A Frosty, Frigid Friday Afternoon at the Haikulodeon

Here’s this week’s heap of haikus:

Wellsprings of Support
may flow from unknown sources
to lift up your life.

Comfy and cozy
and wrapped in a patchwork quilt,
she sipped some hot soup.


 A tangerine sky,
clouds haunting the horizon,
lures me into dusk.

The world keeps spinning
as I lay in a meadow
watching clouds drift by.


Any given day,
swirling leaves will seem confused
by the winds of change.

My best gal and I
danced and smooched as the band
played
‘The Sugarfoot Strut.’


Shifting winds. Light rain.
He unzipped his coat. She closed
her red umbrella.


Thoughts would come to him
like bolts of lightning striking
down old maple trees.


Dreary Winter’s chore;
gathering kindling, then
lighting a warm fire.

If you have a job
with no time parameters,
you must be shiftless.





Half opened window …
A world on each side … Do you
look in or stare out?


Remember, when you’re
tall in the saddle, your feet
are not on the ground.



She leaned and whispered,
‘I will never forget you’ …
But, by Noon, she had.



 When you search for God,
don’t forget to close your eyes …
(God hides in our hearts.)




Her withering glance
told him he’d said too much … and
he’d sleep on the couch.


tanka haiku:

Perusing the hall,
he picked out a girl and tried
to make eye contact.

At first, she acted shy … then,
she slowly … drew him to her.


An old woman with
bright green hair … her youth refused
to knuckle under.

tanka haiku:

The old weathered barn
still advertises Mail Pouch
chewing tobacco.

Irony? The old farmer’s
still dead – cancer of the gums.

 Silently she stalks,
my lilac point Siamese …
pouncing on dust balls.


The Hudson River’s
almost frozen over.  Boats
that used to bob … don’t.

You said, it’s over.
That you must be moving on …
But how about me?

 —

Bonus material:  This week… We continue with my very first full-length play, a farce entitled: The Carrot of Happiness.  If you recall, I posted the first two scenes a couple of weeks ago.   Here is the rest of Act One:

The Carrot of Happiness  by Michael Tracy Smith  c 1985

Act One – Scene Three

Scene: The Hippolyta’s Girdle Performing Arts Garage and Physique Center.

(SARAH and RICHARD enter on the dead run)

SARAH
Thank god, he’s stopped barking, that’s a good sign.

RICHARD
Only if he’s alive…

SARAH
(She goes to the doorway to look. She turns and stops RICHARD) Don’t
(RICHARD starts to push past her)   He’s not there…

RICHARD
What do you mean?  What have they done with him?

SARAH
I don’t know … Damnit I told Nina not to shave his head until we got back.

RICHARD
My neighbor’s gonna kill me, her pedigree dog is bald or dead, or both…

KATEESHA (Entering)
Hi.

RICHARD
What happened? Where’s Dextor’s body?

KATEESHA
Behind his head…Is that a trick question?

RICHARD
Then you mean, he’s not…Where is he? What have they done to him?

KATEESHA
He’s with Nina.

RICHARD
She’s probably trying to glue the hair back on him.

KATEESHA
What’re you talking about?

SARAH
What happened to Dextor? How did he get out?

      KATEESHA
Oh…Well, let’s see, I was taking a break from my workout, and I went down the hall to use the phone, and I see all this commotion in the stairwell, so…

RICHARD
We don’t have time for the whole story, skip the unimportant parts.

KATEESHA
I freed the dog and now he’s with Nina.

SARAH
I think we can afford to have you flesh out the details a little more, don’t you, Richard?…

RICHARD
Sure, yeah.   Flesh away.

KATEESHA
Oh. O.k…. Well, I noticed this commotion … Oh, I said that, didn’t I? Umm … I went to check it out, and your dog had his head stuck. He looked pathetic. His eyes were watery and his heart was beating real fast, and his mouth was sorta trembling … Y’know, like the way animals get when they know it’s going to take an act of God to get them out of the mess they’ve gotten themselves into…

                         RICHARD
Yeah, I know exactly how he felt.

SARAH
I don’t think dogs understand the concept of a Supreme Being, but go on.

KATEESHA
Well, I figured, maybe I could help, so I went over and I got the other girls out of the way, and then I straddled the dog…y’know, I sat right on him. Like this. And then I reached forward and…pulled the bars apart, which, naturally, freed his head…

  RICHARD
Naturally…You didn’t hurt him?…

KATEESHA
No…

SARAH
Just like Wonder Woman. You’re terrific.

KATEESHA
Except the dog was really happy I got him out and everything, so when I went back to the gym, he followed me.

RICHARD
Dextor’s very loyal…

KATEESHA
And dumb…He was still tied to the railing.

SARAH
Oh, no.

KATEESHA
Did a backflip like he was in the circus…

RICHARD
And…

            KATEESHA
He’s still a little groggy.
(To SARAH)   But your friend Val did some Reiki on him, and one of the other girls found some dog food lying around in a bag, so I think he’s gonna be okay … Nina’s probably feeding him now.

RICHARD
Oh hell, he’s not suppossed to be fed that stuff for another hour and seventeen minutes.

  SARAH
Does it really matter?

RICHARD
Of course it matters.   That’s all I need … This weekend Dextor develops whiplash and gout.

  SARAH
Look, I’ll go find Nina and see what I can do. Why don’t you guys try rehearsing…Remember, my play?  The audition? Who knows, maybe we’ll get around to it, today.
(She exits)

    RICHARD
Thank you for saving Dextor.

KATEESHA
You’re welcome….

   RICHARD
I guess they don’t make stairwells like they used to…

KATEESHA
They don’t?…

(The lights suddenly flicker and then go totally out.)

  RICHARD
Hey! What happened?  Hell-o!…SARAH!

   BERNICE
(From the back of the house) Shit!

             RICHARD
Hello? Lighting Booth Lady? Everything okay. up there?

BERNICE
Sure!   You’ve gone blind!

RICHARD
Think we can get a little light back here on the stage, if you don’t mind?

BERNICE
Oh shut up!!

  RICHARD
Thank you!…Katrina, you allright?

KATEESHA
It’s Kateesha, Richard.

RICHARD
Oh. I’m sorry…I…

SARAH  (She has re-entered in the dark)
Richard, you’re blushing. I can sense it from here.

RICHARD
Sarah?

SARAH
Yeah. Can you believe this? This is the third electrical problem we’ve had since we got the new power pack… Bernice, What’s going on?

BERNICE
I just shorted a few things out. I spilled some coffee into the console.

SARAH
Can we fix it?

BERNICE
Sure! Have Nina get me a large regular. No sweet ‘n Low.

SARAH
How about the lights?

BERNICE
Well, I gotta re-patch a few things.

NINA
Sarrrr-ah?!

SARAH
Nina! Is that you? I thought you were with Dextor.

NINA
Something happened.

SARAH
Let me guess…the lights went out. I was there, remember?

NINA
No, after that. We were all kind of standing around in the dark and Val and Marsha were giggling and everything…

SARAH
Right…

NINA
…and nobody could see anything and…oh hell, Dextor swallowed Marsha’s Beeper.

RICHARD
He what!?

NINA
Well, Sarah, took the food away from him and I guess he was still hungry…

SARAH
Well, where is he?
(Before NINA can answer, Marsha’s Beeper starts going off. The sound is slightly muffled. Dextor is evidently center stage, in the midst of the darkness. Dextor whimpers quietly.)

 NINA
What should I do? How, do I turn him off?

RICHARD
Try rubbing his stomach.

SARAH
(She does. The beeping stops)  Great.  Now if he could just take messages.

RICHARD
Yeah, I know. He’d be the perfect pet. Playful, yet functional…

SARAH
We could make a fortune…

NINA
Hey, you’re not going to leave him like that, are you?

RICHARD
Of course not…Sarah, maybe you can stick your hand down his throat.

SARAH
It’s your dog.

RICHARD
It’s your friend’s beeper.

KATEESHA
Here, let me try.

  RICHARD
On second thought, maybe we better take him to a vet.

KATEESHA
Don’t waste your money. Where is he?

NINA
Over here.

(We hear a short growl, then a gargling sound, then a confused, yet happy, “Woof.”)

                        KATEESHA
Got it!
                                                                                               
RICHARD
This may sound like deja-vu, but thank you for saving Dextor … again.

KATEESHA
No problem … He gets in a lot of trouble.

RICHARD
Don’t we all?

SARAH
Okay, Nina, you take Dexter for a walk, I’m going to call the building manager.  Bernice, you keep working on getting the lights back on.
KATEESHA
What do you mean, by ‘don’t we all?’  Are you in some kind of trouble?

RICHARD
Sort of … I mean, not really, at least I hope not, but…

KATEESHA
What’s wrong?

RICHARD
I’ve just got some financial problems that might keep me from doing the play.

KATEESHA
Maybe you should get a second job.

RICHARD
Maybe I should get a first job.

KATEESHA
Why don’t you wait tables? Isn’t that what actors do?

  RICHARD
Not me… Oh, I tried it once. It was an unforgettable night at Mama Pavonetti’s Pasta Parlour over on Third Avenue.   I was so uncoordinated, that by the end of the evening, even sweet old Mama was throwing cannolies at me.  But even if I could wait tables, hell, I’m not twenty-two any more. I shouldn’t have to be doing the same things I did when I first got out of college. I’m beginning to think that I’m too old, not to have a career in something. Y’know, too old not to have a successful life.  After all, I’m not exactly new to show business. I had a couple of years of steady work on the dinner-theatre and summer-stock circuits. I call it my ‘young juvenile’ stage. I even played on Broadway for a couple of months, six years ago. It was a terrific play; “Picnic in a Cluttered Canoe”, maybe you’ve heard of it …
(She hasn’t)  I think the scathing reviews killed it.   Let’s see, I’ve also done alot of young punks and telegram messengers on Soap Operas. But, of course, I never really wanted to get into TV.  Y’see, my dream is to be on the stage. Because I believe only theatre can raise the spoken word to such eloquent heights. Which is a joke, right? Because Theatre’s dead. Everybody knows that. New plays don’t speak to whole generations anymore, not like they used to. Not like “Streetcar named Desire” or “Death of a Salesman.” Nowadays, there’s only a tiny contingent of people not glued to MTV or CNN, or the NFL on CBS. And when that tiny group ventures out to the theatre, they seem content with window dressing and technological wizardry, and to hell with the unique catharsis that used to be the essence of live theatre… Today, shallow images triumph over the complex reflection of reality. And unfortunately, the really talented artists like Sarah; people with something to say, something to communicate, are seldom the artists whom society is willing to fully support. So they have to work at odd jobs or kow-tow to some wealthy patron in order to support their artistic visions.

KATEESHA
You know you have a wonderful way with words. You’re articulate. I admire that. I’ve never felt comfortable expressing myself verbally.

                         RICHARD
That’s probably why you got into this business.

KATEESHA
Not really, Sarah just said I should come today, it might be good for me.

RICHARD
Yeah, I know, I see this play of Sarah’s as a fantastic opportunity.

BERNICE (from the back of the house)
Hold on there, pal. You haven’t been given the part yet.

RICHARD
I know. I know.  And without some kind of miracle, I probably can’t do it if I get it, but Sarah said…

BERNICE
Sarah’s only got one vote. And We ALL have to approve you for the part.

RICHARD
You do?

BERNICE
Yeah. And between you and your dog, I’d say your popularity rating with the rest of us is only slightly below Mud.  What I can’t figure out is, how come Sarah likes you so much?

RICHARD
I don’t know.   But we’ve been friends for a long time.

BERNICE
So I keep hearing.

KATEESHA
How long have you known her?

RICHARD
Almost twelve years now. We met in acting class, and started hanging out together.  We were sort of theatre junkies. We’d sneak into the second act of shows
together, eat at all the theatrical hangouts, debate acting theories, and serve as our own private support group. In fact we were sort of on the verge of a relationship when Sarah discovered her “sexual preference”,  if you know what I mean.   Oh, now, this is gonna sound stupid …

BERNICE
Not coming from you.

RICHARD (He glares at where he imagines Bernice is standing)
We had a little tradition back then, every time either one of us got a job connected to the theatre, no matter how small, even if it was only extra work on some N.Y.U. student film, the one who got the job, would receive a single yellow rose, to wear for the day…

BERNICE
You’re right, that IS stupid.

RICHARD
We did things like that in the early Seventies, Okay? God, that seems so long ago. We were so young. Things have changed alot for both of us since then.

BERNICE (half-singing)
So “She don’t send you flowers anymore…”

RICHARD
Haven’t you finished up there yet?

BERNICE
Yeah, I’m done. Here’s your damn lights.
(Lights come back on.) Maybe now we can get on with these fuckin’ auditions.  oh, and lots of luck, pal. ( She exits)

                      KATEESHA
Gee, she seemed so friendly earlier…

RICHARD
Why don’t we read through that scene Sarah mentioned?

KATEESHA
Do we have to?

RICHARD
I think it might help. How long have you been acting?

KATEESHA
Acting? Me?

   RICHARD
Yeah. Y’know, creating a character, playing a role, saying lines…

KATEESHA
What do you mean, “Lines”? For THIS part?

   RICHARD
Well, sure.  Speeches…Talking out loud…y’know, in front of people…

KATEESHA
Uh-oh. Can you keep a secret? I’ve never had to say lines on stage before. I don’t think I can. I’ve never acted before in my life.

RICHARD
You haven’t?

KATEESHA
No…Sarah said I was physically right for the part, so here I am…I don’t remember her saying anything about my part having lines. What am I going to do?

RICHARD
Just relax, you’ll be fine.

  KATEESHA
What if I’m not?

RICHARD
We’re in New York. They’ve done away with the death penalty for bad acting. Why do you think Chuck Norris is still alive?

KATEESHA
Will you help me?

     RICHARD
How?

KATEESHA
I don’t know what to do. How do you act?

RICHARD
Just read the lines, naturally, as if you meant them.

KATEESHA (looking at script)
How about if we read … this … the dream sequence?

          RICHARD
Dream sequence?

KATEESHA
In the first act.  You haven’t read the play either?

RICHARD
I skimmed through it, but I don’t remember that part. Thank God, I’m a good sight reader.

KATEESHA
It’s page 7, top of the page.

RICHARD
I don’t see it, let me read off yours.  I’ll give you your cue. 
(He clears his throat)  What is it? Why do you invade my dreams?

   KATEESHA
(She reads the lines to herself, although she moves her lips slightly)

RICHARD
Kateesha?…

KATEESHA
Wait…I’m not finished.

RICHARD
(Snaps his fingers) I’ve got an idea … Why don’t we read it aloud?

KATEESHA
Oh…O.k., but this time, I’ll give you the cue.  Let’s see … ready?
(He nods)(She takes a deep breath) I DESPISE YOU! I HATE EVERYTHING YOU STAND FOR, AND EVERYTHING YOU’VE EVER DONE! I’M GOING TO SQUEEEEEZE THE LIFE OUT OF YOU! I MUST AVENGE THE HURT YOU HAVE INFLICTED ON VENUSIANS SINCE OUR WORLD BEGAN! AT LAST, OUR TIME HAS COME! AND NOW YOU, LITTLE MAN, WILL DIE MY SLAVE, SHRIVELED AND WEAK; TO BECOME FOOD FOR MY TRIUMPHS, YOUR SCUM ON MY BREAD!!

RICHARD (After a pause)
(Deadpan) That’s my cue?

  KATEESHA
I think so…uh-huh … Food for my triumphs, your scum on my bread.

RICHARD
Could you give me that again?

KATEESHA
Sure…

SARAH (entering)
Hi guys. Hey, we’re almost ready to start. what are you working on?

RICHARD
The dream sequence.

SARAH
Dream sequence?
(She looks at KATEESHA’s script) Oh Jeez.  Wrong play. That’s not from “The Carrot of Happiness”. That’s from “Toasted Scum on Venus”. It was a kinky little sci-fi, S + M, thing I wrote years ago.  It never got produced..(She turns the script over) I ran out of computer paper, so I printed the new play on the back. See? Here we are, The Carrot of Happiness. Try page 23.  (She flips through RICHARD’s script until she comes to the correct page)

RICHARD
Can we have a few minutes to read it over?

SARAH
We are so far behind. Do you really need it?

RICHARD
(He turns to KATEESHA, who seems a bit lost.)  Yeah, I think so.

     SARAH
Kateesha, don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.
(taking her aside) Look, you’re terrific. They like you, they’re just not sure about Richard. So you can relax, and just read the lines slowly and clearly. O.k.? Good. (SARAH crosses over to RICHARD and takes him aside) Sweetheart, I think you’re wonderful, you know that, right? Well then, don’t worry. This is really just so they can see if she can handle the lines.     If she can handle the dialogue, I’d say you were both in like Flynn. God, I think you two have great… chemistry.

NINA (From back of the house:)
Sarah! Marsha And Val are back, so we’re all here now. Can we start?

BERNICE (From the light booth:)
Yeah, can we please get this fucking audition over with?

  SARAH
In a minute. Be patient…And go wash your mouth out, Bernice.

RICHARD (Whispers to SARAH)
We haven’t even read it yet.

SARAH
I’m sorry. They’re kinda anxious to get going. Just do your best.

RICHARD
All right.

SARAH
O.k. … So. The Carrot of Happiness. Richard is playing James Grewdiact a struggling poet, living on the Lower East Side. Kateesha is playing Althea Armstrong, the physical embodiment of all the women in his life  … Why don’t you start in the middle of the page. This is the scene where Althea is an advertising executive in a company where James is free-lancing. The day before Christmas she has called James into her office.

RICHARD
(Whispering to Sarah) This sort of reminds of the time I…oh, no, you didn’t…

SARAH
(Whispering back) We’ll talk about it later. Just read the scene.

RICHARD
(To Sarah) Kateesha’s got the first line. (They wait. Kateesha is frozen in fear.)

SARAH
(Whispering to Richard) Skip to your speech.

RICHARD
What’s that? Did you say, It’s a shame I don’t care to work here anymore? What do you mean by that?

KATEESHA
Huh?
(She’s lost.)

RICHARD
(Carrying on) I have been working here off the books for almost five years now, and in that time I have learned to do my job extremely well. And although it’s not what I ultimately want to be doing with my life, it does pay the bills.

KATEESHA
Uhhh….

RICHARD
I’m not trying to start an argument with you. I just don’t understand. What did I do to make you want to fire me? Have I offended you?

KATEESHA
(Still lost) Uhhh, no I, umm….

RICHARD
O.k. then, what didn’t I do?

KATEESHA
(Still lost. To RICHARD.) Help.

RICHARD
Help? What do you mean? I was always there for you. You came into your job, not knowing a thing about the way things worked around here, and I showed you the ropes, remember?

KATEESHA
Yes…?

RICHARD
Of course.  But it’s YOU that has changed. Just tell me why you are doing this.

KATEESHA
(Turning page) I will not allow invaders from beyond the sun to wipe out the Venusian civilization!

RICHARD
(Whispering to KATEESHA) Wrong side.  (Full-voice:)  I’m sure there is a more plausible explanation.

KATEESHA
Oh.  Right…

RICHARD
And I think you’re probably considering letting me keep my job on one condition, aren’t you?

KATEESHA
Uh-huh. Yeah.

RICHARD
I just have to say the right words and you’ll reconsider letting me go.

KATEESHA
(After a pause) Perhaps.

RICHARD
And you’ll tear up that negative employee evaluation form.

KATEESHA
What?

RICHARD
Tear it up.

   KATEESHA
Right. 
(She obliges by tearing the script in half, then tearing it in half again and throwing it on the floor)

RICHARD
(After a pause, he breaks character) It’s alright. She can read off mine. (He offers to share his script. She grabs onto it with a vise grip.)

SARAH
Let me step in here for a minute. Why don’t we skip ahead. In the next scene, James is living with an actress, whose ambition totally overwhelms him… uhh, I’ll tell you what, just to get these kids into it, I’ll help out by reading Althea’s part for a little while. But keep watching Kateesha and just imagine she’s talking … Okay? Good.
(Whispers to RICHARD) Skip to page 38.

SARAH
You see, James, women, like me, have always had a desire to succeed.

RICHARD
A desire, fed by the illusion that it will make them happy.

SARAH
You’re just uncomfortable with the shoe being on the other foot.

RICHARD
Happiness is merely a carrot that is dangled in front of us, to keep us moving forward.

SARAH
What is that, another one of your stupid poems?  God-damnit, I hate it when you do this! It’s impossible having an argument with you! You always gravitate to an intellectually submissive role, where you don’t have to take responsibility for anything, so therefore nothing that goes wrong is ever your fault.

RICHARD
Who, me?

SARAH
Yeah, just like in your life, you’re always waiting for somebody else’s initiative to get things started, so it’ll always be someone else’s blood and guts on the line at crunch time.

RICHARD
That’s not true!

SARAH
You can’t take a stand until someone tells you where to place your feet.

  RICHARD
I’ve always supported you doing whatever you wanted.

SARAH
But you don’t give me my power, freely, because I deserve it, you let me take it from you because you’re too scared to hold onto it and fight me for it.  Ohhh, What the matter now, have I hurt your feelings?

RICHARD (She has.)
No.

SARAH
Of course you deny it, because you don’t know what feelings are…I’m talking about real feelings, James, deep, knife in the gut sensations, the pain and fear and joy and excitement that make you want to tremble all over till you want to burst. Not some high-brow poetic exercise that you’ve ordained to call feelings. I’ll bet you right now, that you’ve never felt anything in your life.

RICHARD
I have too.  (Breaking out of character) Whoa, lookit the time! I gotta run!

SARAH (Whispering)
Richard, don’t do this to me…

RICHARD (Whispering)
I’ve gotta get back for my mother’s intermission….to see if she can lend me the money.

BERNICE (From the back of the house)
Hey!! Did he just say he had to go?

                         SARAH
Now calm down, Bernice…He has a prior committment…It concerns whether he can do the show or not.

BERNICE
So does this audition. What’s he gotta do, ask his mommy’s permission?

SARAH
Hey look, you’re a poet.   He’ll be back in half an hour, tops.

BERNICE
Half an hour!   Come on, we wanna get this thing over with.  I say he’s not leaving this building until we’re through with him.

SARAH
Bernice…Richard, quick, take the back stairs.
(Richard turns and runs off)

BERNICE
C’mon girls! Val, grab the dog! Nina, you and I’ll cut him off at the box office!

(Dextor begins barking loudly. Followed by loud growling, then:)

  VAL
OWWWW!

SARAH
Okay., everybody, that’s it, I’ve had it, now knock it off!   Dextor, behave yourself. Down Dextor. Good boy, good boy…Val, you’ve got to be much more careful with him. he’s very exciteable. Of course, you can hardly blame him, that seems to be the prevailing attitude around here today. I don’t know what’s wrong with everybody, a few minor problems and they become all unglued. 
(She stomps off)

  KATEESHA (To Val)
Does this mean I have time to finish my workout?

BLACKOUT
****

Act One  –  Scene Four:

Outside the Same two Broadway theatres as before. The lights come up to reveal Eddie Clinton, Age 41, KAREN’s husband, leaning with his back against the wall of the theatre. EDDIE is a tall, balding man, with a pained expression on his face.  He is smoking a cigarette. RICHARD enters in his usual hurry. EDDIE sees him and looks away.  RICHARD notices EDDIE, but hesitates a moment before going over to speak with him.

RICHARD
Eddie, hi…How ya doin?

EDDIE
Ehhh…They took the tree down.

RICHARD
I know…I’m sorry. Ya like the play so far?…Wait a minute, where is everybody?

EDDIE
Back inside.  The second act just started.

                         RICHARD
Well, what are you doing out here?

EDDIE
My damn back is bothering me…Those seats are so uncomfortable. They just aren’t made for someone my size.  Even in the aisle seat, I couldn’t stretch my legs out.

RICHARD
Yeah, I know how that feels.

EDDIE
Besides, I don’t think I really understood what the play was about… What the hell does it mean, anyway?

RICHARD
Well, in the first act, a bunch of yuppies with no moral values get what they deserve, and in the second act they sit around griping about it until eventually they wrench out their guts…It’s symbolism.

                         EDDIE
I guess I’m stupid or something, cuz I don’t get it.

RICHARD
Well, just between you and me, it’s a fucking depressing concept, but the staging is brilliant. I mean, with that cantilevered set and the minature trampolines, everybody loves it. Y’add a couple of those Hyper-realistic Guts costumes, and I tell ya, it’s the biggest hit of the year.

EDDIE
I wish this whole damn day was over.

RICHARD
God, me too…

EDDIE
So why are you here? I thought you had some acting thing to go to…

RICHARD
I did. An audition. It didn’t go so well.  As a matter of fact, it was a disaster. What’s really ironic is that I met a nice girl there too. Kind of shy, but nice, y’know? but now, I guess I can forget it. Besides, I got other things to worry about.

EDDIE
It’s been awhile since you had a steady relationship isn’t it?

RICHARD
Two years. Maybe I’m destined to be alone.

EDDIE
Yeah, maybe you ARE one lucky son-of-a-bitch…I’m sure Karen told you all about our little spat today.

RICHARD
Well, yeah, she did mention something about it, I forget, really…

                         EDDIE
I was pretty hot under the collar…Hell, I even pulled my gun on her.  I’d never done that before.  Scared the hell out of myself. I mean, there were no bullets in it, but still.  I don’t know what made me do it.  It’s just that she doesn’t let up sometimes, y’know? She’ll harp on things, constantly keeping up the ridicule and the jokes and the sarcastic put-downs … and she’s always got this way of making me look like a fool in front of the kids. Of course, I love her, but sometimes … what can I do, huh?

RICHARD
You can stop getting so worked up about it.  Karen’s always been like that. It’s part of her nature. When we were kids, she’d do the same thing with me. She’d put me on my rocking horse, and tell me that she was going to give me the “Ride of my Life”, then she’d pull me all the way back, till the springs were ready to burst, and then let go.  I’ve still got a scar on my forehead from where I crashed into my record player. But even so, I always believed her and trusted her and let her lead me around.   Of course, at night, I’d lie in bed thinking of a thousand different ways to decapitate her barbie doll, but I never raised my voice or got angry with her, and I never hit her or anything … except that one time …

                       EDDIE
My God, what happened?   

RICHARD
It was 1964 and she told me that she’d just become a Teenager for Goldwater.

                       EDDIE
And you … ?
RICHARD
I belted her … right at the dinner table.  Knocked over the candlesticks and almost burned the house down.

EDDIE
You were such a klutz … Hey, isn’t this your dad’s birthday?

                       RICHARD
Yeah. Dad would have been 70 today.

                        EDDIE
Hard to believe. He’s been dead, what 15 years now?  Karen never said a word about it.

RICHARD
Yeah, Just 15 years.

                        EDDIE
I always felt very close to your dad.  Remember the time he took the three of us to the World’s Fair?

RICHARD
Sure. And mom couldn’t go because she had to work that night.

    EDDIE
Your dad was so excited.  He was like a little kid.  He wanted to visit all the foreign exhibits and ride all the rides.

                        RICHARD
The thing I remember most about that day was visiting the Vatican pavilion.  You and Karen had gone off to get some Belgian Waffles, while dad and I stood on line to see the Pieta.  As we got close, we got on this moving sidewalk and dad took out his rosary, and because I was still kind of short for my age, he held me in his arms so I could see.    I had my little instamatic camera, but you weren’t allowed to take pictures of the Pieta … it would melt the marble or something, so on the way out, I turned around and took a snapshot of dad, and a couple weeks later, when I got the pictures back, I noticed something odd.  He had shaved off his moustache.  As far as I knew, he’d had it his whole life … except in my photo.  When he got home that night I asked him about it and he said he had shaved it off the day we went to the fair, but no-one, even his own family, had noticed, so he was growing it back.

EDDIE
Wow, I don’t remember that at all.

RICHARD
In my entire life, that was the only time I saw my dad without his moustache.

EDDIE
Man, I wish that muscle relaxant would kick in.  I took it over 20 minutes ago.  My back is killing me.

RICHARD
Say … Eddie, I don’t suppose you could lend me any money, could you?  Just until next week.

EDDIE
Sorry Richie, I am flat out broke.  Your sister’s already cleaned me out.

RICHARD
Oh.  Okay.

EDDIE
Hey, it looks like the first act of the other show is ending.  I’ll see you later.

RICHARD
Where are you going?

EDDIE
I don’t know.  For a walk.  Get a cup of coffee … or something.  See you later.
(He exits)

RICHARD (calling out to him)
Don’t forget, we have dinner reservations at that restaurant across the street!

EDDIE (from off-stage)
Sure thing!

RICHARD (Turns to see Myrna enter from the other side of the stage)
Hi mom!  How did you like the show?

MYRNA
Louise liked it, but I thought it was a bit old-fashioned.

RICHARD
Mom, it’s a revival.  The show first opened in 1934. It IS old-fashioned.

MYRNA
See? I knew I was right.  But I don’t know, I just prefer something a little jumpier.

RICHARD
I know, your taste runs more towards Ray Charles and Little Richard.

MYRNA
I’ve always liked them.

RICHARD
Mom, in the words of the NY Times crossword puzzle, you are a oner.

                       MYRNA
I can
‘t help it, I like Gospel music.

                       RICHARD
I suppose I should have gotten you tickets for something like that.  Sorry.

                         MYRNA
Oh now, honey, it’s really a lovely Christmas present. Y’know, many years ago, your father did the exact same thing.

RICHARD
He did? I swear I didn’t know that.

  MYRNA
Oh, it was way  before you were born. Evan got tickets for my mother and me to see “South Pacific”, which was the hottest ticket in town at the time. Karen was too little to go, so Aunt Louise babysat for us.

RICHARD
All right, come on, tell me more. What happened?

MYRNA
We had pre-theatre cocktails at the Algonquin, then the three of us went to the show, and afterwards we met your Uncle Pete and Aunt Agnes at Toots Shor’s for a late dinner.  It was the most wonderful evening. Pete knew Toots of course, Toots even came over to the table.   After awhile, Pete and Toots had had a few too many scotches, so they got a bit boisterous. They kept trying to get your father to drink with them…But Evan wasn’t a drinker, he knew his limit … Which made Pete furious. Pete and Toots really gave him a hard time … Toots called him a ‘crumbum’ and Pete muttered something worse under his breath, all the while, playing real palsey-walsey with him.   But your father just wouldn’t go along with them. He nursed that one drink all the way through to dessert.  I think Pete held it against him for a long time.  But your father wasn’t a drinker, he could never be just one of the boys…

RICHARD
I know.

MYRNA
That’s one of the things that held him back. That and his inability to speak up for himself.

RICHARD
Cripes, mom, don’t any of your memories end up happy?

MYRNA
I don’t know what you mean, dear. That’s a happy one.

RICHARD
Where’s Karen and Aunt Louise?

MYRNA
Louise took Karen to the bar for a drink.

RICHARD
Good…Now I need to talk to you about lending me some money.

MYRNA
I know, your sister felt very bad about letting you down.

RICHARD
Oh, she told you…

MYRNA
Yes, just briefly…But I could see she was upset about it.

RICHARD
Mom, she was upset about alot of things.

MYRNA
Of course she was. But, now we mustn’t let her get upset…It’s not good for her.

RICHARD
Mom, I know what you’re thinking, But, to be perfectly frank, I don’t think she even HAS epilepsy anymore.  It’s just another con.  I mean, she only had the mildest kind to begin with and on top of that, she hasn’t had a seizure in ten years.

MYRNA
That we know of.   I just hope she’s not serious about this divorce business.

  RICHARD
So what if she is?

MYRNA
It could be very upsetting…Now you know perfectly well I never wanted her to marry Eddie in the first place, but she was bull-headed and determined to go through with it…so your father and I gave her our blessing…Now, she’s coming around to my way of thinking, but she’s too late…She’s stuck with a couple of teenagers to raise and an ineffectual lunkhead for a husband. I think the strain of a divorce would be too much for her, and she certainly can’t leave the children at this point in their lives…they need her too much. She should try to make it work…

RICHARD
Oh, don’t say it. Not the old “For the sake of the children” routine. Can we get back to the subject at hand, please?

MYRNA
What was that, dear?

RICHARD
Money. I was asking you if you could lend me some money.

MYRNA
Oh yes, that’s right…

RICHARD
Well, how about it? I’m in a real mess, or I wouldn’t ask…

MYRNA
Honey, I don’t know that I can…

RICHARD
What do you mean? What about all that money you got when you sold the house a couple years ago?

MYRNA
It wasn’t all that much…

RICHARD
I know, but what did you do with it?

MYRNA
Well, I’ve been living on it … and I had the moving expenses…

RICHARD
Mom, Dad left some of that money to Karen and me.

MYRNA
I know, and you’ll have it all when I’m gone, but I’m so afraid of ending up without anything at all. You don’t know. You just don’t know what it’s like to grow old and not be like you were before.   Myrna O’Malley Walsh does not want to die all alone in the poorhouse.   Now, is that too much to ask?   I’m not young anymore, and I don’t want to be a burden on anybody.

KAREN (re-entering)
There you are, mom. Come on, the second act is going to be starting soon.

MYRNA
Where’s Louise?

KAREN
She’s talking to the ushers…

MYRNA
Whatever for, dear?

KAREN
The printing’s too small in the program.

RICHARD
How did you like the show?

KAREN
Not bad, considering I had my heart set on Wrench Out My Guts.  And Y’know, I think it was very thoughtful of the producers to put the six foot speaker columns closest to the seats with the worst views. That way, the pounding in your ears can work out the crick in your neck.

MYRNA
Richard and I were just talking about the money from the house…

KAREN
Oh good, cuz I’ve been thinking I could use a little money towards the divorce.

RICHARD
Hey, wait a minute, get on line!

MYRNA
Now, don’t argue…

RICHARD
But, mom…

  MYRNA (To KAREN)
Honey, I don’t think you should let your anger goad you into doing something you’ll regret.  I think you just need to calm down and think this thing through.

KAREN
I have.  He’s still a shithead.  And I’ve decided two years is too long to wait.

MYRNA
If you ask me, you should go back to your original timetable, and wait until the kids have left home and are out of your hair, before you think about anything as serious as a divorce.

  RICHARD
What about me? What about the mess I’m in?

MYRNA
Well, honey, it’s your own fault, really.  You persist with this acting thing.

RICHARD
This acting thing?  Mom, I thought you were proud of me.

MYRNA
I am, dear, it’s just that I worry about you. Why couldn’t you be more like your father, and get a real job?

  RICHARD
You’d rather I be miserable and work in a big corporation?

MYRNA
Well, what’s wrong with a big corporation? You’d have a steady income, job security and insurance benefits. You’ll find that’s very important when you reach my age.

  RICHARD
Cripes, I’m not a kid, mom. I’ve had some small measure of success. Besides, being creative is important to me.

MYRNA
I would’ve thought you had outgrown that sort of thing by now.

RICHARD
It’s all I’ve wanted to do for most of my life!  And whose fault is that?  Who got me that little wooden puppet theatre when I was four years old?

       MYRNA
Now, that was your father’s idea. He built it and painted it…Of course, I picked out all the puppets, but nevertheless …

KAREN
I can’t believe you guys are gonna start arguing about a thirty year old puppet theatre.

MYRNA
I’m sorry, honey. Now, don’t get excited. The truth is, I just can’t afford to help either one of you right at the moment.

KAREN
Well, in that case, It looks like I’ll have to resort to plan B.

MYRNA
Oh no, not another one of your schemes. I don’t want to know about it.

KAREN
Come on, Mom, I’ve got to do something.

RICHARD
What are you going to do?

KAREN
Well, I’ve been thinking, I can’t afford to divorce Eddie, not just yet anyway. On the other hand, everything he does pisses me off so much I don’t want to spend two more seconds married to him, so I’ve got to come up with some way of getting him to loosen up the old pursestrings, if you know what I mean…

MYRNA
I don’t want to hear this…I going to go find Louise.

KAREN
Good. She needs help harassing the ushers.
  (Starts to push Myrna offstage)

   MYRNA
You be careful, some day your lying is going to get you into big trouble.
  (She exits)

KAREN (calling after her)
It is not. Welcome to America, Mom.

RICHARD (quietly)
I’ll tell you right now, I’m not going to lie for you … again.

  KAREN
Come on, I need your help.  If I can get the old tightwad to part with half the bucks from the equity loan, I’ll lend you the money you need.

RICHARD
I don’t know, I don’t think it’s such a good idea.

  KAREN
Look, if you’re worried about being caught, forget it. Eddie still hasn’t found out about the truck.

RICHARD
He hasn’t? I don’t believe it.

KAREN
It’s true. Y’know, you’d think most men, if you replaced the entire engine in their pickup truck, would notice, but not Eddie.

RICHARD
I still can’t believe you did that.

       KAREN
What was I going to do? There I was three hundred and fifty miles from home, with the engine of my husbands’s pickup truck lying in the middle of the highway and my girlfriend, whom Eddie hates, having to get to her new home in Chicago. What was I going to do? He would have killed me if he knew I was helping her…

RICHARD
I know that, but…

KAREN
I tell you, it was the only way…I diverted all the credit card bills, the phone bills, everything, to my office address, so the idiot was none the wiser.

RICHARD
I can’t believe you went to all that trouble…And  he never noticed?

KAREN
The other day, one of his friends told him the motor sounded like new.  I held my breath, until I heard Eddie tell him that he’d just given it a tuneup.

   RICHARD
But wouldn’t it have been easier just to tell him the truth?

KAREN
(Pause)…No.

RICHARD
Well, I’m sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to lie to him.

KAREN
Look, I couldn’t say anything in front of Mom, but I think Eddie’s having an affair.

RICHARD
An affair? You’re kidding.

KAREN
I’m not. I swear.

  RICHARD
How do you know?

KAREN
I just know…First of all, we haven’t had sex in a couple months, which in itself, isn’t all that unusual, since Eddie’s work schedule is so crazy, and he’s usually under such terrible pressure and stress and everything, but anyway, like I said, it wouldn’t be so unusual, except that the other day I found some other woman’s underwear in Eddie’s sock drawer.

RICHARD
No…

KAREN
Yeah…and I wasn’t even snooping around or anything, I was looking for one of Les’s socks. He needed it for school that day. So, I was just kind of sorting through everything, and I found it hidden underneath a pile of Eddie’s t-shirts. It was pink and frilly.   I never wear pink, I hate pink.

RICHARD
What did you do?

KAREN
Nothing. I put it back. But I realized right then, that if there was a way to catch him cheating with some little tramp, I wouldn’t have to wait for the divorce, I could go for it tomorrow.

RICHARD
This is plan B? To catch him with some little tramp?

KAREN
Right. Then I’ve got grounds for a divorce, and what comes with a divorce? A nice fat settlement. Which I’ll negotiate into him giving up half the equity loan, for starters.

RICHARD
(Sighs)  What do you want me to do?

KAREN
Help me catch him. See if you can find out anything at dinner. Y’know, man-to-man, that sort of thing. Come on, pry a little for me, will you?

RICHARD
This is wrong. It’s deceitful and dishonest. And I’ll only do it if I have no other alternative.

KAREN
Great. Ooo, I can’t wait to bust his chops.

MYRNA (Re-entering with LOUISE)
Come on Louise. I want to explain things to the kids. Are you through?

RICHARD
Yeah, I think so.

MYRNA
Well, I was just speaking to Louise and I had this wonderful idea. I’ll make you a deal. Richard, why don’t you come to live with me? I’ll pay off all your debts and fix up your old room. You can get a nice steady job in Toledo, and take it easy for awhile, until you get back on your feet, and because you’ll be living at home, my expenses will be lower and I won’t be so lonely all the time. Then, by the time, you get back on your feet, it’ll be time for Karen to get her divorce. Then she can come back home, too. It’ll be just like when we were a family.

RICHARD
Mom, you’ve been lonely for a long time, but I can’t be Dad for you.

    MYRNA
Oh, honey, it really could work out best for all of us.

KAREN
Couldn’t you just lend us the money?

MYRNA
Now, you two have done this to me before, and I always get stuck in the end. Karen still owes me the $5,000 I lent her so she could make the downpayment on her house. No, this time I want to make sure I get something out of the deal.  Richard, you’ll be financially free and clear, and I’ll finally have some help around the house.

RICHARD
What about my theatrical career?

MYRNA
Aren’t you ready to give up on that yet? You haven’t been very successful the past couple of years, besides, there are a lot of nice community theatres in Toledo. And you can get a production job with one of the local TV stations. They’d probably be very glad to have someone experienced like you working for them.

RICHARD
And I wouldn’t have to earn as much money living at home…

MYRNA
That’s right, and I’d finally know you were eating properly. So, here’s the deal, you come live with me, and I’ll pay all your bills and see that you’re safely out of debt until you can get back on your feet.
(To SARAH, who has entered towards the end of her speech) Oh, hello, my dear.

SARAH
Hi. Hi, everybody. Richard, can I speak to you for a minute?

                         RICHARD
Sure.
(To MYRNA) Thanks Mom, that’s the best offer I’ve had all day. I’ll be right back. (Taking SARAH aside)...I’m sorry about the audition. I suppose you came to tell me that it’s not going to work out. Well, I understand. I know you wrote the part for me, but I’m sure you’ll find someone else just as good…Thanks. You’re a real friend. I appreciate getting the shot. But after that exit …

   SARAH
That’s not why I’m here.

RICHARD
Oh my god, it’s Dextor. Isn’t he behaving himself?

          SARAH
Val says his teeth barely broke the skin. But, she went to get a tetanus shot anyway.

RICHARD
Oh. So, then it’s not like an emergency or anything.

SARAH
No.

RICHARD
Finally…Then why are you here?

SARAH
Because I wanted to give you this. Congratulations, kiddo.

(She pins a yellow rose on him and gives him a hug.)

                         RICHARD
Oh my god, I got the part.

  CURTAIN   –   END of ACT ONE

****

That’s all for this week.   Next week, ACT TWO of The Carrot of Happiness.

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