Mourning Lori, a play in three acts
 

 

MOURNING LORI

a full-length play by Joel Pierson

 

Characters:

Lori Abrams, 53, recently deceased

Michael Abrams, 54, her husband, now widowed

Talya Abrams-Ross, 31, their older daughter

David Abrams, 26, their only son

Carolyn Abrams, 24, their younger daughter

Wink Gypsum/Mr. Levine, 40-ish and charming

 

 

Setting: The northern suburbs of Chicago, the present day.

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE ONE      —        S A T U R D A Y

 

[We see the living room of the Abrams house.  It is very neat and orderly, and at present, unoccupied.  Stage right is the master bedroom, less neat than the living room.  There are some women’s clothes piled on the bed, and some papers—some in envelopes, some not—near the clothes. Stage left is the family’s kitchen.

 

The front door of the house is stage left, close by and leading to the living room.  Enter DAVID with a small suitcase in his hand.  He walks into the living room, sets the suitcase down, and looks around.  Seeing no one, he calls out.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Hello?

 

[From offstage right, enter LORI, dressed in the nightgown she will wear throughout the play—an older woman’s night clothes.  Nothing cute or flimsy.  Her face is very pale, and her lips are very dark blue.  She has dark circles under her eyes, and there is some dried blood under her nose and mouth.  DAVID is turned the other way when she enters, and he does not see her until she speaks.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            Hello, David.

 

[He turns and sees her.  He is beyond startled, actually frightened.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Holy shit!  You scared the hell out of me.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I’m sorry.  Not my intention, really.

 

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Where is everybody?

 

                                                                    LORI

            Your father and your sisters are at Lloyd Weintraub, making arrangements.  [Pause.]   What made you decide to come home?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Offended that she’d ask]   You know why I’m here.  If we’re exchanging important questions, I might ask you why you did what you did.

 

                                                                    LORI

            [With a sigh]  Oh, David, it’s complicated.  There’s no easy answer.  Besides, can’t we speak pleasantly, without launching into accusations right away?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Did you at least leave a note I can read?

 

                                                                    LORI

            The police have it.  It didn’t offer much in the way of insight, anyway.  Not one of my best writings, I’m afraid.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Suddenly angry]  Jesus Christ, Mom!  Why the fuck?

 

                                                                    LORI

            Watch your mouth!  I’m still your mother.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Were my mother.  Until last night.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I could apologize…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I wouldn’t believe you.

 

                                                                    LORI

            You shouldn’t.  I’m not really sorry. If this hadn’t worked, I would’ve tried again.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Thirty-eight OxyContin?  I think that did the trick.  If you’ll pardon the expression, it’s overkill.  Why would the doctor let you have that many in the house at one time?

 

                                                                    LORI

            I was stockpiling them.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Ever industrious.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Ever judgmental.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Trying to change the subject]  Do you have to look that way?  It gives me the creeps.

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Looks at herself]  This is how I looked when your father found me.  Besides, son of mine, you have no one but yourself to thank for how I look.  I’m only here in your own mind.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Corrects her quickly]  No, you’re here because your death left impulses of psi energy in the house, and I’m sensitive to them.  Right now, you’re an earthbound spirit who hasn’t crossed over to the other side.

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Simply, directly]  David, you’re schizophrenic.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No, I’m psychic!

 

                                                                    LORI

            Ah. So you spent two months in that hospital in Los Angeles because you’re psychic.  I see.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            We’ve been over this. I had a nervous breakdown.  Tricia had left me for another man…

 

                                                                    LORI

            You married above your station.  I told you that all along.  She was too good-looking and too famous.  Still, heartless little bitch, doing that to you.  I never watch her movies, you know.  Not a one since the day she left you.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Can I continue?

 

 

                                                                    LORI

            I’m sorry.  Please continue.  A nervous breakdown.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Without her income, I couldn’t keep the house, so I had to move into a tiny apartment.  I hadn’t written anything significant since Cold Creek Legacy got cancelled.  And I snapped.  I checked myself in for treatment, and I stayed there until I felt like I could handle things again.

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Gently]  Your sister told me they diagnosed you with schizophrenia.  You sometimes have delusional episodes…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            It’s not schizophrenia.  Mother, I write for TV.  I see stories in my head, and sometimes I think them out loud, I talk them out.  To the untrained eye, it might look like I’m talking to people who aren’t there.  But I’m not crazy.  I’m creative.  That’s why I rejected their diagnosis.

 

                                                                    LORI

            And why you wouldn’t take the medication they prescribed.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No thanks.  I spent enough years seeing what medication did to you.  I didn’t want that.  I’m fine now.  I have scripts in consideration at NBC and Fox for pilots to two new series.  Tricia is in the past, and a friend is going to set me up with a very nice girl who isn’t an actress.  My life is together again, save for this little… unpleasantness that draws me back to Chicago.

 

                                                                    LORI

            And the fact that you’re talking to me?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Proves that I’m not imagining you.  If I were imagining you, you wouldn’t be giving me this much shit.  So, you’re really here.  But don’t let me stand in your way, if there’s a light you need to go toward or something.

 

[Before she can answer, MICHAEL, TALYA, and CAROLYN enter the house through the front door.  MICHAEL looks devastated.  The women are putting on brave faces, trying to be strong for their father.  DAVID looks quickly at LORI, as if to suggest she should hide or something.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Sadly]  It’s okay.  They can’t see me or hear me.  Just like it always was.

 

[She steps to the side to observe.  The others see DAVID and greet him warmly.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            David, you’re here!

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Hey there.

 

[They let go of MICHAEL, who stands before his son, a shell of his usual self.  There is a long moment where the two men simply face each other, both trying not to cry.  As each speaks, that strength fades, and sobs punctuate MICHAEL’s words as they hug.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Oh, David, I failed her.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No, Dad…

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            God, I failed her…  I could have stopped this—

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Overlapping]   No, no, no.  One hundred percent not true.  Please don’t beat yourself up believing that.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            You haven’t been here.  You haven’t seen the warning signs, the clues…

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Dad, don’t…

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Daddy, we were all here with her.  We knew she was depressed, we knew she was hurting.  Yes, she said she’d been thinking about doing this, but none of us knew when or how.

 

[DAVID shoots LORI an angry, accusing glare, unseen by the others.  He then leads MICHAEL to the couch and sits next to him.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Gently]  Dad, listen to me.  I understand why you feel this way, but please believe me—you did more for her over the last 32 years than anyone in the world could have.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It wasn’t enough.

 

 

                                                                  DAVID

            You didn’t fail her.  Her body failed her.  Her mind failed her.  Medical science failed her.  You comforted her, you cared for her, you stood by her when 999 men out of a thousand would have walked away.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            She left a note, but it was short.  It didn’t really explain why this, why now.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I kn…  [He starts to say “I know,” but thinks better of it.]  I know you’re looking for reasons, for answers.  We all are.  But I don’t know if we get to know those answers.

 

[Before MICHAEL can reply, TALYA speaks.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            The funeral is Monday morning at Shalom Memorial Gardens.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Monday?  They couldn’t do it tomorrow?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            They were fully booked tomorrow, so Monday morning is what we can get.  You can stay, can’t you?  You don’t have to get home before then?

 

[DAVID looks around at the expectant expressions on his family’s faces.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Sure, I can stay.  Is Rabbi Strauss doing the graveside service? 

[Pause.  No answer.  The sisters look at each other.]

            What?  He’s not?  Who’s doing the service?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            They wanted 600 dollars for a 20-minute service…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            If it’s about the money…

 

                                                                  TALYA

            It’s not just that.  It’s…  We haven’t been to Beth Israel in twenty years.  I didn’t want… We didn’t want someone standing over her coffin, reading a ready-made service and sticking her name in at the right moment.  It’s not proper.  It’s not dignified.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            So who’s doing the service, if not Rabbi Strauss?

 

[Pause.  They all look at him.  After a moment, realization hits.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Horrified]  Me?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            David…

 

                                                                  TALYA

            All of us are doing it.  All three of her kids.  We’ll write it together, and we’ll all get up there and officiate.

 

[CAROLYN looks uncomfortable, but says nothing.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            At the graveside, right?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I rented the chapel at the cemetery.  It’s a nice chapel.  Bernice Krull heard what happened, and she told all your mother’s high school friends, and they want to be there.

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Heard only by DAVID]   Bernice never could keep her mouth shut.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            The chapel will make it a proper funeral.  Not just a few words tossed off before they cover up the grave.  [Pause]   Will you do this for me, David?  For your mother?  She was always so proud of you.

 

                                                                    LORI

            It’s true.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Of course I will, Dad.

 

[BLACKOUT]

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE TWO

 

[The house, a little later that day.  TALYA and CAROLYN are in the bedroom, going through some of LORI’s clothes.  The others, including LORI, are offstage.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Holding up a dress]   I was thinking about this to bury her in.  What do you think?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Looking at it]   The funeral is closed-casket, right?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Of course.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Then it doesn’t really matter, does it?

 

[TALYA puts the dress down.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            What’s going on?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            What do you mean?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Ever since you came over here last night, you’ve been acting strange…

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Our mother killed her—

 

                                                                  TALYA

            No, not strange that way.  You’ve been distant, quiet, angry…  I haven’t seen you cry once.  Look, I’m not telling you how you should feel or what you should do…

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Good.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I’m just trying to figure out what’s got my only sister this angry.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Trying to stay calm as she explains]   Shit, Tal…  I mean— All of it.  It’s so screwed up.  For all these years, she built this… this fortress, where she ruled us, and never allowed us in.  Now she’s gone.  All of it is gone.  You want to know what I’m feeling?  I can sum it all up for you in one word: relief.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Carolyn, please…

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I can’t cry over this, Tal.  I can’t sit here, on the bed where she died, and pour out these feelings of grief and remorse.  I’m so fucking pissed at her for the childhood she never allowed us, and now for taking this cowardly way out.

[TALYA doesn’t reply, only looks at her compassionately.]

            You’re disappointed in me, aren’t you?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            No.  I understand what you’re feeling.  We’ve all been through it.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            David hasn’t.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            He has.  In a different way, but he has.  Maybe more so than the rest of us.  I think it’s why he had to spend some time in that hospital.  Why he moved to California.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            He moved to California to be with his little movie star…

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Shhh… Tricia is a very sore subject with David.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            He’s at the store with Dad.  I never liked Tricia, did you?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            No, not really.  But David did.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Pause. Quietly: ]  I don’t want to speak at the funeral on Monday.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Surprised]  What?  Why?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I’m just not ready.  I don’t want to stand up there, feeling like I feel, and spout all these words I don’t believe.  You and David can handle it.  Nobody there will know the difference.   [Pause]    You’re angry now.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            No, of course not.  I’m just… overwhelmed, and a little scared.  And the nurse in me makes me feel like I’m not doing too well.

 

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Tal, you couldn’t have saved her.  You heard what the cops said last night.  She’d been dead for hours when Dad found her.  She must have done this first thing in the morning.  And you saw the note…

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Yeah.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            “Please don’t try to save me.  Just let me go.”  This wasn’t a cry for help.  She wanted out, and she didn’t want anyone to stop her.  Just like when she was alive—she had to have her way.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Quietly, coming to terms]   Shit.  Our mother is really dead, Carolyn.

 

[CAROLYN reaches out and takes her hand.  They look at each other for a long

moment.  BLACKOUT.]

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE THREE

 

[DAVID and MICHAEL enter the house.  They each carry a grocery bag or two.  It is obvious that they have not been comfortable saying much to each other thus far. They make their way to the kitchen and begin putting groceries away.]

 

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I…  I wish I knew what to say.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            You’re here.  That’s a good start.  You’ll say good things at the funeral.

 

[Long pause.  DAVID finds the words.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Dad, I’m sorry.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            About what?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            A lot of things.  I feel like I’ve let you down in a lot of ways.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I don’t feel that way.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I know you, Dad.  Even if you did feel that way, you wouldn’t say so.  I remember my childhood.  How Mom set me apart from the girls, made it very clear that I was hers, and not…   [He stops himself, but it is too late.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            And not mine.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I didn’t mean it that way.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It’s all right.  It’s true.  And I’ve come to accept it.  Bernard is your father.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No, Dad.  Not in my mind.  Bernard is just a man Mom slept with.  You’re my father.  You were there every day.  You saw me through every problem.  You’re the one who would play Monopoly with me on Saturday afternoons, and when the game was almost over—you remember?  And you were winning?  You would switch places with me, so I could win every time.  That stuff stayed with me, Dad.  I just…couldn’t say thank you then—because Mom pulled all the strings.  It hurts me to think of how many times I didn’t show you the respect you earned.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I’m smarter than people give me credit for, David.  I see things, I hear things.  I knew that your mother was having an affair with Bernard years before he died and she told me about it.  I knew.  I just chose to look the other way.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Why?  If you knew, you could’ve said something.  Brought an end to it…

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            In a strange way, her “secret affair” was what kept us together.  If she knew that I found out, we would have had a confrontation, and one of us would probably have decided to leave the other.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            What would have been so bad about that?  You could have started over…

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Maybe I didn’t want to start over.  I don’t really have any friends, except her friends.  I get up in the morning, take care of her, go do my job, then come home and take care of her.  That’s my life.  And now that she’s gone, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.  She always needed so much care, so much attention.  Now…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Now it’s time to take care of yourself.  Pay attention to your needs.  Do you think you’ll keep the house?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I hadn’t even thought about it.  It’s a bit big for just me…  Why, do you want it?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Me?  No, I don’t want it.  I’m staying in California.  But Carolyn might want it.  Either she could move in with you, or you could find a smaller place, and let her have the house.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Carolyn wouldn’t want to live with me.  She’s got her pride.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I think you should take some time off.  You’ve got—what—five days of bereavement? And I bet you’ve got some vacation time saved up.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I do.                                                    

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Then you should.  Get away from work for a while.  Take some time to just…be.  Do good things for yourself.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            That’s the whole problem, David.  It’s what’s kept me up all night last night. I’d love to say that I have all sorts of plans and ideas, and things I’ve been wanting to do.  But the truth of it is, your mother was my entire life, and now that she’s gone, I feel like I have nothing at all to do.

 

[BLACKOUT]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE FOUR

 

 

[In the bedroom, TALYA continues to sort through LORI’s things, by herself this time. She sees a music box, winds it up, listens for several seconds.  It’s clearly one with fond memories from her childhood.  At first, she maintains her composure, but this quickly fades, and she begins handling objects roughly.  Finally, she throws a rubber-banded stack of envelopes against a wall as she breaks down, crying.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Why?  Why, why, why, God damn it, why?!

 

[LORI enters and sits on the bed, listening.  Her face shows concern, yet at the same time, detachment.  As TALYA speaks, she should avoid making eye contact with LORI.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Through her tears]  Stupid question, I know.  We all know why.  You were depressed, you were in pain, you were tired of just existing, instead of living. [Pause]   I knew you would do this.  I knew.  I didn’t know when and I didn’t know how, but I knew you would leave us this way.  Be glad I didn’t tell Dad.  He would’ve quit his job and watched over you every minute if he could, to keep you from doing this.  But you didn’t care.  You didn’t see him.  And you sure as shit didn’t see me.

 

            Do you have any idea how hard I tried to make you see me?  Everything I did in school, every promotion I ever got, every award—  It was all my desperate, pathetic attempt to make you love me.  My vain hope that one day, you would open your eyes and treat me like more than the child you wish you’d never had.  How can you tell a child that, Mother?  How can you tell a little girl starved for your approval that she’s alive today because abortions weren’t readily available when she was conceived?

 

            And now you’re gone, and I get to put on a brave face and pick up the pieces.  The pieces of this family, and the thousand little pieces of me you’ve never taken the time to notice.  [Pause]   When I was little…and something went wrong, or something scared me…I wouldn’t think “I want my mom”—the way little kids do.  Because I knew, even back then, there was no comfort there.  I didn’t want my mom.  I wanted somebody else’s mom.  That’s your legacy.  That’s what you left me.  Congratulations, Mother.

 

[TALYA stands abruptly and storms out of the bedroom into darkness.  LORI can do nothing but watch her go.]

 

 

 

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE FIVE

 

[Individually, in different pools of light on the stage, the family members make phone calls.  MICHAEL uses a cordless extension of the house phone.  The others each use their cell phones.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            [Quietly, but not overly emotional]  Yes, hello, this is Michael Abrams.  I’m calling to let you know that I won’t be coming in to work next week.  My wife passed away yesterday.  …Thank you.  …It was somewhat sudden.  She’s been ill for quite some time though.  …Thank you.  The funeral is Monday morning.  The obituary will be in tomorrow’s Tribune.  …No, no, please don’t go to any trouble.  …I’d like to take all five of my bereavement days, if I may.   …Thank you.  If I need more time after that, I have some vacation time saved up.  …Very good.  I’ll tell them.  Thank you again.

 

 

[LIGHTS CROSSFADE to TALYA on her cell.]

 

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Hi, sweetie, it’s Mom.  …I’m doing all right.  Well, the best I can, anyway.  …Grandpa’s doing okay.  And your uncle David and aunt Carolyn are here too.  …I don’t think I’ll be home in time to make dinner tonight, so ask your dad to make you something.  We have chicken in the refrigerator, and there’s some Thai noodles in the pantry…  Lindsey, the funeral is Monday morning, so please e-mail your teacher tonight and tell her you won’t be in school Monday, all right?  …It’s important that you go to the funeral.  …I know it’s scary, but Daddy and I will be there with you.  You’ll be just fine.  …They have a little room where you can go if it gets too much.  …No, you don’t have to see Grandma’s body.  …Of course you don’t have to kiss her good-bye if you don’t want to.  …Well, sweetie, Zach Mitchell is Catholic.  They do a lot of things different than we do…  Like Jesus, for one thing.  …Lindsey, I have to go do some things.  When I get home tonight, we can talk about things, and I’ll answer any questions you have, I promise.  

[Long pause.  She answers somberly, as she herself is for the first time contemplating the possibility.] 

            No, honey, Grandpa’s not going to kill himself.  …I’ll see you later.  

            …Love you too.

 

 

[LIGHTS CROSSFADE to CAROLYN on her cell.]

 

 

 

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Robin?  It’s Care.  …Hi.  …Not so good, really.  I’m at my parents’ house.  My mother died yesterday.  …Pills.  …Yeah, I know.  Me too, thanks.  …No, I’ll be all right.  I want to spend some time with my dad tonight, and my brother’s in from out of town, so…  No, he’s by himself.  …They got divorced awhile ago.  …So anyway, I’m not gonna be able to spend time with you guys tonight.  …No, that’s fine.  The funeral’s Monday.  …You don’t have to come unless you want to.  I mean—it’d be great if you were there and all, but you have to work, so don’t feel, you know, obligated or anything.  [Remembers]  Oh, hey, Robin?  Do you have an outfit I can borrow on Monday?  ‘Cause I’ve got shit for formal clothes since my job went casual dress.  …Cool, thanks.  I’ll stop by tomorrow night and look at what you’ve got.  …Shit, I don’t know.  Whatever I can, I guess.  …Thanks Rob. You’re a good friend.  …Later.

 

[LIGHTS CROSSFADE to DAVID on his cell. He sits on the living room sofa.  His speech is slightly hesitating, almost as if he is ashamed to be making the call.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            …It’s been awhile since I’ve been in to see you, and I wasn’t sure if you were still there, where I remember.  …On Sherman in Evanston, by the library? Okay.  …In the past, I had to come out there to you.  Is that still the case?

 

[CAROLYN hears his half of the conversation as she passes, and sympathetically sits next to him, putting an arm around his shoulders.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I’m in Skokie.  …Oh, you can come here?  That’d be great.  I’m with family, and I don’t know if I can get away.  It’s been kind of a trying day.  …No, that’d be great.  That’d be very helpful.

 

[TALYA takes a seat on the other side of him, and also puts a caring arm around his shoulders.  Both sisters watch him compassionately.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Okay, great.  Thank you.  …My name is David Abrams.   …a-m-s, right.  Address is 9022 N. Kolmar in Skokie.  …986-2638.  …Yes.  I’d like a large sausage and mushroom…

[TALYA and CAROLYN both slap him gently.]

            [Into phone]  Would you hold on a moment, please?  Thank you.

            [To his sisters]   What?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Disbelief]  Pizza?

 

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yes.  So?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            We thought you were calling some…I don’t know…grief counselor or something.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Are we supposed to be fasting?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            No…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Then screw you guys.  I’m hungry.  Either go in with me or shut up.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Make it two, and get breadsticks.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            See if they have salad.

 

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE SIX

 

[LIGHTS FADE to brief BLACKOUT, then come up on MICHAEL standing alone in the bedroom.  He stares at the bed where LORI died.  In his hand, he clutches a windbreaker tightly.  Clearly hers; her favorite. MICHAEL writes a message in large letters on a wall-length mirror.  The message says “YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO.” He continues to hold the jacket and talk to LORI as if she were there.  LORI enters the room, unseen by him, and listens.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It’s not okay.  I know you want me to stand here and tell you that what you did was okay… that I understand, and I forgive you?  But I don’t.  Because it wasn’t okay.  I know you were sad, and I know you were in pain.  There were days that I would have given anything to take your pain away—but not like this.  All those years, all those doctor visits.  Those God damned pills they made you take.  None of it helped.  None of it.

 

            I saw you cry.  All those times you thought you were hiding your pain from me.  I saw.  You didn’t have to hide it. You didn’t have to try to be brave.  I knew.  And I would have taken all that pain for myself.  Taken it away from you if I could.  But not like this.  You didn’t have to.  You didn’t have to.  My poor, pain-ridden Lori…  They took your note.  The police took it.  Your words…

 

[She recites the text of the note, unheard by him.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            To any police or coroner’s office personnel…

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            How can anyone write a note like that, knowing what they’re about to do?

 

                                                                    LORI

            This is a suicide, and I acted alone.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            So alone with your thoughts.  Were you scared?

 

                                                                    LORI

            My family did not assist me and did not know of my intentions.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Why didn’t you tell me this was what you wanted?

 

                                                                    LORI

            If I am still alive when you find me, please do not take any extreme measures to save me.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Why didn’t you say?

 

                                                                    LORI

            Let me go in peace.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Thirty-two years…

 

                                                                    LORI

            And to my family…

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            We were your family…

 

                                                                    LORI

            I wish I could tell you I’m sorry, but I’m not.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It’s not okay.

 

 

                                                                    LORI

            The pain, the sorrow, has become my entire existence, and nothing brings me pleasure anymore.  This is no way to live.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            You were supposed to outlive me.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I can only hope that you will forgive me, and your lives will become easier without the burden of having to care for me.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            When I said “till death do us part,” I was talking about mine

 

[As MICHAEL is saying these words, DAVID enters the room, standing quietly behind him.  He sees LORI on the bed.  He sees MICHAEL’s words on the mirror, and is momentarily affected by them.]

 

                                                                  DAVID
[Quietly]  Dad?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            [Surprised]  Oh… David.  I was… just…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I know.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            [Holding up the windbreaker]   Her favorite jacket.  I want to keep it.

 

                                                                  DAVID     

            Absolutely.  [Puts his hand on MICHAEL’s shoulder.]   I ordered food for everyone.  It should be here in a few minutes.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Thank you, David.  Let me pay for it, though.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No, Dad, you don’t have to…

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I insist.  My wallet is in the family room.  I’ll just go get it.

 

[MICHAEL leaves the room.  DAVID looks again at his words, then stares accusingly at LORI.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Is this really what you wanted?

 

[She hears, but does not answer.  He shakes his head and leaves the room. BLACKOUT.]

 

 

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE SEVEN

 

[A little later that evening, the pizza has arrived.  MICHAEL, TALYA, DAVID, and CAROLYN are seated in the living room.  Each holds a paper plate and is eating some pizza.  They all have a non-alcoholic beverage nearby.  LORI has not joined them for this gathering.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            This is good.  Where’s it from?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Malnati’s in Evanston.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I haven’t had pizza in years.  Your mother couldn’t eat it, and it was never worth it to buy a whole one just for me.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            They make individual-sized ones too.  You should order it if you like it.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I might just do that.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Sighs]  God, I’m tired.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            You should head home after dinner.  It’s been a long day for everyone.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I will.  But I’ll come back over tomorrow.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            You don’t have to go to any trouble.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            It’s no trouble.  I’m not working tomorrow.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            We’ll both come back over.  We need to work on planning the funeral anyway.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Ah, yes, the funeral.  You think I should open with a joke?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Don’t be a retard.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            The term is “differently abled,” and I’m a little sensitive about it, thank you.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            No jokes, retard.  This is a funeral.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah, well from what I hear, you won’t be leaping up to help.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Slaps his leg]  Shut up. 

 

                                                                  TALYA

            David…

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            [To CAROLYN]  You’re not going to speak at the funeral?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            It…  I haven’t decided yet.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            But David said…

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            David was speaking based on inaccurate information. 

[She gives both siblings a dirty look.]

            I don’t know yet what I’m going to do.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It would mean a lot to me if you did speak.  You’re not still holding a grudge against your mother, are you?  I mean, for God’s sake, Carolyn, how’s it going to look to people?  Your brother and sister are up there, paying their respects…

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Look, can we please change the subject?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Yes, let’s do that.  [Composes herself]  David, you’re sleeping here tonight, I trust?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah.  I guess I’ll sleep in my old room.  Visit my Duran Duran posters and spelling bee trophies.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Dad, I’m going to leave my cell phone on all night.  If you need me for anything, I want you to call.  I don’t care what time it is.  You call.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Thank you, dear, but I should be fine.  David will be here.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            That’s right.  I got my homey’s back here, yo.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Lord, you are such a white boy.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Getting up]   Well, I for one am tired, and I’m going home.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Also getting up]   Yeah, me too.  I’ll see you tomorrow, late morning.

 

[The men stand, and MICHAEL hugs his daughters.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Thank you both for everything.  Talya, I appreciate everything you did to help out last night.  I don’t know what I would have done without you here.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            You’re welcome, Dad.  I’ll call that detective tomorrow, and see about getting you a copy of Mom’s note.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Please tell them I didn’t do this.  Tell them I tried to help her…

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I will, Dad.  Try to sleep tonight.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I’ll try.

 

                                                                       

                                                               CAROLYN

            Good night, Daddy.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Good night, sweetheart.

 

[The sisters exit.  DAVID looks quizzically at his father.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            What’s going on?  Are you under suspicion?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            [Sits back down, exasperated]  I came home from work last night, and I found your mother in the bed.  There was a note taped to the headboard—a very loving and apologetic note.  I’ll let you read it once the police give it back.  My first thought was to help her any way I could.  I thought she was still alive.  So I called for an ambulance, and I tried to wake her up.  I tried to help her.  But I didn’t know what to do.  The police showed up with the ambulance, and they told me she’d been dead for hours by the time I got home.  Hours, David.  They asked me what I was trying to do.  I don’t even know what I told them…  I thought I was trying to help her.  They called it…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Finishing the thought]  Disturbing a crime scene.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Those sons of bitches! The way they treated me… it was shameful.  They looked at me like I did something wrong.  Couldn’t they see?  Couldn’t they see that my entire life had fallen apart in a heartbeat?  They treated me like a criminal, and your mother like an object.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [As gently as he can]  They were following procedures.  Anytime there’s a wrongful death, they have to start by ruling things out.  They didn’t know you.  They didn’t know that she’s been your whole life for over thirty years.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Didn’t know or didn’t care?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I don’t know.  Maybe both.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Oh, David, this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me in my life.  I know you’re hurting and your sisters are hurting, but I have no comfort to give you right now.  All my comfort is for me, and it doesn’t even begin to help.  I know how selfish that sounds, and I’m sorry, but I feel like in the whole world right now, no one hurts the way I hurt.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Hugging him]  It’s okay, Dad.  You don’t have to comfort us.  We’re here to comfort you any way we can.  I know this is an impossible situation, and I wish I knew some magic words to make it better, but I don’t.  Believe me, if you’d seen me last night after Talya called…  I was a mess.  I fell apart.  But I’m here now, and anything I can do to help, I’ll do.

 

[MICHAEL eases out of the hug and looks at DAVID.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I’m glad you’re here.  I’ve missed you.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I missed you too, Dad.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            You’re…all right again?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah.  I’m all right again.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I’m sorry I couldn’t come and visit you when you were in the hospital.  I couldn’t be away from your mother…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            It’s fine, Dad.  L.A. is a long way from Chicago.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Did Tricia come to visit you?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Once.  I think the whole concept of “psych ward” didn’t sit too well with her.  And the press would try to take her picture wherever she went.  Plus, I think she kind of suspected that she was partially to blame for my… you know… breakdown.  So she made her token appearance and vanished from my life again.

 

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Good riddance, I say.  I know she was your wife, but I know you can do so much better.  Wait for the right woman to come along.  You’re young yet, David.  You’ll meet someone proper.  Someone like your mother.

 

[DAVID suppresses any tempting witticism, and simply replies: ]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I hope so, Dad.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Well, I’m a little tired.  I’m going to go lie down and read for a bit.  I doubt I’ll be sleeping tonight.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Neither will I, I suspect.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Is there anything you need?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No, I’m fine.  I’ll just clean up the dinner plates, then go watch some TV, or maybe take a walk.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I love you … son.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Love you too, Dad.

 

[BLACKOUT]

 

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE EIGHT — S U N D A Y

 

[LIGHTS COME UP to find DAVID, dressed in a printed T-shirt and boxer shorts, looking through the kitchen cabinets.  His back—more accurately his backside—is to the audience.  Enter LORI, dressed as before.  She stands behind him for a few seconds.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            Good morning.

 

[Startled, he hits his head on the cabinet.]

 

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Son of a… 

[Composes himself, stands and faces her.]

            Are you familiar with the old song, “How Can I Miss You if You Won’t Go Away?”

 

                                                                    LORI

            Cute. What are you looking for?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Coffee.  Real coffee.  All I can find is instant.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Can’t help you there. I never drank it, and your father only uses instant.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I can go to 7-11.  So, to what do I owe this morning’s haunting?

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Concerned]  You didn’t sleep well last night.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yes, well, my mother died Friday.  The only one who didn’t seem to get that message was you.

 

[He sits at the kitchen table.  She sits opposite him.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            Why are you so angry at me, David?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I don’t want to get into it.

 

                                                                    LORI

            This may be our last chance.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Come on, Mom… suicide?  Don’t you see what it’s done to this family?  Dad’s devastated, the girls are walking around in a kind of a trance…

 

                                                                    LORI

            And you’re angry.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yes, I’m angry.  I’m angry about how you died, and about how you lived.

 

[Pause. She tries to distract him.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            You were always my favorite…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Don’t say that.

 

                                                                    LORI

            It’s true.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            If I was your favorite, it’s because I was his.  You saw me as… as… some kind of living photocopy of Bernard.

 

                                                                    LORI

            You do look and act a lot like him.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I’m not him.  [Pause]   And I never approved.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I know you’re not.  [Pause]   And I never required your approval.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            All along, you wanted me to treat him like a father.  Like he was some kind of saint.  [Quick laugh.]  Saint Bernard.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Well, he did tend to drool on occasion.  And he brought me brandy more than once…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I so don’t want details, thanks.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I’m not going to apologize for loving Bernard.  Not to you, not to anyone.  He was the only thing… the only person that made me feel like I was alive.  Without our love, you wouldn’t have been born.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Carolyn was born.  A full two years after my random breeding.  She’s not Bernard’s too, is she?

 

 

 

                                                                    LORI

            No, of course not.  Carolyn is the result of a misguided and unfortunate attempt at reconciliation.  I never intended to have…  

 

[She can’t finish the sentence.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Tell me something: Why did you have children if you didn’t want them?

 

                                                                    LORI

            I thought I wanted them.  When Talya was born, I was so young and eager.  And I felt so much better back then than I did later on.  So much of my pain started with her birth.  Before long, I began to understand how much more there was to it than what I’d thought.  I couldn’t exactly give her away.  So I thought we’d raise her, and that would be the end of it.  Then Bernard convinced me that we should create a living legacy of our love.  And I had you.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Living legacy.  Great.  Maybe I’ll get it shaved into the back of my head.  Or print up business cards.  “David Abrams, living legacy of forbidden love.”  You know something, Mom?  It pissed me off.  It really pissed me off.  I never asked to be the keeper of your big secret.  But there I was, the only one you told about it for so many years.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I had to tell you.  You always seemed to be around when Bernard was here.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah, well, you didn’t exactly trust me with it.  Until I was ten, you told me that his name was “no-one.”

 

                                                                    LORI

            It was easier that way.  If you slipped and said something, all you would say is “No-one was here today.”  But you were too smart.  You figured out that he was your father.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Wasn’t too hard.  You spent years dropping hints.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I wanted you to know.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            You cried when you finally told me.  Though I suspect the tears were just for show.

 

 

                                                                    LORI

            Not entirely.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Why him?  What did he have that all the rest of us didn’t?  Why did you let him get close?

 

                                                                    LORI

            I don’t even know if I can put it into words.  There was the physical side, of course, something my own husband didn’t even fulfill.  But more than that… he gave me some of his strength when I had none of my own.  No one else did that for me, not even you… my only son.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Guiltily]  Mom…

 

                                                                    LORI

            You just drifted from me, further and further…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Please don’t…

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Bluntly]  Why did you move away?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Mom…

 

                                                                    LORI

            Tell me.  I want to know.  Even if I won’t like the answer.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I moved away because I got the opportunity to write for TV, and I wanted it.  Then I met Tricia, and we got married, and we needed to live in L.A. for both our careers.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Did you love her?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            What?  That’s…  What kind of—

 

                                                                    LORI

            David, I’m your mother.  I know you better than you know yourself.  I’m just wondering why you married Tricia if you didn’t love her.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Quietly]  I thought I did.  I guess I loved the idea of her more than I loved her.  This beautiful, successful movie star wanted to be with me, and suddenly I could have anything in the world I wanted.  Huge house, incredible cars… and opportunities.  It was like magic.  I was Tricia Corcoran’s husband, so suddenly my scripts were fantastic.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I always thought they were.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Thank you.  So did I.  Hollywood just didn’t share that opinion—until Tricia came along.  I knew I was riding her coattails, but I didn’t care.  For a while, it was a good ride.  Trouble is, I began to think too much.  Words like “sham marriage” came to mind a little too often.  Then, one night at a Hollywood party, Tom Arnold actually took me aside and started to relate to me.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Oh, Lord…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah.  Three margaritas later, I decided it was time to re-evaluate my life.  It wasn’t long after that when I discovered that Tricia had the same idea.  Only she implemented it by having an affair with her co-star.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I’m sorry, boychik.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            So it was off to therapy, and then hospitalization.  But I got healthy, and I got strong, and I got released, thinking, This is going to be my year.  Things will get better.  And they did.  Until my mother committed—

 

                                                                    LORI

            Stop. 

 

                                                                  DAVID

            And here I am.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I wish you’d told me what you were going through.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I didn’t think you’d care.

 

[There is a long moment of silence, then MICHAEL enters, dressed in his pajamas. He

moves to sit at the table, in the very seat LORI is occupying.  She scrambles to get out

of his way, and he sits.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Good morning, David.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Hey, Dad.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I heard your voice.  I thought you were on the phone.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No.  Sorry if I woke you.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            You didn’t.  I was up most of the night.  So, who were you talking to?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Mom.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Good.  That’s good for you.  I’ve been talking to her too.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            You couldn’t sleep either, huh?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            No.  Not much at all.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Breakfast.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            How about some breakfast?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            That sounds good.

 

                                                                    LORI

            IHOP.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Let me take you to IHOP.  You know how you like their apple-cinnamon pancakes.  It’s on me.

 

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            [Smiles at him]  I’d like that a lot.

 

[BLACKOUT]

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE NINE

 

[Later that morning, TALYA and CAROLYN arrive at the house together.  They ad lib conversation for a few seconds as they enter.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Calls out]  Hello?  Anybody home?

 

[LORI sits in the kitchen, watching them.]

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Where do you suppose they are?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Hard to say.  Breakfast, errands.  At least Dad’s out of the house for a bit.  I was getting worried about him moping around.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            God, look at this place.  She’s everywhere.  Her pill bottles, her books, her clothes.  This place doesn’t need a cleanup.  It needs an exorcism.

 

[LORI steps out to the living room.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            I resent the implication.

 

[They don’t hear her, so she disappears back into the darkness.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            David and I are going to be hitting the funeral service pretty hard and fast today.  [Brief pause]   You’re welcome to join us, you know.  Even if you don’t speak tomorrow, your input in writing the service will be appreciated.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I know.  Look, I’ll get on Mom’s computer in a little bit, and try to find some poems or something to use tomorrow.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Smiles a little]  Thank you.

 

[DAVID and MICHAEL enter the house and join them in the living room.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            ‘Sup, sibs?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            And where have you boys been?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Strip club.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            [Gives an embarrassed little laugh.]   No-o-o.  Pancakes.  David took us out to breakfast.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Rubs his hair]  He’s a good son.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Strip club?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            We could’ve.  The classier ones serve breakfast.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Remind me to get you a football for your twelfth birthday.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Har-har.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            We have work to do, little brother.  Come on, let’s go in the kitchen and put our heads together.  Carolyn said she wanted to box up some of Mom’s old books.

 

[CAROLYN looks surprised for a moment, then quickly recovers.]

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            That’s right.  I sure did.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Thank you, honey.  That’s very kind of you.  I’ll help you.  Let me go get some boxes.

 

[MICHAEL exits.]

 

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [To CAROLYN]   All part of the exorcism.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Swell.  Thanks a lot.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Talk to Dad.  He needs to know his family is with him, whatever happens.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Okay, okay, I’ve got it covered.  You two go…eulogize.

 

[TALYA and DAVID exit.  CAROLYN starts grabbing a handful of old books.  MICHAEL returns a few seconds later with some empty cardboard boxes.  He goes to the bookshelf with her, and after a few seconds of awkward silence, they talk as they begin boxing up books.]

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            How are you holding up, Dad?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            As well as can be expected, I guess.  How about you?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I’ve been better.  It’s just…a little more than I’m able to deal with.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Do you want to talk about the funeral?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I don’t know.  I feel… I feel like you’re disappointed in me.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I’m disappointed.  But not in you.  I was just hoping that all of my children would use this as an opportunity to say good-bye to their mother.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            She didn’t say good-bye to us.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            She left a note—

 

 

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Interrupts]  Dad, the note was a farce.  It was the same attitude she took all her life—“I’m doing this.  If you don’t like it, too bad.”

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Do you remember when you were seventeen, and you broke your wrist?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Yes.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Remember the pain you were in?  At night, when you were trying to sleep, and your eyes were full of tears.  You were begging me—do anything to make the pain go away.  You remember.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Yes.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Your mother lived with that every day for decades.  I don’t know of anyone who’s lived with more pain than she did.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Come on, Dad, I saw what you wrote in the bedroom.  I know you’re angry at her for this too.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            No, not angry.  Heartbroken, alone, frightened, yes.  But I can’t be angry.  And neither should you.  Not for this, or for anything that transpired between the two of you over the years.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            There’s a lot.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            That just means there’s a lot to forgive.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            How do you do it?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I do it by looking at the alternative.  A life of bitterness, anger, a grudge that lasts for years because I didn’t have the strength to find forgiveness in me.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Ashamed]  Like me, you mean.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I don’t judge you, Carolyn.  You’re your own person.  You’ve always been strong and opinionated, like your mother.  That’s probably why the two of you clashed so much when you were growing up.  But she always made sure you had what you needed.  [Pause]   I know you’re concerned about what will happen to you financially now that she’s gone.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            We don’t have to talk about this now.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It’s all right.  It’s important to you, so we can talk about it.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Okay.  You guys have been helping me out with my rent every month, and I’m a little worried that you won’t be able to keep doing that, now that you’re not getting her disability checks.  But if you can’t, I’ll figure something out.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I’m going to keep working, so I’ll still have my salary.  And I won’t have your mother’s medical expenses to pay.  I’m also keeping this house.  I imagine that question has crossed your mind.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Yes.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It’s probably too big for just me, but it’s been my home for thirty years, and I don’t want to give it up now.  [Pause]   It’s big enough that you could live here as well, if you wanted to.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I couldn’t ask you to do that…

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            You’re not asking, I’m offering.  I know the idea didn’t appeal to you while your mother was alive, but now you’d be more than welcome.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I don’t know, Dad.  I’ve lived on my own since I was eighteen.  Coming back home…  I just don’t know.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            You don’t have to answer me now.  Give it some thought.  The offer doesn’t expire, you know.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Thank you, Daddy.  I love you.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I love you too, Carrie.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I feel bad that I didn’t get to tell Mom that one last time.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            There’s nothing stopping you now.  We’ve all been talking to her this weekend.  You could go into the bedroom.  You’ll have some privacy there.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            What would I say?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            That’s up to you.  But I think that making peace with her would be good for you.

 

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE TEN

 

[LIGHTS COME UP on the bedroom, and FADE on MICHAEL, allowing him to exit.  CAROLYN makes her way slowly into the bedroom, and stares for a moment at the large letters written on the wall.  Then she stares at the part of the bed that LORI always occupied; the place where she died.  It takes CAROLYN some time before the words will come.]

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Hi, Mom.

 

[At the sound of her voice, LORI enters the room from the darkness and sits on the bed.  She speaks to CAROLYN, but her words are unheard.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            Hello, Carolyn.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I wish I knew what to say.  I guess I want to say I’m sorry.  For all of it, for everything.  The parts that were my fault, and the parts that weren’t.  I know I did a lot of things that made you mad over the years.  And there were some things you didn’t know about.  Like when I was thirteen, and your red silk blouse disappeared.  You asked me if I knew what happened to it, and I said I didn’t.  I knew.  I wore it, and it got ruined.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I knew.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Cigarette burns.  I’m sorry.  And I’m sorry about all the rest.  All the fights, all the angry words.  If I had known that you were considering this…  I don’t know.  Maybe it wouldn’t have changed anything.  Maybe we were doomed never to get along.  That was as much my fault as yours.  I always felt like I was unimportant to you, like I barely existed in your eyes.  That’s why I did some of the things I did, just so you’d notice me.

 

            It’s funny.  Here I am, talking to you now, even though you can’t see me or hear me.  I don’t remember the last time I sat and talked to you like this when you could see me and hear me.  You want to know the simple truth?  The truth I finally, just now, figured out and can put into words?  I was afraid of you.  Crazy, isn’t it?  I was afraid of you, ever since I was a little girl.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Afraid?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            God, it feels so strange to admit that.  To say those words.  But it’s true.  And it’s a relief, saying it.  Yes, Mother, I was afraid of you, afraid of doing something that upset you.  So I ran away from home sometimes.  And I hid.  Hid in my room, hid in a bottle of alcohol, hid in a cloud of pot smoke.  Anyplace I could go where you wouldn’t find me.  And now the joke’s on me, isn’t it.  ‘Cause you’ve gone where I can’t find you.

 

[CAROLYN drops her head to her chest and sits silently.  LORI sees this as her chance to speak.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            My lost child.  I know you can’t hear me, but I’ll tell you anyway.  We share the blame for what went wrong.  I could never be the mother you wanted.  You wanted the storybook.  You wanted the Brady Bunch.  That wasn’t me.  And as that realization came to you, you started to resent me for it more and more.  Never mind that it was because of the pain.  I wasn’t who you wanted me to be, and so you wanted nothing to do with me.  For a while, I tried harder.  Then, somewhere along the way, I stopped trying.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            It’s just…

 

                                                                    LORI

            By then, you had too.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            It’s so…

 

                                                                    LORI

            So we fucked it up, my lost child.  You and me both.  And now there’s no mending it.  I would tell you not to cry for me, but I don’t see any tears in your eyes anyway.  Just anger and betrayal.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I’m going to try.  I’ll try to understand why you did this.  And I’ll try to forgive you.  And I’ll try to be closer to Dad.

 

                                                                    LORI

            It’s ironic, really.  David hears me, but he won’t listen.  You’re listening, but you can’t hear me. 

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            What am I doing here?  I’m sitting here, talking to nobody.  That’s right, isn’t it?  You’re really not here anymore…are you?

 

[In a moment of inspiration, LORI drops a box of Kleenex from the bed onto the floor. CAROLYN is startled momentarily, then quickly goes to it and picks it up.]

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Are you?

 

[LIGHTS FADE on her.]

 

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE ELEVEN

 

[Another room of the house.  TALYA and DAVID are working on the service.  Both have notepads, and write their ideas out.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            What about the 23rd Psalm?  That’s always good.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Traditionally, that’s used right before the interment.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Oh. Poetry, then?  How about “Death Be Not Proud”?

 

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Could work.  I’ll add it to the “maybe” list.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            This is hard.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            That’s why I wanted your help.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            So Carolyn’s for sure not going to do this with us?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            So she says.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            She’s that pissed at Mom, even now?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Looks like it.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Okay then.  So what’ve we got so far?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            You and I will alternate readings at the podium, and at the graveside.  If we want music, we have to bring it on a CD.  They’ll have the player and the speakers there.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I’m not sure I want recorded music.  It’d be too weird, I think.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Maybe some organ music as people arrive, but no pop songs or ballads or anything.  I have visions of “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” and that’s just… too strange to contemplate. 

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Which leaves us with what to put in its place.  Which of us gets to do the eulogy?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I think we should each do one.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Two eulogies?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Why not?  We each had different experiences with her, growing up.  So, one from each of us.  Say, five minutes apiece.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Well, that’s ten minutes taken care of.  The pamphlet from the cemetery says that typical funerals are about thirty.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            There’s prayers in the pamphlet that we can use.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Okay then, let’s start at the beginning of the service.  We’re supposed to start at 10:00; I think we should hold until at least 10:05, give people a chance to get there.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Good idea.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Are there going to be… greeters… ushers?  For when people arrive?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            The cemetery staff will show people where to go, but we should probably receive people at the door.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I’m thinking about the blocking of this—how to get everyone to their seats, so that we can start.  Even if we hold for five minutes…

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Could you…not do that, please?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Do what?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Trying to contain her agitation]  Talk about this funeral in stage terms—blocking, holding for five minutes.  This is real, David!  This isn’t some play or TV show that you can control!

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Unsure where that outburst came from]  O-kaaaaaaay.  Maybe we should put this aside for a minute or two.

 

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I’m sorry.  I—I don’t…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No, I’m sorry.  Sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed, I tend to put things in terms that make me more comfortable.  I shouldn’t have done that with this.  I know it’s real.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Still, it was insensitive of me, especially in light of the schizophrenia.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Tal, I don’t have schizophrenia.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            You don’t?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No.  Doctors just like to give things names when they can’t figure something out.  My personality is a little unusual, and when they couldn’t figure it out, they just decided that it was schizophrenia.  I went along with it so I could get out of that hospital sooner, but I haven’t filled the prescription they wrote.  I don’t need it.  I’m fine.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Well, that’s… that’s good to hear.  I was worried about you.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I know.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            And I’m sorry I never got out to California to visit you.  I’ve just been so busy…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I know that too.  You’ve been working full shifts, plus taking care of this family during every crisis.  And we’ve had our share.  Your calls and e-mails have meant a lot to me.  I know that I let the family down when I moved away.  I wasn’t here to help deal with some of the shit that happens around here.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I wasn’t angry.  I was jealous.  You escaped, where I couldn’t.  I stayed in Chicago, and I shouldered it all.

 

 

 

 

                                                                  DAVID

            It’s hard to think of something good coming from this, but in a way, you’re free now too.  You put so much of your own energy into Mother’s care.  Now you don’t have to do that anymore.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            When I got home last night, I picked up the phone.  I actually started to call her, to see if she was all right.  Isn’t that stupid?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No.  It’s habit.  I’ve had moments where I forget too.  She’s been such a force of gravity on our lives.  Now that she’s gone, we don’t feel anchored.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            That’s true.  You should write that down.  We can use it in the service.

 

            [Pause.  He writes it down.]

 

            I was always so envious of your relationship with her.  You had what I always wanted, and it seemed like you didn’t have to do anything to earn it.  Then, when you married a movie star and moved into a mansion, it didn’t help matters any.  You were always just my bratty little brother.  To see you as an adult, with a real life… I couldn’t come to terms with it.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            It didn’t always feel like a real life.  It was Tricia’s life, and I was sometimes invited.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            But you had Mom’s love.  That’s the one thing I really wanted.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            It came with a price.  She demanded my loyalty.  I couldn’t show any affection toward Dad.  Once she told me I was Bernard’s son, it became an expectation.  I had to accept Bernard as my father or face the consequences.  And then there was the added bonus of Beth.  Finding out that the girl I’d loved like a sister my entire life actually was my sister.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            God, I forgot about Beth.  I’m sorry…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            It’s all right.  It was nine years ago.  Still feels like yesterday.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            You really did love her, didn’t you?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I still do.  And years later, when I found out we had the same father, it just made me love her more.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Did Beth even know that Bernard was her father?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I’m pretty sure she didn’t.  Everybody was good about keeping their secrets.  Or so they thought, anyway.  It does explain why certain people worked very hard to keep the two of us from getting involved romantically.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Yeah, I can see why they’d do that.     

 

                                                                  DAVID

            But the love was there.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            We’re going to be at Shalom Memorial tomorrow.  You could visit her grave.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah, I might just do that.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I can hear how much you miss her.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            She was the first person I loved who died.  Ever since then, I’ve been a sore loser about death.  I just can’t let go of them.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I wonder where Mom is now.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Without thinking]  Bedroom.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            What?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            What?  [Realizes what he’s said.]  Nothing.  Back to the service, what do you say?

 

 

                                                                  TALYA

            What aren’t you telling me?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Nothing at all.  Mom’s in heaven, playing the harp.  God understood and took her in.  No harm, no foul.  So, about that eulogy…

 

                                                                  TALYA

            You’re a strange boy, David.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah, I know.  It comes from living in this family.  You know how when you’re in school, there’s always one family that everybody whispers about, and nobody can go over to their house to play?  We were that family.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            It was the same way for me.  No sleepovers here, no friends visiting.  Like this was some kind of fortress…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Or prison.  But God help them if they made fun of Mom.  I kicked a few asses when I was a kid, strictly on the content of “yo mama” jokes.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I can’t picture you kicking asses.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            It was more of the scrawny little Jewish kid version of kicking asses.  A lot of slapping, some foot-stomping, a little hair-pulling.  It wasn’t pretty.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Unless you’re Joan Collins.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Nice.  Thanks.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            God, this family needs therapy.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            You know, I think so too, but it’s never going to happen.  And you know why?  It’s not fun.  I think family therapy should be fun, like a game show.

 

 

 

 

ACT ONE, SCENE TWELVE

 

[The lights shift abruptly to a pattern of TV studio blinking and flashing.  The five family members rush to a corner of the living room, and line up by age.  From offstage, a chest-high counter is wheeled into the living room.  From the ether, an ANNOUNCER is heard introducing the family. Game show THEME MUSIC plays.]

 

                                                            ANNOUNCER

            [Voiceover]  Introducing the Abrams family: Michael, Lori, Talya, David, and Carolyn.  On your marks!  And now, here’s the host of our show, Wink Gypsum!

 

[WINK comes out, all smiles and smarm.  The family take their places at the counter. LIGHTS fade to illuminate only the family and their host.  The family can be getting into the excitement of the moment, clapping and jumping up and down before the game begins. The studio audience can be heard applauding at appropriate moments.]

 

                                                                   WINK

            The Abrams family from Skokie, Illinois is here.  Welcome, folks.  You know how our game is played, so let’s get right into it.  We surveyed 100 people, and their top four answers are on the board.  Here’s the question: Name something your family does that pisses you off.  Michael, we’ll start with you.

 

[WINK kisses MICHAEL on both cheeks.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Wink, I’m going to say treating me like an ATM.

 

                                           LORI, TALYA, DAVID, CAROLYN

            [Enthusiastic]   Good answer, good answer!

 

                                                                   WINK

            [Calls out]  Show me…treating me like an ATM!

 

[SOUND:  Ding!]

 

                                                                   WINK

            Number one answer.

 

[The family cheers, jumps up and down.  WINK moves on to LORI. He kisses her on the lips, game-show-host style, then makes a distasteful face.  She’s dead, after all.]

 

                                                                   WINK

            Lori, m’darlin’.  How are you?

 

                                                                    LORI

            Dead, Wink.

 

                                                                   WINK

            I heard about that.  That’s kind of a shame.

 

                                                                    LORI
Look who you’re telling.

 

                                                                   WINK

            If your family wins that $10,000…that’ll buy you quite a funeral.  Still three answers left.  Name something your family does that pisses you off.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Fails to understand the depths of my physical and emotional pain.

           

                                      MICHAEL, TALYA, DAVID, CAROLYN

            [Enthusiastic]   Good answer, good answer!

 

                                                                   WINK

            If “fails to understand” is up there, you’re in good shape.  If not, first strike. 

            [Calls]  Fails to understand pain!

 

[SOUND: Ding!]

 

[The family again cheers, claps.  WINK moves on to TALYA, kisses her on the lips.]

 

                                                                   WINK

            My lovely Talya.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Hi, Wink.

 

                                                                   WINK

            Family’s doing very well so far.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Proudly]  We’re sharing, and communicating openly in an environment of self-actualization.

 

                                                                   WINK

            Plus you’ve got two correct answers, and no strikes.  Two more answers to go.  Name something your family does that pisses you off.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            They make me shoulder the burden for every crisis that comes along.

 

 

                                                                       

 

MICHAEL, LORI, DAVID, CAROLYN

            [Enthusiastic]   Good answer, good answer!

 

                                                                   WINK

            That sounds like a winner to me.  If not, first strike.  May we see: Make me shoulder the burden!

 

[SOUND: Ding!]

 

                                                                   WINK

            Fourth most popular answer.  Good job, good job.

 

[He moves on to DAVID, who is very excited and ready to answer.] 

 

                                                                   WINK

            Well, David, do you have an answer for us?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I do, I do!  I’ve got a great answer.  They disregard my ideas and suggestions, making me feel utterly unimportant.

 

[The family does not jump up and down.  WINK nods twice, and then—without warning or explanation—goes right on to CAROLYN.]

 

                                                                   WINK

            Carolyn, my dear Carolyn.  [Kisses her on the lips.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            You see?  You see what I mean?

 

[WINK puts a finger up to DAVID’s face to silence him, then swings that finger over to

CAROLYN.]

 

                                                                   WINK

            One answer left.  Give me that answer, and your family goes on to play for $10,000.  You excited?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Flatly]  Peeing myself with delight.

           

                                                                   WINK

            All right, then.  Name something your family does that pisses you off.

 

 

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Treats me like an outcast and a failure.

 

                                                   MICHAEL, LORI, TALYA

            [Enthusiastic]   Good answer, good answer!

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Flatly]  Yeah, yahoo, whatever.

 

                                                                   WINK

            That sounds like a good one.  If “treats me like an outcast and a failure” is up there, you’re goin’ all the way.  If not, first strike…  Outcast!

 

[SOUND:  Ding! Followed by ding-ding-ding-ding-ding, and victory music.  MICHAEL, LORI, TALYA, and CAROLYN huddle up, jumping up and down.  Suddenly, SILENCE and DARKNESS.  DAVID moves down center, and a SPOT OF LIGHT hits him.  He looks around for the game show that was just there, sees nothing.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [To himself]  I’m really not schizophrenic.

 

[BLACKOUT]

 

 

 

ACT TWO, SCENE ONE

 

[LIGHTS COME UP on the bedroom.  TALYA is in there, sorting through some things of LORI’s.  MICHAEL enters, sees her there.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Oh…  [Hesitant]   Hello, dear.  I was just— wandering, I guess.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I was sorting some things.  I can go, if you want privacy.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            No, no, that’s fine.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Points to the mirror]  I see you’ve been writing to her.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            To myself, really.  I know she’s not here to read it.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            It’s good for you.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            [Embarrassed smile]  Which, defacing the walls of my home or writing to dead people?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Expressing your feelings.  I feel like I haven’t taken the time to do that since Friday night.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Because you’ve been taking care of me.  [She doesn’t answer.]  I’m sorry about that, Tali, really I am.  This sort of crisis management always falls on you, doesn’t it?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Quietly]  Feels like it sometimes.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I don’t mean to burden you.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Dad, you know there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.  I’m just…so tired.  When people see me, they always say the same thing—“You look tired, Talya.  Are you sleeping enough?”  And I am tired.  I feel like I’ve been running in place for years now.  Like if I stop running, the reality of everything will catch up with me. Your parents, Mom’s parents, then Mom herself.  I felt like it was always up to me, because I was a nurse. 

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It fell to you, my darling girl, because of all of us, you have the clearest head, the best instincts, and the most sense.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Gives a humorless laugh]   Lucky me.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            No.  Lucky us.  You’ve saved this family on more occasions than I can count.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Fighting back tears unsuccessfully]  Would this be a bad time to turn in my resignation then?

 

[He holds her as she continues to talk through her tears.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Let it out, Tali.  Better out than in.  That’s what Bubby used to say.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I think she was talking about vomiting, Dad.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Same goes for tears.  God didn’t give us tears so we could keep them.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Why did He have to give us so many?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            To remind us how much we really care about each other.  If we didn’t care, it wouldn’t hurt so much when we lose.  We’d just go around keeping our feelings bottled up inside, like your sister is doing.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Dad, she—

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It’s all right, you don’t have to defend her.  She’s embracing her anger right now.  It’s her privilege.  It just makes me sad for her, that’s all.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Pause]  I’m sorry—I didn’t mean what I said about turning in my resignation…

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            God knows you’re entitled.  You’ve been through enough.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I can’t turn my back on the family like that.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Nobody’s turning their back.  You’re resting.  Even God rested.  You want to be busier than God?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Smiles at him]  No.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I should hope not.

 

[Pause]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I’m pissed at Him, Daddy.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            At God?  [She nods.]   You wouldn’t be the first.  Did you ever hear the old saying? “If God lived on Earth, people would break His windows.”

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I used to wonder what that meant.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I don’t think God killed your mother.  I think He looked down at her suffering, and gave her the freedom to choose to end it.

 

[She points to what he has written on the mirror.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            And this?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Still doesn’t mean I think it was right.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Out of the blue]  Tell me I don’t have to worry about you doing the same thing.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            What?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            On the phone yesterday, Lindsey was afraid.  She thought you might be so sad about Mom that you would kill yourself too.  I told her she had nothing to worry about, but after I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I couldn’t be sure if what I told her was true.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Talya, listen to me.  I swear to you that no matter how bad things get, I’ll never do that.  I could never put you all through this again.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Thank you, Daddy.  I’m sorry I doubted you.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It’s all right.  I can understand your fear.  For a very frightening moment or two on Friday night, I actually wondered myself.  But I’m going to make it through this.  We all are.

 

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Okay.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            You and I are very much in the same boat, my girl.  We’ve both allowed ourselves to be defined in terms of somebody else.  Your mother, my wife.  Maybe it was easier that way.  If you are who somebody says you are, the hard part’s done.  You just keep living up to that expectation, and you’re set.  After thirty-two years of living that way, it finally took losing your mother to show me that.  Now I get the task of figuring out what to do with that realization.  And so do you.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I guess I never looked at it that way.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It’s difficult to paint a picture of a road that you’re running on at full speed.  There’s no time to stop and examine it.  You see, there’s something to this “with age comes wisdom” stuff.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            So, who are we if she’s not here?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            [Smiles a little, shrugs]  Don’t know yet.  Maybe we should make plans to have dinner together, maybe on Sunday nights, and try to figure that out.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I’d like that.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Well…I think I’m going to get some rest now, if you don’t mind.  David and Carolyn are in the living room.  You should talk to your siblings.  Tell them their old man is going to squeak through this mess.

 

[She hugs him.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I love you, Dad.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Love you too, my girl.

 

 

 

 

ACT TWO, SCENE TWO

 

[LIGHTS CROSSFADE to the living room, where DAVID and CAROLYN are seated on the couch.  They’re passing a bottle of spiced rum back and forth between them, as TALYA enters the room.  Seeing her, CAROLYN quickly hides it.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Hi.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Hey there.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Whatcha got?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Bottle of Captain Morgan.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Holy shit.  [DAVID and CAROLYN look nervous, like they’re busted, until TALYA continues: ]  Permission to come aboard?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Hell yeah!  Room for one more.

 

[TALYA quickly sits between them, takes a decent swig of the bottle.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Oh yes.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            The Captain feels your pain, and wishes to take it away from you.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            So, what are we talking about?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Three guesses.

 

[As they talk, they pass the bottle back and forth, taking swigs off of it when they’re not talking.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Not the suicide.  Please, anything but that.  I don’t think I can dedicate one more brain cell to that tonight.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Okay, then a shout out to us, for getting the service written.  I think it’s gonna be good.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I’m sorry I didn’t help…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            It’s okay.  We got it covered.  Besides, tomorrow morning, you can sit next to Dad and keep him centered.  That’s just as important.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Okay.  Where is he, anyway?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            In his room, resting.  He’s tired.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Jesus, he’s it now.  He’s all we’ve got.

 

                                                                  TALYA
Yeah.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I still can’t believe she’s really gone.  This afternoon, I forgot.  I completely forgot she was dead. I mean, for God’s sake, I was in the process of writing her eulogy, and I couldn’t even make the connection that she was really gone.  Isn’t that crazy?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            It’s not crazy.  All these years, she was right there in the middle of everything.  We couldn’t make a move without her.  We couldn’t have a thought or a secret she wasn’t privy to.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Scary.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Like witchcraft.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            So what do we do now?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Lifts the bottle]   This.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            We live.  I mean, shit, we’re grownups.  Yeah, she kept us in this… pseudo-childhood for years with the mind games and the manipulation.  But now it’s done.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            We’re free. And what we do now is up to us.

 

[Sizeable pause.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I do kinda miss her, though.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Me too.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Quietly admitting it]   Yeah, me too.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            The way she always pushed us to do well in school.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            The way she taught us to stand up for ourselves when we got picked on.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            The way she kissed us good night, and rubbed our backs to make us cozy, and patted our little butts when she tucked us in…

[The other two just look at him strangely.]

            Oh, God damn it, don’t tell me that was just with me.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            She did teach me a lot about the world.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Me too.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Me too.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            And when it’s all said and done, I guess that I am who I am because of what she did for us.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Did to us.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Because of it, or in spite of it?

 

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Little of both.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            So, Mr. Screenwriter, is this the part of the program where we lift the bottle and toast Mom, before the lights dim and we go to commercial?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Come on, I wouldn’t write something so cliché.

 

[Above them, the lights swiftly FADE TO BLACK.]

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Ummmmm…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            What just—?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            They must be on a timer or something.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Where’s the switch?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Does this mean we’re supposed to toast her?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Or leave the room?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I can drink in the dark.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Me too.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Works for me.

 

 

 

ACT TWO, SCENE THREE     —      M O N D A Y

 

[LIGHTS COME UP slowly on the living room.  DAVID is still there, in the clothes he wore last night, fast asleep on the sofa.  The empty bottle of rum is on the floor in front of the sofa.  LORI enters, still looking identical to her every appearance thus far. She stands over her son for several long seconds, watching him sleep.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Whispers]   David?

 

[He does not stir.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            [A little louder]   David…

 

[He mumbles a bit in his sleep and shifts position.  She bends down, bringing her face closer to his.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Louder still]   David.

 

[He awakens with a start, sees her face, and emits a shout, as he scrambles to a sitting position.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Holy hell!

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Smiling pleasantly]   How did you sleep?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Stunned]   How did I sleep?  Like Scrooge on Christmas Eve.

 

[She picks up the empty rum bottle.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            Well, I see one of the spirits who visited you.  I’m the second.  Guess you have one more coming, then.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Corrects her]  Two.  You forgot about Marley.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Bob?

           

           

                                                                  DAVID

            Jacob.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Oh, that’s right. I always forget about him.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Please tell me you didn’t rouse me from sound drunk-sleep to discuss English literature.

 

                                                                    LORI

            No.  It’s just that…  I had a thought this morning, and I wanted to share it with you.  I’d like to come to the funeral.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I don’t think that’s such a good idea.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Why not?  It’s for me, it’s about me.  Why shouldn’t I be there?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Because you’re not invited.  The part of you that gets to be there is the part that gets boxed up and stored underground, out of sight, out of mind.  If you wanted to attend an event in your honor, then you shouldn’t have…

 

[He is unable to finish the sentence, as a hitch in his voice halts his words, and a tear dampens his eye.  LORI sees his pain, and tries to offer comfort.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            Oh, David, don’t cry…

 

[Squelching the tears, he quickly offers an end to her thought.]

 

                                                                  DAVID
Or you’ll give me something to cry about?  Do you know how many times you said that to me when I was growing up?  How many times I stifled my very necessary tears out of the terror of that nameless “something to cry about” you so often invoked?

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Remorseful]  No, I don’t know.  I guess I was just trying to help you to be brave.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                  DAVID

            You helped me to bury my feelings.  Really deep, so no one knew I was hurting.  So the only time I cried or showed any emotion was when I was sure I was alone.  So no one else could give me “something to cry about.”  It’s no wonder Tricia thought she was perfectly justified in leaving me.  I took the news without even flinching…  Until she was gone, and I was alone, and I could show the pain in the only way I had left to express it, by having a nervous breakdown.  There, you see?  You gave me something to cry about.

 

[There is an awkward silence between them, as LORI decides to share her thoughts with him.  Her tone is matter-of-fact, rather than accusing or angry.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            You’re very quick, David Abrams, to point out the many things I’ve done to you over the years.  You’re not as quick to thank me for the things I’ve done for you. And I’d like to think there’s been a lot of those.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Quiet, gently ashamed]  I know.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I’m not the world’s best mother, not even in the top million.  But I always made sure you wanted for nothing.  [He nods.  She continues.]  Plenty of books to read, the schools you wanted to attend you attended.  You always ate well.  Still do, from the looks of it.

 

[He gives an annoyed look.]

 

                                                                  DAVID
Mom!

 

                                                                    LORI

            Sorry.  But you see my point.  I know you and your sisters think you have this unique perspective on how badly fucked up our family is... a perspective you think I never saw.  Well, I saw it.  And I know how much of it was because of me.  I never apologized for it, because no one ever apologized to me for the pain I suffered all those years, or the depression that went with it.  So when life gave me a chance for something, I took it.  But you should know that I would have killed to defend you.

 

                                                                  DAVID
[Smiles]  You almost did, remember?  In eighth grade, when Dan Cullum was trying to beat me up after school, right in front of the house.  You were inside, and you jumped out, brandishing that old BB rifle, shouting, “Lemme shoot him, Davey!  Just one shot between the eyes!”

 

                                                                    LORI

            Bet he didn’t know he could run that fast, did he?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No.  He actually got onto the track team in high school after he realized it.

 

                                                                    LORI

            If only I’d known.  I could have started my own line of terror-based motivational sports tapes.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Forget about “Sweating to the Oldies.”  It’s Lori Abrams with “Pissing Yourself to the Crazy Broad with the Gun.”

 

                                                                    LORI

            So, am I forgiven?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I don’t know, Mom.  I still wish you hadn’t done this.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I know you do.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Laughs to himself]  And it makes me the biggest goddamn hypocrite, too.

 

                                                                    LORI

            What do you mean?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I thought about killing myself.  Nine years ago, after Beth died.

 

                                                                    LORI

            A lot of young people contemplate—

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Interrupts]  I swiped about twenty of your sleeping pills to do it with.

 

[She is clearly surprised by this.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            I see.   [Pause]  What changed your mind?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Richard Brighton.

                                                                       

                                                                    LORI

            Your friend’s father?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            About two weeks after Beth’s accident, he saw me sitting alone in our front yard.  He knew that I had lost a close friend, and he invited me to walk with him to the park.  When we got there, we talked about how I was doing. I didn’t want to worry him, so I told him I was doing better.  I’ll never forget what happened next.  He stopped walking and he looked me straight in the eye, and he said, “Cut the shit.  I know what you’re feeling, and I know what you’re planning, and we’re not leaving this park until I can look in your eyes and know that you’re not planning it anymore.”  I was floored.  I didn’t know how he could’ve known.  And I lost it.  I cried like a baby—I didn’t even care that someone could see me.  It was the first time I let myself cry about losing Beth.  We stayed in that park for three and a half hours.  When I came home, I put the sleeping pills back in the bottle, and I didn’t think about taking them again.

 

                                                                    LORI

            [Quietly]   I never knew.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I never intended for you to know.  [Pause]  Why didn’t you tell me about Beth?

 

                                                                    LORI

            It was complicated.  When I found out that Bernard had fathered a child with my best friend, I was hurt.  For a time, I thought I would never speak to either of them again.  Then I saw the baby, this perfect little life with so much of Bernard in her, and I couldn’t stay angry.  As the two of you grew up together, you were like brother and sister anyway, so everyone decided it was easiest not to say anything.  And then, years later, she died.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yes, she did, and it destroyed me.  You see why this whole thing tears me up like it does? 

[She looks away without answering.]  

            No, you don’t.  Because this is about you.  Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Can I ask you one question?  

[He looks up at her.]  

            Why do you think you alone have the ability to hear me, when you don’t even want to listen?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I don’t know.

 

 

 

                                                                    LORI

            You assure me up one side and down the other that you’re not schizophrenic, so I must actually be here.  But only you can hear me.  Only you can talk to me.  Why would that be?  You might not want to admit it, but we’ve always had a special bond.  We could finish each other’s thoughts.  You understood me like no one else in this family did.  And you always had a special place in my heart.  I was always so proud of everything you ever did. 

 

[He looks away from her, unable to maintain eye contact.]

 

                                                                    LORI

            This morning, they’re going to put my body in the ground, and the last words about my life go to you and your sister.  I just ask that those words be honest, and reflect the good parts too.

 

[He looks at her for a long moment, and nods his head.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            They will.

 

                                                                    LORI

            I’m not sure I’ll see you again after today.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I’m glad we had one more chance to talk.

 

                                                                    LORI

            So am I.  Say good things up there this morning.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I will.

 

                                                                    LORI

            And stand up straight.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Don’t push your luck.

 

                                                                    LORI

            Sorry, sorry.  Force of habit.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Any message you’d like me to give to people while I’m up there?

 

                                                                    LORI

            You were always good at knowing what I was thinking.  I think you’ll know what to say.  Take care of yourself, my son.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            See you around, Mom.

 

[She walks out of the light and into darkness, out the front door of the house.  DAVID watches her go, and the LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.]

 

 

 

ACT TWO, SCENE FOUR

 

[LIGHTS COME UP on a blank area of the stage. TALYA and CAROLYN are in front of the house.  Both are dressed for the funeral, TALYA quite a bit more formally than her sister.  As they are about to enter the house, CAROLYN stops them.]

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Wait a second.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            What?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Before we go in the house, would you please talk to me?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            About what?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            About what you weren’t saying to me all the way over here.  Something’s on your mind, and I’d like to know what it is.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            It…  I wish you’d dressed a little nicer, is all.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Incredulous]  Dressed a little nicer?  Come on, you know my wardrobe.  This isn’t about dressing nicer.  It’s because I wouldn’t help with the funeral, isn’t it?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Look, I told you before, it’s your choice.  I just think…  [She hesitates.]

 

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Go on.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I just think this would be a good opportunity for you to move past certain things, that’s all.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Like?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Like your anger at Mother.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Dying doesn’t get her off the hook.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            And what does all this bitterness get you?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            It’s not about getting anything.  It’s about feeling what I feel.  Maybe instead of asking me why I am feeling this way, you should be asking yourself why you’re not feeling this way.  I know some of what you’ve been through.  And now this?  And what, you’re going to stand up there and tell all those people how much we’re all going to miss her?  I just couldn’t do it.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I have the rest of my life to feel what I feel about her.  Today is about honoring her memory, and that’s what I’m going to do.  I can’t ask you to feel a certain way about her.  All I can do is ask you to respect the fact that I do.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Whatever.  It’s your denial.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            That’s what you call respecting my feelings?  Jesus, Carolyn, I just don’t understand you sometimes.  What do you want to hear?  That I have unresolved anger with our mother?  Okay, I do.  That I’m pissed off because she killed herself?  No problem.  That our lives were a complete mess because of the way she treated us for decades?  Done.  But for one day, one miserable, impossible day, I’m going to put that aside, and join my family in ushering her out of this life with a little fucking dignity.  And if you’d come down off your mountain of self-pity and hostility for two minutes, you might just realize that it wouldn’t kill you to do the same!

 

[There is a long moment of silence as CAROLYN looks at her sister, taking this in. Then, unexpectedly, in lieu of a reply, she begins to cry openly.  TALYA now feels bad for causing this, but does not overtly try to comfort her.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Look… I…

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Through her tears]   No, don’t say it.  You don’t have to tell me you didn’t mean it, or you’re sorry.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I do mean it, and I’m not really sorry.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Surprised]  What?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Okay, I’m sorry I made you cry, but it needed to be said.  Look at me, Carrie.  She used you.  She used all of us in one way or another, but she used you in the cruelest way of all.  All your adult life, she convinced you that no man you met was right for you.  She convinced you that you weren’t smart enough or capable enough to find a proper career to sustain you.  So you lived alone, and took whatever job you thought you could get.  And you relied on her for money, for support.  But it came with a price: obedience.  Unswerving, vocal declarations of your love and obedience for her, when all along, what you felt was resentment.  [Pause]  Stop me if I’m wrong.

 

[CAROLYN looks stunned.]

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I don’t believe it.  How can that be possible?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            It’s what she did.  She was a master manipulator, and the masters leave you convinced that you weren’t being manipulated.  But you were.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Oh my God…  What am I going to do?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            That’s the good part.  You’re going to do what you should have been doing all along: living the life you wanted, not the one our mother wanted for you.  Tomorrow, I’m going to help you put together a résumé, and we’re going to get you on a career path.  No more temp jobs, no more part-time fill-in stuff.  It’s career track all the way.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Why are you helping me, after everything I said to you?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Because you’re my sister, and you deserve better than what you’ve been given.  It’s time to slough off the dependence and live your own life.  And I’ll do what I can to help.  For now, let’s get through this day.

 

 

 

 

ACT TWO, SCENE FIVE

 

 

[LIGHTS SHIFT as they enter the house.  DAVID greets them, now dressed in a suit and tie.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Hey, gals.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Hi.  You look nice.  Well, I have a few more calls to make this morning, so if the two of you will excuse me for a little bit…

 

[TALYA exits, leaving DAVID and CAROLYN alone.]

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            So.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            So.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            We having fun yet?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Tons.                                                   

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Is there… anything that needs to be done?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Nah.  Just the obligatory awkward moments of waiting before we go to the funeral.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Fun fun.  You nervous?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Me?  Hey, not a bit.  [Pause]   Okay, some.  This isn’t just any speech.

[She sits on the living room sofa.  He joins her.]

            Would I be a bad person if I told you that I’ve imagined this day in my mind?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            No worse than any of the rest of us.  We all knew it was coming someday.  We didn’t know it would be like this, but we knew she’d be gone one day.  And if that makes us bad people, oh well. 

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Thanks.  I was afraid I was the only one feeling that way.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            You’re not. [Pause]  Hey, can I ask you something?  What was it like in that hospital?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Quiet.  With moments of noise.  Sometimes, a patient would freak out and start screaming and shouting.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Did you?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Once.  It was more of a wailing.  I had been there about a week, and I still hadn’t expressed any real, honest emotion.  It was making my doctor nuts.  He just kept trying to get me to release, over and over again.  But I wouldn’t do it.  Maybe, I don’t know, maybe I couldn’t do it.  Then, one day in the middle of session, he found a way in.  He found the button, and he just pushed it.  Pushed it and pushed it, like a kid trying to get the high score on an old arcade shoot-‘em-up game.  And I … wailed.  A lot.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Then what happened?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            It was like waking up.  In a lot of ways, I had been sleeping for a long time.  And now I was awake.  And I talked…a lot.  I talked to my doctor, I talked in group therapy, I talked to other patients.  Mostly, I was talking to myself—telling myself all the thoughts and feelings I’d been denying for so long.

 

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            So are you really schizophrenic?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I don’t think so.  I mean, sometimes I get conversations in my head, but usually it’s ideas for scenes and scripts.  I think it’s a very fine line between creativity and insanity, and I think it’s okay to straddle that line.  That’s why I didn’t take the medication they prescribed.  I was afraid of losing the creative part along with the insane part.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            What about now?  You seeing or hearing anything you shouldn’t be?

 

[He looks around, making sure LORI is really nowhere in sight.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Nothing too out of the ordinary.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Tell me something… what was it like being married to Tricia?

 

[He looks uncomfortable, but decides to answer anyway.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            It was good for a while.  For a while, it was very good.  It felt like everything I ever wanted.  I was married to a movie star.  I was writing for TV.  I lived in a palace in California.  My friends were so jealous, and I loved it.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            No shit?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Oh yeah.  All the people from high school who were so convinced that I was either gay or incapable of getting a girlfriend, and all of a sudden, my picture is in People magazine, on the arm of Tricia Corcoran, Hollywood starlet.  I dug the shit out of it, baby sister.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Was she… you know… good?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            You mean…?   [He makes a vaguely obscene gesture suggesting intercourse.]

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Uh huh.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah, I guess so.  But hell, she didn’t have to be.  She was…her.  Every man’s fantasy and my reality.  With a buildup like that, the details of the actual act become less important.  It didn’t matter anyway—I was having sex with the idea of her, not the actual person.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            She cheated on you?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Oh yeah.  And, of course, I got to find out about it from tabloid newspapers and entertainment magazines.  That was fun.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I thought those things were full of shit.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            When they talk about Elvis sightings and Saddam’s gay wedding, they are.  When they show pictures of your wife with her hand on her co-star’s ass, it’s a little easier to believe.  Besides, when I asked her if it was true, she told me it was.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            You know what, though, David?  Fuck her.  I mean, really, fuck her right in her perfect little ears.  You probably treated her better than any of those Hollywood douchebags.  If she couldn’t appreciate that, then to hell with her.  I know it sucks losing out on the money and the house and all the nice stuff, but now you get to be you again.  You don’t have to be Mr. Tricia.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah, I did spend quite a lot of time feeling like Mr. Tricia.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            And I know this is all easy for me to say, because I didn’t have to go through it, but I also have a perspective on it that you don’t have.  I saw Tricia through the eyes of your sister.  I saw her for what she really was.  Besides, I like you better without her around.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Thank you. So do I.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Pause]  Well, I guess I better get ready.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah, me too.

 

[He squeezes her hand.]

 

 

 

ACT TWO, SCENE SIX

 

[They rise from the sofa.  CAROLYN exits just as MICHAEL enters, dressed in suit and tie.]

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Morning, Daddy.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Morning, Sweetie.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Hey, Dad.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            You look nice.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            So do you.  How are you holding up?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Well, I didn’t sleep, and I’d give a million dollars to make this day not be real.  Other than that, I’m perfectly fine and in touch with reality.  How about you?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I drank myself into a dreamless sleep, and I think I’d chip in on that million dollars if it’d help.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I heard you talking to your mother this morning.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Surprised and a little concerned]   You did?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Well, I heard you talking to yourself, but I could tell that you were talking to her as if she were here.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Oh.  Well… I—

 

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            David, it’s all right.  I talk to her too.  I’m just a bit concerned about the tone of your conversation, that’s all.  You sounded… angry.  Bitter.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Dad, that was…  That was not meant for public consumption.  It was just me getting some thoughts out there.  Please don’t worry.  I won’t say anything remotely like that at the funeral today.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I’m not worried about that.  I know you’re going to present a very loving and respectful service this morning.  And then you’re going back to California, back to your life there.  When you do, I just don’t want you to take back any bad feelings with you.  That’s all.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            There’s…stuff, Dad.  Lots of stuff from over the years.  And for a long time, I’ve put it in the attic and I haven’t thought about it.  Now she’s gone, and it’s making me think about it.  It doesn’t mean I loved her any less.  It’s just… part of the way I’m dealing with this.  Don’t you have any issues, anything from all those years?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Of course.  You can’t be with someone for over thirty years and not have issues.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            So how do you deal with it?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I just try to ask myself the same question each time: What will getting angry accomplish?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            And what’s the answer?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            It depends on the situation.  Many times, it costs me more than it gains me.  Your mother was a very frail woman, David, and I can have a violent temper sometimes.  You didn’t always see it, but it’s true. So unless there was something to be gained by getting angry, mostly I’d just keep it to myself.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            What about when you learned about Bernard?  Wasn’t that a good time to get angry?

 

 

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Yes it was, and I did.  The version of events you received over the phone was sanitized for your protection.  The actual circumstances were considerably louder.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            So you were angry.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I’m not a doormat, son.  What she did hurt me, and I told her that.  There were tears on both sides, and angry words flew.  I could have left her that very day, and she knew it.  And it scared her very badly, because she knew as well as I did that if I left her, she’d either end up in a nursing home or alone and helpless.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            So you stayed.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Yes, I did.  The life we’d made together wasn’t perfect, but it was what we both knew and accepted.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Do you think I should have stayed with Tricia, then?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            At the time, I wished you had tried harder to keep her in your life.  But in time, I understood.  Sometimes, things just aren’t meant to be.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah.  [Pause]   So, are we… okay… you and me?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I think we are.  What do you think?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I feel like I don’t know you very well, and I’d like to change that.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            What can we do?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            When all this is over, come out and see me in California.  Spend a week out there with me.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I’d like that.  Let’s do right by your mother first.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah.  [Pause]  She’s in a better place, you know.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I’d like to believe that.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I can feel it.  I could tell when I was talking to her.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I just can’t get beyond the knowledge that we’re going to put her body in the ground today, and she’s going to stay there forever.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Then that’s the part we try not to think about.  Will you let me drive us to the funeral?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            [Nods]  I think that’s a good idea.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I’ll tell you all about the new series I’m writing.  That should get your mind off things.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Thank you, David.

 

[BLACKOUT]

 

 

ACT TWO, SCENE SEVEN

 

[The chapel at the cemetery. It features a simple casket on a wheeled cart at the front of the room, with a podium in front of it, off to the side.  A row of chairs is in front of that, facing the casket.  If feasible, the play’s audience can represent the other mourners.  To cover the scene change, the audience hears ORGAN MUSIC, songs appropriate for a Jewish funeral, and VOICES of mourners talking about the tragedy, then fade out.

 

DAVID enters the room slowly. MICHAEL, CAROLYN, and TALYA are gathered around the funeral director.  DAVID approaches.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Oh good, he’s here.  David, this is Mr. Levine, the funeral director.

 

[The man turns to face him, and DAVID recoils in surprise—it is WINK GYPSUM from his game show daydream.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Whoa!  [Catches himself.]  I mean…whoa, there’s a lot of people here.

 

                                                             MR. LEVINE

            Don’t be nervous, David.  I’ve been talking with your sister, and she tells me that you and she have written a lovely service.  My staff is on hand to help out in any way we can.  After the service, we’ll help the pallbearers get the casket to the hearse, and then to the gravesite.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah…the casket…  [He sees it there for the first time.]  So…she’s in there?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            [Sarcasm]   No, she’s outside having a cigarette.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Instinctively]   Bite m—.   [Catches himself]   Good one, sis.

 

                                                             MR. LEVINE

            Yes, your mother is in there, and the lid isn’t sealed yet.  If you want to see her one last time…

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Quickly]  No!  That…won’t be necessary.  I want to remember her as she was.

 

                                                             MR. LEVINE

            Good answer.  Jewish burial tradition actually follows those beliefs as well.  We believe it is discourteous to look at someone who can’t look back at you.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Smiles nervously at his family]   You see?  I’m being courteous.  Could you all excuse me for a minute?

 

[He hurries away from them to the back of the room.  TALYA, sensing trouble, follows a few seconds later, to find him hunched forward a little, hyperventilating.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            What?  What’s going on?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I don’t think I can do this.  I was fine until I got in here.

 

 

                                                                  TALYA

            You’ve got to breathe.  You’re hyperventilating.  Breathe into a paper bag.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Paper bag?  This isn’t Walgreen’s.  I don’t have a paper bag.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Then breathe into your yarmulke.

 

[She takes the cap off his head and holds it in front of his nose and mouth.  He breathes deeply into it for several seconds, then regains his composure.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            That’s better.  Thank you.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            So what’s going on?  I know you don’t get stage fright.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I’m seeing ghosts.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Ghosts?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Uh huh.  Mom at the house, and Beth here. 

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Beth?  Your half-sister?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah.  She was outside.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            But what…?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            They talk to me.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            They do?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            And I saw that Mr. Levine, the funeral guy, at the house too.  He was a game show host.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            A game show host?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Uh huh.  Family Feud, I think.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Is it the schizophrenia?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I’m not schizophrenic.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Is it the not-schizophrenia?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I don’t know what it is, but it’s messing up my head a little, and it’s making me very nervous about doing this today.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Look at me.   [He does.]   You know we have to do this, right?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I know.  I just need a minute to get my head together.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            All right.  I do want to hear about everything you’ve been seeing and hearing…  once we get this morning over with.  For now, collect your thoughts.  We should be greeting some of the people who came here today.

 

[TALYA steps away from him and he takes deep breaths and calms down.  Afterward, he and the other members of the family greet the mourners.  If the seating is conducive, the family can thank audience members for coming, and ad lib welcomes, receiving their condolences.  After a minute or so of this, TALYA signals to DAVID to join her at the podium.  CAROLYN and MICHAEL sit together in the row of seats.]

 

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Addresses those assembled]  Welcome.  We are here today to celebrate the life of Lori Millovich Abrams.  As most of you know, I am Talya Abrams-Ross, her daughter.  This is my brother, David Abrams.  After the service and the interment today, I would like to invite everyone to come to my home in Northbrook.  We’ll be sitting shiva there.  The directions are in your order of service pamphlet.  Thank you all for coming.  Mom would be honored to know that so many people who care about her have come here this morning.  To begin the service, David will lead us in the El Malei.

 

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Compassionate God, Eternal Spirit of the universe, grant perfect rest in Your sheltering presence to Lori Abrams, who has entered eternity.  O God of mercy, let her find refuge in Your eternal presence, and let her soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.  God is her inheritance.  May she rest in peace, and let us say: Amen.

 

                                                                     ALL

            Amen.

 

[DAVID sits as TALYA gives her eulogy.]

 

                                                                  TALYA

            [Reading from a prepared speech]       

            All of us here today were blessed in our own way to know Lori.  She was a woman of strong convictions, and powerful emotional attachment.  And while some people were intimidated or put off by this, her family understood how important that was to us.  There was nothing she wouldn’t do for us.  I remember her driving me to the emergency room at 2:00 in the morning in a snowstorm, because my appendix was about to burst.  I remember when my sister was the victim of identity theft, Mom personally oversaw dozens of phone calls.  Mom’s efforts got the thief arrested too, all the way in South Carolina.  That’s my mom.  I remember her comforting my brother when he was very young, every time he had a nightmare, and he had plenty.

 

            Sometimes, the bad things in our past linger with us much more clearly than the good things.  When Mom died, those bad times were very much on my mind.  Every family has them.  But I wanted to focus on the better times, so I spent some time alone with my memories, and I looked for the parts of my life that really stood out.  These are the memories that I’ll save, the ones I’ll turn to when I miss her…and I will miss her.

 

            Through it all, through memories good and bad, the one constant was the pain.  Lori knew a lot of pain in her adult life—a near-constant, relentless affliction.  Over the years, dozens of doctors tried to explain her pain as they tried to relieve it.  They didn’t succeed at either.  The best they could do was hold it off a little, a day at a time.  When their last best effort failed, Lori took matters into her own hands.  We can stand here today and ask why, and shake our heads, and weep for our loss.  Or we can try very hard to reach beyond our own perception, and understand that for my mother, the decision she made was about taking back some degree of control in a life that she felt was out of control.  Mom, wherever you are, I miss you, I love you, and I don’t blame you for what you chose.  And I only hope that wherever you are, there is no pain there.

 

 

[TALYA goes and sits beside her father, as DAVID stands at the podium alone.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Reading from his prepared speech]    Funerals are no place for the dead.  I hope I haven’t shocked or upset anyone with this notion.  We’re all certainly shocked and upset enough over the past three days.  Funerals are for the living.  Everyone here today is here for his or her own reason.  Some to say good-bye; some out of honor or duty; some to try to make sense out of what appears to make no sense.  But make no mistake: today is for us.

 

            And I’m not here to tell anybody how to feel.  God knows I’m not qualified.  I’m barely beginning to understand how I feel.  I just hope that everyone who hears my voice today will find a time and a place and a way to feel whatever it is you’re feeling.  There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when I didn’t allow myself to feel, and that was a very difficult time.  You may be sad, you may be confused, you may be angry, you may be scared.  You may be feeling all of the above.  This is a test, and unlike most tests, there are no wrong answers.

 

            I see many tears today, and I’ve seen many of my own since Friday night, when I received impossible news and my life changed forever.  I believe we cry because life—this life—is our frame of reference.  It’s all we know, and we learn through instinct and experience that life is a gift, and we should strive to cling to it for as long as we can.  When death walks among us, we treat him like an intruder, breaking and entering into this house of life, and arrogantly stealing something of ours—our loved one.  How much more painful when the thief has an accomplice on the inside…someone who opens the door for him.

 

            My mother is not here today.  I do believe with some certainty that wherever she’s gone, there is no pain there.  She believed that too, which is what convinced her to make the decision she made—a decision we can all mourn and regret and agonize about—but she alone can understand.

 

            Last year, I injured my back while moving my living room sofa.  The pain was like nothing I’d ever experienced before, and very soon, I reached the point where I could think of nothing else.  On that day, I phoned my mother, with tears in my eyes, and I said the three words it took me thirty years to say: “I finally understand.”  She was saddened by my suffering, but relieved to know that someone could comprehend what she faced almost every day of her adult life.  It’s this understanding that allows me to stand up here today and speak to you. 

 

            I know that eulogists are honor-bound to stand tall and speak volumes of loving elegy.  I believe if I were to do that this morning, my mother would sit up and say “Give me a break.”  Because she was a realist.  She knew that she made some people mad.  But she never made an apology for who she was.  And I know that some people here today carry memories of arguments or conflicts or words spoken in anger.  I do too.  But I also carry a lifetime of good memories.  It’s a legacy that’s far more valuable to me than money.

                                                                       

           

[LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. In the blackout, we hear the voices of the family reciting the mourner’s kaddish.  It will be much easier on the cast if this is recorded ahead of time, and played over speakers during the scene change.]

 

“Yit-ga-dal v’yit-kad-dash sh’mey rabbah,

b’ah-l’mah di-v’rah chir-oo-tey v’yam-lich

mal’chu’tey, b’cha-yey-chon, uv’yo-mey-chon

uv’cha-yey d’chol beyt Yis-ra-eyl, bah-ah-ga-lah

u-viz’man kariv, v’im’ruh Ameyn.

 

Y’hey sh’mey rabbah m’va-rach, l’alam ul’almey al-ma-yah.

Yit-ba-rach, v’yish-ta-bach, v-yit-pa-ar v’yitromam

v’yit-na-sey, v’yit-ha-dar v’yit-ahl-leh v’yit-ha-lal

sh’mey d’kud’shah, B’rich hoo.

 

L’eylah min-kol-birchatah v’shi-ra-tah, tushb’cha-tah

v’ne-che-ma-tah, da-a-miran b’ahl’mah, v’im-m’ru, Ameyn.

 

Y’hey sh’la-mah rab-bah min-sh’ma-yah v’cahy-yim,

aleynu v’al-kol Yisrael. V’im-m’ru, Ameyn.

 

Oseh shalom bi-m’romav, Hu ya-a-she shalom,

aleynu v’al kol Yisrael, V’im-m’ru, Ameyn.”

 

[LIGHTS COME UP on the STAGE RIGHT area, outdoors at the cemetery.  During the blackout on STAGE LEFT, strike the chapel. Out on the cemetery grounds, DAVID stands with his family.]

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            [To DAVID and TALYA]  You both did an excellent job today.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Thanks, Dad.  How are you holding up?

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I think this was the most difficult morning of my life.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            But you got through it, and that’s what counts.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            We’re here for you, you know.  Anything you need.

 

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Thank you, dear.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I should really think about getting home.  I’ll have more than fifty people coming over, from the looks of it.  I should finish getting ready.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            I’ll help you.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            We’ll all help you, Talya.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Thanks.  You know, it’s the strangest thing, but I’m actually feeling much better.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Surprised]  What?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Yeah, you know, me too.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Wait a minute…

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            I thought I would be devastated after what we’ve just gone through, but I’m actually feeling pretty strong.  I feel like things could get better for me…for all of us.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [More surprised]  Dad!

 

                                                     TALYA and CAROLYN

            We love you, Daddy.

 

 

[They move in to hug him simultaneously.  He welcomes their embrace.  DAVID steps backward, still effusing disbelief.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Hugging?  We’re hugging now?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            What’s wrong?  What’s so bad about hugging?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Nothing.  It’s just…so out of character.  And, what?  Everybody’s okay with everything that happened?  We’ve turned a page, we’re starting afresh?

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Pretty much.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            Yes, I really think so.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Seems like it.  Is that bad?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            No, it’s… it’s just so Hollywood.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            You would know.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Life doesn’t work this way.  Where’s the angry silences?  Where’s the embarrassing graveside revelations?  Where are all the things that got in the way of this family’s happiness year after year?  It can’t end like this.

 

                                                               CAROLYN

            Sorry to disappoint you.

 

                                                               MICHAEL

            We’ve just found the strength to move past those things this time.

 

                                                                  TALYA

            Maybe it’s just time for you to wake up.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Caught off guard by this]   What did you just say?

 

 

                                                                  TALYA

            I said: maybe it’s just time for you to wake up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT TWO, SCENE NINE   —   F R I D A Y

 

[A cell phone rings.  QUICK BLACKOUT over the whole stage.  The phone rings again. DAVID does a very quick costume change, taking off the suit jacket, yarmulke, tie, shirt, and shoes.  He should now be wearing an undershirt, slacks, and socks.  The phone rings a third time.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [Very groggy]  All right, all right.

 

[A POOL OF LIGHT COMES UP on STAGE LEFT to reveal DAVID dressed as described, waking up on the sofa of his California apartment.  In the Abramses’ kitchen, another POOL OF LIGHT COMES UP on TALYA, who is speaking into her cell phone. She has obviously been crying.]

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Hello?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            David?  You sound like you were sleeping. Were you sleeping?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            Yeah, I guess I was…

 

                                                                  TALYA

            It’s only 6 p.m. by you, isn’t it?

 

                                                                  DAVID

            I fell asleep on the couch after work.  Tal, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?

 

                                                                  TALYA

            David, there’s bad news.  We need you to come home right away.  I don’t know how to tell you this…  It’s Mom.   She— she killed herself today.

 

                                                                  DAVID

            [His face somber]   I know.

 

[LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT]

 

 

THE END


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3 act
writing Joel_Pierson
Joel Pierson has been a professional editor for twenty years, the last four of which were at Author Solutions, Inc., where he has edited manuscripts of all kinds, including countless novels of all genres.
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Synopsis
Mourning Lori is a full-length dramatic play. It premiered October 4, 2007 at the John Waldron Arts Center in Bloomington, Indiana, directed by its author.
A Word from the Writer
Professional and amateur rights are available. E-mail me at meapdir2@hotmail.com for details.
Published Date
9/25/2007 12:00:00 AM
Published In
Wordclay
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