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FIREMEN (full text)

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FIREMEN

by Tommy Smith

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“A nuanced and penetrating portrait of the tragic dynamics of [an] illicit and illegal liaison. … Smith writes with an easy and natural touch, but seizes on the painful and dramatic truth of this dangerous affair.” – Huffington Post

“Masterful, mesmerizing … Smith has gift for exposing dark truths with seemingly superficial dialogue; his take on middle age as a developmental stage rivaling adolescence in its confusion seems right on the money.” – LA Times

“[A] bedeviling and stimulating play … Playwright Tommy Smith at no point tips his hand and even at the play’s finale offers no unequivocal resolution of his various contending tones of menace, unease, dependency and control, all of which remain disquietingly fluid within and among each of the characters.” – The Hollywood Reporter

“[A] darkly funny and disturbing new play … a disarmingly appealing ensemble strike just the right balance between uneasy laughter and unpalatable titillation to drive home Smith’s unsettling portrait of society.” – LA Weekly

“Playwright Tommy Smith has a way with words … the incendiary yarn tells the tale of forbidden love and the flames that fan it, leaving everything in its fiery wake torched and in ashes.” – Stage & Cinema

“Smith really shines at creating characters whose appalling behavior can absolutely unnerve an audience of morally responsible adults.” – LA Post

“‘Firemen’ by Tommy Smith is a show I’d like to drag anyone to who’s never attended a live theatre production … It is a sharp, smartly written play that frames a precise selection of human foibles in a fashion neither formulaic nor fawning.” – Working Author

Read the LA Times article responding to the controversy surrounding FIREMEN

The Los Angeles Times named FIREMEN among the best stage shows of 2014. FIREMEN also won five LADCC awards, including best writing.

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© 2015 Tommy Smith. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified, performed, produced or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder. For permission requests, please click this.

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SUSAN, the school secretary, late thirties

BEN, a student, fourteen

ANNIE, Ben’s mom, late thirties

KYLE, Susan’s son, twelve

GARY, detention officer, late thirties

.

Early 1990s.

America

.

1.

Middle school.

Detention Hall.

Blue Walls.

High huge windows.

Late afternoon.

Ben sits cutting.

Gary sits aside, reading.

GARY

Hey.

BEN

What?

GARY

Show me your hands.

BEN

What?

GARY

Show me your hands.

BEN

shows him hands.

GARY

Okay, that’s good.

BEN

What you looking for?

GARY

Just watching what your hands are up to.

BEN

I’m not doing nothing.

GARY

Seem to like those scissors, huh?

BEN

I’m cutting stuff.

GARY

Oh yeah?

BEN

I’m making a collage.

GARY

What of?

BEN

Nothing.

GARY

Yeah, nothing?

BEN

It’s a collage.

GARY

I just wanted to let you know that I know what you’re doing.

BEN

I’m not doing anything bad.

GARY

Bring that collage over here.

BEN

Come get it yourself.

GARY

I’m serious, mister.

BEN

I’m serious too.

GARY

You’re gonna get another day in here if you keep on the path that you’re currently treading.

BEN

Oh yeah my path?

GARY

Bring it here now.

BEN

shows Gary collage

GARY

What’s it supposed to be?

BEN

It’s a dude being eaten by vultures.

GARY

recognizing

Oh, yeah.

BEN

Yeah, he got like, lost in the forest and eaten by these vultures.

GARY

This is actually quite good.

BEN

Thanks.

GARY

It’s really skillful.

BEN

My dad says You gotta be good at something.

GARY

Unfortunately, this is detention and I’m going to have to make you read this history book.  Pages one forty five to two forty.

BEN

That’s like a hundred pages.

GARY

We got the time, mister.  Five page report.

BEN

This is a fucking joke, man.

GARY

I don’t care if you swear.

BEN

GARY

What do you think you did?

BEN

I don’t know.

GARY

Yeah, you don’t know.

BEN

No, really, I don’t know.

GARY

You’re here for no reason.

BEN

That’s what I’m saying.

GARY

You can’t think of anything?

BEN

Nope.

GARY

Oh, sure.

BEN

We can do this all day if you like, Mister Gary.

GARY

The principal told me.

BEN

Told you what?

GARY

He told me what you did.

BEN

I didn’t leave her any notes.

GARY

I’ve seen those notes, Ben.  I don’t like the content, I’m gonna have to be frank with you about that.  What were you thinking when you wrote those notes and sealed them up and slipped them in her box?

BEN

I didn’t leave those notes.

GARY

So they just put themselves there themselves?

BEN

I’m sure someone did it.

GARY

Like who?

BEN

I mean do you want to see some of my handwriting – ?

GARY

No, see, what you don’t get is?  What you don’t get, is that you here because of a lesson.  You can’t write notes of sexually explicit content for the school secretary lying around for everyone to see.

BEN

Next time I’ll do it private.

GARY

They even pulled your files, Ben.  They don’t just pull your files for nothing.  That’s really serious when they pull out your files.

BEN

Yeah, I get it.

GARY

I’m just here to help you.

BEN

What are you anyway?

GARY

What do you mean?

BEN

I mean who is it that you are?

GARY

I’m the detention councilor.

SUSAN

knocks on door

Hello?

GARY

Hello, Miss Keever.

SUSAN

How’s he doing in here?

GARY

We’re doing fine.

SUSAN

I’m sorry to bother. They’re going to sound the fire alarm in a few minutes.

GARY

Thanks.  Ben and I were just talking about the note incident.

SUSAN

I’m not actually mad.

GARY

But Ben still needs to learn how to behave like a man.

SUSAN

Yes I agree with that.

GARY

I’m actually glad you stopped by Miss Keever.

SUSAN

Oh yes?

GARY

Ben can apologize.

SUSAN

Oh that’s not needed.

GARY

Ben, please stop what you’re doing and apologize to Miss Keever.

BEN

I’m sorry.

GARY

Turn around to us and say that.

BEN

turns around

GARY

Not like that.

BEN

What?

GARY

Turn around nicely.

BEN

turns around nicely

I’m sorry.

SUSAN

It’s okay.

GARY

Thank you, Ben.

SUSAN

There’s also some doughnuts in the lounge and I wanted to see if you boys wanted any.

GARY

Maybe a maple bar?

SUSAN

Can I get him one?

GARY

Hmn?

SUSAN

Can I get one for him too?

GARY

He’s been good.

SUSAN

What kind you want?

BEN

SUSAN

Last I heard Nothing wasn’t a flavor.

BEN

Cherry-filled.

GARY

Watch it.

BEN

I like cherry.

SUSAN

I don’t think there’s any cherry-filled.

BEN

Then get whatever.

SUSAN

You got it.

leaves

GARY

Nice to see that.

BEN

What?

GARY

Nice to treat Miss Keever and all the other women in this school with respect.

BEN

GARY

Your own age.

BEN

Huh?

GARY

What about the girls your own age?

BEN

I don’t know.

GARY

You can ask a girl your own age?

BEN

They like dating older guys.

GARY

Nonsense.

BEN

I already know about sex and everything.

GARY

No, you don’t just wake up one day and know.

BEN

I already know how to do it.

GARY

You do not know that already.  It takes more than your age to fully understand what everything is all about.

BEN

Why?

GARY

It’s just about development.  Phases and development of your awareness in incremental steps as you grow older with wisdom.

BEN

Oh yeah like when I’m older I’ll know why.

GARY

When you get older you will realize why, yes. Because as a man, Ben, you’ll learn that you often confuse impulse for intelligence. I used to touch women on the shoulders.  Girls.  They would be sitting doing their homework and I would come up behind them to see what they were working on.  Math.  It was a fatherly instinct then for me to put a hand on their shoulder as if to say, you’re doing good young lady.  But many do not agree with this kind of intimacy in a classroom setting where the focus should be on learning and not the duplication of a parent/child relationship.  I had to take a seminar on the subject.  I don’t want you to have to go through the same process, Ben.  I understand that being a young man can be difficult.  Sometimes if you get a hot feeling inside of you, you shouldn’t listen to it.  That hot feeling will tell you to act in certain ways towards women that women might not like.  What I’m trying to say, Ben, is that I get it.  I get why you wrote those notes to Miss Keever, bro.  But I don’t think that it is the wisest way to spend your youthful energy.

SUSAN

entering

I brought those doughnuts.

GARY

Thank you Miss Keever.

SUSAN

You’re welcome.  Maple for you.  And cherry-filled.

BEN

They had it.

SUSAN

(to Ben)  I guess this donut is a way of saying I forgive you.

GARY

Delicious.

SUSAN

I don’t even really know you.  Hi.  I’m Susan.  I’m the secretary for the Principal.

BEN

I know who you are.

SUSAN

“Miss Keever.”

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

You’re Ben.

BEN

Yeh.

SUSAN

Nice to meet you, Ben.

BEN

You know my name.

SUSAN

It’s actually my job, Ben.

BEN

Yeh?

SUSAN

I know everyone in this place.

A loud fire alarm blares.

.

2.

Middle school.

Main office.

Early Evening.

Susan sits at a desk.

Ben walks in.

SUSAN

Hey.

BEN

Hey.

SUSAN

You’re here late.

BEN

My mom’s not here.

SUSAN

She picking you up.

BEN

Yeh.

SUSAN

She’s late.

BEN

Yeah, I don’t know where she is.

SUSAN

You’re welcome to sit.

BEN

Yeh.

SUSAN

You can hang out here if you want.

BEN

Yeh, thanks.

SUSAN

You can take your coat off and stay a while.

BEN

hangs up coat

SUSAN

You want anything?

BEN

Huh?

SUSAN

Would you like something to drink?

BEN

Naw, that’s okay.

SUSAN

I have sodas in the fridge.

BEN

Yeh?

SUSAN

I have all kinds.   I bring it from home.  I have a little refrigerator right next to my desk that I brought from home.  I have two cases of cola and I keep stocking the refrigerator with endless cold beverages.

BEN

I’ll take a cola.

SUSAN

Or we have this lemon-lime drink?

BEN

You got a cherry cola?

SUSAN

Sure.

BEN

I’ll take that.

SUSAN

Sure thing.

brings him soda

You want a glass?

BEN

No.

SUSAN

I’ve got a clean mug.

BEN

That’s cool.

SUSAN

Right out of the can then?

BEN

Yeh.

SUSAN

Yep, these reports are keeping me here.  The principal was looking to have these reports all finished by Mid-Winter Break and look here we are.  Mid-Winter Break.  One whole week.  One week off.  You excited?  You excited to have all this time off?

BEN

Sure.

SUSAN

I’m really happy to have all this free time on my hands, just to do whatever I want, just all this free time to do anything I want to do or read a book.  You read books?  What book are you reading these days?

BEN

We got stuff for class.

SUSAN

Oh yeah?  What kind of stuff?  Like, literature, you reading literature?

BEN

Yeh.

SUSAN

I loved literature when I was a girl.

BEN

Yeh, it’s okay.

SUSAN

So what book?

BEN

“The Red Badge of Courage.”

SUSAN

That’s a good one.

BEN

It’s okay.

SUSAN

I loved that one when I was a girl.

BEN

SUSAN

So it’s raining pretty hard, huh?

BEN

Yeh.

SUSAN

I’d hate to be out in that.

BEN

That would suck.

SUSAN

It would suck.  You’re very right.  It would suck very hard.  Do you have an umbrella?

BEN

No.

SUSAN

Your mother didn’t give you an umbrella?

BEN

It wasn’t raining this morning.

SUSAN

Well you can check the reports on the morning news.

BEN

We don’t have a television.

SUSAN

Well that is just silly.  I understand, personal preference, sure.  But that is just plainly the silliest thing I’ve heard.

BEN

She says it’s bad.

SUSAN

Oh, my.  Your mother and me are going to have to talk.

BEN

SUSAN

How’s that soda?

BEN

‘S good.

SUSAN

Your mom let you drink soda?

BEN

Nope.

SUSAN

So this is special.

BEN

I get it from the vending machine sometimes.

SUSAN

Okay.

BEN

But this is nice.

SUSAN

So just you and your mom?

BEN

Yep.

SUSAN

No dad.

BEN

No dad.

SUSAN

BEN

Do you think I could use the phone?

SUSAN

Who you calling?

BEN

See if my mom’s still at home.

SUSAN

That phone’s broken.  Use mine.

BEN

In the office.

SUSAN

Yeah, that’s where I’m sitting.

BEN

We’re not allowed.

SUSAN

You can come back here, it’s okay.

BEN

Yeah?

SUSAN

Yeah, I know this is off-limits during school hours but no one’s here, right?  There’s no one else around except you and me.  Everyone’s gone home and we’re all here by ourselves so who cares how close you get, I mean, am I right about that Ben?

BEN

Sure.

SUSAN

Okay.

BEN

Thanks.

SUSAN

It’s okay that you’re here.

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

Dial 9 then the number.

BEN

Thanks.

dials

lets it ring

answering machine

Hey mom pick up if you’re there.  Okay, I’m still at school Bye.

hangs up

Man.

SUSAN

She’ll show up.

BEN

It’s just annoying though.

SUSAN

Yeah, it sort of sucks.

BEN

Yeh.

SUSAN

But you’re here now.  You’re here inside with me so everything’s not so bad, right?

BEN

Naw.

SUSAN

I hear your detention went all right.

BEN

He made me learn about history.

SUSAN

What you reading about in history these days?

BEN

We’re just reading about history.

SUSAN

But what continent did you learn about, like about our history or other people’s history or what?

BEN

Other people’s history.

SUSAN

What kind of people?

BEN

New Zealand.

SUSAN

Those people who live in New Zealand?

BEN

I guess about how it’s a country and everything.  Their gross national products and everything.

SUSAN

Gotcha.

BEN

And they have these native people who live there and they have to try to live with them somehow, but technology is getting in the way a little.  But they love nature.

SUSAN

You like countries?

BEN

Yeah, I guess.

SUSAN

BEN

SUSAN

How was your New Year?

BEN

My what?

SUSAN

New Years like at the beginning of the month?

BEN

Yeh.

SUSAN

Go out and party?

BEN

I fell asleep.

SUSAN

Were you at your mom’s house?

BEN

Yeah, she had people over but I was too tired.

SUSAN

Didn’t miss much.

BEN

Yeh.

SUSAN

“Nineteen Ninety One.”

BEN

Weird.

SUSAN

When I was a young girl I always thought things would be different by now but they really stay the same.  We’re not living on the moon.  So you just went to bed?

BEN

I read some comics first then passed out.

SUSAN

This is really nice.

BEN

What is?

SUSAN

I don’t get the opportunity.  Not usually.  I just don’t get to talk to you guys.  You kids come in and out and I never get to talk to you.  It’s nice.  I like talking to you.

BEN

SUSAN

You want to Xerox your face?

BEN

Um.

SUSAN

Look.  I’ll go first.

she Xeroxes her face

How’s that?

BEN

Your nostrils are pretty funny.

SUSAN

Yeah, pretty weird, huh?  Your go.

BEN

Xeroxes face.

SUSAN

Pretty serious.

BEN

I didn’t know what face to make and then it was too late.

SUSAN

That is very touching, Ben.

BEN

What?

SUSAN

It’s just very sweet.  You’re very sweet.  You get a prize.

hands him popsicle

BEN

A popsicle.

SUSAN

Grape.  You like grape?

BEN

Grape or red.

SUSAN

I like banana.

BEN

Ew.

SUSAN

What’s wrong with banana?

BEN

Banana’s gross.

SUSAN

I like the taste.

BEN

Banana tastes sick.

SUSAN

I like the color.

BEN

Yellow?

SUSAN

Like skin.

BEN

Skin popsicle.

SUSAN

Now that’s gross.

BEN

You started it.

SUSAN

Guilty.

BEN

You’re the one who started it.

SUSAN

But you might have to finish it, right?  So how’s your wrestling going?

BEN

How’d you know I wrestle?

SUSAN

I know everything, Benjamin.  Remember?

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

I saw you in the rehearsing or whatever.

BEN

Practicing.

SUSAN

Yes, you were at practice.

BEN

Yeah?

SUSAN

You were wearing such a cute little onesy.

BEN

You mean my jersey.

SUSAN

Whatever they are called.  And those cups, is that right, the thing that covers your penis and balls?

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

The cup.

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

You were pinning him.  You were pinning the other boy.  You were pushing this red-haired kid into the mat.

BEN

I’m pretty good at wrestling.

SUSAN

Yes you are Ben.

BEN

SUSAN

Did you know that tonight is Salmon Night? 

BEN

No.

SUSAN

At my house.  My boyfriend cooks salmon fillets on the barbecue.  He makes this special sauce from soy and lemon.  It’s very delicious.  So that’s where he’s at.  My boyfriend is at home with my son cooking up salmon.  We’re going to have dinner but they don’t expect me until later.  It gives me this really wonderful opportunity to finish up anything here at school.

BEN

We have taco night sometimes.

SUSAN

Yeah?

BEN

Yeah my mom really likes tacos.

SUSAN

That’s nice.

BEN

So my mom makes tacos sometimes and we call it taco night.

SUSAN

BEN

SUSAN

I wonder where your mom is?

BEN

Huh?

SUSAN

I wonder where your mother is.

BEN

Yeah, it’s weird.

SUSAN

BEN

Hey, maybe –

SUSAN

What?

BEN

Maybe I should walk back.

SUSAN

No.

BEN

I could probably get back in a half hour.

SUSAN

You should stay.

BEN

Just feels a little weird.

SUSAN

Why’s that?

BEN

I don’t know.  I babysat your son once.

SUSAN

Did you?

BEN

Like three years ago.

SUSAN

Oh, I don’t remember.

BEN

Yeah, it was only once and like right after school until dinner.  When you got home you made us apple slices and breaded chicken.  I watched cartoons in your side room with your son.  I was an older kid.  During the commercials I went out into the kitchen and you were slicing carrots for regular dinner.  You didn’t see, you were faced away but I could see your hands.  I just watched your hands cut carrots.

SUSAN

BEN

You were still really pretty then.

SUSAN

I’ve gained weight.

BEN

You’re still pretty.

SUSAN

You look different.

BEN

I’m like three years older.

SUSAN

Yes.

BEN

I’m taller and bigger now.

SUSAN

You’ve grown into a very good looking young man.

BEN

Miss Keever?

SUSAN

Yes, Ben?

BEN

Did you know I’m a kid?

SUSAN

What a funny thing to say.

BEN

I mean I felt like telling you that but I don’t really know why I said it.  I’m just a little bit older than your son.

SUSAN

But you’re not him.

BEN

No.

SUSAN

We’re not even related.

BEN

No.

SUSAN

It’s like we’re strangers.

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

And strangers are free to do whatever they want to one another.  Don’t you agree?

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

BEN

SUSAN

Do you know how?

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

Do you know what I’m asking?

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

You don’t sound so sure.

BEN

I’ve tried a couple times.

SUSAN

With someone else?  With a girl?

BEN

By myself.

SUSAN

How was it?

BEN

Okay.

SUSAN

You get caught yet?

BEN

No.

SUSAN

I caught him.  I caught my son.  He felt ashamed and I told him not to feel ashamed.  It’s yours.  You can do with it what you like.  This is what I said.  Then I gave him a rag.  He was using socks.  I can’t have him ruining all his socks.  He gives me the rag once a week and I wash it.  Sometimes it’s stiff.  The beat-off rag.

BEN

I use the toilet.   I mean I use it to do it in.  I stand over it like I’m peeing and sometimes I have to crouch down at the end.

SUSAN

We taught our cat to pee in the toilet like that.

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

BEN

My mom’s not really late.

SUSAN

No?

BEN

Yeah I just said that.

SUSAN

Where is she?

BEN

Working.

SUSAN

Where does she think you are?

BEN

She doesn’t keep track of that really.

SUSAN

I get it.

she comes close to him

BEN

What’s that smell?

SUSAN

What smell?

BEN

Like roses.

SUSAN

In general perfume isn’t a smell.

BEN

Sorry.

SUSAN

You say, What kind of perfume are you wearing?

BEN

What kind of perfume are you wearing?

SUSAN

Rose hips.

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

Is this okay?

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

Do you have a boner?

BEN

shakes yes

begins crying

SUSAN

Oh, that’s okay honey.

BEN

I have a boner.

SUSAN

Well, of course you do.

BEN

You’re so nice.

SUSAN

Of course I am.

BEN

I just want you to be nice to me.

SUSAN

Aren’t I nice to you?  Isn’t this nice?

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

You don’t need to cry, it’s okay.

BEN

I’m sorry.

SUSAN

Just come here with me.

BEN

It got dark out.

SUSAN

Let’s close these blinds.

BEN

It gets dark real fast now.

SUSAN

Shut off these lights …

BEN

I don’t know …

SUSAN

Let’s get those pants down.

BEN

I didn’t wear undies.

SUSAN

Oh that’s okay sweetie.

BEN

Oh God.

SUSAN

That’s so nice. That’s so special.

sticks his cock in her mouth

BEN

Hey, no.  Hey, stop.  We shouldn’t … Man … Oh man I just …

SUSAN

gives him a blowjob

BEN

Hey Miss Keever?

SUSAN

Mmm?

BEN

Misses Keever?

SUSAN

Mmm hmm?

BEN

I’m gonna come.

he comes in her mouth

SUSAN

BEN

SUSAN

BEN

SUSAN

You want a ride home?

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

I’ll get my keys.

exits

BEN

xeroxes his face five times

.

3.

Dining Room Table.

Evening.

.

ANNIE

So did you have a good day?

BEN

ANNIE

I’m sorry I was so late tonight.  There were some things keeping me back.  I had a later meeting.  And then there was traffic so –

BEN

It’s okay.

ANNIE

Well, I just wish you would look at me, son.

BEN

looks at her

ANNIE

There’s my baby blues.

BEN

My eyes are green.

ANNIE

It depends on what color shirt you’re wearing.

BEN

How do you know that?

ANNIE

I know every square inch of you because I’m your mother.

BEN

ANNIE

Do you want to eat anything?

BEN

No.

ANNIE

I tried to make all this food.

BEN

Thanks.

ANNIE

Well, I’m going to have some carrots and chicken.  And I’m really going to enjoy it in front of you.  I’m going to set this drumstick on your plate.  I’m just going to place it there and let you decide.  It’s up to you.  You can do what you want with it.

BEN

ANNIE

So did something happen?

BEN

No.

ANNIE

You’re just sullen for no reason.

BEN

Yeh.

ANNIE

Well if you feel like telling me … ?

BEN

No.

ANNIE

I’m actually of some use, my son.  I’m actually useful in talking about situations.  It’s called wisdom, buster.

BEN

ANNIE

How’s wrestling?

BEN

It’s really good.

ANNIE

The coach says you’re doing good.

BEN

You talked to my coach?

ANNIE

Coach Benson and I have phone conversations about your progress, yes.

BEN

So you’re spying on me.

ANNIE

I’m allowed to spy on you because you’re my property.

BEN

Yeh.

ANNIE

I own you.  You are legally my possession.

BEN

You’re like my slave master.

ANNIE

I’ll take that as a compliment.

BEN

Slave masters were the bad guys.  This chicken sucks.

ANNIE

It’s not very good, no.

BEN

How are the carrots?

ANNIE

A little chewy but otherwise meh.

BEN

Can you pass me some please?

ANNIE

Here you go.  And we got good bread.

BEN

Sure.

ANNIE

Cut you a slice.

she does

BEN

Thanks.

ANNIE

Now you’re eating.

BEN

Yeah.

ANNIE

Can you meet me half way?

BEN

Like what?

ANNIE

You get that I don’t really know what’s going on with you, right?

BEN

There’s nothing going on with me.

ANNIE

Yes, but you’re becoming a regular person, a grown up human being.

BEN

Yeah.

ANNIE

And things can start happening so I want you to feel free to tell me what they might be.

BEN

Okay.

ANNIE

Because I smoked pot a couple times and you know what?  I didn’t like it.  I was at a party at my girlfriends.  They were passing around a joint.  No sir.  Not anymore.  Panic attacks and sweating.  I had my boyfriend at the time take me home.  He told my mother I’d smoked pot.  She said to me the same thing I’ll say to you.  Pot just makes you dull.  It doesn’t kill you.  It doesn’t hurt your health.  You just become boring.  And you can have hallucinations.

BEN

I don’t smoke pot.

ANNIE

I’m saying you’re going to have to make that decision for yourself.

BEN

ANNIE

And girls?

BEN

Mom?

ANNIE

Should I buy you condoms?

BEN

No, mom.

ANNIE

I’ll go buy some anyway and put them in the cabinet in the guest bathroom.  Just in case.  Just so you know they’re there.

BEN

ANNIE

Oh hey, I’m not going to be home tomorrow.

BEN

Where you going to like work?

ANNIE

I’m seeing another apartment.

BEN

We’re moving?

ANNIE

We can’t afford the rent here.

BEN

That’s okay.

ANNIE

Are you coming right home or what?

BEN

Yeah I might.

ANNIE

Well I won’t be home til later.  And I’m going to start working in the evenings.

BEN

Yeah?

ANNIE

I’m not making any money at it.  I’m volunteering for the election.

BEN

What election?

ANNIE

I haven’t read the pamphlets yet.  Something about the war, or funding for the war?

BEN

Are we for that or are we against it?

ANNIE

We’re against war, Ben.

BEN

Gotcha.

ANNIE

There is never a reason to go to war.

BEN

They show us footage at school.

ANNIE

What?

BEN

Like in second period.

ANNIE

What have you seen?

BEN

They show us the tank technology.  There was also a special on the guided missile systems they’re using.

ANNIE

I’m going to have to talk with them.

BEN

It’s fine, mom, it’s not violent at all.

ANNIE

I don’t want you watching things like that.

BEN

Why not?

ANNIE

They’re not for you yet.

BEN

Yeah, I can’t handle it apparently.

ANNIE

You don’t know what you can handle yet.

BEN

Yeah, I do.

ANNIE

You have no idea the care I’m putting into raising you a proper person.

BEN

Sure.

ANNIE

Sometimes you’re too young to know what’s good for you.  You have to wait until college to start making those kinds of decisions.

BEN

Yeah that turned out really good for you.

ANNIE

Eat your carrots, mister.

BEN

ANNIE

I’m giving you a key.

BEN

Like a key to the city?

ANNIE

A key to the new place, goofball.

BEN

Thanks.

ANNIE

I don’t want you waiting outside waiting for me to let you in.

BEN

Okay.

ANNIE

And you’re going to have to start making meals.

BEN

I think I can do that.

ANNIE

This weekend I’ll teach you how to make some basic things.

BEN

I have a lot of homework and practice.

ANNIE

Well you’ll find time for this too.

BEN

I can’t wait.

ANNIE

Your dad can cook.

BEN

breaks into tears

ANNIE

Oh honey what’s wrong?

BEN

Don’t.

ANNIE

Why are you crying?

BEN

Don’t touch me, don’t –

ANNIE

Okay, okay.

BEN

I didn’t mean to do that.  Everything is fine.

ANNIE

Everything is not fine, why would you … I don’t what’s wrong until you tell me I mean do you need to see someone?

BEN

No.

ANNIE

I think the school district has some psychiatrists.

BEN

No, I want to talk to you.

ANNIE

Then you actually have to talk to me.  What’s wrong?

BEN

ANNIE

BEN

I think I’m in love.

ANNIE

With who?

BEN

I can’t say.

ANNIE

Why can’t you say?

BEN

I just can’t tell you.

ANNIE

Is it a boy?

BEN

No, mom.

ANNIE

It’s okay if it’s a boy.

BEN

It’s not a boy.

ANNIE

Is it someone at school?

BEN

Yeh.

ANNIE

That’s very

smiles

What’s her name?

BEN

I don’t think I wanna …

ANNIE

I’ll find out somehow.

BEN

No, mom –

ANNIE

I’ll figure it out some way.  I’ve got my spies.

BEN

Mom I just, I’m just confused.

ANNIE

It’s okay.

BEN

Yeah?

ANNIE

I’m always confused.

BEN

Yeah?

ANNIE

I’ve never felt like I’ve been in control of my life.

BEN

No?

ANNIE

It never happens.  But you can always talk to me, okay?

BEN

Okay.

ANNIE

Whenever you’re ready.

BEN

Yeah.

ANNIE

I hope she’s cute.

BEN

She is.

ANNIE

I bet she’s beautiful.

BEN

She’s beautiful.

ANNIE

Well I’m glad my son knows how to pick the pretty girls.

BEN

ANNIE

swooning

My son’s in love.

BEN

Shut up …

ANNIE

My son’s in love …

.

4.

A bedroom.

Dusk.

Susan and Ben smoking a joint in bed.

SUSAN

When I was your age or just right after, when I was about two or three years older than you, I must have been nineteen, at nineteen I moved out to the city.  I didn’t know anyone. I rented a room with three other girls living in the same apartment. We were very poor. We ate crackers and drank tea, we stole saltshakers from diners after drinking only coffee, we took the sugar jugs and maple syrup containers. I looked good then.

BEN

You look good now.

SUSAN

You should have seen me then. I could wear miniskirts in public. Actual miniskirts and my legs all tan and smooth. I never had boyfriends. I mean, I let men take me out because back then men liked to be out with women, to walk into a restaurant with a good-looking woman on your arm.  Pleasures are sometimes very simple, Ben.

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

Nobody had any money then so we had to get these horrible jobs we weren’t suited for us. But I guess it’s the same, I guess no one is really doing what they really wanted to do in the first place. This is something you should probably know now before it’s too late to subvert your disappointment. In about seven years, your life will start to decline. The things you once liked will seem trivial. You will accept a way of life that might not have suited you. You’ll try jobs and different lovers and ways of being and constantly shifting spiritual beliefs. None of it will work.  Life gets duller.  So you find yourself working at the service counter of a video store.  You find yourself married.  You’ve made littler versions of yourself that look like you.  Its just things we pass through.  Phases we encounter.  I’m the same little girl I always was.  I’m that same person sitting now next to you, Ben, and you’re the same as you we will be when you’re older.

BEN

SUSAN

Hey.

BEN

SUSAN

Hey look at me.

BEN

Your leg.

SUSAN

Oh my bandaids came off.

BEN

What happened to you?

SUSAN

You don’t happen to have three bandaids around?

BEN

I might have in the bathroom or maybe mom’s bathroom.

SUSAN

No wait look I can put these back.

BEN

Are you sure?

SUSAN

No these are sticking.  Look at that.

BEN

How’d that happen?

SUSAN

Razor cut from a couple days back.

BEN

It’s pretty deep.

SUSAN

I was shaving.

BEN

Like shaving your legs?

SUSAN

Yes.

BEN

I can get fresh bandaids.

SUSAN

I don’t want you to leave this room.  Imagine if you left this room right now, Ben.  Imagine you gone.  It would be very odd.

hands him present

BEN

What’s this?

SUSAN

A little present.

BEN

What for?

SUSAN

It’s your birthday in two days.

BEN

How did you know?

SUSAN

I was looking at your files.  Open it.

BEN

Thanks.

he does

It’s a tape player.

SUSAN

Yeah for playing tapes.

BEN

Cool.  Thanks.

SUSAN

I saw it and thought of you.

BEN

I just need to get some tapes now.

SUSAN

So when does your mom get back?

BEN

She’s looking at apartments til dark.

SUSAN

How long should I stay?

BEN

Hmn?

SUSAN

How long should I be here?

BEN

As long as you want.

SUSAN

Cool.  Do you have that lighter?

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

Well give it here.

BEN

Catch.

SUSAN

Thanks.

lights it

Your mom is looking at apartments?

BEN

We’re moving next week.

SUSAN

Yeah?

BEN

Yeah we’re going across town to go live in a better place.

SUSAN

That will be nice.

BEN

I guess.

SUSAN

Though I like this room.

BEN

It’s not bad.

SUSAN

Cozy.

BEN

Yeah, I’ll miss it.

SUSAN

Changing your number?

BEN

Like my telephone number?

SUSAN

Mmm hmm.

BEN

I’ll ask my mom when she gets home.

SUSAN

Give me you new number just in case.

BEN

Okay.

SUSAN

You should come over to my place sometime.  You could come over when I need a babysitter.

BEN

Yeah?

SUSAN

I can only pay you five an hour though.

BEN

Sounds good.

SUSAN

You want to buy a car.  You want to save up to buy a car.

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

That’s why you’d be babysitting my son.

BEN

Gotcha.

SUSAN

I love your drawings. I wish I could draw on my walls.

BEN

You can.

SUSAN

No you see I have to think about the resale value of my house.

BEN

You can draw on my walls.

SUSAN

Really?

BEN

Yeah anything you want.  I don’t care.

SUSAN

Okay.

BEN

handing markers

Here you go.

SUSAN

Thank you.

BEN

What are you going to do?

SUSAN

It’s a surprise.

starts drawing

Your drawings are good mine’s gonna suck.

BEN

I’m gonna be gone next year.

SUSAN

High school.

BEN

I guess I haven’t thought about it.

SUSAN

There’s nothing to think about.

BEN

No?

SUSAN

You just go.  Pass your classes and go.  You get to leave, buddy.  You’re lucky.

BEN

I like Middle School.

SUSAN

Everything you like you’ll eventually leave.

BEN

What did you draw?

SUSAN

A cherry falling in love with the pit.

BEN

It’s pretty good.

SUSAN

Thanks kiddo.

BEN

Sign it.

SUSAN

Like … ?

BEN

Put your signature.

SUSAN

Okay.

She does

“S.K.”  I used to be a singer you know.

BEN

No.

SUSAN

I used to sing on boats.

BEN

Yeah?

SUSAN

These luxury cruises.  We would sail around the bay and guests would eat all-you-can-eat food and we were the entertainment.  We sang top forties hits.

BEN

Like what?

SUSAN

Whatever was popular then.  I don’t remember all the songs now.

BEN

Like give me an example.

SUSAN

Okay, right.  Like …

she thinks

All right.

BEN

Okay.

SUSAN

I got one.

BEN

Mmm hmn.

SUSAN

sings song

it is the second verse of “In the Air Tonight”

Well I remember, I remember don’t worry

How could I ever forget, its the first time, the last time we ever met

But I know the reason why you keep your silence up, no you don’t fool me

The hurt doesn’t show; but the pain

still grows

It’s no stranger to you or me …

BEN

I like that.

SUSAN

Another thing that fell by the wayside.

BEN

What was that song?

SUSAN

You don’t know that?

BEN

No, what was it?

SUSAN

It was on the radio all the time.

BEN

I never heard it.

SUSAN

Like your mom doesn’t let you listen to radio either?

BEN

No I just never heard it.

SUSAN

BEN

You cut your hair.

SUSAN

No I’m just wearing it differently.

BEN

I didn’t notice.

SUSAN

How do you like it?

BEN

When it’s straight down.

SUSAN

Like this?

she does it

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

It gets in my eyes when it’s down.

BEN

But it looks better.

SUSAN

Oh, better?

BEN

It doesn’t really matter I mean I like it either way.

SUSAN

BEN

I think I’m going to be a soldier.

SUSAN

Oh really?

BEN

Yeah I want to be a soldier for this country.

SUSAN

My dad was a soldier.

BEN

Yeah?

SUSAN

Korean War.

BEN

That’s cool.

SUSAN

He got captured by the Koreans and when they released him he weighed ninety pounds.

BEN

Well it’s changed a lot.

SUSAN

What has?

BEN

The way they do war since your dad.

SUSAN

Seems like it’s pretty much the same principle.

BEN

No, they have some really technologically advanced war techniques.

SUSAN

Oh yes?

BEN

Did you see that footage on the other day?  It was awesome.  This was in the war, they were showing war footage at school yesterday.  You didn’t see this?

SUSAN

No.

BEN

It was really amazing.  There was this bunker.  Like a night vision goggle perspective from this helicopter.  Looking down on this enemy bunker.  And before you know it, the doors of the bunker explode right open.  When they replay it in slow motion you can actually see the missile entering perfectly into the front doors.  Just blew it to smithereens.

SUSAN

Oh yeah, I saw that Special.

BEN

It was a good Special.

SUSAN

BEN

So who’s your boyfriend?

SUSAN

I’m not seeing anyone.

BEN

No?

SUSAN

Not anymore.

BEN

Did you break up with him?

SUSAN

Yes.

BEN

Why did you do that?

SUSAN

I’m seeing someone else.

BEN

Who is he?

SUSAN

BEN

Oh.

SUSAN

Yeah.

BEN

I’m not seeing anyone.

SUSAN

I know.

BEN

I just thought I should tell you.

SUSAN

I think that’s really thoughtful of you.

BEN

Thanks.

SUSAN

BEN

Am I like your boyfriend?

SUSAN

Yeah I guess.

.

5.

A living room.

Night.

.

KYLE

And then we went go-cart riding.  All the kids went and we opened my presents next to the racetrack.  But I didn’t go on the go-carts.

BEN

Why not?

KYLE

I was sort of scared to race in it.

BEN

You were scared?

KYLE

Yeah, I don’t know what would happen if I crashed.

BEN

You don’t need to be scared about that stuff.

KYLE

Okay.

BEN

What’s there to be scared of, dummy?

KYLE

I might hurt myself.

BEN

You spend too much time around your mom.

KYLE

My mom’s never around.

BEN

But neither’s your dad.

KYLE

But my mom lives here.

BEN

What was your dad again?

KYLE

He worked on machines.  They got divorced and he moved away.  One time I visited him and he was blasting a piece of metal with a blowtorch.  I looked right into the blowtorch light and it blinded me for a week.

BEN

You shouldn’t be so dumb.

KYLE

That’s what he said.

BEN

He really said the same thing.

KYLE

He swore.

BEN

What did he call you?

KYLE

He said some bad words and called me an idiot.

BEN

Well you are.  Look fast.

tosses baseball at him

KYLE

hits him in the face

Ow!

BEN

I said duck.  You okay?

KYLE

Yeah.

BEN

Your reflexes suck.  I bet you don’t play sports.

KYLE

No.

BEN

Dude, really you all right?

KYLE

Yeah, I’m okay.

BEN

Here, you can hit me.

KYLE

No, I’m all right.

BEN

Go ahead.  One punch.

KYLE

Come on, it’s okay.

BEN

The big part of my arm.  Hard as you can.  Come on.

KYLE

punches at Ben’s shoulder

BEN

catches Kyle’s fist

Ha ha ha.

KYLE

Come on, man –

BEN

punching Kyle with his own fist

Why you hitting yourself why you hitting yourself why you hitting yourself?

KYLE

Stop it, stop it.

BEN

That doesn’t hurt.

KYLE

BEN

Hey Kyle.

KYLE

BEN

Hey man I’m sorry.

KYLE

Okay

BEN

No, man, come on.

KYLE

Yeah.

BEN

I’m really like, whatever all right?  Just stop looking like that.  Don’t make out like you’re sad, you don’t get sad, you’re the king of the castle.  You’re the only kid in the house.

KYLE

Yeah.

BEN

All right.  It’s decided.  Done.  We will have a great time tonight.

KYLE

Thanks for coming over and babysitting.

BEN

I’m not babysitting.  We’re just hanging out.  Two kids just hanging with each other.  Is that cool with you?

KYLE

Sure.

BEN

All right then.  What do you want to do?  You want to watch a movie or something?  You want to order pizza?  Your mom left

thumbs through cash on table

seventeen dollars?  Okay, seventeen, okay. 

KYLE

We could order Mexican.

BEN

That is a good idea, buddy.  Let’s do that.

KYLE

There’s a place down the block that delivers.

BEN

Number?

KYLE

There’s a menu on the fridge.

BEN

Cool.

Dials

on phone

Yeah, delivery?

What’s our address?

KYLE

Four seven six Steele.

BEN

Four seven six Steele.

What do you want?

KYLE

Bean burrito.

BEN

Bean burrito and a do you have nachos?

Uh huh.

Yeah, them.

And two cokes.

How much is that?

Great.

Thanks.

hangs up

En route.

Hey your mom has liquor, right?

KYLE

I don’t know.

BEN

She’s got it somewhere.  It’s gotta be here.

KYLE

She drinks white wine sometimes.

BEN

Let’s have a look.

KYLE

I don’t know if we should be doing this.

BEN

Ta da.  Look at that.  Chateau Blank.

opens it, swigs

KYLE

I don’t know if we should –

BEN

I’ll replace it.  I’ll get some guy to buy some.  I’ll pay some guy to go get some at the store.  Some old bum.  We could get him to drive us places.  We could steal a car and have a bum drive us around.  What’s this?

KYLE

That’s my math award.

BEN

Plastic star.  What are you like in second grade?  You like the best in your class?

KYLE

I’m in sixth grade.

BEN

You’re sort of young.

KYLE

I skipped a grade.

BEN

Well look who’s smart.

KYLE

Yeah, I used to be good at math.

BEN

imitates Kyle’s last sentence

“Myeah, muh muh MUH muh muh.”

KYLE

You want to drill some numbers with me?

BEN

No.  You want any?

KYLE

I can’t.

BEN

You can’t or you won’t?  Here take some.

KYLE

Oh – Okay.

BEN

Just a little sip.

KYLE

drinks

BEN

Yeah, that’s good.

KYLE

It tastes sting-y.

BEN

Yeah, it’s got a little fizz to it.  Your mom likes the cheap stuff.  I don’t have a dad either.

KYLE

Yeah?

BEN

Yeah man like you.

KYLE

Okay.

BEN

So we’re really the same in that we don’t have like this larger dude in the house.

KYLE

It’s okay.

BEN

Like isn’t what’s supposed to happen is, I mean don’t you think – it’s really weird – but don’t you think we should have dads?

KYLE

I like my mom better anyway.

BEN

I hate my fucking mom.  She looks too nice.  She’s really attractive.  Moms shouldn’t be like that.  Moms should be like your mom.

KYLE

My mom’s pretty.

BEN

No she’s not.  She’s not ugly.  She’s not anything.

KYLE

I’m gonna tell her.

BEN

Go ahead I don’t care.  So what about your mom’s boyfriend?

KYLE

My mom’s boyfriend?

BEN

Yeah.

KYLE

How do you know about him?

BEN

Your mom told me.

KYLE

Yeah he hasn’t been around a lot but he’s this fireman? He sleeps during the day because he fights fires at night.  He comes over and cooks food.  He used to be this great cook in the city when he was a young guy.  She met him at the supermarket vegetable section.  But she always jokes that they met at a fire.  Like she was on fire and he saved her.

BEN

Sounds like a swell guy.

KYLE

He’s okay.

BEN

You don’t really like him.

KYLE

Don’t I?

BEN

No, you don’t.

KYLE

How do you know?

BEN

Am I right?

KYLE

Well, yeah.

BEN

He’s humping your mom.

KYLE

Yeah…

BEN

This fireman is sticking his penis in your mom’s vagina.  Over and over and over.  Oh boo hoo little Kylekins.

KYLE

Don’t do that.

BEN

Sit down.

pushes Kyle to couch

You stay right there for ten minutes.

KYLE

But –

BEN

Or else.

KYLE

What?

BEN

I’m just saying Or Else.

KYLE

I didn’t do anything –

BEN

You’re grounded. 

KYLE

What did I do?

BEN

I’m in charge of you.  You’re my property.  I legally own you.

KYLE

Ah, man.

BEN

I’m your father Kyle.  You will only speak when spoken to.

KYLE

BEN

You may speak.

KYLE

Can we at least watch something?

BEN

All your movies suck.

KYLE

You haven’t even seen them.

BEN

I just know they do.  We could play a game.

KYLE

Okay.

BEN

“I Never”.

KYLE

What’s “I Never”?

BEN

I’ve never seen your mom naked.

KYLE

Okay.

BEN

And if you have seen your mom naked you take a drink.

KYLE

I don’t get it.

BEN

Have you seen your mom naked?

KYLE

Well … yeah.

BEN

Take a drink.

KYLE

he does

BEN

Okay, your turn.

KYLE

Okay, I got one … I’ve never been fourteen.

BEN

That was just stupid.

KYLE

Why?

BEN

You’re supposed to make me admit something bad that you haven’t done.

KYLE

Oh.

BEN

And you lost a turn.  I’ve never beat off.

KYLE

Like … ?

BEN

Masturbation.

KYLE

No.

BEN

You haven’t masturbated?

KYLE

No.

BEN

I know you have.

KYLE

No, but –

BEN

Your mom told me.

KYLE

She did?

BEN

The beat off rag?

KYLE

drinks

BEN

Gotcha.

KYLE

My turn.

BEN

Shoot.

KYLE

I’ve never eaten meat.

BEN

Wait, what?

KYLE

I’ve never eaten meat.

BEN

Not even a hamburger.

KYLE

A hamburger’s meat.

BEN

You’ve never tasted meat?

KYLE

Once we had lamb for dinner on Easter.  They brought out the lamb and put it on the table.  I didn’t know what it was so I asked.  They said I started crying.  I don’t really remember because I was too little.

BEN

Wuss.

KYLE

Drink.

BEN

Huh?

KYLE

Drink.

BEN

drinks.

KYLE

Your turn.

BEN

I’ve never shown my dick to anyone.

KYLE

Why would you do that?

BEN

Just to show your dick to someone.  So someone could get a good look at it.  I think you’re drinking.

KYLE

I don’t want to drink anymore.

BEN

Show me your dick.

KYLE

No.

BEN

Come on, just do it.

KYLE

No.

BEN

Come on, this is so stupid.  Just show me.

KYLE

I’m not –

BEN

You’re not?  Not what?

KYLE

(low)  Circumcised.

BEN

What?

KYLE

Circumsised.

BEN

Oh my God.

KYLE

What?

BEN

I’ve just never seen that.

KYLE

Yeah.

BEN

I’m gonna have to see that.

KYLE

No.

BEN

You’re my property.  I’m your dad.

KYLE

Don’t do it, / come on.

BEN

No, no, little man, you’re mine, you’re my possession, I own you, I own every part of you.

kneels on Kyle’s shoulders on ground

Execution style.

KYLE

Stop, stop.

BEN

makes machine gun noise while tapping on Kyle’s chest

Brrrrrrdt!  Brrrrrrdt Brrrrrrdt!

KYLE

Ow ow, ow!

BEN

You little baby.

KYLE

Get off my shoulders, c’mon –

BEN

You will stay put you little baby.  Little baby wants kisses from mama.

KYLE

NO –

BEN

Little kisses for little baby.

kisses Kyle all over

KYLE

Stop STOP okay don’t DO that!

BEN

What if I was like your mom right now?  What if your mom was on you like this?  Just your mom bouncing up and down.

twists Kyle’s tit

KYLE

STOP stop STOP STOP!

BEN

You got small titties.

KYLE

Come ON!

BEN

Shhh.  Shhh now.  Shhh.  Let’s just pretend I’m your mom, okay.  You’re the fireman.  How would you kiss your mom?  How would you do it?  Show me.  I’m gonna kiss you.  I’m gonna kiss you.

They kiss.

BEN

Here’s your bean burrito.

KYLE

Dude you’re kissing –

BEN

Touch your burrito…

KYLE

Dude please STOP.

BEN

stops

then quietly

Yeah.

KYLE

Okay, just –

BEN

Yeah, I don’t know what …

KYLE

It’s okay.

BEN

No don’t do that.

KYLE

I won’t tell anyone.

BEN

Don’t do that!

KYLE

BEN

This was just horsing around.

KYLE

Yeah.

BEN

You know I was kidding.

KYLE

Yeah.

BEN

I don’t like doing that.

KYLE

I don’t like it either.

BEN

KYLE

I have some board games.  Come on don’t be mad.

BEN

Board games.

KYLE

I collect board games.  There’s a board game closet in the hallway closet.

BEN

What kind?

KYLE

All kinds.  We don’t have to play.  Don’t be mad.

BEN

What’s a good one?

KYLE

I really like the one where you’re a peg in a car, like this brightly colored peg and I usually choose green and you put him in a red car?  There’s a map to navigate that is a plan of your life.  You spin the wheel and depending on what number the arrow lands on, you move that many spaces.  Sometimes you land on “mortgage” and you loose all this money but sometimes you open a business and then you make all this money back.  You get more money if you have more kids at the end of the game.

BEN

Yeah?

KYLE

Do you want to play that game?

BEN

Yeah.

.

6.

Middle School.

Main office.

Late afternoon.

.

ANNIE

Did they find Ben?

SUSAN

He’s coming over from practice.

ANNIE

And where’s practice?

SUSAN

The gym.

ANNIE

I can go get him myself if you let me know where they gym might be at.

SUSAN

I’d have escort you down there and I’m already the only one in the office.

ANNIE

Did they say how long he’d be?

SUSAN

I would guess ten minutes.

ANNIE

Did they say that?

SUSAN

I’m just guessing, ma’am.

ANNIE

Well thank you.

SUSAN

ANNIE

It’s nice to meet one of Ben’s teachers.

SUSAN

Secretary.

ANNIE

Oh.

SUSAN

I told you I’m his secretary.

ANNIE

I hope it’s all right I stopped by.

SUSAN

In general, we prefer guests to announce their visit prior to arriving but really it’s no problem.

ANNIE

Like I said, just dropping by.

SUSAN

It’s nice to have you.

ANNIE

I’m always interested in what my son is doing but I don’t quite know what to do with him what with work.

SUSAN

We all have work.

ANNIE

He comes in by key usually.  He’s a latch-key.  So horrible to say it out loud.  His father –

SUSAN

Yes.

ANNIE

Gone so I have to tow the line, really.  No signs of violence.  We don’t have guns.  He’s on a healthy diet, I feed my son healthy.  I’m just not here much and sometimes he makes his own food.  Susan Keever.

SUSAN

Mmm hmn.

ANNIE

I was just verifying your name from when I first came in.

SUSAN

Miss Keever.

ANNIE

I just spend so much time canvassing for the party for this upcoming election that some things slip through my gaze.

SUSAN

So what’s the rush?

ANNIE

Is there a rush?

SUSAN

You seem to want to get out of here.

ANNIE

I mean how can you tell something like that?

SUSAN

Your body language.

ANNIE

What am I doing?  I’m not doing anything.

SUSAN

It’s okay, I’m just noticing your body language.

ANNIE

My son is just not doing well.

SUSAN

What’s wrong with Ben?

ANNIE

You know my son?

SUSAN

I know everyone in this school because it’s part of my job.

ANNIE

Well Ben’s been very upset recently.

SUSAN

Did he say what about?

ANNIE

He’s not sleeping.  He’s up when I come home.  I ask him what’s the matter and he says nothing.  Maybe he’s watching something.  One night I caught him crying over the sink.  Another he brought home pottery, he makes pottery at school and here is this beautiful bowl he made with his own hands.  I told him I was proud.  He smashed it at my feet.  I told him stop but he took all his pottery and broke them on the driveway concrete.  I didn’t notice anything, I mean, did you see him acting strange here at school?

SUSAN

No.

ANNIE

So I’ll be here every day to pick him up after school.  Do you want a smoke?

SUSAN

No.

ANNIE

But you don’t mind if I do?

SUSAN

No.

ANNIE

I’m gonna have a smoke, okay?

SUSAN

That’s fine.

ANNIE

You don’t mind, do you?

SUSAN

No.

ANNIE

I’ll just crack the window a little to let in some fresh air.

SUSAN

Sounds good.

ANNIE

I’ll blow it out so it doesn’t get inside.

SUSAN

Okay.

ANNIE

Whoo.  Sometimes you just get that feeling to you know smoke.

SUSAN

I don’t personally have that feeling.

ANNIE

No?

SUSAN

I had compulsions for other things.

ANNIE

Yeah like what kind of things?

SUSAN

Just different things.

ANNIE

Like chocolate.

SUSAN

Yes.  Chocolate.

ANNIE

SUSAN

What is it that you do again?

ANNIE

I’m between things.

SUSAN

Ah.

ANNIE

Volunteering for the election at night.

SUSAN

So where does Ben usually go?

ANNIE

I’m not sure.

SUSAN

Okay.

ANNIE

We let each other have space.

SUSAN

Makes sense.

ANNIE

I sure didn’t teach him.  He learned that by himself.  It’s funny what they pick up.  What habits I mean.  From you.  And which they don’t.  Don’t you think?

SUSAN

Oh sure.

ANNIE

You try to get them to eat healthy.  I just don’t know what to do about these boys. 

SUSAN

I know what you mean.

ANNIE

They’re always on my mind.

SUSAN

Yes, I know.

ANNIE

You remember that age.

SUSAN

No.

ANNIE

You don’t remember then?

SUSAN

I don’t like to recall myself as a young person.

ANNIE

Oh no?

SUSAN

I wasn’t a happy young person.

ANNIE

I sort of loved being a girl.

SUSAN

Yeah?

ANNIE

Remember boys?  Remember liking a boy?  That was thrilling, wasn’t it?  You’d like a boy because he ran fast or said you looked pretty.  It was a lot easier when we just loved boys.  Don’t you think?

SUSAN

Yes.

ANNIE

But I see it in Ben.  I see him act like a little gentleman.  Sometimes I want to slap that fucking shit off his face.

SUSAN

ANNIE

I’m trying to place you.

SUSAN

Place me?

ANNIE

I’ve met you before.

SUSAN

Possibly.

ANNIE

Did you grow up here?

SUSAN

Yes.

ANNIE

So did I.

SUSAN

I lived in the city for a while but never got out of the state.

ANNIE

Oh no?

SUSAN

I never even traveled anywhere.  Just different places around this state.

ANNIE

I traveled.

SUSAN

Oh yeah?

ANNIE

Mazatlan.

SUSAN

Oh where’s that?

ANNIE

Mexico.  The coast.

SUSAN

Oh that must have been fun.

ANNIE

There was mostly tour boats.  My boyfriend and I took these tour boats out to this island.  Parrot Island.  My boyfriend at the time, I’m not with anyone anymore.  I thought there would be more parrots on it but there were just these, what were they, hawks?  The hawks had eaten all the parrots.

SUSAN

Your breath is really bad.

ANNIE

Oh is it?

SUSAN

You’ve been drinking a lot of coffee.

ANNIE

Fuck, I’m sorry.  How embarrassing.

SUSAN

I’ve got a mint for you.

ANNIE

Thank you.

SUSAN

Here.

ANNIE

I’m sorry for going on so much.

SUSAN

It’s okay.

ANNIE

I just feel like you’re someone to talk to.

SUSAN

I’m someone to speak to, yes.

ANNIE

SUSAN

You were a nerd I bet.

ANNIE

What do you mean?

SUSAN

In school, you were a nerd.

ANNIE

No not necessarily I wasn’t.

SUSAN

I can tell.  You have contacts.

ANNIE

I got sick of glasses.

SUSAN

And you were a little pudgy.

ANNIE

Just my late teen years.

SUSAN

One day, you went Poof.

ANNIE

Yes.

SUSAN

Suddenly you were hot.

ANNIE

I went away one summer and I came back thinner.

SUSAN

What happened?

ANNIE

I don’t know.  I took up smoking. 

SUSAN

Makes sense.

ANNIE

I bet you were a Weird Girl, right?

SUSAN

Sort of.

ANNIE

One of those withdrawn Weird Girls.

SUSAN

Yes.

ANNIE

I can see it in you if you don’t mind me saying.

SUSAN

No I don’t mind.

ANNIE

A Weird Girl with weird compulsions.

SUSAN

I used to cut.

ANNIE

Hmn?

SUSAN

I used to cut myself.

ANNIE

I see.

SUSAN

Did you used to cut yourself?

ANNIE

SUSAN

I bet you used to cut yourself.

ANNIE

A little.

SUSAN

I knew it.

ANNIE

But only once or twice.

SUSAN

Do you have any scars?

ANNIE

No.

SUSAN

I do.

ANNIE

I don’t like looking at scars.

SUSAN

Do you want to see my scars?

ANNIE

Sure.

SUSAN

There’s one that runs real long right here.  And here’s another little one.  I had to go to the hospital for that one.

ANNIE

You weren’t taking care of yourself.

SUSAN

I can barely remember what I was thinking then, like what my actual thoughts were, but I have these marks to prove I was there once.

ANNIE

That one’s fresh.

SUSAN

It happens when you’re in love.

BEN

Hey mom.

Ben has come in.

ANNIE

Well, young man, you took your time in the showers.

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

Your mom here came to pick you up because you told her to do it.

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

In the future, you should let the office know when you’re having visitors.

BEN

Okay.

SUSAN

Thank you, Benjamin.

ANNIE

Go get in the car kiddo.

BEN

Give me the keys.

ANNIE

Here you go.  We can play your station, kay?

BEN

Sure.

SUSAN

Goodnight Ben.

BEN

Goodnight.

leaves

ANNIE

I’m Annie.

SUSAN

Hmn?

ANNIE

I’m Annie Ben’s mother. 

SUSAN

Hello.

ANNIE

I didn’t introduce myself from before.

SUSAN

It’s nice to meet you Annie.

ANNIE

Stay in touch with me about my son, okay?

SUSAN

I will.

ANNIE

Here’s my home number.

SUSAN

I have it on file.

ANNIE

Oh let’s just check to see what it is please?

SUSAN

Just a sec.

looks in files

Two zero six, eight five four, seven three nine nine?

ANNIE

How did you get that?

SUSAN

It’s in our files.

ANNIE

No we just, it’s funny, because we moved last week.

SUSAN

Well it seems we have the right number.

ANNIE

I just haven’t generally given it out yet.

SUSAN

Would you like to update your address too?

ANNIE

What?

SUSAN

You have a new address?

ANNIE

Oh sure.

SUSAN

Do you want to tell me your new address?

ANNIE

It’s … eighty nine yesler way.

SUSAN

Zip?

ANNIE

Same.

SUSAN

Thank you.

ANNIE

Okay we’ll see you again.

SUSAN

Bye bye.

ANNIE

Susan Keever.

SUSAN

Yeah.

ANNIE

Okay bye.

.

7.

Call Center / Kitchen.

Annie at desk

Gary in kitchen.

On phone:

GARY

Yeah let me just turn the radio down.

ANNIE

Okay I can hold.

GARY

Just a minute.

turns radio down

Sorry about that.

ANNIE

What was that?

GARY

Hmn?

ANNIE

What were you listening to?

GARY

Shostakovich.

ANNIE

Oh I don’t know him.

GARY

He’s a Russian composer.

ANNIE

A classical musician.

GARY

He wrote classical music.

ANNIE

GARY

I’m sorry, who is this?

ANNIE

Oh I apologize how stupid – I’m Annie and I work for a community organization opposing the war.

GARY

I’m not interested.

ANNIE

Yes, but you haven’t heard what I’m going to –

GARY

Did you hear me?  I’m not interested.

ANNIE

Well is there someone else I can talk to?

GARY

I’m not interested please hang up the phone.

ANNIE

Is there someone else in the household I can talk to?

GARY

Are you an idiot?  Hang up the phone and do not call me back.

ANNIE

Jesus okay I can’t … hang up.

GARY

No?

ANNIE

No they won’t let me hang up.

GARY

What do you mean?

ANNIE

It’s a policy.  The people we call have to hang up first.

GARY

Why?

ANNIE

Because we’re not supposed to give up.  I’ll lose my job if I give up.

GARY

You need a new job, lady.

ANNIE

It’s not actually my job.

GARY

No?

ANNIE

No I’m doing this for free.

GARY

You’re worried about losing a job that doesn’t pay you anything.

ANNIE

I suppose its not logical but I have principles and those are keeping me here I guess.

GARY

No, no, I understand.

ANNIE

I don’t have to be here I choose to be here.

GARY

Look I’m sorry I got verbally … heated.

ANNIE

It’s okay.

GARY

I’m actually against the war.

ANNIE

Oh, that’s good.

GARY

Yeah I just don’t like the practice of strangers calling strangers on the telephone.

ANNIE

Oh you must hate me.

GARY

The more we communicate with other human beings remotely, the less we will value the actual people physically in front of us.

ANNIE

No, totally.

GARY

Excuse me I should stir my spaghetti.

he does

this takes as long as it needs to

he comes back

I’m making spaghetti.

ANNIE

Smells delicious.  Ha.

GARY

Yes.

ANNIE

You’re a cook?

GARY

Huh?

ANNIE

You cook food?

GARY

Yeah sometimes.  It’s more of a skill than what I do.

ANNIE

Okay.

GARY

What I mean to say is, I cook because that’s what I need to do in order to eat.  But I’m not a cook.

ANNIE

Thank you for –

GARY

Sure.

ANNIE

Distinguishing.

GARY

Yeah.

ANNIE

I don’t cook.

GARY

No?

ANNIE

No, I’m incapable, I’m impossible at it.

GARY

Just follow the recipe.

ANNIE

I can’t follow recipes, they’re always too restrictive.

GARY

Maybe that’s why.

ANNIE

Why what?

GARY

Why it never comes out right.

ANNIE

GARY

/ Hello?

ANNIE

(overlapping) So uh … the war?

GARY

Yeah.

ANNIE

Do you want to support our cause?

GARY

Okay.

ANNIE

Well why don’t I tell you about it first?

GARY

I’ll just pay whatever.  It’s a good cause, right?

ANNIE

Yes, the soldiers … the families of soldiers?

GARY

Thirty sounds great.

ANNIE

Yeah.  Okay.  Thank you for your donation.

GARY

You’re welcome.

ANNIE

So, let me just get a couple things about you then I’ll get your address.

GARY

“A couple things”?

ANNIE

Just some information about you then your address and payment info.

GARY

Yeah but if my pasta –

ANNIE

Totally, totally go tend to it whenever you need –

GARY

No, no, it looks good for now.

ANNIE

What’s your sex?  Male.  Age?

GARY

Thirty-nine.

ANNIE

What’s your racial background?

GARY

White.  Irish American.

ANNIE

We only have white.  Highest level of education?

GARY

Masters.

ANNIE

Primary focus of study?

GARY

Comparative History of Ideas.

ANNIE

Huh?

GARY

Comparative History of Ideas? CHID?

ANNIE

CHID?

GARY

It is a comparative study of the philosophic ethnography embedded in the human psyche.

ANNIE

No, I wasn’t – I think it sounds fascinating.  Your current occupation?

GARY

Substitute teacher.

ANNIE

Annual salary?

GARY

I don’t know if I – can we leave that one blank?

ANNIE

Oh, I …

GARY

I don’t feel like telling you how much I make.

ANNIE

Over one hundred thousand?

GARY

Har har.

ANNIE

Under fifty thousand?

GARY

Yeah.  Fine.

ANNIE

Marital status?

GARY

Single.

ANNIE

Voting tendencies?

GARY

Left.

ANNIE

And here’s the part where you get to register your thoughts.

GARY

What?

ANNIE

When we send in your donation, a letter gets sent to your leaders about how you feel about this whole thing.

GARY

“The whole thing”?

ANNIE

The war.  But it has to be twenty-five words or less.

GARY

Why?

ANNIE

That’s all the space we have.

GARY

All right, uh … Am.  Worried.  About … Long term psychological effects on … American populace.  Worst.  Outcome.  Is.  How.  Regular People back home.  Start.  Treating?  Each other.  Like.  Soldiers treat.  Their enemies?  Am I over?

ANNIE

Yes a little but it’s okay.

GARY

Good.

ANNIE

What do mean by that?

GARY

What?

ANNIE

“Am worried about long term psychological effects on American populace worst outcome is how regular people back home start treating each other like soldiers treat their enemies”?

GARY

We ape the actions of the extremes of our government.  If our leader is benevolent, we will be benevolent to others.  If our leader tries to occupy other lands, we will try to occupy the minds and bodies of those we love around us.

ANNIE

I find what you say awfully fascinating.

GARY

Oh.  Thanks.

ANNIE

I don’t surround myself with fascinating people so it’s a nice relief, you know?

GARY

I live alone.

ANNIE

GARY

Sometimes you just say things.

ANNIE

No I don’t have a boyfriend either.

GARY

But in general I’m pretty harmless.

ANNIE

You seem like a good person.

GARY

It’s funny.

ANNIE

What is?

GARY

Just talking to you.

ANNIE

Why is that funny?

GARY

I don’t know.

ANNIE

Why’d you say that then?

GARY

Sometimes things just get said.

ANNIE

GARY

Do you live here?

ANNIE

Yeah.

GARY

I mean I live on the outskirts.

ANNIE

Oh I just moved to the outskirts.

GARY

Do you like living here?

ANNIE

Sure I guess.

GARY

I’m not that fond of it.

ANNIE

GARY

What do you do when it’s nice out?

ANNIE

Me?

GARY

Yeah, since I have you on the phone.

ANNIE

Oh, jeez, I don’t really know.

GARY

First thing that came into your head.

ANNIE

This is so stupid, the – ferris wheel?

GARY

A ferris wheel.

ANNIE

That feeling of going up from the ground then the distance opening up as you rise higher.

GARY

Okay, that’s a good one.

ANNIE

And how, how about yourself?

GARY

Ride my bike.  You can do that in any weather.  And you don’t need anyone.

ANNIE

That’s very smart.

GARY

Thanks.

ANNIE

GARY

Well I should check the garlic bread.

ANNIE

You made a whole loaf?

GARY

Yeah that’s how you make garlic bread.

ANNIE

You’re just gonna eat a whole loaf yourself?

GARY

I guess throw some out.

ANNIE

That’s really sad.  That makes me really sad for no reason.  I’m getting way too personal.

GARY

No, no.

ANNIE

I just – this happens with me and they’re probably recording this.

GARY

It would help if I maybe said, I don’t know, I might help if I said that I thought that it was okay, it’s okay if you want to talk about personal things to me.  As a customer.

ANNIE

What is your address?

GARY

Nine Four O Five Woodworth Avenue.

ANNIE

Okay city zip’s same.

GARY

I’ll have to send a check.

ANNIE

Oh no we can do this privately over the phone with a credit card.

GARY

I don’t have a credit card.

ANNIE

No?

GARY

No, I don’t believe in phantom systems of money.

ANNIE

Okay well you could always … drop it off?

GARY

Drop it off?

ANNIE

We have an office downtown open days from nine to six.

GARY

I’m at school then.

ANNIE

Yes a teacher, right?

GARY

Yeah.

ANNIE

Well I’m always … at my house?  I’m always there later or on weekends if you’re around my house you could drop it off?  I’m just around there by myself most of the time except I have a son and everything.

GARY

Okay.

ANNIE

I have a son I guess you should know about.

GARY

It’s okay I’m a teacher.

ANNIE

Yeah, right?

GARY

Yeah I’m trained in Sons.

ANNIE

This is so weird.

GARY

Well you already know my name.

ANNIE

Gary.

GARY

What’s yours?

ANNIE

Annie.  I don’t have a husband or anything because that would be weird to invite a stranger over under those, whatever, auspices.  I was a young mother, so … right up your alley?  I mean we’re the same age.

GARY

Later thirties.

ANNIE

His father’s forty but I’m thirty-seven.  So my address is Eight nine Yesler.  You know where that is?

GARY

Yeah.

ANNIE

I’d really like it if you’d stop by.

GARY

It’s nice talking to you, Annie.

ANNIE

Get back to your spaghetti, Gary.

.

8.

Another Kitchen.

Very late.

Darkness.

Gary flicks on light.

Ben sitting at table, lacing and re-lacing boots.

GARY

Hey.

BEN

Hey.

GARY

Didn’t –

BEN

‘S okay.

GARY

BEN

recognizing

Mister Gary?

GARY

Yeah.

BEN

GARY

Your mom –

BEN

Yeah, I –

GARY

BEN

GARY

Glass of … water?

BEN

All yours.

GARY

Thanks.

BEN

In the fridge.

GARY

Hmn?

BEN

Cold water in the fridge.

GARY

pours glass of water

drinks nearly all

BEN

Time is it?

GARY

Four.  What’re you – ?

BEN

Laces.

GARY

Hmn?

BEN

Lacing.  Boots.

GARY

Oh.  Sure.

BEN

GARY

Your mom and I –

BEN

Yeah.

GARY

We had a date.

BEN

GARY

She didn’t tell you?

BEN

No.

GARY

I just found out tonight.  You and her –

BEN

Yeah.

GARY

Related.

BEN

Yes.

GARY

We were at a steakhouse.  We thought it was funny more than –

BEN

Weird.

GARY

We thought we could have a laugh about it with you in the morning.

BEN

Those are my dads.

GARY

What?

BEN

Those sweats.

GARY

Yeah I know.

BEN

Yeah?

GARY

Yeah your mom told me about your dad.

BEN

GARY

You should be in bed.

BEN

Don’t do that.

GARY

You have school tomorrow.

BEN

Tomorrow’s Saturday.

GARY

Well regardless.

BEN

GARY

Those are some boots.

BEN

I just got em.

GARY

Yeah from where?

BEN

I sent away from a magazine.

GARY

They real?

BEN

Yeah.

GARY

Real army boots?

BEN

Mmm hmm.

GARY

You already laced them.

BEN

I’m trying to get good.

GARY

Is that an activity worth losing sleep over?

BEN

Yeah.

GARY

Is lacing your boots more important than something you’ll never get back?

BEN

What won’t I get back?

GARY

Sleep.  You never get it back.

BEN

That’s stupid.

GARY

It’s proven by science, Ben.

BEN

I also got this knife.

GARY

Yeah I see that.

BEN

It’s a spider knife.

GARY

Oh yeah?

BEN

It’s an ambush knife.  You come up behind your enemy and open up his windpipe.  See it’s got this curled edge?

GARY

Yeah.

BEN

You just twist like that.  It hides right in your sleeve.

GARY

BEN

So are you like dating my mom?

GARY

Why do you ask that?

BEN

It’s a fair question, Gary.

GARY

It sure is.

BEN

So like what?

GARY

I guess we’re seeing each other now.

BEN

GARY

What’s the matter, Ben?

BEN

Nothing, God, I’m just in my own kitchen.

GARY

Do you like it here?  New place.

BEN

Same as the other one.

GARY

Is this a regular thing with you?  Staying up so late?  You haven’t looked so good around school.

BEN

This is really weird.

GARY

How do you think I feel?

BEN

Haven’t put a lot of thought into it.

GARY

Well we’re here, okay?

BEN

GARY

I hear that you’re not going to wrestling.

BEN

Yeah I quit.

GARY

So where you been hiding?  What have you been doing?

BEN

Nothing.

GARY

Have you seen Miss Keever?

BEN

What?  No.  God.

GARY

You don’t want to talk about Miss Keever?

BEN

….

GARY

Do you mind if you stop doing that?

BEN

What?

GARY

Do you mind stop lacing those boots?

BEN

Why, you want a try?

GARY

Why are you even doing that?

BEN

I looked it up.

GARY

What?

BEN

How to lace boots.  Army style.

GARY

That’s not right.

BEN

No?

GARY

Here start with your right boot.  This is the trick.  Pull the pant leg taut like this.  And you make it as smooth as you can possibly get it, because this part of the fabric you’re gonna be sliding into your boot.  The main point is to slide your pant leg into your boot, because it’s considered shitty if you don’t do that.  So as far as the laces go you’re going to pull them tight like that, all the way down.  Then you lace them through.  Over.  Under.  Over.  Under.  So forth.  Like so.  Then when you’re all done you take the tops of your shoelaces and make a knot, like that.  And depending on how much slack you got, you’re going to keep wrapping it around.  Most guys do this: You just make one half knot, like this, wrap it around, like this, you come back, make a loop, and you tuck all that into the boot.  Right?  Nice and neat.  So that your nicely folded pant leg is all you see over the boot.  That’s basically all there is to it.

BEN

Thanks.

GARY

Just from experience.

BEN

You were a soldier?

GARY

Yes.

BEN

That’s cool.

GARY

It’s not really cool, Ben.

BEN

Did you – ?

GARY

Like – ?

BEN

mimes shooting himself in the head

GARY

Kill myself?

BEN

No kill other guys.

GARY

Probably yeah.

BEN

Wow.

GARY

And no one actually uses spider knives.

BEN

Really?

GARY

Commercial knife.  For consumers.  They break apart really easily like

breaks it apart

See like that.

BEN

Shit.

GARY

Garbage.

BEN

GARY

I can get you a real knife.

BEN

Yeah?

GARY

I still have friends on duty.

BEN

Cool.

GARY

If you want a real knife.

BEN

That could be cool.

GARY

BEN

You want some food?

GARY

Hmn?

BEN

I didn’t eat today.  Are you hungry?  I know how to cook now.

GARY

Sure.

BEN

I can only make sandwiches.

GARY

That sounds great.

BEN

You don’t get any options.  I’m just gonna make it.

GARY

That’s fine.

BEN

makes sandwiches

So what’s up Mister Gary?

GARY

What do you mean?

BEN

Why are you up?

GARY

I was thirsty.

BEN

And you just woke up and said, I’m thirsty.

GARY

Pretty much.

BEN

I don’t sleep a lot.

GARY

No?

BEN

I’m always thinking about something.

GARY

What are you thinking about?

BEN

Just things.  It just races through a bunch of scenarios.

GARY

Like what?

BEN

I’m gonna slice a tomato into this.  Grilled cheese?

GARY

Fine.

BEN

Cool.

GARY

I think about stuff too.

BEN

Yeah?

GARY

That’s really why I’m up.

BEN

What do you think about?

GARY

Morality. I think about all the choices I make.  And the ones I didn’t.  And I mourn the ones I don’t make.  I give them a little funeral in my mind.  All the opportunities I missed.  All the people I’ve not done justice to.  They visit me in my mind and I have to bury them before I can sleep.

BEN

Did you have sex with her?

GARY

BEN

I guess I’m talking about my mom?

GARY

Yeah, Ben.

BEN

I mean it’s embarrassing.

GARY

It’s a natural function of life.

BEN

I guess I need you to agree with me on the whole It’s Embarrassing point because, dude, you like punish me for your job.

GARY

I don’t punish anyone.

BEN

Oh yeah?

GARY

You punish yourself.

BEN

Whatever, you’re like the gatekeeper of punishment.  Given the circumstances I’m dealing with this pretty good right?

GARY

Yes I had a stepfather too.

BEN

Okay, one, you’re just some guy.  Stepfather.

GARY

You know what I meant.

BEN

Was he a weird dude like you?

GARY

He never talked to me.

BEN

I wish you were more like him.

GARY

BEN

Hey I didn’t mean that.

GARY

It’s okay.

BEN

I really didn’t mean it.

GARY

BEN

Hey maybe …

GARY

What?

BEN

Maybe when we’re back in school? …

GARY

Yeah?

BEN

I think I need your help.

GARY

With what?

BEN

I want to start training.

GARY

For what?

BEN

I’ve gotta start now if I wanna make it.

GARY

What are you talking about?

BEN

GARY

Ben?

BEN

I can’t have you telling anyone what I’m gonna say.

GARY

Sure thing.

BEN

This is between you and me no matter what it is.

GARY

I can’t quite promise that, Ben.

BEN

What?

GARY

It depends on what you tell me.

BEN

But I thought I could tell you anything, I mean that’s your job right?

GARY

Yes but if you reveal something that places you in danger, I might have to report it.

BEN

Why?

GARY

Because I am an employee of the school district.  It is my duty to report any illegal infringements on a student in my care.

BEN

But can’t you like just … not do that? Like as a human being?

GARY

There are parts of my job that I must always perform.

BEN

That really sucks.

GARY

BEN

That really sucks.

GARY

Is it something you can tell your mother?  Would you feel comfortable with that?

BEN

No, no.

GARY

Why not?

BEN

It’s just not something I can say.

GARY

It’s okay if you want to tell me.

BEN

I know what you’re doing.

GARY

What am I doing?

BEN

“It’s okay if you want to tell me.”  I’m aware of your tactics.

GARY

Well we don’t have to say anything.  We can just sit here.

BEN

Like detention.

GARY

I’m used to it. You guys get to leave but I’m always there.

BEN

That’s a bad situation.

GARY

I’m a grown up.   That’s what we have to do.

BEN

GARY

BEN

I kissed a boy.  I forced him to do it.  I just wanted his body.  Not wanted, I mean it sounds so weird out loud.  I just can’t stop thinking about bodies.  When my mom turns out the lights all I see are bodies in the dark, like, writhing around.  Is that messed up?  Am I messed up?  I touched his penis.  You can’t tell anyone.  I mean you’ll probably tell someone.  That’s fine, that’s okay.  I don’t care.  Is this normal?  Is this like what happens to regular people?  I’m so fucking scared of myself because for like a second … for a second I wanted to fuck him.  Like I thought about his butt.  Like his butt cheeks and my hand went down his pants.  And I didn’t even think about girls.  Like all I could totally focus on was his dick and his butt and I wanted to like, taste his balls. 

GARY

BEN

I feel like I’m going crazy.

GARY

How often do you have thoughts like that?

BEN

Often.

GARY

Do you think you’re … ?

BEN

No I’m not gay.

GARY

No?

BEN

No I totally get hard around girls.

GARY

And not with boys?

BEN

I don’t understand it.

GARY

Did you … ?

BEN

What?

GARY

Did you do anything else to him?

BEN

No I stopped.

GARY

Yeah?

BEN

Yeah I totally apologized.  I felt really bad.

GARY

Is he mad?

BEN

No, I think he’s fine.

GARY

Then everything’s okay.  Is everything okay?

BEN

No.

GARY

BEN

Grilled cheese.

GARY

Thanks.

BEN

eats

GARY

I know about Miss Keever.

BEN

What?

GARY

I said I know about Susan Keever.

BEN

GARY

BEN

Who told you?

GARY

BEN

Who told you?

GARY

I’m gonna go get your mom.

BEN

Who told you that?

GARY

You did, Ben.  You just did.

.

9.

An Italian restaurant.

Annie and Gary looking at menus.

GARY

Gnocchi.

ANNIE

Hmn?

GARY

That’s how it’s pronounced.

ANNIE

I’ve never heard of it.

GARY

It’s pronounced gnocchi.

ANNIE

“Guh notch ee”?

GARY

It’s Italian.

ANNIE

Hmm, that’s funny.

GARY

What’s funny?

ANNIE

Just different pronunciations.

GARY

It’s Italian.

ANNIE

Yes, thank you, Gary.

GARY

Sorry.

ANNIE

This is an Italian restaurant.

GARY

Sorry, I didn’t mean to –

ANNIE

No, no, I just … It was a funny day.

GARY

How was it funny?

ANNIE

Oh these look good do you want wine?

GARY

No, I’m not having any.

ANNIE

You don’t mind if I do?

GARY

No, go ahead.  I’ll drive.

ANNIE

GARY

We got the pictures back.

ANNIE

From what?

GARY

From New Year’s.

ANNIE

Oh how are they?

GARY

I didn’t look at them.

ANNIE

Well we can look at them later.

GARY

Yeah they’re in the car.

ANNIE

I had fun.

GARY

It was okay.

ANNIE

Didn’t you have fun?

GARY

Oh I love your friends.

ANNIE

Yeah they’re sort of weird.

GARY

There was that motto?

ANNIE

“Be true in ninety two.”

GARY

No it was something else.

ANNIE

Something that rhymed with ninety two.

GARY

Yeah.

ANNIE

GARY

Decided?

ANNIE

I’m feeling daring so the – ?

GARY

“Gnocchi”?

ANNIE

– gnocchi might be good or what is that even?

GARY

Like, potato balls in marinara.

ANNIE

No that doesn’t sound so good I guess I’ll have the meatballs?  Meatballs.

GARY

That’s what I’m getting.

ANNIE

Okay.

GARY

We could get two different things and then share plates I mean that might be more economical.

ANNIE

Uh, fine.

GARY

If that’s what you want to do.

ANNIE

Sure just choose something then I’ll choose the wine.

GARY

What do you want?

ANNIE

I said I don’t mind, Gary, I really don’t mind.

GARY

Okay then.

ANNIE

GARY

I like this place.

ANNIE

Me too.

GARY

It’s great that we’re getting all these new restaurants.

ANNIE

Well, new highway.

GARY

I’ve lived here most my life and never expected to eat Italian.

ANNIE

Every day is full of surprises.

GARY

There’s something to be said about the proliferation of businesses effecting the environment in a negative way but I really like the convenience of an Italian restaurant four minutes from our house.

ANNIE

Things move forward.

GARY

Yes.

ANNIE

GARY

And I like the comforter.

ANNIE

Huh?

GARY

I didn’t say anything about it before but I really like the new comforter you bought.

ANNIE

Thanks.

GARY

It’s really warm.

ANNIE

Yes well it’s a comforter.

GARY

My feet don’t get cold.

ANNIE

Oh?

GARY

The other comforter made my feet cold.

ANNIE

Okay.

GARY

I suppose it must have something to do with the stuffing because synthetic cloth stuffing doesn’t hold as much heat as feathers like this new one though I’m really just guessing based on science.

ANNIE

I’m glad you like it.

GARY

Where did you get it?

ANNIE

Oh, at the store?

GARY

Did you go to the outlet mall?

ANNIE

Yes.

GARY

Which one?

ANNIE

The one out by the freeway.

GARY

Was it that new bedding supply place?

ANNIE

Yes I think it was that.

GARY

They’re a lot cheaper than the old bedding place in the old part of town.

ANNIE

Yes, their prices are good.

GARY

They have competitively priced comforters.

ANNIE

Yes.

GARY

I stopped in when it first opened a month ago on my way home and I had a really nice conversation with one of the clerks.

ANNIE

That’s nice.

GARY

This young fellow, this blonde haired young person?

ANNIE

I don’t remember my salesman.

GARY

He tried to sell me a bed but we weren’t really in the market for one at that point.

ANNIE

Yes.

GARY

Maybe we could go down there together and look at beds sometime?

ANNIE

Okay, that sounds nice.

GARY

You’ve had your bed for a long time now so it might be nice to get one that we agree upon together.

ANNIE

Okay.

GARY

We can match the comforter.

ANNIE

GARY

I said, you know, because … funny, you know, to buy a bed just to match a –

ANNIE

Comforter.

GARY

Yeah.

ANNIE

Yeah.

GARY

ANNIE

It’s not you.

GARY

Okay.

ANNIE

It’s been a day.

GARY

I understand.

ANNIE

We don’t have to talk about it or anything but I think we should have gone.

GARY

You have a hair in your mouth.

ANNIE

Huh?

GARY

Sticking out of your mouth there’s a hair.

ANNIE

Did I get it?

GARY

Here, let me.

he does

It’s not yours.

ANNIE

No?

GARY

No it’s the wrong color.

ANNIE

What color?

GARY

Black.  It’s some other person’s hair.

ANNIE

Don’t just wipe it on your pant leg.

GARY

I’m not sure what the protocol is here.

ANNIE

Forget it I’m just –

GARY

ANNIE

I’m sorry I don’t mean to keep –

GARY

Yeah.

ANNIE

Sniping you.

GARY

Yeah.

ANNIE

GARY

Did he call?

ANNIE

shakes no

GARY

You still haven’t heard from him?

ANNIE

No.

GARY

He’s probably busy.

ANNIE

Yeah.

GARY

They have a really full schedule there.

ANNIE

Yeah, I know.

GARY

When they’re not in class they’re either training or learning some skill.

ANNIE

Yeah, I read the pamphlets.

GARY

And high school doesn’t give him a lot of free time to do any free writing.

ANNIE

Yeah.

GARY

He’s okay there.

ANNIE

Yeah.

GARY

If something was wrong they would call.

ANNIE

Yep.

GARY

The academy is going to be very good for him in the long run but these first few months can be a little rocky.

ANNIE

I want to go see him.

GARY

We should wait until the year’s out.

ANNIE

I mean we didn’t see him at Christmas.

GARY

I think it was good that you respected his wishes to stay there.  He has a lot to think about.  And you have work, right?

ANNIE

Supermarket’s dead.

GARY

But you still have to work.

ANNIE

I have vacation days.

GARY

If he wanted to see you he would let you know.

ANNIE

Excuse me for a moment.

She leaves.

Gary butters a piece of bread.

Eats it.

This takes as long as it needs to.

On last bite, Annie comes back in.

ANNIE

Let’s go.

GARY

We haven’t ordered.

ANNIE

I don’t want to stay here.

GARY

We just got here.

ANNIE

I just feel like I might, you know, I might be doing something very soon that I wouldn’t want to unleash in public so if we could just please leave, please, can we leave?

GARY

Calm, it’s okay to be calm.

ANNIE

They sentenced her today. They gave her a sentence. We should have gone. That what’s we should have done today.

GARY

ANNIE

There was a drawing of a cherry on the wall in Ben’s bedroom. “S.K.”. So it’s my fault.

GARY

ANNIE

“S.K.” I want to break her fucking wrist. I think about her kid. Her son. I want to hurt him. I want to break his fucking wrist. She must have a family? Or a husband or a father? I don’t want to imagine it. I don’t care where that kid went. I want to stop talking about this.

GARY

He had to grow up sometime.

ANNIE

Fuck you. What a thing to say, fuck you.

GARY

ANNIE

I never want to talk about this again.

GARY

Okay.

ANNIE

You’re really good to me when I look at it.

GARY

ANNIE

I like that shirt you’re wearing.

GARY

It’s new.

ANNIE

It suits you.

GARY

I thought so too.

ANNIE

That’s your color.

GARY

ANNIE

Come on, tell me something.

GARY

Like … ?

GARY

Like … ?

ANNIE

Talk about my appearance.

GARY

Well you’re always lovely.

ANNIE

Ha ha.

GARY

I could not be more serious.

ANNIE

Yeah?

GARY

The eyes are obvious.  Everyone would say the eyes.  And your hair?

ANNIE

Oh my hair?

GARY

Well that’s an easy one too.  Obviously that.  Like Helen of Troy.

ANNIE

I assume that’s a good thing?

GARY

Depends on what side of the war you’re on.

ANNIE

And which way you leaning, side-wise?

GARY

I’m weighing my options.

ANNIE

Oh yeah?

GARY

Yeah I’ll tell you once we order our where’s that … where’d she go?

ANNIE

I told her we were leaving.

GARY

I’m actually sort of famished.

ANNIE

I’ll go get her.

GARY

No, no, let me.  I’ll tell her we’re staying.

Gary leaves.

Annie butters a piece of bread.

She can’t bring herself to eat it.

.

10.

Two telephones separated by a thick pane of glass.

Ben in military clothes.

Susan in colored jumpsuit.

BEN

Hi there.

SUSAN

Hey.

BEN

The flight was um …

SUSAN

BEN

The flight was good.  It was from the other coast so they let us watch a movie.  They gave us a meal.  And then the cart went by two times with beverages.  I drank tomato juice both times.  My lips are still sort of red.

SUSAN

I don’t want you to see me like this.

BEN

It doesn’t matter.

SUSAN

BEN

My dad died.  That’s why I was on a plane.  My mom didn’t go.  She’s busy like pregnant again but they’re worried that it’s going to be retarded so they’re doing all these tests. I don’t really go back there to my moms.  But the service was good.  My dad sort of looked like a mannequin.  All these family members I didn’t know huddled around his coffin.  I talked to him on the phone right before he died.  He said he had all these memories but they might as well be dreams.  He was pretty high on morphine though so who knows what he was thinking.  I’m never gonna smoke.

SUSAN

Your mom smokes.

BEN

I don’t give a shit about my mom.

SUSAN

BEN

I graduated like a month ago.  “Class of Ninety Five.”

SUSAN

Congratulations.

BEN

I taught myself how to cook.  That’s what I ended up doing.  I have this torn shoulder from wrestling so I can’t fire I rifle.  The kickback.  I’m never gonna be a soldier.  So I took some cooking courses and I’m going to be a cook.  I’m okay with it.  There aren’t any wars now anyway.  All the soldiers are really bored.

SUSAN

BEN

So I’m an adult now.

SUSAN

Yeah.

BEN

I have my own apartment.

SUSAN

BEN

Are you okay?

SUSAN

No.

BEN

I mean you look tired.

SUSAN

I don’t sleep.

BEN

Why not?

SUSAN

BEN

What can I do?

SUSAN

Nothing.

BEN

I feel bad.

SUSAN

I don’t feel like talking anymore.

BEN

No, stay here.

SUSAN

I should go.

BEN

No please don’t go I’m already here.

SUSAN

This is really hard for me, Ben.

BEN

Me too but like let’s just pretend.

SUSAN

I can’t do that anymore.

BEN

No?

SUSAN

I have no imagination anymore.  It’s gone.  I try to imagine things and I can’t.  I don’t dream and when I’m not sleeping nothing goes through my head.

BEN

SUSAN

They don’t let me see my son.

BEN

No?

SUSAN

He doesn’t want to see me I don’t think.

BEN

Where is he?

SUSAN

His grandparents.  They don’t talk to me either.

BEN

SUSAN

I work in the kitchen.

BEN

Yeah?

SUSAN

We have the same job.

BEN

What do you make?

SUSAN

I prepare the food.

BEN

Do you like it?

SUSAN

shrugs

BEN

What do you do?

SUSAN

I cut the vegetables.  Carrots or celery, cucumbers.  Anything like that we have to chop up.

BEN

Why?

SUSAN

So no one uses it as a dildo.

BEN

SUSAN

You didn’t flinch.

BEN

I’ve had girlfriends.

SUSAN

Oh yeah?

BEN

Yeah girls seem to like me.

SUSAN

I know how they feel.

BEN

I don’t have a girlfriend now.

SUSAN

Okay.

BEN

I had one a little while ago but there was something wrong.  There always seems to be something wrong. 

SUSAN

What wrong?

BEN

SUSAN

I mean I know what’s wrong.

BEN

I’m sorry.

SUSAN

No don’t.

BEN

SUSAN

I knew what I was doing.

BEN

SUSAN

It doesn’t matter what I say right now.  I may have tried to tell people that I didn’t know what I was doing.  Everything was on purpose.  I did everything I wanted to do.  And now I’m just here.  I read a lot of books.  I just look at the words.  Sometimes I walk in circles around this field we have on the interior of the campus.  I look up at the sky sometimes and when it rains they don’t let us go out there.  There’s a little saying etched on the bunk above me.  Someone carved it into the metal frame.  Your Mom’s A Fucking Cunt Too.  I think about this sometimes when I’m eating.  I don’t know why it’s then.  I was reading in this nature magazine that all this is going to be covered in water in about twenty years so it really doesn’t matter what we do anymore.  It doesn’t matter what we do, Ben.

BEN

SUSAN

You should go.

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

Thank you for coming.

BEN

I just …

SUSAN

What?

BEN

I have something for you.

SUSAN

What?

BEN

I have a couple things for you.

SUSAN

What are they?

BEN

pulls out small potted flower from paper bag

They said it’s from Japan.

SUSAN

Oh Ben.

BEN

It doesn’t require much water or a lot of light so I thought it would be good.

SUSAN

I can’t have that.

BEN

I know you can’t I just thought I’d show it to you.  It’s yours.  You can like picture it when I’m gone.

SUSAN

What are you doing here?

BEN

SUSAN

Why did you come here?

BEN

I wanted to see you.

SUSAN

I wish you hadn’t come.

BEN

But I’m here.

SUSAN

BEN

SUSAN

I like it.

BEN

Yeah?

SUSAN

I like that flower.

BEN

I wanted to get you something nice.

SUSAN

That’s very thoughtful.

BEN

I’ll give it a name like Prunella.

SUSAN

Are you angry?

BEN

Why?

SUSAN

Are you still angry at me?

BEN

I’m in love with you.

SUSAN

BEN

I’m in love with you.  I totally got you flowers.  I never do that.  I don’t like anyone else.  I’m never gonna like anyone else.

SUSAN

Ben, I –

BEN

I love you, Susan.

SUSAN

BEN

SUSAN

quiet

I love you too.

BEN

You do?

SUSAN

Yeah.  Yeah I think so.

BEN

That’s just

smiles

I’m really happy.

SUSAN

Me too.

BEN

That makes me really happy.

SUSAN

Will you come see me again?

BEN

Yeah.

SUSAN

That’s nice.  I would really like company.

BEN

I’ll come back.

SUSAN

Will you take care of my flower for me?

BEN

I’ll plant it in my backyard.

SUSAN

When it grows big I’ll be there to see it.

BEN

Oh yeah I found something.

SUSAN

What?

BEN

I found the song.

SUSAN

What song?

BEN

Listen.

Ben pulls out a tape player.

Presses button.

“In the Air Tonight” plays.

They listen.

The lights fade very slow.

End of Play.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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