Category Archives: Randy

Ruminate Magazine-The 2017 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize

Contest closes May 15th
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Friends, distill that moment.


 “I like having a phrase lying around to get poems started.
It’s like having a key.”  — Shane McCrae

If you’re like us, you have poems everywhere—half-hidden in files and folders and titled things like “Renewal,” “Family,” or “Conflict.”  They creep into margins, install themselves in the pages of your notebooks. And sometimes, you can watch them crystallize around a single photo, a single phrase, a single second.

Our finalist judge, Shane McCrae thinks of these phrases as keys, unlocking the truth hiding in that moment. The poem that forms around those phrases makes that truth accessible in a way no other form can—it invites the reader to experience it for themselves.

So return to that poem, the one that is only partly done but already rings true. Sit with it. Return to the phrase that created it and unlock that door.

The 2017 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize closes May 15th, with a $1500 cash prize and publication in Ruminate awarded to the winning poet and $200 and publication in Ruminate awarded to the second-place poet.

Please, accept our invitation to submit your poems.  It’s time to share that truth.

SUBMIT YOUR WORK

Warmly,

Kristin George Bagdanov

Poetry Editor
Ruminate Magazine
P.S. Want to submit but don’t know where to start? Get our Poetry Prize Bundle!
Poetry Prize Bundle
Our days are often busy and loud, yet we feel empty and asleep. Storytelling and art reminds us to slow down and live more fully awake with compassion, creativity, and curiosity. 

Subscribe and join our community—let’s stay awake together! 

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KVOA Tucson News-Local artist, veteran pressured to take down ‘Trump’ artwork

KVOA Tucson News-Local artist, veteran pressured to take down ‘Trump’ artwork

KVOA Tucson News-Local artist, veteran pressured to take down ‘Trump’ artwork

TUCSON –One local artist and Army veteran is upset after he was allegedly pressured to take down his artwork because it bears the name of President-elect Donald Trump.

Neil Bernstein presented a collection at Espresso Art Café Friday evening. The artwork, which featured backwards American flags with ‘Trump’ emblazoned on them, was all done by disabled veterans.

“We made the flags, myself and another veteran, as a metaphor for the distress that all of us are experiencing right now on all sides,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein hoped the art would start a conversation on how divided the country is. But things took a turn for the worse after the flags were displayed in the café.

“People began protesting to the owner, demanding the ‘Trump’ name be covered up or the works would be torn down,” he said.

Bernstein said he has received numerous messages from the business owner demanding he take the pieces down, despite the fact that the exhibition isn’t supposed to be over.

He’s upset, but said he’ll take them down and display them somewhere else.

“The issuance of an order, a demand to either remove President Trump’s name, or to take the works down, or have them destroyed, is unacceptable,” he said.

News 4 Tucson reached out to the owner of the café. He said he had no comment on the matter.

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The National Writers Union- Hosts Linda Valdez and Open Mic Jan 16, 2017

The National Writers Union- Hosts Linda Valdez and Open Mic Jan 16, 2017

The National Writers Union will be hosting a reading and open mic on Monday, January 16, starting at 6:00 p.m. at Bookmans on Grant in Tucson. This month Linda Valdez will be the featured reader. She will be reading from her recently published work, Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders (Texas Christian University Press), a personal story about her falling in love with a Mexican man who crossed the border illegally to be with her. Their 27-year marriage “has been a journey of discovery as the daughter of middle-class America and the son of rural Mexico built a life together that honors both cultures. At a time when political rhetoric aims to dehumanize immigrants, this book offers a story of shared humanity.” Linda is a member of the editorial board at The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 2003. Her commentary opposing Arizona’s hard-liner immigration laws earned her the Scripps Howard Walker Stone Award for editorial writing in 2010.

This will be followed by an open mic that is for spoken word only, but is open to all forms of spoken word (fiction, essays, poetry, articles, polemics, etc.). So bring something to read!

The event will be held in the community room of Bookmans Entertainment Exchange at Grant and Campbell in Tucson (1930 E. Grant Rd.), which is in the back of the store behind the children’s literature section. There is ample free parking.

National Writers Union
(UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)
Tucson Unit
nwutucson@yahoo.com
http://www.nwu-tucson.org/
National Writers Union – Tucson Chapter | Facebook

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Neil Bernstein Artist- AMERICA: 9-11 Art Show Opening

Neil Bernstein Artist- AMERICA: 9-11 Art Show Opening

“AMERICA-9.11 !” “PRESIDENT TRUMP CHECKS THE PLA” FLAG SERIES CREATIVE DEPT OF DEFENSE Begin Friday 13th January 2017 ESPRESSO ART 924 E University Ave Tucson, Arizona 85719 6pm

“AMERICA 911” EXHIBITIONS BEGIN Friday the 13th JANUARY

“PRESIDENT TRUMP CHECKS THE PLA 2017” Navy Distress Flag, PTSD Veterans blood,  TRUMP campaign sign, American Muscle Car (68′ Shelby-Bullit GT) paint, Air Force DD-979 Hazard Tag on canvas fixed to flag.

“AMERICA-911”

INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY SERIES 2017-

“ARRANCAR-THE PROMISED LAND FOR THE PEOPLE” Educational centerpiece from THE NEW JERSEY CENTER FOR THE VISUAL ARTS INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION (Telemundo, Univision, PBS-“Golden Gates Bridge Over Troubled Borders Immigration Gateways to U.S.)

by “THE CREATIVE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE”

BE A REAL PART OF AMERICAN MEDIA HISTORY!

OPENS: FRIDAY JANUARY 13 2017 6PM-

ESPRESSO ART-EUROPA               UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

924 E.UNIVERSITY AVE. TUCSON, ARIZONA 85719

CREATIVE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE T-SHIRTS, CONTROVERSIAL MUSEUM ART, NEWS REELS. PROCEEDS BENEFIT DISABLED U.S. VETERANS

THE NEW LINCOLN VETERANS MEMORIAL will be at the opening for Veterans to sign

click link to see real veterans back to WWII tell their remarkable stories!

VIEW CRRREATORS YOUTUBE VETERANS VIDEOS

PRESS CONTACT: creativedod@gmail.com  929-286-3640

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The Writers Studio- 2017 New Writing Opportunities Such As Workshops

I get angry about things, then go on and work. — Toni Morrison
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What are you going to make of this new year?
“Now more than ever”
This year The Writers Studio received a record number of holiday greetings from current and former students, teachers, and members of the larger literary world. Along with the seasonal warm wishes, there was an outpouring of gratitude for the literary community we have built over the past thirty years.

With no corporate or university affiliations, no big donors or opulent fund-raisers, we have been able to follow our conscience and provide serious, technique-oriented workshops in a safe, supportive environment to thousands of of writers, in classrooms and online.  Not surprisingly, many of the notes included that phrase that we use in tough times, “now more than ever.”

Might you benefit from our unique workshops? To learn more about what sets us apart, click here. To get a deeper understanding of our method, click here. To see a complete list of offerings, click here. To ask us a question, write to us here or give us a call: 212-255-7075.

Where And When Would You Start?

Online I starts
January 9 <2 spots open>
January 14 <4 spots open>
January 17 ❤ spots open>

NYC I in the West Village starts
January 18 <2 spots open>
January 23 

NYC I in Brooklyn starts
January 19 <5 spots open>

Hudson Valley Workshop starts
January 5 <4 spots open>

Tucson Workshop starts
January 17

San Francisco Workshop starts Thursday
January 5 ❤ spots open>

Amsterdam Workshop Starts
January 9,    January 10,  January 11

Online Advanced Poetry Starts Thursday
January 5
If you have an MFA in Poetry or have taken four or more post graduate poetry classes, take this class

Tutorials Start Whenever

Whether you are just starting out and want one-on-one support in expressing your thoughts, or you have an existing project you’d like to work on, we have a Writers Studio teacher that is right for you. Tutorials are available for adults and teens. Please write to info@writerstudio.com OR just reply to this email, and let us know what you would like to work on. More info is here.
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Now is a time to come together to share our writing and strengthen our voices. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and use the link below to forward this.
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‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’-that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to to know. — John Keats

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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, I can’t think 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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Filed under Daddy's Party, Randy

Randy Ford Author- CRASH

CRASH

by Randy Ford

That summer Mike and I decided to ride bicycles across America. Yes, Mike and I decided to tour America by bicycles.  We decided to take off work.  Yes, we decided to take off work and leave our wives at home.  We decided to take off long enough to ride across America.   It meant leaving our wives to fend for themselves and our children, while we took off on our great adventure.

Mike and I bought new bicycles, ten speed bikes, light weight touring bikes and bought panniers and camping gear, heavy camping gear.  But we soon realized that gear we bought was too heavy, so we started over with two tarps, two ground clothes, and two sleeping bags.  We didn’t plan to cook, so we didn’t bother with a cook stove.  We didn’t bother with many things we once thought were necessary.

It was hot that summer.  Why wouldn’t it be hot: it was summer?  It was June, June in southern Arizona.  And we soon found we weren’t in shape, in shape to ride all day, ride during the day in Summer, in Arizona.  The first day we rode only thirty miles and sought shade a number of times while sleeping for a stretch.  Remember it was hot, unusually hot that summer.

I generally rode behind Mike, and on the first day we soon exhausted ourselves and had to get off our bikes and walk, pushing our bikes up hills.  A mistake, maybe … walking and pushing our bikes up hills made a long, hard day, a long, hard thirty miles, and we never learned to work together, as bicyclists (never drafted each other or stopped when the other wanted to), and as…well, we were friends but we didn’t know each other. Another mistake, perhaps; if I knew what I know now, maybe … a big mistake.  Meanwhile, imagine two out of shape, middle-age farts riding heavily loaded bicycles out of Phoenix in June, in June!  Torture!  June!  Murder!

But we were wise to begin before sunup and head north into mountains…a couple of old farts who underestimated their endurance and strength and found themselves stuck in the middle of desert and steep mountains.  What were we thinking?  We weren’t thinking when we faced the first long, steep grade.   Maybe we should’ve seen right then that we weren’t supermen and that we were a couple old, middle aged farts and should’ve called our wives to pick us up.  I ask myself now what if we made those phone calls, what if we called our wives to pick us, would Mike be here today? Neither one of us had a clue what we were in for.

A long hot afternoon. We walked most of the way, pushing our heavily bicycles, sweating and swearing at mountain grades, grades we needed to climb. When we could ride we used our small sprockets as we climbed long false flats.  Previous day we only rode thirty miles before it got too hot, hot, hot to ride and spent the rest of the day sleeping  under an underpass, sleeping on top of bat droppings. That evening, in sober reflection on our first day in the saddle, we planned our next day, which we expected to be harder than the first one. Bats flew around our heads (prudently we covered our faces with T-shirts), and for a couple of discouraged farts, bats were a distraction. We tried to sleep but couldn’t and took off around midnight hoping that we wouldn’t get run over by a car or a truck, started that early because we didn’t want to get stuck in heat and desert again.

Before the trip, like I said, Mike and I really didn’t know each other, didn’t know each other the way we would, the way we would despite being acquainted for several years, and with him seemingly having everything a man could want and with me a little envious of him. Before the trip we had our differences, of course; but we solved them as they came up.  As they came up, we worked them out.  As for choosing a route, it was our first debate, and since we wanted to stay off major highways, our options were limited.  It was a heated debate.  Desert verses mountains.  Desert in Arizona during June or mountains.  Mountains.  Mountains won out.  So we climbed out the desert and had our hardest day near the beginning of our trip. We were, of course, tempted to hitch a ride with tuckers, hitch rides up long, hard grades.  But we didn’t hitch rides as we wanted, all right, just as we didn’t do a lot of things we should’ve. Should’ve, could’ve, wanted, yeah.  Every project requires decisions, some easy, some hard, and as it turned out choosing a route was one of the easier ones.  But let’s not jump ahead. Nature of what happened, what I’ve always called mishaps caused me to keep many details to myself. Many details would’ve been too hard to face.   Many details of our trip woud’ve been too hard for Mike’s wife to face.  Many details would’ve been too hard for Mike’s family to fac.  And if I had recognized Mike’s problems sooner, had known what to do, and had made right decisions, maybe…just maybe…maybe Mike would be … now I’m getting ahead of myself.
Sad, sad indeed, bicycle trip, now a sad memory, relegated to memory.  Relegated to memory, thank God.  Thank God.

I’ve gone over it in my mind, gone over it over and over again. When and where did it begin? On a highway somewhere, somewhere … in Show Low or Springerville … on the road, somewhere, somewhere, somewhere?  But where?  Where was somewhere?  Surely not in a ditch where it came to a head, or before our trip.  Back when, somewhere?  Before our trip.  Surely, before our trip.  Our trip, our trip, our bicycle trip, it couldn’t have begun on our trip.   I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know when it began, but I suspect bicycling and me had nothing to do with Mike’s problems, though exertion may have triggered something.  I don’t know.

The color of his face was red, the grade was steep, and the summit wasn’t in sight.  In a world of his own, Mike was (though he said he felt fine) … he was struggling as much as I was but otherwise he seemed fine; and when we spotted a campsite on a curve, we decided before the day was half over, decided to call it a day.

It had been a hard day.  Mike was outgoing and likeable, a good man who seemed to have everything going for him, a home, a wife, children, and a job. Although we had been friends for several years, we didn’t know each other well. We didn’t know each other’s quirks.  We didn’t know each other’s likes and dislikes.  We went on a few short training rides before our trip and swapped a few horror stories about bicycling, so I thought he was in better shape than he was. I don’t know which of us came up with the idea of touring across the country, but getting away from hectic jobs sounded appealing, appealing to me. Moreover, we both set personal goals for the trip: as much as I hated to admit that I was overweight and was asking for a heart attack. But whatever happened to the adventurous notion of accepting a challenge simply for a challenge and enjoyment of it?  Goals?  Hell, why did we have to have goals?  Wasn’t riding bicycles across America, a big enough goal?

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and in spite of fatigue, heat and fatigue, we were feeling pretty confident…except we were running out of water. Mike was a long way ahead of me. Off in my own world, I was pushing as hard as I could, but I still couldn’t catch him…and I couldn’t see how he could keep going at that pace. As would surely come to pass, he ran out of energy. Then I had to wait for him.

I didn’t resent his prowess. Mike was serious about training, had trained more than me, and was (after all) in better shape. Although, as it turned out, there was something driving him more than a desire to race me, something more, something more that drove him, something that made him not want me to forget that he wanted to come out first … to always be first … to always win.  Now I never wanted to compete.  It didn’t matter to me.  It didn’t matter if he reached top of a hill before I did.  It didn’t matter and never mattered.

To me winning didn’t matter, and I always reminded him that we agreed that we would never rush or try to make a specific destination on a particular day. Moreover, I didn’t envy his prowess as much as I wanted to get in better shape. I wanted to ride up mountains rather than push my bicycle up them. I wondered whatever happened to the idea of sharing an experience and working as a team?  Whatever happened to the idea of building a friendship?  Why was he racing me?  Why was he racing himself?  Why?  Why?  Why did Mike always have to try to outdo himself?  Why? I wondered.

I stopped trying to stay up with him, because there was no way I could.  Why try, try and try to stay up with him when it was impossible.  Why try, as he got stronger and stronger. Both of us, by late afternoon, wanted to get where we could spend the night, he without a doubt with a specific destination in mind, and me without one. I worried too that he might collapse…have a heart attack or something, and as I said, we were almost out of water and he was racing. Racing himself.  What would I do if he suddenly collapsed? I wondered. Thank goodness we were coming to a junction, where I knew there was a gas station. Of course, Mike got there first.

But we had three or four hours left before dark, and there wasn’t a good reason to stop yet. So mile after mile I continued to chase him: “Not for any particular reason, I raced him.  Heck, I didn’t want to get too far behind.  I felt discouraged and didn’t want to be left behind.  My legs, my legs, bless them…from somewhere I got the legs…persevered, yes…persevered and raced down Salt River Canyon and dragged myself up the other side, rode up it without stopping. I could honestly say that I was getting stronger. A risk taker by nature, I flew down the south side of the canyon…look mom, no brains… and huffed up the north side, but I saw no point in trying to catch Mike, who naturally made it up the north side first.

At the top he aired his feet out. Took off shoes and socks, his smelly socks.  He farted and removed his smelly socks.

My idea of camping wherever we landed won out that evening simply because I refused to ride after dark. I didn’t ask Mike…this was where we were going to bed down, and I didn’t care whether he liked it or not. We carried emergency rations with us. I refused to cook (please, cooking was too dangerous), so all we did after we found a place where we could hide was spread out our ground clothes and unroll our sleeping bags. Easy enough, I thought. Unsatisfied, however, Mike wanted a hot meal and a shower, which by my reckoning was more than twenty miles away. Fists clenched, Mike clearly wasn’t happy, touché, for me touché. If we’d been closer to Show Low, maybe I would’ve been willing to risk it. A hot meal, a warm shower, and a bed with clean sheets was enticing.

But how could we make it across the country on money we had if we splurged, splurged in Show Low? And hadn’t we agreed to mostly camp and only stay in motels when it was critical? And hadn’t we been on the road less than week and had four or five weeks ahead of us? I still agreed that Show Low, after desert and climbs, might be a good place to recoup, recoup energy and wash cloths. It would all depend on how we felt when got to Show Low if we recouped or not, which I calculated would be fairly early in the morning and, if we decided to stop there, it would basically make a rest day. There were plenty of options, I knew, and I kept telling myself we weren’t in a hurry. Show Low, a pleasant mountain town, was just a place to establish a precedent and bring sanity back to our trip, and I was determined not to let Mike make all decisions. If on balance we both could agree on something like spending almost a whole day in Show Low, it would be worth a stay.

And I was enlivened by cool, mountain air.  After heat and heat, sweat and heat, I was enlivened by cool, mountain air, which with gentle breezes, scent of pines, and as tired as I was, made for great sleeping. To this day I don’t know why Mike, bless his soul, screamed in the middle of the night and scared the wits out of me. It had been so peaceful, peace, so peaceful, sleeping and then Mike screamed.  Only sound of wind, wind in pines and an occasional vehicle until Mike screamed, screamed like something or someone attacked him.  It took all my strength to show restraint.  To show restraint took all my strength.  I was sure Mike’s tendency to exaggerate came into play when he screamed.  And it was an explanation I clung to for the next few days.  A reference to Big Foot clinched it for me. A footprint! I didn’t see one.

Or did something else set Mike off during the night and caused him to scream and insist that it was Big Foot, something I missed, and while I couldn’t believe it and didn’t see footprints, much less believed he saw them, he was obviously frightened by something.  There were no footprints.  There was no bigfoot.  I was sure of it.

At any rate, I wasn’t sympathetic, as he tried to prove that there was something. Why couldn’t it have been an animal that I didn’t hear because I was sleeping so soundly? Or maybe he had a nightmare. Regardless, it seemed awfully juvenile to me.  It had to be a nightmare, or why else did Mike scream?  I hated him for it.

If someone doesn’t understand what’s going on with someone else, he or she…even though they might be friends…might not be as tolerant as they should be, and at that moment, all I wanted was to go back to sleep.

But Mike wouldn’t stop.

I told him he had to stop. I told him he had to stop.  He wouldn’t stop.  It wouldn’t have hurt if I had talked to him, though, in order for me to know what was going on, I would’ve had to have been a psychologist.

There was no way that I could’ve looked inside Mike’s brain and seen what was going on. There was no way that I could’ve known that there was a disease at work, so I went back to sleep without saying another word. In hindsight, I kick myself for not being more alarmed. I should’ve paid more attention to Mike and his distress. Maybe then I wouldn’t have been blindsided, but how was I to know…know that I was dealing with something serious. Mental illness was something I knew nothing about. In route to Show Low, rolling along through the pines, it was so pleasant that I put the incident behind me. Mike turned on the gas, and we actually raced for the first time until I relented and turned off the gas just as we reached the outskirts of town, and…? He headed straight for a restaurant…hollered “Real Food!” as if he hadn’t had anything to eat for a week. Took our bicycles inside, smelled bacon frying and the coffeepot was on, breakfast upstaged everything else, thus putting off the forces Mike couldn’t control for another day.

After a rest day in Show Low and a good night’s sleep in a bed, next morning would be relatively easy and was a welcome gift; about twenty or thirty miles across a high plateau.  We had climbed as much as we were going to.  But the cool air and easygoing didn’t keep me from worrying about Mike, who decided to ride without his helmet and rode slumped over his handlebars in a way uncharacteristic of him. My attention however was diverted by scenery, which included a mountain lake, high chaparral, and several cinder cones. At one point I thought I might score a point or two by passing Mike, after I stayed on his wheel down a great down, near the bottom I shot past him, and tried to make it up the next hill before he did. More importantly, even if I didn’t beat him, it felt good that I could finally keep up with him. This alone should’ve eased tension between us (now we could help each other, switch off while we drafted each other), and by doing this I felt we really might remain friends.  I could see road stretching before us with wind at our backs, our heavy loads lightened along the way, and when it rained, we enjoyed it, enjoyed each other, enjoyed it together.

After Big Foot, or perhaps because of it, I tried to ignore Mike, tried to ignore Mike when he yelled, “See there, a jackalope!” I remember now how unsympathetic my response was, as we peddled into Springerville, and would think nothing of it had what happened afterward not happened. Jackalops!  Everyone knows Jackalops are fictitious. Truth was I didn’t believe in jackalopes any more than I believed in Big Foot, both fictitious.  As with any fictitious animal I never expected to see a jackalope,, and I didn’t think Mike saw one either, so I had two options, either humor Mike or ignore him … either way I felt jerked around and didn’t like it. But there was also a possibility, a possibility if I stuck to my guns and pretended that I never heard him, maybe he wouldn’t do it again. Then think what would have happened had I totally agreed with him and had taken off chasing a jackalope (imaginary or not) across a field; what would it have done to him. What was his problem anyway? I didn’t know then. I didn’t know he had a problem and wasn’t pulling my leg.

The problem, I sadly admit (which is hard without blaming myself), was that I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t pulling my leg and that he really believed that he saw Big Foot and then two days later saw a jackalope. Now I’ll never know what he actually saw, or that I might’ve been wrong because he might’ve seen something. If I had taken him seriously and stopped him then, maybe then he wouldn’t have gone on and on and ended up … well, ended up the way he ended up.  True, but we’ll never know, will we?  Assuming that there are jackalopes on earth and Mike saw one along a highway east of Show Low (the jury may be out), I’m certain I didn’t see one.

“What an imagination,” I thought as we bade goodbye to our pleasant morning of cycling, which I’ll always remember for how Mike and I enjoyed each other’s company. Then he yelled “jackalope,” which perturbed me. I tried to ignore him, tried but he wouldn’t let me. Excited and persistent, he did everything he could to get my attention (“overreacted” would be a kinder way to put it), gestured and pointed at rabbits in a field, and yelled “a herd of jackalope.” A herd of jackalope! A herd! Jackalope! And not huge ear jackrabbits we saw all day. The mythical critter itself that has been described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns was supposedly inspired by sightings of rabbits infected by disease, diseased rabbits, but I wouldn’t put stock in that explanation any more than any other (in spite of having heard of a stuffed one somewhere). I might’ve humored Mike if it hadn’t been for his previous theatrics (Big Foot, my eye!), but now jackalopes!  Jackalopes or diseased jackrabbits depending whether you believed in them or not). I liked Mike indeed, indeed I did; hadn’t we agreed to spend five or six weeks riding bicycles, riding bicycles together across America? We peddled into Springerville as planned; he going his way and me going mine: he wanted to explore Springerville, and I wanted to find a city park. Planning to save money by staying out of restaurants, we agreed to eat lunch in a park, so I thought I’d claim a picnic table while I had a chance. I also needed a break from Mike. I however didn’t get much of one …but recognize Springerville wasn’t very big, though I had to chuckle when Mike pulled up to the picnic table before I could unzip my panniers. All right I didn’t expect him to stop anywhere; but have him say the whole town was against us was quite a stretch. Anyhow, I appreciated his help with lunch.

What began as a peaceful lunch ended up an ordeal (during which I thought Mike would get himself killed) and with us having to cut lunch short. A lunch on the run instead of a leisurely one (all because Mike got involved with a motorcycle gang) didn’t leave us with a good impression of Springerville, but this was more so for Mike than for me because he still claimed the town was out to get us. I now think it had nothing to do with Springerville.

They came roaring up on their huge machines and took a break under a tree near us and had a sidecar with a little boy and a little girl in it. They gave us dirty looks, gave us dirty looks from the start, which wouldn’t have mattered had Mike ignored them. Although they weren’t very interested in us, they had an attitude … an attitude … an attitude.  I’d call it a nihilistic attitude … something that even I didn’t like, but still Mike should’ve ignored them. God did they appear rough, tough as if they didn’t give a fuck; with black leather jackets, tough, fuck, fuck, fuck.  Mike had to wave and yell, “Halloo!” I wanted to disappear.  I wanted to run, hide, disappear when Mike greeted them. He was not at all inhibited; didn’t see that they didn’t want to have anything to do with us; given the circumstances he should’ve kept his distance … a wrong word and Mike could’ve ended up in a hospital.  I knew a wrong word and Mike could’ve ended up in a hospital, and it could’ve ended our tour, so I was glad to hear one of them ask Mike, “Is this your first time through here?” And then add, “Not a bad little town. Better than some places.”

“Friend, it’s filled with armed crazies,” answered Mike, without hesitating. Note: the motorcyclists were armed.

In all of my life, I haven’t felt more threatened than I did then, and I could tell that the motorcyclists weren’t all too pleased with Mike.  While showing it in different ways, they all seemed annoyed with him, but it didn’t seem to bother Mike. This would’ve been a difficult situation if he had had all of his wits about him.  I’m sure it would’ve been different.  I’m sure of it.  Mike should’ve seen how they were, seen that they were armed, and I felt scared for him. Bikers don’t come in one model or one size; they can be moms and pops or hell-raisers, or fall in between. They could be trigger happy (some were…packed firearms on their hips…as a statement, I suppose) or bring along their kids (these bikers had…that could’ve meant they wouldn’t harm us), or they don’t give a fuck, as this gang apparently didn’t. Or they could be totally unpredictable; one minute they could be a nice bunch, and the next minute they could blow your head off. Thus I was unnerved.  Unnerved.  Unnerved. Then Mike walked up to the biggest dude and said, “It’s true, guys.” Then this dude looked at Mike in a way that seemed to say, “What’s with you?” And at the same time, “Scram!” And Mike persisted, telling him how people around Springerville had told him that they didn’t like motorcycle gangs because “two weeks ago a motorcycle gang rode though here and tore the town up. “So if I was you, I’d keep going.” And this really pissed the biggest dude off, and Mike still didn’t seem to know when to make a hasty retreat. As a friend then, I intervened, and we were lucky to get out of there alive …  Devil take Mike and his big mouth.

Even then, it hadn’t dawn on me that there might’ve been something wrong with Mike, and even when later that afternoon he moved from obsessing on jackalopes to taking on tigers. He told me he made friends with tigers, which I assumed happened at the Phoenix Zoo; but now I don’t know, and it was something that resurfaced that night after a climatic race for the state line and we camped in New Mexico.  Welcome New Mexico.  I’ll never forget what happened during that trip though New Mexico.

“Hunted by a tiger,” Mike talked about trying to escape, while we set up camp for the night. And as we lay there under the stars he wondered out loud, almost in passing- about his wife- “Tiger against me! Ever wrestled a man-eating tiger?”

“So,” declared Mike the following evening while camping at a major junction behind a service station, where we had the campground to ourselves: “My wife is a man-eating tiger. She knows when to pounce.” He pointed at me before he said, “You better stay away from her.”  I didn’t know Mike’s wife.
He started sobbing, and I wasn’t used to seeing grown men cry. I gradually managed to calm him down.  It took a while but I gradually managed to calm Mike down.   His four kids were grown; a tragedy for him really; according to him they weren’t supposed to grow up. But his wife refused to get pregnant again.  He said he loved babies, and babies loved him.  It didn’t seem to occur to Mike that his wife might’ve been too old to have children. It didn’t seem to occur to Mike that his wife, at her age, didn’t want to have any more children.  It didn’t occur to him; never occurred to him. Unexpectedly, Mike accused her of poisoning him and turning his children against him.  Unexpectedly, Mike accused his wife of slowly poisoning him over the years.  His accusations surprised me because I knew he and his wife were still together; but what did I know? I knew that too often walls of seemly happy, normal homes hide unspeakable horrors. Quite aside from the obvious there was too often the unexplainable; that however didn’t mean that there was validity to what Mike said about his wife, still I didn’t know him well enough to know whether he was generally a truthful person or not. All the same, his behavior over the past few days was anything but rational. Mike’s world, and his behavior, to say the least, seemed strange to me, and I planned to talk to someone about it as soon as we got somewhere where there was someone who could help. There was something else. I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue our bike trip.

There were times when my friend withdrew within himself. Watching him, I couldn’t tell what he was thinking or what he’d do next, as he withdrew within himself.  “She tried to poison me, man,” he went on, speaking to me in confidence. “Ever since we first got married she was conspiring against me.  I know she has been slowly poisoning me with slow-active poison.  I know she has been. I know it.  I know it.   I’m positive, and several times she almost succeeded … although I have no proof.”
Mike stopped sobbing when he started talking about his wife plotting to kill him.

“I suspected her,” he said, “for a long time. You don’t know her,” he went on. “If you did, you’d see that by the way she treats me that she doesn’t want me around anymore. She has pushed me aside, aside, locked me out. I’m onto her, and I’m onto you, Bill. I’m onto you both.  I am onto to you.  I am onto you both.”

At that point I decided to say nothing else, or not until at least I could get help.
Mike now, compared to me, was a huge man, like a gentle giant was how some people later described him. “Huge and a person with a big heart,” I heard them say that he was a man with a big heart, but they didn’t know the Mike I knew. He could whip anybody’s ass, or so I thought. I’m confident he could, could whip anyone’s ass. It wasn’t long before I saw how unpredictable he was; unpredictable and explosive, and I didn’t know but he might’ve been a danger to himself. I came to think it … that he was a danger to himself.   The next day would prove it, I think; more so than previous days, as he got worse and worse, but I still didn’t know what was going on.
That morning I had a full breakfast in a café connected with a service station at the junction, and Mike ate a whole avocado. Then he took off before I could get on my bike. Off and running, racing, I didn’t get it.

I couldn’t have predicted what happened next, after I decided that I wasn’t going to chase after him. By then I had it with him.

I should’ve called for help then, for he needed to be in a hospital, but I didn’t know it. He needed to be restrained, for he was out of control and no one could predict where he would land. When the brain is short-circuited and the pressure inside the skull is released, nightmare that follows can be, and often is, explosive.  Nightmare, including sightings of Big Foot and jackalopes, and tiger attacks and a wife poisoning him, would culminate that day in a culvert along the highway. But before then, keeping on the lookout for Mike, I proceeded at my own pace.

My experience hadn’t prepared me for what I was about face, which I rated a ten, when ten was as difficult as it could get, and my gut feeling was that I would never face anything like it again. Like I’ve said, I wasn’t prepared, but who would be. Back on the road, I decided not to break any records, but I wanted to get to Socorro before dark and even planned to treat myself by staying in a motel. As far as I was concerned, Mike could fend for himself, so I let him get as far ahead as possible; maybe I’d get lucky and never see him again. But that wouldn’t happen.  I knew it wouldn’t happen. He may get to Socorro before me, but he’d surely be waiting for me on the outskirts of town. Should I have turned around, do you think? If I did, I could go a different route. Head north and then across…

…had this feeling, after last night…

As I rode along that morning, I thought about how Mike said his job wasn’t going anywhere and how his department head had turned against him. Maybe…

My friend had lashed out at me, “You’re like the rest of them!” he yelled. Okay, so I’m not perfect. “There was a time not so long ago,” he said, “when I would’ve fought it, man, because it seemed so unfair; seriously I’m finished and I know it. It doesn’t matter now. I’m beyond it. But I’ve forgiven you because if I hadn’t I would’ve hurt you. I would’ve taught you a lesson. So watch your back, watch your back, dear friend. You may be done with me, but I’m not with you, so watch your back. Sleep well, meanwhile. Tomorrow’s another day. But watch your back.”

He turned on his side and in a different tone concluded, “Speaking of friends, you’re the only one I have left, but you can’t count on me.”

I ought to have been more alarmed because he threatened me. Instead, in the morning I merely asked him if he felt better.

“Sure! Bring ‘em on. I’m not ready to bail yet.”

“Good. Then how about breakfast?”

“Breakfast sounds good.”

“But listen, man.”

“What?”

“Oh, never mind.”

I let him get ahead me. Mike could get as far ahead as he wanted. I no longer cared. I had not established a rhythm (a comfortable cadence for me was 75 rpm); didn’t expect any major hills that day; had almost forgotten that I had a touring buddy, and it wouldn’t have upset me if I didn’t see him again. For once I was determined to enjoy myself.

“For once I was determined to enjoy myself,” but hadn’t I enjoyed riding through pines and a stretch of road between volcano cones? But now Mike wasn’t in sight. “Without Mike,” I asked myself, “would I continue trip?”

Mike? Well, honestly, he was getting on my nerves. Nightmares repeated (if only I could shake him, wake him) without emotion he described them in great detail. Nonsense about Big Foot and jackalopes must seemed real to him, and all about a town being against him, all added up to something, but what? Saying those horrible things about his wife and me. In a word, crazy! Me?  Insane.

Me! I wasn’t the one who was insane. “Certainly seemed sane this morning, let’s say, okay. We can hope he stays that way.”

“I do hope he’s okay.” Without emotion and all over the place, he pointed to things I couldn’t see: God on a motorcycle, penguins in the desert, squirrels as drunk as skunks, aliens on a roof, and eggs for eyes. Violation of my space by a guy I hardly knew. I couldn’t get away from him, and then he was nowhere in sight.

Friends?

Friends. One of my warmest, personal friend, we met one day, I believe, on a bike path, Mike Creed and we agreed to share our summer. Where were we now? Somewhere in New Mexico with the National Radio Astronomy Via Telescopes on both sides of the highway.
You know I didn’t know what had gotten inside his head … what was going on inside his head.  What he could hear from outer space. Was there life out there? Nothing that came in loud and clear.  Nothing.  And not in a voice that you would recognize. Nothing hospitable. “God.” God?  Inhospitable.

God. Messages picked up by the big ears on both sides of the highway; location of a culvert in which I next saw Mike’s bike, lying on the ground next to highway.   Mike was nearby.  Where was Mike?   But who really knew what he heard, who could get inside his brain, what was inside his brain, and our route just happen to take us through 27 antennas of a radio telescope, and they were just as distinctive as cinder cones were. Mike said he talked to God. Heard God speak, I believe he was sincere.  Now he was surround by ears, ears!  Did he hear God talk back?

Were his tears real? I felt embarrassed for him.

Get off it, Mike.

Other voices.

Static again, which I couldn’t hear; never did. Lots of attempts, come to think of it. In church, and out of church. Even on a bicycle tour when it got dicey; but I picked it up on my own, not from Mike.

Leave God out of this.

Aliens too, friendly or not. Emission from stars, galaxies, and quasars, though I never heard them myself. It had been a perfect day. It had been a good morning, and I remember it started out with Mike saying he expected to live forever. Something about eternal life. Going to heaven. Hymn singing. Praying. Preaching. Et cetera.

Religion. Old time religion. Get right with God, Bill. Was this Sunday?

Preaching, preachy: looking forward to death and at the same time yearning for some way to get out of it…some way to get out of death, and I had my moments too…who I could’ve been. I could still look ahead and see a future, a future.  I saw I had a future.  I thought I had a future.  I thought I could forestall death for a while.  Would a while be enough, I wondered, but I was relatively happily married … had our spats, our ups and downs but relatively happily married and had a job I could count on.  It was important: a job I could count on.  Then I saw what Mike was going through and wondered what he meant when he said, “I’m afraid my wife is dead.” I knew that wasn’t true because she saw us off…along with my wife and son, in Phoenix, in front of the state capital building. Alive, and pleasant, too. A nice lady, pleasant, not a hag, a nag from what I could tell. My gut feeling was that I misunderstood Mike when he said, “I’m afraid my wife is dead.” While I knew a thing or two about how hard it was to keep a marriage alive, so I worked out to my satisfaction an explanation for Mike’s statement about his wife dying. “Until death do us part and through sickness and heath” I knew it was sometimes a tall order under the best of circumstances. “Until death do us part,” a tall order. Then we did have something in common.

Other things?

What?

We were a couple of middle-age men. We had careers and could afford to take a summer off, break away and see America. Mike impressed me with his intellect. What other things did we have in common?

Overachievers, easily that. True for me, for quite a while one, and reason enough to go on a bicycle tour…halfway through life when I was ready for a change and well enough off to afford a break, thankfully my wife understood. But even then I hated to take time off. So I made myself get in shape and made it so I couldn’t back out.  I didn’t want to back out.  The last thing wanted was to back out.

“I know the first four days will be tough, Bill. Until we climbed out the desert.”

The desert in June, the hottest, longest days of the year and incredible climbs, how big a toll did it take on Mike? How many times was he tempted to call it quits, call it quits with the hardest part at the beginning of trip…but we pushed on in spite of extreme heat, in spite of exhaustion, and possibility of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. It was a risk we took, I believe, and though we both lived in desert and endured many summers, endured many Junes in southern Arizona, in deserts, even though we considered ourselves desert rats, and maybe because of that, we thought we were macho. I’m astonished how we ignored symptoms, even when it got scary, and yet we survived. Absent common sense, we pushed on, with Mike in the lead, so I didn’t have any idea what it might’ve been doing to him.

Mike impressed me with his intellect; I assumed he knew his limits. I certainly thought I knew mine.

The epitaph Mike composed for himself…though I didn’t appreciate the significance of it when he shared it with me. Even though it was a strange thing for him to bring up then, I shake my head now because I dismissed it. Was he even then thinking of taking his life? It never occurred to me that he might be.  Went over my head, but by that time I was trying to pay less attention to him and didn’t really hear him. He said something like “they’ll be sorry.” Who’ll be sorry? What was he talking about? It made as much sense to me as the other things he said and how the day before he went on about carnage, ferocious cats, and road kill… rodents, snakes, turtles, and the like, smashed by cars and trucks.

Aha, but nothing he said surprised me by then…though now it all makes sense.

I wasn’t totally stupid; just didn’t know what was wrong with Mike. That’s all.
Were there other signs? Yes. Something besides being sunburned and dehydrated? Yes.
Something darker.

Like what?

You were there. You should know.

Come on. Hey, you said you knew something wasn’t right. You had to have known. Out there in the middle of New Mexico, not far from where they first exploded the atomic bomb, and you were riding along with someone who was about to explode and you were off somewhere else?
I know.

While he ate his avocado, we sat juxtaposed to gas pumps of a busy service station situated in the middle of a Y at a junction of two major highways. Then he took off. But by then I didn’t care.

The night before I hadn’t slept very well. I thought about Mike, considered my options, what I could do, how I could confront him. He seemed to be getting worse and worse, just as I was beginning to get in shape. He was spoiling everything. “You hold the trump card, Mike; I’m only here for a ride. Who thought we could ride across America, anyhow?”

Then I would have to bide my time with care and hope for the best…we were in the middle of nowhere, after all: and there were no cell phones in those days. It was how we wanted it, I guess…a time away from considerable burdens, pressures, and problems, “out of a pressure cooker and into a frying pan” was how I later saw it. I don’t think either of us intended it to be that way. We both came from a world where persistence, optimism, and hard work paid off, but now we were confronted with a situation in which none of that mattered. Ignorance on my part, I add in passing, may have been my excuse, but it doesn’t ease my conscience now. There were those who would say that I managed Mike as best I could within my capabilities: asked for help, which I did and insisted on help, which I didn’t. In hindsight, I should’ve recognized an emergency when I was confronted with one. In Show Low I should’ve been willing to end our tour.

In short, I was wrong about Mike. He wasn’t playing games.

So you were wrong about Mike…but you shouldn’t blame yourself. Even when you could’ve ended the tour with a phone call or two, and gotten help for Mike in Show Low, and he was hospitalized, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there would’ve been a different outcome. You weren’t responsible.

I still plead ignorance.

Plead ignorance, then.

So I’m not to blame.

For what?

You’re not to blame.  You’re not to blame.

Mike was my friend; or else we wouldn’t have taken off on our bicycles together.

Heading east, yes. Once Mike told me “You can be either against me or for me, but don’t be neutral. Neutrality is equivalent to death and should be filed away as such.” And I had gotten around to opening a file: thinking how I’d gotten sucked in: sucked into ups and downs of Mike’s saga, when I started thinking about how I’d been suckered in. Terribly wrong, which I found out the hard way.

Crazy talk about different ways of dying (that is to say, poisoned, shot, or attacked by tigers) notably having same outcome, and as Mike attempted to explain, he compared life to a bubble…virtually everything he said toward the end had something to do with fragility of life and permanency of death. It started with him fixating on mythic creatures, Big Foot and Jackalope, and later and more expansively on tigers and people, and finally on his wife and me. According to Mike, we were trying to do him in.  According to Mike, we were killing him.

That was what he was talking before he took off after finishing an avocado. I didn’t think much of it at the time because I no longer wanted to be suckered in, so I took my time getting on my bike, thinking he would slow down whenever he got whatever it was out of his system. “And if I don’t see him again, good riddance!” Saying “good riddance” was liberating.

Suddenly I became aware of all jackrabbits. Jackalope! I cackled.

“Goodness, Mike!” He was flying, or else I would see him in the distance. Then I found myself trying to catch up. No, no, no! “No wonder he’s driving me crazy.  Crazy, for so he was driving me crazy, or I was approaching end of my patience (we would make Socorro by dark), and I was determined not to pass through the town without doing something about Mike.
I enjoyed solitude except for an occasional vehicle.  Enjoyed it.  Many more pickups than cars. There was a town up ahead. I planned to treat myself there with lunch in a restaurant. I knew a place was on a corner, on the north side of the highway. Is it any good? Excellent home-cook food and I wasn’t going to worry about Mike.

“Nice idea.” But it never worked out.

Who said it would? What would keep Mike from ruining a perfect day, with a cool breeze at my back? Free from the pressure of compassion and understanding, it was too late, too late, too late. “When I catch up with him, he’ll get an ear full from me: it’s time to put all of this nonsense to bed.” I was thinking how nice it would be to not have to worry about Mike, but I knew that wasn’t possible: not for a while anyway. “There still might turn out to be a simple explanation for Mike’s behavior and the tour for us both still might go on the way we planned; that’s why I kept going. Then too, as long as he doesn’t drive me nuts who cares if the guy’s a little crazy? We all have quirks. But Mike has got to control himself.”

I’d lost count of how many days we’d been in the saddle. Spin! Spin! Spin! Still no sign of Mike, but then I didn’t care if I ever saw him again: damn, where was he? It was a long flat highway… open range got to me because I thought I’d see him. Could see for miles, but still couldn’t see him. I began to worry in spite of myself but tried not to for the next several miles.

Now, then (except for a huge mailbox and a long dirt road that took off from the left and disappeared up over the horizon) with nothing: to break silence I sang “Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, under the shade of Collibah tree…” Mike was still out of sight. Now that he was ruining my day (for which I wasn’t about to forgive him), whereupon I started cursing, yes, I thought I was about to lose it, while not knowing how I was going to cope, I tried to set aside my grudge long enough to come up with a plan. Somehow I had to get rid of Mike. Somewhere along the way that morning I decided I didn’t want to have anything else to do with the guy.

But before I could think of some gentle way of letting Mike down something unexpected happened that changed everything. Before I could follow an internally guided course, outside events interceded, and just as he prophesied, Mike crashed.

Still no Mike. I had no warning before I saw his bike lying beside the highway. Mike would be in a ditch…actually coming out of a culvert…when I came up; I first thought a vehicle hit him. As you can imagine, it was scary, a scary moment, and my heart leapt to my throat. I don’t know how Mike ended up in a ditch, but I do know I was thoroughly pissed.
To the best of my recollection, I don’t think I was really thinking of Mike at this point. Instead I was thinking about ending our Grand Tour, and I was going to confront Mike and not wait until Socorro. Would I have?

Yes.

Three utility men pointed at the entrance to a culvert, as Mike crawled out. I felt like saying I didn’t know him. I wished I didn’t, didn’t know him.

Come again? What’s going on? (I hated Mike by then.) When he emerged, he had no shirt and no shoes on, and seemed wild to me.

What was new? The world wasn’t coming to an end, but Mike was acting as if it were. My friend was stepping with bare feet on broken glass and sharp rocks while no longer in control of himself. He was screaming, laughing, sobbing, and trembling all the same time and throughout the whole ordeal he never let up. Sadly he didn’t stop until he exhausted himself.
Exhausted himself.

Right. I was persuaded then by what I saw that this friend of mind was totally insane and that I couldn’t handle him. So I was glad to hear that the State Police had been called and that they were on their way and would be there in more or less thirty minutes. Meanwhile, Mike was down on his hands and knees, in a fathomless daze…talking to himself…laughing, everything to an extreme. On his third go-round I thought he needed to be restrained, but there wasn’t anyone to do it. After that Mike calmed down.

I went down into the ditch  to talk to him. Talk wouldn’t do any good. But I didn’t know it wouldn’t.

In one syllable, I wish I had strength to walk away…Yes, I would’ve been better off had I walked away.   But Mike was already sucking me in again, starting with how he looked at me with tears in his eyes and telling me how much he was hurting … telling me how much he loved me.  “Love you, pal!”  Was this any way to show love?  But by time State Police arrived, he was totally calm and rational.

By then he stopped talking about spiders crawling all over him, diagnosing red bumps all up and down his arms and legs as spider bites, and he balked at the suggestion that maybe he needed to be in a hospital. He refused when asked by the police. “Our hands are tied,” one of them then explained, “he has to be a danger to himself or to others before we can do anything.  He doesn’t look as if he is a danger to himself or others.”
By then Mike found his shirt and shoes and had them on. And then he said he was ready to go and asked what the holdup was before he got on his bike again. All this for the police, I suppose. Now then remember we were in the middle of nowhere…really over fifty miles from Socorro and our destination that day. And what was I to do but to get on my bike.

Slowly at first (caution, fear, and resentment set in) my friend stayed in front. And then I wasn’t about to stop for lunch unless he suggested it because I was afraid of what he might do. Et cetera: it was all up to Mike. Now then: Mike had me, but I’m not sure he knew it. I wasn’t sure of anything…what I should do next…whether to stop then or not…

I didn’t know just where we were. The words “mystery” and “tragedy” came to mind, as I road in my friend’s slipstream. “Easy now, take it easy,” I kept saying over and over again, while not wanting to upset anything, while not wanting to upset him.  After what happen, I didn’t want to upset him, and then cursing at the situation…not at the person, but at the situation.

My apprenticeship hadn’t ended by the time we reach Socorro. We both needed showers, and I decided it wasn’t wise to camp. Mainly, I didn’t think it was safe to camp and thought that maybe I could control him better in a motel room. Here I was again trying to hang on to as much as possible. Somehow I slipped back, slipped back into thinking I could control Mike, could control the situation, and the culmination of everything I’d been through the last few days hadn’t hit me yet. All that from Mike and when we got to Socorro and after he apologized, I was ready to give him another chance.

“What’s going on, man?”

Mike lowered his head. “Here’s where it gets difficult, and tomorrow is another day, and we’ll be in Santa Fe tomorrow, right? Neither you nor anyone else knows the hell I’ve been through. You have to acknowledge that it hasn’t been easy; that first there was heat, then long climbs, and finally thin air; it was a combination of these things that almost did me in. But now you can see I’m better and have returned a new man, after having routed the monsters and lived to tell about it. No one but me knows what it’s like…what it’s like to confront your worst enemy, to fight to the end and face death and almost lose; that there are inevitably distortions coming from the brain when it misfires and transmission is broken up, and what comes out… Well, you were there with me. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a comedy or a tragedy, or both. At least, no one got hurt. Anyway I’m okay now, and there’s no need for the Calvary because I have a handle on it. I’m back…and from now on, I won’t cause you any troubled. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that… Como? I’s been silly. “  Silly?

We returned to our motel room after we filled up on carbohydrates. After a hard day we always made it a practice to take in as many carbs as we could. Full of pasta, absolutely stuffed, and satisfied. “I bet I’ll sleep well tonight.”

“Yeah, hey, thank you for putting up with me and for all you did out there, for sure and then some. Look: For all the things that happened…I’m sorry, really sorry.”

“I know.”

“Forgive me?”

“What can I say? Of course, I forgive you. I have to, don’t I? Now don’t bother me.” He sat on his side of the bed, and I sat on mine. “I’m still here, aren’t I?” He lay there in his riding shorts and with his biking shoes on, with the television remote in his hand. “So let’s try to sleep, okay?”

“You helped me today,” he told me. “More than you realize, probably.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“For one thing, I learned the importance of the buddy system. Imagine what would’ve happened if I had been out there alone,” he said soberly.

“You wouldn’t have been alone for long.” Though I may not have sounded like it, I felt pleased and relieved that he was talking sensibly. “But you’re right. We’re in this together, man. We’ll make it now. We don’t have a choice. It’ll certainly be something to tell our grandchildren about.”

If we have grandchildren.

He looked over at me. “This hasn’t been a picnic, especially today. At least you didn’t murder me. You hung in there.”

“Yeah.”

“The ride tomorrow.”

“The ride tomorrow, right.”

“On to Santa Fe. It should be an easy day.”

“Right. It depends on wind.”

“Do we have to go through Albuquerque?”

“I think so.”

“Good. It hasn’t been a picnic so far. I’ll make it up to you.”

“Then let me get sleep.”

“I sympathize with you.”

“Go to sleep.”

“But I’m afraid…”

Afraid? It was something that I shouldn’t have ignored. Give me credit. I didn’t totally ignore it. We try to justify our actions, or inaction, when something goes wrong, don’t we? And pay a price later, if there’s a price to pay. I wanted to keep my distance in a bed that took up most the room, yet in a bed that never felt big enough for the both us. A room with a Bible and a telephone in it…could’ve called someone, but didn’t think it was necessary. Wasn’t thinking. So what does that make me? An accomplice? Mike started again, and I admit now that I realized it.

Who could I have called? When had I last called my wife, or called and asked her advice? Right enough, I should’ve called someone! After the last few days, I should have. I should’ve recognized the beginning of a cycle and should’ve known it would grow in intensity. In intensity…and also potentially violent, depending on how long it went on. And/or without intervention… Again I didn’t have a crystal ball; again every day was a struggle, as I…
blame. What’s more it’s what a psychologist told me: that it wasn’t my fault and I know it…know I couldn’t have stopped him. I knew it without him telling me, knew it without a psychologist telling me. Figured it out on my own. It took two or three days. Yes, it troubled me. The town reminds me of it now, especially when I go through it, especially when I go through Socorro, when I go down the main drag and pass the same motel, but I by no means blame myself. Talking to a psychologist helped. A day or two afterwards.

Every so often a train went through town. No one welcomed us. No one knew us in Socorro.  No one knew us from Adam. Why would anyone know us?  Why would anyone know us in Socorro?  Only a flickering neon motel sign promised us something. WELCOME VACANCIES.  Only a neon sign welcomed us.  That would change.
Going over what happened in my mind. We had all expected amenities, I couldn’t think of anything else we needed. Of course, our bikes and gear came inside.

Showers. Then sleep. Sleep would’ve been nice. Sleep, sleep, only if I were allowed to sleep.  Sleep, sleep, soundly sleep.  I decided to take a room with a single bed because I wasn’t certain of Mike.  I knew I had to keep close track of Mike so I decided to take a room with a single bed.   I don’t know what I was thinking, and that could pertain to the bicycle trip, a bicycle trip across America.

Sleep. Neither one of us, however, really slept.  I couldn’t sleep.  Mike couldn’t sleep.  Mike was too restless to sleep, his tossing and turning kept me awake.  He wrestled, wrestled with himself and me, and I had to restrain him.

He tossed and turned and tossed and turned that night, and never stopped. I could hear a train and traffic noise; some mouse escape from its hole, while doubts mounted and seemed to call for an end to our trip.  I couldn’t shut out the neon sign.  Then around midnight, he started to have spasms and it pressured me to let him get out of bed. In a manner of speaking, I was trying to hold him (or restrain him) against his will.

That he was stronger than me was evident. A test of strength no doubt. In bed a mighty struggle. Finally, I gave up. But hey, no one could say I didn’t try. Then he started tearing up the room. I should’ve called the police then.

Who could’ve known then that he wouldn’t calm down after he exhausted himself? The day before he calmed down; of course, he calmed down, and then he apologized.  He apologized and was perfectly normal by the time we rode into Socorro. I knew what to expect or thought I did at that point. But shit I was wrong, dead wrong. We were in the farthest room from the office. The people in the room next to ours were already up and packing their car, so I don’t know why they didn’t call police.  I would’ve called police.   Just as he did the day before, Mike went on a rampage without his shirt or shoes and socks. Then before I could do anything he ran out the room, screaming, screaming, and screaming like a lunatic. Though I was alarmed (and not very appreciative of Mike’s behavior), I shouldn’t have chased after him, but instead should’ve picked up the phone and called police.  When I ran past people packing their car I… Where was I, for pity’s sake? Why did they just stand there?  Why?  Why didn’t they call police?

A hundred yards from the highway. Mike ran straight for it. Sadly…

This haunts me to this day, which I know it is insane, but I knew I couldn’t catch Mike. This I’ve replayed a thousand times, at least a thousand. The question that remains is what could I have done had I caught him?

Questions remain: what could I have done differently?  Questions remain …  Questions remain …  So many questions remain.  What if?  What if?  What if always comes up?  And then … there is always then.  What if and then …

First and finally! Did I think I could stop Mike? Maybe. I don’t know. It was insane.  He was insane.  Maye that answer is too easy.   But by the time I reached the highway, it was too late.

After he ran in front of a truck and was killed, I felt …  It was too late, too, too, too late.   I don’t have words for it.  I couldn’t stop him.  I couldn’t stop him … I watched him run in front of a truck.  I was there.  I watched him … I watched him run in front of a truck.  I watched him kill himself.  I watched him, and I don’t know if he knew, knew what he was doing.  I watched him kill himself and don’t know if he knew what he was doing or not.  There was nothing I could do … could do … could do.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Nothing.

Then I felt obligated to call his wife.  Someone had to call her, and I felt obligated, obligated, obligated to do it.  And I decided to keep details to myself.

And what about the bicycle tour? I finished it. A year later I finished it in honor of Mike. Went all by myself, but Mike was there. Listen to what I’m saying; that until I finished the bicycling tour I couldn’t move on. There was no way I wouldn’t finish it.  There was no way I could move on.

Started in Socorro and headed north to Santa Fe. Fought wind whenever road turned south and flew when it turned north. I didn’t have a single flat tire.  All summer I didn’t have a flat.

Randy Ford

 

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