AFTER HER by Elizabeth Suzanne

ten-minute play                                                            

 A

*Note: The usage of Stage Left and Stage Right in this play is specific for the intent of identifying a physical, though unsaid line between Reason and Madness, or if one wishes, the Left and right sides of the brain. The relation between each character in staying on these respective sides goes in accordance with what they represent in their brief moments onstage and where they are in their journey. In this version, stage Left is identified as the “correct and healthy side” whilst stage Right is the “sick and confused.” This may alter depending on performance space and interpretation, but remains an underlying theme. 

SCENE ONE: A blank stage                                                    

A dark stage. A single light slowly comes up over a figure upstage right. It is CJ, dressed in a simple dress. She stands facing the audience, a blank stare on her face. Another light slowly comes up on ART, downstage center and facing her. He looks at her, taking her in for a moment, then turns and speaks to the audience.

 

ART

You don’t forget some things. The look in her eyes when you asked her. The feel of her hand in yours when you held it at the altar. The racing in your heart when you take her in your arms. You don’t forget some things. The taste of that rhubarb pie in the campus diner. The breeze on your face as you drive the car down the highway. The tone in the doctor’s voice when they tell you…

 

     He looks back at her, almost pained to do so. He then looks to the audience and collects himself.  

 

November twenty-third, a lifetime ago. A late night drive to a little church in Kentucky. Five people were there. Me, her, the preacher, the janitor and his wife; our best man and matron of honor. Then life begins. Or keeps going. Or a little of both. One year and then the next. Your firstborn son in your arms. The three of you crammed in that one room in Mrs. Pennell’s house on Neil Avenue. Then the move across the country when three became five. The promotions, accidents, the graduations and the new car. The first grandchild and the fourth. It slows down after a while, turning into those warm, lingering days. Strange how the days go by slowly and the years just run. But you don’t forget some things. You can’t forget. You can’t afford to. Those things, those scruples that make up your life, that makeup you… you just… you can’t. (Beat) And you still do.

 

ART turns and walks upstage as CJ comes to life and counters him. They look at each other for a moment. He blows her a kiss. She acknowledges it with a smile and a small attempt to catch it before she exits stage right.

                            

SCENE 2: The dining room table at ART and CJ’S house.

 

dining room

 

ART looks after CJ as she exits and ANNE enters bringing on a chair from stage left. ART takes a seat. ANNE stands behind him, hands on his shoulders.

 

ANNE

Dad, you look so tired.

 

ART

Oh, you know, late nights and long days.

 

ANNE

And Mom?

 

ART

She’s…

 

ANNE

I’ve seen the way she’s been acting. It’s not hard to figure out when she asks who the child is at her kitchen table and it’s her only granddaughter… or when she’s struggling to remember my name. Does she…?

 

ART

Hm?

 

ANNE

Does she know who you are?

 

ART

Yes. She wakes up and looks at me, still smiles that nose-crinkling smile, and I hear “Morning Buckeye.”

 

          They both laugh.

 

She knows me.

 

ANNE

(Carefully) But what will you do when she… when, um.

ART

When what?

 

ANNE

What will you do when she doesn’t… know… you?

 

          He rises and walks forward. He does not want to think about that. She goes to him.

 

Dad… Daddy, you need to take these things into consideration.

                                                            

ART

(Kindly) I don’t need to be lectured by you. I will know what to do when the time comes.

 

ANNE

Will you? Are you sure?

 

ART

Why are you questioning me?

 

ANNE

How can you be so sure that you’ll be this way in a week or two? Six months from now? Three years? Daddy, who knows what she could be like in that short of time? These things, they…

 

ART

They get worse. I listen to the doctors too you know.

 

ANNE

Then why are you so stubborn on keeping her at home? There is so much more people can do for her. Real help, good places she can be taken care of.

 

ART

Why would I place her somewhere to have strangers care for her when she won’t get better, rather than here where she is loved? Either way, I’m not keeping her from any cure. Just keeping her where she can be cared for, rather than, taken care of.

          She is defeated. He embraces her. 

I passed denial a long time ago, sweetheart.

 

ANNE

          To herself

I know.

 

          To him

I know.

 

          Looking at him, holding his hands and very serious.

I just don’t want this to hurt you, too.

 

ART

Me? Never! I’m Dad. Capital D-A-D to the rescue. I never get hurt.

          He gives her a peck on the forehead.

 

ANNE

 I have to go.

          She gathers her things and starts out, but turns to give him a long look.

Don’t try too hard Dad.

          She exits stage left.

 

          During the last few lines of dialogue, a figure, CJ, has been stepping carefully out of stage right, one foot deliberately after the other. Her figure is shrouded in a too-big sweater and an old housedress. ART waves after ANNE and goes to the chair and sits, mulling over the past conversation. CJ stops halfway to center, at a loss, unable to bring herself to ask for help. Finally, she does.

 

CJ

Hey, Buckeye…

 

ART

Hiya, sweetheart. My, don’t you look pretty.

 

CJ

          She laughs a little.

Ummm…

 

ART

What is it?

 

CJ

          Utterly helpless.

Can you tell me which foot goes next?

 

          He goes to her, and helps her walk across the stage to the chair.

 

ART

That’s it, right… no, then the left. Next time we do this it should be a waltz.

          He seats her and stands behind her, gently massaging her shoulders.

 

CJ

I’m hungry.

 

ART

You just ate lunch a little bit ago.

 

CJ

Oh… um… orange juice… and a ham sandwich.

 

ART

          He smiles at this small triumph.

That’s right! Anne came by…

 

CJ

          Anxious to answer correctly.

My daughter?

 

ART

Yes! Yes. She asked how you were. She’s taking Suzy to piano lessons. Suzy likes playing piano. I was telling Anne she gets it from you. You should play again sometime. I think the piano misses you.

          During his line, CJ has fished in her pocket for a pile of photos. She brings it out and goes through them.

Whatcha got there?

 

CJ

          Showing him one.

 Suzy… ten and a half… that’s my granddaughter.

 

ART

Yes, she is. Who else you got there?

          He leans closer to her as they go through the photos.

There’s Lee and Anne, and Arthur Jr.… there’s your sisters… only you have them switched.

          He takes up a pencil from his pocket.

This one’s Millie… aaaand that one’s Eunice. There you go… There’s our brood again.

          He smiles at this last one.

You remember that, of course. Niagara Falls. Our honeymoon.

          He looks at her and pats her hand.

You have a nice little album there. Very good.

          He’s very happy. She smiles up at him, but it quickly fades.

 

CJ

          Rising.  

I’m tired. I’m gonna take a nap.

 

ART

Ok, you go right ahead.

 

CJ

          Starting off, speaking to herself like a broken record.

 I’m tired, I’m tired… I’m tired I’m tired…

 

ART

Right back there, you’re alright.

 

CJ

I’m tired, I’m tired…

 

ART

Sweet dreams beautiful.

         

          She stops and turns to him. He waits for her.

 

CJ

Remind me your name again?

          He is taken aback, not sure how to respond.         

 

ART

Arthur.

          She waits for him to finish. His heart is breaking.

I’m your husband.

 

CJ

          Covering up.

Of course you are. Goodbye, Buckeye.

          She starts out again.

 

ART

CJ…

          She doesn’t respond, but continues walking.

Clema Josephine…

 

CJ

          She stops and turns.

Yes?

 

ART

I love you.

 

CJ

Of course you do. I’m your sweetheart.

          She exits.

 

          He looks after her.

                                                    

SCENE 3: A doctor’s office.

 

          The DOCTOR enters while ART is still looking off. The DOCTOR moves the chair a little further downstage left, then goes to Art, and walks with him down to the chair seating him as he/she talks.

 

DOCTOR

You have to try to understand, at this point, at the rate she’s going, it’s not going to get better. Forgetfulness is one thing, but now is a stage that incites tempers and fits. She’ll start getting angry, and from these recent events you tell me it’s apparent she already has. I know she’s been having these bouts of memory, or lucidness, but they’re just bouts. There’s nothing that you can do. We don’t know why these things happen. The brain just stops working, things don’t connect. It’s like every file cabinet in the mind is either misplaced or locked. I strongly suggest placing her in a home where she can have constant attention and care at all times. I don’t doubt your feelings for her; everything you’ve done so far is above and beyond the norm, but we both know you are also getting older. You won’t be able to help her for much longer.

 

          During the following exchange, the DOCTOR starts a slow counter of ART and exits on his/her last line.

 

ART

          Looking at the Doctor intently.

I…

 

DOCTOR

You’ve done so much.

 

ART

          Looking away.

Take you…

 

DOCTOR

Let someone else do the work.

 

ART

          Rising. In his mind, the DOCTOR no longer exists.

 

To be my wife…

 

DOCTOR

          Still addressing the empty chair.

You don’t have to bear this burden.

 

ART

          Slowly walking forward.

To have and to hold, for better or for worse,

 

DOCTOR

She wouldn’t want you to bear it.

 

ART

For richer, for poorer…

 

DOCTOR

She would do the same for you, but would you want her to go through the same heartache?

 

ART

          Passionately.

In sickness and in health!

 

DOCTOR

No one requires it of you, least of all her.

 

          The DOCTOR exits taking the chair.

 

ART

To love and to cherish from this day forward!

 

SCENE FOUR: A blank stage

 

          The lights change, ART is frozen. CJ walks out of stage right and to downstage center, wearing a simple white dress. She addresses the audience.

 

CJ

I remember some things. Some moments, few and far between.

          She relishes each memory.

 

I smell the cotton and I’m home, in the front yard of the house I grew up in. Or the scent of oranges and cloves and it’s Christmas in California. The rhubarb pie …

          She smiles, almost to tears.

 

I remember that. (Beat) But then faces are blurred. I remember how I felt, but not what made me feel that way. Who said what, and made me angry. Where we went that was so beautiful, it made me cry. (She looks up) I’m still there. Under the tempers, under this confusion, I’m still there, somewhere. You remember me, who I was. (Beat) I can’t know you as you are now, but I remember you as you were. Even through these broken years, you are the same. I remember your kindness… I see that now. I feel your gentleness as you guide my steps. The selflessness in your voice as you remind me over and over and over and again and again who these puzzle-piece faces are. That has not changed. You kept your promise. You kept your promise. And somewhere under this madness, I love you for that. I still love you. I remember that. I don’t remember how to show it, but I remember that I love you.

          She walks upstage past ART. The lights change to a simple spot on CJ and ART.

 

ART

          To the audience.

 Till death do us part.

          He joins her, and takes her hands.

 

CJ

I do.

 

ART

I do.

 

Blackout / End of Play

A

View More: http://goldenhopestudios.pass.us/elza-headshots-sept-2013Elizabeth Suzanne is a senior at Vanguard University studying Theater Arts and English. She began writing creatively as a child and hasn’t stopped since, writing poetry, short stories, and plays. Two of her plays have been selected and will be presented at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. She is also the co-editor of the Creative Works category of Vanguard’s literary journal, Synecdoche, and is co-head of the 10-Minute Playwriting Showcase.

 

Germ Magazine guest author
… is a contributing guest author for Germ, which means the following criteria (and then some) have been met: possessor of a fresh, original voice; creator of fresh, original content; genius storyteller; superlative speller; fantastic dancer; expert joke teller; handy with a toolbox; brilliant at parties; loves us as much as we love them.

SIMILAR ARTICLES

NO COMMENTS

Leave a Reply