Decisions

A shot rang out in the night air. From where it came, Anthony had no idea. But before he had time to wonder, it was over. He slumped over to the side, almost spilling his milkshake all over the curb. He’d had a bad month so far, and this was definitely a low point.

Esmee walked briskly down the poorly lit sidewalk. The clip-clap of her dark red high heels reminded her of her pace. A chill ran up her back and she pulled the sides of her jacket across her front. This was no place to be walking alone, and there she was.

The doctor stood up from his stool. His own ass print remained in the cushion for longer than it ever had, because he had been sitting there for longer than he ever had. He paced back and forth across the room. Not hurriedly, as if he were waiting or anxious, but slowly and carefully, as if his physical steps would mimic the decision he was going to have to make.

She rounded the corner of the big brick bank building in town and crossed the street to the side with streetlights. Her father had asked the city to install lights on both sides of the street, but those in power scowled at a man in his profession. She made her way down the street a few blocks. Houses with boarded up windows and bars over the doorways made it seem like no one lived there anymore, but occasionally she would pass one with a loud TV set or angrily arguing inhabitants that would dispel the idea. She pulled out her phone, took a deep breath, and dialed the only number she knew by heart.

The doctor sat back down, this time on the patient table. He laid back and stared up at the unlit fluorescent tube light. He wondered how many young women had stared up at that light through the years. He wondered what they thought about. He thought about his own life, and then suddenly realized that that’s probably the last thing you think about when you have a life inside you. He knew that was true for his daughter at least.

She was frazzled. She knew he saw her call, and she knew it was being ignored. Understandable given the circumstances, she supposed. Finally nearing the block she had always called home, she remembered that she hadn’t yet thought of what to say to her own mother, and slowed her pace almost to a complete stop. Where would she begin? How would it end? Whatever happened next wasn’t just going to change their relationship; it would also affect how her mother influenced her father’s decision to help or not. She wasn’t in love, she knew that much. She stopped before her house to call him one more time. Maybe he was thinking again. The phone rang once and she looked up to see that the door to her house was ajar. Climbing the steps, she heard a familiar voice with an unfamiliar panic. Her mother was just inside, with black mascara tears streaming over each cheek and staining the collar of her new blue pantsuit. Her hands trembled at her sides, and it was then that Esmee noticed the glint of a 9 mm pistol being gripped by the white knuckles of a troubled woman. She dropped her phone.

Anthony’s buzzed across the pavement.

Yellow

A long, long time ago, before Twitter and YouTube and the Facebooks, before Instagram and Skype and even before Harry Potter. It was a simpler time they call the late 1990s. A fresh layer of morning dew twinkled on the Sock ‘Em Boppers in the front yard. My two favorite Hot Wheels cars remained parked on my nightstand, right next to the lava lamp I got for Christmas. Normally, I would reach over and rev their engines and shoot them off the edge to see which one would make it further. But this was not a normal morning. Today was a big day, and I was so excited I could barely lay still. I flung off covers and headed downstairs. Everyone else in the family was milling around the house, following their usual weekend-morning routines. Dad sat at our oak kitchen table wearing his two favorite things: his pale Nautica robe he received as a wedding gift centuries ago and his caramel-colored scuff slippers, which were used so often that his footprints were worn into them. He scribbled little notes to himself in the ledger of the Chicago Tribune and took sips of coffee as he worked to decipher the daily crossword puzzle. Mom stood at the island in the kitchen; folding a paper towel over a plate as if making a bed for the bacon she had crackling on the stove. Brother was usually up before me, but never to do anything important. His gazed remained fixed on the cartoons that danced around the small, wood-framed TV screen, even as I passed through it to claim my favorite spot on the couch, which was so green and plaid that the material could have been repurposed to make enough kilts to clothe a small bagpiping troupe. But, it did have a spot near the right armrest where the middle of the cushion was a little softer and the angle to the TV was a little better than anywhere else. That was my spot- perfect for Saturday morning cartoon watching. But there was no way I could focus. Not today. Today was special. Besides, I had also already seen that Rugrats episode. No, no, no. I would not be distracted today. Not even for a really good show like ‘Hey Arnold’ or ‘Dexter’s Lab.” This was serious.

“Can we GO?!” I was losing my patience. These people clearly did not have their priorities in order.

“The movie doesn’t start for another hour, and it only takes ten minutes to get there?” Mom said inquisitively. She didn’t get it.

“He’s wanting to stop into the Best Buy near the movie theatre I think.” Said Dad. He gets it.“I don’t know though, maybe we should skip the movie today. Let’s just stay in and watch a movie at home.”

“NOOOOOOO!”

The laugh that immediately followed my desperate reaction made me realize he was messing with me. Classic Dad, but this was no time for jokes.

“What do you want at Best Buy?” Brother snapped at me. “Do I get to pick out something if he does??”

He’s is such a brat.

“You’ll see. And no, because I have a gift card.” I proudly announced, pulling it out of my pocket.

“Are you sure you wanna go?” Dad teased again.

“Daaaaad…”

“Okay, okay, I was just making sure.” He said with a grin.

I traced the many corners of the outside edge of the yellow plastic card with my thumb as I anxiously awaited the greatest pre-movie errand I have ever been on. The ten minutes that it took us to get there and the two minutes that it took me to find the right isle could have been a year and it would still have been worth the trip. There I stood, in the middle of the whole store, with a teal Gameboy Color in one hand and a tag-shaped gift card in the other. I didn’t even have a game in the cartridge slot because I was so excited for the new one. The cashier must have noticed my excitement as I pushed the box onto the counter. She smiled and asked, “Is this everything?”

“You have no idea,” I thought. I handed her the gift card and started opening the box before the transaction was even finished. I couldn’t believe that such a tiny yellow cartridge would transport me into the world I had watched on our many VHS tapes and imagined myself being a part of. I floated back to the car, double-checking that the new AA batteries I put in were inserted properly. She pulled open the sliding side door of our 1994 Plymouth Voyager and in flew a yellow bag with an empty box, and a very happy 7 year old. I’ll probably never remember whatever film my family saw that day, but I’ll always remember what happened in that theatre. That giant screen and the beautiful actors on it just couldn’t compete with the tiny, square screen that introduced me to a new friend and a life-changing adventure, without ever having to decide between Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur. Like I said, it was a simpler time, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Taking Flight

By Quinn Everett

Chapter 1

“Toaster Strudel is totally overrated.”

Jeff looked despondently at the half eaten rectangle-shaped pastry. A red, speckled slime oozed out of the two bite-marks.

“Just eat it,” his mother replied. She was in no mood for this shit again.

“Yeah, I don’t like this cereal either!”

The 19-year-old’s kid brother was close enough in age that they didn’t get along, but young enough that he didn’t see a problem in mimicking the actions of his only sibling.

“Oh whatever,” Jeff scoffed as he got up from the table, “you love those stupid Bran flakes. Nobody knows why, but you eat them all the damn time.”

“Jeffrey Alexander. Watch that mouth.”

Like I said, Mom was having none of it.

Ignoring his mother’s warning, Jeff continued to his younger brother, “They aren’t even for you, Spence. They’re for Grampa.”

Mom was making Spencer’s lunch in between sips of her morning coffee. She popped the lid off a jar of grape jelly and reached for a knife from the drying rack in the sink with one hand as she snapped her fingers with the other.

“Sit back down and finish that. You think this is the kind of house where you can just take a couple bites of something and throw it away? Hm?”

Classic Mom.

“Maybe Gramps will want some…” Jeff mumbled as he looked around. “Where is the old man anyway?”

With a knife now streaked with peanut butter, she gestured over to the faded blue rocking chair in the corner of the room, which was normally vacant. But this particular morning, a man who looked to be in fairly good shape despite his old age and unshaven face was slumped over, asleep in the rocker. His thick-rimmed bifocals teetered on the tip of his nose with every gentle snore that left the small gap between his lips. His plaid shirt was adorned with several colored pens in his chest pocket and a small drool stain near his collar on the other side. Maroon corduroy pants that matched the shirt, yet somehow still looked out of place were tucked into plain white tube socks. You know, the kind you can get like 10 pairs of for a friggin’ dollar at Wal-Mart…with the gray toe and heel…you know the ones.

Jeff smirked and Spencer giggled after noticing him. And as if he somehow knew he was being talked about, Grampa lifted his head from his shoulder and blinked himself awake, smacking his mouth as if to remember the taste.

“What’s that?”

Grampa muttered as if he was just asked a question. He began looking around the chair for the crossword he had been working on before nodding off. It was only after slowly standing up to continue his search did he see the newspaper page was lying face down behind the chair as if it knew it was temporarily forgotten.

“There ya are. C’mere,” he said as he carefully bent down to reach for the page, bracing his knee with his hand and holding the chair steady with the other.

“Getting some shut-eye in the rocker this morning, Gramps?”

Jeff could be such a smartass.

“No, I uh, was just resting my eyes,” Grampa groaned as he stood back up and straightened his back.

“Yeah, okay.” The smart ass replied.

“C’mon over here, Dad. Jeffrey was just saying he was going to pour you a bowl of cereal for breakfast,” Mom said.

With a half-hearted snort, Jeff went over to the sink and grabbed a bowl and spoon out of the drying rack and brought them to the table.

“I didn’t hear him say that?” Spencer questioned.

“You know what Spencer, I didn’t hear me say that either.”

Jeff glanced over at his Mom, and in true Mom fashion, she made a kind of guess-how-many-shits-I-give duck-face right back at him. As Grampa made his way over to the table, he remarked.

“I don’t really care who makes it, as long as what I’m being offered is actually cereal.”

“It is cereal, Dad.”

“These tiny cardboard ovals are not cereal. It’s dog food,” he said, holding up the box.

“Dad. Eat it, it’s good for you.”

“I’ve got god knows how many years to live. I want some Captain Crisp or Cookie O’s or whatever sugary stuff the kids eat these days,” he said as he poured himself a bowl of the Bran flakes. Spencer giggled again at the mistaken cereal names.

“You might as well serve this Bran-crap in the dang doggie bowl!”

“Dad, the dog…” she looked over at Spencer, helping pour milk into his grandfather’s bowl. “Went to that farm last year, remember? You knew that.”

“What farm? You don’t know anyone who lives on a…”

“Alright Spencer!” She said, cutting him off. “Here’s your lunch. I’ve got some extra cookies packed in there for you,” She said as she set the brown paper sack into the middle shelf of the fridge. “I know things have been tough so far at your new school.”

“Yeah, and a few extra cookies will make it alllll better,” the smart ass said as he returned from the other room with his backpack.

“Jeffrey, please. I know it’s been hard on both of you. But we all decided this was better than staying at the old house.”

“Oh yeah?” He said as he grabbed his plate and popped it into the microwave for a few more seconds. “I don’t know if that was something I’d call a ‘we’ decision, but whatever.”

“Jeff, not now, okay?” Mom was now pacing back and forth, getting her briefcase prepared and glancing in the hallway mirror to check her makeup and push a couple hairs back into place with every couple of passes.

“By the way, I haven’t heard anything about your classes this semester. And have you made any progress with your job search?”

“Mom,” Jeff shot her a glance. “Not now, okay?”

She returned his glance with a soft look, “I was just wondering if you were finding your way, honey. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“I’m not upset. I’m just… I’m working on it. God.”

Grampa looked up at Spencer from his crossword that he had set next to his cereal bowl. “Teenagers…”

Spencer’s cheerful smile quickly disappeared as he looked up at Jeff to see that he found it much less funny than the two at the table.

“Halrighty,” Mom said with a nervous exhale. “I think I’m off. Dad, can you make sure Spencer gets to his bus this time.”

Now Spencer piped up, “I can do it myself, Mom!”

“You had some trouble on Monday though, right?”

“The stupid bus was early. It wasn’t my fault…”

Grampa got up to clear his bowl from the table and said,

“I was thinking about going for a walk anyway,” giving Spencer a reassuring smile.

From the driveway, a few quick honks signaled the arrival of a worn-out looking silver Honda CRV.

“Who could that be?” Mom asked as Jeff popped up, grabbing his bag.

“I’ll see you cats later,” he said as he made his way toward the front.

“Excuse me, where are you going?” his mother inquired. “You have a class this early?”

“Yeah kinda. I decided to start my days earlier. You know, to be more productive and stuff.” He said as he turned but continued backing away.

“Kinda..? Well I suppose that’s a good idea… as long as they actually let you in looking like that,” She said, eyeing his outfit and wearing a disapproving expression.

Jeff was wearing a black 21 Pilots t-shirt that had shrunk in the wash a little too much for him to still wear it, but he loved it enough not to care. His jeans on the other hand, were ripped at both knees, one hole slightly larger than the other, but bearing a red bandana patch that was sewn on as best the boy’s handiwork would allow him. Poking out the very frayed leg holes to the jeans were a pair of Vans that had perhaps been white or beige at some point, but were now a grayish tan, with black streaks and a couple unidentifiable stains.

The car honked again.

“Yeah, they don’t care. See you guys,” Jeff said as he turned to leave.

“Wait, what’s the class?” By the time she got the question out, the front door was already shut. Mom turned to the two at the table with a half annoyed, half disbelief look. Grampa and Spencer both shrugged. After a giant eye roll, a headshake, and “what-ever”-type hand gesture, she grabbed her briefcase and walked around the table, kissing her son and father on the tops of their heads.

“My three favorite men, have a great day today.”

“What about Dad?” Spencer asked.

“I love all you guys, Spencer. You know that.” She managed the closest thing she could that resembled a smile, which really ended up looking like one of those smiles white people make when they see a stranger, where they pull the corners of their mouths up a little bit but mostly just to the sides, without showing any teeth. And with that she said,

“Okay, have the best day guys!” and left.

Grampa continued his crossword as Spencer finished off his bowl of cereal. The silence lasted a minute or so.

“SLURRRRRPP”

After drinking the rest of the milk in the bowl, he poured himself some more of the cereal and added more milk once again.

Grampa watched him pour the second bowl and grumbled, “You’re eatin’ more of those crappy Bran things?”

“Huh?”

“You.” Pointing to Spencer, “Are eating.” Making an eating motion, “Those” pointing to the cereal box, “On purpose?”

“Oh, yeah, I kinda like them.”

Slightly, taken aback by this, he asked, “Better than something sugary?”

“Um, I don’t know, like what?”

Now having to think of the name of a cereal Spencer would eat, he rubs his forehead. “Like, better than Captain Crisp or whatever?”

Giggling at the misnomer again, “Ehhh, prolly not better than Captain Crunch…”

Scoffing, he replied, “Ya damn right they aren’t.”

Another short silence went by as Grampa turned back to his crossword and Spencer spooned himself some more Bran flakes, but looking a little puzzled.

“Why don’t you eat those then?”

“Because of diabetes.”

“Who’s that?”

He grinned at his grandson, but at the same time contemplated how to explain the concept of diabetes to someone who had never heard of it. After a few moments to think, he said,

“She’s this evil lady who wont let me eat cake and pizza.”

“Oh, I just call her Mom.”

Grampa couldn’t help but laugh, after which, he returned to his point.

“I just can’t believe you’re eating those.”

“What’s wrong with them? They’re good. I’ve been eating them all week.”

With raised eyebrows, “Wow, and you aren’t sick of em?”

“No, why?” He said, between bites of cereal and slurps of spoonfuls of milk.

“They’re just not my favorite.”

Looking up at his grandpa, he asked,

“Well what is your favorite?”

As he thought about his answer to the question, Spencer asked again,

“And why don’t you eat those? Cause Misses Diabetes?”

Before Grampa could even answer, Spencer chimed in again as he set his spoon down, which was too short for the diameter of the bowl and whose handle slid off the side and disappeared into the off-white liquid.

“Be right back, I gotta poop.”

With another warming grin, Grampa adjusted the glasses on the end of his nose and watched the boy waddle to the bathroom.

“…But they are incredible, aren’t they.”

Grampa looked around the room, allowing his mind to wander as much as he wished his body could. It felt heavy in his old age, and his arthritis was a real pain in the ass. And everywhere else. The poor old arthritic bastard was having a good moment though. These mornings spent surrounded by his daughter and grandsons were the reason he slipped on those cords each day. In the back of his mind, though, he cursed himself for falling asleep and missing part of this morning. How many more mornings do you even have left? He’d ask himself. And you wasted half of this one because you were tired…shouldn’t have stayed up watching Desperate Housewives reruns…. His mind began to wander again, until however, his eye caught the round clock hanging on the wall beside him. Five minutes until Spencer has to make his way to the bus stop.

“Hey Big Dog?!”

“Yeah?”

“Almost time for the bus, you ready?”

“Nooo.”

“Are you still sitting?”

“Nooo.”

“Well what are you doing then?”

“Nothiiing.”

Grampa sighed and looked around for Spencer’s book bag. It wasn’t in the kitchen, as far as he could see. He put the heel of one hand on the table and the other on the side of the chair next to him as he hoisted himself out of his seat. Spencer came back in the room, stuffing papers into the big pocket of his Jansport bag while unsharpened pencils and cap-less pens threatened to make their escape out of the unzipped front pocket.

“I’m ready.” Spencer said with a sunny smile.

“Well let’s hit the road then, sport.” Grampa said, zipping the front before its contents spilled all over the kitchen floor.

Grampa offered his hand as they made their way toward the front door. Spencer had to think about it, considering the thought that he might be too old to be holding the hand of the nearest adult. Noticing his hesitation, Grampa looked down and considered withdrawing his hand before Spencer decided he didn’t mind and returned the gesture. As soon as Spencer got on the bus, he wished he was back holding his grandfather’s hand.

 

Chapter 2

The bus driver looked tired and, though Spencer didn’t know it, was extremely hung over as she rubbed her eyes waiting for the 4th grader to find a seat. Spencer was also ignorant to the timeless classic known as Forest Gump, but if he weren’t, he’d recognize little Forest’s struggle to find a place to sit on a bus full of other kids with whom you aren’t yet friends. He didn’t notice any open seats, so he shifted his eyes to look for faces that might seem open to the idea of sitting with a “new kid.”

“Take a seat!” the bus driver barked.

Now more frantically, Spencer searched for eyes that weren’t afraid to meet his, and as soon as he made eye contact with a longhaired kid sitting in the middle of his seat, he leapt his ass at the section of it that was still left vacant. With a groan, the bus driver pulled the doors closed and pressed down on the gas hard enough to suck everyone back against their seat. The longhaired kid didn’t look like he was popular per say, but the scowl on his face kept Spencer from engaging him. Spencer sat with one Velcro shoe crossed over the other, his wide-striped polo shirt tucked into his denim shorts just like Grampa had taught him.

The bus stopped again to pick up more students.

“Alright,” the longhaired boy said, “Scoot out so I can have the aisle. I’m not sitting against the window for some dumb little third grader.”

I’m in fourth grade. Fourth, Spencer thought but he did not say out loud. No need to start trouble this early in the year. But then again, no need to start getting pushed around this early in the year either.

“Actually I’m in fourth grade,” Spencer mumbled just loud enough to hear as he stood up in the aisle, holding his Pokémon backpack to his chest.

“What did you say?”

“Fourth. Fourth grade,” Spencer said, a little bit more audible as he slid across the seat to the window.

“Fifth. Fifth grade,” the longhaired boy said, pushing his finger into his chest with his index finger.

With a sigh, Spencer held onto his backpack with one hand and doodled on the window condensation with the other. Once they arrived at the elementary school, everyone exited the bus, and a few kids from the back looked over at a poorly drawn Charizard on one of the windows, already starting to drip at the edges.

 

Chapter 3

As soon as the bus pulled away, Grampa wished his grandson was still outside, holding his hand. He made his way back to the house, finished his crossword, and sat in silence for a few minutes. He looked down at the kitchen table with the filled-in newspaper page in front of him, and noticed a little pasta sauce from the night before had dripped on the table and dried there, like a tomato tear drop. He went to get a washcloth and noticed that the other, much less used end of the table was already a little dusty. Wiping down the kitchen table turned into vacuuming the carpets, which turned into washing the windows and most of the rest of the house. Before he knew it, his department store watch started chiming, signifying that it was noon, and time for him to catch his own bus. Despite feeling capable of driving after two cataracts surgeries, his driver’s license was still revoked because of his “steadily declining vision.” So now the only way to get to the “part-time senior care facility” his daughter enrolled him in, was to catch a shuttle bus they send to various locations around town. His stop was just outside the neighborhood. He shuffled down the sidewalk; his knees were now almost useless and rarely without pain. The sun felt hot on the back of his neck as he grumbled about the inconvenience of this whole routine, especially at such an expense for his daughter. The shuttle was 20 minutes late, and once it did arrive, the driver gave a

“What’s poppin’, Harry. Betsy, good morning” without even looking up from his text as he half-heartedly greeted Grampa and another older woman.

“It’s well after noon by now Trevor.” Grampa grumbled as they pulled off.

“He’s an alright kid. He’s dim but he means well.”

Grampa turned around to see Betsy had taken the seat behind him.

“He drives worse than me, and I’m going blind.” Grampa responded, almost loud enough for others to hear.

“He’s not so bad when he isn’t messing around with that cell phone.” said a scratchy voice from behind Betsy. An African-American man wearing a red floral Tommy Bahama shirt with all but the bottom button undone offered a handshake in the gap between the seats.

“Name’s Carl. You?”

“I’m Harold. Harry, if ya want.” He said as he gave a firm handshake to the outstretched hand.

“Whattaya in for, Harry?”

“Hah! My daughter wants me to ‘be more social.’ Grampa said, shaking his head.

“Yeah? My good fer nothin’ son thinks I need help staying busy.”

Overhearing this, Betsy joined in; looking at Carl but glancing over at Grampa, “My third husband just died. I’m here to get back out there.”

Both men caught a flicker of eye contact before nervously fading back into their seats and facing the aisle.

Carl waited until they arrived and began exiting the bus to reach over to Grampa without Betsy hearing.

“I’m in room 26 if you ever wanna watch the game or something. My son might swing by too.”

“Thanks, Carl. I don’t have many friends around here. Maybe I’ll swing by.” Grampa said with a grin.

 

Chapter 4

Lunch couldn’t come soon enough, as Spencer spent the morning trying to answer questions he didn’t know how to, in hopes that someone in the class would be impressed enough to talk to him. He sat at the end of a table of kids he didn’t know. He didn’t quite participate in the conversation, but he listened and imagined himself chiming in.

“Hey, the lunch lady says there’s extra chicken nuggets if you want some.” One kid said as he climbed back into the cafeteria table with a tray of nuggets and some ketchup.

Opportunities like this don’t come up every day. You have to earn these. And then seize them. And they aren’t even presented to everyone. Only those who have to rub their growling stomachs until the last lunch period of the day get this chance, and rarely on chicken nugget day. I’ll get some more and share them with those kids. Spencer thought as he made his way up to the lunch line. There were already too many kids, and after a few had gone by, “Alright, that’s it kiddos, none left,” was the eulogy at the funeral of Spencer’s latest dream. Wait, are those more?” Maybe the lunch lady was saving a few for herself… he wondered as he crept around the side of the rolling counter.

“Hey! Kid!

Darn it. Caught already.

“You can’t be back here.” The lunch lady snarled.

“Sorry.” Spencer said as he turned to return to his table, which was now empty.

 

The bell for recess rang out. He looked around the playground, and then up and down the field next to it. Circles of kids took up activities at the monkey bars, at the swings, at the baseball diamond, and some just standing around talking. Knowing which group to approach was just as hard as the decision to carry it out. Spencer swung his arms at his sides to make it feel like he was playing as he looked around at the bubbles of friendships he couldn’t seem to pop.

“Hey kid.”

The longhaired boy. Yes, him again.

“Yeah?”

“How’s fourth grade?” snorted a chubby kid with a homeschooled haircut.

“Aren’t you in my class,” He asked the Cheeto dust-fingered punk.

“Yeah, but I’m pretty much a fifth grader cause all my friends are.”

“Oh,” said Spencer. Spencer had trouble spotting the bullshit logic.

“Was that a Pidgeotto you drew on the window?” The longhaired boy asked.

“Charizard, actually, but close!” Spencer said with a smile.

“You losers like Pokémon?” The Pokémon-hating buttface said.

“Yeah?” retorted the longhaired boy. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Pokémon is for nerds!” said Buttface.

“I like it, and I’m an older, much wiser fifth grader.”

“I hang out with other fifth graders and even some sixth graders from the other school, and they said it sucks!”

“Well we don’t think so, so why don’t you go hang out with them then.” Said the longhaired boy, stepping next to Spencer.

“Fine, maybe I will.” Buttface said as he marched off.

“Thanks,” said Spencer, “Pokémon doesn’t suck.”

“I don’t think so either. What’s your name fourth grader?”

Spencer. Spence sometimes. What’s your name fifth grader?”

“Cameron. Never Cam.”

“Oh, cool.” Spencer said as he put his hands in his pockets and tried to think of something cool to say.

“Is Pidgeotto your favorite Pokémon?” Spencer finally asked.

“Nah, I just thought that’s what you drew. I like Charizard better, but Blastoise is the best.”

“No way, he can’t even fly.”

“So what? He can shoot water and put out Charizard’s flames. And then body slam him!”

“Flying is more cooler than that. Flying is…Flying! That’s the most cool thing ever.” Spencer said, his eyes staring off.

“Wrong.” Cameron said. “Flying isn’t better than fighting.”

“I think it is; I want be able to fly when I get older.”

“Like on the back of a Charizard?” The Cameron gave him a funny look.

“No, like Charizard himself.” Spencer said, with an excited look blooming onto his face.

“You’ll never fly like Charizard. It’s impossible.”

“My mom says, ‘never say never.’” Spencer offered.

“Yeah, well, its impossible, so don’t get your hopes up.”

“I don’t think so. They have gliders and flying squirrel suits. I looked it up! By the time we’re my brothers age, we’ll be able to fly.”

“Humanly. Impossible, kid. How old’s your brother?”

“Almost 20.” Spencer said proudly.

“Still,” Cameron replied.

“HEADS UP!”

One of the bigger fifth graders had driven a dribbling, miserable kick ball pitch past the outfield, and was now headed straight for the two students. Before either had time to move, the ball hit Spencer in the back, causing him to fall and scrape his knee, before rolling in the opposite direction of the school. Tears welled up in his eyes, but he fought them off as he felt the fifth grader looking at him watching the ball bounce away.

“Sorry!” The pitcher called from across the field.

Just then, the bell rang for the end of recess, and everyone started to run back inside. Spencer started to as well, but stopped to look back to see if anyone was bringing the ball back in. Nobody was chasing after it.

“Whoever touched it last has to get it!” one of the asshole kickballers called.

Spencer looked back at the ball, hesitated, and then decided he might as well go get it so no one, including him, gets in trouble.

 

“There you go!” The nurse said as she smoothed a bandage over his scraped knee.

“Good as new.”

“Thank you.” Spencer said as she tore him off a hall pass.

“You can’t be playing so rough out there, okay? You gotta be careful.”

“But…”

“Alright darlin’ off ya go.”

She patted him on the back and held out the pass for him to take.

 

Chapter 5

The folks at the “retirement facility” were nice enough. Nobody seemed particularly happy to be there, but most of the residents seemed to make the best of it. Grampa was not one of these people. He was roaming around, slowly moving from watching a game of bridge to join the group circled around the soap opera. One group occupied a table with an empty seat, but they were knitting together, and that brought up bad memories. Before he could mosey over, his watch beeped again three times, indicating it was the second time of day he needed to take his medication. He found an available wheelchair, knowing it would get him to his room faster than his feeble, throbbing knees. He pushed himself to the third to the last door at the end of the hallway and turned to go inside, but saw someone sitting on his bed.

“Hey, I think you got the wrong bed, buddy.”

The occupant was an older woman, but she was asleep.

“Hey!”

She turned her head, eyes fluttering as she readjusted to her surroundings. Then she turned and saw Grampa, sitting there in a wheelchair.

“Time tah go… It’s fine an all, but I need this bed now,” he said.

“You can’t make me leave… YOU CAN’T MAKE ME LEAVE!

The woman burst into tears as Grampa sat in shock. He made a slow movement to stand up and calm her down but in her flailing panic she smacked the call button for an attendant who popped in the room after not much time at all.

“Excuse me, sir! What are you doing here?”

“I’m not trying to upset her, okay? I just want some privacy and my own bed.”

“I understand sir. But I think you should go back to your room, okay? Thank you so much…”

“This is my room, alright? I’m payin’ ya an arm and a leg for the stupid thing. Besides, I only need my medication out of the prescription sack on the night stand.”

“Sir, this room is occupied by this woman and another woman a little older than herself. There isn’t a night stand over there.”

Grampa wheeled himself over to the other side of the bed and noticed that indeed nothing existed over there but a dead plant. Well where the hell am I then? He wheeled himself out of the room, now noticing the picture frames on the walls and details that would have clued him in. Then he noticed the name placards outside the room.

“Dorothy A. Baker, Mildred T. Toothman.” He said out loud. “…This isn’t the north wing?”

“Oh, no, I’m so sorry sir but this is the south wing.”

“Oh. Well, I don’t know, I musta just made a wrong turn or somethin’. Sorry ‘bout that.” He turned to wheel away when the attendant zipped across the room and began pushing his wheelchair down the hall.

“That’s okay, you just got a little confused. I’ll help you find your room, no problem.”

“I don’t need help, I just…well, I guess I made a mistake for a second but I know now.”

With a smile, the attendant said, “Don’t worry sir, we all get a little mixed up every now and then. I’ll help you remember. Just look for that little sign that says ‘North Wing,’ okay?”

“I know, I’m fine, alright buddy?”

“Nonsense, sir. What’s the room number?” He said with wide smile.

“I don’t…”

“What number sir?”

“39” Grampa said as he rolled his eyes and let his head flop back as he was wheeled all the way to his room and asked repeatedly if he needed help taking his 7 pill cocktail. After taking his medicine, he found himself accidentally watching a Friends rerun before he snapped to and headed back out to the common room to return the wheelchair. On the way there, he decided to stop by Carl’s room. He wheeled himself in room 26 only to find a nurse changing the linens and throwing out a few dead flowers.

“Is this Carl’s room?

The nurse was a little startled as she turned to see Grampa sitting there, but she collected herself quickly and politely asked,

“Who?”

“Carl. Negro fella I met today on the bus over here. Nice man.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry… That man…his name isn’t Carl.”

“Huh?”

“His name is Fred. He stays here full time ever since his son passed away in the war. He has trouble with his memory and has been sneaking onto the shuttle bus lately.”

“Oh, uh, alright. Well where is he?”

“I’m afraid he suffered a stroke this afternoon, and is being treated in the hospital at the moment.”

“Aw Jesus, is he gonna be alright?” Grampa’s boney hands began to wrap around one another.

“I can’t say that I know. But I sure hope so,” she said kindly.

With that, Grampa wheeled himself back down the hall. He rolled slowly as he stared off into the distance, thinking about Carl, or Fred… whoever he was. He arrived at the commons and parked the wheelchair right where he found it. As he stood up out of it, another orderly noticed him and whipped around.

“Hey BUDDY! That wheelchair is for folks who NEED it, okay?”

“Relax, fella. I got bad knees and I was only gone a few minutes.”

“I’m not here to argue with you, SIR. Just stay off equipment that someone else might need. Okay?”

Now Grampa was getting frustrated. “And did anyone, need it, buddy?”

“Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to return to your room. It is not my job to deal with your bad attitude.”

“I’m not goin’ back to my stupid room.” Grampa said defiantly.

“Am I gonna have to call security?” The orderly said, unclipping the walkie-talkie from the waistband of his scrubs.

After a few long seconds of staring each other down, Grampa grumbled and turned to shuffle back toward his room. A minute or two went by and he arrived back in what felt to him like the perfect operating room for lobotomies. He was not alone, however.

 

Chapter 6

“Excuse me, Miss Darcy?” Spencer said toward the end of his math class that afternoon. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Is it about the homework?” Miss Darcy had seen Spencer’s raised hand across a room of quietly working students, walked over, and asked her question before noticing Spencer hadn’t solved a single equation yet.

“It’s about flying.”

“Well Spencer unfortunately this isn’t flying class.”

“I know but…” He paused, deciding if he should ask or not. “Will we ever get to?”

“Sure, I flew to Florida just last summer, dear.” She gave an encouraging smile.

“No, like really fly, not on a plane.”

“But we don’t have wings, Spencer.”

“I know, but if we did. Or even fake wings.”

“Maybe we could fly if we had wings, but we have arms instead. And I don’t know about fake wings.” She paused, watching his mind trail further and further into dreamland. “But I do know about this division assignment, and how whatever you don’t finish will be homework.”

Spencer groaned a little to himself, and reeled his attention back in to his assignment. I’ll fly someday, he thought to himself.

 

The girl that allowed him to sit with her on the bus ride home was pretty cute, but not really my type, he thought.

“Do you always take the bus?” She asked him, breaking the silence of the ride.

“Not always, sometimes my brother comes and gets me.”

“Your brother can drive?” She looked amazed.

“Oh yeah.” He said, doing his best to seem unimpressed. “Has been for years.”

“Wow. You’re lucky.”

“It would be better if I could drive.” Spencer said, watching the trees float by.

“Does you’re mom ever let you?”

“No, she says I’m too little.”

“Yeah. Well. We kinda are,” she stated, very matter-of-factly.

“What?”

“We aren’t grown ups, duh!” She giggled.

“I wish we were. Fourth graders don’t get to do anything cool.”

“What else do you wanna do?”

“You know, grown up stuff. Cool stuff. Drive and have my own house, and no bed time!” Spencer smiled, proud of the adequacy of his answer.

“No bed time?! That’s great. Being a grown up is gonna be awesome.”

“I know. I wish I already was. Being young is taking forever.”

 

Chapter 7

Betsy was sitting on his bed, waiting for him.

“Hey there.” She perked up as soon as she saw him hobble through the threshold.

“What is it, Bets? I’m kinda tired.”

“Well that’s no way to greet your guests,” she said as she held his arm and helped him to his bed.

“Thanks,” he said as he finally made it to the still-warmed butt print formerly occupied by his visitor. “I’m sorry. The jackass down the hall was givin’ me grief for borrowing the wheel chair for five minutes. It’s not you.”

“Well that’s much better. I’m sorry he was rude to you, Harold. Are you sure you didn’t start anything with him first?”

“No! I didn’t, thank you.”

“Well I’m just checking… you know you can be…sassy at times.” She poked at him.

“Yeah, well…I wasn’t asking for nothin’,” Grampa grumbled.

“I believe you. And don’t get me wrong Harold… It’s not like I don’t like your sass,” She smiled coyly at him. “You know I made ya something…”

She squeezed her lips together with excitement. It was then that Grampa noticed her bright red lipstick that he wasn’t sure she was wearing when they got on the bus. It matched her bright red denim jacket with embroidered flowers on the back. She wore white Capri pants that just barely revealed the winding varicose veins around her calves that she was clearly trying to hide, plus a pair of purple Crocs that perfectly matched the purple flowers on her red jacket.

“Ah, Bets, I really don’t want anyth…”

“Here ya go!”

Betsy whipped around from her Vera Wang, duffle bag-sized purse holding a pair of maroon gloves and matching hat. They were clearly hand-made, but also looked put together enough that they were obviously carefully knitted. Grampa stared at them for a second, taking in what she had been working on for quite some time apparently. His cheeks and face started to flush as he hesitated to take them from her outstretched hands.

“Why did you do this?” His face suddenly turned from surprised to serious, even a little angry. “Hm?!” He expected an answer.

“Do you mean, ‘You didn’t have to’ or something?” Her smile started to slowly melt.

“No. I mean you really shouldn’t have. You wont listen to me…I’m not interested. Leave it alone.”

(Shaking off the insult.) “What’s wrong with a little gift?”

(Raising his voice) “You know damn well what’s wrong with it!”

With this, Betsy threw the hat and gloves down on the floor, exasperated.

“Sheila’s gone, Harold!”

“Don’t you call me that, either!”

“SHE’S GONE! Okay?! We’ve been taking the bus together every day for how many years…and not once did you even look at me. Not once did you pay me any attention!”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have been so forward!”

Betsy turned her back to him.

With a furrowed brow, Grampa twists her shoulders around and looks her right in the eyes.

“I’ve told ya more than once, and I wont tell ya again. I’m not looking for a girlfriend or…partner or whatever ya call it. And you KNOW Sheila used to knit for me. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, but it’s plain disrespectful.”

An awkward silence hung in the air. As he stared into her face, he watched a tear from each eye slip down her face, following a path already carved by the deep wrinkles in her face. He began to feel some guilt creep in his chest and decided to wrap his arms around her for a hug.

“I’m sorry okay. I appreciate the gift. It’s very nice.” He paused. “And I noticed your lipstick… looks pretty.”

The hug lasted a few more seconds as Betsy gripped him tighter and smiled at his kindness. When they finally separated, Betsy went in for a kiss. She just barely made contact with Grampa’s lips before he reeled back, wiping his mouth.

“HEY! What the hell did I just say?!”

“That I was pretty…” She tried not to continue to smile, noticing his anger.

“No, I said the lipstick was pretty, AND that I wasn’t interested in being another one of your husbands!”

Her eyes began to well up again. “How dare you. I loved all three of those wonderful men.”

“Not like I loved my Sheila. Clearly.” He noticed how upset she was getting, but he couldn’t find it in himself to care anymore. “Now get outta here. Go find a diff’rent number four!”

Betsy finally burst into tears and grabbed her purse as she stormed out. Grampa held his ground for a few minutes even after she left, in case she came back. Eventually, he realized she was long gone, and he took a seat on his bed. There he sat, reflecting on everything that happened that led to this moment. He felt terrible, about everything. He was tired, and not just today. He was tired in general. Just then he looked down and saw the carefully made hat and gloves, still lying on the floor. He brought his hands up to meet his face, and for the first time since Sheila’s funeral, he cried softly.

 

Chapter 8

Spencer arrived home in a huff. He was still mad. I don’t know why everybody thinks they know everything about everything! He thought. He rang the doorbell, but didn’t hear the scuffling of Grampa’s slippers against the tile, even after a minute. He rang the doorbell again. Still nothing. Maybe he’s with his Roder-E Club. He bent down to move the “Bennett Family” rock away from the spare key underneath it and let himself inside. He set his backpack on the chair and went to get some gummies from the pantry. Time to take advantage of the empty house. He grabbed a pack of gummies and headed up to his room. The smell of Pine Sol filled the house- someone must have been sanitizing a part of the house for the first time. Then he thought, a little Pokémon Red version would cheer me up. As he bent down to get his Gameboy from under his bed, he flipped the overhanging bed sheet back up onto the bed. It fell back down before he could grab the drawstring bag his game was in. He tossed it up again, and it fell back down immediately. Spencer felt the frustration of the day boil up inside of him as he grabbed the sheet with both hands and pulled it as hard as he could out from under the comforter. As he stood, holding the sheet, he tried to decide how much trouble he’d get in if he ripped it. But then he looked down at it and thought of an idea. With one hand on each corner, he spread his arms as wide as they would go, holding the sheet with either hand. Even a little room on each end, he thought. He brought each end down to the ground and set them near his feet before tying each corner to each of his ankles. Wait, I should get my helmet. Then Spencer proceeded to untie himself, retrieve his helmet, kneepads, and elbow pads from the garage, put them on, and tie each corner of the sheet to the end of each of his four limbs. He was surprised to be able to step out onto the roof of the two-story house, since there were usually screens on the windows that were hard to get off. His legs were a little woozy as he felt the breeze already start to catch his new sail. He carefully stepped out to the edge of the slightly inclined roof, his toes now pushing on the front wall of the gutter, making it squeak a little when he shifted his weight. I think this will work. It has to work. I’m gonna fly. Spencer spread his arms straight out to either side, clenched his teeth, and closed his eyes.

 

Chapter 9

It felt like an hour went by before an attendant popped into the doorway. It was the same jackass that threatened security on him before.

“Hey! You again.”

Grampa wiped his face before he brought it up.

“You again.” Grampa repeated.

“Are you the reason Miss Betsy is locked in her bathroom right now, crying her eyes out?!”

“Uh, kinda.”

“Kinda?!”

“It’s complicated, okay? She made a move on me.”

“Oh-ho-ho… you poor old thing. Somebody around here actually wants to spend time with you and you call her a whore…”

“I didn’t call her anything!”
“Well what am I supposed to do? Hm? Take your word for it?”

Now Grampa’s sadness was becoming mixed with more frustration.

“Over the word of the hysterical woman locked in the bathroom? Yes!”

“I bet you’d like that, wouldn’t you? But that’s not how this works. You are constantly irritable and show little to no intention of interacting socially with the other guests. And now you’ve made one of them cry.”

“Listen, I didn’t want to make her cry, I just didn’t want to kiss the woman.”

“Well maybe if you’re gonna be so ungrateful of your time with the other guests, you can do without recreation time for a week or two.”

Grampa tried not to plead, “You can’t do that! I’m only here for half days… if I don’t have recreation time…”

“Then I guess you’ll just have some time in your room to think about what you’d rather do and how you would rather treat your fellow guests.”

“I’m not a child, you little shit. You are! I was a parent with three kids and two jobs by the time you were born. You can’t put me in time out!” Grampa said, now standing, fists clenched.

“You better watch that temper, Mr. Tompkins, or it’ll be three weeks,” the orderly said as he pulled the door closed.

What did I do to deserve this day… Grampa thought to himself. He rubbed the back of his neck and still looked shocked at what had just happened. He thought about getting in bed and staying there until it was time to leave. He stood, debating for a minute. Instead, he decided to visit his special place. It wasn’t the best special place he’d ever had, but Grampa had always kept a special place to himself, somewhere no one would know where to find him, and that was the point. He shuffled down the hall, almost excitedly, but he was too exhausted. At the end of the hall, there was an emergency door with a red handle and several signs warning that an alarm would sound if it were opened. At the base of the door was a little joint where a silver cable that ran out of the inside of the door connected to another cable with some black electrical tape. He slowly and somewhat painfully bent down and disconnected the two from each other, only to stand back up and disappear through the doorway.

 

He climbed a flight of metal emergency stairs, not as nimble as he once could, but he got to the roof hatch all the same. His knees may have been wobbling, but his shoulders flipped the hatch door open without any trouble. As quickly as he hoisted himself up and stood on the rooftop, he felt the comfort of his special place wash over him like a warm breeze. It wasn’t anything special- a few air conditioning units and vents, a couple skylights over the commons that he would have to avoid, plus some kind of bird nest in the corner. He didn’t even need to look around- he already knew the landscape. He went straight for his corner. Two old plastic folding chairs sat in the corner of the building that overlooked the intersection where his favorite diner was located. The diner where he first met his late wife. He stood, gazing at the diner and didn’t even feel himself start to lean in. He wished he could be back down there with her and his favorite plate of steak and eggs. Nowadays he couldn’t have either. He stepped his left foot onto the edge of the roof. He could feel the wind tunnel from between the two buildings push a small gust of air up his shirt as he picked up his other foot and found himself standing on the edge of the building. He brought his gaze from the diner across the street to the toes of his Velcro, posture-correcting shoes which were now hanging over the edge. Normally he’d feel nauseous or afraid to be where he was, and his knees would start to tremble, but he didn’t. There was a calm in him that he hadn’t experienced in a long time, maybe ever. He closed his eyes and felt the silent peace flow through him. He couldn’t even feel himself leaning forward again.

  

Chapter 10

Jeff was almost trembling with excitement. He looked down at his shaky hand as he reached down and put the car in drive.

Everything is going great, he thought to himself. He knew the rest of the family had no idea about his change of plans. A few minutes of winding country roads put him back out near the highway, where he accelerated through the merge with a smile on his face. For a second, his happiness seemed to falter. He hadn’t ever felt like this. It almost made him want to cry. Hold it together, he told himself, almost home. He pulled up in the driveway in his mom’s car. She wasn’t entirely in on the plan, but he told her he was “finding his way,” or whatever she liked to say, and at the moment of asking to borrow the car, that was good enough for her. Jeff reached across the seat to grab the strap of his backpack and glanced at the car’s clock. Spence and Grampa should be home already. He swung the bag over his shoulder and proceeded to the front door when he heard some creaking from overhead.

“SPENCE?! WHAT THE HELL?!?!”

Spencer was standing, eyes closed, at the edge of the gutter.

“GET DOWN YOU IDIOT!”

Spencer opened his eyes.

“Okay, get out of the way then, idiot!”

“No, get back in the window. What are you doing?!?”

“I’m gonna fly!”

Spencer said, stepping off the roof, arms extended.

Jeff quickly adjusted his position below just in time to catch Spencer. Well, not really catch him- Jeff pretty much just cushioned the blow as the kid landed on him. Jeff rolled out from under Spencer onto his stomach, wheezing as he did his best to catch the breath that was just knocked out of him.

“What…is…your…problem…” He said, gasping.

“I thought I was gonna fly…” Spencer sniffed, with tears running down his face as he rubbed the ankle he twisted on the landing.

“Don’t do that ever again, okay? You can fly, Peter Pan. But not with a freaking bed sheet tied to your wrists,” Jeff said as he got to his knees, and then his feet, still holding his stomach.

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to show people I could do it.”

“I know what you mean. I feel the same way all the time.”

“Really?” Spencer sniffed.

“Really. As a matter of fact, I’ve got something to show you. Where’s Grampa by the way. He should have been here keeping you off the gutters.”

“I dunno, he wasn’t here when I came home…” Spencer mumbled guiltily, as if his lack of supervision relieved him of the responsibility for his actions.

“Maybe he missed his bus like you did. Why don’t we go get him?” Jeff smiled.

Spencer smiled back at him, and the two climbed into the car.

“Is your ankle okay?” Jeff said, noticing Spencer shift his weight a little to keep it off the twisted ankle.

“Can I pick the radio?” Spencer was already happy to ride in the front seat.

“Whoa. Get in back.” Jeff said, taking his hand off the ignition.

“Pleeeeeease.”

“You’ve tested your luck with the laws of physics enough for one day. But yes you can pick the station.”

Spencer slid out of the passenger seat and climbed up into the backseat.

“What happened to your knee??”

“Recess.”

Jeff shook his head. “What a little trouble maker.”

 

The boys arrived at the retirement facility and found Grampa’s room empty. They looked around the commons and the back, outdoor area before finally asking an attendant if they’d seen him. Overhearing the conversation, Betsy waddled over to the boys with her eyes already welling up.

“It’s my fault boys. I tried to kiss him and he must have ran away.”

“What?” Jeff said as Spencer let out an “Ewwwww.”

Jeff started looking around at all the doors to try to think of which one Grampa would have left from. Not north, there’s no reason to go north. Jeff thought as he shifted his eyes from the north door. He was turning to looked from the east door to the south door when he noticed the emergency door a little ways down from Grampa’s room. It’s not latched. But no alarm? He looked down at the separate cords and hoped that he hadn’t gone far.

 

“Grampa!”

At first, Grampa thought it was a vivid memory of Spencer’s voice. I guess your brain reminds you what you love in this world before you leave it. But he heard it again.

“Grampa! You wanna fly too?!”

He turned around to see the shining face of his grandson staring back at him. Jeff looked scared, wondering what his grandfather’s intentions were as they found him standing on the edge of the building.

 

That uncertainty and probably dark reality hung in the air while the three of them rode out into the country. Grampa knew Spencer didn’t grasp the situation, but Jeff was aware of what they’d walked into.

“I just like that corner.” Grampa finally said, breaking the tension. “I don’t know if I was even really gonna do it, I just had a really rough day.”

More silence. Jeff was trying to think of how he should respond.

“When you’re old like me…” Grampa started, but he realized that wouldn’t help his case.

Another 5 minutes of silently staring at the rows of corn whizzing by was broken by Jeff’s response.

“It’s okay. I feel like that too sometimes. …Not old, but sad. Beaten down.”

He thought about what to say next, and continued.

“You just gotta think about the good stuff; the stuff that’s worth living for. And even look for more good stuff if you need to. That’s what I’ve been doing, and that’s what I want to show you.”

Jeff turned onto another county road that eventually ran into what looked like a big parking lot. At the end of the parking lot, there were a couple cars and a small, private plane.

“What is this?” Spencer asked.

“You’ll see.”

After they parked next to the other cars, Jeff got out and shook the hand of a big-shouldered man with feathery gray-blonde hair.

“I haven’t told mom yet, but I figured out what I want to do with my life…I want to be a pilot.” Jeff said with a smile that he could help but let beam out of him.

“When are you going to start learning?” Grampa asked.

“I’m already done! Well not done, but I can fly this little guy now.” Jeff pointed to the 5-person plane. And my instructor has to go up with us. But I’m making progress.”

“You can fly that?!” Spencer looked amazed, staring at the (to him) giant plane and then back at his big brother.

“But how? When did you have time?”

“Well that’s the thing…” now Jeff looked a little nervous. “I dropped out of school and have been doing this instead. Mom doesn’t know yet. I want to tell her once I can fly on my own. But I can show you guys now, so I got here early today to set this up.”

“Set what up?” Grampa looked confused.

“WE GET TO FLY IN THAT THING? THIS IS GONNA BE CRAZYYY!” Spencer was jumping up and down.

“Oh no… I’ve seen how you kids drive these days, and if you think I’m climbing up there and risking my life while you do donuts in the sky, you’re more senile than I am!” Grampa crossed his arms across his chest. Jeff started to look discouraged.

“C’mon Grampa, please? I’m certified now…”

“I’m just kiddin’ witcha! What are we waitin’ for?!”

Grampa skipped past the instructor as fast as his knees would let him and helped pull Spencer, who followed close behind, up into the back row of seats. Jeff smiled as He thanked and followed his instructor to the plane.

“Everybody hang on!” Jeff checked to make sure everyone was strapped in before he started the engine. Spencer gripped his seat harness and bared his teeth in a wide smile.

“I’m gonna FLY!”

Grampa looked over at his grandson, who was as happy as he’d ever been. He looked up in the rearview mirror and saw the joy in Jeff’s eyes just before he put on a pair of aviator sunglasses and smiled as he pushed the gas and started them down the runway.

A tear fell from Grampa’s eye as he thought about how close he was to missing this experience, and promised himself he’d stick around as long as he still had moments like these to look forward to.

The four men sailed up into the sky, soaring past clouds, pointing out to each other familiar landmarks they saw as they flew by. And despite a day that so easily could have been one of the worst, became the very best with every puffy cloud they passed.

The Actor’s Wife

By Quinn Biever

*Note: Tom has mood swings, and at times certain lines will have emotions denoted to inform the actor about a mood swing*

Act 1

Scene 1

(The scene opens with Tom, a friendly, loving husband coming home from work. He is whistling a tune and swinging a briefcase.)

Tom: Boy, what a pleasant day. The sun is shining, the birds are out, and my digestive system has been great all day.

(He arrives home)

Well, good afternoon, honey, it’s so nice to see you at the end of a long day.

Melissa: It is a nice afternoon, sweetheart. (pleasant sarcasm) Where’d this good mood come from?

Tom: Do I need a reason? It’s just one of those days where everything seems lovely. Even the mailman asked how I’m doing.

Melissa: I’m glad to hear it.

(He kisses her)

Melissa: So how was everything, you know, after work?

Tom: (getting settled) Fantastic. And how was your day?

Melissa: Pretty good… I’ve been thinking about your new hobby. (Continues preparing dinner)

Tom: I wouldn’t call it a hobby; I mean sure, it’s not making any money yet, but acting is an art. It’s not about the money.

Melissa: I didn’t say it was…

Tom: …besides, I’m not even equity yet.

Melissa: Well I think acting is an assuaging form of expression, so I’m happy for you.

Tom: I don’t need to be assuaged.

…And another thing.

Melissa: Yes?

Tom: What does that mean?

Melissa: All I’m saying is that everyone needs an outlet, and I’m glad you found one. Sulking around like you were is never good for anyone.

Tom: I mean I can do whatever I want with my time.

Melissa: Yes you can! You’re a big strong man and no one’s gonna tell you what to do. (again, nice sarcasm)

Tom: Don’t patronize me. (Stern)

Melissa: You know I’m behind you, Thomas.

Tom: You’re going to have to start using my stage name once rehearsals get going. I’m trying a new approach to my character. It’s very method.

Melissa: And what method would you like me to use on your chicken, Bert.

Bert: Whatever you did last time is fine by me.

Melissa: You got it.

**Fadeout**

 

Scene 2

**Fade in**

(The scene opens with Tom bursting through the door, excited. Melissa is reading)

Tom: Mel, this is the best day of my life. (He kisses her)

Melissa: Why? What happened?

Tom: I got a promotion!

Melissa: At work?!

Tom: Remember the role I was telling you about? Now they want me to play the lead!

Melissa: Oh. Really? That’s what they said?

Tom: You could be a bit happier for me! (Frustrated)

Melissa: I mean congratulations, I just, um, wondered. What about all the effort you’ve put into Bert?

Tom: No no no, forget about Bert.

Melissa: Forget about him, huh?

Tom: You can call me Stanley, now! (Happy)

Melissa: What if I want to call you Tom?

Stanley: I really prefer Stanley.

Melissa: Even more than Bert?

Stanley: Yes. Much more dynamic.

Melissa: Well I much prefer Tom to all three.

Stanley: Of course, of course. But I need to explore Stanley. Get in touch with who he really is. Discover him, as an actor would, so that I can know him.

Melissa: One must do one’s research I suppose…

Stanley: Yes, yes exactly. Research. I am a scientist who observes humanity.

Melissa: And what is a mad scientist without his assistant? (cozying up to him)

Stanley: I knew you would help me!

Melissa: I’ll always be there for you.

(A knock at the door)

Stanley: And who is that? (Confused)

Melissa: That’s probably the mailman.

Stanley: Who?

Melissa: The nice mailman, remember? He delivers our mail from the post office right to our door. Isn’t that convenient. His name is Barry.

Stanley: Why is he knocking on our door at this hour?! (Angrily)

Melissa: It’s quarter after six.

Stanley: And?

Melissa: And the mail is here.

Stanley: So?

Melissa: So he is knocking to notify us of that, so we can put it inside before anyone messes with it.

Stanley: And how do you know him by name? (Suspiciously)

Melissa: Because he delivers our mail, to our house, everyday.

(pause, Stanley looks less than amused)

…and he’s introduced himself.

Stanley: Why?

Melissa: Because we are fortunate enough to have a nice mailman. …Is that alright?

Stanley: Is it alright that he’s introduced himself or that he’s a nice man? Or that he’s a nice man who introduced himself?

Melissa: Um, all of the above.

Stanley: Or, that he introduced himself AS a nice man?

Melissa: …yes. (Bringing in the mail)

Stanley: Whatever. (Removing several items from his briefcase)

Melissa: Is that another script?

Stanley: It sure is! (happily)

Melissa: Why would you need another script if you’re only changing characters?

Stanley: This one is for you! (handing her a script)

Melissa: Well thank you.

Stanley: Perhaps we can go over lines before bed tonight?

Melissa: I think that’d be fine, Tom.

Stanley: Stanley.

Melissa: Stanley.

**Fade out**

 

Scene 3

**Fade in**

(The scene opens with Tom sitting on top of the covers on his bed, waiting. A faucet is running and dishwashing sounds are heard in the background)

Tom: Melissa!

Melissa: (from the other room) Yes dear?

Tom: Come on!

Melissa: What?

Tom: Are you ready for our role-play?

Melissa: (pops into the room, wearing wet, yellow rubber gloves) What did you just say?

Tom: (holding up his script) Are you ready?

Melissa: Oh, that, yes. One minute. (leaves the room)

Tom: (half yelling) You know, I really appreciate this. Not everyone would give their own time for someone else’s interests. But then again, I knew you were that type before we were ever married. (The faucet stops) And nothing has changed at all.

Melissa: (entering the room) What were you saying?

Tom: I just appreciate your commitment to my dreams.

Melissa: We’re a team. And that’s what teammates do. I’m sure you’d do the same for me.

Tom: If you had a lifelong dream, I’m sure I would too.

Melissa: I have dreams. And some of them are actually lifelong. This acting thing has only been going on for a couple weeks.

Tom: Yes, but it feels like I’ve wanted it all my life.

Melissa: I’m glad you feel that way. I’m just saying there are other people in this world of yours. And some of us want things too.

Tom: You always wanted to be with me…mission accomplished!

Melissa: But besides that, there are…

Tom: Alright listen darling we have to get through some of this while we can still hold our eyelids open. Okay?

Melissa: (long pause) Okay. (grabs her script) Where are we…

Tom: I’ll start. (without opening his script)

Melissa: Okay but where are we starting, Tom? (Looking through her script)

Tom: Stanley.

Melissa: Where are we starting, Stanley?

Stanley: (without looking at his script AND in a different, pronounced, actor-voice) “What’s it like out today?”

Melissa: “Very nice.”

Stanley: “Warm?”

Melissa: “Well, there’s a good breeze blowing.”

Stanley: “Cold?”

Melissa: “No, no, I wouldn’t say it was cold. What are the cornflakes like, Stanley?”

Stanley: “Horrible.”

Melissa: “Those flakes? those lovely flakes…?” You know, I wonder sometimes about whether or not this is a good hobby to have.

Stanley: What?? (still in the voice)

Melissa: Just…maybe a physical activity or something less mentally straining would be better to clear your head. And more healthy.

Stanley: But this is what I love. And if it’s what I love, it must be good for me.

Melissa: Perhaps…

Stanley: So can we continue the scene?

Melissa: Stanley, I feel pretty tired…would it be alright if we did more tomorrow.

Stanley: (groans) We’re never gonna get through this, are we?

Melissa: I’m sorry…we can do the whole thing tomorrow… I’ve just had a long day.

Stanley: Oh really? And how exactly was it so long?

Melissa: Well… I worked all day. …And then I got off a little early and went down to that career center.

Stanley: What? Why?

Melissa: Just to…look around, you know?

Stanley: Sure. As long as you’re home when I am.

Melissa: I was. You didn’t wait a single second did you?

Stanley: No Mel.

Melissa: See? (Scooting in close to him) We didn’t have to miss each other any longer than we already do. (Putting a leg over his and an arm across him)

Stanley: (smiling) I’m glad to hear it, because I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.

Melissa: (kisses him) Oh, Tom…

Stanley: Stanley…

Melissa: (smiling and rolling her eyes) …Stan.

(She reaches over and turns off the light)

 

Scene 4

(The scene opens with Tom arriving home the next day, as always, briefcase in hand and smile on his face)

Tom: (coming in the door) Baby, I don’t know what it is, but I guess this is just my week!

Melissa: Really, what happened?

Tom: You remember how I was so happy about that promotion to the lead?

Melissa: Yes?

Tom: I was pretty happy, anyway. But not as happy as I could have been.

Melissa: What do you mean?

Tom: Well, I was thinking about our conversation… how acting has become my slightly recent lifelong dream…

Melissa: …mhm.

Tom: …And I realized that I need something more than just Stanley- I need a role where I can really flex my acting muscles; a role that goes to the edges of my range and then some! Something more vigorous, something more… inspired. (a knock at the door)

Melissa: Inspired, huh? (she opens the door and brings in the mail)

Tom: Precisely. So I went to a new theatre, a good theatre. I didn’t think I had it in me, but I auditioned somewhere else!

Melissa: What?! Tom I don’t think…

Tom: It’s Lenny now. He’s not the lead, but he’s better than the lead from the other play. Much better.

Melissa: You can’t just quit and go to another theatre. We picked this one out together. We said it was right for you, remember?

Lenny: I found one that’s more right for me.

Melissa: How and why is that?

Lenny: It’s not the theatre really, it’s the role!

Melissa: The role…

Lenny: Yes!

Melissa: What about it?

Lenny: Just…the sheer level of intensity.

Melissa: Tom, I don’t…

Lenny: Lenny.

Melissa: Lenny, I don’t think this is a good idea. At all. I wasn’t even sure this was a good idea when it was at a theatre with a director that was… familiar…with your…acting style.

Lenny: And what in the hell is wrong with my ‘acting style?’

Melissa: Nothing… okay, everyone has a style, right? And the director we met with… he seems to know how to help make yours work for you. Plus, even good actors have weaknesses. He can help you identify them so you can have total control of your character…

Lenny: I don’t need someone pointing out what to work on.

Melissa: You don’t? Because…

Lenny: No! Alright?! I’m finding opportunities for myself. This is the best outlet for my talents and you should be glad for me. Not nagging at me about my weaknesses.

Melissa: I’m not nagging…

Lenny: There you go again…

Melissa: Hey! I’m not trying to nag at you, DEAR. I’m just looking out for you. From another angle.

Lenny: Well don’t! I can feel when something is right for me like no one else can. Either you can swallow that or you can’t!

Melissa: I can swallow it, if it makes you happy.

Lenny: Oh you can? (smiling and approaching her)

Melissa: Yes, baby. (seductively) But you have to promise me something…

Lenny: Anything…

Melissa: Remind yourself that it’s me. Don’t forget who’s got your back.

Lenny: …and my front.

Melissa: And everywhere else. (They kiss, a lot)

**Fade out**

 

Scene 5

(The scene opens with Melissa and Tom under the covers, after a romp in the bedroom)

Melissa: Stay here, stay with me forever.

Tom: Sure.

Melissa: (nuzzling into him) I mean it, you have to take in moments like this…

(Tom gets up from the bed, heading to the bathroom)

Melissa: Where are you going, love?

Tom: Gotta pee.

(Melissa is thinking, playing with her hair, the covers.)

Lenny: (in an acting voice) “Do you want a cigarette?”

Melissa: What?

Lenny: (Walks in, holding his script in one hand, a bottle of whiskey in the other) “A cigarette. Do you, want one?” (takes a swig)

Melissa: Oh, this is from the scene, right?

Lenny: “I asked you a question.”

Melissa: I don’t know the lines…

Lenny: (yelling) “A cigarette!” (takes a swig)

Melissa: Hey! Stop…

Lenny: “Do you understand me or not?”

Melissa: Not! I don’t smoke?!

Lenny: (inquisitive) “So you don’t want one? (takes a swig) Have you ever smoked a cigarette?”

Melissa: Um, maybe once or twice, but not really…

Lenny: “So you’re a liar.”

Melissa: No.

Lenny: (takes a swig) “You said you don’t smoke. Now you say you do.”

Melissa: I did, like one time. But I haven’t since. This…this is your character isn’t it? This isn’t funny, Lenny. And you need to slow down on the booze. (grabbing the bottle from him)

Lenny: “I’ve got nothing to do with this.” (Takes out a pack of cigarettes and lights one)

Melissa: What are you doing? You can’t smoke that in here?!

Lenny: “I can do what I want in my house.”

Melissa: Absolutely. (sarcastically) You are the king of the castle. Now will you do one little thing for your queen?

Lenny: Hm..?

Melissa: Come back to bed. (She kisses him, taking the cigarette out of his hand)

Lenny: “Hey…”

(She takes a drag, puts out his cigarette on the nightstand, climbs into bed, pulling him around her)

 

Scene 6

(The next day, Tom is practicing his lines as he walks around the living room, occasionally glancing at his script to remember a line)

Tom as Gus: Takes a few cooks, eh?

(Mimes putting a revolver in its holster)

The sooner we’re out of this place the better. Why doesn’t he get in touch? I feel like I’ve been here years.

(He takes his revolver out of its holster to check the ammunition.)

We’ve never let him down though, have we? We’ve never let him down. I was thinking only the other day, Ben. We’re reliable, aren’t we?

(He puts his revolver back in its holster. Melissa enters, carrying groceries)

Tom: (without moving) Do you need help?

Melissa: No, thanks, I think I’ve got all the groceries, but the mail is just sitting there. Could you bring it in and put it away?

Tom: Certainly. (he walks past her, gets the mail from outside the door, and walks into the bathroom)

(Melissa puts away the groceries. Tom reappears without the mail)

Melissa: You know I’m only joking when I say we should flush our bills down the toilet, right?

Tom: Yes?

Melissa: So you brought all the mail to the bathroom?

Tom: Yeah, what’s wrong with a little light reading? (smiling) So how was the store?

Melissa: Fine. I saw my friend, Dee. She’s doing well. She had her three kids with her. Well, kind of. They were actually just running around, driving her- and everyone else crazy.

Tom: Sounds terrible.

Melissa: A little. But it was also adorable, in it’s own chaotic way.

Tom: Mel…what are you saying…

Melissa: Oh Tom, relax. Trust me, I’ve got enough chaos in my day to day.

Tom: And what’s that supposed to mean?

Melissa: It means one big cry baby is enough. Two, plus a round of diaper duty is not what I signed up for.

Tom: I’m no cry baby, I’m a man!

Melissa: Am I supposed to just take your word for it?

Tom: No, ma’am (spanks her, she giggles) Not now, not ever.

 

Scene 7

(Here, Melissa’s lines are all delivered with more confusion and frustration as she notices the repeated dialogue, as if she is experiencing terrible deja-vu)

(The scene opens with Melissa and Tom under the covers, after a romp in the bedroom)

Melissa: Stay here, stay with me forever.

Tom: Sure.

Melissa: (nuzzling into him) I mean it, you have to take in moments like this…

(Tom gets up from the bed, heading to the bathroom)

Melissa: Where are you going, love?

Tom: Gotta pee.

(Melissa is thinking, playing with her hair, the covers.)

Lenny: (in an acting voice) “Do you want a cigarette?”

Melissa: What?

Lenny: (Walks in, holding his script in one hand, a bottle of whiskey in the other) “A cigarette. Do you, want one?” (takes a swig)

Melissa: Oh, this is from the scene, right?

Lenny: “I asked you a question.”

Melissa: I don’t know the lines…

Lenny: (yelling) “A cigarette!” (takes a swig)

Melissa: Hey! Stop…

Lenny: “Do you understand me or not?”

Melissa: Not! I don’t smoke?!

Lenny: (inquisitive) “So you don’t want one? (takes a swig) Have you ever smoked a cigarette?”

Melissa: Um, maybe once or twice, but not really…

Lenny: “So you’re a liar.”

Melissa: No.

Lenny: (takes a swig) “You said you don’t smoke. Now you say you do.”

Melissa: I did, like one time. But I haven’t since. This…this is your character isn’t it? This isn’t funny, Lenny. And you need to slow down on the booze. (grabbing the bottle from him)

Lenny: “I’ve got nothing to do with this.” (Takes out a pack of cigarettes and lights one)

Melissa: What are you doing? You can’t smoke that in here?!

Lenny: “Tell me what I can and can’t do.” (takes a swig)

Melissa: What? Hey, slow down on the booze…

Lenny: “Tell me again what I can and can’t do!”

Melissa: I’m not…

Lenny: “…a controlling bitch?” (puts out the cigarette on the nightstand)

Melissa: Excuse me?!

Lenny: “Yes! Excuse you!” (takes a swig)

Melissa: Thomas?!?!

Lenny: (screaming) “Don’t call me that!” (He raises his hand to strike her, and brings it down slightly but stops himself) “You know I hate when you call me that.”

Melissa: Oh my god…were you going to…

Lenny: “I’ve told you that. Don’t you remember that I told you that? You don’t remember. Why don’t you remember? Is it because you don’t love me? Did I do something? Did you? Did you fuck someone else? Do you love someone else? Please don’t cheat on me, I love you…” (climbs in bed close to her)

Melissa: (trying not to cry) Lenny… please, calm down.

Lenny: “There you go, telling me what to do again! Are you aware you have a problem? (takes a swig) You’re a crazy bitch with a problem and I won’t be around while you figure it out.” (He goes to the coat rack and gets his coat and shoes on)

Melissa: (crying) Thom-erm-Lenny, Where are you going? Come back here… Please…

Lenny: “If I can’t smoke in here, I’ll go somewhere else!” (Slams the door, lights go out)

 

Scene 8

(Tom is walking to his house from where he parked. He is swinging his keys around his finger. He notices the mailman walking away from his house. As they approach each other to cross paths…)

Barry: Hey there Tom, how’s life treatin’ ya?

Tom: Bar, bare, Barry? Right? Good, man, just living the dream, you know.

Barry: I hear ya.

Tom: Thursdays, amiright?

Barry: Heh heh, one day from the best day. Although, earlier this week you were damn near skipping to yer door. I was happy just seein’ someone that happy.

Tom: Yeah, that was a good day. Things have been going my way lately.

Barry: Well I’ll have what you’re havin’, heh heh. (pause) Uh, I jus leff yer mail an’ package up ‘ere with yer wife.

Tom: Great, thanks. How’d she seem? Mood-wise I mean…

Barry: Pretty much normal. She sweeter than a watermelon, that woman. You a lucky guy.

Tom: Yeah she’s alright. Better from your angle probably.

Barry: Howzat?

Tom: Oh you know, women… (Slightly awkward pause) Can’t live with ‘em, right?

Barry: Some of ‘em harder to live with than others. S’why I say you’re lucky- she’s a catch. I been tryin’ to find myself a girl like that for a while….

Tom: Yeah?

Barry: And cousin, I’m still lookin’! (Laughs)

Tom: (moving toward the door) Well, let me head in and I’ll see if she has a sister or something I don’t know about… (Jokingly)

Barry: Heheheh alright friend, take care now. I’ll see ya tomorrah.

Tom: Yepp (waves)

 

Scene 9

(Again, Melissa’s lines are all delivered with more confusion and frustration as she notices the repeated dialogue, as if she is experiencing terrible deja-vu)

(The scene opens with Melissa and Tom under the covers, after a romp in the bedroom)

Melissa: Stay here, stay with me forever.

Tom: Sure.

Melissa: (nuzzling into him) I mean it, you have to take in moments like this…

(Tom gets up from the bed, heading to the bathroom)

Melissa: Where are you going, love?

Tom: Gotta pee.

(Melissa is thinking, playing with her hair, the covers.)

Lenny: (in an acting voice) “Do you want a cigarette?”

Melissa: What?

Lenny: (Walks in, holding his script in one hand, a bottle of whiskey in the other) “A cigarette. Do you, want one?” (Takes a swig)

Melissa: Oh, this is from the scene, right?

Lenny: “I asked you a question.”

Melissa: I don’t know the lines…

Lenny: (yelling) “A cigarette!” (Takes a swig)

Melissa: Hey! Stop…

Lenny: “Do you understand me or not?”

Melissa: Not! I don’t smoke?!

Lenny: (inquisitive) “So you don’t want one? (takes a swig) Have you ever smoked a cigarette?”

Melissa: Um, maybe once or twice, but not really…

Lenny: “So you’re a liar.”

Melissa: No.

Lenny: (takes a swig) “You said you don’t smoke. Now you say you do.”

Melissa: I did, like one time. But I haven’t since. This…this is your character isn’t it? This isn’t funny, Lenny. And you need to slow down on the booze. (grabbing the bottle from him)

Lenny: “I’ve got nothing to do with this.” (Takes out a pack of cigarettes and lights one)

Melissa: What are you doing? You can’t smoke that in here?!

Lenny: “Tell me what I can and can’t do.” (takes a swig)

Melissa: What? Hey, slow down on the booze…

Lenny: “Tell me again what I can and can’t do!”

Melissa: I’m not…

Lenny: “…a controlling bitch?” (puts out the cigarette on the nightstand)

Melissa: Excuse me?!

Lenny: “Yes! Excuse you!” (takes a swig)

Melissa: Thomas?!?!

Lenny: (screaming) “Don’t call me that!” (He raises his hand and strikes her)

(Melissa is shocked, holding her face, staring at him, confused. He advances toward her again- She throws the covers off of her and backs off of the bed, away from him)

Melissa: Get away from me…

Lenny: “Why? Because I smoke? You can’t accept me for who I am…” (He takes out another cigarette and lights it.”

Melissa: Get. Out. I don’t know who this character is but I want him out.

Lenny: “Excuse me…”

Melissa: Get out! (moving toward him) You can’t smoke that in here! (slaps the cigarette out of his hand)

Lenny: “Fine. That’s fine. You can push me around, keep me from living how I want to live, but this marriage won’t work. (steps on the cigarette, rubbing it into the ground)

Melissa: Stop it. Whoever you are, just stop.

Lenny: “And why should I?” (getting closer to her)

Melissa: You’re the liar. You’re stuck on Lenny or whoever the fuck you think this person is supposed to be. (starts crying) You let him takeover, you let him hit your wife. You know I’m your wife, don’t you? (reaches for the bottle)

Lenny: (pulling the bottle away from her) “You know, for someone who claims to be my wife, you don’t seem to care about me very much. You keep trying to control me. It’s like, I get that I’m a fuck-up okay? I probably wouldn’t care about me either. Some self-medicating (takes a swig) guy who can’t even handle himself. But you know, you married this piece of shit, so why don’t you try to be a bit more accepting of who I really am. I smoke, I drink, and if I ever decide to get married, she wont care.” (getting his shoes on and coat from the coat rack)

Melissa: Where are you going?

Lenny: “For a drive.”

Melissa: You can’t! (grabbing at his coat)

Lenny: (shoving her off of him. She falls back to the ground) I can. (he leaves and slams the door, lights go out)

(small pause with lights out)

(The lights come back on. Melissa is still on the floor, crying. There is a knock at the door)

(Melissa looks up and heads to the door, curious of who it might be. She opens it and looks out)

Melissa: Lenny?!

Barry: (from a distance) Oh, hey, no, just…ya know…dropping off a package.

Melissa: Oh. I’m sorry. I thought you were my husband.

Barry: No problem… (she starts to close the door) Hey, are you alright?

Melissa: (Wiping her eyes) Yeah. Yeah I’m fine.

Barry: Melissa, right? (coming to the door)

Melissa: Yeah. You’re Barry.

Barry: That’s me.

Melissa: Why are you working so late?

Barry: I got done with my route and noticed a package in the back of the truck. So, I figured I’d just run it out to ya.

Melissa: Well, that’s sweet. Thank you.

Barry: Ma’am, I know it’s none of my business, but what’s got you cryin’? If you don’t mind me askin’.

Melissa: Nothing, nothing. Just relationship stuff. I’m sure you know…

Barry: No, not really. Not much of a ladies man, myself.

Melissa: Oh, stop it. Sure you are. You just haven’t found her.

Barry: I s’pose.

Melissa: Well, I appreciate this. Thank you.

Barry: Just doin my job ma’am.

(awkward pause)

But then again, you wanna return the favor?

Melissa: Sorry, what?

Barry: Can you do something for me?

Melissa: Um, no?

Barry: Make sure Lenny’s takin care of you.

Melissa: Who? …Oh, right.

Barry: I oughtn’t think a pretty lady like yourself should be cryin like ya are.

Melissa: You know, you’re right. I shouldn’t. But… relationships they’re… you know? …I guess you don’t know. Well let me tell you, they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. I mean, sometimes they’re great, but sometimes they’re…not. We ’re conditioned to find someone and love them and make babies and be together forever and grow old and read the paper and bitch at each other about kids these days. But, its like we’re also conditioned not to. You know, when I was young, I thought I had the coolest parents. I mean, kids were constantly bitching about “my mom wont let me do this and my dad made me do that…” and I was all like “yeah, totally,” but actually my parents were pretty friendly and helpful. Then everyone’s parents started getting divorced. But mine didn’t. Every time I’d ask about how things were going or how one felt about the other, they’d have their complaints, but it would always end with “but I love him, or her.” But then I got even older, and I watched their interest shrivel. I watched them nag and jab at each other until it seemed like they hated being in the same room. And neither of them ever considered divorce. Not for religious reasons, just, honoring a commitment or something. It got to the point where I almost sat them down and said “Guys, I think it’s time you considered a divorce.” And in my head they would start crying and I’d have to reassure them like “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay. I promise, this has nothing to do with me, this is just something between you two.” How sad and dumb is that? I mean maybe I was right though, maybe we’re only meant to be around each other, like in couples, enough to have and raise children to be well-adjusted members of society. Then we should just shake hands and end things before they get ugly. I don’t know. I don’t know why I feel like this already, we haven’t even been married 7 years. And Tom has always been Tom. And he’ll always be Tom. And I know I’ve always loved him. I guess it’s just hard not to wonder…or…let the heart stray…or whatever. You know?

Barry: Uh…who’s Tom?

Melissa: What?

Barry: Um… (nervously looks around and, unable to think of anything helpful to say, leaves awkwardly)

(Melissa looks confused as she watches him leave, then closes the door)

 

Act 2

Scene 1

(The scene begins with Melissa stumbling down a sidewalk, on her way home from a bar, drunk. A man, who is helping her walk, accompanies her but we can’t tell who he is. Oh, and it’s raining.)

Melissa: (slurring a lot) You know, it wasn’t always like this, you know.

Man: I know, I know. Don’t worry.

Melissa: It’s juss like, shit’s hard sometimes, you know?

Man: (laughing) Yeah, I think I know.

Melissa: I am married, okay buddy?

Man: You mentioned that. It’s fine.

Melissa: Mentioned what?

Man: Nothing. Are you still feeling okay?

Melissa: Yeah! I feel great.

Man: Really?

Melissa: No!

Man: Oh, I’m… I’m sorry. What’s wrong? I don’t have to walk you home…

Melissa: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey… I’m MARRIED, okay?

Man: (pause) Really?

Melissa: Yes, his name is Tom, and most of the time he’s wonderful.

Man: Most of the time? I thought his name was Lenny?

Melissa: How do you know that?

Barry: You were calling for him the other night…

Melissa: Hey! You’re my mailman! (taking off his hood/whatever is concealing his identity)

Barry: That’s me.

Melissa: So tell me Larry…

Barry: Hehehe… (knowing she mispoke)

Melissa: Sure. So you saw me in the bar, how did you know it was me?

Barry: You, uh, look like yourself from earlier?

Melissa: Oh… thank you! You’re too sweet.

So how do you know where I live, Gary?

Barry: Yes.

Melissa: Well that’s pretty damn nice of you.

Barry: How many guys walk you home and already know where you live?

Melissa: None! Well…(looking at him)…one. What are you trying to say? I’m a married woman…

Barry: Nothin, nothin. I mean, you said Lenny was yer husband, so naturally I figured Tom was a… different person, I guess.

Melissa: Nope, nope, nope, same guy.

Barry: Alrighty.

Melissa: It’s a long story.

Barry: We still gotta handfulla blocks…

Melissa: If you say so… I’ll try to keep it short for you, Harry.

Barry: Why don’t we stick with Barry from now on (smiling)

Melissa: Right, yes, I’m sorry.

Barry: S’alright. Go ahead.

Melissa: (still slurring) So… it’s kinda like I was telling you the other day… relationships, man… (pause) They’re hard. You can be like a super genius and still not understand love. You can be on your first date or have a thousand years of dating experience and still make mistakes. The important part is that you are true to yourself and honest to your partner… But even then things can get all fucked up! That’s mostly the part I don’t get. So you gotta think, is it something we are all doing wrong? Cause how are we all so bad at it? Besides the occasional pair of old farts that have loved each other for forever, the rest of us are having a less-than-perfect time, here. Single people are lonely and sad, people in relationships are fickle and sad, and married couples are bored and sad. I’m not saying I’m bored and sad, but… I know I said Tom has always been Tom…but that’s not necessarily true. I mean, people change, that’s normal. If people didn’t change- now THAT would be frustrating… but think about it. If you commit yourself to someone forever, and everyone’s changing, you’re eventually gonna end up with someone who’s much or completely different than the person you agreed to. And what if you don’t like that person? I suppose it’s more about agreeing to all the potential versions of someone, but that sounds pretty crazy doesn’t it? It feels crazy anyway…but like I said, I love my husband, whoever he is. And you don’t just walk away from the people you love. But…that’s easier said than done. Oh gosh look we’ve been standing here all wet and I’ve been keeping you here with my rambling. I appreciate you walking me home, really. You’re a sweet guy, Jerry.

(She has been getting closer and closer to him, and at this point is leaning in to kiss him, but at the last second she pulls back, turns away, then turns back to him holding a small piece of paper)

Here. This is my number. If you want to stop by, say hi or whatever, or if you need anything, give me a call. It’s always good to have friends nearby. Goodnight. (she runs inside, leaving him standing there)

Barry: (looking down, smiling at the piece of paper, he is cheerful and touched) Thanks.

(He stands there for a minute, realizes no one is around, and awkwardly turns and leaves.)

Scene 2

(scene opens in the kitchen/living room area in Tom and Melissa’s home. Tom is following Melissa around, persistently)

Tom: Come on, Mac!

Melissa: NO! Leave me alone. And stop calling me that.

Tom: Are you kidding me? You were so supportive…

Melissa: I still am, but I’m done with that script. You can ask me questions and we can still talk things over, but you will just have to run your lines in your rehearsals.

Tom: There isn’t enough time, we have to be memorized by Monday. Mac, I need your help.

Melissa: You don’t need my help. We’ve done this before, and you remember how than ended.

Tom: That wasn’t me!

Melissa: Well that WAS me! I’m not a character Tom, I’m your wife. I’m Melissa Walker, that’s all. If you want someone else, you’ll have to find someone else.

Tom: But, you always said you would help me! (angrily) This isn’t helping me!

Melissa: I said I’d do whatever I can to make you better. You aren’t better. Learning to act is about controlling your mind and your body. If anything you have less control than ever…

(pause)

Tom: Take it back…

Melissa: No, Tom.

Tom: It’s Mick.

Melissa: NO, TOM. I’m not saying this to hurt you, I’m saying these things because I love you enough to be honest with you.

Tom: Okay, I get it.

Melissa: I want you to remember that I love you. I feel like sometimes you get so caught up in what you’re doing that you forget I’m here. And I’m here for you.

Tom: I remember.

Melissa: Don’t forget.

Tom: …to remember?

Melissa: Don’t forget any of it (smiling)

Tom: So, we can talk about the character at least?

Melissa: Absolutely. Are you hungry? I can grab us something to nibble on while we go over it.

Tom: Sure. Whatever you want, I’ll have some too. (she leaves to the kitchen and Tom sits at the kitchen table with his script)

**Fade out**

 

Scene 3

(Again, Melissa’s lines are all delivered with more confusion and frustration as she notices the repeated dialogue, as if she is experiencing terrible deja-vu)

(scene opens in the kitchen/living room area in Tom and Melissa’s home. Tom is following Melissa around, persistently)

Tom: Come on, Mac!

Melissa: NO! Leave me alone. And stop calling me that.

Tom: Are you kidding me? You were so supportive…

Melissa: I still am, but I’m done with that script. You can ask me questions and we can still talk things over, but you will just have to run your lines in your rehearsals.

Tom: There isn’t enough time, we have to be memorized by Monday. Mac, I need your help.

Melissa: You don’t need my help. We’ve done this before, and you remember how than ended.

Tom: That wasn’t me!

Melissa: Well that WAS me! I’m not a character Tom, I’m your wife. I’m Melissa Walker, that’s all. If you want someone else, you’ll have to find someone else.

Tom: But, you always said you would help me! (angrily) This isn’t helping me!

Melissa: I said I’d do whatever I can to make you better. You aren’t better. Learning to act is about controlling your mind and your body. If anything you have less control than ever…

(pause)

Tom: Take it back…

Melissa: No, Tom.

Tom: It’s Mick.

Melissa: NO, TOM. I’m not saying this to hurt you, I’m saying these things because I love you enough to be honest with you.

Mick: (In a very different and menacing voice) No. It’s. Mick.

Melissa: No it’s not…

Mick: (getting closer and closer to her) I don’t look like Mick to you? (she’s backing away from him but he’s pursuing her around the living room and kitchen with an evil look on his face) I don’t… sound like Mick? (getting in her face) I don’t… smell like Mick?

Melissa: This isn’t funny… why don’t we think about dinner?

Mick: You know what I’d like to think about? I like imagining you picking up that script and letting me be Mick, how’s that sound? Wouldn’t that be fun? If you allowed the person whose house you’re in to be themself? Wouldn’t that be…nice?

Melissa: You’re scaring me. Don’t do this.

Mick: Don’t do what, exactly? I just want to make sure I’m clear on the rules.

Melissa: There aren’t rules, I just can’t be around for this again… (backing toward the door)

Mick: Pick up your script.

Melissa: No…

Mick: PICK IT UP!

Melissa: No…

Mick: (grabbing the script from the table) As soon as you pick it up, you can join me. And once you do that, we can play. I promise to play by the rules.

Melissa: I’m not playing this game.

Mick: Play with me.

Melissa: No…

Mick: Join me…

Melissa: Tom.

Mick: You know, you keep saying the name Tom, like somebody’s gonna come strutting into the room. Well guess what? This is our room. Ours. Not mine, not yours. And you know what else? I think it’s about time you started acting like it. Now take this (pushing the script at her) and show me your tricks.

Melissa: It’s not mine.

Mick: It’s yours. (he starts chasing her again, circling her around the island)

Melissa: I don’t have any tricks.

Mick: I’ll show you.

Melissa: I don’t want to be shown.

Mick: You don’t have a choice!

Melissa: Yes I do.

Mick: It’s my choice now. And I’ve decided. Now sit.

Melissa: Absolutely not.

Mick: Absolutely yes.

Melissa: No.

Mick: Yes. Sit down.

Melissa: (looking around) Not while you stand.

Mick: What?

Melissa: Sit, and I will.

Mick: Alright. (grabs a chair, pushes it to her. Grabs another chair, pushes it in front of himself)

(He looks at the seat, and slowly sits. He looks at her with anticipation. She looks at the seat, looks up at him, turns and grabs her keys as she makes a B-line for the door)

Mick: You fucking bitch! I shoulda known you’d pull some shit you miserable fucking cunt!

(door slams, lights go out)

 

Scene 4

(After some time with the lights out, the door cracks open. It is hours later, the middle of the night. Melissa sticks her head in the doorway, looking around. The apartment is still)

Melissa: Tom?

(Turning on a light) Tom? (she sets her keys down) Are you here? (she picks them back up)

Tom?

(a light clicks on. Mick is sitting in an armchair, smiling)

Mick: Welcome to our lovely home.

Melissa: (still cautious, but a little relieved) Thank you… are you…feeling better?

Mick: Better than when?

Melissa: Earlier…you were…very upset….

Mick: Everyone gets upset from time to time.

Melissa: (setting her keys and phone down) Yes, but, you were being pretty hurtful.

Mick: I can have a terrible temper. I apologize.

Melissa: Oh, um, it’s okay. Um, I mean, actually it’s not…you can’t treat me like that. If you do, I can’t be here…

Mick: I know, my actions were…inexcusable. Sometimes I wonder where I’d be if I didn’t have my wife calming me down and steering me back on track.

Melissa: Oh, gosh. It’s so nice to hear you say that. (takes off her coat)

Mick: Why?

Melissa: I mean, I usually feel like I do a lot, but I don’t always feel like you notice.

Mick: Notice what?

Melissa: Me?! Calming you and steering you back on track? Like you said?

Mick: I’m sorry, I think I’m confused.

Melissa: You said you wonder where you’d be without your wife…

Mick: Yes, my wife. She’s just in the other room.

Melissa: No, she’s here…I’m your wife.

Mick: What? No, you’re not. My wife is in the other room. She’ll be back in a minute. And she won’t like you referring to yourself as my spouse, so I’d prefer that you stop.

Melissa: What? Do you actually have another woman in our house?!

Mick: My house. And yes, definitely.

Melissa: (breaking up) Are you…

Mick: What?

Melissa: Are you…

Mick: Am I what?!

Melissa: Do you know where I can find my husband Tom?

Mick: I’m not sure, have I met him?

Melissa: You used to be him.

Mick: I don’t understand.

Melissa: Are you Mick?

Robert: Mick? Interesting, I’ve never met anyone named Mick. I’m Robert.

Melissa: Well ROBERT, do you think you could help me?

Robert: With what?

Melissa: I’m just trying to figure out why you let strangers into your apartment.

Robert: You let yourself in, and I was actually just wondering if I had seen you somewhere.

Melissa: You’ve seen me everyday. I live here. I’m your wife. We picked out this apartment together. My name is on the lease. I’m Melissa.

Robert: I wish I could say it’s a pleasure, Melissa, but I think you’ve overstayed your welcome. My wife will be back any minute now… here she is… (he gestures to an empty doorway) You see?

Melissa: Goddammit…(trying not to cry)

Robert: What, do you have a problem with her?

Melissa: Who?! Who?!?

Robert: My wife. She’s right there.

Melissa: No.

Robert: What?

Melissa: She’s not there. She’s standing right here.

Robert: Stop. That’s enough! I won’t have any more of this.

Melissa: Tom, I know you’re in there. You wouldn’t have let me stay this long if you weren’t. Please. Remember.

Robert: Enough! Get out! No more of your mind games! Get out now!

Melissa: (approaching him) Tom… please… remember like you said you would. It’s me, it’s Mel. It’s your Mel…

Robert: My WIFE has gone back in the other room, thanks to you. Now kindly show yourself OUT!

Melissa: I’m your wife! Our wedding was 6 short years ago. (getting closer to him) I fell in love with you. The real you. (Kisses him. Long and passionate. He kisses her back at first, but then breaks away)

Robert: Stop…STOP IT! NO MORE! You will not barge in here and try to ruin my marriage. I tried to be nice, but you refused to respect that. (going to the door) I’m not sure who you are, but if you’re a filthy home wrecker, you can get fucking lost! (holding the door open)

Melissa: No.

Robert: What?

Melissa: I said no. I hate this. I hate the way you’re looking at me, like you don’t know who I am. I hate feeling like a stranger in my own house. But I’m not walking out anymore. I’m not climbing the steps to our apartment, wondering who’s gonna answer the door. This is where I live. I live here. I’m inside my home. And once I’m in, I’m in.

Robert: No, you’re out!

(grabbing her arm, pulling her towards the door. There is a struggle. She breaks free, he flies backward and maybe even falls down, and she runs to the bathroom. He chases after her but the door is locked. He bangs his fists and kicks against the door)

Open this fucking door now! Get out of my house!

(we can hear Melissa start sobbing loudly and painfully. As she sobs, Robert is screaming and pounding at the door, doing anything to open it. During all this noise, her phone starts ringing)

(After the ringtone ends, a few moments later, her crying stops too. He hears this, and he stops, curiously.)

Robert: What…What’s going on? What are you doing?!

Hey?!

(The door unlocks, and swings open. She walks out with a sullen face, holding something. She walks to the middle of the room, stops, turns, and looks him in the eye.)

Melissa: Why?

Robert: Why what??

Melissa: We agreed. We had a plan. We were going to have things under control.

Robert: What are you talking about?

(she unfolds her hands, revealing an orange prescription bottle, full of pills)

Melissa: Why are these here?

Robert: What? Some medicine?

Melissa: Not some medicine, your medicine…your Clozapine. Why is it here?

Robert: That’s not mine…

Melissa: (shaking the bottle angrily) It’s yours! They’re all yours! Every bottle, every pill…they’re all yours! (Unscrewing the cap) And why… (starts throwing them at him one by one) are…there…so…many!

(after throwing about 5, her anger turns to sadness at the sight of his confusion)

They’re…They’re all still here… (hands shaking, holding the bottle, but never taking her eyes off his, she turns it upside down, spilling hundreds of pills all over the floor. A long silence hangs in the air, for exactly 20 seconds)

Melissa: My name is Melissa, I’m your wife. You are sick. When you got sick, we saw a doctor. He gave you these. These pills are a safe antipsychotic medication that we agreed you would take. They were being delivered here regularly. They help you.

Robert: Help me what?

Melissa: Find your true character. You’re real character. Because you’re sick, it’s harder for you than most people. You have personalities. Most people just have one. I left our home this evening because one of them pushed me out. But I shouldn’t have left- I won’t leave again. This is our home and I’m staying. If I die trying to get you to figure that out, then so be it. You used to take these, and you’d be a lot more of Tom for a lot longer. They’d help you be the man you were before. Those big brown eyes used to gaze into my heart. You knew me better than anyone. Then you started coming home and eventually you didn’t know me at all. Pills and talk therapy, they said. I knew you wouldn’t like feeling like a patient, so we found a hobby that allowed you to control your characters…turn them on and off voluntarily…But, but it’s not acting anymore. You lost control. Now I know why.

Robert: Why what?

Melissa: For some reason, you stopped taking them. Maybe you thought you didn’t need them anymore. They were working for a while. But they can’t help you if you don’t take them. And neither can I. Not if you don’t remember me. (she picks up a pill, and holds it out to him) I need you to remember me. Please.

Robert: Okay. (he takes the pill and swallows it)

But what about my wife?

Melissa: I’ll take care of her, don’t worry.

Robert: Okay. Thanks. (yawns)

Melissa: Yeah, it’s late, isn’t it?

Robert: Yes, you decided to visit at a very irregular hour

Melissa: I’m sorry.

Robert: That’s alright. I’m glad you’re back.

Melissa: Me too, sweetheart.

(Robert yawns again)

Melissa: Okay, let’s get ready for bed, huh big guy?

Robert: We can’t leave the floor like that.

Melissa: Don’t worry, I’ll clean them up.

(He gets up, puts an arm around her, she turns and hugs him. They have a long, emotional hug. They then walk to the bathroom, she brushes her teeth, walks back out into the kitchen area while brushing)

Tom: Mel?

Melissa: (she looks up and smiles brightly to herself) Yes?

Tom: Where’d you put the toothpaste? It’s always in a different spot!

Melissa: Top drawer, goofy.

Tom: (comes out brushing his teeth) Oh yeah, I’m the goofy one for playing along with your “hide the toothpaste game.”

(Melissa turns and give him a foamy kiss)

That’s real nice. Weirdest kiss ever. (smiling)

(They go back to the bathroom, get done brushing, and head to the bedroom)

(he reaches to set the alarm clock, but she grabs his hand, gently)

Melissa: It’s been a long day. I’ll email your director and tell her you need some good rest. You can go back to rehearsal totally refreshed on Tuesday.

Robert: Thank you.

(She smiles and tucks him in, then goes to leave. When she gets to the threshold of the door…)

Tom: Hey… (softly)

Melissa: Yes?

Tom: I know you just tucked me in and all…

Melissa: (smiles, and walks back to the bed, climbing into bed with him. They hold each other as their eyelids become heavy)

(each time their eyes begin to close, the lights start to dim. Slightly at first, then halfway, then they fade to black)

(Shortly after fading to black, the song “Boats and Birds” by Gregory and the Hawk fades in, followed by the lights fading back up to halfway as Melissa half opens her eyes. She looks over at him, smiles and pushes his hair off his face, gets up from the bed, and with the song playing and the lights half-dimmed, she cleans up the pills, writes the email, and looks at him. She stares at the pill bottle and then back at him. She then proceeds to pack her things for the duration of the song. She grabs her coat, and slips out the door. Just before leaving though, she stops, sets her bags down, goes to his bedside, and kisses him on the forehead before going back to and through the door, with it closing and the lights fading out again just as the song ends.)

End of Play

The Warning

Characters: Jackson Mort, Joey Plicky, Cameron “Moose” Hudson, & The Sheriff

Three boys are packing duffle bags into the trunk of a car. One boy carries snacks in a grocery bag; another twirls his keychain around his index finger, another spins a football to himself. All three fit their bags into the trunk, and climb into the car- Joey drives, Jackson tucks the football like a running back and gets in the passenger seat, Moose opens one back door, sets the grocery bag down on the seat, closes it, walks around to the other side of the car, and gets in. Joey puts car in gear.

Joey:                Did you forget anything?

Jackson:          I can’t remember.

Moose:            (quietly laughs to himself)

Joey:                Of course you can’t. (Car pulls away)

Jackson:          If I didn’t think of it, it can’t be that important.

Joey:                Not sure that’s how it works.

Jackson:          Maybe not for you. Did you remember to tell Jessica that you’re leaving?

Joey:                Yeah, yeah.

Jackson:          Seriously, man, she is probably worried. Give her a call (holds his phone out)

Joey:                I get it, she’s a little more… attached than most girls.

Jackson:          (Put’s phone away) She’s a nice girl.

Joey:                I’ll be honest with you though, it won’t be all that bad getting away from her for a weekend.

(Car leaves neighborhood, turns, and accelerates toward the highway)

Jackson:          It’s fine, I remember being young and naïve.

Joey:                One day you’ll actually have a girlfriend and you’ll understand.

Jackson:          Dude watch your speed…

Joey:                It’s fine.

Jackson:          I’m just saying, I’ve driven this before and there’s always a cop sitting on the other side of the hill just waiting to fuck you.

Joey:                Thanks mom.

Jackson:          All right, asshole, you’re on your own from here on out.

Joey:                That’s just fine by me.

Jackson:          Moose, hand me the M&M’s would ya?

(Moose reaches over and grabs a package of M&M’s out of the grocery bag and hands them up to Jackson)

Jackson:          Thanks dog.

Joey:                Ten minutes in and you’re breaking out the snacks already?

Jackson:          (mouth full) Want some?

(Joey shakes his head, Moose shakes his head too)

Jackson:          (Shrugging) More for me.

(Silence)

Jackson:          I can’t wait till were out of Kansas.

Joey:                Yeah, but we stay on 35 for pretty much the whole way.

Jackson:          I wonder when everyone else hit the road.

Joey:                Well, sometime this morning.

Jackson:          I bet Max was late. He’s always dicking around until everyone’s ready and then starts to get his shit together.

Joey:                But he was in Jared’s car, and I feel like if anybody would get his ass in gear it’d be the human alarm clock.

Jackson:          True. No way the ROTC (pronounced rot-see) Nazi wouldn’t have him on the move. (Imitating an army commander) Alright pussy, wake the fuck up. It’s 8 o’clock, and you’ve got exactly 30 minutes to powder your goddamn nose before I expect you on the hop. ‘Oorah!

Joey:                (laughing) He’s not that bad.

Jackson:          (Imitating Max) Hey, man, chill out. We’re gonna get there when we get there…

Joey:                Again, not something Max would actually say.

Jackson:          I’m just messing around.

(Some time later)

Joey:                How you doing back there, Moose? (Turns back to Moose)

(Moose nods.)

Jackson:          That good?! Jesus, Moose, calm down, this is gonna be a long car ride if you don’t shut up once in a while!

(Moose smiles. Jackson turns back to face forward)

Moose, you’re the worst kind of person. Just skipping through life, unabashed and without a care. When are you gonna buckle down and take things seriously? You’ve got one more semester and no idea what you’re gonna do when they hand you a diploma that says, “You are hereby uninvited to everything fun, and by the way, here’s your bill of one million dollars, your left arm, and the blood of your first born child, please.

Joey:                HEY JACK! Whatcha gonna do after you graduate? Any jobs lined up?

Jackson:          I’ll throttle you.

Joey:                Your dad on you again?

Jackson:          Yeah.

Joey:                Don’t worry about it.

Jackson:          Yeah.

Joey:                He just wants to see you succeed. Someday he’ll hug you and say, “Jackie boy, I love you and I’ve never been prouder of the man you’ve become…”

Jackson:          (Smiling) Hey would ya do me a favor and shut the hell up?

Joey:                Okay, my phone is telling me to take this exit, but I didn’t think we turned off for another hour.

Jackson:          Follow your phone. (sarcastically) It will show you the way.

Joey:                Shut up, jackass.

Moose:            It’s up to you.

(Silence)

Jackson:          (turns around to Moose) Hey, Moose, how ya been buddy? Get any good pussy lately? Really? Riley Fontier? I never picked you for a brunettes guy. Seemed like you’d be into blondes…

(Moose laughs, more silence)

Jackson:          (Breaking silence) Well that’s enough. Ladies and gentlemen we’d like to welcome back to the show, Joooeey Plicky!

Joey:                (Waving to an imaginary crowd) Thank you, thank you, It’s great to be back in L.A.

Jackson:          So Joe, if I may call you that…

Joey:                You may not.

Jackson:          …tell us, when did you first realize that you were gay?

Joey:                Well, John, it was probably around the time I boned your sister…

Jackson:          Annnnd it looks like that’s gonna be all the time we have today, folks, tune in with us next time when Moose describes his first blow job. Until then, I’m your host John Johnson, now back to you in the studio.

Christ man, that was cold.

Joey:                Sorry, talk shows make me nervous.

(Jackson reaches back and grabs a beer out of the grocery bag)

Joey:                Hey dude, can you at least wait until we fuckin’ stop?

Jackson:          What? (defensively)

Joey:                Seriously…

Jackson:          It’s not a big deal, as long as you don’t drive like an idiot it’ll be fine. I’ll be done with it before we get to Waco.

Joey:                Oh yeah?

(As he said this, Jackson chugs the beer and throws empty can out the window. He cracks another)

Joey:                You know, you’re the coolest guy I know.

(Jackson gives him the finger while he takes another sip and sets his can in the other cup holder)

(From the back seat, Moose points at some debris in the road. Joey is picking a song to play and doesn’t see him pointing until it was too late, and the car runs over it, with several loud crackling noises)

Joey:                Shit!

Jackson:          What the fuck was that?!

Moose:            Sorry.

Joey:                No, I’m sorry Moose, I didn’t see you pointing until it was right there.

Jackson:          I swear to god, if that sets us back at all…

Joey:                There isn’t anything we can do about it now. But god damn…. What even was that?

(Moose shrugs)

(Short period of silence)

Joey:                Maybe it’ll be fine. Who wants to throw on some music, I’m getting tired of listening to Jackson.

(Jackson grabs the aux cord, plugs in his phone and starts looking for a song. Suddenly, the front left tire blows out and the car jerks to the left.

Jackson:          Motherfucker!

(Everyone braces themselves while Joey clutches the wheel and pulls hard to the right to keep the car straight. He is pulling down as hard as he can, desperately trying to keep the wheel from pulling them into oncoming traffic. The wheel begins to lift his body off of his seat, and in an effort not to lose his leverage, Joey points his toes and lurches his lower body toward the floorboards. His foot catches the brake pedal, and as they slow down, the car pulls less to the left and Joey’s pulling to the right guides the car to the shoulder where he sinks down on the pedal and they come to a stop.)

Jackson:          Christ almighty! (Exasperated)

(Everyone takes a silent moment to gather themselves and slow their breathing)

Joey:                I’m so sorry, Moose. Obviously this was all an accident. Any of us could have been driving… Should I just switch it with the spare?

Moose:            Yeah, that’s fine. I’ll help.

Jackson:          Well fuck me sideways (finishes his second beer)

(Joey and Moose get out and head to the trunk to get the jack and spare to start changing the tire. Jackson gets out a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, packs them, pulls one out, pops it in his mouth, and covers the lighter as he lights it)

Jackson:          (Calling out the open driver side window) Either of you boys wanna rip a heater?

(After no response is heard, he takes a few more drags and glances up into the rearview mirror, where he sees a single car in the distance coming their direction down the two lane road)

Jackson:          (To himself) Huh. (To the back) Hey heads up dickheads, apparently we aren’t the only ones on the road today.

(Looks back at the mirror; the car is still approaching. Looks like an old school police cruiser. Jackson pulls out another cigarette and lights it up)

(Joey walks back to the driver side window)

Joey:                Looks like a cop. I guess it’s good to know it isn’t a free-for-all out here. I always imagined Texas as the old west. Thank god he didn’t ride up on a fuckin’ horse.

Jackson:          A pig riding a horse, what a crazy idea.

(The police cruiser pulls off to the shoulder and slows to a stop behind their car. Jackson looks in the rearview mirror to see one steel toed cowboy boot step out onto the dirt before the other. A man in his late 40s, who bore a face so carved up with deep wrinkles and brown, speckled, overly tanned skin that he could have passed for twice his age stood outside his car. He wore outdated, light colored jeans affixed with a large silver buckle. Tucked into his jeans was a light brown police shirt with an old bronze badge on the front. Around his waist hung an old leather gun holster with two large pistols on either side. He placed a worn, dirty cowboy hat on his head and pulled his pants up under a small gut by the back and buckle. He walks up to the driver’s side window, while Moose and Joey continued lowering the jack and putting the tireless wheel where the spare was. He stops in front of the door and, sneering, spits brown tobacco juice into the dirt.)

Officer:           You boys habin’ some trouble?

(He pulls his mirrored aviator sunglasses down to the bridge of his nose and peers over them)

Officer:           You know smokin’ tabacky ain’t good fer ya? (Spits more tobacco juice)

Jackson:          Um, ya, sir, I don’t smoke much normally. Just a little stressed out.

(Reads his name tag: Officer Steele)

Officer Steele: You drink and drive win yer strest ought too?

Jackson:          No sir, this is just an empty from another day. We didn’t wanna litter, sir.

Officer Steele: How kind a’ ya. Funny I saw a can like that one bouncin’ around somewhere back ‘ere. Seems it hurt yer luck runnin’ over somebody else litter, mm?

Jackson:          We didn’t know what that was until we went over it. What was that all over the road anyway?

Officer Steele:            Empty bottles. Probably alcohol. You wouldn’t know anythin’ ‘bout it would ya, mister busch light?

Jackson:          No sir, just this can here.

Officer Steele: Well I’m real sorry to hear ‘bout yer tire. Ya know ya aint s’posed to drive very far on ‘nem spares. But lucky for yall, ‘ere’s a mechanic in ‘bout thirty five more miles.

Jackson:          Oh, uh, thanks.

Officer Steele: Only one around fer a while. (Spits)

Joey:                Excuse me, officer. (motions to get back into the driver’s seat. Officer steps aside and allows him to climb back in. Moose gets into back seat as well. As driver’s door closes, officer puts his hands on the roof of the car and leans in. His breath smells heavily of whiskey and chewing tobacco. His teeth are widely gapped and stained a yellowish brown. White balls of solidified saliva wriggled on the corners of his mouth when he spoke. His eyes were cold and grey.)

Officer Steele: I was just tellin yer buddy ‘ere (here) bout a mechanic up the way who can help yall with yalls tire.

Joey:                Oh, thank you. We appreciate your help. Is there anything else we can do for you, Officer Steele?

Officer Steele: Yeah! Yall can quit runnin’ over shit on the road and save the fuckin’ lip you’re givin’ me!

Joey:                Oh, no, sir, I wasn’t…

Officer Steele: You always interrupt folks when they tryna talk?!

(Slaps the roof of the car. Everyone in the car flinches. Officer inhales deeply)

Yall need ta learn some goddamn manners. Maybe I oughta escort you to the shop…

Jackson:          That’s not really necessary…

Officer Steele: I’ll decide what’s fuckin necessary! An I tell you h’what, (spits) I don’t think I’d count drinkin and drivin.

Jackson:          But I wasn’t…

Officer Steele: There yall go again. Yall really aint from here are ya? Doing a little vacationin south a here?

Joey:                Yes, sir.

(Officer peers in the car, looks around a little, sees the cooler)

Officer Steele: (to moose) How bout you open up your door, doughboy. An hand me that cooler.

Jackson:          Hey, you cant…

Officer Steele: ‘SCUSE ME! How bad you wanna argue with the law?!

(Moose opens his door and hands him the cooler of beer)

Anybody wanna share a cold one with me? No one?

(Flips open the cooler, grabs a beer, opens it and takes a big swig)

Jackson:          I mean I’d like to drink my own beer…

Officer Steele: Well go ahead! Open one up and drink it all the way back to the station with me!

Jackson:          Hey, what’s your problem?

(Officer chugs again, finishes the beer, drops it to the ground, and steps on it, crushing it)

Officer Steele: My problem is that I got a few young men actin like they’re above the goddamn law. (belches) I’ll tell you h’what, you quit drivin like a buncha fuckin drippy-lip retards and I think I’ll let you off with a warning.

Jackson:          A warning?! What the fuck…(quieted by Joey)

Joey:                Sorry sir, but what is the warning for?

Officer Steele: What the hell is wrong with your fat little friend back here (pointing at Moose)? He deaf? He the breast feeder outta you buncha retards? (moving to the back door, still open, leans inside, speaks to Moose) You habin’ fun playin’ witcher cock back ‘eere, gay boy? You ever sucked a dick afore?

Jackson and Joey: Hey! What the fuck man?!

Joey:                If you’re giving us a warning we’ll just take it and be on our way.

Officer Steele: Alrighty (closes the cooler and hoists it up to Moose) I’m just pullin yer leg, handsome. (winks at Moose, closes the door, steps back over to the driver’s window) yall have a good rest of your day, and drive careful now.

(Joey nods, stone-faced. Officer scoops his dip out with his index finger, flicks it on the ground, and grinds it into the ground with his boot.) He bends over and cleans his lower teeth in the side view mirror by running his tongue over them and baring them in the mirror. Then steps back, walks to his car, gets in, sets his hat on the passenger seat, turns the car on, and guns it back onto the road, kicking up a huge cloud of dust. Joey closes his window before much can get in their car, and they wait to drive away until the dust is clear enough to partially see through.)

(back on the road, silence)

Jackson:          What a fucking cocksucker!

Joey:                I can’t even believe that happened. It was like a dream. Was a police officer actually that mean?

Jackson:          He drank our fuckin beer! After he gave us a warning about drinking and accidentally running over someone elses!

(Moose sniffles. Both turn around to see him crying.)

Jackson:          Don’t worry about him Moose, he’s just one of a thousand backwards, fucked up assholes who got nothing to do with their lives besides drive around Texas looking for kids to make fun of. He probably bullied kids as a child and found out you can do it as an adult if you become a fuckin’ cop.

Joey:                What do you expect from a state where they wont put evolution in science textbooks.

Moose:            It’s okay, he was just really mean.

Joey:                Yeah, he was, Moose. But we can’t let mean people ruin our fun weekend.

Jackson:          Yeah! We can’t just let officer Steele-your-beer make us forget about all the tiny bikinis that are dancing in our heads for the next few hours until they’re dancing in our faces.

Joey:                Way to keep your eyes on the prize, Jack.

Jackson:          Sorry my nuts are still in my possession!

Joey:                Ass.

Jackson:          Are we actually going to this mechanic thing or what?

Joey:                Uh, I don’t see why not. We obviously need a new tire and unless you know of another option, we might have to just get one there.

Jackson:          Great. Let’s support the business of Officer Scumbag’s friend!

Joey:                You don’t know that they’re friends?

Jackson:          Probably are though! He probably breaks some bottles on the road and feeds the poor suckers right into this mechanic asshole!

(Silence, later, approaching mechanic)

Joey:                Alright, I think that’s it.

(Approaches what looks like an abandoned mechanic/gas station)

Jackson:          Oh this looks promising. Who wants to ring their fuckin’ doorbell?

Joey:                It’ll be better if we all go together. Right?

(no response, car comes to a stop and everyone pauses. Moose opens his door, and upon seeing this, Joey and Jackson open their doors too. Everyone steps out cautiously, but eventually walks to the first garage door together with a bit more confidence. )

Jackson:          So there just isn’t a normal door we can knock on?

Joey:                Let’s just knock on the garage door and hope that it makes enough noise.

Jackson:          Well go ahead, champ.

(Joey knocks on the door with his knuckles, but it ends up being more quiet than he intends, obviously inaudible. Knocks again, this time more loudly than he intends. Silence. Door rattles before slowly raising, creating a lot of loud creaking sounds from old metal and clanking from old gears. Door opens all the way with a clank, a long pause seems to almost last forever while a cloud of smoke rolls out of the garage. Out from the dust steps Officer Steele, a pistol in his hand.)

Officer:           Erright boys, can I help you now?

(boys raise their hands into the air, look at each other, terrified)

Officer:           Well?

(Turns to each boy, aiming the gun at each of them. When he turns to Moose and takes his eyes off of Jackson, Jackson leaps forward and grabs the officer’s arm while tackling him back into the garage. Moose turns and begins running in the opposite direction, past the car and into the desert towards the road. Joey stands, immobilized by fear. After a few seconds listening to the grunting and wrestling sounds coming from the dark garage, Joey turns and runs to the car, turns it on, and drives it into the garage, tearing down the second of the three doors. The airbag goes off and another cloud of dust floods the car. A gunshot is heard. A beat up and bloody Officer Steele emerges in front of the car, hands bloody, right pistol missing. He slowly and shakily reaches back with his left hand for his other pistol. Joey throws the car in reverse and steps on the accelerator. Officer Steele fires a few angry rounds into the car as Joey peels away. He is seen looking around screaming for Moose and he speeds his damaged car down the road.)

Blood Type

By Quinn Biever

Scene 1: Discovering Vlad

(Scene opens with two college girls walking through the quad on campus.)

Girl 1: I swear to god, if that class wasn’t required, there wouldn’t be a single person in it.

Girl 2: That’s probably true for, like, a lot of classes.

Girl 1: I know, right? At least it’s almost the weekend. Do you have any plans?

Girl 2: Not right now, I know Rachel wanted to go out tomorrow once she’s done with some test.

Girl 1: That sounds perfect, because I don’t think I’m going out Saturday.

Girl 2: What, why not?

Girl 1: Ugh, why do people make out in public like that? I get that it’s nice outside, but keep it in your dorm room. (Scoffs) Freshmen.

Girl 2: Hey, don’t change the subject.

Girl 1: I’m not, but seriously, do you see those two? He’s like on top of her.

(They eventually walk up to what looks like a boy sitting over another person.)

Girl 1: Hey, get a room!

(Having not heard the girls walking by, the boy is startled and turns around, revealing a pool of blood around a college girl who has been fatally stabbed. He is also covered in blood, with some on his face as well, especially around his mouth)

Girl(s): (Scream)

Girl 2: What the FUCK?!

Girl 1: Oh my god…

(boy looks at them and back down at the body, then at his hands, which care covered and dripping with blood.)

(Girls turn to run away)

Boy: I’m… I’m sorry.

 

 

Scene 2: Interview Part 1

(One detective walks down a sterilized hallway to meet his partner, who is standing outside an interrogation room.)

Detective 1: I don’t know, Jerry. He says he didn’t do it.

Det. Jerry: Yeah, you know what? Neither did I. Maybe nobody did it. Maybe she slipped and fell on the goddamn knife.

Detective 1: She was stabbed twice…

Det. Jerry: Welp, I guess she musta fuckin slipped twice.

Detective 1: That’s not what I’m saying.

Det. Jerry: Then what are you saying, El?!

Det. Ellis: I’m just…I’m not convinced. Honestly, how many homicide cases have you been on where the perp stabs someone, in public, and then just hangs out with his dying victim until someone shows up.

Det. Jerry: Guilty or not, who hangs aroun’ a dyin’ person anyway? The kid is sick, Ellis.

Det. Ellis: He’s a little off. (Heading into the interrogation room) But that doesn’t mean he’s guilty.

Det. Ellis: Hey there, Vladimir.

Vlad: (looks up but says nothing)

Det. Ellis: You’re probably ready to get outta here, huh? (pause, no reaction) Well, listen kid. We can’t let you go unless you give us something. You were the only one seen with Sandra all night, and you happened to be covered in her blood. Can you explain that?

Det. Jerry: Or instead, you could just explain why you fuckin killed her?

Vlad: I didn’t kill her.

Det. Jerry: Horseshit!

Det. Ellis: Well who did then, Vlad? Did you see her with anyone? Or did you just find her body?

Det. Jerry: Yeah, sure.

Vlad: I didn’t do it.

Det. Jerry: Oh yeah? You sure? You like saying you didn’t do it, but you can’t seem to figure out what DID happen, can you?

Det. Ellis: Vlad, I know this is hard, but you gotta work with us. This looks…bad for you…okay?

Vlad: I know.

Det. Jerry: Well I sure fuckin hope so. I hope you have the goddamn sense to know that you can’t be caught hovering over some dead bitch, covered in her blood, and not look bad. So I guess you’re okay with looking bad. And I’m okay with you being okay with looking bad, so long as you know that you’re gonna fuckin fry!

Vlad: Should I get a lawyer?

Det. Jerry: You should get a shrink, you fuckin psycho.

Det. Ellis: Jerry, cool it.

Det. Jerry: Why? You don’t think he’s a fuckin’ psychopath?! He had her blood on and in his goddamn MOUTH! What kinda fuckin’ FREAK…

Det. Ellis: If you’ll excuse us… (opens the door and ushers Detective Jerry out of the room, following him)

Det. Ellis: C’mon, Jerry. Goddammit. Could you be a bit more professional?

Det. Jerry: It’s disgusting. Jesus Christ, I dunno how you can treat him like he’s our dinner guest. The kid either did it and needs to be locked up, or he didn’t do it and REALLY needs to be locked up.

Det. Ellis: He needs help either way, you’re right. But whether that help should be from behind bars or not is up to us- our investigation. And I’m just not convinced.

Det. Jerry: (getting closer) You know what, Ellis? Your childish idea of the justice system is sweet and all, but at this point it doesn’t matter. Even if he didn’t do it, the kid basically rolled around in probable cause like a pig in shit. Even if he were spilling his guts, he’d still look guilty. This case is over whether you want it to be or not. (starts walking away) Shit happens everyday, El. Move on.

Scene 3: Move on, Ellis

(The scene opens with Ellis arriving home. He tosses his keys on the counter, grabs a beer from the fridge and sits down at the kitchen table. It is late at night, but he stares out the window, puzzled. Eventually, he makes a decision. He sets down the beer, and gets on the phone.)

Det. Ellis: Connie? Yeah, hey, it’s Ellis. Could you just tell Sarge I’m not coming into the station tomorrow? No big deal, just a couple loose ends to tie up with the campus murder. Thanks.

(Hangs up the phone, takes a swig of beer, and looks back out the window.)

Scene 4: The nosebleed

(Scene opens with a knock at a door. The door is opened by a mom who is slightly shocked to see a detective at her door.)

Det. Ellis: Hi there, ma’am. I’m Detective Ellis Turner. I’m working on a case surrounding the murder of a 23 year old girl earlier this week. Is there any chance I could speak with your son, Dave?

Mom: Well, what for? You don’t think he’s involved, do you?

Det. Ellis: No, not at all. But Dave knows someone who might be. Can I come inside?

Mom: Well, yes. Of course. (Props the door open for him. He enters) Dave?!

Dave: (muffled) What?!

Mom: Come here!

Dave: (walks downstairs and is similarly surprised by the detectives presence.) Hi, who are you?

Mom: David. Manners.

Dave: I mean, can I help you, officer?

Det. Ellis: I sure hope so. I was wondering if you could tell me about your friend Vlad. He was in your graduating class, right?

Dave: Yeah. I had study hall with him. And gym. Nice kid, kinda weird though. Why? Did he do something?

Det. Ellis: There’s an investigation going on and Vlad has found himself in the middle of it.

Dave: Did he kill something?

Det. Ellis: No, well, I don’t think so. What makes you say that?

Dave: Like I said, he was just weird sometimes. He got nosebleeds a lot.

Det. Ellis: Nosebleeds? Was there something wrong with him?

Dave: I dunno. But it wasn’t the nosebleeds that were weird. It was his reaction.

Det. Ellis: Can you tell me about it?

Dave: Well yeah. We’d be in study hall, talking about whatever. Like this one time our school hired this new art teacher…

(Flashback) scene opens on a group of students in a study hall, sitting quietly.

Austin: Did you guys hear about the new art teacher?

Dave: Yeah, he’s like a part time mud wrestler or something.

Austin: You wish.

Rob: I don’t know about Dave’s mud wrestling fantasies, but the guy is super jacked and almost a midget.

Austin: It’s like the Rock gave birth to him. Oh shit dude, your nose is bleeding…Vlad…dude…

Vlad: Huh?

Austin: …Your nose?

(Vlad cups his hand under his chin to catch the slowly dripping blood.

Vlad: Oh, yeah, this keeps happening. I don’t know why.

Dave: I don’t care if this is a bad time of the month for you or what, go to the bathroom.

Vlad: It’s not a big deal.

Rob: Well what are you gonna walk around like that?

Vlad: No… (puts his cupped hand to his mouth and drinks the collected blood. Then wipes his chin with the back of his hand.)

Austin: Oh god, come on man.

Rob: You still have to get your face cleaned up, ya fuckin weirdo.

Vlad: Oh okay, sorry. I didn’t realize you were all so squeamish. (licks his hand)

Dave: God dammit alright cut it out. After you clean yourself up, hop over to the girls’ bathroom and ask to borrow a tampon. If they were smart there’d be like a barrel of them in there.

Vlad: Whatever. (gets up and leaves)

Austin: See you next period!

(Fade back to present day)

Dave: So like, it wasn’t like serial killer weird, but I mean, it stays in your memory.

Det. Ellis: I see what you mean. Are there any other memories you have of his interesting behavior?

Dave: Not really. Like I said, I only had a couple classes with him, and they weren’t even every day. Why do you want to know about him so much?

Det. Ellis: He was at the scene of a crime, but I’m not sure he’s the one responsible. I need to know more about him, though.

Dave: You can’t just talk to him?

Det. Ellis: I tried that. He isn’t exactly an extrovert.

Dave: Oh, yeah, that’s true. You might want to talk to Rob or Austin. They know him better than I do.

Det. Ellis: Is there any chance you could put me in contact with them?

Dave: Sure, let me go grab my phone.

(Dave gets up to leave the room. As he walks away, we see Ellis taking a few notes)

Scene 5: We are ants

(Scene opens with Detective Ellis already caught up with Rob)

Det. Ellis: So, Rob, how well would you say you know Vlad?

Rob: Oh, I don’t know. I talked to him sometimes. Mostly because I had this really controlling girlfriend who was always bitching at me about not hanging out with her. You know, women. But we broke up after high school when she…

Det. Ellis: I appreciate the detail, but…

Rob: Right. Well, he didn’t really have anyone to talk to either.

Det. Ellis: Huh. Why do you think that is?

Rob: He was just an odd kid, ya know. He’d hangout sometimes but mostly kept to himself. You know how some people in high school just don’t seem very confortable? It was like that, he just seemed kind of nervous about being anywhere. I talked to him a few times when he wasn’t in a very good mood, so that might have been it.

Det. Ellis: What?

Rob: Like, if the guy perked up a bit, he might not have been such an outsider.

(Flashback leads us to the side of the road, near a field. Vlad is standing on his own, looking around. Rob pulls up in her car)

Rob: Vlad, dude, what the hell?

Vlad: What?

Rob: Uh, why are you just standing around like a weirdo?

Vlad: Oh, sorry.

Rob: I mean I don’t care, but you’re also bleeding. So that makes it weirder.

(Vlad looks down at his arm, which has a small cut on it, which is bleeding down his hand)

Vlad: I know.

Rob: Okay… well… why?

Vlad: Do you know who I am?

Rob: Heisenberg? But like, during his fugue state…

Vlad: Have you ever flown before? Most people have. I hadn’t. But I then I did for spring break. It was scary.

Rob: Uh…

Vlad: You get up high enough, and everyone just looks like a bunch of ants running around. Have you ever killed an ant?

Rob: No… I mean… maybe? I don’t know, why?

Vlad: What if we’re just a bunch of ants.

Rob: Hey man, I get it if you’re feeling weird. I’m gonna go.

Vlad: How can anyone expect to feel special if that’s our role in the universe… just someone else’s ants.

Rob: I’m not a dumb little ant, and neither are you or anyone else. You happen to be human… and the only one I’ve ever seen do that….

(Vlad is sucking the blood off his arm, smiling)

Det. Ellis: So wait wait wait, (Fade back to present day) he did this in another story. What’s the deal with him and blood?

Rob: I don’t know! It was always so random. I think we asked about it one time…

(Flashback to Rob, Austin, and Vlad hanging out somewhere)

Austin: So dude, what’s the deal with the blood thing? Do you think you’re some kinda vampire or something?

Rob: I mean, we’ve seen him in the daytime. Are there day vampires that just drink their own blood and creep people the fuck out?

Vlad: I creep you out?

Austin: Only sometimes. But maybe less than Rob.

Rob: Very funny, asshole. I clean myself off when I get blood on me, not slurp it up.

Vlad: I don’t know, I like it. Who cares. Plus vampires are cool, right?

Rob: If they were real maybe.

Vlad: How do you know they aren’t real?

Austin: Because this isn’t Twilight. If it were, vampire boy over here needs to introduce me to Miss Kristen Stewart.

Rob: Not hot.

Austin: Wow, you are so wrong. I would be her werewolf any day.

Vlad: Well I don’t do it for a girl, it’s just who I am. Not that I know who that is…

Rob: Oh no, not the ant thing again!

Austin: What?

Rob: Never mind. I just hope Dracula over here isn’t drinking anyone’s blood but his own.

Austin: Just small rodents and stuff right man?

Rob: That’s not funny.

Vlad: No, its not.

Austin: Can everyone just chill out.

Vlad: I’m just saying, its hard to know who someone really is. And I don’t know that anyone has evidence that vampires aren’t an option.

Rob: Jesus, alright we get it. You don’t know anything about yourself other than your affinity for the blood of the living. I’ll see you guys later.

(Rob gets up to leave)

(Fade back to present day)

Det. Ellis: He didn’t say anything else?

Rob: No, I mean he might have talked more to Austin. They were way closer.

Det. Ellis: Would you say, best friends?

Rob: I mean I don’t know about how Austin feels, but he’s certainly the one who’s least put off by Vlad’s behavior. Do you want his number?

Det. Ellis: No, thank you. Dave gave me his when he gave me yours.

Rob: Is it true they let him out?

Det. Ellis: Well, yeah, kinda.

Rob: Kinda? They can’t kinda let him out…

Det. Ellis: Okay, yeah, he’s out. But just on bail. Apparently his step mom bailed him out.

Rob: Whoa.

Det. Ellis: What?

Rob: Nothing, she’s is just kind of a crazy person.

Det. Ellis. What type of crazy person?

Rob: The type that doesn’t usually give a shit about her husband’s kids.

Det. Ellis: What makes you say that?

Rob: Well. She fucked this kid that we went to high school with.

Det. Ellis: What? Who?

Rob: I dunno, I just remember hearing that the kid was hanging with Vlad, spent the night at his house, and she like, came onto him or something.

Det. Ellis: What about his Dad?

Rob: He died a few years ago. Middle school I think. What does any of that matter though?

Det. Ellis: You know, I haven’t been a detective for too long. But you never know. The more you can find out about someone, the better you can understand them. The better you do that, the better you can wrap your mind around what theirs.

Rob: Cool. Anything else you wanna know?

Det. Ellis: I think this has been sufficiently helpful. Thank you, Robert.

Rob: It’s just Rob. And you’re welcome.

Scene 6: Wrestless

(Detective Ellis is in his home, trying to sleep. He is tossing and turning, unable to stop thinking about the case. Eventually, he gets up, changes into workout clothes, and goes for a late night run. He arrives home out of breath, having run until the point of complete exhaustion. Bent over, with his hands on his knees, his breathing slows and softens. He stays in that position for another few moments, thinking.)

Scene 7: The car

(Det. Ellis meets Austin somewhere off site. Perhaps at the restaurant Austin works at once his shift is over.)

Det. Ellis: I really appreciate you meeting with me, Austin.

Austin: No worries, man. What’s up?

Det. Ellis: Well I don’t know if you know what all is going on…

Austin: Yeah, a girl got stabbed. Vlad was there. Got it. What do you want to know from me?

Det. Ellis: Oh, how do you…

Austin: The murder case was in the paper a few days ago, and Rob and Dave texted me that you were going around.

Det. Ellis: Ah. Yes, well, I was just wondering about Vlad.

Austin: Do you think he did it?

Det. Ellis: I, um, don’t know…

Austin: You can just be honest.

Det. Ellis: Truthfully, I don’t think he seems like he would hurt anyone. But it unfortunately, it couldn’t look more suspicious.

Austin: So what do I have to do with anything?

Det. Ellis: I want to know why. Why was he there? Why did he hover over her?

Austin: Did he drink her blood?

Det. Ellis: What?

Austin: Come on, man. We have phones. I know what you know. Did he drink the chick’s blood?

Det. Ellis: Yeah, it was all over him.

Austin: Gah… Vlad…

Det. Ellis: While it’s somewhat irrelevant to whether or not he killed her, why would he do something like that?

Austin: Well, you gotta understand, he didn’t really know his… role in life. Like that bugged him. A lot. I mean no one knows who they really are when they’re 18, but Vlad wanted an identity more than anything.

Det. Ellis: Did he open up to you about it?

Austin: A couple times. One time in particular.

(Flashback. A car pulls in a driveway. Austin is in the driver’s seat, with Vlad in the passenger seat.)

Austin: Alright, man. You got a key to get in?

Vlad: No, but I know my own garage code.

Austin: I’m glad we got everyone together again tonight. I mean, not everyone obviously. Getting our entire high school group together is basically gonna be fuckin impossible once everyone leaves for school.

Vlad: Yeah.

Austin: There’s that keg thing this weekend. That might be fun.

Vlad: Yeah.

Austin: Don’t sound so pumped about it.

Vlad: I’ll try.

Austin: Something wrong?

Vlad: Like what?

Austin: Well I don’t know, you missed your cue to get out of the car.

(Vlad goes for the handle)

Austin: I mean you don’t have to, I was just saying.

Vlad: Leaving the car means going into my house.

Austin: Yeah, that’s generally how it works.

Vlad: I’m not okay with that.

Austin: What would make you okay with it, because I’m still a little stoned and wanna go to bed.

Vlad: Dude. I’m sick.

Austin: Sick like…disease?

Vlad: Is that a real question?

Austin: Yes?

Vlad: Yeah, sick like disease. I’m not gonna be around much longer.

Austin: What? Whaddaya mean? How sick? How much longer?

Vlad: The doctor said I have ten minutes left, and that was a few hours ago.

Austin: Awesome asshole! That’s not fuckin’ funny…Jesus Christ…

Vlad: Any minute now…

Austin: Knock that shit off.

Vlad: You know what, you’re right, it is a joke, but I wish it weren’t. I wish something would happen to me, something would inspire me to jump off the couch and hop on a plane to New Zealand or something. I mean… Do you know I’ve never even seen a kangaroo?

Austin: Listen man, not that I’m not taking you seriously right now, but kangaroos are definitely from Australia.

Vlad: You’re tellin’ me there isn’t one kangaroo in New Zealand?! Are completely sure?!

Austin: I don’t fuckin’ know but they definitely don’t seem like they can swim. Like even if some other asshole kangaroo came and jump kicked him in the ocean, I feel like he’d drown. They got tiny little T-rex arms, so I don’t see how they could even get back on land. Like, getting my ass out of a pool is sometimes hard enough, imagine trying it with little baby arms. Meanwhile the pouch thing is full of water and drowning the little Joey…

Vlad: The one kangaroo native to New Zealand probably isn’t there because he got pushed in the water and swam to the nearest continent.

Austin: Why not? Maybe the guy was sleeping with his kangaroo wife and he didn’t feel like sharing that pouch.

Vlad: Well I wish I had cancer or tuberculosis or something so I could justify traveling across the world to meet that home wrecking son of a bitch. (pause) (laughingly) I guess this is what happens when I get a ride home at 3 am and don’t get out of the car. I start wishing I had consumption.

Austin: I don’t care if you’re hungry, but do you actually want to leave town?

Vlad: I don’t know.

Austin: Nothing’s stopping you, so move. Half our friends aren’t even here anymore. They found a school or a job or whatever.

Vlad: But that’s just it, I don’t wanna just pick somewhere or something. I want to have a reason for it.

Austin: I mean, you can still go find a kangaroo in a zoo somewhere if that’s…

Vlad: I don’t give shit about the kangaroos.

Austin: Well Jesus that’s kinda harsh. The guy just found out his wife is cheating on him and has to pick up and move to a whole new continent and you cant spare a shred of sympathy… I was gonna invite you to smoke a bowl and go to the zoo, but not if you’re gonna have a shitty attitude.

Vlad: I’m serious.

Austin: So am I! Have you ever been to the zoo high? I’ve never understood animals so much. I once watched the monkeys for like an hour and a half.

Vlad: You know what pisses me off? People who don’t care, asking what I’m doing with my life now that I’m graduated. And if I end up working at the insurance company in town or anywhere else with my name on a cubicle, why don’t you just follow me to work and bash my head in with my keyboard.

Austin: Aw man, of course. What are friends are for?

Vlad: Do you know what you want to do?

Austin: Now you sound just like them…

Vlad: I just don’t get how do so many people have things figured out already.

Austin: Like you said, they’ve been watching other people doing shit they just picked and then when they got out of school they picked something too.

Vlad: Fuck.

Austin: But not everyone has it figured out. A lot of people feel lost. And some don’t have their whole lives in front of them. Some of them already lost their opportunities. (pause) So… feel better now?

Vlad: You know I had a class with a kid who I never talked to before, so I asked his name and brought this same thing up. Do you know what he said?

Austin: “Leave me alone”?

Vlad: He said he wants to find a nice wife and a decent job that’ll pay for a good house where he can raise a couple kids and grow old. Take trips from time to time.

Austin: Well FUCK HIM right?

Vlad: A little. That doesn’t sound ridiculous to you?

Austin: It sounds ridiculous if I imagine myself doing that. But it doesn’t sound ridiculous that someone else wants that.

Vlad: Yeah I guess.

Austin: Plus, think about it. That’s a pretty comforting answer. This is some random kid. He could have turned around and told you he wants to kill babies and wear them around his house like slippers.

Vlad: And you guys say I’m the weird one.

Austin: I’m sayin’. It’s comfortable. Makes sense.

Vlad: Hey, listen; fuck that. Fuck being comfortable and having an answer to every question you get pelted with by some nobody relative. Why can’t they mind their own damn business. Ya know? I’m trying to decide what to do with my life and some lady in my aunt’s fuckin book club is pressuring me to come up with something she can nod approvingly at. (pause) I don’t know what I want to do because I don’t even know who I am. I’m supposed to go to college, but for what? I have no idea what classes I want to take or if I even want to take classes at all. I like art. Do you know how may people I tell that to? Like none. Yet this particular social situation is so intimidating that all I ever say is, “I’d like to find something with creative qualities.” Like, what the hell does that even mean.

Austin: Was she hot?

Vlad: Huh?

Austin: The book club lady. If she’s anything like your aunt…

Vlad: Different aunt, asshole.

Austin: Oh well. So, what’s the deal with the blood-drinking thing.

Vlad: The deal?

Austin: Yeah, like why do you keep doing that? Do you like the taste?

Vlad: I mean, it’s alright.

Austin: You didn’t mean what you said about vampires being real, right?

Vlad: Do you know that they aren’t?

Austin: Dude…

Vlad: Vampires drink other peoples’ blood for strength. You don’t ever wanna be stronger?

Austin: I mean…

Vlad: My step mom drinks alcohol just about every night. And that’s okay?

Austin: Um…dude…not really, no.

Vlad: Well she does it anyway. And it gives her the will to do whatever she feels like doing, no matter who it hurts. Once I didn’t have my dad, I was the weakling at school and the weakling at home. Vampires aren’t weaklings. And more importantly, they know who they are. They drink blood and they gain power and no one pushes us around.

Austin: Uh, yeah.

Vlad: I’m just sayin.

Austin: No, it’s fine. But just… just make sure you don’t get too carried away.

Vlad: I know. (gets out of the car)

Austin: Hey man, take it easy, okay? I’m on your side.

Vlad: Thanks.

Austin: Peace.

(Fade back to present day)

Det. Ellis: That’s… (writing notes) really interesting. What else do you know about his parents?

Austin: Not too much, just that his step mom was always hard on him. Never really seemed like she loved him. Especially not after his dad passed away.

Det. Ellis: And, um, how did he die?

Austin: I never really found out. I just knew he was Vlad’s best friend. Once he was gone, Vlad didn’t really open up to anyone. He was just starting to seem confortable around me when this whole identity crisis started.

Det. Ellis: Well I’m sorry to hear about that. Hopefully you and I can get through to him so he doesn’t throw his life away by clinging to this vampire thing.

Austin: Yeah, I know what you mean.

Det. Ellis: I appreciate your time, Austin. I think that’s all I need for now. If I have any other questions, would you be willing to meet again?

Austin: Yeah, sure, if it’d help out Vlad.

Det. Ellis: That’s very kind of you. (Gets up to leave) I’ll be in touch. (exits)

Scene 8: The chase

(As he walks out, he notices Vlad has been nearby, watching their interaction.)

Det. Ellis: Hey! Vlad, wait! I was just…

(Vlad takes off running.)

Ah shit.

(Ellis chases after him on foot at first, realizes that he has too much of a head start, so runs to his car, throws it in gear and speeds down the street looking for Vlad, but he is gone)

(Det. Ellis drives to Vlad’s house, though doubtful that he is there. He knocks on the door. Vlad’s step mom opens the door, but not the screen door)

Mom: Yeah?

Det. Ellis: Ma’am my name is Detective Ellis Turner, with the…

Mom: Yeah, yeah, you’re one of the guys who arrested my son!

Det. Ellis: Yes well I was actually hoping I could speak with him.

Mom: He aint here.

Det. Ellis: Do you have any idea where he might be?

Mom: Listen, fella, I bailed him out cause that’s what a lovin’ mother does. After that, the ungrateful son of a bitch ran off.

Det. Ellis: Would it be possible for me to speak with you then?

Mom: (seductively) You want inside?

Det. Ellis: Um, that’s not necessary, I was just hoping you could answer a couple questions about Vlad’s home life and possibly his father.

Mom: His father? Whaddaya wanna know about him for?

Det. Ellis: I was under the impression that losing him was hard on you two…

Mom: You don’t even know us. I don’t have nothing’ to say about him. He’s gone and he aint comin’ back. We’ve all accepted that around here so why don’t you? Go bother someone else. (starts closing the door)

Det. Ellis: Listen, ma’am, I…

Mom: I’m done listenin! (slams the door)

Scene 9: Notes

(Det. Ellis looks through his notes and checks with things on the computer, cross referencing the information he’s gained with public record. He finally thinks to look into the murder records of Vlad’s father, who he discovered has died of hemorrhaging in a “freak accident.” He realizes that he must investigate this further, grabs his jacket, and leaves.)

Scene 10: The Nightmare

(Ellis is seen pulling back up into the driveway of Vlad’s home. He gets out of the car, and knocks on the door.)

Mom: WHAT? (Pulling open the door but not the screen door)

Oh, you again. What do you want this time?

Det. Ellis: Ma’am, I’m sorry to bother you again, but I have been thinking about Vlad’s case quite a bit, and I think that I can’t afford not to ask you at least a few questions about your son. Would that be alright?

Mom: I s’pose. (opening the screen door for him)

Det. Ellis: Like I said, I don’t really need to come inside. It’s just a couple…

Mom: But you’re already in. (he looks around, realizing he has instinctively stepped through the threshold)

Det. Ellis: Yes, well, this is a lovely home you have here.

Mom: It is, ain’t it? Would you care to see the bedrooms, I mean, Vlad’s bedroom at least…

Det. Ellis: That’s not really necessary. I’m just here to get some information from you.

Mom: Yeah? Well if you want it, you’ll have to follow me. (Going into the other room)

Det. Ellis: Ah… (nervous, but follows her)

Mom: Last time you were here, you wanted to know about Vladimir’s father, you still wanna know?

Det. Ellis: Um, yes, sure.

Mom: Well he died on the floor right where you’re standin.

Det. Ellis: Oh…

Mom: It’s a good spot for dyin, don’t you think?

Det. Ellis: What do you mean?

Mom: Let me show ya!

(Det. Ellis wakes up from a nightmare, panting and sweating. He realizes what’s happened and breaths a sigh of relief.

Scene 11: The confession

(Back in the police station, outside the interrogation room)

Det. Jerry: Got picked up by campus police sittin on a bench in the quad, near the old crime scene. Just sittin there cryin.

Det. Ellis: Ah, man.

Det. Jerry: Ya know, I think if anyone gave a rat’s ass about this kid, they’d appreciate what you’ve been doin. Talkin to his friends, his bat shit crazy mother, tryin to find a reason for his behavior…The problem is, here we are, square one again. But this time his trial is comin up, and he isn’t talking any more than he was before.

Det. Ellis: He hasn’t yet…

Det. Jerry: And he probably isn’t gonna. He’s a troubled kid, El. You can keep tryin, but only for so long.

(Det. Ellis enters the room)

Det. Ellis: Hey, Vlad.

Vlad: Hi.

Det. Ellis: How ya been?

Vlad: Alright.

Det. Ellis: We haven’t seen each other since, well, I haven’t seen you since the other day.

(Vlad smiles)

Det. Ellis: I know you know that I’ve been looking around, trying to piece you together, and I hope you’re not offended…

Det. Jerry: Jesus Christ… (leaves the room)

Det. Ellis: …I was just trying to figure out what you weren’t telling me.

Vlad: Like what happened?

Det. Ellis: Sure, that, of course. But also what made you see her lying there and not think to call for help. What made you think to just stay by her side…

Vlad: She was already dead.

Det. Ellis: Fine, help wasn’t necessary. But the blood-sucking? Do you really think you’re a vampire?

Vlad: What? A vampire…I…What does that matter?

Det. Ellis: Because she’s a human being. You wouldn’t’ve done that to your dad.

Vlad: You don’t know my dad!

Det. Ellis: You’re right. And I don’t know what happened to him either. But I sure don’t think he’d approve.

Vlad: What the hell do you know?!

Det. Ellis: Would he?

Vlad: He’d be proud of me for finding confidence again. He’d be proud of me for standing up for myself, even to my step mom.

Det. Ellis: Would he? She bailed you out of jail…seems like a nice thing to do….

Vlad: She’s a bitch, okay? I stood up to her and that’s more than he could ever say!

(pause)

Det. Ellis: Did she kill him?

(pause)

Vlad: No.

Det. Ellis: Do you wish it would’ve been her?

Vlad: No.

Det. Ellis: Do you wish it never happened?

(pause)

Vlad: No.

Det. Ellis: Vlad, listen bud, I know you didn’t kill her. (pause. He looks for a reaction out of Vlad) And I know you aren’t happy she died. I know you wish you were never there in the first place, because now there’s all this mess.

(Vlad looks down at the ground)

Det. Ellis: I can help you. You just have to let me. Tell me you didn’t do it. Tell me if you saw someone, and if you did, what they looked like. Tell me you were shocked to see her lying there. Tell me you wanted to help but she was already dead. And please, tell me you were just very confused, and would never actually drink someone’s blood in the right state of mind.

(Looking at the ground, thinking, Vlad finally brings his head up and stares at the detective for a few moments, taking in his words.)

Vlad: I did it.

Det. Ellis: What?

Vlad: I killed her.

Det. Ellis: What?! No, you didn’t…

Vlad: Yes, I did. You were wrong about me. I wasn’t just the weird kid. I got picked on and beat up and torn apart until I didn’t know who I was anymore. And if I couldn’t have a life, why should anyone else.

Det. Ellis: No! You’re lying! Don’t do this!

Vlad: Detective, believe me when I say, I’m glad she’s dead. I don’t care about her. Why should I? I didn’t know her. And I’d do it all over again if I could.

Det. Ellis: Fuck that. Fuck that! Is this some kind of game for you? This isn’t funny!

Vlad: I didn’t ask you to fight for me.

Det. Ellis: That girl was someone’s daughter, and now she’s fucking gone forever!

Vlad: Some of us are gone forever, but just haven’t died yet.

(Jerry busts in the room and happily handcuffs Vlad, taking him out of the room)

Det. Ellis: Get this piece of shit out of here!

(The room is empty. Ellis is alone, staring at the table. He slams his fist down on the table, and the scene cuts to black)

Scene 12: The body

The scene opens with the detective, collecting mail from his mailbox. He brings the letters and magazines inside, nonchalantly flipping through them, until he notices one from the Illinois Department of Corrections, addressed to himself. He rips it open, revealing a short letter. He reads it aloud:

“Dear Detective Ellis,

I want to start by thanking you for the work that you did. I know you might be feeling a little…unaccomplished since your efforts didn’t keep me from this place. Or maybe you’re still angry, and don’t mind that my visit will be quite… temporary. But you took the time to get to know who I am, and that’s more than I can say for just about anyone. But sometimes, when I think about it, I don’t know that I can blame anyone. You see, even I couldn’t really figure out who I was. Not until I met her. It was just another day. I went to the library to rent a few books…”

(We see Vlad leaving the library with a few books. He crosses the street and wanders through a couple buildings until he reaches the quad. The rest of the letter is portrayed)

“While walking through, I noticed a couple fighting.

I looked away at first, but looked back when heard the argument turn into a scuffle. The man pulled a knife on the woman, so I impulsively called out:

“Hey!”

before he stabbed her. He turned and saw me, and hurriedly pulled out the knife and stabbed the woman again before running off between two buildings and out of sight. I dropped my books and ran to the woman’s side. I covered her bleeding wound with one hand and felt her pulse with another. Her heartbeat was present, but slowing. I yelled for help but no one heard me. She died as I put my blood-covered hand to my face, covering my mouth.”

(As he does, his tongue sneaks out of his mouth and tastes the bodily fluid covering his hand.)

“So no, I didn’t kill her. At the time, I didn’t even have the courage to take a person’s life. I know because I tried, and you probably know too after meeting my mother. But what I want you to understand, is that some justice was still served…”

He pulls his hand away from his mouth slowly, staring at his bloody hand. He looks back down at her…

“As I knelt over her lifeless body… watching her bleed… I felt good. So good that even though I didn’t do it, I realized… I would. You didn’t send a murderer to be executed, but the fate of that man and my own should be the same. You can still try and find him. You’re a good detective- I think there will be one less murderer out there when you do. But there will also be one less vampire. I never felt like I belonged in this world, so I can’t say I mind leaving it. Thank you for believing me, and accepting me for who I was.

-Vlad”

(The detective finishes reading the letter, sets it down, lights and takes a drag of a cigarette, and exhales.)

The End.