(A Play in One Act)
Pooh/Lydia: Sixteen-ish. Dress casual. She is readying for a casual date.
Mama/Lisa: Middle thirty-ish to late thirty-ish. Her dress is very casual. Perhaps an evening robe/or sweats as she won’t be going out this evening.
Frank: Middle thirty-ish to late thirty-ish. Dress casual. Consistent pronunciation of Lisa’s shortened name is important: Lees.
Scene: (Living room. Small couch or love seat. Chair. Small trunk/chest. Pooh is readying for a date. Maybe practicing kissing. Mama enters.)
Pooh: Mama, why do you always call me “Pooh?”
Mama: Honey. I used to put honey on the tip of my finger. I could get you to do just about anything.
Pooh: When did I stop? (Grabs a coat) Gotta‘ be ready. Joey’s coming any minute.
Pooh: I’m thinking of putting a bit of honey on the tip of my finger.
Mama: Very funny. (Beat) I know you smoke, you know.
Pooh: Just once. I gagged for three hours.
Mama: I smelled it in your closet for six months.
Pooh: Hardly. It was just three weeks ago. Next time I shall take off all my clothes and burn them on the front lawn.
Mama: Oh, be funny.
Pooh: Maybe, but old Man Shultze would certainly get more jollies about that than spying on Joey and me when he drops me off.
Pooh: When I know he’s watching….I give Joey tongue.
Mama: Geezer Shultze?
Pooh: He gives me the creeps.
Mama: You know, I’ve always had the feeling that he’s watching me every time I weed the flowers.
Mama: Hmmmm, maybe next time…I’ll go topless.
Mama: (Looking at each other / lines together) Squeeze and tease.
Mama: Maybe I’ll just come along on your date tonight.
Pooh: Relax, Mama. Honey doesn’t work on me like it used to.
Mama: (Beat) Pooh?
Mama: I have something. I want you to know that I wasn’t snooping.
(Mama reaches into her pocket. She opens her hand)
Pooh: It’s a condom.
Pooh: Don’t ask.
Mama: I need to ask. It’s under my job description. Book of Mothers, Chapter 12.
Pooh: I don’t have to answer until it’s time. Book of Daughters, Chapter 9.
Mama: We used to talk. What’s changed?
Pooh: Everything. I used to hear you arguing all the time, you know. I would lie in bed and you and Daddy would yell and I would read my books louder and louder so I wouldn’t have to listen.
Mama: Pooh, you were too young. Hell, we were too young.
Pooh: You call me “Pooh” like I’m still five. So does Daddy. I hate that name. My name is Lydia, Mama. Hear me now…call me Lydia.
Mama: And you think having sex with Joey will make this all stop?
Pooh: It works for Daddy and Gloria.
Mama: (Flat voice) Wow. Is there anything else I should know?
Pooh: Not yet. But Joey’s asked. More than once.
Pooh: Do you miss Daddy?
Mama: Is the Pope Lutheran?
Pooh: So why did you marry him?
Mama: Because neither one of us had any foresight.(Picks up condom…sighs) Neither one of us had any hindsight either. (Puts condom back) By the way, how long have you known about Gloria?
Pooh: Ever since I found her panties in Daddy’s dirty clothes basket. I volunteered to do his wash once, and Aha, there they were. (beat) Right next to the condoms.
Mama: Look, Pooh. Dad’s a big kid. He can take care of himself. Apparently he can take care of other big kids too. But as long as he loves you and treats you like his princess and picks you up from swimming practice, he can do whatever he wants.
Pooh: Daddy and I are good.
(Car horn. Pooh makes like she is ready to leave)
Mama: Pooh. Please.
Pooh: Gotta’ go, Mama.
Mama: Mothers never let their daughters go. Chapter Fifteen. Remember that.
(Mama and Pooh exchange glances. Pooh exits.)
Mama: Shit. (Mama picks up condom from table. Crosses to door.)
Mama: Lydia! (Lydia’s voice from off stage: What?)
Mama: Forget something?
Lydia: (Still from off stage: No)
Mama: (Still loud) Can I throw it away?
Lydia: (Still from off stage: Go ahead, Mama. If I ever need one, I know where to go.)
(Mama watches out the door for a long second; slowly closes the door. She walks over and sits down on love seat. Speaks to the condom)
Lisa: Cosmo tells me you fail at least 15% of the time. I had sex once in a 1980 Volkswagen when I shouldn’t have. Since the divorce, I haven’t had sex in three years. Shit-head. (Tosses condom on table.)
Lisa: (Door buzzer or knock) Now what? (Rises; crosses to door) Who is it?
Lisa: (Gathers herself) Go away, Frank.
Voice: Come on, Lis. Open up.
Voice: Please…for a few minutes. I need a favor.
Lisa: Shit. (Gathering herself. Opens door) Fifteen minutes, Frank. Fifteen minutes. (Frank rushes past into room)
Frank: Thanks, Lis.
Lisa: What do you want?
Frank: Oh, just wanted to see your smiling face, Lis.
Frank: Let’s not fight tonight. I’m not in the mood.
Lisa: I’m not either. Look…I’ve been meaning to call you about Pooh’s schedule. Her swimming finals are coming up and she’ll have different practice nights. How’s your schedule next week?
Frank: Well, it depends on Gloria, I guess.
Lisa: Ah, yes…the infamous Gloria Baggert. What’s she going to be when she grows up again?
Frank: A cardiac dance instructor. At the Y.
Lisa: That’s lovely, Frank.
Frank: Yeah, well…she’s good.
Lisa: I’m sure she is.
Frank: Do you really want to talk about Gloria, Lis?
Lisa: No. I really don’t. What do you want?
Frank: I need my medical records.
Lisa: Your what?
Frank: You heard me. You know, the stuff mom gave me showing when I had shots when I was a kid. They were here when I left.
Lisa: Our daughter tells me you’re still playing with kids.
Frank: Lay off, Gloria, Lis. I’m not here to talk about Gloria. I need those medical records. And Pooh should mind her own business.
Lisa: Frank, she did your wash and found Gloria’s panties in your hamper. When you know she’s coming to visit, could you at least clean up a little bit?
Frank: Her underwear was in the hamper, for Christ’s sake. Where else are they supposed to be? (Beat) Shit. Look, are my medical records still around or not?
Lisa: (Big sigh) They might be in the trunk…how do I know? You’ve been gone three years.
Frank: Well, could you check for me, Lis…a?
(Lisa goes to trunk and drags it to middle of room. She gets on knees, opens trunk, begins to shuffle things inside. Continues shuffling during this conversation.)
Lisa: Honest to God, Frank. This might take awhile.
Frank: That’s okay. Pooh around?
Lisa: No. She’s out with her boyfriend.
Frank: Damn…I thought it was Jimmy.
Lisa: You need to try harder with her, Frank. She’s not a little girl anymore. Pay more attention to her. She’s got questions.
Lisa: Everyone’s not your daughter, Frank.(Three beats)
Frank: Three years? It’s been three years?
Lisa: Well, will you look at this?
Frank: What? What is it?
(Pulling a blanket from the trunk. It should be a Winnie the Pooh blanket or some sort of Disney blanket. Very worn.)
Lisa: It’s Pooh’s blankie.
Lisa: My god, Frank, she’s a junior in high school. I haven’t seen this in ten years.
Frank: You haven’t really seen me in at least ten years either, Lis.
Lisa: (Ignoring Frank) Remember, Frank, how she used to cry on wash day. She’d sit in the clothes basket in front of the washer and wait. Then she’d cry some more when I’d put it in the dryer. (Laughs) Saved crib time… She took all her naps in the laundry basket. Why, I remember one time… I almost threw her down the chute with the dirty clothes. Remember?
Frank: No. I don’t. I was working fifteen/twenty hours a day back then. Do you remember?
Lisa: Yes. I remember. (Folding blanket and setting on floor next to trunk) We didn’t spend a whole lot of time as a family, did we?
(No answer from Frank)
Lisa: Oh, look. Here’s Pooh’s third grade Star Student of the Month poster.
Frank: (Deadpan) Any chance my medical records are in there, Lis?
Lisa: (Still ignoring him) All her report cards are here; our family trip pictures to the Milwaukee Zoo. Look, Frank…here’s the one of you and Pooh in front of Penguin Island. Remember what you kept saying, even two or three weeks later, about buying her her own little Tuxedo. She kept asking and asking….she even asked Santa for one.
(Next few lines are said in unison)
Frank: Stop it.
Lisa: She cried all the way to New Year’s…what was she? Eight…nine years old. I remember she had Mrs. Waterpool for a teacher…
Lisa: She kept this picture on her night stand for the longest time, Frank, and she would always ask if we could get a penguin for a pet…
Frank: Lis…for the love of God…
Lisa: (Turns on Frank) My name is LISA! Hear me now, Frank! LI…SA!
Frank: I’m sorry…of course…Lisa…I’m…sorry.
Lisa: I have ten years of my life in this trunk, Frank. Pooh’s blanket and all her report cards…vacation pictures. Look, I even have your Mother’s laminated obituary. I still have our wedding pictures, Frank…but it’s like these years never existed… like they’re someone else’s.
Frank: All this…stuff. It’s a long time ago. We were different people.
Lisa: I just can’t deal with it when you just show up for no reason, Frank. I don’t see you for weeks at a time and then… Aha… I open the trunk and out you come. (Looks straight at Frank.) Why are you here, Frank? (Long beat)
Frank: Chicken Pox.
Frank: Chicken Pox.
Lisa: As usual, Frank…I don’t understand a word you’re saying.
Frank: Listen. My brother’s got the Chicken Pox…got it real bad. They even put him in the hospital. Seems he never had ‘em. I thought I’d better check to see if I ever had ‘em. Doctor’s talking about itching and scratching, maybe even becoming sterile…all kinds of scary shit.
Lisa: You’re not serious…
Frank: Yes… yes, I am. Listen, Lis…this is serious stuff. I spent last weekend fishing with Ernie up at his cabin. Next thing I know –WHAM! — he’s in the hospital. Isolation, for Christ’s sake. Gloria’d blow a rod if I got the Chicken Pox.
Lisa: So that’s it.
Lisa: Gloria’s thinking about flying the coop so to speak. Is that why you’re here?
Lisa: Trying to put all your eggs in one basket, Frank?
Frank: Cut it out, Lis. It’s not funny.
Lisa: Wondering whether or not to cross the road, Frank?
Frank: STOP IT! Just stop it. Right now.
Lisa: Well, now that you’re here exposing everyone, did you even stop to think about whether Pooh has ever had chicken pox. Or me for that matter. Did that ever cross your mind, Frank?
Frank: Pooh’s already had ‘em.
Lisa: Are you sure?
Frank: Hasn’t she?
Lisa: Yes. (Frank looks relieved at this news.) She had them in first grade.
Lisa: Yes. Thanks for asking. (Picks up the blanket again.) Did you also know she doesn’t want us to call her Pooh anymore. Did you know that?
(Perhaps Lisa could wrap blanket around her shoulders like a shawl)
Frank: Why not?
Lisa: I don’t know. She hasn’t said anything to you about it?
Lisa: Frank, she also found a condom in your underwear drawer.
Frank: You’re kidding.
Lisa: No… I’m not. I found it in her stuff.
Frank: And she’s out with that Jimmy kid tonight?
Lisa: (Sharply) Joey, Frank. His name is Joey. A name is special. Can’t you understand that? Besides, Pooh is only seventeen. Seventeen. Think about that.What were we doing when we were seventeen?
Frank: We made Pooh one night.
Frank: We wouldn’t even be having this conversation, Lis, if we would’ve been more careful. What are you saying? That you wish she wasn’t here?
Lisa: No… I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. I’m frustrated. Pooh sees things, you know, but she doesn’t understand this situation with you and Gloria; all her friends are talking about sex; half of them are probably having sex; are you doing what’s right for her, Frank?
Frank: I’m trying. It’s not easy for me either, you know. I pick her up from swimming practice when I can. I have her over every other weekend. I always remember her birthday. What more do you want me to do?
Lisa: Make sure your underwear drawer is clean and Gloria’s privates are put away somewhere else when Pooh comes to visit. Is that too much to ask, Frank? (No answer.) If Gloria doesn’t know how to run the washer, I can show her, Frank.
Lisa: No, what?
Frank: No. It’s not too much to ask.
Lisa: Thank you.
Frank: You’re welcome. (Beat…beat) Lisa.
(Lisa starts to cry. Frank wants to go to her but hesitates. Finally he spies a Kleenex box on the table. He offers them to Lisa and Lisa accepts. Frank eventually puts his arm around her. Lisa stiffly but eventually melts against him. They kiss. Frank immediately releases her.)
Frank: I’m sorry, Lis… I’m sorry.
Lisa: Why, Frank?
Frank: Because we shouldn’t be doing this. I’m…sorry.
Lisa: (Composing herself.) That’s okay. I understand.
Frank: Do you?
Lisa: No. Not really.
Frank: It isn’t you, you know. It’s just… (doesn’t finish)
(Frank opens mouth to say something, but nothing comes out)
Lisa: I lied. I do understand.
Frank: Tell me.
Lisa: You don’t want Lisa. You still want Lis.
Lisa: It’s okay, Frank. Really. All these…these things in the trunk. They’re really you and Lis, aren’t they?
Frank: I tried. We were so damn young. Suddenly Pooh was there and two jobs and bills and all this…this stuff (gestures toward trunk.) I liked being young, Lis. I liked living in the moment. But in the next moment…(maybe snaps fingers)… you grew up.
Lisa: (Long sigh) Do me one favor will you?
Lisa: Call her Lydia. Please, Frank. She deserves the chance to grow up. Even if you can’t.
Frank: Sure. I’ll be picking her up tomorrow from practice. I’ll make an effort.
Lisa: And one more thing.
Lisa: You had chicken pox.
Lisa: Yes. I remember talking to your mother about it one day after…(Beat) after Lydia had them.
Frank: You’re sure?
Lisa: Yes, Frank. I’m sure. But after you leave, I’ll clean out the trunk. If I run across your records, I’ll give them to Lydia in the morning.
Frank: Okay. I’ll…ah…talk to you later this week about Lydia’s next visit. I’m thinking about taking her to the Monster Truck Rally. But don’t say anything. It’s a surprise.
Lisa: I won’t. That sounds… wonderful.
Frank: See ya.
Lisa: See ya. (Frank puts on jacket and heads for door)
Lisa: Maybe you should ask Gloria whether or not she’s had chicken pox. Might save you another episode of Chicken Little. If you catch my drift.
Frank: Very funny. (Turns. Stops. Turns as if to say something. Thinks better of it. Exits.)
Lisa: Poor guy. Didn’t have the heart to tell him that it’s measles that may cause sterility.
-QUICK TO BLACK-
Tim J. Brennan’s poetry can be found in Talking Stick, The Lake (U.K.), The Bitchin’ Kitsch, KAXE public radio’s “The Beat” and many other nice places. Brennan’s one act plays have been presented widely including Chicago, Bethesda MD, San Diego, Rochester MN, and other stages across the country. “Hear Me Now” was chosen from over 300 plays as one of three winners in Heartland Theatre’s New Plays From the Heartland Festival (Bloomington IL) in July 2013.