clint
I’m sure it was a combination of things.
(To himself)
By golly, Clint, admit that you were angry with Ma.

Penny
How old were you?

Clint
Old enough to know better. What are you thinking?

Penny
About our mother over there seeking our attention.

Clint
Yeah. But why should we give her any?

Penny
I find myself defending her.

Clint
Is it difficult?

Penny
Absolutely.

Clint
She was never there for me.

Penny
For me, she tried to make up for it.

Clint
Then you had the same experience?

Penny
I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.

Clint
Not sure? All of us had problems with Pa, except you say … you didn’t. You say you didn’t. Why was it?

Mrs. Johnson
Make me a sandwich. I’m starving.

Penny
I bet she’s not hungry. But how about sandwiches for lunch? I have the drill down pat.

Clint
Let me help.

Penny
You can first help by moving Mamma out of the way.

(Clint and Penny descend on their mother.)

Clint
Ma, let’s move you.

Mrs. Johnson
(As she stands)
Clint, when did you get here?

Clint
This way, Ma.

Penny
Mamma, how about a bologna sandwich?

(Before she does anything for anyone else, Penny spreads Miracle Whip on two slices of bread and slaps a slice of bologna between them.)

Mrs. Johnson
You had lunch?

Clint
No, Ma. You sit here.

Penny
(Handing her mother the sandwich)
Here!

Mrs. Johnson
I’ve had a headache for two hours. Nobody cares.

Clint
Wait. I’ll get you something to drink. You can’t say you’re neglected. How about milk?

(As Clint serves his mother milk, Penny begins pulling fixings for sandwiches out of the refrigerator. There are a variety of different meats, lettuce, tomatoes, spreads, and relishes.)

Penny
Tomatoes. Unfortunately they’re not homegrown.

Clint
And she’s a big, ripe, juicy tomato.

Penny
Who’s a tomato?

Clint
Patience, a woman I slept with. Is it tomato or tomato?

Penny
Tomato. Daddy wants a party, a celebration.

Clint
Celebrate, jump for joy, games and cake. Balloons, game and cake. It’s not what I’d choose.

Penny
Let loose! You don’t want to take it all to the grave.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, where’s the tomato?

Penny
Don’t spare the tomato. Give Mamma a whole one.

(Clint serves his mother a whole tomato.)

Mrs. Johnson
Where’s salt? Can’t eat tomato without salt

Clint
I’ll get you salt, Ma.

Mrs. Johnson
You’re so nice to me.

Clint
Thanks, Ma.
(He takes her a salt shaker.)
Believe it or not ….

Penny
I don’t believe it.

Clint
I don’t see any onions.

Penny
You can’t cry without onions. Onions are in the produce drawer.

Clint
If I cry, I’ll cry for you.

Penny
Don’t be silly.

Clint
Cry and unlock your heart’s coffin.

Penny
Now …

Clint
Go on.

Penny
You’re tricky… even tacky. I don’t know what’s wrong with Alice. Do you?

Clint
I haven’t talked to or seen Alice since … I don’t know when.

Penny
She won’t communicate. At least she’s on her way now.

Clint
That’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to seeing her

Penny
Maybe it’s a chance we’ve missed until now.

Clint
I don’t think Ma could do more for herself.

Penny
If you want to take over let me know. She seems content now.

Clint
That’s something.

Penny
I’ve had help, if you can call it that. Sweet Olga! Twit!

Clint
Olga? Oh, Jude’s Olga. So you don’t like her.

Mrs. Johnson
I need a napkin.

(Clint gets her one.)

Penny
I like her enough … We all do; however… especially Daddy; however… and her husband, our baby brother, hopefully does …. Twit? Or is it twerp? Is there a difference?

Clint
I don’t know.

Penny
Twit!

Clint
It sounds like the name of a bird. Titmouse! Twit-mouse!

Penny
Clint, please, when you’re around her, don’t do that thing with your finger or give her the bird.

Clint
Twit-mouse, I like. Twit-mouse. I have to remember twit-mouse.
(Laughing)
And I haven’t even met her. Brilliant! Scoot, scoot, scoot! Go tell Pa! I want to know his reaction.

Mrs. Johnson
I need another napkin.

(Clint gets her another napkin.)

Penny
You’re forgetting he’s …. Clint, you really should go in there soon…talk to him before it’s too late.

Clint
I will, but I need to … collect myself. He always said we’d go fishing.

Penny
You’re really angry, aren’t you?

Clint
Naaah!

Mrs. Johnson
We used to grow our own tomatoes.

Clint
Where was that?

Mrs. Johnson
Dallas, stupid! Here it would take too much water.
(She stands and tosses salt over both of her shoulders.)
I’m tired, and nobody cares.
(No response.)
I need a nap. I always take a nap after lunch.
(No response)
Where are they?
(As if she were looking for someone or something)
Penny, Penny, where are you, Penny?
(As she leaves room)
They forget I’m not well. They forget about me. They forget I’m alive.
(Mrs. Johnson hobbles back to the bedroom.)

Penny
Clint, as long as you’re angry, you won’t be much help. No, no you won’t. I know how that works. I’ve been angry. Angry at Alice…angry at you …angry at Mamma….angry at Jude…Olga, Sally, Sherman, especiallySherman … yes, angry at you. You! YOU! You Clint … pretty much angry at everybody for one reason or another … especially Sherman … .angry at people who use my towel … angry at men, men who need a new blade for their razor, people who can’t keep their dogs quiet, people who don’t keep their children under control, people who don’t put things back where they belong, leave cabinet doors open, don’t trim their fingernails. Yep, I’m … was angry all the time.
(She begins to cry.)
Christ, Jude! Cint, where did you put my giraffe cup?

Clint
Giraffe cup?

Penny
See! That really pisses me off. That you’d use my cup. I wasn’t going to say anything.

Clint
What about Pa? Concerning your anger, you didn’t mention him.

Penny
(From tears to a visage of horror)
I can’t get angry at him. I only get angry at his bed.

Clint
Then why don’t we bury his bed with him?

Penny
That’s a thought … bury his bed with him.

Clint
What’s Alice’s eta?

Penny
She called from O’Hara. Alice should be in the air now.

Clint
Really?

Penny
It makes me sad. But what is your excuse?

Clint
I don’t have one. I don’t an excuse.

Penny
Well … ready or not, it’s time to wash up. How’s this for a spread?
(Olga’s loud voice comes from hers and Jude’s bedroom. She screams and laughs.)
Olga. Twerp, or is she a twit?

Clint
Twit? Twerp? Like I said, I don’t know the difference.

Penny
Today she’s a twit. Go knock on their door and tell the twerp lunch is ready.
(Clint follows his sister’s instructions.)

Clint
Anyone who hasn’t washed, do so; it’s time to eat!

Penny
We shouldn’t wait for them. They’ll come out only when they’re good and ready. Let me! There’s only one way to deal with a twit.
(She pounds on the door.)
There! She sleeps in the nude, so she’s looking for something to put on.

Olga
(From inside the bedroom)
We’re almost ready.

Penny
No rush! See! Twit! They’ll make us wait. You’d think she were a queen. So go ahead.
(Olga and Jude come in. She is wearing a terrycloth bathrobe and slippers.)

Olga
We didn’t know it was noon.

Penny
Duh!

Olga
You could’ve warned us.

Penny
Duh-duh-duh!

Olga
It would’ve helped.

Penny
Duh-duh-duh-duuuh-duuuh-duuuh-dah-dah-dah!

Olga
Ha! Ha!
(Pause)
Okay, we’re adults.

Penny
Can we eat now?

Olga
She always treats me with such kindness.

Penny
Trollop!

Jude
Ignore her, Olga!

Olga
Thanks I get for staying up half the night with Dr. Johnson.

Jude
Clint, I don’t think you’ve met Olga.

Clint
(Extending his hand)
Olga, welcome to the family.

Olga
Oh, we’ve been married forever. Jude and I have been married forever. Only sometimes it seems like forever.
(Clint still has his hand extended.)
You can do better than that!
(Olga gives Clint a huge hug. She clings to Clint and stares straight at Penny.)

Penny
Trollop! Oh, she’s such a cutie pie! Trollop!

Jude
Penny, I wish you stop using that antiquated word.

Penny
Slut, then!

Olga
Oh! I’m mortally wounded!
(Jude begins shaking.)

Penny
Whore!

Clint
Truce, girls! Truce!

Olga
I try to be nice.

Jude
Penny! Please.

Penny
Let’s eat! Pile it on!
(Except for Jude, they all begin building their own sandwiches. They have to reach over each other and ask for items.)

Jude
Penny! Why do you have to ruin everything?

(Jude crashes his fist into the table, injuring his hand, and, trembling, stands. He moans and inquires of God, “When will this end?” He cries, as heaving and internal tremors continue. Soon his sobs become heart-rending wails, and only gradually does he regain control of himself.)

Clint
Hey, Jude!
(Penny shakes her head. Olga goes to her husband and holds him.)

Olga
(To Penny)
Now you’ve upset him.

Penny
The best thing to do is ignore him. Pass the Miracle Whip.

Olga
Easy, now easy.
(Slowly Jude’s emotions return to normal. He sits.)

Jude
I’m okay. It just gets overwhelming. Only, now I’m exhausted.

Penny
Olga, I don’t hate you. It’s your hoity-toity attitude I can’t stand.

Olga
That’s absurd!

Penny
You’re also an intruder.

Olga
You won’t let go, will you?

Jude
They both love to fight!
(Jude begins crying and hyperventilating again.)

Olga
I don’t understand this family. I have never understood this family.
(To Clint)
Pickles? I took too many.

Clint
Sure.

Penny
Olga knows why I’m upset.

Olga
Ignore her. She’ll go away.

Penny
No! I won’t.

Olga
What did I tell you? It’s character assassination.

Jude
All Penny wants to do is cause trouble.

Penny
This is between Olga and me. It’s hard and she …. With Daddy…it happened so fas t…way too fast. Too fast. Too, too fast. Why just last week Daddy sat up all night, talking and playing Scrabble. We couldn’t shut him up.

Clint
Did he know then that … that he was dying of cancer … dying of cancer?

Penny
We weren’t prepared. We weren’t prepared for this. It’s been so fast. He declined so fast. We sat around a card table, played and daddy talked and talked. He wouldn’t let us put him to bed.
(Pause)
He appeared healthy. We never suspected … until Daddy turned yellow. Csncer!

Clint
Cancer. So he failed that quickly.

Penny
Not a clue. He was very private … alone really. He was concentrating on taking care of Mamma and didn’t take care of himself. Mamma was so … well, we didn’t have a clue. All these years he never got far from his library and lecture halls. He had his books.

Clint
His books … I eagerly looked at them. Do you know the names I. I.Rabi and Enrico Fermi and Polykarp Kusch?

Penny
Columbia. Physicists. They may have taught at Columbia around the same time as Daddy. Why?

Clint
I think … from what I remember … They snubbed Pa. You knew that, didn’t you?

Penny
I kind of did and kind of didn’t. I knew Daddy would get extremely upset whenever he heard or read about one of their accomplishments. I never paid much attention. I guess I didn’t want to know … know why he kept losing jobs. I guess … I guess I knew. From Mama’s perspective SMU treated Daddy like a piece of dirt.

Clint
Dirt? Did he ever reach tenure?

Penny
Obviously not.

Clint
So his bullying and head banging never impressed anyone. Don’t try to tell me he wasn’t a violent man.

Jude
Poor ol’ Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Horrid, I’m going to tell on him. Stupid, stupid. He should’ve known he would get caught. Then … hee, hee, hee! This seventeen-year-old pixie, fairest sin of all. Well, so much for Humpty Dumpty. Slain. That’s what happened at SMU, where Methodists behaved accordingly. After the fall, he never fully recovered. Never recovered. He was a broken man. Bastard.

Penny
What we had was an old man who was too ornery to admit an illness until it was too late. Everybody keeps trying to bring up dirt. We should be concentrating on sending him off in style. He wants a party. We’ll give him a party.

Jude
A shindig, a big ol’ shindig! As long as we’re using antiquated words, let’s have a shindig. Should we anticipate fireworks?

Penny
I need to check and see if Mamma has another party dress. She ruined one she was wearing.

Olga
Dr. Johnson deserves it. He’s been awfully nice to me.

Penny
We’ll send him off right.

Olga
With confetti, streamers, and balloons.

Penny
Something outrageous and fun.

Clint
We can blow up condoms. I didn’t say that.

Jude
Oh, yes you did. I’ll buy condoms. And how about a cake in shape of an anatomically correct doll?

Clint
Male or female?

Jude
Male, with an erection and all.

Penny
(Begins to cry)
You two. It’s not funny.

Jude
Pop would love it.

Penny
You both are so insensitive. No condoms or cakes like that. You’re so crude. There’s no excuse for it. It’s offensive. Daddy deserves … No wonder Johnson boys have a terrible reputation to overcome. No wonder.

Clint
Like people around here know me. That was Pa.

Penny
Dignity. That’s right. He deserves dignity. Daddy told me he wasn’t afraid of death. A proud man he was. What do you want to drink? tea? juice? milk? Or simply water?

Clint
Water, please.

Penny
The rest of you? Olga? Jude?

Jude
Same.

Olga
Same.

(Penny takes a pitcher of cold water from the refrigerator and fills six glasses.)

Penny
Back to game of scrabble. Mamma kept passing. “Mother!” he yelled. “Don’t pass again.” I don’t know why Johnson men insist on being so crude. If, let’s suppose, he didn’t say those horrible things, then why can’t I get them out of my mind, and unfortunately I’m not mistaken.

Clint
What did he say?

Penny
Fudge! No, no! He used an O … Two Ns …U … E … another N … D … and O … INNUENDO! Eight letters. 50 bonus points for using all seven tiles. Innuendo! There’s certainly been enough of it.

Clint
Innuendo. Eight letters. How many times in your life have you seen it? Innuendo. Perfect.

Penny
It happens. And then he searched for a “P.” Okay, “P” could be for Penny. On the other hand. Help me.

Clint
“P” could’ve been for penis. Penis, Penny. Say penis. Penis! Say penis Penny.

Penny
I hate Olga. She came into the house and took over. That night as Daddy searched for a “P,” he asked me if I considered him a pervert. No. He’s not a pervert. I have no reason to think it. And then he searched for a “C.” Yes, a “C.” He blames mother. “C”…

Clint
For what? Cunt?

Penny
Clint! No. And not castration either.
(Clint laughs.)
It’s not funny. “Consider castration,” he said. How horrible! We’re not cattle.

Clint
When I met the man that I most hated, he fondled me affectionately as if he were a friend; he was stronger than I was. I wouldn’t tell on him.

(Penny hands Clint the glass of water.)

Penny
That’s wrong.

Clint
I could’ve murdered him, Penny. You don’t understand. I could’ve murdered him. Castrated …

Penny
No. Daddy, he … No, no, you’re not going to get me in the middle of it. You’re not going to get me to say I …I hated Daddy. Say I lived a loveless life until Henry came along and rescued me. So when Daddy complained to me and tried to …. Well, I told him he didn’t need to apologize. I don’t know. Maybe I should’ve…
(Clint drops his head; then stands. Penny joins him, where they exchange a long hug.)

Clint
That was a good sandwich.

Penny
It should’ve been. You made it yourself. This waiting … you think you could hurry it up?

Clint
I don’t have influence.

Penny
I can’t confront him.

Olga
I like Clint.

Jude
She’s friends with everyone.

Penny
And unashamed.

Olga
Ignore her.

Clint
Girls! You need to land, Penny. I’m sorry.

Penny
Sorry for what?

Clint
For doing nothing. For staying away.

Penny
It’s okay. I’m okay. But poor Henry.

Jude
My gut is beginning to grumble, so beware!

(Jude farts.)

Olga
Are you coming, Jude?

Jude
No, I’m needed here. Out of the bunch, I’m Reason.

(Jude farts again.)

Penny
She told me that it wasn’t what it seemed. I struggle with it. Twit.

Clint
You can’t assume…

Penny
I know what I saw.

Jude
What’s the harm now?

Penny
I see through Olga.

Jude
And what do you see?
(Jude carries a huge box from the floor to the table.)
Now for this. It’s Sally’s box.

Clint
Sally’s box?

Jude
Pop’s present. We all have a box. Part of the party. All these years he saved these things … saved things that belonged to all of us and put them in boxes for us.
(Olga comes back into the room with a wedding dress in her hand.)
Here she is! My bride!

Olga
Look what I found in my box.

Penny
A wedding dress, hey?

Olga
It’s unreal. Satin … gold thread … lace bodice … a long … a rhinestone tiara and a veil of lace. Everything I never had.

Penny
Huh!

Olga
(Showing everyone her new necklace.)
And I found this too.
(Penny goes and rips necklace off her neck.)
Oh!

Penny
You!
(After Olga yanks her hair)
Oww!

Clint
Girls!

Penny
(Throwing the necklace at Olga)
Here!

Olga
Of course it goes with the dress.
(She dons tiara.)
Now, how does it look on me?

Jude
Magnificent!

(Penny shakes her head.)

Olga
(Holding the dress up to her body to show how it fits her)
Jude, what do you think? Can I keep it?

Jude
It’s yours. But hopefully you won’t have an occasion to wear it.

Olga
Jude, it’s the thought that counts.
(Penny starts crying.)

Penny
You see I never … only Sally had a wedding dress.
(Olga also begins to cry.)

Clint
Pa always bought me any toy I wanted.

Olga
Jude, this reminds me of our wedding.

Jude
Holy macaroni!

Clint
Where was Clint? Where had your traveler gone? What became of him? Where were joys of home? Missed weddings, death of a sib … and so on.

Jude
Aw shucks, Clint. We didn’t miss you.

Penny
We missd you, Clint. I missed you. Jude missed you. Don’t let him kid you. Daddy planned all this. It’s his party

Jude
I’ll bring the white bread. Can’t let Pop down.

Clint
And you know what? This damn room is Pa’s box. That’s the same desk.

Jude
I was going to claim it.

Clint
Don’t touch it.

Jude
I know the rule. Don’t touch it.

Clint
The same, same rules. If you touch Pa’s desk, you lose your fingers.

Penny
Mamma told me we could start taking what we wanted from the house. But we should wait for Alice before we start.

Jude
Clint can have Pop’s books.

Clint
I’m impressed by your generosity.

Jude
And Penny can steal what she wants. Alice?

Penny
She should be calling from the airport soon. Clint, you look nervous. You won’t …

Clint
Given what’s happened to me, this is a breeze.

Penny
I don’t know if you could’ve made a difference … considering age difference between us. You had your own life to live.

Clint
I could’ve reported Pa.

Penny
Don’t Clint! Don’t! No. How could you have?

Clint
I wanted to.

Jude
Buy a megaphone, heh?

Clint
No a bullhorn! I’m a sixties child. But a telephone would’ve sufficed.

Penny
Come! Talk to Daddy. Tell him what you’ve always wanted to say to him.
(She grabs Clint’s hand and drags him toward the master bedroom.)
Daddy wanted me to speak with his doctors.
(Penny goes to her father’s bedside.)
Daddy, Alice is coming. Here’s Clint. Clint! We’ll all be here for your party.

(Clint joins her; Penny puts an arm around her brother.)

Clint
I don’t have a reference for this.

Penny
I know. Just speak from your heart.

Clint
Can he hear us?

Penny
Oh …yes. Clint you need to tell him … you know, start with something easy. Tell him about overseas …where you traveled … he would’ve liked … like to hear about your adventures. Daddy, we’ll bake you a cake. Nothing fancy. A white layered cake with chocolate. Listen, let me skip out and let you two talk.
(Silence)
Okay. Clint, it’s your turn. Talk to him.
(She leaves the room. Clint stares at his father, fixated on his eyes.)

Clint
You wanted to talk to me?
(No response)
You always said we’d go fishing.
(No response)
Well, it doesn’t look as if it’s the day for it … less than satisfactory. I don’t have anything to say. Pa, I only found comfort in places where people didn’t know me. It got so …. I could find comfort only when … Be easy, easy on me. I didn’t know what was up.
(No response)
Well, well, well…
(Clint waits and waits for a response that doesn’t come. He finally gives up and leaves the room.)

Penny
How did it go?

Clint
I guess I expected too much.

Penny
It’s happened to me. But you didn’t stay in there long enough. You should’ve planned exactly what you wanted to say.

Clint
Yeah. I planned … I planned …
(Without the aid of anyone, Mrs. Johnson comes back into the living room.)

Penny
Mother … Mamma, what are you doing up? Mamma!

Jude
(Looking through his box)
Guess what I just found in my box. Look, Mom, my Mensa card, which shows I’m smart.

Penny
Yes mister smarty-pants, you are. Mamma, where’s your walker.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, I didn’t fall. I got here in one piece. I don’t see Clint using a walker.
(Clint smiles.)
Penny, I’m going to fall, but I want to fall without your help. I want to be independent, but you people don’t listen to me. I could die tonight in my sleep, and I’d be happy. I’m afraid I’m going to live forever. I want to go with Dr. Johnson. What do you think, Jude? Oh, my God! Where’s Sherman? Sherman better come. I called Sherman to let him know about Dr. Johnson.

Jude
Why did you do it?

Mrs. Johnson
I want him here. Sally would’ve wanted it. I want Sherman.

Jude
If he walks through that door, he won’t walk out again.

Mrs. Johnson
No, Jude, don’t!

Jude
Mom, Sherman hurt our family, but you don’t care. I hate the bastard for what he did. He better not show up.
Penny

Jude…

Clint
I need to go for a walk. Pa didn’t respond to me, Penny. His breathing still looks strong. What good did my seeing him do?

Penny
Don’t go far.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, they’re starving Dr. Johnson to death.

Penny
The same thing over and over again, the same thing. And, oh yeah … Yeah, he can still hear … hear every word.
(The doorbell rings. Penny answers, and there stands Alice with her luggage.)
Alice! Welcome to Daddy’s party.

Mrs. Johnson
Alice! Someone would’ve picked you up. We need some milk.

Alice
So this is where they live.
(At this point, the women exchange long hugs, and there’s more hugging.)
Clint!
(He gets a hug too. Jude asks for a turn.)
Oh, my God. You must be Jude.

Penny
He’s married.

Alice
So I heard. Come here, my married baby brother.
(Another hug)
How’s Father?
(Penny shakes her head. Silence.)
But before I go in to see him, I need to get rid of these bags and take a comfort break.

Penny
Alice! Tell us about us Chicago.

Alice
How about those Cubbies!

CURTAIN

DADDY’S PARTY Act Two

(The setting is the same as the first act. Only now it is dark outside, and the clock hanging over Dr. Johnson has slowed until it has almost stopped.
Dr. Johnson’s breathing is labored and loud and, for audience, amplified. It is like a loud snore. There are long pauses, during which everyone thinks it has stopped. Then he catches his breath. It is violent and looks as if it hurts him. He is fighting and won’t let go.
Family has gathered in the room. Except for Mrs. Johnson, who is curled up on her bed, they are all circled around dying man. They have been told end is near and are watching and waiting. All are silent, each in his or her way showing different levels of grief and concern.
Nurse is checking Dr. Johnson’s pulse, holding the old man’s wrist and looking at her watch. When she’s satisfied, she nods, lays Dr. Johnson’s arm down and pulls the sheet up. Everything has to be just so. She makes a few adjustments and, when satisfied, she pats her patient’s shoulder.)

Alice
Father, can you still hear us?

(Mrs. Johnson gets up, goes to her husband’s bed and stares into his eyes.)

Nurse
Almost … almost gone. Weak. His pulse is weak. Note his color, how it’s changed. There’s not much time.

Alice
I’m sure he still hears.

Penny
Daddy, Daddy, oh, Daddy….

Jude
What’s matter with you?

Alice
Sh! She has something that she needs to say to him.

Clint
I bet we all do.

Alice
But I don’t think Penny … I don’t think she was ready … not before we talked last night.

Penny
I didn’t sleep much.

Clint
Go ahead, Penny.

Penny
I don’t know about this.

Alice
I think we’ve shocked him, bless his soul.

Penny
Where do I begin?

Alice
Just tell him what you told me last night.

Penny
I’m not sure…

Alice
You can do it.

Jude
Ashes, his ashes, blown by the wind. Carrion eaten by birds.

Alice
Hush, Jude. Let Penny…

Olga
I watched my mom die. I never had a dad until … Dr. Johnson. At least he’s not suffering.

Mrs. Johnson
Honey, please don’t go.

Clint
Heaven forbid anyone stop him.

Jude
He makes dying look easy.

Olga
He was a father I never had.

Penny
Please, Olga!

Olga
I want him to know. I don’t care if it upsets you.

Alice
Don’t respond to her, Penny! It’s not worth it.

Olga
I changed his diapers!

Penny
So did I!

Alice
Tell him, Penny! This is your last chance. We’re all behind you.

Penny
But Mamma’s …

Alice
She needs to hear ….

Penny
No. It’s not fair to her.

Alice
She knows.

Penny
I can’t.

Mrs. Johnson
Honey, take me with you.
(Mrs. Johnson throws herself on to top of Dr. Johnson and holds him. Penny steps back and starts crying. Alice holds her.)

Clint
This is difficult.

Penny
During scrabble … Daddy … Daddy … he … he … talked about … he tried to draw a “C.”

Mrs. Johnson
Oh, Honey!

Jude
Bastard!

Penny
Jude!

Alice
Did he draw one?

Penny
What?

Alice
A “C”? Did he draw a “C”? Did Dad draw a “C”?

Penny
No.

Clint
We all suffered. It’s only fair that he hear us.

Jude
He took his knuckles! Like this! Like this! Right in my head! Yes, he would. Yes, you would.

Clint
Listen to me, Pa! Why do you think I ran away? Think about it. It shouldn’t be hard for you to figure out. You should be pleased to know that you were right about me. I own no property and have very little money. I’m not worth a tinker’s damn. But I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care.

Alice
Clint, you’re just being hard on yourself.

Clint
It’s all true. Did you hear me Pa? I don’t care. I never cared.

Alice
He heard you. He’s nodding his head.

Penny
No.

Alice
Okay. Now it’s my turn. Father, this … this … this is Alice here.

Mrs. Johnson
Alice!

Alice
Penny, take care of mother!

Penny
All aboard! Choo-choo-choo-choo!

Mrs. Johnson
Take your hands off me!

Penny
Mamma!

Olga
Let me.

Mrs. Johnson
(Going with Olga over to her bed)
You’re nice.

Alice
Father, I guess you’re waiting to hear from me. I hear you saying to yourself, who is this girl? What does she want? You can die before I’m finished, if you don’t want to hear. I’m doing pretty well. They’re still paying me to teach at Loyola. But I’m about ready to retire. I’ve wrestled with this for a long time … a long, long time. I know it’s a form of quitting and know how much you hate quitters.
(Pause)
Father, you’ve stolen everything from me. But I don’t expect you to say you’re sorry. I no longer hate you. You never gave me a chance to beat you in Scrabble. Now tell me. What do you expect me to say?

Mrs. Johnson
Alice, you caused him all kinds of grief.

Olga
Let him go in peace. Please let him go in peace.

Alice
I thought I’d make a minimal appearance.

Nurse
Excuse me. I think this might be it.

Mrs. Johnson
What!
(Pushing herself off the bed)
No!
(Sobbing)
Honey!

Nurse
Sh! Sh!
(Dr. Johnson struggles for breath and seems to lose the struggle.)

Mrs. Johnson
No! Lover, why? Why are you doing this to me? Please don’t!

(As if Mrs. Johnson’s outburst jumpstarted it, Dr. Johnson’s breathing begins again)

Nurse
Close.

Penny
Damn! I can’t believe it.

Jude
Stubborn! I don’t mind him jerking me around once or twice. But three times? This is ridiculous. It’s getting personal.

Nurse
Why is he hanging on?

Alice
Who knows!

Jude
Why not trip him up? Next time let’s don’t come in here.

Penny
We can’t let him die alone.

Clint
Excuse me.
(Clint goes to the living room.)

Olga
Mom, you need to lie down and try to relax.
(She pulls back the bedspread.)
I’ll tuck you in. Dad wants you to take care of yourself.
(Mrs. Johnson follows Olga’s instructions. Then Olga sits in a chair next to Dr. Johnson’s bed and holds his hand.)

Penny
Someone get a camera.

Jude
Don’t say anything else, Penny.

Alice
I want everyone to know … I’m thankful for Penny. I’m also very impressed by how well the house has been maintained. I expected far worse.

Penny
Yes, it’s been difficult.

Alice
I was surprised … with what I experienced.

Penny
If you don’t want to deal yourself a blow, you better stay out of Olga’s and Jude’s … the honeymooners’ room.

Olga
There she goes again. I’m out of here!
(Her feelings hurt, Olga runs to her room.)

Penny
She’s so phony.

Jude
That’s not fair.

Alice
Excuse me too.
(Alice joins Clint in the living room.)
Do they ever stop? Penny, Jude, and Olga?

Clint
Not since I’ve been here.

Mrs. Johnson
He’s my lover. My only lover. We had an agreement.

Penny
Daddy made the decision. No life supports. To die at home. We should respect it.

Mrs. Johnson
What decision? I should’ve been consulted.

Penny
And what would you have said? It wouldn’t have changed anything. It’s a bad kind of cancer.

Jude
You’ve insulted my wife. When you insult her, you insult me. Here she’s taken care of Pop. I warn you … this has got to stop,
(Hyperventilating, Jude starts to leave. Then he changes his mind and sits next to his father’s bed. The scene shifts to Alice and Clint.)

Clint
Alice, Alice, Alice.

Alice
My big brother!

Clint
Yes, I’m your big brother, and I feel bad that ….

Alice
Don’t. We’re here now, and we can’t go back.

Clint
Why are you here?

Alice
Clint, I hear you saying to yourself, “I don’t belong here. All I have to do is bury him, and then I can leave and get on with my life.” You don’t quite understand all of this, but you know that somehow you’re connected. Let me ease your mind. I feel the same way. It’s just for a few days. And how have you been?

Clint
Me? Oh. I don’t do much. Alice, do you hate me?

Alice
Well, I haven’t thought about I … to be truthful I haven’t thought about you in a very long time.

Clint
Well, good!

Alice
Hate you?

Clint
Yeah…

Alice
Maybe I’ve hated you.

Clint
I held out hope.

Alice
Maybe … I always looked up to you.

Clint
I love you, Alice.

Alice
How easily you say it. “I love you, Alice.”

Clint
Fancy it! Well?

Alice
I hope it’s true.

Clint
It is. There aren’t many people I’ve loved … love.

Alice
Can I count on it?

Clint
I can be pretty unreliable.

Alice
I believe it.

Clint
I’m sorry, Alice.

Alice
Don’t be.

Clint
I hurt you.

Alice
No you didn’t. You just ….

Clint
Why would you say I didn’t when I did?

Alice
It’s not how I remember it. With Father dying … Well, I don’t blame you, no. I can’t. For pity’s sake, no. It was his fault. You know it.

Clint
But I ….

Alice
Sh! Sh!

Clint

Pa did the same thing…

Alice
Sh!

Clint
… to me, and I turned around and did it to you.

Alice
Sh!

Clint
I …

Alice
Sh!

Clint
I knew what Pa was doing to you too.

Alice
Clint, it’s over.

Clint
Is it?

Alice
Now listen to me. The only thing I feel bad about now is that we didn’t stop him. We could’ve …

Clint
I should’ve killed him.

Alice
Will you give me a hug? I need a hug.
(They hug.)
When you reach a certain point in your life … Well, you should’ve gotten there before I did. You should be telling me what to expect.

Clint
For the past so many years, Ma has been trying to get me to come over. Everybody’s tried …

Alice
I used to try to imagine how this would be. Do you know what I would do with an ache?

Clint
No. I just know what I do.

Alice
I cut myself.

Clint
Cut yourself?

Alice
I once carved “I hate you” on my arm. At that stage, there wasn’t anyone looking after me.

Clint
You cut yourself.

Alice
You can’t fathom it, can you?

Clint
No, I can’t.

Alice
So Father had big plans for you. And you had to spoil it for him. Okay, I understand it. But how could you expect a little girl to know how to protect herself?

Clint
I know I let you down.

Alice
You didn’t let me down. I just worried about you. One day you were around, and then suddenly you weren’t. Before that, you were rarely at home.

Clint
You shouldn’t have relied on me.

Alice
I don’t think that.

Clint
Yeah. I wonder. What would I have …what would’ve happened, if I’d stayed. I really would’ve killed him.

Alice
I would’ve helped you.

Clint
I had a lonely time. And you?

Alice
Quite so, but … I had Willy. At least for a while I did.

Clint
Willy. Really, Willy?

Alice
Willy. Really.
(Clint starts laughing.)
What’s so funny?

Clint
Willy.

Alice
Well, that wasn’t Willy. He was too serious to be funny. It’s a strange feeling not to know someone you once loved.

Clint
Willy?

Alice
Yeah. I’m talking about Willy. Willy. Do something, Willy! Willy, if you don’t want to be here, do something about it! I don’t blame him for leaving me. I never gave him very much. Know what else? I wouldn’t touch him.

Clint
Pa? Or me?

Alice
Clint … Willy blamed it on a midlife crisis. Coward! And what about you? Willy blamed it on a midlife crisis.

Clint
Oh, more of the same. Only characters changed. I’m surprised you still care about me. I don’t deserve it.

Alice
You do.

Clint
No, no.

Alice
Yes, yes.

Clint
You’re overwhelming.
(Pause)
There’s so little I can do to make up for what I did to you.
(Pause)
When you consider it all.

Alice
Don’t, Clint! I’ve moved on.

Clint
Ah, then … I haven’t changed. I’m still a dirty old man.

Alice
No.

Clint
I am. You don’t know. Nobody does. I made sure of it. I sneaked around. I went to a part of the world where laws weren’t enforced.

Alice
Clint … frankly, I don’t want to hear about it. I don’t need it.

Clint
I’d go. I’d try not to. Is it possible to control? How often have I said, “I’m not going to do it anymore?” And failed. Back to Willy….

Alice
Well, nine years ago …Willy sat across the dinner table from me. He gave me a long, pitiful look, bowed his head, and told me that he didn’t want to be married to me anymore. When he left, he left a door wide open. It took me a long time to close it.

Clint
It had to have been hard.

(Penny comes into the room.)

Penny
Have I missed something?

Alice
No. We were just talking about growing up in the Bronx. Stuff … just stuff … stuff we hadn’t thrown away. Look around here. It looks as it they picked up the apartment in the Bronx and moved it here. Except, I couldn’t make this my home. Here? No.

Clint
No fire escape. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to let off steam. Nowhere to escape. Escape. A fire escape, out the kitchen window in our old apartment, was where I’d hang out. Out there I had a safety ladder. I could always fly down those rungs quicker than Pa. Alice, I should’ve …

Alice
Sh! Sh! I only would’ve gotten in the way.

Clint
Yes, I can see you complaining … take me home.

Alice
There are a few funny things that I could tell you about Clint.

Clint
Funny?

Alice
Ha! Ha! That was about it, you were funny.

Penny
Ha, ha, funny?

Alice
Ha, ha, sad. With him, you didn’t know when to laugh.

Clint
I’m standing right here, and listen to her make fun of me.
(He starts off.)

Alice
I want to tell you a secret about Clint.

Penny
We don’t keep secrets here.

(He goes back to the bookcase.)

Alice
So he disappeared. So what?

Penny
That’s no secret.

Alice
I’ve always said things would’ve been different, very different had mother…

Penny
Alice, Daddy may have had his problems, but …

Alice
Go on … make excuses for him … make excuses for him … excuses … excuses … excuses … why you shouldn’t remember… create a false memory…go on, forget … forget what you told me last night … never again admit it … never admit …

Penny
Alice!

Alice
Don’t get hysterical. Look! To avoid Father I had to stay away… not come straight home … not come straight home after school … had all these activities. I joined clubs, was this special girl in charge of everything … editor of the school newspaper, Student Council member, cheerleader. But it didn’t work all the time, I mean …

Penny
No.

Alice
Believe what you want.

Penny
People change. People change all the time.

Alice
Oh, yeah, sure. You can continue to believe whatever you want. I know what happened to me … how he slipped into my room at night.

Penny
You don’t have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about.

Alice
All I need now is my grown-up brother.

Penny
Why are you so quick to criticize Daddy?

Alice
Hello … Father… eh? What happened between last night and now? Did he get to you in some way? I remember him coming into my room. He’d tell me I was his special little girl. My guess is Mother knew. I’d pretend to be asleep.

Clint
That’s called …

Alice
I’d call it exhaustion. My hope was he’d give up.

Penny
He always was strong-willed.

Alice
Clint, wouldn’t you call it a conflict of wills? Penny, you don’t believe me anyway. I don’t want to bother you with details.

Penny
I never said I don’t believe you. I said Daddy…

Alice
Forget it! Father would come to the breakfast table …. Well, we had to get out of his way, especially Clint. “Pull your chair up to the table! Sit up straight and tuck your landing gear in!” Fuck! Yes, fuck! Yes, fucking. Let’s have a fucking good time at Daddy’s party. But Clint …

Clint
Penny, I’m afraid your sister has the wrong person. However! The “however” in my case, mind you, was far worse than beatings. I’m afraid we’ve all been less than forthcoming.

Alice
It’s funny, because I considered our family to be normal. I just thought that was the way families were.

Clint
I thought that too.

Alice
We grew up with it in our heads

Clint
(Laughing)
Normal. So we should’ve counted ourselves lucky?

Alice
I felt shame.
(Then with nervous agitation.)
I don’t know how Father ever made the commute.

Clint
He faced it everyday, everyday a long ride to Columbia, where he taught, and commuted back.

Alice
He complained about it all the time.
(Pause)
I could never look at Mother.

Clint
As far as I was concerned, she was never there.

Alice
There’d be a smile on her face. I detested him. I detested her. I detested my own mother. I destested my parents.

Penny
Well, I didn’t detest him. I love him.

Alice
Then define love. You can’t.
(Pause)
But who would’ve believed me … with Father teaching at Columbia and all. Now, here we are, except for Sally.

Penny
(Becoming very agitated and uncomfortable)
You know, I can’t believe Daddy just a week ago paid cash for his casket, his funeral, and his burial. He paid for Mamma’s right then too. Wrote a check for twenty-five grand.

Clint
Ain’t that grand.

Alice
If that’s everything, it’s cheaper than what it would cost at home ….

Penny
Yes, it covers everything … except the party.

(Alice stands, then goes to her father’s desk and looks at the piles of papers. Jude enters from his parents’ bedroom.)

Jude
No home run yet.

Clint
Let’s hope we’re down to the last out.

Alice
I think we are. I don’t sense a rally.

Jude
A rally? No!

Penny
There might be one. Daddy’s a fighter.
(Clint and Alice frown.)

Clint
I never had grades for Columbia.

Penny
Daddy could’ve pulled strings and gotten you in, I’m sure.

Clint
Columbia was not for me.

Penny
Well, I only went to Columbia one semester … until I got married.
(Pause)
But Alice…

Alice
What about Alice?

Penny
I can’t blame you for getting a good education.

Alice
Well, yes. But an education will only take you so far and then …. You can graduate from Columbia with honors, acquire a PhD., and think you’re set. Okay, fine, you have an education. At the same time you created expectations.

Clint
Man.

Alice
Letters after your name. Letters on your office door. Thank you. Thank you; thank you. I’m going to have a good job. I’m going to be at top of my profession. I can’t believe it. I’m going to obtain heights our father never obtained.

Jude
And make money. Lots and lots of it. Lots and lots of money.

Alice
No, wait a minute. You’re missing something. None of it’s good when you don’t have support.

Jude
So you created a hypotheses as to why you haven’t succeeded.
(Alice does not respond.)
Take me. I could’ve been Pop’s prize physicist. Then I bungled a college career. Even so, I’ve had all kinds of offers dangled in front of me.

Clint
That’s different from me.

Jude
Don’t complain. Don’t let it get to you. It’s all in the head, yes, yes, all up here, where it gets all mixed up. Oh, this tiny voice, “you’re not worth shit, sssst, piss on you,” and those moments are repeated and repeated until the voice becomes garbled, without knowing I recognized it. It’s a silly little voice created by laughing gas, so that instead of running, I laughed. I laughed at Pop. I saw humor in it. I laughed in Pop’s face. And I’m still laughing.
(Silence)
Pop always said I could win a Nobel, if I put my mind to it. I think he’s right. I’m brilliant. I had a high IQ. 150 IQ.

Clint
Then why don’t you? Didn’t you?

Jude
You wouldn’t think I was the same guy as then.
(He turns and looks at everybody.)
Well!

Alice
I brought some old photographs of Clint and me during our New York days.

Clint
Sis, what do you remember about the Bronx?

Alice
I can still see those Venetian blinds with broken slats that Mother hated to touch.

Clint
You’re still making noise about that?

Alice
Penny, I never imagined one telephone call would ever have had such a profound impact on me as your call two days ago. I half forgot our connection. “Hello?” “Who?” “Oh ….” “Ye s…” “Yes ….” “I understand.” Was all I could say. “No, no, I’ll come. I’ll be there.” It stunned me. There was something about it. I knew the voice, but it was as if I hadn’t heard it before. I mean, up until that point, I hadn’t paid attention. She sounded like me: only panicky. It was Penny’s voice, intonation, accent. It blew me away.

Jude
Voices.

Alice
Penny’s voice.

(Olga comes in. She has on her tiara and veil.)

Jude
Olga, I told them how much I love and depend on you. How you saved my life. I told Alice, I told Clint, I told Penny… Olga, God made you with finest heart, finest heart in the world. If something were to happen to you, I’ll kill myself.

Olga
Don’t pay attention to him. Your brother has always exaggerated.

Jude
Olga’s going to make sure I toe the line, take my medicine, and provide oversight. She’s my life preserver.

Olga
I couldn’t ask for a better husband. I know it isn’t his fault.

Alice
I know that. We all do.

Olga
I’ve heard Dr. Johnson talk about Jude’s brilliance. It seemed to frustrate him.
(Penny comes back into the room.)
Dr. Johnson said Jude was his cross. I can see that, but it didn’t give Dr. Johnson cause to treat Jude the way he did. I didn’t mind being his maid, but I couldn’t stand the way Jude was treated. I’ve been a motel maid most of my life, so …. I mean I didn’t mind the way he looked at me, how he flirted, his hands, and… But for him to treat Jude like a piece of shit! Now that’s something I can’t forgive.

Penny
Jude, get her out of here! I can’t stand sight of her.

Jude
Leave her alone. She’s my life preserver. She’s my life preserver.

Penny
You’ve got to get her out of here.

Jude
If she goes, I go. Pop let us live here.

Alice
Olga has the right to be here. She’s Jude’s wife.

Penny
She’s not good for him! She’s not good for Mamma.

Jude
(Shaking)
She’s not a maid anymore. She’s my wife … my life preserver … my love.

Alice
Apologize to her, Penny.

Penny
No.

Jude
(Sobbing and hyperventilating)
She always does that. Oh, Sally, I’m coming.

Penny
What about Sally?

Jude
Sally…

Olga
Breathe! Now breathe.

Jude
See how she helps me. If I’m up, she’s standing under me. If I’m down, she’ll be there too. Penny, she’s also been there for Pop. I haven’t heard her complain.

Olga
(Taking off the tiara and veil)
This feels silly. It’s too late for it now.
(She tosses it to Penny.)
Here! Dr. Johnson meant to give it to you. Not me! You!

Jude
See!

(Jude salutes and follows Olga to their room.)

Clint
All this sorting, sorting, and going through boxes. I can’t believe there’s so much stuff.

Penny
Accumulation of a lifetime. Piles and piles of it.

Alice
It’s crazy, isn’t it? It doesn’t make sense that Father would save it all.

Penny
Piles of discardables.

Alice
I’ll call the Salvation Army.

Penny
Not yet. Alice, please!

Alice
I’ve been itching to dig through my box. Honestly. I suppose he’s trying to make up for all missed birthdays.
(They each go through his or her box. As disappointment sets in, Penny pulls out a jar.)
Penny, don’t look so disappointed. Disappointment isn’t becoming. Let me see. A jar.
What’s in it? Nothing.

Penny
Cobwebs: nothing of value, but it fits me: Penny, of little value.

Alice
(Holding up a photograph)
This must be Sally. Jeez, she was beautiful.

Clint
Let me see. So that’s how she looked. I never met her.

Alice
Look what Clint has!

Clint
(Pulling a switchblade from his box)
A switchblade anyone? When I was a kid, Pa wouldn’t let me have one.

Penny
Please put it away. With Jude here…
(Clint puts it in his pocket.)
Thank you.

Alice
(Holding up a mirror)
Look at this.

Clint
A mirror. Perfect.

Alice
I don’t think so.
(Jude comes in, but, when he sees his siblings with their boxes, he steps back into his bedroom. Alice holds up a pigtail.)
And how much for a pigtail? Who wants it? Father whacked it off.

Penny
I want it!

Clint
(Going through his box)
Anyone would think that my old my catcher’s mitt and some old photos would mean something to me. An old picture of us standing in front of Yankee Stadium pretending to be Yankee fans.

Alice
As long as Mother doesn’t need money, let Jude and Olga live here.

(Enter Jude with Sally’s box)

Jude
Here’s Sally’s box. I took it into our room for safekeeping. I went through it and halfway down it I found …

Penny
(After taking Sally’s box)
A teddy, barrettes, curlers, Rose Bath, coloring book, jumping jacks. Goodness!

Alice
Did all of it really belong to Sally?

Penny
They’re old, used. Sure, they could’ve belonged to her. Well, if you want to know about Sally, ask Jude.
(Pause)
Listen.
(Pause)
Maybe you shouldn’t ask Jude. Maybe we should save it for Sherman.

Jude
I don’t want to hear that stinking bastard’s name. I know he murdered Sally. I know Sherman murdered Sally.

Penny
We don’t know it. Don’t let Mamma hear you talk that way about Sherman. He and Sally would get us out the house. Sally knew… knew the reason … Well! Sherman. The police didn’t implicate him. Sherman was not arrested. He remained a grieving husband.

Jude
Fuck him! And give Pop a fucking sendoff. Look, Pop also left Sally a pair of nose plugs, intact. Sally’s dead, drowned, yet Pop left her a pair of nose plugs, intact. She hated water in her nose. A great swimmer, but Sally hated it. Let’s see what else we can find. Oh, here’s one expired Red Cross Life Guard Certification card. And a fancy dress. And would she have gone swimming in this dress, this fancy evening gown? See water stains

(As he begins to hyperventilate again.)
Sherman … Sherman … Sherman. You’re … you’re … you’re … piss … fuck you! Mother fucker.

(Jude begins to sob.)
My stomach hurts. You don’t want to mess with my head.

(Olga grabs her husband and holds him tights. It seems to calm him.)

It’s still hard to believe. Accident or suicide? It’s still hard.

Penny
Sally never … well, she never … never, ever talked to me about it. Maybe …

Alice
I shouldn’t have come. Do you think I wanted to? Because I knew … I knew … Boy, did I know.

Penny
You think it’s been easy for me?

Alice
It can get a hell of lot worse … prescription pills: Tylenol, Advil, you name it and lots of drinking … as I told somebody. I used to cut myself.

Penny
Cut? Castration. Two “C’s!” Cut. Cut. Cut.

Clint
Give her a knife. It would serve the bastard right.

Penny
Clint! No, no, no. Daddy NEVER…

Alice
Penny, remember what you told me last night…

Clint
You’re wasting your time, Alice. As soon as he’s dead, I’m out of here.

Penny
I’m confused.

Alice
It wasn’t your fault.

Penny
No.

Alice
He did it to all of us.

Penny
No.

Alice
Okay. Whatever you say.

Penny
I guess …

Alice
It’s okay, really. No, it’s not okay, really.

Penny

It’s not.

Alice
You’ll get there.

Penny
I’m not so sure. Most of the time I put up a good front.

Alice
Penny, you don’t have to anymore.

Penny
I don’t?

Alice
You don’t.

Clint
She doesn’t.

Penny
I don’t. Christ, I don’t.

Alice
He did it to Clint. He did it to me. To Jude too. I don’t know why he skipped you.

Penny
I was his little Miss Precious.

Alice
So? I was his little Miss Precious too.

Penny
So! What do you want me to say? Okay, I hate my body. If you want to know, I hate … I hate, I hate, I hate … I hate people who use my giraffe cup. My giraffe cup. It sounds horrible, but … I didn’t hate … It felt good. I never hated it, and I craved his attention … craved it. Yes, craved it. Craved, craved, craved. That’s the truth. You want to know the truth. I craved it!

Clint
She craved it!

Alice
Clint!

Clint
It’s a “C!” I’ll take a “C!” She craved it. Penny craved it.

Alice
Clint!

Clint
Clint.

Penny
I craved it.

Alice
It’s okay, Penny.

Clint
“A” for Alice. “C” for Clint. And give Penny an “A.” She deserves one. She craved it. She craved attention. At least she has an explanation.

Jude
Whoope-de-do!

(The nurse comes into the room.)

Nurse
It’s time.

Jude
I’ll get Olga.

Penny
Yes, of course, Olga. .

(Olga comes in from the bedroom with a full suitcase in hand. Jude takes her hand.)

Jude
Come on!

(As the family gathers together, they watch in silence as the old man dies. None of them cry.)

Alice
He’s dead.

Penny
Peace.

Mrs. Johnson
Lord take me.

Clint
God, I’m glad it’s over.

Mrs. Johnson
Where’s Sherman!

Jude
I’m here.

Olga
Christ! Jude! Christ!

Nurse
Let’s pray.

(A crescendo of rock)

Penny
Let the party begin!

Alice

Let the fucking party begin.

Clint

Let’s get it over with.

CURTAIN

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Randy Ford Author- DRIVE TO ZION

 

DRIVE TO ZION

by Randy Ford

 

ACT ONE

(Warning: the audience should be forewarned that there will be smoke on stage during the first scene: panic should be on stage and not in audience.)

SCENE: Colin’s cubby occupies a prominent back corner. Colin’s supervisor has a small office with a door that can be closed. Other cubbies are suggested. Most of the stage is an open space where action can be presented with minimal props and scenery.

AT RISE: Colin’s supervisor enters and addresses audience.

Supervisor
I’m sympathetic to Colin because I’m his supervisor. It comes with the territory. Yes, I’m sympathetic. As sympathetic as I can be. But I can’t allow myself to get too enmeshed.  It interferes with my…  Well, let’s just say it’s not good for me.
(A school bell rings: first bell.)
And it takes a toll after a while. Because I’ve been there.  I was an investigator, once.  You can see it when they come in here after…well, they come to work with less enthusiasm than they did at first. And there are those times when you know they were blown away by something, blown away by something out there, blown away with …  well, with the job. You can see it coming…in the way they approach you and you dread having to hear it. I’ve lost some…too many good workers. They come back jittery … shaking … jittery over something un…it’s always hard, so we sometimes joke about it…black humor…and people don’t understand…our humor…we talk about it among ourselves in a funny way…unspeakable things, knowing that they will have to write a report about it and later testify about it in court. You know they hate testifying … hate it. They hate getting up on the witness stand. They can’t leave out details. As much as they’d like to, they can’t. They can’t forget anything and have to use exact words… exact words of children, word for word. They can’t sugarcoat it either … sugarcoat with some adult word like “intercourse” because it’s not intercourse. It’s never intercourse. Never. No. It never is. It may be rape. But you can’t call it rape…can’t use that word either because it’s too prejudicial. You have to use exact words.  You can’t be prejudicial when a scumbag raped a child, when a father raped a child, and you can’t say he or she raped a child because it’s prejudicial … prejudicial … the word rape in your report or on the stand you can’t because it’s prejudicial. So you’ve got to…excuse me. You have to use exact words.  Your hands sweat. You squirm. It’s not a good sign.

(Amy runs in. She is fifteen, ugly and huge. She is frantic. She runs across front of stage. She has a box cutter.)

Colin
(Offstage voice)
Amy!

Supervisor
That’s Colin … Colin Rogers. I’m his supervisor. He and I have an understanding. He knows he can come to me any time. I keep an open door as a policy for all my workers. You can see how it pays because I have less turn over than any other supervisor in the district. It’s tough…having to listen. I’ve had to train myself to listen. And you get caught up in cases and you can’t get them out of your brain and like a recording stuck in a groove sometimes you can’t sleep … sleep at night. And you can’t help it. And you can’t stop it. The recording.  It’s a hazard.  What are you going to do! The same words over and over and over again. You see I do sympathize. But I have to function, or else. You keep looking for support, and unfortunately there’s none down from the top. And things seem to be getting worse, instead of better. Cases pile up. And workers go. And you have to start over, and when you have to start going out on cases yourself, you’re sunk. Now what’s the right word? Sanitize it. Sanitize it! Okay, we all sanitize from time to time. Shit! Pardon me.  Look, I’ve been there and done that, so I sympathize with Colin.  I sympathize with all my workers.
(Amy ambles across the stage and cuts herself with the box cutter. She is calm and seems to enjoy pain)
That’s Amy, Colin’s daughter.

Martha
(Offstage voice)
Not my Amy!

Supervisor
That’s Martha, Colin’s wife.
(Frantic, Amy runs back across the stage and disappears somewhere.)
Colin sets high standards for himself. He’s my veteran worker. You can see it in how he tackles cases. You know he’ll do a good job, so I give him the hardest cases. I know it may not be fair. I know he will do a good job.  I know he will do his best.   He’s always running. He’s constantly running.  He works too hard.  You can feel his intensity. I could feel it today. He’s on a roll. He comes in here like gangbusters and pushes himself harder. Once he’s on a case he won’t stop until he’s talked to everyone and put all pieces together. You can only hope he’s taking care of himself. I’m constantly after him to take breaks. To use all his vacation time. To listen to his wife and pay attention to his kid. At some point you have to close your ears. Sometimes you’ve done all you can do, and even if it’s not enough, you have to…stick your fingers in your ears. You’ve done all you can do.  You can’t save the world.

(Amy sets a fire offstage. A fire alarm is heard, and a small amount of smoke is seen. This time Amy runs on stage with principal in pursuit.)

Principal
Amy, stop!  Stop!  I’m calling the police!

Amy
Fuck you!  Who cares!

(Amy runs off and principal follows her discouraged. Smoke dissipates.)

Martha
(Appearing on the side of stage)
There’s something very wrong, and I feel it. Amy, I went searching and then found a note in your room. Amy! My poor baby. She’s always been a sensitive child.

(Amy runs back in. This time she has a butcher knife and a red bandana. This time she is frantic. She removes her belt and uses it as a tourniquet around her arm. She lowers her pants and is wearing boxer shorts. She ties butcher knife to her leg with bandana. She then pulls her pants up and runs offstage.)

Principal
(Speaking to a policeman.)
Her name is Amy Rogers. I’m sure she was the one who set fire in the restroom. Right now we don’t know where she is. I chased her and should’ve known better. I told her I was calling the police … I told her, and I shouldn’t have done it. I should’ve known better.  And before that she was seen with a box cutter, and someone should’ve told me then. And as you know she would’ve been suspended right then, and we wouldn’t be talking about a fire now, but it’s easy with hindsight to should’ve should’ve, should’ve out should’ve should’ves, when she was known as a cutter. And I’ve been around long enough to know that problems don’t go away, and when we overlook them, then we have something like this happen.

Policeman
What does she look like?

Principal
She’s a huge girl. She looks like a boy. I really wish parents would get more involved. We shouldn’t have to do everything for children at school. And I’m not sure we’ll live long enough to fix all problems.

Policeman
How tall?

Principal
5’9” maybe. Blond hair. I’m not sure it’s natural. Parents!

Policeman
Length? Hair length?

Principal
Butch cut. I told you she dresses like a boy. Her father works for CPS. You’d probably recognize him. That reminds me: I need to call her parents.

(While the principal places a call and the policeman gives a sketchy description over a hand-held radio, another policeman catches Amy by the belt around her arm.)

Amy
Oooow!

(Amy is furious and out of control. The policeman drops the belt and grabs her arm. He’s trained; she’s not. At the same time, Martha begins to cry..)

Martha
(Crying while reading Amy’s note)
“Don’t be sad. I’m going to a better place where I won’t have worries and I can’t get into trouble. Won’t it be nice? Nice and…. Thank you both for everything. And when you decide to come, or it’s decided for you, I’LL BE WAITING. But take you time. There’s no hurry. Love, Amy.”

(Martha then hears telephone ring and answers it off stage. Shortly thereafter, Amy is brought into principal’s office.)

Principal
Amy, calm down!
(She kicks policeman and spits in his face. He automatically twists her arm behind her back and brings her to her knees. She’s a strong girl.)

Policeman
I wish you hadn’t made me do that.
(With her on her knees, he cuffs her.)
I’m sorry if it’s too tight. Dang it! My mistake!
(Amy is still fighting.)

Amy
Bastard! Fucking bastard!

Principal
Watch your mouth!

(Even now, Amy screams and throws a tantrum.)

Policeman
(Restraining her)
Now! Don’t…just…dang it! Oooo! Girl, you exhaust me. I’m too old for this. Grow up!

(Amy glares at him. When he has finally restrained her, the policeman frisks Amy and finds box cutter and butcher knife. He has been rougher with her than he intended.)

Principal
What’s wrong, Amy? We can’t help you, unless you tell us what’s wrong. You’re going to be in bad shape if you don’t let us help you. In school. You don’t bring weapons to school. In school. You know it.  You don’t set fires. We don’t allow those things. And you know it.  We don’t, and you know it. So why have you gotten yourself in all this trouble, Amy? What’s going on? I know your father and mother are coming. I called them. They’re on their way, and I’ll have to suspend you. They won’t like it. And arrested. And you’ll be arrested. It’s up to police really. But why? We can wait you out. The police will take you away after your parents get here. I don’t care how long it takes. You’ve already ruined my day. Here you have a box cutter, a butcher knife, and you set a bathroom on fire. Do you know what that means? It means a cell and school … still school.  You can’t get out of school. This should teach you something.  Won’t miss school, if it’s what you wanted? So what have you lost? You’ve lost freedom, all because of this stupid stunt. So what are you going to get out of it? Loss of freedom! What else? My guess is you haven’t thought that far ahead. That you’re making it up as you go. You don’t seem like you’re listening to me. You’re not saying anything. Okay, you’re not talking. It’s okay that you’re not talking. It’s no skin off my nose. In fact, it’ll make my life easier…when they cart you away. You spat on the officer and for that I should put you over my knee and spanked you. But I’m not allowed to do it. I’m not allowed to touch you except to restrain you and keep you from hurting yourself or someone else. Those are the rules, and I believe in following rules, but you obviously don’t. I guess this all comes down to you thinking that you’re tougher than anyone else, but you’re not as tough as you think you are. And you’re about to find it out. I just hope you learn something from it.

II
(In his cubby, Colin sits in front of a computer with a bulky screen. A shelf above him is filled with equally bulky manuals. A standard desk and chair with a modern lamp and telephone barely fit in cubby.)

Supervisor
Stuck him in a corner because Colin’s voice carries, especially when he’s on a telephone. Other workers complained so I had to put him in a corner. You can hear him anyway, and sometimes people leave the building because of it.
(She comes out of her office with a six-sided folder; she looks business-like, as she tries to maintain her professionalism.)
They all have a heavy caseload. And we can’t control what comes in. The world would have to change for things to change.   For one day…wouldn’t it be wonderful? One day without a new case. If they just stop coming in for one day. For once … for one day everybody gets along. No fighting. No abuse.  No child abuse.  No molestation.  And for us, it includes touching. It includes bruises.  It includes broken arms.  It includes death.  Then we could go home because every child went to school happy.  And every child went home happy.   And we’d be out of a job. Great day … out of a job.  For one day out of a job, but that’s not realistic.
(She goes to Colin’s cubby and sticks her nose in.)
Do you have court today?

Colin
Yeah. One o’clock.

Supervisor
(Handing him a file)
I hate to do this to you.

Colin
What do you have?

Supervisor
How often lately have you had to go to a hospital and we have a newborn of a homeless mother? Mother addicted to something. Baby jaundiced. Mother isolated because of lice. You know the rest. The hospital is concerned about this or that, and we’re supposed to sort it out. Out there somewhere there must be a day, a single day, with a long white beach, palm trees, and gentle breezes.

Colin
Thinking of Florida and your vacation?

Supervisor
Yeah. Thinking I need one…if just for a day.
(Colin’s telephone rings.)
More business, I suspect. Be sure to breathe now.

(As she goes back to her office, he answers telephone. He holds telephone receiver between his shoulder and his ear, so that he can read about his new case while he’s talking.)

Colin
Yes, I’m Colin Rogers. You sound like you’re angry. I’m your friendly anger expert. I’m not trying to be funny. I am funny, a comic on weekends.
(An obviously upset Martha enters office and walks straight to Colin’s cubby.)
Excuse me for second. Martha! Wait.
(Speaking to the person on the line.)
Please wait.
(Back to Martha.)
What’s wrong?

Martha
Amy.

Colin
Amy? Wait a second. Let me get rid of this guy.
(Back on telephone.)
I never accused you of being a predator. I would never do it. Would you hold for a moment, please! I have another caller.
(Turns back Martha.)
Amy?

Martha
Yes, her school called. Well, she…she… Oh, my God!

Colin
What happened?  She did what? Honey, calm down! I didn’t mean… Give me a moment.
(Back on the telephone.)
Could you please call me back in a few minutes. No? You bastard! No, I didn’t call you a bastard. And I didn’t call you a predator. I would never do it. And I never discuss cases over the telephone. No! You say you were convicted of molestation in June of 1996. And you’re not a predator. Again I didn’t call you a predator. I would never…
(He grabs a pen and a progress notepad and begins recording what the caller is saying by scribbling as fast as he can.)
Convicted of child molestation in June of 1996. And went to prison…in what state? California…and Florida…in Florida and California…convicted and you’re not a predator. No, I didn’t call you a predator. No, I wouldn’t…those were your words. You need to slow down. Yes, I know you’re angry. I can hear you’re angry. Wait! Wait! You’re angry…getting angrier.
(Martha has become angrier and angrier until she can’t stand there any longer; at which point she storms out the office.)
In California in 1996…and Florida when…never convicted in Florida, only accused there of… okay. For the record, I’ve written down what you told me. And for the record, I never called you a predator.  You still claim you were innocent? Innocent!  He hung up! And Martha’s gone.

(Colin thinks about running after his wife and would’ve had his supervisor not stopped him. She has another new case for him.)

Supervisor
I know I just gave you one…what’s the matter?

Colin
Didn’t you see Martha?  I don’t know. Something about Amy. At school. Did you see Martha?

Supervisor
No.

Colin
She was here. Now she’s gone.

Supervisor
Go!  Go!

Colin
No. She shouldn’t have run off. Martha should’ve … What’s up?

Martha
After losing two husbands, I should know. Better find out what’s going on.  Take the rest the day off.

Colin
No, she should’ve been more patient. She’s an adult and should act like one. She’s resourceful and can take care of whatever is going on with Amy. Anyway Amy should be in school. I’ll call her school later.  Now tell me what you got for me. But remember I have court at one o’clock.

Supervisor
Okay. It’s up to you. I really hate doing this to you.

Colin
If you say that one more time, I’m going to … No.
(Indicating the six-sided folder)
Now let me have it.

Supervisor
Okay. Better call the social worker before things get stupid at the hospital.

(While the supervisor retreats to her office, Colin picks up telephone but decides not to call. He begins reading new report but can’t concentrate.  Finally, he wrestles a heavy phone book out of his bottom desk drawer and tears through pages.)

Colin
Carrillo Middle School. Here it is! 777-0707.
(He dials numbers.)
Carrillo Middle School?  Counselor’s office, please. Hello, I’m Mr. Colin Rogers. I believe my daughter…Amy Rogers… The principal is handling it? Then I want to speak to the principal. That’s impossible? Why is it impossible? Then you tell me what’s going on. You can’t tell me over the telephone? I’ll come…no, but… I think my wife…I think she’s on the way. If I know her, she’s almost there. She’ll be there shortly … shortly.  She should be walking into your office in a few minutes. Have her give me a call, as soon as she gets there, please.  Have her call immediately … immediately.   On my cell phone, please. Yes, she knows the number.

(After he hangs up, he closes his eyes, bites his lip, and shakes his head, all before he stuffs the new report into a briefcase filled with brochures and forms. But before he can leave the office, his supervisor catches him.)

Supervisor
I’m sorry, Colin.   Another emergency. Say so if you can’t.
(Colin nods and swallows.)
I hate to do this to you. Are you sure?
(Colin nods and blinks.)
Sgt. Molina just called me. She told me that she didn’t have a detective right now and for us to work a case.

Colin
I may take an extended lunch hour today.

Supervisor
Take it. But don’t forget court.

Colin
Yeah. One o’clock. I’ll be there.

III
(Scene: small office space at Carrillo Middle School. Cuffed, Amy sits in a chair with her head bowed. Principal and police officer face her.)

Principal
Amy! What’s going on?

Amy
Don’t touch me.

Police Officer
What in hell did you intend to…?

Amy
Leave me alone.

(Amy tries to bolt and has to be placed back into the chair by the two men.)

Police Officer
I’m growing tired of you and your dang attitude. And you, dang you are going to sit there. Your mother is here, and, oh yes, we will.

Principal
Amy, I want to help you. Sometimes…sometimes in life….

(Amy attempts to stand up again, and when the two men try to place her back in the chair, the chair and the girl tip over.)

Police Officer
Right now you can either make it easy or difficult … difficult or easy for yourself.  Understand?  So far … so far you’ve chosen to make your life difficult.

Amy
Faggot!  Queer!  Fucking queer!

Principal
Amy!

Police Officer
(As he picks up the chair)
What’s that again?

Amy
Queer!  Faggot.  Fuck you!

(She slowly stands, and before she finally sits down in the chair Amy squares off with her fists clinched.)

Officer
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words go in one ear and out the other.
You think perhaps you’re tough, but young lady, you’re not as tough as you think you are. And you’re not very smart. You should already be on your way to Juvi, except… we know your dad; and your mom’s here.

Principal
Amy, I’ve been at this for a very long time, and some think way too long, but I know a thing or two. I may not have seen it all, but I’ve seen quite a bit. But what you did today, I must say…I must say it was wrong…dead wrong. But here in Carrillo Middle School we expect our students to excel, not. It was wrong. Luckily the school didn’t burn down, and you didn’t kill anyone or kill yourself, but it’s our failure that makes this serious. We’ve failed you. In some way we have, or else you wouldn’t have…I don’t get it.
(Amy glares at him.)
Anyhow, your mother is out there waiting, and according to the law, we had to notify CPS.

Amy
Fuck CPS!

Principal
(Throwing up his hands, and then:)
This is not about CPS.

Police Officer
I think we’ve hit a nerve. I wonder if it’s progress. Never liked kids. Can’t do to them what you can do to adults, and it always means more trouble.

Principal
It’s tough.

Officer
It sure is. Something’s wrong with the system, and you can’t do anything about it.

Amy
Faggots!  Queers!  Fuck you both!

Officer
See.

Amy
You talk about kids, and you’re not serious about it. My dad talks about kids all the time. He says he cares about kids, but…but…if he really cared about kids, he wouldn’t hurt me.
But he’s got this job and this personality complex that keeps him on the run all the time. He’s the one that you should arrest! Not me!  Not me!

Principal
And what about your mom?

Amy
She’s sitting outside. It’s what you said, and it’s what I expected. What I expect.  She has to do everything.

IV

(Scene: In nurse’s office at Little Town Middle School, a forensic police photographer is measuring and photographing fresh belt marks all up and down fifteen-year-old Sunshine’s back.)

Officer
There’s no call for this. Nasty. Seen many things in my life, but this….
(He sighs. Colin continues to listen.)
I’ve got the cutest granddaughter. I don’t see how anyone could ever….

Colin
Probably was drinking. Who knows what triggered it.

Officer
Don’t!

Colin
What?

Officer
Make excuses for the no good…

Colin
(Pointing at the girl)
Shi! Listen, tell me about your granddaughter.

Officer
Smart as a whip and in the fourth grade.

Colin
You’re obviously proud of her.
(He doesn’t hear officer’s response. Then to himself)
In the fourth grade, Amy hadn’t turned weird yet.

(Then as they wait for photographer to finish and leave, Colin rubs his forehead with his hands.)

Officer
Having a bad day?

Colin
There has to be an easier way to earn a living.

Officer
I agree. But someone has to do it.

Colin
Unfortunately. You take the lead. Why don’t you have her sit in the chair. I’ll stand over here.
(At this point, the police officer assumes lead by arranging an interview
space. He has Sunshine sit in chair and sits in front of her. Then Colin says to himself again:)
There are goddamn easier ways of making a living. And you…goddamn you…are going to make it up to Martha. And Amy, what has she done now?

Officer
Honey, you’re not in trouble, and you haven’t done anything wrong. We’re here to help you. Okay? Okay.
(Colin now appears more or less distracted. He, however, takes extensive notes. He has several spare pens in case one fails him. Throughout, he struggles to maintain his professionalism, which is a struggle he eventually loses.)
Okay.
(Before taking from his shirt pocket a small-ring notebook and a pen, the officer points to Colin.)
The fellow in the corner is a nice man. He won’t hurt you. He works for CPS. Do you know about CPS? Child Protective Services. I’ve asked him to come today to help me. Are you thirsty? Thirsty. She’s thirsty.
(Colin takes cue and leaves room to fetch a cup of water.)
Yeah, none of us are happy about being here today. None of us are happy about you getting hurt. Sunshine. That’s a pretty name. Do you know what I do?
(She nods, as Colin comes back in the room with a cup of water and hands it to her.)
I just introduced myself. It’s all on tape. And for the record, Colin Rogers with CPS left the room momentarily and returned with a cup of water for Sunshine. Sunshine, that’s correct, right? Now, we’re off to a good start. Now Sunshine I’m not buying the story you told your teacher. We would all be happy with your story if it made sense, and if it explained bruises up and down your back. They look like belt marks to me. Who did this to you?

(Silence.)

Colin (To himself again.)
How do I stop this without…

Sunshine
I got a whippin’. I deserved it. I…I…I don’t want you to arrest my mama.

(Sunshine stands up to leave.)

Officer
Wait. Sit down, please. Nobody’s getting arrested now. Did your mama do that to you?
(No response)
What about your daddy? Did your daddy…?

Colin (Again to himself)
There’s no call for this. The girl is obviously afraid. Besides he’s leading her.  and I think… At this rate, he won’t get what we need to hold the child, much less a prosecution. And I ‘m sitting here watching this guy blotch a case while Amy…while my Amy…while she’s sitting in the principal’s office because…because…
(Re-engaging.)
Listen, I think we could use a break here. No, no wait. Look honey…
(To himself again.)
I can’t tell her everything is going to be all right. Can’t lie to her.

Officer
Did your daddy?

Colin
Stop. Please stop. I’m sorry, but there are things.

Officer
Then your mama…?

Sunshine
Don’t…don’t…don’t…she… Daddy’s mean. Mama luvs us.

Officer
Yes, but did she do that to you? Who spanked you?

Sunshine
Mama.

(The officer pulls his chair closer to her and writes a few notes in a notepad.)

Officer
What’s your mama’s name?

(No response.)

Colin
(Thinking)
Colin Rogers. Guilty. Part-time dad.  Part-time husband. Full-time CPS Investigator.  Demanding job and indeed hard on my family. But it can’t be helped. Especially given kind of cases that land on my desk, such as the one I now have involving a little girl named Sunshine. It’s taking a toll. How could it not?

Officer
Okay. Uh…uh…then where do you live?

Sunshine
Don’t live no where. Sta…sta…stayin’ in a campground ‘til daddy finds a house. Only thing missin’ a telephone. So mama goes to Seven-Eleven when she needs to make a call.

Officer
Okay.

Sunshine
Sometimes she leaves us alone with daddy. My sister and me. My sister don’t go to school. She’s too young. I sometimes take care of my sister. I’m old enough. Ain’t nothing I can’t do about it, and daddy’s right: I’m his big girl. That’s because I am, and daddy says so.

Officer
You love your daddy, don’t you? I can see you love him.

Colin
(Thinking)
Damnit, what does that have to do with anything? Dads who love their children often also do terrible things to them. First I can’t seem like I’m taking over because it will be on tape. I can’t make it seem like this dingbat doesn’t know what he’s doing. I’ve got to go slow, which breaks my heart ‘cause he’s a dingbat, but police are supposed to take the lead ‘cause their burden of proof is higher.

Sunshine
Man, sometimes you can’t please daddy. Well, sometimes he gets real mad, and with his temper, you never know what he’s goin’ to do.

Officer
(Looking at Colin.)
Okay. Well, what did you do to deserve a whipping?
(No response.)
Honey, you know you gotta obey your parents.

Sunshine
I bey them.

Colin
(Thinking)
While it’s true that it’s not against the law to spank your kids, and, indeed, one of the most important things a parent must do is discipline them. Without discipline, parents lose control and kids take advantage and run wild and get taken to principal’s office, and their parents are called. What did Amy do this time? I should’ve gone with Martha. But no should’ves, shouldn’t should’ve.

Sunshine
You aimin’ to put my daddy in jail when he didn’t…didn’t hurt me. You’re goin’ to bring up charges, or something.

Colin
Wait a minute.
(Taking the lead)
We’re not here to arrest anybody. We’re here to protect you.
(Sunshine hangs her head and slowly nods.)
Sometimes I know it’s hard to do. We have to get it right, and be fair to everybody, and it sometimes seems like we’re…well, like we don’t care, but we do. And it’s hard. And we can’t get anywhere unless the child…that’s you…tells us what happened. And we know something happened because of marks up and down your back.

Sunshine
Yeah man. You want me to say he beats me. You want me to lie and say he did.
(Colin slowly begins moving forward, dragging a chair behind him.)
Okay. They beat me. Now can I go back to class?

Colin
So they beat you. Tell me about it. Start at the beginning.

Sunshine
Are you writing it down?

Colin
No, we’re taping it.

Sunshine
So it’s for the tape.

Colin
May I continue then?
(She nods.)
Sunshine, are you afraid to go home?

Sunshine
No. NO!

Colin
Afraid of what might happen?
(No response)
You’re not going to get another whipping.
(No response.)
Please…please start at the beginning.
(He squeezes his lower lip with his fingers.)
You said you have a little sister. What’s her name?

Sunshine
Amber. She…she…she don’t git…hit. I’ve…I’ve…ve got to git home to take care of Amber.

Colin
Tell me about Amber.

Sunshine
The two of us sleep on the floor. She don’t never get in the bed with… I don’t let her.
(Colin closes eyes and grimaces.)
No, I don’t. Amber goes outside to play and don’t know nothin’ about…about stayin’ clean. You’ve got no business askin’ ‘bout…bout Amber. She don’t git hit.

Colin
I know…

Sunshine
Nobody hurts Amber. No they don’t. I make sure of it.

Colin
(Turning and facing audience and speaking as if he were testifying in court.)
Yes sir, that’s what she said. Her dad got upset because she tracked mud inside the bus.

Sunshine
(Standing up and, with her hands on her hips, she imitates her mother.)
Don’t go playin’ in mud. Or runnin’ outside with your diaper full of poop.  No, no, no!  Don’t know better than to stay out of street… street.  No, no, no! Stupid, stupid, stupid. Bitch!

Colin
Yes sir, those were her words … her exact words.  Well, I knew right away that there was more than physical abuse. We had bruises up and down her back, and the court has seen pictures and knows they were severe. Why we had enough then to remove the children. I knew it was sexual abuse because I’ve been at this for a long time … a very long time. Yes sir, she was believable. Because of details she gave, I knew she was telling the truth. Kids can’t be as specific as she was unless it happened to them.

Sunshine
You’re stupid. Amber’s stupid. I don’t want her to git run over. Mama don’t care. Daddy does. Daddy…daddy man…oh, my daddy expects me to be…sometimes Daddy wants me to pretend that I’m Mama. Wants me to stay there and look after Amber. I wish he was dead. Well, he calls it…calls it. Calls it. I CAN’T SAY. Call it. Call it. Nasty! Ugh!

Colin
Tell me all about it. Well, Your Honor, I certainly knew what she was talking about. And listen, Your Honor, if there’s a CPS investigator whose judgement that can be relied on when it comes to sex abuse I’m one. I think you know you can rely on my testimony.

Sunshine
Well, you know. primin’ the pump.
(She demonstrates in and out, in and out with her hands. Colin now buries his face in his hands, which he would never do on the witness stand.)
Daddy…daddy man! Mama cain’t git out bed. Most of the time, Mama’s coughin’ and they stay in bed and Mama’s cryin’. They stay in bed and Mama’s eatin’. They stay in bed… Daddy yells”keep your mouth shut!” And I know when to keep it shut. I’m his big girl.
(She starts crying.)
And they nurse their beer and git happy and friends come over and barbecue out the kazoo.
Yells: oo, me, man, does he git mad! MOVE OUT! ALL OF YOUS! See me, little miss tit…tit tease, Daddy. If Daddy sees you lookin’, he’ll git jealous. Big tits…titty…titty teazz. Sassy ass…ass. See! Daddy says I’m a tease and my…my ass is nice. Daddy gits jealous over nuthin’. Nuthin’. My skirt is either…either too short or too…too long ‘cept he likes me in shorts, short shorts. So I look ugly for him. Sure we…we…we talk about boys and…and…and he tells me he’s teaching me so that I’ll know what to do on my weddin’ night. Daddy tells me I’m too purty. He hits me ‘cause I’m too purty. He hates me ‘cause I’m too purty…drunk…drunk, and he beats, beats me, beats me like he does

(During the last of this speech, Colin walks past her, as if he walked through her. His face changes from an uneasy expression to one of horror. He gets as far away from her as he possibly can and falls apart.)

V
(Scene: At Summerset hospital, Martha and Amy are sitting opposite each other.)

Amy
Where’s dad?

Martha
He’d be here, if he could.

Amy
Yeah!

Martha
I think I’m honest and really think he would be here if he could. He loves you Amy. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be here, if he could. I know he would. He had an emergency…an emergency…an emergency…several emergencies he had to take care of…all at once, so he’d be here if he could. Yes, ma’am, he loves you. The only thing is, dear, your poor daddy is overworked. I know he’s having a hard time with this.

Amy
Yeah! Yeah.

Martha
What’s your Social Security number dear? They require your Social Security number.  Oh, I know I haven’t been as good a mother as I should be.  been. I’m not always there. It hasn’t been easy with your dad…

Amy
I don’t want to be here.

Martha
I’m damn glad that you’re getting help you need. I started thinking that you wouldn’t when they started talking about arresting you, with all you did and all the trouble you caused them and all. But after I showed them your letter they decided to put you in the hospital. What did you mean….

Amy
Damn you mother!

Matha
Pumpki, why? I don’t know whether to hug you or…

Amy
Or what mother? Don’t you know that you’re not supposed to hit kids? You and dad should know, if anyone would…especially dad. I hate him. No, I don’t quite hate him. I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet. I’ll make it up to you, if you let me out of here.

Martha
It’s not up to me.

Amy
That’s not true.

Martha
You may be right. I had to sign you in, but they would’ve put you in jail if I hadn’t.

Amy
Jail or here? I prefer jail. I’m not mental. Maybe it’s hormonal. If you need an explanation, here’s one. Tell dad it’s hormonal. I’d like to see his face when you tell him…see his face when I’m sure he thinks he has it all figured out…he thinks he knows everything…when he’s not here when he’s supposed to be. I was planning to kill myself, had a plan, and planned to do some damage first. And had balls to do it too. That much you’ve got to give me credit for. I had balls, balls, mom!  And I have my period.

Martha
Oh! Amy, why can’t you be more ladylike? They would’ve taken you to jail all right if I hadn’t insisted that you didn’t belong there. And you wouldn’t get treatment you need.

Amy
Here, I could kill someone.

Martha
Amy! You scare me. You just saying stuff to scare me. You better stop.

Amy
Damn. I didn’t want to go to school. If I actually hadn’t gone to school, I wouldn’t be in trouble now. I would be dead.  It was only a tiny fire.

Martha
Only a tiny fire? Now get that out of your head. Only a tiny fire. And cutting yourself wasn’t a big deal? A lot of things have come into my head, but I don’t…don’t mostly act on them. Amy, your dad and I love you.

Amy
Stop it mother! You talk too much. You blab all the time. The less you say the better. And yes, I cut myself. Then why do you think I cut myself? Have you asked yourself that question? And all while you two are bitching about my messy room. Listen, why do you think I wore long sleeves? I bet you hadn’t noticed that I’ve been wearing only long sleeves. And you never came close to catching me either. I guess you notice now. Anyhow I know that I’ve embarrassed you and dad, and I see you’re scratching your head.

VI
(A hound is heard barking in back yard. Colin enters his home and makes a beeline for refrigerator. He slaps together a Dagwood sandwich and uses a tray instead of a plate. With a cold beer and his sandwich, he staggers to couch, where he collapses and clicks on CNN. He ignores his sandwich, and consumes his beer; soon his head drops, and he falls to sleep.

Shortly thereafter, Martha enters home. Equally traumatized and exhausted, she does not wake her husband until she clicks off CNN. She follows her usual routine except for her this day has been anything but routine. Her face shows stress and strain of having endured a nightmare.)

Colin
And probably you had a hard day too, but I didn’t expect to find an empty home.

Martha
A while back, seems to me, you said you’d cut back your hours, so when did you get home?

Colin
A short while ago.

Martha
At least you didn’t lie about it. I tried to call you. How did court go?

Colin
Court? Oh, so-so. So, so. Temporary custody hearings usually go a certain way. So predictable that I generally don’t worry about them. I’m usually the only one who testifies, testify and tell the judge why I removed a child or children, justify, show it was justified, and it always is. I always win, but today it didn’t go my way.  I guess I’m slipping.  Maybe I’m not at top of my game, maybe.   And this morning I had one of the most horrible sex abuse cases ever.   h
(Martha doesn’t respond.)
Man! But man it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. Now I’ve got to write it all down in a report for the court, every word, so that I won’t lose this one.
(No response.)
You don’t care, do you? Well, thank you. Here I’ve had the worse sex abuse case I think I’ve ever had, and you don’t care. Thank you for it. Jesus! Almost really do wish I hadn’t taken it … the sex abuse case. Going in we didn’t know it was a sex abuse case.  I could’ve said no …. not taken it. Said no. No, thank you. It would’ve been easier to have gone with you, but I knew, just knew that you could handle…take care of…well, how did it go?
(Still no response from Martha.)
I lost one. I thought I had enough. My supervisor thought we had enough. The AG thought we did, but judge didn’t. Right now those kids are with their parents who are going to hurt them again. By this time tomorrow. they’ll be yelled at, and then it will start over again. And then we’ll get another report, but it will be harder. It’s always harder second, third, and fourth time around, each time harder, because kids next time won’t tell us anything, and if they don’t we can’t protect them. They’ll know that if they keep their mouth shut we can’t take them away, and parents know it too. And they’ll live a long time in a bad situation, and when they grow up, they’ll blame us for it. Why, regardless, how bad it was, they will give their parents a pass and blame us. Can you believe it?

Martha
Colin!

Colin
Why then should we care? I’m getting too old for this. I need to retire or at least take a vacation, and it might be a good thing for all three of us. A little trip, see the Grand Canyon again. Might do it. Want to come along? Maybe Amy… Amy? Where’s Amy?

Martha
She’s in the hospital. Summerset Hospital.

Colin
Summerset Hospital? The children’s psychiatric hospital? Oh, my.  Listen Martha, I’ll make it up to you.  I’ll make it up to Amy.  I know I’ve screwed up, screwed up big time. Lost a Temporary Custody Hearing, when I never lose them. And I have to get ready for another one in less than 48 hours. A horrible sex abuse case.  Worse sex abuse case…

Martha
I don’t care.

Colin
Listen to her…you. She says…you say you don’t care. You don’t care, the world doesn’t care, case dismissed. So it doesn’t matter. But I’m sure glad Amy is in the hospital if she needs to be there. She must’ve pulled some stuff. I’m glad she had you…you to pull for her. She’ll pull through. I know she will. She’s one tough gal, but I’m damn glad that you were there for her.

Martha
Well, I’m going to bed. It was a tough day for me too.

Colin
I don’t know what I could’ve done. I think you deal with Amy better than I do. Martha, I couldn’t just…now you’re going to blame me. I know damn well that I’m not perfect. I know that I don’t always do my share. I’m sorry.
(Martha leaves the room without responding.
Take it good and easy. I’ll take my turn tomorrow. I promise. Have a good night.

(The hound is now howling.)

CURTAIN

Act Two

I
(Scene: the same as Act One. Martha hasn’t been able to sleep. Colin is still up and hasn’t moved from the Sofa.)

Colin
I know damn well I screwed up.

Martha
Nothing will change.

Colin
Can’t sleep, and you can’t either, never felt so bad except maybe when…

Martha
I don’t want to hear it Colin.

Colin
I’ve got see Amy. I’ve got to go see Amy.  Summerset.  Say, what do you think she needs? I’ll take my turn. I’ll take my turn, which I’m prepared to do.

Martha
Look, you should’ve thought of that sooner.

Colin
I know I should’ve, and I know I shouldn’t try to make excuses, but…but, but, but…but I might as well let you tell me.

Martha
What?

Colin
You know as well as me. We both know. I’m a social worker, remember? Let’s not do anything now that will make it worse than it is. Yesterday was crazy enough. It’s enough to make us all a little loco. What we need to do now is rally around Amy?
(Colin suddenly is off somewhere else.)
Her stepfather repeatedly molested Sunshine, and her mother knew. They live in a campground, and you could deduce that they haven’t lived there long. It is a known fact that molesters are often family members. This time the girl’s mother was totally dependent on molester and did her best not to upset him. All this I got from Sunshine.

Martha
Colin, where are you?

Colin
I’m here.

Martha
Are you sure?

Colin
Well, it’s hard for me. What do you expect?

Martha
I expect you to be here for Amy and me.

Colin
Man, I’m trying. Honestly, I am. But give me some slack. And I’ll go see Amy.

Martha
Okay, I’ll cut you slack, but only because of Amy, because Amy needs you. Only you neglected to ask about her, and you’re an investigator. Aren’t you even curious? I bet you didn’t think about her for one second.

Colin

Bitch!  Forgive me.

Martha
I see I hit a nerve. You’ve been getting worse and worse. I’m used to you neglecting me. But yesterday… Why didn’t you come? I kept waiting for you to come. You’re right about your daughter pulling stuff, or else she wouldn’t be in the hospital.

Colin
And it had to have been pretty serious.
(She exits)
Pretty serious sex abuse, or molestation, or whatever you call it, the only way to protect children from it is to remove victims from their homes. As a consequence, we don’t have enough foster placements and too often we have to separate siblings. Indeed, it’s never easy, and we get the brunt of it. Most CPS workers don’t last as long as I have.
(Now remembering what Sunshine told him)
“He has rough hands.” MARTHA! I didn’t mean to call you a bitch.  Forgive me.   It just came out. I’m sorry. Sorry. Sorry for everything.

(Martha comes back in: this time after having thrown a coat on, she is determined to leave.)

Martha
It really doesn’t help for you to carry on. Then you expect by saying you’re sorry that everything will be okay. Do you think I haven’t heard it before?

Colin
I know. I know. And now you’re leaving, and I understand why. I do. I really, really do. Amy in the hospital for pulling stuff, and I don’t seem to get it. I imagine, like you said, I neglected you and expected you to pick up slack with Amy when I wasn’t around, or I expected too much from you. It’s as if I don’t have enough to deal with, and all. But I’ll do better, Martha. I’ll figure it out, and do better, I swear.

Martha
Only thing is that you’ve said it before. I just had the worst day of my life, and you treat me like…like… like … bitch … you always do. I’m tired of it Colin. I need a break, a break from you.

Colin
A break? You need a break from me. A break, okay.  I get it.   But you don’t need to leave. Sure you need a break. We all do from time to time. But listen, I’ll leave. You stay. I’ll leave. I know you’d rather stay…if I’m not here. Look I have…I was planning…to…get up early…leave early…I know you don’t want to hear about it. Maybe you’ve heard enough.

Martha
You’re perceptive. Now go, if you’re going. If I’m staying, you’ll have to go.

Colin
We’re still friends, right? I couldn’t go on if I thought we weren’t…weren’t friends. To find herself in Summerset your gal must’ve really pulled some stuff. I know what it generally takes.

There are only three reasons…three reasons for an emergency placement, and those three are a danger to herself, a danger to others, and serious, serious psychotic behavior. It hardly fits that Amy was seriously psychotic because I saw her at breakfast. She seemed fine then, though she’s been acting weird lately, but nothing that would’ve led to hospitalizing her.

Martha
Well, I wouldn’t worry about it. She’s in good hands, and I was with her until I came home. So why don’t you leave.

Colin
Okay. I’m out of here. But …

Martha
Don’t make any promises you can’t keep, and get the hell out of here.  Go to work!

(He reluctantly leaves.)

  1. (Lights dim. Night, and Colin stands in pool of light. He has a police report rolled in his hands.)

Colin (To himself)
Thank you, Martha. Thank you. Thank you, Amy. It’s all I needed right now. Okay, stop self-pity.
(Walks)
Okay, we also removed Amber and gave a Temporary Custody Notice to girls’ parents. It went better than I expected. Now I have a little time. A little time? A lot of time…too much time … think. No, I can’t waste time. Man, I can’t waste it. I haven’t slept…need sleep…have a full day ahead.  Getting too old. Slipping. Off my game.
(Under a street lamp, he attempts to read police report again.)
Lies!  Truth! Truth is, I never laid a hand on Amy. Lying. I never touched her. I am a CPS investigator. I would never do it. I know better.
(He rolls report up again and swats lamppost with it.)
Children lie sometimes. No, shit! Shit!  Shit!  Shit!  They should tell when they’re lying. I would know.  Have them tell everything from start to finish.  Shit!  I would know.  Proof in details. Details.  Always in details. Kids make up stuff, but they can’t every detail.  Specifics, details.  They can’t make up that stuff unless … shit, shit, shit.  Unless they know.  Unless they’re a daughter of a CPS investigator who …. Shit, shit, shit. They can’t.  They can’t.  They can’t.   Unless, maybe.  It’s words, damn it.  Words! Now Colin, think this through. And find out how hurtful your own family can be and how easy it is for a kid to make something up when she’s pissed at you, and what it feels like to be on the receiving end of lies. Damn lies!  Damn lies.  Damn lies.  Shit!  (Moving away from light.)
Well, I’ve got to see Amy.  Why? Why?  Why?  Box cutter … butcher knife…why burn school down … why cut yourself?  Why?  Why?  Colin, get hold of yourself.   You’re losing it.

(During this, Martha has been crying. She is still home.)

Martha
Amy, what are we going to do?  I don’t … don’t know.  Don’t know now? You’ve hurt us.  You’ve hurt your family. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. What do you want?  What do you want from your dad and me?  What?  I know you think we’re horrible.  I know.  I know.  I don’t know.   Box cutter, butcher knife, fire?  Forget all that.  I found your letter.  Why?  Why?

Colin
(Trudging up hill)
All right, I still have to carry on and do my work. First there’s a ninth grader who’s pregnant and needs glasses and can’t read and is surely neglected, and I’m supposed to figure out how.  Messed up, living on caffeine…and it’s surely true that it’s better for you than tobacco. I’ve got to write a court report, but it doesn’t need to have details I normally put in court reports.  There are other investigators who leave out … proof is in details. I know a lot of kids lie, and it hurts most is when you know they are lying…but you can always tell that they’re lying.  Your Honor, I know she’s telling the truth.  Shit!  Damn it. You’ve got to believe me.  Liar, liar, your pants are on fire.  It’s my job to know.   Shit! To ferret out truth.  Shit!  To be right 99% of the time.  Shit!  Because children get hurt or die if you’re not 99% sure.  Shit.  Right!   Right away because if I don’t make the right call 100% of the time a child may get hurt again. All you’ve got to remember is that I’ve been doing this for a long time, a very long time … perhaps too long … and I’m one of the best CPS investigators around. I can say it without bragging: I’m one of the best and it helps to have experience and confidence. So…

(Inside hospital, Colin approaches reception desk as a social worker comes out of office.)

Social Worker
May I help you?

Colin
Yes. Child Protective Services.

Social Worker
Child Protective Services?
(Colin nods and shows his identification.)
What can I do for you?

Colin
Amy Rogers. Well, boy, I’ve made a mistake. I know what time it is. At this hour I know that I can’t see…see my daughter. Amy Roger’s my daughter. You see…I can’t seem to catch up and that’s why I’ve come now instead of earlier… You see I was…you don’t want to hear this…

Social Worker
Go ahead.

Colin
I know. I know. Normally I could get in by showing my ID, and since I was trying to catch up I couldn’t get here earlier. I know it’s late or early depending on your day, so damn, I’m Amy’s father and I’m concerned and need to know how she’s doing.

Social Worker
She’s sleeping. I’m sure at this hour she’s sleeping.  You’ll have to …

Colin
I know it is late, but…or early, but…

Social Worker
But you can’t see her now. Come back in the morning. She needs her rest now.

Colin
Yes, I’ll come back later, early in morning. Wait! But you haven’t told me anything. Oh yes, I know you can’t tell me much but I need to know…how she’s doing? You can’t tell me. Then maybe you can get someone who can tell me…something.

Social Worker
You’re upset.

Colin
Mother, she can see I’m upset. Why wouldn’t I be upset? My daughter is in this hospital, and I want some fucking answers.

Social Worker
You should leave, Mr. Rogers. We have rules … hours … visiting hours.  Come back tomorrow morning, and I’m sure doctors will answer all your questions.

Colin
Well, I know. I know you have rules. And I know you’re just doing your job, and there are certain things you can’t do. And I know I need to watch my mouth. Yes, mother I’ve got to control my temper. Yes, it’s true I’m not acting very professionally. I think I know you. I think we’ve worked cases together. The last two were…were serious, very serious. You know that yesterday I had the worse sex abuse case I’ve ever had, and today . . It’s true. And I know you’re interested. It was hard. Normally cases don’t get me. Normally, I’m professional, very professional. Just like you need to be professional, very professional. Oh, man. What do you suggest? No never mind. I know what I need to do. I can take care of this. Well, I know that you can tell me a few basic things…because I’m her father and came all this way and couldn’t get here sooner. You said she was sleeping. How do you know, know she’s sleeping? Will you check on her for me…as soon as I leave? Did she eat her supper? She’s usually a pretty good eater. Did she ask for me? I know her mother was here… You’re not going tell me, are you? You have rules, rules, rules, and you always follow rules, goddamn rules.   Mother, you’re going to let her kick the hell out of her old man. And you’ll be able to go home in the morning satisfied with yourself because you followed rules and you’ll be able sleep because you kept me from seeing my daughter. One more thing, I hope you can really sleep. I’ve seen what it does to you if you don’t…don’t get enough sleep, what it does to you and your family because you’re a wreck, because you take your work home. You think about what you’re doing to me…think about it,
(Pointing a finger at her)
…and I hope you can sleep!

III
(Lights Dim. Still dark outside.)

Colin
(Wandering. Lost in thought.).
A removal is never easy, and it can easily turn south and, while people often think there has to be a better way, there isn’t. Look, I wouldn’t attempt it without taking police. Even with police, I’ve gotten hurt. Even with three police officers standing around me, I’ve had a mother attack me. She cut the top of my head with a ring and broke my glasses. And still somehow we got child away from her. So always take police with you. Yeah, it’s never easy. Well, the Monks weren’t happy to see me, and as I suspected removing Amber wasn’t easy, but boy I never expected Mr. Monk to call for police when I had police with me. It’s damn hard to have to face anger all the time, and yet if people aren’t angry when we come knocking we know something is wrong, really wrong. Yeah, it’s hard, and I try to do it a certain way so as not to traumatize children any more than necessary. All right, all right. It didn’t go as smoothly as it should have.
(Knocking)
Mrs. Monk! Mr. Monk! Mr. and Mrs. Monk!

Mrs. Monk
(Sticking her head out the door)
Who is it?

Colin
Colin Rogers. CPS.
(Thinking)
That’s all it takes sometimes, and it was all it took to set off Mr. Monk. He blocked door ready to take on an army. What else would you expect? It’s never easy, damn. The more you try to explain to parents…explain something that they’re incapable of comprehending because of what’s happening, the more traumatic it is for kids. So you get in and get out, as fast you can, and hope you won’t strain your back. There has to be a better way, but there isn’t. So our focus had to be on Amber
(To Mrs. Monk).
May I please talk to you both outside?
(To himself)
I knew that if I could get them outside, police could contain them while I snagged the girl. Snag? Well, maybe it’s not the best term to use.

Mr. Monk
(In the doorway)
Now what’s this?

Colin
CPS.

Mr. Monk
Stick it to you! You can’t come on my property without a warrant. I know my rights!

Colin
It went downhill from there. I’m damn glad I had police with me. Where’s Amber, sir?

Mr. Monk
What does Amber have to do with you?

Mrs. Monk
Where’s Sunshine?

Colin
It can get hairy.

Mrs. Monk
Where is she?

Colin
She’s safe. Where’s Amber?

Mr. Monk
Stop right there. Where’s your search warrant?

Colin
I don’t need…

Mr. Monk
I’m calling THE POLICE AND CHANNEL 9.

Police Officer
(Stepping up)
I am a police officer, so will you please co-operated with this man. He is CPS. And does have authority …

Colin
(As he gives Mr. Monk a Temporary Custody Notice for Amber and Sunshine.)
This could’ve been it. Please take this paper. And here is some material. It explains your rights. You have rights. Gives you a telephone number to request a hearing.  And sign …

(Mrs. Monk begins screaming.)

Mr. Monk
(As he wads up notice and throws it down)
We’re not signing nothing!

Mrs. Monk
Kidnappers!

Mr. Monk
Nazis!  CPS Nazis!

Colin
It may be the worse sex abuse I’ve ever had.

Mr. Monk
Nazis!

Colin
I wish that ended it. It took another two hours to find Amber and place the two kids. It doesn’t always take that long, and about half the time we can keep siblings together. A relative placement would be preferable, then a foster home, but too often we have to settle for a shelter. In this case, Sunshine went to a shelter, and her sister Amber was placed in a foster home. Listen, we do the best we can, and yesterday I also had to fit in a court hearing. Well, I guess it could’ve been worse. I’ve seen worse. worse places for children to live than in an old converted school bus. I didn’t have a problem with the bus. Converted school buses can be pretty nice. I’d like to have one.

(Colin’s supervisor appears and appears to take his side.)

Supervisor
We’ve all seen worse…worse places, and it doesn’t seem like it can be fixed.

Colin
And we have to traipse through garbage, and most the time it doesn’t kill us. Long as it’s not a meth lab. We never know what we’ll find, and sometimes police will go in with us and sometimes they won’t. And we don’t need a search warrant, when the police do, so we’re often on our own. Sometimes they have us go in for them. Depending on situation. I know it may be foolish but I’ve been in places where the police won’t go but I felt I had to. And the state says they can’t afford radios.

Supervise
Yeah. It was foolish of you, but I didn’t intend to say anything because I trust your judgement.

Colin
Yes, it’s a judgement call. And I’d be better off if I didn’t have to make those calls. But someone has to do it. Someone has to traipse through garbage, poopy Pampers, trash and beer cans. That was what it was at Robbers Crossing Camp Ground. Now you know as well as I do that there’s no sense worrying about catching something. If you worried about catching something, you’d be sick all the time. With dirt and roaches, it’s a wonder we don’t get sick more often. Imagine piles and piles of moldy, wet clothes. A grimy sheet in place of a door. It looked like wild dogs had a feast. We don’t get excited over lice anymore. And there wasn’t a safe place for kids to play. It makes us feel lucky.

Supervisor
That’s the way I feel too…lucky. Except for the grace of God. I’ve been meaning to tell you, Colin, that I’m lucky to have you on board.

Colin
Well, I could’ve gone into almost anything. And I chose CPS. But thinking back on it, I think CPS chose me. A few good men and women…no, this isn’t the Marines.

Supervisor
There aren’t many workers who have stuck with it as long you have. That proves… proves something.

Colin
What? What does it prove? That I’m a better husband, that I’m a better father, that I’m better than anyone else?

Supervisor
Relax. Relax.

Colin
(Now alone.)
Colin Rogers, CPS Investigator; the most this job can do is kill you. Colin Rogers, prime candidate for heart attack!
(Places himself in the hot seat.)
Not going to know it until it’s too late, and I’m not smart enough to prevent it. Martha a widow woman and Amy without a father: they have to know that I wouldn’t be doing this if…if I didn’t love them. They have to understand I…I love Martha. I love Amy. I damn do love them, love them more than anything else. Most people don’t realize how hard it is to juggle family and CPS. Yeah. All pressure we put on her… Set highest standards for her. Never expected more from Amy than her best…her mother and me. Still it’s not a given. Well, we made mistakes, her mother and me. I’ve made mistakes…everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes. Right. I’ve tried to be…but none of it seems to count, just trying doesn’t count. I would’ve been better off with an eight to five job. Then I could come home at a decent hour and…
(Laughing)
and read the newspaper and mow the lawn. But it won’t matter in the long run… won’t matter after we’re dead. I know there are those who disagree and say it does matter.  I had a case that blew me away…a horrible sex abuse case…a teenage by the name of Sunshine. Her father… bastard…could’ve…wouldn’t…should be…should be…be hanged, while some will surely say hanging is too good for him. Hanging is too good for him. Sex abuse, in this state is a crime that doesn’t call for hanging.
(Laughing)
And he called police and Channel 9 when we were the police and CPS. It felt good, and he said we couldn’t come on his property without a warrant. His property! He was parked in a state park, imagine. And it felt good to see him taken down. But most of the time I miss action because my focus has to be on snagging kids. Amy doesn’t know how lucky she is. I’ve been meaning to tell her she’s special
(Lying)
Martha and I share responsibility for her. Same work load, different roles. Amy, a special kid, I encouraged them to hold her back. I’ve been meaning to tell her…250 lbs. I keep trying to lose weight. I have one tattoo. A Tasmanian Dust Devil. On my left shin.  Worst mistake I ever made. Just Kidding. Never in Navy. I chose Boy Scouts and summer camp. Kidding. Not HIV positive. Never tested. Never needed to be tested. I trust Martha. Do you want me to be honest? I try to be honest…I have to be honest or else I wouldn’t have credibility with court. Once you’ve lost your credibility, you’re finish in this business. Do you know what normal is? Normal is opposite of deviant. Deviants are people…yes people, like you and me, who molest children. And with his rough hands he turns her around toward him and forces her to…there’s a deviant, a deviant if I ever heard of one. And I’ve seen plenty, plenty, plenty deviance! And it’s never intercourse. Never! It’s never intercourse, so never say it is…never put it in a report or say it in court. Honestly, I don’t remember much about my childhood. I drink, a little, to calm my nerves. I get shaky. Ah ha, an alcoholic. Yes, I know…drink on weekends…a six-pack at the most. Denial! Never had a DUI. Haven’t been in treatment. Do I need treatment? So Amy cuts herself? No, no, no, and yellow baby addicted to marijuana. A case I have. Alcoholism in my family starts way back. It’s in our genes. Genes. Nasty genes. No cocaine. No meth. No heroin. Hate needles. Collapsed veins. No cocaine, meth, heroin, LSD, PCP, roaches, peyote, mushrooms. Let me back up for a moment. Tried cocaine once. Let me tell you about meth. Now meth, on the scale of things, is right between tobacco and PCP. Did I tell you that I had the worst sex abuse case ever.  A pretty girl too, and her name was Sunshine. Thankee friends, for believing in me. Sex abuse is never intercourse…never love. I love you Amy.
(Silence)
On the edge. All the years I’ve been on the edge. On the edge of a black hole. On tiptoe. Unbalanced.
(Silence)
Did I tell you that I had a horrible sex abuse case? There were two girls involved…Amber and Sunshine. TITTY FLIRT! Sunshine, she’s fourteen. Goes to middle school. Nothin’ happens at school. She’s new. Gotta get words right. She and Daddy…her daddy…gotta use her exact words. us don’t stop…don’t…don’t stop ‘cept once and while. They’re gypsies. Always moving about. Sometimes Sunshine slips out.
(It is evident he loves to tell the story.)
Has no place to hide…slips out …gits away…hides. She thinks get out. She’d like to kill him. God, oh, God! Gotta git  words right. Sometimes she tries to…to get away…to get away from all yellin’ and…. Calls it ed-u-cashunal. He calls it educational. And says it feels so good…so good…so good when it hurts so, so bad.

(Having exhausted himself, Colin now searches for his own house. When he finds it, he sits on the front porch and Martha comes out.)

Martha
Look who’s here.

Colin
I’ve been meaning to tell you that you’re a good cook.

Martha
It won’t work, Colin.

Colin
It won’t?

Martha
No. You know it won’t.

Colin
I didn’t have much left.

Martha
I see that.

Colin
Aren’t you going to invite me in?

Martha
No. Not tonight.

Colin
Tomorrow night?

Martha
I doubt it.

Colin
So you’ve made up your mind.

Martha
Yes. Had it made up for me.

Colin
And I want to tell you…

Martha
What?

Colin
Nothing. How was the bed?

Martha
Lonely. So I didn’t stay in it.

Colin
So!

Martha
Pardon? You think I like this? I’m certainly not enjoying it.

Colin
For me it’s a nice change. Kidding. Can I come in and get a few things? A few things I need. Like deodorant, my toothbrush, and a comb.

Martha
Sure. No, wait. I’ll get them for you. And you’ll need a fresh shirt, a white, pressed, clean shirt. Have you got one?

Colin
Yes, in the closet. That’s it?

Martha
Yeah. That’s it. I need to sleep. It’s been a pretty rough day.

Colin
It sure has been. I’m sorry.

Martha
I suspect you are.

Colin
I love…

Martha
No, not now.

(She goes into the house. Later. Pace quickens.)

Colin
Crucified! Falsely accused. Lies. Amy. Now how am I going to get ready for tomorrow when I get kicked out of my own goddamn house, damn you Martha! Lies! Now I have to find a motel.
(Cooling down.)
I have to sleep, clean up, brush my teeth, put on a clean shirt, and comb my hair. Look presentable. Play it cool. Can’t panic. Can’t panic. Be professional. I know for a fact that I’m a good man and that I never laid a finger on Amy. Who said I did?

(Police Officer appears,)

Police Officer
Are you all right, sir?

Colin
All right? All right? Sure.

Police Officer
Do you live here?

Colin
Did. Yes. Yes, I live here.

Police Officer
We had a call from a neighbor, and at this hour….

Colin
A call from a neighbor, at this hour…sure… I got locked out.

Police Officer
Driver’s license please.

Colin
Driver’s license…sure…
(Handing the officer his driver’s license, which was in his hip pocket.)
I had to tiptoe out of the house so as not to wake the wife.

Police Officer
Colin Roger.

Colin
That’s me. Colin Roger. Yes, CPS. Haven’t we worked together?

Police Officer
Perhaps. You look familiar.
(Handing back the driver’s license.)
But your picture doesn’t do you justice. The address matches, but your neighbor didn’t recognize you.

Colin
My dog would. My wife shot my dog. Kidding. Boy, I know I’ve worked with you. Though it’s true I’ve worked with many of you. Just today, or was it yesterday I worked a bad sex abuse case? You don’t want to hear it, do you?

Police Officer
No. Just before I got this call I had a 9mm American Eagle Luger pointed in my face. We almost shot the fool. And that’s how my night’s gone. Oh, by the way, the next time you decide to camp out on your front porch, please leave on the light so that your neighbors can see who you are.

Colin
Sir…

Police Officer
Buddy, I sure wish that I had time to talk, but unfortunately I’ve got keep moving. We’re understaffed. I’m sure you know what I mean. As far as our working together? You do look familiar.

(The police officer leaves.)

Colin
I need sleep if I’m going to function at all. Martha is asleep by now.
(He thinks about sneaking back into the house, tries the doorknob but finds the door locked.)
Well, good night Martha. Sleep tight. Well, it isn’t the first time that I’ve had to tiptoe around. I’ve had to always tiptoe around certain things because we’ve never really talked. See, I know. With my education I should know, and I wouldn’t have the job I have without a degree or something equivalent.  With my experience I should know.   Pop!
(Pops one fist into the other hand and moves away from the porch.)
I should pop her one. I shouldn’t pussy foot around and pop her one. I shouldn’t have to pussy foot around.   Didn’t I tell you that violence is better than sex? Just kidding. Nothing is better than taking a beating. I’m never surprised to find sex abuse. Been at it too long, so I can easily spot it ,,, spot sex abuse.  It’s everywhere. It may start out as physical abuse … Where you find physical abuse, you’ll often find sex abuse. From morning to night, nothing but sex abuse. Now when I die, I’ll dream sex abuse. Diagnosis? Is there one?
(Singing)
When I leave, don’t weep for me.
(Remembering)
“Suspect:” my daughter. “Address:” mine. “Telephone number:” mine. “Height, weight, hair, eyes, complexion, build:” fits. “Clothing:” dresses like a boy. “Social Security number:” Amy’s.
The second page is fill with inaccuracies. “The reporter is principal for…. Suspect never went to her classes today. She said she hid out (where?) and admitted she that set a small fire in a restroom. Reporter brought child to his office and discovered that she had in her possession… Drama queen! She’s always been a drama queen!

(By now, Colin is sobbing and stumbles off a dark stage. Then the sun comes up. The Monks are waiting for him in front of his office.)

Mr. Monk
Mr. Rogers, we need to talk.

Colin
Oh, you startled me.

Mrs. Monk
Where’s my kids? What did you do with my kids?

Colin
Wait. You’ll have to come back…

Mrs. Monk
No. You tell me what you did to my kids.

Colin
Your kids are safe.

Mrs. Monk
No, they’re not. I know what happens to kids in you’s care. I must see them.

Colin
You’ll get to see them. Now…

Mrs. Monk
You’re tearing my family apart.

Colin
You’ll have to come back when….

Mrs. Monk
No. I want to see them now. I want to make sure you ain’t hurt them. When they was with us, nobody hurt them.

Colin
What about bruises Sunshine…?

Mrs. Monk
She didn’t have no bruises unless you put ‘em on her.

Colin
Look…

Mr. Monk
You look! You just give us our kids. I’m getting a lawyer.

Colin
Fine. Of course you know the court will assign you a lawyer if you can’t…

Mr. Monk
We don’t want no CPS lawyer.

Colin
It wouldn’t be a CPS lawyer. Now…you just wait until the office opens and…

Mr. Monk
Nazi!
(What happens next happens so fast that it will later be a blur. Colin sees Mr. Monk lunge for him.)
Nazi!

Colin
Molester!

(Colin anticipates getting hurt and collapses into a ball. Mr. Monk then jumps on top of him and pounds his head. A ring cuts Colin’s head: blood.)

CURTAIN

Act Three

(Colin seems more subdued than previously. He enters Amy’s room at Summerset Hospital and sits with her. She won’t look at him.)

Colin
(After a long silence)
My little girl wouldn’t say those things about me. I know, I know because she’s my little girl. I know my little girl wouldn’t say those things.   From time she was born she’s been my little girl, daddy’s little girl.
(Silence)
I am your father Amy. This is your father and you have to speak to me. Pumpki, speak to me! I order you…please speak to me! You better. You better speak to me. If you know what’s good for you, you better. Amy, are you in there! I give up. Do you hear me? I give up. I know that you’re angry with me, but there’s no reason for you to say those horrible, hateful things…for you to tell those lies.
(After an even longer silence)
I’m not angry with you. But it’s idiotic not to face this.
(Silence)
Okay. I see I’m not getting anywhere.
(He leaves room and meets Martha in hall.)
Sometimes I almost hate your daughter.

Martha
Colin, please.

Colin
You need to tell your daughter that she needs to tell the truth.

Martha
What happened to your head?

Colin
It’s nothing.

Martha
Nothing? Let me see.
(She examines cut on top of his head.)
You may need stitches.

Colin
I’ll take care of it. You take care of your daughter … our daughter.   I’m in a hurry. I have so much to do today.

Martha
You need to slow down. You’re talking too fast.

Colin
I’m not.

Martha
You are.

Colin
You’re a bitch. You know you’re a bitch.

Martha
It’s just like…it’s just like you to say something like that.

Colin
I don’t have time for this. I don’t have all day. And I can’t reach your daughter … our daughter.

Martha
Take time to get your head sewed up.

Colin
Watch it.

Martha
You need stitches.  It shouldn’t take long.

Colin
You don’t know what I have to do today. Look …with Amy I would…but she won’t talk to me. Selfish! She’s selfish, and she won’t talk to me. You know what’s she saying I did to her? Some daughter!

Martha
She had a rough day yesterday.

Colin

That’s no excuse.

Martha

I don’t know what she’s said… She hasn’t opened up to me either. I just know that she had a horrendous day.

Colin
Uh!

Martha
I know you’re disappointed. That comes through loud and clear. But couldn’t you slow down…stop? You should breathe. You know it helps to breathe, for God’s sake. It’s important that you breathe. For your girl’s sake, you need to breathe and take care of yourself. You know…breathe.

Colin
Well, that’s interesting coming from you. After last night. Getting stitches right now isn’t in the works.

Martha
A heart attack would make it worse.

Colin
But your daughter! She went to the school and… Do you know what she did at school? And what she said about me. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but lies…I’ll be lucky to come out alive. I never once lost my temper with her, when she was little. I don’t believe in spanking, and now she says I beat her. Now that’s not right. Martha, you need to talk to your daughter. You need to. She’s your daughter and you need to set her straight.  And where are bruises Martha?  Without bruises, they don’t have a case … a valid case.  They don’t have a valid case.

Martha
It doesn’t help for you to be like this. My reaction was the same as yours. I was shocked. And then I started thinking. I did. I’ve done a lot of thinking since yesterday. All last night I was thinking…all that time I kept asking myself…after you left and earlier this morning…the dog kept complaining that you weren’t there…and you’re never there… you haven’t been there for a long time. I called the dog in because he wouldn’t stop barking. We both needed comforting. Colin, I want to get to the point in my life where what you do or don’t do doesn’t bother me and to when Amy has grown out of whatever’s wrong with her. I couldn’t take another day like yesterday.
(Colin leaves, and she walks back to Amy’s room.)
I’m going to be strong. I’ve got to be strong. I’m going to be strong and not screw up. I’m going to be the mother Amy deserves…the one she needs. Amy! Amy! Amy! Screw you Colin. He’s going to have a heart attack, a stroke, or something and leave me with…with…with this. Amy! There she sleeps, or she’s pretending to sleep. I’m so afraid…afraid…afraid…afraid. Why? Why Amy? Why? What more could I have done?
(When she doesn’t receive an answer, she leaves the hospital.)

Amy
(Still in bed)
Pry…pry…pry…dig up every little thing. Maybe you can get somewhere. Maybe you can force it out of me.  Maybe you can force truth out of me.   Get to truth. Pitiful truth.  Truth is… is somewhere.   Where is truth? Where is it? Where…where is it hiding? In mist somewhere. Come out truth. Out of mist comes truth. Maybe they’re right. Maybe if I keep talking truth will come out. Maybe like they told me once if I get it out it won’t seem so bad, at least not so bad to me. Maybe if I let it out it won’t hurt so much.  Maybe I wouldn’t have to carry a knife.  Maybe.  Maybe.  Maybe I won’t have to carry a knife to protect myself … a box cutter … maybe I wouldn’t cut myself   Maybe.  Maybe.   Maybe a lot of things would change, if truth came out, and maybe then I’d feel better. But as it is now, truth hurts. Someone help. Someone.  Someone.
(She finally gets out of bed and sits on the floor, where another patient finds her.)

Barbara
Hi, I’m having a bad day, a bad, bad day.  I’ve seem you.  Carrillo, Carrillo Middle school! Go Padre’s!  Go!  We’re the best!  Go brown!  Fight!

Amy

Fuck Padres!  Fuck you!

Barbara

I know you.

Amy

You do? Fuck you!  Fuck you!  Fuck Padres!

Barbara

Amy.  Amy.  It’s a bother, isn’t it?

Amy
What is?

Barbara
Being in here instead in school. I’m having a bad day.  What about you?

Amy
Shitty. Shitty, shitty.  Shit, I feel shitty.

Barbara
Shitty.  Shitty. That’s not bad.  I’m having a bad, bad day.  You look fine to me.

Amy
I know how to fool people.  What did they arrest you for?

Barbara

I wasn’t arrested.

Amy

Then why are you in here, Fucker?

Barbara

I wanted to die.  I had a rope.  I was going to tie it around my neck, tie the other end off on a bridge, and jump!  Jump!  Jump!  Jump off!

Amy

Snap!  Dangle.  Snap dangle.  Neat and sweet.  Dangle snap.

Barbara

Yeah.  And that’s why I am in here.  I’m a throw-away kid.

Amy

I tried to burn Carrillo down, down to the ground.  I’m a cutter, and I have a conduct disorder, a conduct disorder.  They gave me a conduct disorder.  Fuck ‘em!

Barbara

How do you know? How do you know they gave you a … a  …

Amy

A conduct disorder.  I heard it.  I overheard it.  I have big ears, big hands, see!   I heard doc talking to my parents.  Fuck em!  Fuck em!  I’d rather be in jail. This place sucks.  We’d be happier in jail.

Barbara
Have you ever been in jail? I hear it sucks too.

Amy
No, I haven’t been in jail. You’re dumb.  Dumb, dumb, dumb!

Barbara

Maybe we could be friends.

Amy

I doubt it.  And you have a shitty attitude.  Shitty!  I rather be in jail.  They arrested me.  I tried to burn our school down, our school, Carrillo, understand? I have a conduct disorder, they arrested me, so I should be in jail.

Barbara

I’m having a bad day.

Amy

I am having a shitty day.  Shitty.  A shitty day.

Barbara

Shitty.

Amy

Shitty.  Yes, shitty.  A shitty day.  Shit, shit, shit!

Barbara

Shitty. Shit!

Amy

Shitty!  Shit!

Barbara

Shitty!  Shit!  Shit!

Amy

Shit! Shitty!  Shit!

Barbara

Shitty!  I’ve lived a shitty life, a shitty life.  If you can call it a life.  But it don’t matter.  Shit, it don’t matter.  I’ve been in here several times, and it hasn’t helped me.  I’m a throw-away kid.

Amy

Shit face. Hey Barbara, I won’t tell anyone you were in here, if you’ll tell on me.

Barbara
Sisters?

Amy
Sisters?

Barbara
Yeah, sisters.

Amy

What’s your name?

Barbara

Barbara.
Amy

Barbara.  And Barbara, remember I have a conduct disorder. And Barbara, like you, I’m a bad kid and don’t belong in here but belong in jail. My dad works for CPS.  Fuck CPS

Barbara.
I know.

Amy

You don’t know shit.  Shitty shit.  Shit.
(Barbara moves on, while Amy continues to sit on floor. A few moments later, Colin sticks his head in again.)

Colin
Amy, I forgot. Oh, you’re up.

Amy
No, I’m down.

Colin
Amy, I won’t hit you.  I would never hit you.   I wouldn’t hit a girl, my girl, when she’s down. Amy, I came back because I think I forgot to tell you how much I love you.

Amy
It’s okay dad. I know you love me.  Now get out of here.

Colin
Right. I have a busy day ahead of me. You take care now.

Amy
Okay, Dad. Okay.

(He leaves her sitting on the floor. Colin leaves the hospital and takes the hot seat.)

Colin
Oh, yes, I remember every word she said, and she said, “My, my, it’s you again. Me, I don’t like you people.” I’ve got a good memory, but honestly I didn’t remember her. She said, “I remember you. You took little o’ me away from my grandma.”

Supervisor
(Appears downstage on one side of Colin.)
From where I sit…you need to take time off … off.  You deserve a vacation.  The Grand Canyon is waiting for you, Colin, waiting for you and your… Have you ever hiked the Grand Canyon, Colin?

Colin
Why do you want me to go on vacation?

Supervisor

You’ve earn time off.  Take it.

Colin

Is there something you’re not telling me?

Supervisor
No. Why are you suspicious, Colin?

Colin
I’m not suspicious.

Supervisor
Right.

Colin
Right here, right here, right now, it’s got to stop. I don’t need a vacation, and you need to stop insisting that I do. I don’t need a vacation; I’ve just had more than my share of tough cases lately, more than my share. As you know, yesterday I had a hard …  the hardest, roughest sex abuse case that I’ve ever had.
(Pointing to cut on his head)
See! Look! Martha was wrong. I didn’t need stitches. Yes, over the course of time I’ve had too many rough cases, but I don’t need a vacation.

Supervisor
Okay, you don’t need a vacation.

Colin
So what happens…am I placed on administrative leave? Am I? Amy is lying, so her dad loses his job. You know she’s lying. I saw her this morning. She’s in Summerset, and she’s getting the attention she needs. At first she wouldn’t talk to me…she’ll get over it and admit she lied.

Supervisor
But Colin, maybe you really…need…

Colin
No!  I don’t need a vacation. Look! Let me do my job. I don’t have time for any of this. I don’t have time…time…time to do my work. There’s never enough time, thank you.

Supervisor
Why are you fighting me?

Colin
Goddamn you! I’m not fighting you, and I don’t need a vacation!

Supervisor
Colin, how long?

Colin
How long what? Don’t look at me like that. I’m not an abuser? I’m not. Things get mixed up, that’s all. I wouldn’t let this happen. I never beat Amy.

Supervisor
A week … at least a week.  Take as long … as long as you need.  We’ll miss you, but ….  I placing you on leave for a week.

Colin
See!  You can’t.  There weren’t any bruises.  You know there weren’t any bruises.

Supervisor
It’s not up to me.  This will be over… let them complete their investigation.  It shouldn’t take longer than a week … just long enough to complete an investigation, and that shouldn’t take more than a week. Meanwhile you and Martha get away…go to the Grand Canyon.

Colin
Oh no you don’t. What about my new sex abuse case? What about Amy?

Supervisor
For now you better stay away from Amy. And as for the new sex abuse case, I’ll testify for you. I’ve done it before. No one’s indispensable, Colin. I’m assuming all the interviews were recorded like they were supposed to be. You can’t really go near Amy until after the investigation and you’ve been cleared. You know that. I’m pulling for you, Colin…I’ve been pulling for you and worried about you for a long time.

Colin
Worried about me? Me? Me? Why? I don’t need you to worry about me. That’s the last thing I need. I know how to take care of myself. It was just that yesterday…yesterday. You know I wouldn’t hurt Amy. Amy’s my big girl.

Martha
((Appears downstage opposite supervisor.)
You’re such a fool! You have such a big heart! You want to help every kid that comes along, but you don’t have time for your own kid. You care too much, and you don’t care enough. But what do I know? I’m your wife, that’s all, so… shouldn’t I know? Shouldn’t I? You only talk about your cases. By now I should know all about them…every one of them. But do you know what? I’d as soon have you not come home as to hear what some girl or boy told you. I don’t want to hear another word about your cases.

Colin
“You took me away from my grandmother.” She screamed, “Jezzzus! Can’t you see I’m crying?” She held her infant in her arms. “Do you think she’s purty? I don’t want her to be purty. I don’t want her to grow up thinking she has to be purty, to be somebody. She! She’s hungry now. The flirt sucks hard.” Fifteen-year-old mother. Runaway. Caught shoplifting. Has a newborn. Arrested and in the hospital.

Martha
Colin, where are you?

Social Worker
(Enters with a file in her hand)
You’re Amy’s father.
(She seems friendly and professional.)
You’re Amy’s father. You shouldn’t be here. The doctor, I’m sure…

Colin
Why don’t you give me his name? I’m sure he has a name. I need his name. Give me his fucking name.

Social Worker
Her name is Dr. Mary Anderson.

Colin
You’ve got it wrong, Martha. I don’t care too much. I’m afraid that…that…afraid that…I’m afraid that I fall short of caring too much.  I’m afraid I don’t care enough.  I’m afraid …cold.

Amy
(Appears in her hospital gown)
I am a pretty gal, and I dress like a boy. And I can’t get a boyfriend, but any girl can get boyfriend if she flaunts her stuff. I’m different. What are they looking at? I know what they’re thinking? They’re jealous, that’s all.

Colin
I’m doing all right.

Supervisor
I’m worried about you. I worry about you.

Martha
Where are you, Colin?  Colin.

Amy
Here we go.  Here we go again.  You can’t lay a finger on me.  You can’t touch me, touch me, and you know it.  Dad, if you lay a finger on me I’ll call CPS.  You can’t touch me. There’s no way you can. I’ll call CPS. Child Protective Service.  Protect me.  Protect me.  Come, come, come after me, as I slipped away with my butcher knife. I’m adrift.  As I drift away, your wayward child.  No guidance. No map.  Afraid.  Alone. In a hospital. Afraid.  Alone. No, not in jail. In a hospital. Adrift in a hospital on life support. No, I’m not crazy. Everybody else is. In a hospital and not in jail.  Not in jail.  Not in jail where I should be. Think before you act! Think. To think! To think? Think about what you did. It’s not as much about what I did as what I didn’t do. I didn’t burn our school down. I set a little fire in a restroom.  That’s all.  And tried to stomp it out. Lit a few paper towels with my lighter. Never expected it to amount to much. Then it grew! And grew!  And I carry a butcher for protection, protection.  And a box cutter to …
(Pause)
I should’ve known better. Adrift! And where was my dad?  Adrift.  Shit!  Shitty, shitty, shit.  Adrift! I didn’t hurt anyone! Shit.  I thought about it, thought of hurting someone. There is this particular group of kids. They don’t like me.  Fuck ‘em!  Fuck ‘em!  Fuck all them.  Fuck!  Call CPS.  Fuck CPS.

Colin
“Fourteen and a mother, you probably deserved a licking.” I never told her that, but I thought it. It could’ve been Amy, but Amy is more mature than that. These day kids grow up too fast. As she pointed to her infant, she asked me, “Do you think she’ll turn into a sassy-ass flirt?”

Amy
And he never showed up. Well, I showed him. Screw him! I showed him. Mother came. Always mother. Mother came.  Like always.   She always comes. So I showed him. Want to fight? Come on. I’m fucking tired of it. I thought if they called me a fucking twat one more time, I’d cut their fucking balls off. Screw them!  Shit!

Colin
I told her, “ You’re of a different generation and speak a different language. I have a daughter like you. Her name is Amy.”

Amy
At least no one got hurt.

Martha
Calm down Amy.

Amy
Then make them stop.  Stop calling me a twat.

Martha

Twart?

Amy

Forget it, mom.

Colin
My tomboy, Amy. “You can’t get in trouble with me.” She’s into blue jeans, trucks, and things, that’s my Amy. “You have a beautiful baby. Is it a boy or a girl?” She looked twenty-one, not fourteen. No, I didn’t tell her that she looked twenty-one.

Martha
She turned on me. She’s always been a daddy’s girl.

Colin
“He left. She leaves. Oh, fine. He don’t work. Works here and there, where he can. Remember, my pa eviscerates…that’s a big word for pulling your heart out…eviscerates chicken hearts, ‘cept his paws got too swollen to eviscerate.. For as long as I remember little o’me! Me, me! I’ve had to support myself. His paws got too swollen. It was his goddamn excuse.”

Amy
What a fucking mess! But I’m not a piece of garbage. Dad told me I wasn’t a piece of garbage.

Colin
She said she wanted a baby. Needed one more than anything. Fourteen and needed a baby.

Amy
I’ve thought about living on my own, and I’ve thrown a few things together and slipped out during middle of the night. There’s a place I like to go to, a place to hide in plain sight.

Colin
There was Sunshine, Sunshine of yesterday. Remember her? How could I forget worse sex abuse case I’ve ever had.

Amy
I have a hideout … a secret place right in the open. It’s on a curb right in front of the school. It’s where I sit and smoke. I generally sit alone and smoke and defy anyone to stop me. A kid in overalls who’s begging for a fight…she shows no fear because…because…because…because she’s rough and tough.

Colin
…a kid with an infant, and she didn’t have a clue what it took to be a mother.

Amy
I’ll show him.

Colin
Her folks were gone somewhere. She had no one but herself to rely on. She was barely fourteen.

Martha
Amy, sit down. We need to talk.

Amy
I can talk from here, if you insist on talking.

Colin
Fourteen, and a prostitute. I have to be thankful.

Amy
You look beat, Mama. Your slip is showing.

Martha
(Adjusting her slip)
You’re looking better. No, no, you look pretty … good.

Amy
I’m not pretty. Pretty is…it’s not me. When can I get out of here?

Martha
When you’re really better.

Amy
I’m really better. Can’t you see? I’m getting better and better, better.

Martha
It’s not up to me.

Amy
Who’s it up to then?

Martha
I’ll talk to your doctor. Your doctor should know something by now. I don’t know, Amy. I really don’t know.

Amy
Huh!

Martha
You don’t believe me.

Amy
Well, I’ll just kill myself.

Martha
Amy! Don’t talk like that, Amy!

Amy
Where’s dad? You don’t have to tell me. He’s working. Why are you on his side?  Why are you always on his side? Why do you keep defending him? There’s no defense for him. “You don’t keep putting good money into a bad project and expect something in return.” That’s what he’d say, isn’t it? “You don’t keep putting good money into a bad project and expect… “ He’ll never change, and you know it.

Colin
Pedophiles love children. “You guys don’t do shit.”

Martha
I don’t know. Amy…Amy…
(Scared)
I…I…don’t know how to tell you this. I kicked your father out of the house last night.

Amy
Are you going to divorce him?

Martha
Would you like me to? Would you like it, if I did?

Amy
No.

Colin
A pedophile I once met… Ah, maybe this has more to do with me than with him while I’m definitely not a pedophile. He was locked up in jail where he should be when he told me. Here he had to have lied. “I loved them more than their parents did.” Oh, don’t believe him! He was a pedophile. Steady…steady… Damn him! Damn him! Damn him! He was suicidal because he knew that he’d never be around children again. And he said he loved children, love them more than their parents did. Give him two minutes. Two minutes. Just two minutes. He said it only took him two minutes and he knew which one to choose, and he said he was never wrong. Two minutes…TWO…damn … minutes. And he was sentenced to over a thousand years, a thousand years for molesting children, and he was suicidal, not because of a long sentence, but because he knew he’d never be around children again. Oh, love your children! Show, show your love to the nasty brat. Back at home. Come in you little bastard. Get in here this minute. Show your love. Show your love as much as you can.

Martha
I never…

Amy
You kicked him out, but you’ll let him back in.  I know you’ll let him back in.

Martha
From where you are…it must look like I…

Amy
It’s between you two. I get it. It’s between you two. It doesn’t concern me.

Martha
That’s where you’re wrong.

Amy
I’m wrong all the time anyway. Is this what you wanted to talk to me about?

Martha
We’ve tried. We honestly have. I’ve tried. Your dad’s tried, and so far it hasn’t worked.

Amy
What are you talking about? You tried? You tried what?

Martha
You.

Colin
It’s amazing how clever they are…how they get parents to turn over their kids to them…how they just know what to do better than their parents do. How they know … Little Sunshine told us the truth while Amy told a pack of lies. Two minutes…amazing. Easy now…easy…you know you never beat Amy.

Martha
Amy, what do you think your father would’ve done had he’d found your note? What’s going on with you? Why didn’t you come to us before it got so bad? To start with your father adores you and would do anything for you. We both love you. He says we ought to have put our foot down. We don’t always agree, but for Christ’s sakes…for sure we agree on one thing and that is we both love you.

Amy
What did you do with my note?
(Martha shows that she has note by taking it out of her purse.)
Don’t tell Dad, for God’s sake don’t tell him.

Colin
You start off every time with something like…
(Sunshine appears)
Start at the very beginning and from the beginning tell me everything that happened.

Sunshine
Everything? Cain’t do nothin’…nothin’ about it. Get off me! Sometimes in bed. Sometimes on floor. Sometimes under a blanket.. Sometimes mama’s around. Sometimes not.

Colin
And then what would happened? What would happen in bed?
(Pause)
You’re in bed, and he’s…

Sunshine
Daddy. That’s who.

Colin
Daddy. Then what? And on floor what? Simply tell me what happened from beginning to end…what happened in bed, on floor, then under blanket. Everything. Completely. And then what happened? You’re doing a good job. What else? You can tell me. No, no, no. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not easy. I know. It’s not easy. And it’s not your fault

Sunshine
He…he…

Colin
Yes?

Sunshine
He’d pull down my undies. I’d close my eyes, and…

Colin
You’d close your eyes. And then what?

Sunshine
Eyes closed. I’d close them tight.

Colin
And then what?

Sunshine
Lights out.  Lights out.  Lights out!

Colin
“You guys don’t do shit.” Fourteen and a prostitute. And pedophiles love children. And…

Martha
(After tearing up Amy’s note.)
There!  Now, we can start over.   Amy, what’s going on? I’m giving you a chance. I won’t tell your dad, if you’ll tell me what’s going on.

Amy
I messed up. That’s it. I messed up. I know I messed up. Now can I go home?

Martha
Again it’s not up to me. Or your dad. But we’ll stand by you, Amy. Whatever.  Whatever it is.  Whatever.  We will. We will stand beside you. We’ll be there for you.  We love you. Both of us.

Amy
Okay, okay.

Martha
I know we failed you.

Amy
Enough.

Martha
I think we’ll get through this, Amy, but you’ve got to learn. We can learn from our mistakes, our mistakes with you.  We can change.  But you broke the law.

Amy
All right, I’m sorry. What more do you want me to say? I’m sorry. Now what do I have to do? Oh, I know. I know it’s not up to you. Or dad.

Martha
You’ll have to take your medicine. And you need help.  You’ve been suspended from school. The rest is up to a judge, and if you’re lucky, you’ll only have to do community service and end up on probation. And your dad and I will have to pay restitution. You’ll have to keep your nose clean.  And your dad and me … we’ll do anything for you.

Amy
And there are other things, aren’t there?

Martha
There may be. There always are. There’s your dad and me, and you have things to set right.  We have things to set right … your dad and me.

Amy
I’ve been bad, bad, bad. Bad, bad, bad.  I’m a bad girl.

Martha
No, you’re not.  Now stop Amy. Stop it now. Give me a hug.  God, how I need a hug.  I need a hug.

Amy
Are you disappointed? Disappointed with me?

Martha
Disappointed. Disappointed with you? Yes.  I have to be honest and say yes.  Yes, but I’m just as disappointed with myself.

Amy
You disappointed…you with yourself? I’m disappointed for a lot of reasons.

Martha
Disappointment is part of life.

Amy
I know dad is disappointed too.

Martha
Your dad adores you.

Amy
Then why doesn’t he show it … show it more?

Martha
I won’t make excuses for him. I’ve stopped doing it. I won’t…not any more.

Amy
Have you gone through the house yet?

Martha
What?

Amy
Gone through the house and collected all knives and scissors, pins and needles, and locked them up. So that I can go home. I want to go home.

Martha
I know you do honey.

Supervisor
(As if she’s talking on the telephone)
Yes? I’m Mr. Rogers’ supervisor. I know you’re upset, sir. You have reason to be upset. I’m not trying to, sir. He’s one of my best workers. I think, Mr. Monk… Mr. Monk, you need to calm down. I know that you and your wife are upset. Upset.   Will you give me your number please, and I’ll have Mr. Rogers … No, Mr. Rogers had a … Mr. Rogers is ill.  So, why don’t you and your wife come in.  I’ll see you.  I’m Mr. Rogers’ supervisor.

 

Colin
Yes, I know what happens next. You act like I’m a stupid sonofabitch!

Supervisor
No. But now go home.

Colin
I have no home to go to. That’s why I look the way I do. I’ve been up all night.

Supervisor
I’m sorry, Colin

Colin
My case notes are all there.

Supervisor
I figured they would be. I’m sorry.

Colin
I know.

Supervisor
And I’ll keep the lid on this as much as I can.

Colin
I know you will.

(Mr. and Mrs. Monk appear.)

Mr. Monk
I didn’t touch my girl. She’s lying. He had no right to come into our home and take Amber the way he did. It upset her, and she ain’t abused. Sunshine. Sunshine ain’t abused either.  Girl’s lying, and she’s lying so she can get away with stuff. I never touched her. No, never. Ask her mother! Ask her if I’m ever alone with Sunshine. Ask her. Children lie all the time. You should know children lie. I spank her sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with spanking. It’s not against the law. I don’t beat my children. I’m careful. I spank April, but Sunshine is too old to spank. Yous what’s wrong with children these days. You raise your hand, and they threaten to call you guys…CPS.

Colin
AAAAAmy! AAAAAmy! Why? Why? AAAAAAmy!

Mr. Monk
“MOVE OUT! ALL OF YOUS!”

Colin
Start at the beginning and give me every single detail… That’s how you start, and proof is in details.

Mr. Monk
Too old to spank. Too old to spank. I don’t touch her. I let her mother do it whenever it’s necessary.

Colin
Year after year if you last long enough…over and over again…you hear about poop… underpants on railings…

Martha
Careful…you’re losing it, Colin.  Careful.

Colin
Losing…losing it.

Martha
(To Amy)
Your dad sends his love. Who am I kidding? Being angry won’t help. He’s not here to see you angry.  And look…

Amy
That’s the trouble. He’s not here.

Martha
He’s been here.

Amy
Yes, he’s been here.

Martha
And you wouldn’t talk to him.

Amy
I want us to be a family again.

Martha
He tries.

Amy
Don’t make excuses for him.

Martha
I’m trying. I’m glad you want to come home. We want you home.

Amy
Make him…

Martha
I can’t make him do anything. You know that. I’m glad you’re feeling better. I brought you something.
(She pulls a kimono out of an old bag.)
A kimono! What do you think?
(Amy frowns.)
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I know you prefer blue jeans.

Amy
It’s okay, mother. At least you’re trying.

Colin
Easy now…hard.
(To Amy)
Truth, Amy. Look what you’ve done. Your old man, he’s feeling terribly.

Amy
The same ol’, same ol’, same ol’ stuff. Except now I’ve got your attention.

Colin
That’s fine. Meanwhile my job is in jeopardy.
(Shouts)
I hope you’re satisfied. I want you to think about what you’re doing, think about consequences. It could lead to my losing my job.
(To himself)
What am I doing? Crazy. Stupid! I shouldn’t be here.

Amy
You threw me into a wall. Hurt my back.

Colin
Another lie. Lying. But not for long. You can’t pull it off, Amy. You have no injuries.

Amy
Dad! Dad? You hurt my back. You lost it and threw me into a wall. You know you did. You came into my room, and I told you to get out. My room! You were angry over something. I’ve forgotten over what. And you threw me against a wall. You lost it and threw me against a wall. When? When? When mother wasn’t home. You caught me with a cig. A nasty cig. With a cig in my mouth. I’d just lit it when you came into my room, and mother wasn’t home yet. You lost it, slapped me, and pushed me into a wall. Hurt my back. I can’t pull it off? We’ll see. You shouldn’t have…should’ve stayed out of my room.  You didn’t knock.

Colin
(To Martha)
Martha, Amy keeps changing her story. She now says I slapped her and pushed her into a wall. She’s changed her story. She first said I beat her. And any investigator will know she’s lying, and if that doesn’t clear me, that she doesn’t have any injuries will. And she has a conduct disorder … a conduct disorder.  This explains things.  It will discredit her, discredit her, discredits and clears me.  They will dismiss her allegations and believe me.  It will clear me.  Then I won’t lose my job, except I went to the hospital and saw Amy when I wasn’t supposed to, so I’ve screwed up and could still lose my job anyway. Who the hell can tell me I can’t see my daughter? I know better, but she’s my daughter. For God’s sake. I didn’t slap her or push her into a wall. I didn’t go into her room. I didn’t catch her smoking in her room. I didn’t know she smokes.

Martha
Haven’t you dug yourself into a deep enough hole? You don’t know when to shut up, do you? You’re not guilty. I know it. You know it. Amy knows it.  She’ll tell the truth.  She wants to come home.

Colin
But the harm has been done.

Martha
Jesus!

Colin
Well it has been. I’ve been placed on administrative leave. My daughter’s in the hospital.

Martha
Christ Colin, your daughter wrote a suicide note, and judging from the note, she meant to kill herself. She needs to be in the hospital

Colin
Martha!

Martha
For God’s sake, Colin. She needs you…needs you now more than ever. When was the last time we did anything as a family? It’s too bad that you’ve been placed on administrative leave, but you need a vacation. We could go together…as a family.

Colin
You don’t know how hard it is. Easy…easy now! Hard!

Martha
I know you have a hard job.  Don’t I know it.

Colin
All I’m trying to do is be the best investigator I can be.

Martha
And you’re forgetting what’s important, that’s what you’re doing.

Colin
You don’t know. Oh, God. I can’t believe that I’m getting this from you. Martha, you don’t know.

Martha
You choose to work all the time. You choose to bring your work home. All you talk about is work…your cases … your damn cases.  I’m sick about hearing about your damn cases.

Colin
You’re telling me I choose to…that I choose to when you don’t know. I don’t have a choice, Martha. Yes, I do. I could quit. I should quit, and then where would we be?

Martha
Stop it! We all have choices. And we’re not asking you to quit.  Amy is not asking you to quit.  I’m not asking you to quit.  I know you can’t quit.  I know it.

Colin
Huh! Can’t you see I’m almost over the edge? It wouldn’t take much. It wouldn’t take much to push me over, see?  See? It’s an edge around top of a black hole, and I’m hanging over it. And I’m accused of having fallen into it. Over the edge, looking for …  hanging over the edge for a long time…a long time.  Over the edge of a deep, deep. Black hole … sucking you in, but…but I’m hanging on, or so I thought. Help. So I supposedly have choices. I certainly don’t want to fall in, then what? So what do I do? Like I said I could quit? Quitting is a choice. But …but…but it isn’t a choice I have. I’m not a quitter. I know I can’t save the world, but … I’m not a quitter.  I won’t quit.  I won’t.   Now I’m accused.  Everyone agrees that children need to be protected, and when parents can’t or won’t do it, there’s CPS. So what should I do? Quit? I’m not a quitter. Give up? I’m not a quitter. Take early retirement? I’m not… Take a vacation? Walk along the edge of the Grand Canyon? Options remain the same. Walking along the edge… So what do I do, keep walking along the edge of a black hole and pray that I keep my balance? Quit?  And I’m not the only one I have to watch out for. There are those I care about. You and Amy and Amy who has accused me of…pushing her…throwing her…beating her…accused me of a whole lot of things. You expect me to bring home a paycheck. You also expect me to be a father and a husband. So if God sees fit I can be a father and a husband and bring home a paycheck while I protect children and walk along the edge of a black hole. But…and then while I’m managing all that I’m accused of abusing my own daughter. Tell me then that I’m a slouch…a jerk. Am I a drunk? Do I drink?   Do I do drugs? Have I slapped you around? Haven’t I been a good provider? No black eyes! No broken ribs!  No bruises!  No bruises! … And I didn’t push Amy into a wall. I didn’t throw her…didn’t beat her…slap her. I’m good in bed. I have to be careful now…careful not to fall in…easy now… when it’s hard. I’ve made mistakes. I make mistakes every day. I screw up…screwed up. I know I shouldn’t have gone to the hospital to see Amy…I know I shouldn’t have done it without supervision. The hospital screwed up. Incompetent idiots!

Amy
I’m dumb. I’m the one who’s dumb…dumb and ugly.

Martha
Amy wants to come home.

Colin
They’ll have to clear her first. A few years from now we’ll look back on all of this and having survived know we can survive anything.

Martha
After we’ve gone to the canyon…sat and talked…had a nice long talk…talked this out…

Colin
…sitting on the edge, safe and secure with our feet dangling over the side.

Martha
Wonderful, then I better figure out what I’m going to wear.

Colin
I’m thankful Amy’s getting help …  help she needs. I love you both. Do you know what I haven’t been able to do in a very long time?
(Pause)
Where has your husband been, Martha? Where was Amy’s father? What was with him? Look at him. He worked late and when he came home he brought his work with him. Martha. And all this time what was he thinking? What was going on in his head?

Martha
I haven’t a clue.

Colin
O yes you do.

Martha
No Colin, I don’t.

Colin
You said it a while ago. I’ll give you a clue. I talked of nothing else.

Martha
And I stopped listening.

Colin
Martha…

Martha
I had to.

Colin
Martha! I’m guilty! Martha, I’m guilty.   I fell into a black hole and couldn’t climb out. I couldn’t get words out of my head. Words, words of children, words of children replaying in my head…over and over and over and over again. It’s okay. You can tell me … tell me anything. You did nothing wrong. Start at beginning and tell me exactly what happened…every single thing. “He didn’t do nothing!” Okay, but tell me what you told the school nurse. He wouldn’t do what? And then what happened? Year after year if you last that long. Over and over again…words!  About poop…underpants on railings … touching … raping … fathers … mothers … neglecting …. abusing …. their children …like eight-year olds … five-year olds describe it… touching, raping, raping …  use … use …use…use their words. MOVE OUT! ALL YOUS! No! It’s not lovin’ or intercourse. Then what is it? In their words. Start at beginning and tell me everything that happened. And you’ve got to get words right… exact … all … exact words down…so THERE’S NOWAY SOMEBODY CAN SAY SHE … HE MADE IT UP! On the edge of a black hole… a deep black hole … you’ve got to understand: we’re always on the edge of a deep, black hole. Martha, I may need the next few years.
Martha
No, no, no, I won’t wait.  No, no, no! Now!  No, you’ll start now.  Now!  You’ll start with a vacation, and you’ll take Amy and me with you. We haven’t been to the canyon in a long time.

(Amy, Colin, and Martha come together)

Together.  Our vacation.  Our first vacation in a long time.

Colin
We drove to the south rim.

Martha
I prefer the north rim,

Amy
I like staying in the old lodge.

Martha

Hear her.  Colin, hear her.

Colin
Instead we camped.

Martha
On the south rim.

Amy
And it was crowded.

Martha
Noisy and crowded.  It would’ve been less crowded on the north rim.

Colin
But we didn’t have enough time to go … north, drive north … drive to the north rim. I mean I wanted to spend less time driving.  This time we’ll go to the north rim.

Amy
You mean you didn’t want to take more time off.  Your job was more important than your family.  Your job … CPS was more important than your family.  CPS was more important to you than me.

Colin
I couldn’t.

Martha
You could.  We can go to the north rim and then north to Utah … drive to Zion, see Zion, on to Zion, Zion! We can go to Zion … then on and on.

Colin
I couldn’t.

Amy
Daddy! You could.  We could.  Now admit it.  A real vacation.  This time a real vacation.  For once, a real vacation.

Colin
I’m trying.  I’m doing my best.  Then on to Zion.  Drive to Zion, see Zion, on to Zion, Zion … a real vacation.    Yes, the north rim, and then … on to Zion!  A real vacation. Yes, a real vacation.  The three of us.  Yes.   Zion here we come.  But there won’t be time to see more, everything.

Martha
There’s never enough time.  With you …

Colin
Martha  ,,, never enough … never enough time.  Yes, drive to Zion, see Zion, and take our time.  Yes, yes, yes.  YES!

Amy and Martha

YES!

Colin

Zion!

 

CURTAIN

Randy Ford

 

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