SETTING: Living room with two chairs and a lamp.
ON RISE: MAN enters, coming home from work. WOMAN sits, reading the paper.
MAN: Hello, dear. I’m home.
[MAN sits his briefcase on a table that isn’t there. It drops to floor.]
WOMAN: [Resigned. Matter of fact.] Pick that up. You’re such a pig.
Man: Hard day today at the office, let me tell you.
[MAN takes off his hat and hangs it on a hook that doesn’t exist. It drops to floor. MAN doesn’t notice. WOMAN does. Coat falls to floor as well, etc.]
WOMAN: This time I’m going to leave your crap on the floor. Wrinkled, dirty. People will laugh. I don’t care. I hope they do.
[SHE snaps the paper, buries it in the sofa, stands, goes to the window, peers out from the curtains with a bit of longing. Sighs.]
MAN: I say the sun is under the yard arm. Time for a drinky poo. Fix me a drink, dear.
[MAN sits. WOMAN has begun to mix martini in a shaker, etc.]
WOMAN: You always say that.
MAN: Doesn’t pumpkin doodle want a drinky, too?
WOMAN: You drink too much. Every night you come home and drink, and drink, and drink.
MAN: One olive.
WOMAN: You always say that. Every night you come home, fix me a drink, one olive. Just one time I’d like to put in two. Or an onion.
MAN: I do love our time together. Family. I just say, ‘Family,’ and I feel the bliss. WOMAN: ‘One olive,’ you lush. For the millionth time.
[WOMAN delivers the martini. She goes to the bar and mixes another for herself.]
MAN: Thank you, dear. Let’s sit a while, and relax, and read.
WOMAN: Where were you all day?
MAN: At work, of course. As I am every day all day as I have been all year for all the years of my life. Doing the same thing. Taking pieces of paper from a pile over here and putting them in a pile over there.
WOMAN: Your office is closed. You were fired. Weeks ago. But you come and go, every day come and go from work, like some skunk coming out at night to dig up worms.
MAN: You always say that dear. The skunk piece. You need a new metaphor. But it is funny. You’re always funny. Very funny. And it’s grubs, by the way.
MAN: Grubs, not worms. Skunks dig for grubs. They always have. They always do. Every night. You’ve told me that story a hundred hundred times, and you’re always wrong. Now, that’s funny.
WOMAN: Grubs. Worms. Every day the same thing, even though they’ve fired you. It makes me sick. It makes me want to drink.
MAN: Oh, then do join me, dear. As you do every night anyway. You don’t need an excuse.
[WOMAN has now fixed herself a martini. She joins him, but there is no place to sit. She returns to the window, stares out plaintive, holding back the curtain gently with one hand while holding her martini with the other.]
WOMAN: You never go out. We never go out. You come home from work every night the same time, the same place, you hang up your hat on a hook we no longer have, hang up your coat in a closet that has no hangers, sit in that god awful chair that stinks from the sweat of your pants, and drink until your brain is dead. Every night. The same thing. That might have been interesting for a while, but it bores me now.
MAN: Thank you, my dear. It’s so kind to have someone who tells me how others see me. Honesty: it’s a virtue that has been lost with the decline of class in our country. [pause. HE continues to read the paper.] Did I say they let poor Mattie go. Mattie!
[SHE turns to him, but still, she is not angry. More resigned.]
WOMAN: You say that every day. I’m sick and tired of hearing about Mattie. It’s like you sleep with her or something.
MAN: Fifteen years she gave them. And now they’ve let her go.
WOMAN: That office has been closed for weeks. Of course she’s gone. You were all ‘let go.’ Where do you go all day?
MAN: We should go see poor Mattie sometime. Cheer her up. See how she’s getting on.
WOMAN: You need to get a new job. You just can’t keep going through the same motions day after day. We have no money. How are we to eat? MAN: Speaking of dinner, I smell….
MAN: ….roast beef! Of course. Roast beef.
WOMAN: No. No! No!! Whatever I fix, you say it’s roast beef. Roast beef this, roast beef that! We never have roast beef. I hate roast beef! It makes me want to puke. You and your roast beef fetish. It makes me sick.
MAN: Corn, too, if my senses don’t deceive me. Creamed, as I like it, I am hoping. How divine. You know how I love a good helping of creamed corn. Fresh from the can.
WOMAN: No corn. Corn is pig’s food. You might eat that slop, but it’ll never pass my lips.
MAN: Yes. And I smell the garlic. Garlic’s in the air. Tell me it’s mashed potatoes and you have fixed like Aunt Betty. But then we always have roast beef, and corn, and mashed potatoes like Aunt Betty’s, don’t we? My favorites. Dinner after endless dinner. Night after endless night. This martini is magnifíc. The olive, nonpareil.
WOMAN: Night after fucking night. You don’t want a wife to cook for you, to wait on you, to roast your beef, wash your clothes, pick up your mess. No. You want a machine, a mechanical mother. No wonder you don’t touch me anymore. You come home and sit there and drink until you’re brain turns to butter, eat what you eat and think it’s roast beef, then read that silly paper until you fall asleep. Every day. The same thing. You make me want to bite the head off a rat.
MAN: The paper. Yes. Now where did you put it? I do wish that we could keep it right here on the edge of the table so I can find it every night without looking.
WOMAN: We don’t take the paper any more. Remember? You lost your job because the last skill you learned was how to run a mimeograph machine. And now we have no money. And no paper. And no roast beef, either.
MAN: Ah, here it is.
[MAN finds the newspaper on the chair he has sat in. He then sips his martini, then puts the glass on a table that doesn’t exist. It drops to the ground and shatters.]
WOMAN: There. Now you’ve done it.
MAN: Done what?
WOMAN: You’ve broken the glass.
MAN: I didn’t do that.
WOMAN: You dropped the glass on the floor.
MAN: I sat it on the table.
WOMAN: There is no table!
MAN: Of course there is. There always is. I always come home, I have a drink, I relax and read, and in order to hold my paper I sit my martini on the table.
WOMAN: It drops to the ground and shatters. It’s like that every night. I’m not cleaning up your mess again.
[MAN opens up the newspaper, then straightens it to read with a snap.]
MAN: Aunt Betty. I’m thinking we should drive up to the farm and see Aunt Betty and her dear husband.
WOMAN: Aunt Betty is dead. She died years ago. We are not driving up there again. So I have to sit with you while you throw yourself on her grave and cry until your tears wash over her coffin.
MAN: Not all day, of course. A short visit. There is such a thing as too much time with Aunt Betty, don’t you think? God love her. I can’t wait to have another helping of her garlic mashed potatoes.
WOMAN: We can’t go on like this.
MAN: Like what?
WOMAN: You going to work every day to a job that doesn’t exist. Me here waiting. Hungry. Tired. Angry. Horny. Hoping a man – a real man – any man – will walk through that door and do something, anything that hasn’t been done a hundred times before. Say something, anything, that hasn’t been said a hundred, hundred times before.
MAN: I hardly think they’ve fired me, dear. Why would I go there every day and work until my fingers are bloody and my bones show through if they had fired me?
WOMAN: [pause] I don’t know.
MAN: [reading the paper] I see where the city council has taken up that senior center business again.
WOMAN: I told you yesterday no senior center is being built. It was cancelled months ago. Why do you keep harping on that?
MAN: I doubt if it will pass, though. Higher taxes, and no one wants that. I certainly don’t. Let the poor go screw themselves.
WOMAN: You don’t make any money. You don’t pay taxes.
MAN: Someday I’ll quit that job. Then we’ll see if they can get blood from a turnip. I should buy a gun and join the revolution.
WOMAN: I’ll have a drink.
MAN: Yes, of course.
WOMAN: You, too? Another?
MAN: Yes, of course. Another. [pause] I’m thinking…. two olives.
WOMAN: Two? Such a departure.
MAN: [pause] No. You’re right. One will do. [pause] Isn’t this is the best time of day, dear? After a hard day of work. You and I. You with all that waiting for me to come hom. I with all the sweat, blood and tears that come from serving mammon to the masses. Anyone could do it, you know, move each piece of paper from one pile to another. I so look forward to coming home each night, reading my paper, chatting with you, sharing a drink, while we wait for the roast beef to finish.
WOMAN: This time I will have an onion.
MAN: In your martini? No.
WOMAN: Yes. Be wild. Be crazy. Let the chips fall where they may.
[WOMAN pours herself a drink and another for him from the martini shaker. Adds an onion to hers, an olive to his.]
MAN: How do you dare to do that? An onion. I didn’t even know we had onions. What will happen? What will it taste like? Is it still be a martini, or has it become something else altogether? I’m worried, dear. Very worried. [Pause. WOMAN sips her drink] Nothing happened?
MAN: It’s not a martini, you know.
MAN: It’s a Gibson. That’s different. You’ve changed things. That’s dangerous.
WOMAN: So be it. I feel wild.
MAN: Come sit by me. Relax. My little pumpkin. Tell me what is going on with you. How is your life?
WOMAN: All day I’ve been hungry. I’m hungry now.
MAN: That explains the onion. But olives are nutritious, too.
[WOMAN sits the martini glass down on a table that doesn’t exist and it shatters]
WOMAN: It’s the same for me as it is with you. Cleaning house. Washing clothes. Cooking so you’ll have roast beef. Going out on a hunt, stalking the wild cattle, slitting the throat of a fine young calf and hanging it by the haunches so it bleeds clean. Then cutting out a bloody rump for supper….
MAN: Yes, but besides that?
WOMAN: Killing snakes that infest our garden. Warding off the evil one who tries to embrace me in the afternoon. Crucifying the demons who float up from the toilet. Getting our children off to school.
MAN: But, dear, [pause] we don’t have any children.
WOMAN: You’re forgetting it’s for the children we do these things. They are such a delight. Will you share your paper. I’d like to read.
MAN: There’s nothing here. Traffic reports. School lunches next week which are pretty much the same as last week.
WOMAN: But there are murders. Torture. Rape. Incest. Impalements. Flayings. Thank God for the news. You come home, sit, and we drink until our brains have been reduced to acidic pus. Then we read, and drink some more, and talk, as we wait for the beef to finish.
MAN: You haven’t cooked dinner, have you?
WOMAN: I never do.
MAN: No beef.
WOMAN: I’m hungry.
MAN: No corn, creamed or otherwise?
WOMAN: Call the children, dear. They’re out back playing. Tell them it’s time to wash up. They’ll have dinner tonight with their beloved dada.
MAN: We have no children, sweet heart. Have you forgotten?
WOMAN: Or, let them play a bit longer. In the cool of the evening. We can sit and hear our sweet children scream as beasts from the buried past scurry out from the dark forests and tear them asunder. As the undead stalk them and eat their bloody flesh.
MAN: If we had children, I would gather them in before the sun falls any lower. But, alas….
WOMAN: And let’s put them to bed early. Then you and I will have time alone. We never have enough time. To cuddle by a warm fire. Say sweet nothings, then say them again and again, until our voice boxes are shredded and our jaws fall from our face.
MAN: So we will not, then, cap off our day with apple crisp.
WOMAN: Poor Mattie. They let her go, did they?
MAN: This is not the way I want things.
WOMAN: Shall I start a fire?
[MAN picks up his hat and coat and puts them on.]
MAN: No. No. This is not the way things are supposed to be. It was the onion, wasn’t it?
WOMAN: A nice warm fire. I will roll in its glow as you do things to my body.
MAN: We have no fire place, dear. We can have no fire. This is not the way things are. I come home and you fix me a drink. I read the paper for a while. The roast beef finishes in the oven. We top off the day with apple crisp. The onion. That’s where things went wrong.
WOMAN: At some point, dear, we will have to start to love again. Some time you will have to look at me, and see me.
MAN: First the onion. Then the children. Now a fire. Let’s start again. This is all wrong.
[MAN stands by the door]
WOMAN: We have no kindling. No money to buy matches because you lost your job.
MAN: No. No money. No fire. No apple crisp. You and your onion.
[MAN puts on his hat and coat. WOMAN hands him his briefcase, his hat. Then, MAN exits. The door shuts. Pause. There is a knocking. Door opens.]
MAN: Hello, dear.
[MAN takes of his hat which he hangs on a hook that doesn’t exist as lights fade. He hangs his coat on a hanger that isn’t there. Both drop to the floor.]
End of Play
Ron Pullins is once again delighted to be included in Steel Toe Review online. He lives in Tucson AZ, and has written short and long plays and fiction. His work has been read, performed, published and produced around the country, most recently at Revolution Theater (Chicago), No Shame Theater (Athens GA), Charlestown Working Theater (Boston), Atlantic Stage (Myrtle Beach), Maggie’s Umbrella (Houston), Shenandoah, Kansas Quarterly, online at Box of Jars and best of all Steel Toe Review. Two short videos produced by Project Y can be found on line.