A Walk in the Woods (a 10 minute play for 2 characters) © 2018

A WALK IN THE WOODS  by Curtis Scott Dunn

© 2018 – All Rights Reserved

Technical notes:

The script requires two lighting looks, a warm and a cool, and recorded or live animal growls that get more unnatural as they go.  Otherwise the stage is as the director sees fit.

Cast:

1:  gender unspecified, but should look capable of killing someone

2:  gender unspecified, but must go from friendly, happy-go-lucky to an imposing inquisitor and back.  Character wears a non-descript bag of some sort, with a canteen and a length of rope and noose in it.  The latter items should not be visible until they are needed.

—–

1:  Where ARE we?

2:  Right here, duh!  Sure is a nice day!

1:  How long have we been walking?

2:  Couple days, I guess?

1:  I was sure we would have found something by now.  A town, a road, something? It’s a park for God’s sake!  It didn’t seem like we were even that far off the path. We’re lost, you know.

2:  Maybe we aren’t?  Everything happens for a reason, right?  Maybe this is where we are supposed to be right now!

1:  OK, right.  YOU tell my boss that I didn’t do what I was supposed to because I got lost.  That will go over well. Good luck with that!

2:  Don’t be down!  Come on, it’s a beautiful day!  Just keep walking!

1:  It is beautiful weather. Not a drop of rain the whole time we have been here.  

Pause

I can’t believe this stream is running as strong as it is.  I wonder where the water is coming from?

2:  Somewhere upstream, I’d think.

1:  Don’t be a smartass!  I mean, is it a spring?  Ice melt? Where does the water come from?

2:  Why question it?  It’s here. We can drink it.  It’s good!

1:  I guess.  I guess we’re lucky.

2:  Lucky?

1:  Well, yeah.  I mean, we’re lost.  But we have a seemingly endless supply of clean fresh water, and we haven’t had any problem finding food either.  The weather has been so nice we haven’t had to really even think about shelter. And we haven’t run into any wild animals that might want to eat us.

2:  It’s not luck!  We are supposed to be here!  We’re getting what we need because this is where we are supposed to be!

1:  What are you talking about?  I’m supposed to be working right now!

2:  Are you?  What would you be doing at work right now?

1:  None of your business!

2:  Fine.  Why do you do that work?  Do you like it?

1:  I hate it!  But I have to live…

2:  So you would do something you hate, in order to afford do what you are doing right here.  Doesn’t it make sense that, given the choice between that, or just being able to live, that the latter is better?

1:  Um, no?

2:  No?

1:  No!

2:  Why not?

1:  Look.  My boss expects me to do the job he gave me.  My landlord expects me to pay the rent for my apartment.  If I’m not doing those things, then I won’t have a job and an apartment anymore.

2:  So?

1:  What do you mean “So?”

2:  You don’t need those things.  Stay here.

1:  I can’t stay here!

2:  Why not?

1:  Because I have responsibilities!  Are you just stupid?

2:  That isn’t very nice.

1:  I’m not nice.  I’d like to be, but that’s not how it turned out.

Pause

This weather won’t last forever, we won’t find food forever, and we won’t avoid predators forever!

2:  We have so far.

1:  We have been lucky!  That’s all!

2:  It isn’t luck.

1:  Fine.  OK. Let’s just keep walking.

2:  We haven’t stopped.

1:  Keep your ears open for sounds, OK?

2:  Like birds?

1:  NO! Like people!  Or the highway! Or airplanes!  Maybe someone is looking for us!

2:  Oh….    I don’t think they are.

1:  Are what?

2:  Looking for us.

1:  Of course they’re looking for us!  When someone goes missing, you look for them!

2:  Who is going to look for us?

1:  What do you mean, “Who is going to look for us?”  Somebody! The police?

2:  Why would the police look for us?   We didn’t do anything wrong. At least I didn’t.  

1:  (LONG PAUSE)  Someone is going to notice we haven’t come back!

2:  I don’t know about that.  Who did you tell that you were coming here?

1:  I… no one, actually.  I was only going for a walk, and then I got lost.

2:  And then you met me!

1:  Yeah, and then I met you.  How is it that I couldn’t find my way back to my car, but I could find you!

2:  Maybe because you needed me?

1:  What the heck did I need you for?

2:  Company?  Someone to talk to?

1:  What were you even doing out here?

2:  I came here because this was where I was supposed to be!

1:  Is that what you do?  Just go where you think you’re supposed to be?

2:  Yeah.  Is there something wrong with that?

1:  Don’t you have a home?

2:  I am home!  Wherever I am, that’s home!

1:  No, a REAL home!  Someplace that’s yours.  Someplace you live. Someplace permanent.

2:  Nothing is permanent.

1:  You’re pissing me off.  I kinda wish you would leave me alone to find my way out of here.

2:  You want me to leave you alone?

1:  Yes!

2:  OK. Are you sure?

1:  AAAGH!  OK! Not right now!  There’s no point in us wandering around these woods separately.  We have a better chance of surviving if we stick together. But once we find the way out, we are parting ways!

2:  What if we don’t find the way out?

1:  You’re not making sense.  Of course we will find the way out!  I was only walking for 10 minutes or so before I got lost.  How is it that we’ve been wandering around for days when I was only a few minutes from the trail?

2:  But we haven’t found the way out yet.

1:  We will.

2:  Are you thirsty?

1:  Yes, actually.

2:  Here.  (Hands over a canteen.  1 drinks. Lights shift slightly from warm to cooler.)

1:  That water seemed to taste better before.

2:  It’s the same water.

1:  Do we have any food left?

2:  No, but there’s some mushrooms right there, and that’s an apple tree.

1:  Incredible.

2:  What?

1:  We really haven’t wanted for anything this whole time.

2:  Nope.

1:  How long have we been walking?

2:  Weeks.

1:  Really?

2:  Who knows?  Does it matter at this point?

1:  But I don’t even feel like a day has passed.  I haven’t slept. It hasn’t gotten… dark?

2:  No. Are you tired?

1:  No.

2:  Then don’t worry about it!

1:  Why were you in the woods?  When we met?

2:  I told you.  I thought I needed to be there, so I was.

1:  That doesn’t seem like a real reason.

2:  Shall I ask you the same thing?

1:  I told YOU!  I was out for a walk!

2:  Was that all?

1:  What do you mean?

2:  Was that all you were doing in the woods?

1:  Yes…

2:  Are you sure?

1:  Yes!

2:  So, just a walk in the woods.  10-15 minutes or so?

1:  Yes!

2:  Didn’t bring anything else with you?

1:  NO! What are you getting at?

2:  You were carrying a rope.

1:  WHAT?  No I wasn’t!

2:  Yes, you were.  This one. (Produces a length of rope, with a noose at one end.  Lights get slightly cooler.) What were you going to do with this?

1:  What?  Where did you get that?

2:  From you.

1:  I… No…  You…

2:  What were you doing, in the woods, off the path, with a rope?

1:  I…

2:  What were you doing?

1:  I…

2:  WHAT WERE YOU DOING?

1:  FINE!  I went into the woods to end it.  I was there to kill myself! I didn’t get the chance!  YOU came along!

2:  Are you sure?

1:  WHAT!?

2:  Are you sure that’s what you were doing?  Are you sure you didn’t get the chance?

1:  Of course I’m sure!  I’m here with you! I’m talking to you!

2:  Yes, you are here with me.  Yes we are talking.

1:  Then I didn’t do it!  How would I be here if I were dead?

2:  How indeed?  What happens when you die?

1:  I don’t know!  No one really knows!

2:  YOU know.  Don’t you?

1:  OK. You’re getting really weird.  Maybe you should go.

2:  I can’t go.  This is where I’m supposed to be.

1:  WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

2:  Where are you supposed to be?

1:  I’m not talking to you anymore.  If you won’t leave, just shut up!

2:  If that’s what you want.

1:  It IS!

2:  I don’t believe you.

1:  AAAAAAAAGH!

2:  Are you thirsty?

1:  Yes, kinda.

2:  Here.  (hands over canteen)

1:  (drinks, empties canteen.  Lights get cooler.) That tasted terrible!  Can we get some fresh water?

2:  I don’t think so.  The stream seems to have run dry.

1:  What?  (looks)  Oh, it has run dry.  When did that happen?

2:  When it needed to happen.

1:  You are really pissing me off with that.

2:  Well, hold on to your anger.  It’s getting chilly. It might keep you warm.

1:  (realizes the cold) Holy crap!  You’re right! When did that happen?

2:  Just now.  I guess it needed to..

1: (interrupting)  DON’T!

(silence for a bit.  A low growl is heard.)

1: What was that?

2:  No idea.  A bear? A mountain lion?

1:  Oh, God!

2:  That’s not going to help.  Might have at one point, but predators don’t listen to God.

1:  I don’t understand you.

2:  Yes, you do.  What were you doing in the woods?

1:  I told you.

2:  You told me part of it.

1:  What are you talking about?  What do you mean, “Part of it?”

2:  You tell me.

1:  I have nothing to tell you.

(a low growl is heard, closer, less animal-like)

2:  Tell me.  Tell me and I’ll take you back to the road.

1:  What?  We have been walking around these woods all this time and you knew how to get out?

2:  Of course!

1:  Damn you!

2:  Not something you can do, so pipe down with that.  Tell me who you were with.

1:  What!?

2:  In the woods.  Who were you with?

1:  (clearly dismayed)  How? What?

2:  You weren’t alone.

1:  How could you know that?

2:  I saw you.

1:  What?  You couldn’t have seen…  WHO ARE YOU? (lights darken, very cold)

2:  You already know.  But it isn’t important.  Who was she?

1:  I’m not telling you anything.

(another low growl is heard, it finishes more like a scream)

2:  You brought her to the woods.  Did you know she was only 15?

(1 takes the rope that he has now been carrying, winds it around own hands, and tries to attack 2, as if to strangle.  1 isn’t able to approach 2. 1’s hands are too cold. 1 collapses to a kneeling position. 2 is unaffected.)

You can’t.  You’re too cold.  You can barely move.  You can tell me what you did, though.

1:  I brought her to the woods.  I was supposed to kill her. I don’t know why.  My boss wanted her dead.

2:  So the rope wasn’t for you, was it?

1:  No. Yes.  Not at first.  I was supposed to kill her and bury her in the woods.  I couldn’t do it, so I drugged her and tied her up a little way off the path.  I figured when she came around she’d make noise and someone would notice and find her.

But boss wouldn’t have that.  I knew he’d kill me if I let her go.  So, I took the rest of the rope and went a little farther off the path.  I was looking for a tree when everything went off. Then I was walking with you.

(The scene brightens.  It gets warmer.)

2:  She’s ok, you know.

1:  She is?  That’s good.  For her. But not for me.

2:  No?

1:  Boss will come for me.  He’ll kill me when he finds out.  And, it will be slow and painful. He’ll want to make an example.

2:  You could stay here.  No one can find you here.

1:  I don’t know.  Where am I?

2:  You are where you need to be.

1:  What does that mean?  This place is weird. It’s warm, it’s cold, there’s food and water, then there isn’t.  And there was something out here with us that sounded hungry.

2:  We are here.  This place is whatever it needs to be.  I am whoever I need to be.

1:  I don’t understand.

2:  Yes, you do.  (long pause as they regard each other)  You have a decision to make.

1:  I do?

2:  Yes, you can stay here, or you can go back to the road.

1:  You’ll take me back?

2:  If you like.  But you can find it yourself pretty easily.  It’s about fifty feet beyond those trees.

1:  (looking in that direction)  No kidding.

2:  Nope.

1:  But I don’t know if I want to go back.  Bad things and a lot of pain wait for me there.

2:  You can stay here.

1:  Which here?  The nice sunny woods, or the dark cold place with the growling thing?

2:  Whichever you need.  You’ll be where you are supposed to be.

1:  It might be nice to get away from you, though.  I might be able to get away from the boss, move somewhere he can’t find me.

2:  True enough.  He’s not all powerful.  You can run. But you and I, we will see each other again.

1:  I’ll come back here?  Is this death?

2:  It is what it needs to be.  Nothing is permanent. I will see you again either here or there or somewhere else.  I probably won’t look like this, but if you pay attention, you will recognize me.

1:  Are you an angel, or a devil?

2:  Yes.  Both. Neither.  Make your choice.

(1 looks back and forth between the parking lot in the distance and 2, undecided, as the lights fade)

Gifts (20 minute play) ©2015

Gifts

by Curtis Scott Dunn  ©2015 – all rights reserved

 

Cast:

Michael – in his 50’s.

Colleen – Michael’s wife.  Younger than Michael by a few years, confined to a wheelchair for the last two years, paralyzed from the waist down in a skiing accident.

James – 25 or so, Michael and Colleen’s only son.

Beth – 25 or so.  James’ girlfriend.

Girl – 20’s.  A high-class prostitute.  Clean, nice makeup, intelligent, but dressed to seduce.  Needs buttoned coat, lingerie layers.

————————————-

Scene 1:  A dinner party at Michael and Colleen’s house, sometime around Christmas.  An entry door and foyer are indicated SR and a sofa and fireplace SL.  James and Beth are newly engaged.  The two men and the two women are engaged in separate conversations.

Colleen:  This is really wonderful, Beth!  Michael and I are so happy for you both!  

Beth:  Oh, Colleen, thank you!  Or should I say “Mom” now?  It feels a little strange coming out of my mouth.

Colleen:  Colleen, Mom, whatever!  The important thing is that my son has found a wonderful woman to spend his life with.  Take care of him, Beth, he needs a little “guidance” now and again, just like his father.

Beth:  Don’t you worry!  I made him sweat for a good five minutes before I said “yes”.  He looked like he was about to get sick when I finally took pity on him.  Not that I had any doubts, but he really did catch me off guard with the proposal.  I didn’t think there would be so many people around.  I couldn’t let him off easy after that.

Colleen:  Well, I approve!  Keep that boy in line.  So, have you two thought about a date?  I suppose we should invite your parents out here for a visit.  All the time you and James have been together, we’ve never met.

Beth:  It’s difficult to pry them away from the coast, and my Dad hates to fly.  They’ll probably drive the 16 hours to get here.  Can I tell you a secret?

Colleen:  Sure?

Beth:  My parents already know.  I called them the morning after James proposed.  My Dad is going to offer James a job in his company.  It’s the same kind of work he is doing here, but it will be worth twice what he’s making now.  Dad thinks of it as an engagement present, but I’m not sure how James will take it.

Colleen:  You mean, will he feel obligated?

Beth:  Yes.  And I can’t predict the future.  I THINK they will like working with each other, but what if they don’t?  I don’t want James to resent it.  Or me.  But Dad’s not trying to manipulate us, it really is him trying to give us a “leg up” on life.

Colleen:  What if James refuses the job?

Beth:  Well, my Dad will be disappointed, but I don’t think there would be any bad feelings.  He likes James.

Colleen:  I was talking about you.  What if James refuses the job?

Beth:  I don’t care!  I mean it would be nice to have a little more stability, but I’d marry him if he said he wanted to move to Idaho and farm potatoes!

Colleen:  Maybe you should tell him that, so he can consider the offer with a clear head?

Beth:  Maybe I will…

(the women’s conversation fades as the men’s becomes the focus)

Michael:  Congratulations again on the engagement, son!  Welcome to the legions of the damned!

(waits for a reaction)  I’m kidding, I think you picked a winner of a girl.

James:  She is a winner… (looks over at her lovingly).  I’m just so happy she said yes!

Michael:  You had doubts?

James:  No…  I mean, not really, but it’s still THE QUESTION.  And she didn’t answer me right away, I thought I might just melt into the floor if she said no!  Beth is the only person I’ve ever felt this way about, you know?  I want to make her happy.

Michael:  I’m sure you will!  You certainly started off with a bang!  The ring is huge!  There’s no way I could have swung that back when your Mom and I were dating.

James:  Maybe I did get a LITTLE carried away.  I just wanted her to know how I feel about her.

Michael:  It’s obvious, James.  Your Mom and I have been able to see how you two feel about each other for months now.  You didn’t need to go overboard with the ring to win her.

James:  I know.  But she’s grown up with so much more.  Maybe I was trying to convince myself…

Michael:  How’s that?

James:  It’s just…  It’s so… wonderful… being with Beth.  But it can’t stay that way forever.  I know life will happen, I just don’t know how.  I only hope we will be as strong as you and Mom.

Michael:  Strong? (raises a questioning eye)

James:  Dad, these last seven years, since the accident, can’t have been easy for you.  (Beat) Mom’s depression, you helped her through that.  And, so many of your friends have faded to the background now that she can’t get around so easily.

Michael:  We still have friends.  If anything, the accident showed us who we could really count on, you know?

James:  And who you couldn’t…

Michael:  James, what’s wrong?  You don’t need to worry about your Mom and me, or our friends – there’s something else on your mind.

James:  Dad, I’ve never asked, I didn’t WANT to ask, but how do you deal with it?

Michael:  Deal with what?

James:  C’mon Dad…  Mom’s… paralyzed.

Michael:  (pause until he “gets” it, then a little taken aback)  You’re asking about sex?

James:  NO!.. Well, yes…  I mean, not exactly…  

Michael:  What are you asking?

James:  About romance… I guess… strength… keeping love alive.  I mean, it’s on my mind.  I know that Beth and I are in the magic part of a relationship, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her.  I know at some point that magic-ness is going to end.  I see you and Mom, and there’s plenty of reason that your relationship might suffer or change.  You have to carry her sometimes, you help her bathe, help her with everything.  How can you still keep the fire…  Even my friends comment on how devoted you are.

Michael:  (gently) James, this is your mother we are talking about.  And this conversation is…

James:  Dad, don’t get me wrong!  I love Mom and all, but I don’t know how you can do it.  I’d like to think that I would be there for Beth like you are for Mom – you know, if the situations were different – but I don’t honestly know if I could.  And I don’t know if she could do that for me.  And so I don’t know if I am doing something wrong by marrying her.

Michael:  Ah! (beat while he considers) James. (pause) You’re not wrong.  And I don’t know how to explain it to you.  Love is… complex.  It’s built on trial and sorrow as much as it is on happiness.  And it’s like jumping out of a plane.  You can’t know how it feels until you know.  And you sure as hell can’t describe it to someone accurately, because it’s different for each of us – but at the same time it’s the same for all of us (realizes he stopped making sense, smiles).

James:  (brightening, but not comprehending) I have no idea what you just said.

Michael:  That’s OK.  You made a good choice with Beth.  Don’t second guess yourself, just grow with her.

(conversation shifts to the women)

Beth:  …and my apartment is larger than his and I have a guest room, so I guess we will stay there, at least until we figure things out.

Colleen:  Sounds like a plan.

Beth:  Wow!  It does, doesn’t it?

(pause.  there is a lull in the conversation that they both pick up on.  Perhaps a stifled yawn.)

Beth:  Thank you so much for dinner, and the gifts, but I think I should walk the boy home now.  It’s getting late.

(crosses to James)

Can I interest you in some reindeer games?

James:  Uh, sure?

Beth:  Come on, then!  We have a long walk and I want to talk and your parents are probably tired.  (just a little seductively) Tell you what, if you’ll go the few extra blocks down to the bar and bring back some rum, I’ll have eggnog ready to be spiked and a snuggle to warm you up!

Michael:  Ahem!  I may be approaching decrepit, but I’m not deaf! (retrieves their coats)

James:  (kidding him) Yet.  Seriously, thanks for the chat, Dad.

Michael:  Sure…  Anytime.  Or not.

Beth:  (to Michael) Thank you for dinner.  Your meatloaf was magnificent!

Michael: (chuckling)  Thanks!  I don’t get “magnificent” nearly enough!  (puffs up)

Colleen:  Great.  Thanks, Beth.  (to Michael) You can puff your chest out while you strut around the kitchen cleaning up. (Michael deflates)

(smiling, all make their goodbyes.  James and Beth exit.)

Michael:  Wow!  The boy’s engaged!  (looking at watch)  It was an exhausting evening though.  Let me straighten up, and then I can get your meds.

Colleen:  The kitchen is straightened up enough.  Leave it for morning.  I was hoping we could cuddle on the sofa?

Michael:  Hon, I’m really tired.  I still have a lot to do.  And James and I had a conversation I’m still trying to process.

Colleen:  I know.  I overheard parts of it.

Michael:  Did Beth?

Colleen:  I don’t think so.  She’s all caught up in the excitement.

Michael:  Oh.  That’s good.  James is fine, just a little deer-in-the-headlights thing.

(Colleen, silent, looks at him.  There is a pause)

Really, they’re going to be fine.

Colleen:  I expect so.  Beth is a wonderful girl, and it’s clear she’s in love.  Unless it’s different for James and I didn’t see it?

Michael:  No, no.  James is completely in love – he just doesn’t trust himself yet.  He looks at the future, and realizes that he can’t predict everything.  He’s a little scared.  But he’ll be OK.

Colleen:  That’s good.  Help me to the sofa?

(Michael goes to her, kisses her, picks her up out of the wheelchair and sets her on sofa.  He rises to go to the kitchen, but Colleen beckons him back to the sofa.  Michael acquiesces and climbs onto the sofa behind her, so that she can lay on his chest on her side, in such a way as to allow her to look at him directly, or away)

Colleen:  This is better.  You haven’t held me in a while.  (plays with his chest)

Michael:  I know.  I’m sorry.  (changing subject)  Hey, did you get a look at that ring Michael bought?

Colleen:  How could I not?  Beth practically walked around with her hand in front of her all evening.  I think she’s afraid she will walk into something and damage it.

Michael:  James said something about wanting to evidence his love for her…  I told him that she loved him.  He didn’t need to buy her with something he couldn’t afford.

Colleen:  Oh, I don’t think he was trying to buy her!  Men just have such a hard time expressing themselves about love – sometimes expression takes the form of gifts.  (smiling) And we ladies don’t mind!  I suspect she plans to express herself in her own way tonight.

Michael:  (lost in a thought)  

Colleen:  Speaking of which, can I thank you for your wonderful dinner?

Michael:  (still thinking about something else)  Oh, you’re welcome.  It was only meatloaf.

Colleen:  And for cleaning the house today before the kids got here?

Michael:  Not a problem.  I always clean.

Colleen:  Yes, you do.  And I want to express my gratitude to you.  (Colleen makes advances at Michael.)

Michael:  Colleen, why do you do that?  You don’t enjoy it.  You don’t even feel it.

Colleen:  I do feel it.  (grabs his hand)  I feel you. (holds it to her chest)  In my heart.

Michael:  Babe, I feel you in my heart too.  Even right now.  You don’t have to put out for me.

Colleen:  (gently, not unkind or agitated) I’m not trying to put out.  I’m trying to be your partner.  I’m trying to hold up my half of the relationship.  You didn’t sign up for celibacy.  If you don’t want to make love, there are other things we could do.  (reaches for his zipper)

Michael:  (stops her with his hand)  And you didn’t sign up for… what happened.

Colleen:  No, I didn’t.  And I also didn’t sign up for celibacy. (escapes from his grip, starts trying to entice him)  Don’t punish me.  Let me enjoy you, enjoying me.

Michael:  Colleen, I… can’t.  It feels like I’m using you.  Before, I get an orgasm, you get an orgasm, maybe two.  Now, it’s just me.  It feels… dishonest.

Colleen:  But look at all you do for me…  (purrs) It’s the LEAST I can do for you…

Michael:  (explodes) And that’s PAYMENT!?  (pushes her up and away toward other end of sofa, rises)  

(steps away from sofa)  

This is what I mean, we are talking about it like a transaction!  It’s like, if I keep everything neat and the dinner made and the bills paid and the house clean, you throw me a fuck!

Colleen:  Jesus, Michael!  You make me sound like a prostitute!

Michael:  (long beat)  (quietly, and not directly to Colleen)  Aren’t all women, in some way?

(they look at each other, both horrified by what Michael has said)

And what the hell am I?

(Michael is distraught.  He grabs a coat and exits on the verge of tears.  Colleen is in shock, watching him go as lights fade to black.)

——————————————

Scene 2:  10pm.  James and Beth are walking home, arm in arm.

Beth: (stopping) So, there is something I wanted to talk to you about.

James:  Oh?

Beth:  Yes, well, first I was a little not honest with you.  We aren’t surprising my parents.  I called and told them right after you proposed.

James:  That’s OK.  I couldn’t believe you were holding out on them anyway.  I sure couldn’t!  Everyone at work knew I had popped the question the next morning even before I said anything.  I thought someone had leaked the story, but it turned out that I just had such a goofy look that everyone knew.

Beth:  And that’s the other thing I wanted to tell you.  It’s about work.  Well, your job.

James:  What’s that?

Beth:  My Dad wants to offer you a job in his company, basically doing the same thing you are now, only we have to move there.

James:  Wow!  I wasn’t thinking about a new job.  I like it at…

Beth:  (interrupting him)  I know, I know!  But Dad is looking at it as a gift.  Something to give us a little boost starting out.  He wants to offer you a pretty substantial pay raise to go out there.

James:  You discussed this?

Beth:  (sheepishly) Yes?

James:  Without talking to me?

Beth:  I’m sorry?

James:  Is this some kind of condition?  We only get your parents blessing if I take their job and ensure that I can keep their baby in the manner to which she has become accustomed?

Beth:  That’s not fair!  You very well know that they do not support me financially at all.  I have lived here on my own, so any “manner to which I’ve become accustomed” is my own doing!

James:  Then why interfere with us now?

Beth:  He’s not trying to interfere with us.  He just wants to help us.  The job is supposed to be an engagement gift!

James:  A gift!?  So I need charity to support us?

Beth:  No!  No.  This is coming out all wrong!  Dad likes you, and he respects your work.  He thinks you’re worth more than you’re making is all!

James:  This is… I don’t know…  (pause)  I mean, I understand that your family has more money than mine…

Beth:  (interrupting)  That has nothing to do with anything!

James:  Doesn’t it?  You make me feel inadequate.

Beth:  You’re not inadequate!

James:  Beth, I asked you to marry me.  Me!  Not some new, improved, Daddy-bolstered version of me!  I’ll do the best I can for you, but if that’s not good enough…

Beth:  James…

James:  Look.  Go home.  I need to think for a bit.  I’ll be there soon, but there’s too much going on in my head.

Beth:  James?

James:  I’ll be there soon.  Just go home.  I need a little time to think.

Beth:  James, I…

James:  Just go home.  Please?

(Beth nods and exits, upset.  Blackout)

——————————————

Scene 3:  Minutes before midnight, a street corner.  Girl is standing in her coat leaning on wall.  James enters, carrying a bottle of rum in a paper bag.  He is a little tipsy.

James: (yelling offstage) Thanks, for the drink Carl!  (to no one) But I think I might be in a little trouble, wasn’t supposed to be out this long!  Happy Freakin’ Holidays to me!

Girl:  Where ya headed?

James:  (now notices her) Home.  (sarcastically) Back to my future…

Girl:  Sounds fascinating.  Need some company?

James:  Um, I don’t think that would meet with… approval.  And, I’m at a point in my life where I’m all about approval.  (talking to no one in particular) Though my decision to not go straight home this fine evening in favor of a cocktail – maybe two – with ol’ Carl might give one pause to wonder if I’m serious about approval.

Girl:  Okay…

James:  Maybe I’m not?  Maybe… deep down… I know that it doesn’t matter.  Eventually, life is going to intervene somehow.

Girl:  Life is life.  It doesn’t intervene.  It doesn’t help us – or get in our way.  It just is.  And you live through it, until you’re done.

James:  Hmm. (laughs, just a little derisively)  Are you life?  It seems like you’re in MY way.

Girl:  I guess I could be life.  Do you want me in your way? (she opens her coat to James.  James backs up until he hits a wall or other object.  Girl kneels in front of him and reaches for his belt.)  Life isn’t easy, but life is good.

James:  (Lets her undo his clothes for a moment, then snaps out of it.)  Wait!  Wait.  Look, that’s not for you.  I mean, I’ve promised it to someone else.  And I’m late, but I have to keep my promise to her, you know?  (Buttons up)

Girl:  So I guess SHE’s life? (rises, buttons coat)

James:  Yeah, I guess she is.  Like you said, I gotta live through it, until I’m done – but I’m not ready to say I’m done.  And I’ll be damned if I give up easy.

Girl:  Strong words.

James:  Yeah, they are. (pauses, smiles) And I am.  Thanks.

(James starts to exit as Michael enters.  James turns back, perhaps to offer Girl some money, and notices Michael talking to her, but Michael doesn’t see James.)

Girl:  (to Michael) Where ya headed?  Need some company?

(Michael is surprised, he hadn’t seen her until she spoke.  He takes a moment to look at her.  Blackout.)

——————————————

Scene 4:  Midnight, a shabby bedroom.  A table lamp practical on a nightstand comes up on Michael and Girl, who have just entered, still in coats from being outside.

Girl:  Here we are.

Michael:  OK.

Girl:  800 for the night.

Michael:  Yeah.  You live here?

Girl:  Um, no.  This is a motel.  But I do have someplace to live.  I’m not homeless, if that’s what you’re asking.

(pause.  Michael does not respond at all)

So, what do you want?  (removes coat, she is dressed in cheap lingerie)

Michael:  I don’t know.  I guess I want you to feel me.  Respond to me.  I want you make you  suffer through pleasure.  Like I do…

Girl:  (nonplussed) No shit.  (kindly and honestly) Let me explain two things to you, sweety,  First, you’ll have to really be something to make me suffer from pleasure.  And second, everything costs.  It’s like life.  God put us here and said “Here’s the world. Take anything you want, and be ready to pay for it.”

Michael:  I don’t think God said that.

Girl:  Doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Michael:  I guess.

(pause)

Girl:  So look, I’m happy to sit here and chat with you, but it doesn’t save you any cash, you know?  You’re still taking up my time.

Michael:  That’s OK.  I’m paying, right?

Girl:  Yeah, you’re paying, all right.  So, what do you want? (begins to undress)

Michael:  WAIT!  (beat) Uh, you don’t need to do that. (She stops, looks questioningly at him)  I mean, I’d rather do it, OK?

Girl:  I’m all yours.   (Holds arms out, as if offering herself)

Michael:  OK.  I’m just not ready yet.

Girl:  Your call.  You’re paying. (she sits on the bed)  So, what do you want?

(pause, Michael is thinking)

Michael:  A prostitute…

Girl:  (indicating herself) Uh…yeah…

Michael:  I called her a prostitute.

Girl:  Who?

Michael:  My wife.

Girl:  Is she?

Michael:  No!

Girl:  So it’s an insult?

Michael:  Yes!  (realizes) I mean no…

Girl:  (just looks at him)  You mean?

Michael:  I don’t know what I mean.  I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…

Girl:  Hey, it doesn’t matter to me.  You’re paying.  You want to scream at me and call me a slut – knock yourself out.

Michael:  Maybe I should go…

Girl:  You can, but you’re still paying.  What are you paying for?

Michael:  I don’t know.  Love?

Girl: (Laughs at him as she rises. Moves US of the bed)  Baby, you can have whatever you want – we can discuss literature, or you can get your freak on.  But this is not the place where you get love.  You don’t have enough money to buy that.

Michael:  (smiles at her)  Not you.  Her.  My wife.

Girl:  Let me ask you – why are you here?  You’re obviously thinking about her, and not how you’re gonna hide where you’ve been tonight.  You’re hung up on the idea of paying, but do you even know what you mean?  Somebody comes to me, they pay for an experience they can’t or aren’t getting somewhere else.  So I’ll ask you again, what are you paying for? 

(long pause as Girl removes some article to indicate she has exposed herself to Michael.  Michael looks at her for a long moment, then turns away from her and looks out into space)

Not sex.  You’re looking for something else.

(Girl puts outfit back, picks up her coat)

Hey, tell me something – do you charge your wife for your love?  Tell me, how much do you get?  I’d like to know what the going rate is.

Michael:  (stays turned away from her.  As he speaks, she casually steps out of the light)  She’s not supposed to pay me, we’re just supposed to be partners for each other… It’s a gift.

Girl:  (from darkness)  I don’t think you pay for her love either.

Michael:  I… don’t.  You’re right.  (turns back to where she was, realizes she’s gone)  Hello?  (the table lamp blinks out)

——————————————————–

Scene 5:  Morning.  Colleen and James are seated on sofa.  Colleen is wearing the same clothes and her makeup is messed.  James and Beth have changed, but look tired. James is agitated.  Beth is cleaning up from the night before as Michael enters.  He has been gone all night.

James:  Dad!?

Beth:  Michael?

James:  Where have you been?

Michael:  (surprised to see them) Uh, Hi.  I had to go out for a little while.  How long have you two been here?

James:  Since around 2 in the morning when Mom called us.  What the fuck, Dad?

Michael:  Watch your language…

James:  (escalating) You left Mom ALONE!  She was CRYING!   Now, where were you?

Michael:  Downtown.

Beth:  (confused at first)  All…night?  With who?

(As Beth asks her question, James rushes Michael.  James grabs Michael by the collar and backs him up.  Michael does not resist.)

Beth:  (shrieking) JAMES!  What are you doing?!

Colleen:  JAMES!

James:  (angry and cold, not releasing Michael)  Mom?  Did you hear him?

Colleen:  (steely)  I did.  And I remind you that he is your father, regardless of how upset you are.  You need to cool off.  Go for a walk.

James:  Mom, don’t tell me what to do.  I heard him.

(a look passes between Colleen and Beth.  Beth pulls James by the arm, grabs their coats and steers him out.  Beth and James exit.)

——————————-

Scene 6:  This scene be a quick insert between 5 and 7 – perhaps a downlight pool to one side of the stage.  Setting is a street.  James and Beth are walking.

Beth: (stopping)  Are you alright?

James:  I’m angry.

Beth:  At me?

James:  No!  Well, maybe a little.  But Dad!

Beth:  Why are you angry at him?

James:  He went out all night!  He left Mom alone!

Beth:  OK.  And she was upset, but she was all right.  She had us!

James:  It’s not all right.  You don’t abandon someone you love.

Beth:  I don’t think he abandoned her, they had an argument.  He went for a walk. 

James:  It’s not the same.  Mom needs him in a different way now.

Beth:  You mean because she’s paralyzed.

James:  Of course that’s what I mean!

Beth:  I don’t think you give your Mom enough credit.  She can take care of herself much more than you think.

James:  Maybe.  But that still doesn’t excuse Dad from…

Beth:  From behaving exactly the way you did last night?  They had an argument.  He went for a walk.  Sound familiar?

James:  (long beat.  then, he’s a little uncomfortable)  Fine.  It just seems harsher because she needs him more than you need me.

Beth:  That’s not true.

James:  It’s not?

Beth:  No.  It’s not.  I need you more than I’ve ever needed anything.

(pause, they look into each other’s eyes)

James:  I didn’t have a chance to talk to you last night, but I realized some things while I was out walking.

Beth:  Yes?

James: Look, Beth, I realize that love sometimes isn’t perfect, but that’s not a weakness.  (pause)  And that I should turn down the job if your father offers it.

Beth:  Really?

James:  Yes.  I proposed to you thinking we would make it on our own.  And for me, I have to do this.  Or I’ll never be able to define “us” as “us”.  Once I feel we are defined, maybe I can consider it.  But not now.

Beth:  So, maybe don’t turn it down, just postpone?

James:  Right now all I want is you.  And all I can give you is me.  So, if I turn down your father’s offer, will you still marry me?

Beth:  (quickly) Yes!  Of course, you doof!  (pause) On one condition, though.  Take back the engagement ring?

James:  What?

Beth:  I love the gift.  But… it’s too much.  Let’s get a smaller one.

James:  Beth…

Beth:  (interrupting)  And let’s stay here.  In this town.  For now.  So we can be near your Mom if she and your Dad need us.

(pause)

Look, I love you, and the people you love, and what you are, and what you can be – that’s more than enough for me.

(kisses him, long kiss)

Shall we go check on your parents?

BLACKOUT

—————————-

Scene 7:  Michael and Colleen’s home, continuing from scene 5

Colleen:  (just a little less collected than before) Michael?

(Michael doesn’t answer her.  He crosses to the sofa and sits down on the end opposite her.  He drops his head to his hands.)

Colleen:  (calmly) I didn’t know where you were.  I was afraid for you.  That’s why I called the kids.

(Pause)

Did you find what you were looking for?

Michael:  No.  Yes.  (beat)  I met a prostitute.  But it’s not what you’d think.  We just talked.

Colleen:  A prostitute?  Why?

Michael:  I don’t know, really.  I was walking, and she just appeared.  I mean, I wasn’t paying attention and suddenly there she was in front of me.  And she told me to follow her, so I did.  And we talked for a little while.  And then she disappeared… just like she appeared.

Colleen:  What in the world did you have to talk about with a prostitute?

Michael:  Life.  She was the strangest street girl you could think of – she was smart, smarter than me, she didn’t seem like she was on drugs, she wasn’t homeless, she didn’t try to rob me…

Colleen:  Rob you?  Much worse could have happened, Michael.

Michael:  Yeah.

Colleen:  And?

Michael:  We talked about sex.  And love.  And how one can be something you pay for, but the other can’t.  And…  (pause)  I was wrong.  What I said to you.  I was feeling so guilty about everything you lost, and how sex felt so one-sided.  I couldn’t understand what you got from it, so I tried to justify it in my head, make it right somehow… balance the scales.  But eventually I couldn’t deal with it anymore because I knew it wasn’t just gratitude.  Maybe it was duty?  I felt like I had to give you something in return for all that you lost – and since I promised to stay by you “in sickness and in health”, I was already committed to living without sex if that’s what came after the accident.  But, after we got through your depression, you’ve wanted to be intimate, and I felt like there wasn’t a way to reciprocate.  And so I felt like I was stealing from you.  It just all rushed to the surface.

Colleen:  You can’t steal what I freely give, Michael.

Michael:  I get that now.  This girl – she understands.  Sex can be business, it can be transactional – separate from feeling, separate from love.  I never stopped loving you, but that’s what I feared our intimacy was becoming.  But now I see I was wrong. THAT isn’t US.  

(Pause)  

Colleen, what I do for you – it’s because I love you, not because I want something in return.  

Colleen:  It’s the same for me, Michael.

Michael:  I know.  I can accept it now.

Colleen:  You hurt me, Michael.  Running away from me.

Michael:  I know.  I am so sorry.

(Pause)

Colleen:  I know you are.  And I can accept that you hurt me because you love me, and in that moment last night you didn’t know how to love me.

(Pause)

Look, Michael, you didn’t cause my accident (indicates her legs).  It’s just life.  I’ll live through it until I’m done, just like I did before.  Let me take my pain and my joy and give it all to you as a gift, like I did before – my body, my love, my life – this is what I have to offer.  Can you accept it?  Can you love me the way I am, and accept that I don’t want you to, nor could you ever, make it up to me?

Michael:  Yes.  (Pause)  Colleen, thank you.

(Michael reaches for her hand, which Colleen gives.  He holds it and kisses it, then moves closer to her.  They hold each other.  There is a long pause before James and Beth enter)

James:  Mom?  Dad?

BLACKOUT

END

The Things We Do For Love (20 minute play) ©2016

The Things We Do For Love

By Curtis Scott Dunn

© 2016 – All rights reserved

 

Cast:

Roman White – Late 30’s – early 50’s, very wealthy and well-dressed.  He is a loathsome boor who treats people like playthings.

Laura White – Mid 20’s – early 30’s, of undecided background, but needs to adopt several personas

Donald Smith – Late 30’s – a psychiatrist who specializes in behavior modification for the “company”

Nurse – gender and age unspecified, employed by the “company”

Infant – real or doll

——————-

(A psychiatrist’s office.  There is a computer and a phone on the desk where Dr. Smith is sitting.  Laura is sitting in the patient’s chair, facing the doctor.  She is in a trance-like state.)

Smith:  Tell me about your week.  What left you disappointed?

Laura:  (conversationally, although she is still in a trance) Well, Doctor, I have been coming to see you for a while, and the relationship I was contracted to provide has been working very well… until lately.  This past month or so, I have begun to sense something new in Roman’s personality.  It isn’t the same as when we started.

Smith:  What do you mean?

Laura:  I don’t think he loves me as much anymore.  He’s brusque and he doesn’t listen to me.  When we are together, I don’t think he wants to be with me.  I work so hard to make myself attractive and I’m always available, and he just doesn’t appreciate it.  It’s like he’d rather be somewhere else!

Smith:  Well, I think we can help that.  You know it’s important to be attractive and available, right?

Laura:  (brightly) Well, of course!  I’m always ready!  Always available to him!

Smith:  (shakes head, sadly) That’s exactly right, Mrs. White.  Exactly right.  Which brings up another concern.  Mrs. White, you’re aware that your contract with Mr. Smith requires that you produce three children within five years.

Laura:  Yes, yes!  I do know my duty, Doctor!  But, I don’t know why we haven’t gotten pregnant!  (showing just a trace of stress now)  I’ve… We’ve… been trying!

Smith:  Yes, Mrs. White, I believe you.  It’s not time for too much concern yet, you do still have time on your contract.  Also, if Mr. Smith is satisfied with your performance, he can apply for an extension of time.

Laura:  That will not be necessary!  I will fulfill my contract as promised!   In fact, I expect Mr. White will ask for an extension just because he wants me!  Why he might even ask for a permanent contract with me!  (long pause) He will… won’t he? (pause) Won’t he? (pause)  Could you speak with him, Doctor?

Smith:  (seeming defeated) Yes, Mrs. White.  I will speak with him.  (pause as he considers something) While I do that, why don’t you take a brief rest?

(On those words, Laura changes instantly from a trance-like state to a sleep state, still seated in the chair.)

Smith:  (his demeanor changing, he sighs) Oh, Laura!  What am I doing here?  Can I live through this?  Can I help YOU live through this?  I must!

(while he speaks, Smith takes a wire from his computer and attaches it to Laura. This could be attached to a sticky pad, like an EKG.  He also takes a syringe and injects her with something.  Laura stays “asleep” and non-reactive)

If only I could tell you how I feel about you.  I knew that you were special the day I met you.  I tried to talk you out of taking a contract.  Maybe I was too circumspect.  Maybe I should have told you what you were actually in for.  I thought I did, we talked for hours as I did the evaluation.  I feel like I know you.  Or, I knew who you were before you came in.  Oh, if only I had enough money to take my own contract for you!  I would have.  I would have stopped you, and took you for myself.  And maybe we could have been married the old way.  I would have given anything for the chance to make you happy without programming your mind.  Maybe we could have loved each other, us really, without all the tech?  Without an implanted thought construct designed to make you want me?  Maybe we could have been real with each other?

(Smith kneels in front of her, takes her face in his hands and kisses her.  Laura stays asleep and does not react.  He delivers the next few lines directly to her.)

I didn’t have the money, Laura.  I’m so sorry.  All this technology, I’ve been working with it and developing it my whole life, and I can’t even afford a relationship.  Assholes like Roman White get to buy you and use you, and then throw you away when he gets his child.  Or worse.  (pause)  I can’t let that happen.  I couldn’t talk you out of the contract, couldn’t talk you past the glossy marketing that promises a glamourous life – but I won’t let you be lost to what’s on the other side of that glamour.

I’ll get you through this, Laura.  It’s going to hurt you, I know.  I could make it hurt less, or not at all, I could erase the whole thing from your mind once it’s over – but I don’t know that you would still be whole afterward.  So, I’m going to keep you from conceiving, and I’m going to keep you as close to reality as I possibly can.  And I’m going to hope… and I’m going to hope… when it’s all done, and that horrible man has rejected you and put you aside… that I’ll be able to find you.  And I’ll take you in.  And maybe you’ll love me.  And I promise… I promise… You’ll know me.  The real me.  And, I’ll know you.

(As Smith finishes, Mr. White enters.  Smith stands, and composes himself.)

Roman: (entering, impatient with having been made to wait)  Well?

Smith:  Mr. White, the problem is that your physical persona is forcing it’s way through the construct I created.  Have you been wearing the mask when you interact with her?

Roman:  I don’t have time for explanations and excuses.  Did you fix her?

Smith:  I made some adjustments to her serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin inducers, and I will tweak the construct that filters what she hears and perceives, but you must pay attention to your physical actions and body language!

Roman:  Listen to me you white-coated twerp.  I’m paying a lot of money.  A LOT of money… for a breeding contract.

Smith:  A marriage contrac…

Roman:  Do NOT interrupt me!  (suddenly changing tone to be conciliatory)  Let’s just call it what it is, right?  Between us men?  I have her because I need a son.  She has a contract to provide one.  Or more.  At the end of her contract, she either will have succeeded, or she won’t.  I don’t really care, I can get another contract.  (more aggressively) And, I presume that you are doing all you can to make that happen for me, per OUR contract?

Smith:  Of course, Mr. White.  However, I do need to caution that the construct is a cover, a coat of paint, if you will – and you can, through your actions, break through the illusion that we have created for Laura.

Roman:  (suspiciously) Laura?

Smith:  (chastened) Mrs. White.  My apologies.

Roman: Don’t.  Now, I will ask you again.  Are you doing EVERYTHING possible to help me achieve my goal?

Smith:  I am doing everything possible to help you, while preserving the psychological and physical integrity of my patient.

Roman:  I don’t care about your patient.  I care about the results that I am paying for you and her to give me.  Now, do whatever you need to do to make her accommodating until I achieve my goal.

Smith:  As I said, Mr. White, there is a limit to how far I can push a mind.

Roman:  That’s funny, Smith.  I don’t hear such moral caution when I talk with my friends who also have contracts with your company.  The girl’s mind is an acceptable casualty, same as her body.  (conciliatory again)  Besides, at the end of the contract, we’re either going to move her program to parenting duty, or she’ll go to the whorehouses and get reprogrammed for recreational use.  Either way, I won’t have to touch her or talk to her anymore – so what does it matter?

Smith:  But, she may be the mother of your children.

Roman:  (cold again) So what?  If she’s sane, she can get reprogrammed and get her jollies out of being a milk jug.  If she’s not, then I’ll contract some horse-faced sandbag that no one would touch anyway to act as a parent, and off to recreation duty with dear Laura.  Am I right? 

Smith:  Sir.

Roman:  Now, wake her up.  I’ve wasted enough of my time today.

Smith:  Yes, sir.  (goes to computer, then pauses)  I gather you require a new mask, Mr. White?

Roman:  I suppose I do.

(Smith hands Mr. White a blank white mask, which Mr. White dons.  Smith goes to computer, types, then gives a command)

Smith:  Mrs. White, join us please.

(Laura awakens and takes a moment to register her surroundings)

Laura:  Oh!  Hello Doctor!  I must have dozed off!

Smith:  It’s quite all right Mrs. White.

Roman: (to Smith)  Let’s try her out, shall we?  (to Mrs. Smith)  Get up you cow.

Laura:  (brightly) Right away, Darling!  Do you have an adventure planned for us today?

Roman:  (with a condescending tone)  Why yes, Darling!  I’m going to take you home and make a baby inside you.  (looking right at Smith) And then I’m going to invent things to do to you until I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of today’s visit.

Laura:  (in a sexy-teasing voice) Roman!  You shouldn’t be so bold in front of Dr. Smith!  (moving her body up against Roman, conspiratorially)  But you make me so hot!  Take me home, Roman!

Roman:  Oh, I will!  (Mr. White takes her by the arms roughly, and steers her toward the door.  Before they exit, Mr. White turns and raises his mask to speak with Smith.  As he does, we see that Laura notices the absence of the mask, and looks confused or upset.)  (To Smith)  You’re not keeping any secrets.  You think about this.  I would have given her to you after I was done with her.  But I saw you with her, you aren’t fooling anyone,  When I finish with her, you’ll never see her again.  So, for her sake, I hope you did the best you could do to make her enjoy what she does have… me.

Laura:  (confused, as if she doesn’t know him) Roman?  What is…

(Mr. White replaces his mask)

Oh, Darling!  (acting sultry) Shall we go home now?  Goodbye, Doctor!

(Smith waves feebly as the lights dim)

—–

(Spot light up on Smith, standing alone)

Smith:  I didn’t see Laura after that.  Roman White complained to the company, and they switched  Mrs. White… Laura… to a different behavioral programmer.  Despite what Mr. White implied, the company mission does not include treating its subjects minds as expendable, so his threats didn’t get me dismissed.  

I spent the next five years hoping two things.  First, that Laura was assigned to a good programmer who wouldn’t screw up her mind; and second, that no one would discover that I had chemically sterilized her to save her from a lifetime of abuse from Roman White.  As for me, I couldn’t bring myself to program people anymore, and a couple years after the incident, I stepped into management at the behavior mod division, and stopped programming contracts directly.  I’m not much better off than I used to be, but I can sleep at night.

I started looking for Laura in the recreational units when I thought her contract would be over.  It was insane – so many people reduced to…  well, it’s hard to say.  They seem happy, but that’s mostly the illusions set up in their minds by the programmers.  And it’s not just women.  There’s men.  Kids too.  My God.  They get implants and drugs, and illegal bootleg programs, and a mask.  They give the mask to whoever hires them, and if their program says so, for a set period of time the person in the mask can do no wrong.  Lots of people get hurt, but can’t remember how it happened or who did it to them.  The world is fucked up.

(Lights come up on a bar scene.  Laura is seated at the bar with a mask set down on the bar near her, and a man is chatting her up.  The man looks at her mask, rubs his fingers together to indicate money, and shakes his head.  The man walks off.)

I got word the other day that someone who looks like Laura is working out of a recreation bar way downtown.  I decided to go check it out.  Unfortunately during most of our conversations back in the lab, she was in trance.  I don’t even know if she will remember me.

Smith: (entering bar)  Laura?  (she doesn’t react)  Excuse me, is your name Laura?

Laura:  (turning to him, this is a very different Laura than earlier, she is coarse and jaded)  If you like.

Smith:  I’m Donald Smith, Dr. Smith.  I think I may have met you before.

Laura:  Haven’t been to a doctor in a long time.  Are you a repeat client?  I have trouble remembering sometimes.

Smith:  No, no.  This would have been years ago.  Before you started working in recreation.

Laura:  Don’t recall.

Smith:  Are you sure?  You don’t remember me?

Laura:  Nope.  But look, if you want, the mask fixes everything for a hour or two.  Or three, depending on your cash flow.  I got the standard programs loaded, and a couple that make me want more “exotic” pursuits, but you gotta be ready to pay good for those.

Smith:  Oh. (pauses, nervous)  What if I brought a program with me?

Laura:  (getting nervous)  Umm, look.  It’s not like I haven’t done that, but I’d need to have the program scanned first, make sure it’s not too extreme, you know?  And you can’t install it.  I have someone to help me with that.

Smith:  Oh, of course not!

Laura:  And that privilege is probably more money than someone like you has.

Smith:  Well, let me look in my wallet.  While I do that, why don’t you take a brief rest?

(Laura falls immediately to sleep.  Smith is surprised it worked.)

Smith:  Holy crap!  They never de-installed my programs, they just added on!  (looking about, furtively) Mrs. White, progress to trance and follow me.

(Smith and Laura exit the bar.  Smith takes Laura’s mask.  They cross stage to the office where lights come up, and dim on the bar.  Laura sits in the patient chair where we first met her.  She is in trance.)

Smith:  Laura, can you hear me?  (no response)   Can you hear me?

Laura:  Yes.

Smith:  I want to help you.

Laura:  Of course you do, Doctor!  You help me to be attractive and available to my husband!

Smith:  No, no, Mrs. White.  Time has passed.  Your contract expired.

Laura:  Yes, that’s true.  Was I a good wife?  Did I have a baby?

Smith:  No.  I’m sorry, you didn’t conceive.

Laura:  Oh.  (upset by this)  I wanted a baby.

Smith:  Did you?  (aside)  I can’t remember if that was in your program or something you already wanted.

Laura:  Yes, very much!  My husband wanted a son, but I would have loved any child I was given.  Was it my fault?

Smith:  No, Laura.  It was my fault.

Laura:  Oh.

Smith:  Laura, I want to help you.

Laura:  Thank you Doctor.  You always help me.  You help me to be attractive and availabl…

Smith:  No, Laura.  I want to remove your programs.

Laura:  I don’t understand?

Smith:  I want to remove your programs.  Clear your mind.  What you think you know.

Laura: Oh.  (inquisitively)  Who will I be then?

Smith:  You will be you.  You will be who you were before you took your contract.

Laura:  Oh.  I can only remember me before the programs when I am asleep.  I was a good person.  I wasn’t happy though.

Smith:  I knew you, a little.  You were a good person.  But you didn’t have any way to support yourself, and you took a contract for five years.

Laura:  And when I was awake, the man I was matched with made me happy.  We were going to have children.

Smith:  I know you don’t understand this, but he didn’t love you.  He wasn’t kind to you.  The program I gave you made you think that he was.

Laura:  (this passage is a self-revelation to Laura)  I used to dream that he didn’t love me, but the program made the dreams go away when I was awake.  Now, when I’m asleep, I dream about what happens to me in the recreation places, but those dreams also go away when I wake up. (long pause as she starts to realize)  The programs are lies?  The dreams are real?  You gave me lies in my mind?  (long pause, then inquisitively)  Why did you give me lies?

Smith:  To protect you.  To help you.

Laura:  (unemotionally, and very matter-of-fact, like she is working out a logic problem) You say you want to help me, but you lie to me. To give me a better life, you took away who I was, and gave me a lie to protect me.  And, who I think I am when I’m awake, I am not?  Now, you wish to take that away and give me back what I dream because that is who I am?

Smith:  (beginning to cry, a little)  Yes.  Maybe?

Laura:  I don’t think you don’t want to help me.  You don’t want to protect me.  I don’t think you know…

Smith:  No, I want to undo what I’ve done.  I want to give you back to yourself.

Laura:  (still working it out) But, who am I?  Do you even know?

Smith:  (crying now)  Mrs. White… Laura…  I do know you.  I…   while I do that, why don’t you take a brief rest?

(Laura falls asleep.  Smith attaches the programming wire and types on his computer.)

Smith:  Delete all programs except core.

(He caresses her face a moment, and she begins to awaken)

Smith:  Laura?

Laura: (regaining herself)  Hello, Don.

Smith:  You remember me?  How do you feel?  Are you ok?  What do you remember?

Laura:  (long pause while she recollects) I remember.  I remember when I was a girl, and I remember when I met you.  I remember taking the contract… and (repulsed a little) I remember Roman and the things he did.  I remember that you programmed me to like him – but what he was and the way he behaved kept interfering with that, even when I was awake.  After he changed my doctor to someone else, he lost interest in me and took another contract.  I spent years alone until I was programmed to willingly accept reassignment to recreation.  Did you know that, Don?  Did you know that most of the people in recreation are there because they signed new contracts while still under the influence of a program?  Do you know that when we are asleep, we remember?

(pause)

I know you think that you loved me, Don.  Perhaps you did.  You wanted to save me from a permanent contract with Roman. (pause) But to do that, you took away an important part of me.  Did you know the reason I took the contract was so that I could have a baby in a good well-off family?  I wouldn’t have to worry that one day my baby would be in a position to take a contract in order to escape being poor? (pause)  And, though I didn’t have to live out a permanent contract, I was still programmed to be accepting of whatever Roman asked in his mask, even when he presented me with a contract in recreation.  Do you understand that I signed it because that is what you do when you are programmed to trust someone.

Smith:  I didn’t do that to you.  I want to start over.

Laura:  But you were the start of it.  You are still responsible.  I will not forgive you for that.  (Laura begins to reach for the wire still attaching her to the computer.  Smith stops her, but very gently.  This is the most painful moment for him.)

Smith:  I’m so sorry.  (hits key on keyboard as he gives command)  Core reboot.

(Laura convulses, then goes to her trance state)

Smith:  (types on keyboard, then speaks command aloud to Laura)  Load program “Don Loves Me”.  Parameter.  Erase resident memory seven years.  Parameter.  Maximize hormone stimulus for intense bonding at program startup.

Laura:  (robotically)  Confirm parameter.  Erase resident memory?

Smith:  Confirm erase.

Laura:  Erase confirmed.  Memory is untested, vestigial thoughts may remain.  Confirm overwrite?

Smith:  Negative.  Do not overwrite.

Laura:  Confirm bonding target as mask, program “Don Loves Me”.

Smith:  Negative.  New parameter.  Set bonding target as first visualized face, delete mask.

Laura:  Confirm bond to first face. Mask will not be recognized.

(Smith takes a pause and a deep breath, composes himself, then picks up a phone on his desk.)

Smith:  Harris, I have a new subject ready for contract.  Parental.  Permanent contract. (pause)  Yes, an orphan will be fine.  Preferable.  Oh, and when you come in, wear a mask, please?  New protocol.

(A few beats as Smith dons a mask. A nurse enters, masked, holding a swaddled infant.)

Smith:  Laura, join us please?

(Laura awakens.  The nurse hands the baby to her.  For a moment, Laura only looks at the two people in masks, bewildered by them.  Then, she looks down at the baby she is holding.)

Laura:  Oh!  Hello there!  (pause, then tenderly)  I’m your mommy…

(Blackout)

Love Doesn’t Die (10 minute play) ©2014

Love Doesn’t Die

by Curtis Scott Dunn  ©2014 – all rights reserved

World Premiere produced by La Strada Ensemble Theater in Asbury Park NJ and New York City NY, by La Strada Ensemble Theater, AJ Ciccotelli, Artistic Director, Thomas Ryan Ward, Managing Director.

with original cast members:
Thomas Ryan Ward as “1”
Nadine Dunn as “2”
Sarah Osman as “3”
Doug Bollinger as “Tom”
Keri Costa as “Nina”
Dennis Gribben as “Waiter”
Nicholas Falzone
Directed by AJ Ciccotelli

Cast:
1 – a male ghost, appears similar in age to NINA
2 – a female ghost, appears similar in age to TOM
3 – a female ghost, appears to be a teenager, but has been a ghost for a while
TOM – 30-50, a living man, used to be with 2 in life
NINA – 30-50, but not too far off from TOM’s age, a living woman, used to be with 1 in life
WAITER – young restaurant employee
various LIVING and DEAD, as per Director
Production Notes:
This cast is divided into two major groups, the LIVING, who have names and should be dressed in normal clothes appropriate to the scenes; and the DEAD, who are only referred to in the script by a number. The DEAD are dressed in very simple, shapeless cloth (dresses or drawstring pants/vests in white). It’s important that the two types of characters, LIVING and DEAD, never interact with any character that is not their own type, except as indicated.  There should be roughly as many actors playing DEAD characters as there are actors playing the LIVING. While the LIVING must only engage in reasonable stage business and blocking, the DEAD may be directed to enter the audience, to walk on and off stage, or to do any number of strange things, as the Director sees fit. They should not, however, ever touch an audience member or allow themselves to be touched. Similarly, DEAD should not interact with props, except as indicated.
———————
Scene 1: A romantic restaurant. TOM and NINA are seated at a table for two, obviously on a date. There should be other diners present, and a WAITER taking orders and delivering food. Various DEAD, including 2, can be in and around the scene. Some should be interested in the LIVING, others not interested at all.

1: (addressing audience) Let’s understand this from the start. I am dead. And at least I know I’m dead, which isn’t always true of the departed. There are a lot of us still walking around not really sure what we are. But me, I’m sure. See, I died of cancer, so I got to see it coming. And after it was over, I mean after I PASSED – it’s never really OVER – I knew that I was dead. It’s a comfort, really. The folks who are dead but don’t know it really have it rough. I feel sorry for them. For them, the afterlife is like a big joke that no one let’s them in on. But for those of us who understand what’s going on, it’s a little easier. I mean, some of us choose to hang around anyway, to watch over loved ones, to haunt our favorite places, or in some cases, to try to right a wrong or get some kind of justice. Which is hard, because most of the living can’t see us or hear us. Sometimes, if we try REALLY hard, the living can FEEL us. But that’s a whole crapshoot, because you never know how they’re going to interpret it.  Anyway, when one of us reaches the point where we have nothing else to do – when we’ve achieved whatever it is that kept us around the living, or we have just gotten fed up with ‘em, we can move on to the next life. I can’t really tell you any more about the next life, mostly because I haven’t gone there yet myself. I decided to hang around for a while. That
woman over there at table 3 – that’s my wife. WAS my wife. “Til Death Do US Part”, right?  So, I have no claim on her anymore. But that’s OK, you know? I mean I KNOW I’m gone from her. And, I’m OK with her moving on. In fact, I WANT her to move on. She’s young…ish, and, well, she should. I want to make sure she finds the right someone.  What? Well, yes, I still love her. Love doesn’t die, you know.
(Pause)
I have real hope for this guy she’s with tonight. He seems like a stand up sort, a little shy though. They’ve been dating for a little over a month. Took him the longest time to even kiss her, and he hasn’t gone any further than that. Maybe something will happen tonight.

2: Over my dead body. (pushes 1)

1: If you just touched ME, then that is pretty likely, figuratively speaking. You’re dead.

2: What are you, new? It’s a figure of speech. My body’s already gone. Cremated.  Roasted. Torched. Right now, most of my ashes are on their way out to sea after floating down the East River.  Bastard put me in the EAST RIVER! I said, specifically, in my will, to put my ashes in a beautiful flowing river. Christ, even the Hudson would have been fine – a little upstate of course, but the EAST? The man is a MORON!

1: I don’t know, he seems pretty Ok to me…

2: That’s because you are…were… male too, and devoid of any common sense whatsoever.  CLEARLY, the lack of wit inherent in your deficient Y chromosomes persists after death.

1: Wow…

2: So let me clarify things for you, dear. There is NO WAY they are EVER getting together. Not if I have anything to say about it!

1: I don’t think you do have anything to say about it.

(2 smiles condescendingly. A waiter is passing by the couple and 2 reaches out and tickles him. The Waiter drops the tray he is carrying, right on top of TOM.)

TOM: What the hell!?

WAITER: OH, my GOD! Sir, I am so sorry…. so, so, sorry. Are you all right? (fusses with a napkin, futilely trying to dry TOM off)

TOM: I’m fine, but I’m a mess. What IS this? (sniffs his clothes) Gym socks with butter and garlic?

WAITER: It’s bisque. (pause as he looks at the mess to identify it) And a plate of escargot.  They’re both actually really good.

TOM: I’ll sample some when I get home, thanks. Nina, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to cut our date short. I can’t go to the film festival smelling like this.

NINA: My place is right around the corner. You’re three subway transfers away. (sniffs) And you might be attacked by feral cats. Come back with me, and we’ll get you cleaned up.

TOM: Nina, I’ve never… um… your place…

1: Just go, dumbass!

NINA: Don’t worry about it. But fair warning, I haven’t straightened up, so it’s a bit of a mess.

2: Don’t you…

TOM: OK.

WAITER: Don’t worry about your check, sir, I’m sure my manager… (Stops talking as TOM gives him one of those looks) ummm… (weakly) come again?

(TOM snorts, then reaches into his pocket and gives the WAITER a tip)
(TOM and NINA exit)
BLACKOUT
———————————————
Scene 2: Nina’s apartment. There is a main living room, and a bedroom which should be visible. The bedroom should have a screen or something to mask an on-stage costume change. 1 and 2 are already inside. 3 is also present, dancing and spinning around the room and generally acting weird.

(As the lights come up, we hear the door being unlocked. TOM and NINA enter, laughing)

NINA: That poor waiter. The look on his face.

TOM: Yeah, I kinda felt bad for him. Though I think I might have to just throw these clothes away. This stuff STINKS!

NINA: OK. Let me find towels and a plastic bag or something to put your clothes in. The shower is that way, soap and shampoo are right there in the caddy. Rinse off your shirt and whatever else you can and hang those up on the shower rod, and I’ll find you a robe to throw on while I see if I can find sweats or something that will fit you.

TOM: Thank you. (They look as if they might kiss, then they both wrinkle their noses at the smell and pull away) I might be a little bit, washing my clothes and all.

NINA: No worries. I’ll be right here when you’re done.

(TOM exits into bathroom. NINA spends time collecting up a plastic bag and finding a robe in her closet. At one point, she knocks on the bathroom door and reaches in with one hand to set these inside. Then, she goes back to closet, and starts pulling out loungewear to change into. She should pull out a couple of choices, including one that is very sexy. Lying this one on a chair or the back of the sofa, NINA returns to her closet to look for others. 2, looking disgusted, knocks outfit to the floor with a flick and kicks it out of sight. NINA should look for it, find it, and put it back – 2 knocks it down again while NINA isn’t looking etc. NINA ultimately picks another outfit and goes to bedroom to change. While this stage business is happening..)

3: (Spinning around the room) WOOOOOOO! WOOOOOO! (spins by 2, who reaches out and stops her)

2: Would you stop that please? What ARE you doing?

3: I died in this apartment, so I’m haunting it!

2: Can you haunt it a little less? It’s annoying to us, and they’re not noticing.

3: Fine! (huffs to sofa and plops down in the middle)

1: Seems like things are about to progress with those two!

2: And you’re fine with that, I assume?

1: Ah, you used to be with him?

2: Ten years, then I had my accident.

1: How did you die?

2: I fell into an open hole in the sidewalk.

1: Ouch?

2: Well, yes, but that didn’t kill me. It was only 6 feet deep or so and I landed on a plumber.

(1 looks at her, half-unbelieving)

2: I twisted my leg pretty good, and my knee was swelling, so he tried to help me up to the sidewalk using a ladder. Unfortunately, the place where he rested the ladder was unstable, and we fell into a storage area in the subway. Fortunately for me, my fall was broken by a Port-o-Potty. The plumber missed those, and he died from the fall.

1: And you didn’t?

2: No, I was knocked unconscious and fell through the roof of one of the port-o-potties. It flipped me head down and I drowned in the tank.

1: Yecch!

2: Yes. I’m thankful I never came to consciousness. The plumber turned out to be quite nice. We spent some time together haunting my husband until he got bored and left. I can’t blame him, really. For a while it seemed like all my husband did was eat, sleep, work, and masturbate. (pause as she looks at 1) What, like you haven’t watched her?

1: Well, yes, but…(NINA has changed into a silk robe and is primping in the bedroom)

2: Mmmm hmmm…. Well, I had NO idea when I was living just how much time men spend with their own hands.

3: YEAH they do!

1: What do you know about that?

3: I’ve been dead 30 years. You see things.

(TOM emerges from the bathroom, wearing NINA’s bathrobe)

3: (noticing TOM) And there’s some things you can’t un-see.

TOM: Nina? I’m finished in the shower! I hung most of my clothes to dry, but the pants are wool. I think they’re probably toast.

NINA: (from bedroom) That’s fine! I was just changing! I’ll be right out! I thought maybe we could take some of my DVD collection and have our own film festival?

TOM: Sounds good to me! (Tom finds a seat on the sofa, next to 3. He does not see or react to 3)

2: My, Thomas, that IS fetching.

(NINA appears from bedroom. She strikes an unintentionally ludicrous pose in the door trying to be seductive.)

1: Very smooth honey. Very subtle.

NINA: Or we might find some OTHER way to occupy ourselves? (NINA sashays over to the sofa, sits on the other side of 3)

TOM: Ummm.. Nina… uh, I don’t want to take advantage of a situation…

2: Always the gentleman.

TOM: …but you do look wonderful, and I’ve wondered if we were ready.

NINA: What else could I have done to let you know?

2: Gentleman. Or just a little slow on the uptake. (addressing Tom) Still Tom, she’s not going to be like me.

(TOM and NINA begin to inch closer, sandwiching 3 between them. They go in for a kiss when 3 touches both their lips, and they jump back.)

TOM: OW!

NINA: Can you say static spark? Ouch! I’m sorry Tom, I must have built up a charge walking across the carpet.

(3 escapes from between them, but is intrigued now. TOM and NINA begin to move closer)

3: Ooh, I think they’re gonna kiss.

2: NO they’re not! (2 blows on the back of TOM’s neck, causing him to shiver and messing up the kiss)

1: What’s your problem?

2: She’s not right for him!

1: What’s wrong with her?

2: She’s not pretty enough.

1: What?

2: Or smart enough.

1: What the hell would you know?!

2: (addressing her dig at 1) Or successful enough!

(TOM starts to move toward NINA again)

3: I don’t think they agree with you!

(1 and 2 turn to see TOM and NINA start to kiss)

3: This should be fun. (perches on the arm or back of the sofa, where she can see the action)

2: (upset) TOM! I’m right HERE!

1: He can’t hear you.

2: (beginning to cry) But I want him to hear me. (2 goes to sofa, near 3) Tom?

3: He’s busy. I don’t think you want to watch this. You know they’re both naked under their robes, right? (3 cranes her head between them to look down their fronts) Yup, naked.

1: (to 3) Why don’t you move out of there? You’re not helping.

3: I’m not hurting anything either. Cut me some slack. I died a virgin. This is all I have.

(2 moves onto sofa, in a position spooned against NINA, so that she can reach out and touch TOM in the same way NINA does. NINA and TOM continue kissing, not reacting to 2)

1: He can’t feel you.

2: He can! I know he can!

1: Okay, maybe you can make him feel you. But how? A thought in his head that he can’t shake? A distraction from the woman he is with? Aren’t you hurting him?

(1 walks over and gently pulls 2 away)

Let him go. The living need to live. It’s not fair to hold them back. It’s not fair to not let them heal.

(TOM and NINA become more passionate)

2: OH… (weeps, 1 enfolds 2 in his arms)

3: (lays on floor or some other position) They’re gonna do it! They’re gonna do it!

1: You’re really not helping, you know?

3: Sorry. (looks) Yup, they’re gonna do it! (NINA mounts TOM’s lap, facing him)

(2 collapses into 1’s embrace)

2: I’ve lost him.

1: No. (raises 2’s face to look at him) He lost YOU. A while ago. He didn’t stop loving you, and you didn’t stop loving him. But you have to let him live. Nina is a good person, and I think Tom is too. They’re going to be fine, now they’ve figured it out. As for me, I think I have what I need. I can move on to the next life and be in peace. Why don’t you come with me?

2: (disengages from 1, crosses to TOM and NINA. 2 strokes TOM’s face, which makes him pause for just a moment, then they continue) I don’t want to leave him.

1: Why would you stay? It’s true that love doesn’t die, but they are human, and alive. If all goes well for them, Tom will think of you less often as time goes on. Do you really want to stay for that?

2: I don’t know. No. But what else is there?

1: Something. Something is waiting for us. There’s only one way to find out what.

(2 sighs, and gazes at TOM and NINA for a moment)

NINA: Be gentle with me. It’s been a long time, and you’re bigger than my husband.

(3 Laughs, 2 stifles a smile, 1 looks just a little mortified)

1: OK, I’m REALLY done here. Will you come with me?

2: Yes. It’s better for everyone. (notices 3, who is really trying to get her head into the right position) And why don’t you come with us? No one here needs you around.

3: All right. OK. This is getting old anyway.

(1, 2, and 3 exit through the door. 2 reappears for a moment)

2 and NINA (at the same time) I love you, Tom.

TOM: (looks at door for something he cannot see, then at NINA) I love you too.

2: Be happy.

(2 exits)
(lights fade as TOM and NINA continue)
BLACKOUT