A Play
(11 Pages in Typescript)
The Cast:

OLDER MAN:----.----.----jacket and tie
YOUNGER MAN: ----.---scruffy blue jeans, wrinkled shirt
WAITRESS:----------------in uniform

The Scene:

A luncheonette. The OLDER MAN and the YOUNGER MAN are seated at a table across from one another; each has a partially consumed hamburger, french fries, and a soft drink in front of him. By turns, the OLDER MAN is nervously talkative and intensely, quietly distracted. He does not touch his food, and often turns away from the YOUNGER MAN to stare out the window (which may mean toward the audience). The YOUNGER MAN, when he is not eating or sipping from the straw in his soft drink, rocks back and forth with his hands in his lap, or frenetically slaps a french fry against his plate. His mannerisms do not bother the OLDER MAN, nor does the fact that he never speaks. In the background, faintly, there are sounds of rain and automobile traffic.

------------OLDER MAN:

(eventually resuming his train of thought; overwrought throughout) It was the way she walked. (pause) She didn't seem to walk, really, but rather to glide. The top half of her body just seemed to float along on the lower half, and it was if her feet never touched the floor! Really, it was incredible. (pause, thinking) You didn't notice it so much on the street, but around the house, when she wasn't wearing any. . . . (pause; realizing the image might cause the YOUNGER MAN discomfort, changing the subject) Or the way she would constantly push her hair back over her ears, with her delicate fingers curled in on themselves. Did you ever notice the way women, especially young women, when they walk into a room, or feel they're being observed, unconsciously sweep their hands through their hair? (pause) Your mother did that. All the time. Curled her fingers, and pushed her hair back over her ears. But she would do it so delicately, and so tentatively, it was as though she felt she had no right to do it. (pause) Such beautiful hands. She had such beautiful hands. Even when her fingers were curled up in themselves, I always noticed her graceful, beautiful hands.

The WAITRESS comes. Realizing her services are not needed,
she moves on. The YOUNGER MAN rocks forward and back,
from time to time frenetically slaps a french fry
against his plate.

(staring out the window, and eventually turning back) You behaved very well at the funeral. I'm very, very proud of you. (pause) It was a beautiful service, don't you think? I'm glad we had another little service at the cemetery. Don't you agree? (pause) You know something? You should wear a coat and tie more often! Do you realize how good you looked yesterday? You're really quite handsome, when you wear a coat and tie! (pause) But did you notice how little emotion her cousins showed? How distant and detached they seemed? I got the impression that they and your mother were not very close. In fact, one of them tried to pry information out of me about your mother's will. Amazing, huh? (pause) Which reminds me. I haven't written to her other cousin, Beth. I know for a fact that Beth and your mother didn't get along very well. I think it had to do with a dispute over your grandfather's—your mother's stepfather's—will. (pause) But I guess l'll have to write to her. (aside) Along with everything else I have to do. (pause) It's going to take me a long time to clean out her house. Would you consider helping me with it? I sure could use some help. There are books, records, furniture, all her papers and diaries. (aside) What am I going to do with her diaries? Keep them, I suppose, maybe read through them sometime. (turning back) And then there're the photographs, you should see the photographs! There are some really terrific ones of you! My favorite is the one where you're wearing a cowboy outfit and playing a guitar. . .you must have been about nine or ten years old. Do you remember wearing a cowboy outfit and playing a guitar, when you were little? (pause) And there's another one of you with that handsome Airedale you had, romping in the park. Still another of you dressed up for church, holding your mother's hand and looking very grown-up. You two made quite a couple. Though I guess that having to stand in for your father was not what you would have chosen for yourself. (staring out the window; aside) Maybe that's where the trouble started. (turning back) Perhaps you'd like me to put together a photograph album, with your best pictures. Though I'm sure you can understand that I'd like to keep some of the pictures of her for myself. (aside) Many of the pictures, I'd like to keep many of the pictures. Make my own album. (returning) You could always have them back, if you wanted them, or I'd make copies for you.

The YOUNGER MAN has been sucking on his straw,
and his glass is now empty.
The WAITRESS comes and removes it.

(as the YOUNGER MAN takes a jerky bite of his hamburger) How's the food at Hawthorne House? Pretty good? I hope they're feeding you well. I hope they're giving you something besides junk food. I notice you've put on a little weight, lately. Don't eat too much junk food, you hear me? (pause) Are you getting enough exercise? Do they give you any supervision, or do they just let you wander around all day, and do what you want? (pause) Sometimes I think that place is not the most healthy environment for you, though I don't know what would be better. (warming) Do you suppose the residents at Hawthorne House would like to have a cat? I noticed one of the young men has a parakeet. Do you think they'd let you keep a cat? Personally, I think having a cat would be good for you. You'd have your own little friend, a very special friend. (staring out the window; aside) I wonder what I'm going to do with the cat. God, how she doted on that thing. Now the cat's. . .as sad and lonely as I am. (turning back; with willed cheerfulness changing subject) Do you remember the time you, your mother, and I went to the baseball game? When we had those terrific seats behind home plate? Remember how, when a ball was hit down the foul line, we'd all lean one way—as though trying to put some English on it and make it stay in bounds—if it was one of our guys—or go foul—if it was one of theirs? We'd try to will the ball to go either fair or foul. God, didn't we have a good time, that day? (pause) That reminds me, I still have some of the pictures I took of you at the ballpark. I'll have to find them for you. (staring forlornly out the window) Don't let me forget.

The WAITRESS returns with a full glass of soda,
and sets it before the YOUNGER MAN.
After a can-I-get-you-anything else? look, she departs.

(more firmly, as YOUNGER MAN sips from his straw) Now don't drink too much of that stuff. It's chockfull of caffeine, and it'll make you jiggy. (aside) More jiggy. (turning back) You know. . .don't take this personally. . .sometimes I think you don't realize how hard your mother tried . You have to understand, it wasn't easy being a single mother, it wasn't easy getting you dressed for school every day, then going off to work—and most of the time, she worked two jobs—then picking you up after school, and taking you to art lessons, guitar lessons, all those other activities you were involved in. She used to tell me how she'd go to bed exhausted, and before she knew it, it was seven o'clock in the morning, and the alarm clock was going off. (thoughtful pause) So she married the wrong man. She made a mistake. You can't blame her for that. (pause) Anyway, she always thought she was better off after your father left. (aside) Though it's understandable if you didn't feel better off. (returning) Sometimes, believe it or not, one good mother is better than a would-be good mother who's stuck with a useless husband. (pause) But you do know she loved you. (pleading) You do know that, don't you? She never spoke of you in any but the most admiring and loving terms! (pause) Well, life isn't easy. It isn't easy for you, and it wasn't easy for her. (pause, aside) And now, it isn't easy for me. (pause) So maybe we'll go out to the cemetery, sometime. Would you like that? I'll pick you up, and we'll drive out together. After that, we'll have a bite to eat, and go to the park. (pause) It's her birthday, next month. (quietly) Or would have been her birthday. (normal voice) Maybe we could go out on that day, and pay her a visit.

The YOUNGER MAN has emptied his glass again.
The WAITRESS comes and, responding to a resigned look
from the OLDER MAN, removes it.
The OLDER MAN flashes the YOUNGER MAN a look of disapproval.

(with a chuckle) Do you know that when your mother and I met, she thought we were incompatible? It's enough to make you laugh! We were so incompatible that we lived together for fourteen years! (another chuckle) Some kind of incompatible, huh? (long pause) I don't know what I'd have done, if she hadn't helped me through my own parents' deaths. I lost my mother about two years after I met yours, and my father two years after that. (pause) It's a shame, a damn shame, that she and my parents never met. Why? Why, you ask? Because I didn' t want my parents to know I'd separated from my then wife! It would have broken their hearts! You see, my parents really doted on my wife, who, amazingly, always found ways to ingratiate herself with them. But they had no understanding, absolutely no understanding of how difficult she was, and how hard it was to live with her. (pause; not wanting to hurt the YOUNGER MAN'S feelings) I never told you this, but I was married, briefly, before I met your mother. But my wife was just the warm-up act for your mother! If only I had found your mother before I met my wife. . . .

The WAITRESS returns with a full glass of soda,
and sets it down before the YOUNGER MAN.

If only I'd met your mother. . . . (nearing tears) I mean, I loved your mother. . .so much. (pause; regaining composure; proudly) I always had the feeling it was the first time in her life anyone had loved her the way she deserved to be loved. (pause) Even her mother. . .the Ice Queen, the Ice Queen, we used to call her, the gracious hostess, the fabulous cook, the woman who did everything right, but somehow always found a way to outshine her own daughter. . . . (pause) You know what your mother told me, once? She said that when her mother did the laundry, she always managed to shrink her prettiest clothes! Isn't that something? Isn't it crazy the way life works? (pause) You may not have realized it, when you were growing up, but before he had health problems your mother's stepfather was a drinker, and a gambler, too. At least that's what your mother told me. Apparently he got addicted to some of the pain-killing medicine he was on, and eventually. . . .(steering away from another sensitive subject; pause) Did you ever realize what a ham your mother was? What a sense of humor she had? I'm tellin' you, when she wanted to, she could do the most amazing impersonations! Sometimes she'd put whole skits together! But only when she wanted to, which always turned out to be late at night, when we were alone. She'd never do her routines for other people. I'd try to get her to—honey, I'd say, do your cocktail-lounge singer routine—but she'd just smile that beautiful, shy smile of hers, and turn away. But your mother and I knew what she could do! It was one of our secrets! (pause; aside) One of our many secrets. (dabbing his eyes with a table napkin) God, how I miss her! (pause; normal voice) So why didn't I marry her? Is that what you're asking? Why didn't I marry her? Good question. (with a touch of defensiveness) Well, she was a good deal older than me, as you know, and. . . .(pause) You have to understand, we were just so happy the way we were! We both knew we had something special, and we were afraid to change it, afraid to tamper with it! (pause) Anyway, marriage couldn't have improved it, it couldn't have improved what we had. Not at all. (quickly, by way of reassurance) But don't worry, you're still in good hands. I'm the executor of her estate, and you can be sure I'll do the right thing for you. After I sell the house, there'll be some extra money available. I'll see that you continue to get your allowance. You don't need to worry about that.


(appearing at the table) Can I get you anything else?

After glancing at the YOUNGER MAN,
the OLDER MAN raises his hand, while shaking his head,
to signal no. The WAITRESS departs.

------------OLDER MAN:

(staring out the window; quietly) But I know I'll never find anyone like her. I can't see myself out in the suburbs, married to some aging divorcée with three children, in a little house with a basketball net over the garage door. Or playing badminton. . .mowing the lawn on Saturday afternoons. No, I'm never going to find anyone else like her, so I guess. . . . (turning to the YOUNGER MAN; frantically) But you have to understand! You have to understand how much she loved you! I keep telling you! It wasn't easy raising you alone! She never wanted the awful things to happen to you ... that happened to you! You were her pride and joy! Don't you understand? She loved you more than anything in the world! If you didn't feel loved, I'm sorry, but. . . . (lowers his head to, and covers his face with his hand, and weeps; eventually, turning back) Don't you understand? She loved you as much as I loved her!

The WAITRESS returns, and places a check on the table.
Without looking up at her,
the YOUNGER MAN abruptly seizes her hand.
She does not recoil, indeed, looks touched.
The YOUNGER MAN raises her hand, holds it in both of his,
and studies it. Finally he leans forward,
and kisses it very tenderly on the back of the wrist.
Eventually the WAITRESS withdraws it,
smiles sweetly at the OLDER MAN, and departs.
The YOUNGER MAN resumes rocking back and forth.

(after a surprised expression at what has transpired) So I guess that, from here on, pal. . .it's you and me. (pause) Maybe we'll go to another baseball game. Would you like that? Whaddaya say, pal? Or we'll go to the zoo, how 'bout that? We'll go to the zoo! We'll have some fun! (turning to his side, crossing his legs , and staring with absolute futility into infinite, lonely space) Because from now on, it's you. . .and me. (long pause; as he continues to turn away there is a tremor in his hand, and his face is full of tears) It's just. . .you. . .and. . . (shrugging his shoulders futilely, all hope lost) me.

The YOUNGER MAN continues to rock back and forth.
The sound of rain grows louder.

Count seven.


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