A Funny, Freezing, Friday Afternoon at the Haikulodeon

Here’s this week’s heap of haikus:
A cold wind will blow
o’er any innovation
’til it catches fire.


Twilight, cold and wet …
To ease the chill in my bones,
a savory bisque!

The morning stillness
will soon enough give way to
mid-morning madness.

( Photo courtesy Kristina Rebelo )

I look at myself,
so long ago and think, “Oh,
to be one again.”

(MrSmith and his mom on his first birthday, way back in 1951.)

On the Seventh day
of January, we will
be eating our herbs.

what-to-do-ku:

Wrap a broken arm
in pretty scarves, or set it
right and let it heal.

I am breaking down
but I am not folding up
past and present tents.

Don’t resist urges
from impulse or desire …
they will point the way.

The out of season
strawberries sat tastelessly
on her kitchen table.

Winter snow again.
Winds will blow again. Your car
needs a tow again.

What’s more exhausting
than having unlimited
opportunities?

Silhouettes of trees
turn my river view into
a jigsaw puzzle.

Dimly lit streetlamps
dot a snowy path that winds
through Riverside Park.

tanka haiku:

All men were once boys,
All leaders, once followers,
Wise men, ignorant.

Neither resent nor regret,
all will soon enough be frail.

Seldom will you see
a second thought that dances
in the morning breeze.

A doe hid behind
a fir tree’s branches, and watched
two children playing.

Moon behind the clouds,
dew forms on the meadow grass,
she whispers, “Sweet dreams” …

Sometimes an echo
from a life you left behind,
will catch up to you.

What you are drawn to,
has within it, the lesson
that you need to learn.

She ran down the street,
with tears streaming down her face,
dogs nipping her heels.

We’re not defined by
what we have lost, but by what
we do with what’s left.

tanka haiku:

We fight our whole lives
to thrive in the world of our
parents, only to

discover that we’re living
in the world of our children.

Icy sidewalks dare
my hip replacement; take a
walk on the wild side.

A sliver of moon,
slicing through the clouds … restless
shadows roam the fields.

In the darkest night,
there remains an ember which
will re-light the dawn.

Kids were not allowed
in grandfather’s library,
but cats wandered thru.

I don’t know her name,
I’ll never see her again,
Her gaze still haunts me.

When you have a lot
that’s on your mind, let your day
begin quietly.

Ice slips off tree limbs,
as the temper’ture rises.
The snow turns to slush.

God is really smart,
and hides where some would never
look; within themselves.

Life may not be fair
nor axioms accurate …
Pizza still tastes good.

Lonely blue highways,
asphalt to infinity …
Life continues on.

The most courageous
words ever spoken, must be,
‘So … let us go on.’

Good to remember –
Most great civilizations
have risen from swamps.

My Siamese cat
sits at the window, and stares
at distant mountains.

I wish I had known
how to give what you needed.
I was such a fool.

If you own a gun,
you’ve agreed to a world where
shooting’s an option.

tanka TV-ku:

Horizontal lines,
adjust the Vertical Hold,
play with Rabbit Ears.

TVs were simple once. Now,
you need to call Tech Support.

Silent surrender;
she flops onto the sofa
and turns on TV.

Bonus material –  I did not get a chance to transcribe the next two scenes from my Fred Allen play.  I will try to get that done by next week.  Instead, I offer something sillier … the first two scenes from the first full-length play I ever attempted.  A Farce … or what I  thought at the time would be a farce … I wrote it back in the mid-1980’s … It’s called The Carrot of Happiness.  

     The Carrot of Happiness

by Michael Tracy Smith  – (c) 1985

Act One – Scene One

At Rise: A bare stage at a theatre space on West 42nd St. in N.Y.C. between 9th & 10th Ave. Enter Sarah Kuhn, age 30, a tall, attractive, slightly androgynous woman. She wears her hair in a modified punk style, although her clothes are preppy. She addresses the members of the theatre’s production staff, who are never seen, and who are represented by various offstage voices.

SARAH

All right girls,…hello?…Let’s settle down now, o.k.?…Bernice, put a muzzle on it…Now, Richard just called from a pay phone…He told me he’s going to be a little late…

MARSHA (Offstage Voice)

In order for him to be a little late, we’d have to be in another Time Zone!

SARAH

(Laughing) Sarcasm,…very nice, Marsha…Well, I can understand you’re all a bit upset, but he’ll be here soon, really…I promise.

  VAL (Ofstage Voice)

Oh, that makes a big difference!…

SARAH

Come on girls, I’ve known Richard for a long time, and the one thing we don’t do is lie to each other…When I came out, he was the first person I told…

    MARSHA, VAL, NINA, BERNICE, et al.

(In unison) Oh really??!?…

SARAH

All right, he was the first man…sorry, make that the first straight man I told…I trust him, we’ve been through a lot together.  Y’know, I had him look after things for me while I was in Europe last year…

NINA (Offstage Voice)

So what!? He’s still late!!

SARAH

Nina, I’m just trying to establish the fact that if Richard says he’s going to be here, he’ll be here.I mean, he’s always been straight with me, and…

BERNICE (Offstage Voice)

And you’ve always been queer with him!   (Rowdy laughs from the crew)

        SARAH

Very funny…No, really hilarious.  Bernice, you should have been a comedienne instead of a lighting designer. I hear laughter can cure anything. Maybe it’ll work on that excema…Now, look, this is a big opportunity for us, let’s not blow it…I think Richard is perfect for the lead role. Hell, he oughta be, I wrote it for him. That’s why I gave him my script to study. Which was, of course, BEFORE I found out that Nina had lost the other copies…

NINA (Offstage Voice)

I didn’t lose them!  It wasn’t my fault!

SARAH

I’m sorry… that was before I discovered that a dozen renegade scripts had escaped from Nina’s knapsack and made a daring leap for freedom into the back of a pickup truck headed for Topeka…Which put us in a bit of a bind. Now granted, it’s difficult holding auditions without any scripts…however, luckily, when I spoke to Richard, I told him to stop and xerox a couple of extra copies…

   MARSHA, VAL, NINA, BERNICE, et al.

Oh……

SARAH

Stop moaning…It won’t take that long…It was either that or have the actors read it off my computer monitor…and trust me, that thing gets very heavy after awhile …Now, in the meantime, why don’t you all take an initial look at Kateesha Malloux. She is Hilary Asterbrook’s “Friend” and even though she does have only a limited amount of stage experience, Hilary would be most appreciative if we would strongly consider her for the part of Althea.  Now most of you know Hilary, and are aware of her considerable generosity in supporting our little theatre. So let’s try to give Kateesha the benefit of every doubt. I’m sure that if we feel she is absolutely, genuinely, completely wrong for the part, Hilary will have no problem with our casting someone else.

    NINA

Sarah?

  SARAH

Yes, Nina?

   NINA

If we did something to upset her, would Ms. Asterbrook actually be so petty as to withdraw her financial support?

  SARAH

Let’s not try to find out. Now, if “girlfriend” looks the part, we can have her read with Richard a little later…O.k.? Good. (Calling Offstage) Kateesha!

(Kateesha Malloux, age 31, enters. She has long brown hair, and a pretty, feminine face. She is wearing a loose fitting warm-up suit. She hands a picture and resume to SARAH.)

Thank you. Now, Kateesha, the role you’re up for in my play, The Carrot of Happiness, is Althea Armstrong.  Now I envision her as being a strong, and vital life force.  In other words, she represents every woman. And she plays many roles in Richard’s…I mean, in this one particular man’s life. But, uhh…now why don’t you give the staff a better idea of what you look like, while I review your resume.

(KATEESHA removes her sweatsuit to reveal an extremely hard and muscular physique. She is a female bodybuilder, wearing a revealing bikini/posing outfit. She begins posing.)

  SARAH (not looking up )

Hmm, I see you’re from Brooklyn. And that you’re the current Ms. Canarsie, and a former Ms. Jersey City Ironwoman winner. You have appeared in twenty-six exercise videos as the girl on the left, and have been weight-training since 1978.  (She looks up to see Kateesha for the first time.)  Ummm … Very impressive … (to herself) In her spare time, Kateesha enjoys bending steel in her bare hands … Well. Thank you, Kateesha, you can put your things back on. I think it’s pretty obvious that you do bring the proper physicality to the part. Now would you mind waiting over there for a minute?

(KATEESHA crosses stage-right)

SARAH (Continued)

(She snaps her fingers a few times, then loudly clears her throat) (Addressing the production staff) Well, glad to see I finally got your undivided attention. Peggy, put your tongue back in your mouth, you are slobbering all over the sign-up sheet. And get that gleam out of your eyes, Bernice, she could bench press you in her sleep. Don’t say it, Peggy, I know that’s what you want…hold on, where are you going, Marsha?

                         MARSHA (Offstage Voice)

Uhh…Home!…I forgot to set my VCR!

SARAH

Don’t give me that, you can afford to miss “Cagney and Lacy” one night. You just want to get out front to try to put a move on her… well, forget it, Hilary is extremely jealous…Christ, can we have a little theatrical professionalism  here, please? Now, five years ago, we started the Hippolyta’s Girdle Performing Arts Garage and Physique Center, and we were right on the cutting edge of both the avant-garde performance arts scene and the physical fitness craze, but let’s face facts … we’ve been limiting ourselves. We’re in a rut. We’ve been appealing to a demographically minute audience, if you will…Now, with this play, we have a chance to expand our self-expression outward to the real world…With Hilary Asterbrook’s financial backing, we will finally be able to share our vision with the mainstream. This production will get our views across to a larger, more varied slice of the societal pie by guaranteeing us a very visible six month workshop run…Then, if all goes well, Hilary has said that she would be ready to option the play for Broadway … But first we’ve got to prove ourselves. We’ve got to stop acting like just another bunch of dykes in a barn, putting on a show. Because, frankly, I’m tired of writing these veiled dramatizations of my friend’s lives when my friends are the only ones that come to see them…I’m sure you all remember last spring, when we did my play about the Hispanic nuns, “Latino Lesbos”.  I don’t think we had more than half a dozen spectators during the entire run…including Sister Manuella…So, to be blunt, let’s not let our galloping libidos get in the way of this opportunity. Come on now, try to imagine expanding your theatrical horizons a little bit, o.k.?…Hello? Anybody home?  I give up…let’s take a break…everybody back in twenty minutes. Richard will be here by then, and we can get things started…Nina, please tell the others who have waited that we will be starting soon.

  NINA (Offstage Voice)

I told them that half an hour ago.

     SARAH

Well, this time you can be telling them the truth.

NINA (Offstage Voice)

They’ll hit me…

SARAH

You’re the stage manager, that’s part of your job.

   NINA (Offstage Voice)

(Dejectedly) All right….

                         SARAH

Thank you. Oh, and you can send the other men home.

   NINA

Are you kidding? The two of them left an hour ago. Together.

               SARAH

Oh. (SARAH Crosses to where KATEESHA is sitting studying the script) Kateesha, I’m sorry about the delay.

    KATEESHA

How’d I do?

  SARAH

Good, good.  I’d like to try you out with Richard when he gets here, can you stay?

KATEESHA

I’ve got to get to the gym…It’s chest and arms day.

SARAH

Gee, already?   I know, why don’t you work out here?…We’ve got a weight room upstairs. It’s one flight up. Down the hall, past the Costume Department, and it’s on your left.  You can’t miss it.

KATEESHA

Well, o.k.

SARAH

Just tell Gretchen, you’re my guest. I’ll come and get you when we’re ready for you.

  KATEESHA

You won’t forget me?

SARAH

I don’t think so.

KATEESHA

O.K.(She turns and heads out the door)

(Richard Walsh, age 35, enters. He is carrying the scripts and a large brown grocery bag.)

RICHARD (Hurrying)

Sarah, Hi! Sorry I took so long but…

(KATEESHA and RICHARD collide. The collision sends the scripts flying into the air, and RICHARD and the grocery bag sprawling. KATEESHA, however remains standing right where she was.)

SARAH

My scripts!!

(The scripts are scattered all over the stage.)

RICHARD

Oops…

SARAH

You guys alright?

RICHARD

I didn’t know 52 card pick-up was a contact sport.

  KATEESHA

Darn! I hope I don’t bruise. The judges take off for that. (She exits)

   RICHARD

(Getting up) Who was that Mack truck?

  SARAH

Kateesha. She’s…

(SARAH is interrupted by loud barking offstage)

RICHARD

Oh God, I forgot…DEXTOR!!!! (The barking stops) I had to bring my neighbor’s dog. I promised her I’d look after him this weekend. He’s a pure-bred-something-or-other…very pampered…she said I had to pick up this special food and make sure he eats at special times…anyway, I tied him in the…

KATEESHA (Re-entering)

Stairwell. Dog. Yours?

RICHARD

No…He lives next door to me…with his owner.

SARAH

It’s an unusual arrangement. Richard gets custody on weekends.

RICHARD

I told her I’d look after him. I’m sorry, was he bothering you?

  KATEESHA

Does it bite?

RICHARD

Not on purpose.

SARAH

Hey, Whatdayaknow, me too…

KATEESHA

Would you mind?

RICHARD

What?

SARAH (Whispering to RICHARD)

Moving the dog.

RICHARD

Oh…right…sure…(He exits)

   KATEESHA

Who is…

SARAH

The guy you’re gonna...(RICHARD re-enters)...Richard Walsh, meet Kateesha Malloux, your audition partner.

KATEESHA

Hi.

RICHARD

Hi.

 SARAH

Ah, chemistry. That’s very important…

RICHARD

Ummm…I re-tied Dextor a little closer to the railing…you should have no trouble getting by.

  KATEESHA

Oh?

   RICHARD

Don’t be scared, he’s just a puppy.

KATEESHA

Who’s scared? Teethmarks can leave ugly scars.

  RICHARD

Oh…yeah, I always find that to be true…

SARAH (To KATEESHA)

Now don’t worry, he’s not going to bite you…(Looking off) He IS awfully big for a puppy, isn’t he?  O.k., here’s the plan: Keep your back to the wall, don’t lose eye contact, don’t make any sudden moves, inch slowly past him, and most importantly, whistle a happy tune.

KATEESHA

I don’t whistle.

SARAH

Hum.

(KATEESHA exits.)

SARAH (Continuing)

I’ll call you when we’re ready.

(We hear KATEESHA humming badly off-stage)

SARAH (Continuing)

(To KATEESHAThat’s it,…now have a nice…pump.  Richard, come here and help me, the scene I want you two to read is on page twenty-three. If we can find page twenty-three

RICHARD

Can we talk for a minute?

SARAH

Sure. Talk and collate…What do you think of Kateesha?

RICHARD

Kind of a funny name…Why?

SARAH

I have a feeling she’s gonna be your co-star.

   RICHARD

Listen, Sarah, I can’t play the part.

SARAH

Of course you can, it’s you…that is, I wrote it for you.

 RICHARD

No, I mean I’m not going to be able to do it.

SARAH

Why not? It’s the role of your life…lifetime.

RICHARD

Well, you know how strapped for money I am right now…

SARAH

Are you kidding? It’s the climax of the second act.

RICHARD

What did you say?

SARAH

I said, You owe me a couple hundred bucks, and that’s a fact.

RICHARD

It’s worse than that. I’m broke. Don’t laugh, I mean REALLY broke. I owe money to all my friends, I’m three months behind in my rent, I haven’t been able to get any kind of acting work in six months, my phone’s dead and my electricity is being turned off on Monday. You know what that means?

  SARAH    

You won’t be able to call anyone to come over and watch your ice cream melt…

RICHARD

That I could handle…Hell, I’ve been a starving actor for a long time. This is nothing new. You’re looking at a guy who once lived on Wonder Bread and celery for six months. No, this time, unfortunately, I have discovered a whole new meaning to the word “debt”.

SARAH

Really? Hmmm. Possible re-write. What happened?

RICHARD

It’s incredible! Suddenly, the IRS is claiming I owe them twenty seven hundred dollars from that off the books temp job I had a couple of years ago.  And if that weren’t bad enough, the coup de grace, is that now New York State is coming after me in a big way for the student loan that I defaulted on twelve years ago.

SARAH

You never paid back your student loan?

  RICHARD

No.

  SARAH

So you’re the one. Why not?

RICHARD

I never had the money.

SARAH

Oh.

  RICHARD

No really….I got out of college, and bang, six thousand bucks in the hole. I started hoping for that big break, so I could pay them back all at once, but when it didn’t happen right away, I sort of resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to pay it off until mom died. And that just hasn’t happened yet.

  SARAH

Richard, that’s awful.

RICHARD

I didn’t mean it like that.

SARAH

Didn’t you even try paying it back?

RICHARD

Oh sure I did. I obediently sent my little minimum payment in for the first couple of years, even though I could’nt really afford it.    Then one day I noticed that that the monthly interest was slightly MORE than the mimimum monthly payment I was breaking my ass to send in. I was parting with a quarter of my monthly salary and I was still losing ground. I’m not an idiot, I just quit sending the payments. How did I know that every other patriotic young American was doing the same thing?

SARAH

So how much do you owe them?

RICHARD

With back interest, probably around ten thousand dollars. So you see, this time I’m really up shit’s creek.

SARAH

You can stall them can’t you?

                         RICHARD

No, I’ve been avoiding them for months. They’re already threatening to either auction my furniture or garnish my wages. Which would be fine, if I had any furniture… or wages.

SARAH

Can’t you do some temp work or something?

RICHARD

Oh sure. Maybe the president of IBM will be out sick. I could fill in at the board meetings, give speeches for the shareholders, maybe dictate some memos.

SARAH

Come on, what’s the big deal? So you go work in an office for awhile.

RICHARD

You don’t understand. In order to make the money I need, I can’t go in as anything lower than vice-president.

SARAH

Can’t you set up payment agreements with them?

RICHARD

I’ve already done that…twice. I can’t set up a third payment agreement until I get some steady money coming in, for real.

  SARAH

Well, as Jung said, “in life, security and peace do not lead to discoveries”.

 RICHARD

I don’t need you to quote me old “Father Knows Best” episodes.

SARAH

Not Robert Young, CARL Jung… Anyway, it’s too bad we can’t pay you for this showcase, but I’m afraid all we can afford to offer the actors is carfare.

RICHARD

Which leads me to the discovery of an empty wallet.

SARAH

God, if only I hadn’t taken a leave of absence from my programming job to do these re-writes, I could front you another a loan until the play is a success and we’re picked up for Broadway. But I’m afraid I’m a bit on the thin side myself at the moment.

RICHARD

Forget it, even if you had it, I owe you too much as it is…Besides, how can you be so sure the play will get picked up for Broadway?

SARAH

Well, I didn’t want to jinx it by telling you, but it’s practically a done deal! We’ve got this backer. She’s a very prominent woman, who really understands what I’m trying to say. She thinks I’m a brilliant playwright. And she’s finally ready to come out and put her money behind her beliefs. So barring any unforeseen circumstances…

RICHARD

Like your leading man being dragged off to debtor’s prison…

 SARAH

Oh no, she’d still want to take us to Broadway. That is, I mean…

RICHARD

Oh, great. Congratulations…Damn it, I can’t believe this is happening. I finally get an opportunity to create a leading role in a show that goes to Broadway, and I’ve got a conflict…Riker’s Island!

SARAH

Oh Richard, I’m as disappointed as you are.  Isn’t there any way for you to get out of this mess?

  RICHARD

I’m in pretty deep this time.

  SARAH

Well, I don’t want to get somebody else.

RICHARD

It might make things easier…

 SARAH

I don’t care. I wrote it for you, and that’s the way it stays. Now, will you at least read for the rest of the production team? They’ve been waiting for you, and I sort of built you up and everything.

   RICHARD

You’re a very loyal friend…

SARAH

Besides, the other guys went home.

RICHARD

But…

SARAH

You’re a trouper. I’ll round up the others.

RICHARD

Sarah, I’ve got one other problem.

SARAH

What is it, Murder or Manslaughter?

RICHARD

It’s my family. They’re coming into the city today….Y’see, a couple of months ago, when I was feeling a little more flush, I bought them all theatre tickets for Christmas. Today’s the invasion. My sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew are going to see “Wrench Out My Guts”.

SARAH

Ugh, two hours of Yuppie Morbidity. Who needs it?

 RICHARD

And right next door to that, my mother and Aunt Louise are going to see that new musical, “Haberdasher’s Holiday!”

SARAH

A load of stuffy, sentimental nostalgia. By the masters of the genre: The British. Cripes, Richard, how could you?

RICHARD

Oh, they’ll love it. Anyway, I’ve got to go meet them at the theatre in a few minutes.

SARAH

Richard, you just got here!

RICHARD

I know, but I’ve got to do this, I promised…Look, it’s only a few blocks away. I just didn’t expect the day to get so bollixed up on me.

SARAH

I suppose you’ve already asked your family for money…

RICHARD

Yeah, my sister’s bringing a little bit, that’s why I gotta go meet her. Unfortunately, it’s only enough to keep my head above water for a week at best…

SARAH

What about your mom or your aunt?

RICHARD

Well, first of all, Aunt Louise isn’t my REAL aunt, we just call her that…we sort of adopted her into the family years ago…and mom, well, you’ve met her…

  SARAH

She came to my last play, didn’t she?

RICHARD

Yeah, she and I were the Thursday night audience.

SARAH

How could I forget, she hyperventilated through the entire second act.

RICHARD

Your feminism was just a bit too radical for her.

SARAH

Maybe so, but I still think you should ask her to lend you some money so you can do my play.

RICHARD

I don’t know. When it comes to supporting the Arts, she makes Jesse Helms look like Andrew Carnegie.

SARAH

I want you in my play. Ask her.

RICHARD

I want to be in your play, it’s just that…

SARAH

What?

RICHARD

Nothing.

SARAH

Richard, you know what your problem is? You don’t know how to stand up for yourself.

RICHARD

Sure I do.

SARAH

No you don’t. You let every woman in your life push you around.

RICHARD

I do not.

  SARAH

Yes you do.

RICHARD

Well, maybe you’re right.

SARAH

See what I mean?

RICHARD

What did I do?

SARAH

You didn’t stand up for yourself.

  RICHARD

But you were right.

 SARAH

That’s not the point. The point is, you’re going to have to stand up for yourself to get what you want. Or else settle for living a miserable existence with nothing to show for it except what others allow you to have. Is that what you want?

   RICHARD

That depends on what they allow me to have.

SARAH

Oh, Richard. Be your own man. Now go find your mother and ask her to lend you some money so you can be in my show.

RICHARD

That’s not as easy as it sounds. There’ll be strings attached. But it appears I have no other choice, so I’ll do it.

SARAH

Good. Now I feel a lot better about stalling for you…Well, go on, go. The sooner you’re there, the sooner you’re back.

RICHARD

(He starts out then stops.) I’m going to leave Dextor here, o.k.?

SARAH

Sure. (RICHARD exits)…What harm could he get into? (SARAH starts to exit stage right. she is stopped by the sound of offstage whimpering. She goes to the stairwell door and looks offstage at Dextor)…Now how do you suppose he got his head stuck in there?

    BLACKOUT

Act One – Scene Two

(Scene: 45th Street West of Broadway.  Outside two Adjacent theatres. Both theatres have signs outside which state: Matinee Today.  The stage right theatre houses the hit play, “Wrench Out My Guts.”  The stage left theatre houses the British musical, “Haberdasher’s Holiday!” The lights come up to reveal Myrna O’Malley Walsh, age 67, standing under the stage right marquee. She is a short, intense woman, who wears bright colors and looks somewhat younger than her age. She is carrying a heavy overnight bag on one shoulder.)

RICHARD (Entering)

Hi mom…

MYRNA

There you are. I thought we were meeting at the bus station, but when you weren’t there, I decided to walk over. Of course, I tried to get a cab, but none of them wanted to take me so short a distance.

RICHARD

It’s only five blocks.

   MYRNA

I’m exhausted. I’m not young anymore, like you kids, I’m old. I can’t do things like I used to, and this bag is so heavy.

RICHARD

I know, mom. I’m sorry. Here, let me have it.

MYRNA

No, it’s okay. I’ll manage…How are you doing? I’ve been so worried.

RI

RICHARD

Everything’s…fine. how are you?

MYRNA

Oh, you know, nothing ever changes with me. Are you sure you’re all right? You look so much thinner.

  RICHARD

I weigh exactly the same as the last time you saw me.

MYRNA

Aren’t you eating?

   RICHARD

Yes!

MYRNA

I thought I saw your friend on Donahue the other day.

  RICHARD

What friend?

MYRNA

Glenn?

RICHARD

Glenn!?

MYRNA

Oh, you know, the older man, the director, the one you did that show with a couple years ago…Whats ‘is name, Glenn?

RICHARD

You mean Frank?…

MYRNA

I guess so…

RICHARD

On Donahue?

     MYRNA

He was telling Phil about in-vitro fertilization.

RICHARD

Mom, Frank is 58 years old, unmarried and gay. The only things he’s interested in fertilizing in-vitro are his house plants.

MYRNA

Oh…Well, I don’t know, I really thought it was him…

RICHARD

Yeah…(Giving in)…Maybe it was.

  MYRNA

I don’t know what’s keeping your sister…

RICHARD

She’ll be here.

MYRNA

It makes me nervous when they’re late like this.

RICHARD

Mom, Eddie is probably carrying out one of our ancient family traditions even as we speak.

   MYRNA

What tradition is that?

RICHARD

As my father always did before me, so now my brother-in-law has inherited the Walsh family’s age old ritual…he’s parking the car in the Rockefeller Center Garage.

MYRNA

It was the only place in the city where your father knew to park.

RICHARD

As a kid, I don’t remember parking anywhere else. Even the time we went to Yankee Stadium.

MYRNA           

So what else is new?…How’s your friend, Sarah?

RICHARD

Fine. In fact today’s the auditions for her new play.

MYRNA

She’s written ANOTHER play? Oh dear. You’re not going are you?

RICHARD

Actually, I just came from there…I’ve got to go back in a little bit, I just wanted…

MYRNA

Ohh, I was hoping you’d spend the day with us.

RICHARD

I can’t. I told you that. Besides, I’ve seen both these shows. Now, it’s all set. I am going to meet you later for dinner. After all, it’s Karen’s turn to pick up the check.

 MYRNA

I knew it. You haven’t been eating properly, have you. What’s wrong?

RICHARD (giving up)

I’m having some financial problems, all right?

MYRNA

Oh honey, you’re just like your father.

RICHARD

Stop it, I am not!

MYRNA

There’s no need to get angry, dear. He was never very good with money either.

RICHARD

I’m sorry. It’s just that I… need to… ask you … something …

MYRNA

What is it, dear?…Oh, wait a minute, there’s your sister. (Waving to KAREN, who is off right.)...Keep an eye on Karen, will you? I’m concerned about her. She’s been coming into the city an awful lot lately, to see some friends, and I’m afraid she’s neglecting the children. Eddie says she’s not taking her medicine, so I’m afraid  that with all the driving she’s doing, she’ll have an accident.

RICHARD

She looks fine to me.

   MYRNA

With her epilepsy, she should never have been given a license, but she lied her way through it, just like everything else.

RICHARD

Mom…(Karen Walsh Clinton, age 40, enters.)

KAREN

Hi. Hi mom. Hi Richard. Eddie let me off at the corner. He and the kids are gonna go park the car and take a quick look at the tree.

RICHARD

They took the tree down weeks ago.

KAREN

Oh…Well, maybe the angels with the trumpets are still up.

MYRNA

We can all go by after the show.

RICHARD

Mom, there’s nothing there! Christmas was over a month ago.

MYRNA

Well, it can’t hurt to look. (To KAREN) How are you feeling?

  KAREN

I’m a madwoman! Eddie and I decided to act out the book of Revelations today.

    MYRNA

What?

RICHARD

I think we can interpret that to mean that they had a rather cataclysmic argument.

KAREN

That’s why we’re late.

RICHARD

What happened?

KAREN

Oh, he was just being a shithead. Les wanted to bring his new girlfriend along, and I said it was o.k.

RICHARD

But Karen, she doesn’t have a ticket.

  KAREN

Well, I was going to get her one at the Ticketron at the Mall, but I was so busy last week, that I didn’t get a chance, so then I thought she could just get one right at the box office.

RICHARD

Karen, “Wrench Out My Guts” has been sold out for months, and the one Mom and Aunt Louise are going to opened last week to rave reviews.

KAREN

Well, they must have a single ticket somewhere. Anyway, Eddie was really being a shithead. He started complaining right away this morning…He didn’t want to drive because he said he was having a back spasm. Therefore, he also didn’t want to pick up Les’s girlfriend, Janie…Fine. Les kicks a hole in his closet door. Then Eddie tells Sherrie that she can’t wear any make-up into the city. Christ, she’s almost 16. Hell, when I started dating him I was only 15, and I’d been wearing makeup for two years. Anyway, Sherrie gets all upset and runs into the bathroom to pout. Meanwhile, I’m trying to finish dressing, when he starts in with me about how he has to work the midnight shift tonight, so we’ll have to leave right after the show. I told him that we already made plans for dinner, and that he’d still have plenty of time before he had to get to work. Then he gets wild on me. He starts giving me shit about how he’ll have to call in sick, and how he’s already done that twice this month because of me, and how the other cops will get pissed off at him, and I said to him, I don’t care, this is my family. He’s known about this for a month, and he hasn’t done anything about it. So then he gets his gun, and he’s waving it around…Scared the crap out of me…And he’s yelling, that god-damn it, I’ve got no right to push him around, and I just say, fuck you, you idiot, don’t be such a jerk. So then he throws his gun on the bed, and stomps off into the kitchen where he slams the cabinet doors around for a while, which, of course, makes all the dishes rattle, and then he pounds the countertops and turns the water faucets on and off, and finally he picks up the bowl of fruit on the table and throws it on the floor.  Then he stomps down to the basement and does, I-don’t-know-what. I’m down on the floor picking up bananas, and he stomps back up the stairs, and he says, “I’m ready to go now”, and it’s like they’ve sewn his mouth shut: “I’m ready to go now”. So I say “Fine, let’s go.” And I get everybody, throw them in the car and we take off.

MYRNA

Such infantile behavior…I had no idea you wore makeup when you were that young.

  RICHARD

Sounds to me like Eddie’s just acting out his anger.

KAREN

He’s not up to acting, he’s just doing sound effects.

RICHARD

Must of been fun being locked in a car with him for an hour.

KAREN

He’s doing seventy on the Long Island Expressway, and it takes us until Queens before he mellows out. Then, as if just to annoy me, he puts on his Doobie Brothers tape. I said “Pull over.” and I made Aunt Louise sit up front with him and I sat in back with the kids.

MYRNA

Poor Louise.

KAREN

Oh, don’t give me that, she’s impossible too.  She bitched the whole time; about the music, the traffic, the kids, the weather, the Today Show, the Tonight Show, the republicans, the democrats, everything.

MYRNA

I’m afraid that Louise doesn’t get out much anymore. I’m really surprised she came at all.

KAREN

Probably nothing on C-SPAN.

   MYNRA

Well, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting her. I think if there was any way for her to get out of coming, she would have.

KAREN

We should have helped her think of something, then we could have given her ticket to Les’s girlfriend.

RICHARD

Wait a minute. That was my Christmas present to Aunt Louise, I want her to get out of the house. I think it’s good for her.

KAREN

Oh, cut me a break. She’s impossible. I’d just as soon not bother with her.

  RICHARD

Karen, how can you say that? When we were kids, Aunt Louise was always looking out for us, so now, at this stage of our lives, we need to return the favor.

  KAREN

Cripes, I love her too, but sometimes dealing with her is just too exhausting.

MYRNA

Speaking of that, dear, how are the children?

KAREN

They’re driving me nuts. I can hardly wait till they leave home.

   MYRNA

Ohhh.

KAREN

No, really. Les goes away to college next year, and Sherrie the year after that. Just pray to God that she doesn’t turn into a moron all of a sudden.  After that, I’m bookin’

MYRNA

You’re what?

   KAREN

I’m bookin’…outta here.

RICHARD

What do you mean, a divorce?

MYRNA

Ohh, honey…

KAREN

Don’t.  I’ve made up my mind. I just hope I can hold out that long.

RICHARD

You’ll be all right.

MYRNA  (Spotting LOUISE)

Louise! Louise, over here…I’ll go get her. (MYRNA exits)

RICHARD

Did you bring it?

KAREN

I couldn’t.

RICHARD

You couldn’t? What do you mean?  You promised me!  Karen, I was counting on you. I need the money. Come on, I swear I’ll pay it back.

KAREN

I couldn’t get to the bank machine. Eddie started this argument, Les took the car to pick up his girlfriend, I had to re-iron Sherrie’s dress after she sat for half an hour in the bathtub. I just couldn’t get to the bank machine.

RICHARD

Damnit, I’m screwed. What am I going to do now?

KAREN

Oh, just ask Mom.  For Chrissakes,…big deal.

  RICHARD

Yeah, Sarah said the same thing. But you guys don’t know, how she’ll bitch and moan, about ending her life in the poorhouse and how she’ll make me feel small and miserable with the “I’ve-let-her-down again” act just like she used to do with Dad.

  KAREN

Nonsense.

RICHARD

Oh yeah? I remember the first time I heard that speech. Summer 1959. Dad had just lost his job. I was standing in the kitchen, peeling potatoes, when he came in to tell her. They made me leave, but I listened through the door. She carried on as if he’d done it to her on purpose.

KAREN

So, what’s that got to do with you? You’re not Dad.

RICHARD

Mom’s constantly reminding me that I do things just like him.

KAREN

Why does that upset you?

RICHARD

It just does, that’s all…In college, I had this asshole roommate,  who loved to share his psychological insights with me. One day, he said: “Y’know, eventually we all become the personification of our parents”. So, I shared something right back. I said: “Fuck you.” But, I swear, to this day, I think about what he said and I cringe.

KAREN

If I’m turning into the personification of Mom, just think, when we were kids, she was like I am now.

RICHARD

That’s a frightening thought…So, you become her and I become Dad? Is that it? Well, no way, damnit, I hate that idea!

  KAREN

Richard…

RICHARD

He was weak… and a failure. And though you may find it hard to believe, that’s NOT what I want to be when I grow up!

  KAREN

I won’t have you talking like this. I loved Dad. Now, cut it out!

RICHARD

I’m sorry…I guess I’m upset. I loved him too, dammit.  Did I tell you Sarah wrote a part for me in her new play?

KAREN

No, that’s wonderful.

  RICHARD

Yeah, it’s the lead. Except I can’t do it…I’m destitute. I was counting on you to keep my head above water for a few days while I figured out what to do…Hey, there’s a bank machine a couple blocks from here, maybe at intermission you could…

KAREN

It probably won’t take my card.

  RICHARD

Sure it will. You used it the last time you came in, remember?

  KAREN

Oh God…Richard, I guess I have to tell you the truth.

RICHARD

What?

KAREN

Even if I used the machine, between Eddie being such a bastard about our finances and the way I overspent on the kids this Christmas, I honestly don’t have it to give you, anyway.  God, I wish I did, I know how much this means to you.

RICHARD

Yeah. But then, how could you tell me…I mean, you promised!

KAREN

I wanted to…I did…I thought I could…Richard, believe me, I tried…(She starts to cry)

RICHARD

Sure. I understand…It’s okay.

MYRNA (Re-entering with LOUISE)

Well, I was able to get an extra ticket.  It’s only a single, so someone will have to sit alone, but it’s better than nothing.

  LOUISE

Those box office people are so rude.

MYRNA

You’re right, Louise.

LOUISE

All your mother wanted to do was turn in our tickets and exchange them for three together, instead of two together and one apart, but they treated her very badly, if you ask me.

RICHARD

Well, Aunt Louise, it is only a few minutes till showtime.

   LOUISE

Good manners aren’t governed by clocks.

RICHARD

I know, but…

LOUISE

Did you see where they had that rude actor on TV last week?

  RICHARD

What, him again?

LOUISE

Yes. It was disgusting. How such illiterate pigs get to be stars nowadays, I’ll never understand.  In my day, we never would have stood for that kind of crude behavior.

KAREN

What happened to Eddie and the kids?

LOUISE

Sherrie wanted an orange drink, and Les’s little girlfriend had an emergency and needed to use the powder room, so they went inside already.

KAREN

But, she didn’t have a ticket.

LOUISE

Well, yes, she seemed to dear, Eddie gave her one.

    KAREN

What?!

LOUISE

I told him that your mother and I were able to get another ticket to our show, so he used the four tickets he had for Les and Sherrie and Les’s girlfriend and himself, but like I said, it was an emergency, she had to use the powder room.

KAREN

That was MY ticket!!  Oh, boy, that’s it! I can’t wait two years, I’m gonna kill him now!! (She exits)

 LOUISE

Did I say the wrong thing?

RICHARD

No, no, it’s fine, Aunt Louise. Why don’t you go inside and get out of the cold. Mom will be with you in a minute.

LOUISE

Myrna, I’m going to have a rye at the bar. I will meet you there.

(She exits)

MYRNA

All right, dear…(To RICHARD🙂 Well, I really should see what Karen is up to.

RICHARD

Can I talk to you for a second? I’ve… got something to ask you.

MYRNA

Are you all right?

  RICHARD

Mom, If it’s alright with you, I need to borrow ….

KAREN (Re-entering in a hurry)

That’s it! I’ve had it! That’s the last straw! I hope his back goes out in the middle of the play! He can’t do this to me and get away with it! I’ve waited over a month to see this play, and now I have to go watch some stupid musical!

MYRNA

I understand it got very good reviews…

  KAREN

Just give me the damn ticket, Mom…

MYRNA

Here honey, you can have mine…

KAREN

Oh no you don’t. I don’t want yours. I’m not babysitting Aunt Louise. Gimme the single, I’ll suffer among strangers…(She exits)

MYRNA

Poor Karen…

RICHARD

Yeah…Anyway, Mom, you’ve still got some money left over from the sale of the house, don’t you?

MYRNA

Well yes, of course,dear but…

SARAH (Enters running)

Richard! There you are!

RICHARD

Sarah!

  SARAH

I tried to catch you just after you left, but…Oh my god, I ran all the way…

    RICHARD              

You remember my mother…

  SARAH

Yes, we met about a year ago,…I gave you the smelling salts.

MYRNA

Yes, I remember.

  RICHARD

So, what’s the matter?

SARAH

Right after you left, I discovered Dextor had gotten his head stuck between the bars of the stairway railing. We all tried to get him out, but he won’t budge.

  RICHARD

Oh shit…

     MYRNA

Richard!!…

RICHARD

I’m sorry, Mom.

SARAH

Bernice wanted to use her acetylene torch, but Dextor freaked out when she lit it. Then Nina suggested shaving his head, and using Peggy’s tube of Petroleum Jelly, but I said I thought it was your call, since you’re the next of kin, so to speak…

  RICHARD

O.k., let’s go…wait a minute…(taking MYRNA aside) Mom, could you…

LOUISE (Interrupting)

Myrna! Come on, the play is starting! We’ll miss the best part!

SARAH

Richard! Let’s go!

 RICHARD

Mom!…Go on ahead…I’ll meet you at intermission.

MYRNA

But what about your audition? Aren’t you going to spend the day with your friend?

RICHARD

Never mind, I’ll work it out…You just go and enjoy the show.

SARAH

Richard!! (MYRNA and LOUISE exit into the theatre)

RICHARD

(He turns. SARAH anticipating him runs off) Dextor. Damn. (He runs after her.)

BLACKOUT

****

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