Ash Wednesday – 2014

Ash Wednesday

a play

by

Tom Flannery
anthracite@rocketmail.com

copyright 2014
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that performance of ASH WEDESDAY is subject to a royalty. It is fully protected under US and International copyright laws. All rights, including professional and amateur stage rights, are strictly reserved. The stage performance rights to ASH WEDESDAY are controlled exclusively by Tom Flannery. No professional or non-professional performance of the play may be given without obtaining in advance the written permission of the author, and paying the
requisite fee.

PRODUCTION NOTE – The play should be performed as one long act. No intermission.

Characters
HANK – 70s
KEVIN – 20s
JOHNNY – 40s
CLARE – 70s

Time

Early 2000s

SCENE I – Musty old office. Concrete floor. Small desk with an old rotary phone. Filing
cabinet with a coffee pot and a small electric burner on top.

(KEVIN walks in wearing a heavy winter coat. Early 20s. Not sure what to do so he just
stands there and awaits direction.)

HANK: (off stage) Just hang the jacket up there…

(KEVIN looks for a place to hang it….there is none)

(HANK enters. A grizzled man about 75. Somewhat slovenly in appearance. The red,
ruddy face of the classic Irish alcoholic)

HANK: (notices there’s nowhere to hang it) Oh. Sorry about that kid. I’m always
assuming I’m in the 21st century here.

KEVIN: That’s ok…

HANK: Here, give it to me…we’ll just pile them in the corner here

(he takes the coat, and removes his own. He lays them in the corner of the room on the
floor)

HANK: Took us a few days but at least we get to sit down now. Nice jacket. Too nice for this place. A girl must have gotten it for you.

KEVIN: That obvious?

HANK: A bit

KEVEN: Well…

HANK: (settling in now…getting a chance to settle in) I never asked. You got a girl?

KEVIN: Sometimes.

HANK: Good man. It could have come from your Mother though.

KEVIN: I wouldn’t have worn it here if it came from my Mother.

HANK: She’d kill me for throwing it on the floor (laughs)

KEVIN: Nah

HANK: Well, I laid mine down first. So yours isn’t getting the worst of it.

KEVIN: It’s ok.

HANK: (blowing into his hands) It’s freezing out there isn’t it?

KEVIN: Yea….this is crazy weather.

HANK: Some years by this time I’m in shirt sleeves

KEVIN: Not today.

HANK: Course I was younger then too.

KEVIN: (making a joke) Warmer blooded right?

HANK: (smiles) I’ll say. The warmer it is out there the prettier the girls get.

KEVIN: Yea….that’s true.

HANK: Now they’re all bundled. You don’t know what’s under there.

KEVIN: Yea. You’re stuck using your imagination.

HANK: Not a bad thing I guess.

KEVIN: Depends.

HANK: How dirty you are (they laugh)

KEVIN: Nothing wrong with looking.

HANK: When you stop looking, you’re dead.

KEVIN: I’m very much alive.

HANK: Good man.

(they settle in…..try to get warm)

KEVIN: (looking around, noticing the dingy surroundings) I figured your office would
be upstairs in the newsroom…you know….the big corner one.

HANK: Hah…well..It used to be….but I couldn’t take it anymore with what they’re doing up there. I needed some cracks in the walls and some dirt on the floor.

(crinkles up a piece of paper on his disk and aims to toss it into a nearby garbage can. he misses)

KEVIN: (looking around distastefully) Well….mission accomplished.

HANK: It’s like fucking intensive care up there. You like the cushier surroundings I take
it?

KEVIN: How shall I say this? (pause…..then laughing) Yes

HANK: You’re in the wrong business then. As soon as I said I was gonna retire, I asked
to come down here….(pause……then jokingly) or maybe they sent me down here. I can’t
remember.

KEVIN: It’s like being in a coal mine.

HANK: Toughen up kid.

KEVIN: It’s freezing down here.

HANK: Wait ‘till the summer comes. You’ll be sweating your balls off.

KEVIN: I’m not staying down here. You should have one of those portable heaters.

HANK: You’re lucky if they buy you legal pads and pens.

(KEVIN seems uncomfortable……this is the the “glamour” of the biz he was expecting)

KEVIN: I definitely ain’t staying down here.

HANK: A prima donna. And your 3rd day only….well done kid

KEVIN: And your last. Some training schedule.

HANK: Yea well it it’s better than nothing I guess. Where you from again kid?

KEVIN: West Side.

HANK: Live here all your life?

KEVIN: Yea.

HANK: Ever try to get out?

KEVIN: Should I have? (Hank shrugs) Everybody thinks about it….it’s part of the DNA.

HANK: I had one chance. Just got settled in here….house….new baby….my stuff was getting noticed. Had a brother in law who worked for the Philly Inquirer….they needed somebody to cover the neighborhoods. So I sent them a package. The money was good. Or at least the money was better than here…but the wife didn’t want to go. Well…at least I pretended that was the reason. Made it easier. Hell….this is a small pond…right? And I was the big fish. What the hell would I be in Philly? So I could afford a bigger house? I’d have ended up one of those broken down fools running from chalk outline to chalk outline….with only a few beat cops and bartenders showing up at my funeral. You see what I’m saying?

KEVIN: (laughs) Location location location.

(they laugh)

HANK: This is the newspaper business kid. Doesn’t matter where you are. The same shit
happens. Murders. Rapes. Robberies. Corruption. (stretches) I tell you it’s a pleasure
getting up in the morning.

KEVIN: (interested) I don’t know. I might get bored here. It’s so….what?…contained…right? So I don’t wanna be here the rest of my life….to answer your original question. The same faces. The same shit….day after day. Drinking in the bars with guys I graduated high school with.

HANK: What happens there that doesn’t happen here? I mean…wherever “there” is?

KEVIN: I don’t know. I guess it just happens bigger there.

(they laugh)

HANK: Some kid looking for his next fix gets a bullet in his head. You think that story is
bigger in the Bronx than it is in South Side? The sun that shines there is the same one that
shines here.

KEVIN: The sun never shines here.

(they laugh)

HANK: Politics is all local. You heard that one? Well…so is this business. No matter how big it looks….I was in Chicago in 1968. Looked like the place was burning down….Daley’s cops running around like Nazis busting heads. My wife is home watching it on TV, thinking I’m in the middle of it…right? That’s what it looked like to the rest of the world. Truth is it was all happening in a small area…a neighborhood. Local. I was a few blocks away having dinner with this guy from the Tribune. Missed it all. Had no idea until I saw it on the news. Pile of frantic messages from the wife at the hotel switchboard….trying to figure out what hospital I was in (laughs) Cameras and reporters make everything seem huge. And they make it seem real…even when it’s bullshit. Famous footage of a bunch of hippies burning a flag…..that was a second take. Cameras got there late and asked them to do it again…so that’s what went out on the wires. So don’t get caught up in the bright lights of the big city. How old are you kid?

KEVIN: Twenty five

HANK: You’re a natural fucking cynic. You’ll make a good reporter.

KEVIN: (they laugh, then a genuine compliment) I always thought you were the best.

HANK: And you kiss ass too.

KEVIN: No…really. (laughs)

HANK: (changing gears) You know what I miss? Listen to that….(there is nothing). The
old newsroom….it was like working on the floor of the circus. You want something now,
you send an email to the guy in the next cubicle. Used to you’d just stand up and yell.
The typewriters all going…..the phones ringing. Everybody smoking something. You
were lucky if you could see 10 feet in front of you with all the smoke. Cigars. Pipes. You
smoked something with a filter everybody’d call you a pussy. Now you gotta go out in
the parking lot to smoke. Concrete floor. You just threw shit on the floor. Somebody’d
come around at the end of the day and sweep it up. Now they build all these walls…..you
can’t see anybody. It’s as quiet as a library up there. Some of the young kids even started
complaining about how loud the computer keyboards were getting…..so they orders new
ones that didn’t make any noise. You believe that shit? They’ve civilized something that
was never meant to be civil. You’d put your coffee down on the desk…..and the presses
would start to roll downstairs. The rumble’d dump some of your joe on the floor. What a
great sound that was. A great feeling under your feet. They’ve even taken that away.
Moved it out to the country…some computerized thing. No leaking oil…..or ink on the
floor. No naked girls on the walls. Guys are eating salads at lunch instead of pastrami on
rye. Drinking bottled water at a buck a piece. A buck! You could have a lunch of hot
dogs and Gibbons drafts at Bordi’s for that….and still have enough left over to feed the
meter! Speaking of….(opens his desk drawer for a bottle) You take a drink?

KEVIN: Well…yea….but usually not right after breakfast.

HANK: What are ya….a fucking Mormon?

KEVIN: In this town?

HANK: (taking his point) Yea…right. (he takes a quick nip). Catholic?

KEVIN: I don’t think this place hires Protestants…..

HANK: Protestants can’t write for shit. And they can’t hold their booze either. Great starters but lousy finishers. Go to a party with a Protestant and you’ll end up driving his drunk ass home.

KEVIN: (laughs uneasily) Should I be writing this stuff down?

HANK: Words of wisdom huh?

KEVIN: There’s lots to digest around here.

HANK: You go to mass?

KEVIN: (half jokingly, but getting a little annoyed) I thought I already had the job?

HANK: Don’t worry. You’re on your own after today.

KEVIN: What are you gonna do?

HANK:When?

KEVIN: Retirement.

HANK: I’m gonna write letters to the editor complaining about your shit stories.

KEVIN: I look forward to that.

HANK: They’ll never print ‘em. Good writing confuses ‘em around here.

KEVIN: What…my stories or your letters? (they laugh) Why are you retiring anyway?

HANK: I already told you. It’s too clean around here. It makes me sick. (he takes another
drink)

KEVIN: Gotta be more than that. You’re still the top dog in this town.

HANK: (rummaging through the papers on his desk) Yea, well all the other dogs are dead.

KEVIN: It just seems early is all.

HANK: It’s time. You never want to overstay your welcome. And there’s other things I
want to do.

KEVIN: (getting up to stretch his legs) Fine with me. I didn’t think I’d ever get in here.

HANK: Where’d you get your degree?

KEVIN: Syracuse. How about you?

HANK: (almost offended) What degree? I knew how to write. That used to be enough. At its peak this place was the most unschooled pack of deranged geniuses you ever saw. Ask them to dress themselves and you had problems. But they could nail a story to the wall with a deadline crashing over them like a fucking Tsunami. Nobody can teach that.

KEVIN: (a tad defensive) Well I know how to write too.

HANK: (sarcastic) Learn it up there in Syracuse did you?

KEVIN: (wanting to turn the tables) Where’d you learn?

HANK: (takes a small drink) I was on the back of a firetruck one time. My first call. Had
to get there so I hitched a ride. My hands froze. Couldn’t hold a pen. Called in and told
them…that I had frostbite. Guy tells me to relax and tell him what happened at the fire.
Tells me to talk slow. So I tell him. He says…..”if you can talk, you can write”. Then he
hangs up on me. That night the story is in…..exact words I used on the phone. Under his
byline. Fucker. But that was it. I never doubted myself since…..at least sober. If you can talk you can write. Best advice I ever got. Hell….I’m Irish. We’re word hungry. Of course I can write. Any fool can write. What you gotta learn is when to stop fucking talking and when to pick up the pen.

KEVIN: Yea well…..they won’t hire you without a degree anymore….so me going in the corner office telling ‘em I can talk so I can write ain’t gonna get me the job.

(they laugh at this)

HANK: All they really need to do is listen to you talk. College degree! Had an uncle who
bought one from the back of a matchbook. Engineering degree from the University of
Raleigh. Sounds impressive right? I mean….that’s a great place to get a degree from! Got away with it for years….even though there’s no such fucking place as the University of Raleigh. Paid $5 for it. Cost him more to have it framed. Not many can say that.

KEVIN: (laughs at the story..with mock exasperation) Now you tell me.

HANK: (warming up….enjoying this now) Old Uncle Jimmy. Did some boxing. Told everybody he was the middleweight champion of the navy. Had the whole barroom laying money on him….and he enters the ring with his glasses on. Right then they knew they’d been had. (laughs) Took a dive when the wind blew…split the money…and left town. Next he’s up at some track in the Catskills….laying big money on a long shot. Everybody thinks he’s crazy. Until down the backstretch the heavy favorite drops dead…like somebody shot him with a gun. One of Jimmy’s boys had injected him with something…and there’s Jimmy needing a suitcase to get his winnings out of there…..saying “sometimes you just have a hunch”. They don’t make ‘em like him anymore. Maybe I miss the characters the most. Even the worse of ‘em had charm. Not it’s like covering fucking golf. Can’t tell anybody apart.

(pause….he studies the kid for a moment)

What’s a nice boy like you doing in a place like this anyway?

KEVIN: (taken aback) Well….what….you hitting on me?

HANK: I’m waiting…

KEVIN: Gimme a minute.

HANK: That’s what I thought.

KEVIN: Just ‘cause the answer isn’t at the tip of my tongue doesn’t mean I don’t have
one.

HANK: Well hurry up kid. There’s a built in deadline here. A paper every day. You better learn to do your thinking and writing at the same time.

KEVIN: How come they’re not having a party for you?

HANK: Party for what?

KEVIN: Retirement party.

HANK: What for?

KEVIN: I don’t know. To say thank you…

HANK: For what?

KEVIN: For all your work…

HANK: (snorts) Work. You’re just a fucking stenographer really. Tell ‘em what’s happening. The only time I ever broke a sweat was when it was my round. This ain’t the fucking mines.

KEVIN: (kiddingly) Stop. You’re making me feel special.

HANK: (suddenly serious) There was the kid one time. In a wheelchair. Couldn’t talk.
Nobody knew what to do with him. He was adopted by this couple. They barely had
enough for their own kids. But they were special. Weren’t the kind to sit around and just
say “oh that’s a shame”….you know? They wrote me a letter. God knows why they
picked me. The boy needed a computerized wheelchair…the kind with sort of a built in
keyboard that he could work with his head. Nothing wrong with the kid’s mind. Just his
body. Well…..the thing might as well have been a million dollars. They don’t have that
kind of money. Maybe in one of your big market towns somebody’d have it. But not
here. I think it was twenty thousand dollars. So I wrote the story. How could you
not…right? And then they started coming in. Envelopes with checks. Or just cash.
Five….ten dollars. No names. No notes. Just quiet giving. The best kind. I had to call the
bank and open up an account after a while. I was just stuffing them in my desk…trying to
keep track. So I wrote another story….about what was happening. And then more money
came in. And pretty soon, the kid had his wheelchair. You believe that? And a few days
later….he comes here with his parents….to thank me. He meets me….and he nearly
comes out of the wheelchair from jerking around so much….he’s so happy. And he types
“thank you”…and the computer speaks the words. “Thank you.” Just that plain…female
computer voice….like you’d hear calling the phone company. And it was the sweetest
thing I’d ever heard. You tell me…..what’s a cheap engraved watch next to that? What a
series of stories that turned out to be.

KEVIN: (pause to take the story in) Can I answer your question now?

HANK: What question?

KEVIN: The “what’s a nice boy like you doing in a place like this” question?

HANK: Go ahead…

KEVIN: I want to hear that same kind of “thank you”.

HANK: (bitter again) Yea….well…..as long as you don’t want to make any fucking
money. This job is about as uncomplicated as it gets. Your job is not to help the kid get a
wheelchair. Your job is to get the story. (softening a bit) Whatever it takes. Get the story.
Nothing else matters. Nobody remembers how you got it. They remember that you got it.
The minute people start thinking about you….it’s over. You won’t get it. You’re not
Robin Hood….you’re not Darth Vader….and you’re not Woodward and Bernstein either.
You’re like a baseball umpire. You should be invisible until you fuck something up. It’s
like a tightrope. If somebody wants to be your friend, look at your watch and tell ‘em you
gotta get home to the wife. But if you manage to piss them off so much they won’t talk to
you anymore, make sure you send drinks over to their table. Arm’s length kid. Arm’s
length. But don’t drive the stake in. Maybe get the stake on his chest….(laughs)…but don’t forget that driving it in ain’t your job.

KEVIN: (loves this…the learning part) But you gotta push sometimes don’t you? How
do you push and not alienate?

HANK: People are suckers for the truth. It’s way more interesting than lies. Always has
been. It’ll come out because ultimately people don’t want to bore you. You just gotta
have the patience to wait for it.

KEVIN: (tosses this out there) With a deadline looming?

HANK: (sarcastic) Deadline? Well….it’s all different now. Doesn’t mean the same thing it used to. This used to be a two paper town kid. A little competition is like chicken soup….good for the soul. Nobody likes to get scooped. If it happens, there’s two things you can do. Pick yourself up off the deck and make sure it doesn’t happen again, or buy the fuckers out. Get the story. There’s
nobody looking over your shoulder anymore trying to read your notes. You’re the only
gunslinger in town.

KEVIN: (quietly) Sounds like you miss it.

HANK: (animated) It should be against the law to be the only paper in a city. It’s like
being a parent with only one kid. When the kid breaks something, you know who did it.
Where’s the fun in that? We’re free to be as full of shit as we want to be. That’s unamerican
kid. There’s no such thing as a great American city with only one newspaper.

KEVIN: So what pushes you then? Why get the story today when you can get it
tomorrow?

HANK: Who says I don’t get it tomorrow?

KEVIN: Doesn’t seem like your style.

HANK: I guess old habits die hard. Now is always better than later. Whatever you break
now, you can fix then…right? People bend. Nobody more than the ones that love you. So
you start coddling the strangers that’ll get you the story, and you just dump on your
family. You figure you can always make it up to them. They’ve got way more patience
than editors do. For 40 years I’ve been saying I’m gonna make it up to them. But
somehow I never get around to it.

KEVIN: You’ll have the time now.

HANK: Yea. (wanting to get off this, as if he said more than he wanted to) Tell me ‘bout
this girl of yours…

KEVIN: We met in school..

HANK: At Syracuse? Tell me she’s not a journalism major too…

KEVIN: Nah.

HANK: I was about to call the divorce lawyer.

KEVIN: Not married yet.

HANK: She know what’s she’s getting into?

KEVIN: I doubt it, ‘cause I don’t. (laughs)

(HANK pours himself a drink)

HANK: Here’s hoping you’re better at it than I was.

(drinks)

KEVIN: Past tense?

HANK: Divorced.

KEVIN: I don’t think that’s unique to journalists. My parents are divorced and my Dad’s
an electrician.

HANK: (offers him) Drink?

KEVIN: As long as it’s part of my 3 day crash course. (he takes a drink…makes a
squeamish face……it’s not really his thing)

HANK: You’d be surprised how many things you’d think are clichés aren’t. Had a party
one time at the Hotel Casey. This guy who used to work here….Cooke was his name. Joe
Cooke. Crazy bastard. Drove home one time with a lampshade on his head. Cop stopped
him. “Why the lampshade on your head buddy?” Cooke says….”so I can read when I’m
driving”. If the guy was sober everybody’d look at him funny and go….”hey Cookie, you
alright? You don’t look so good.” (laughs) Anyway….the party was in the lobby on one of the upper floors….and Cooke pushed the piano down the steps. You should hear the beautiful music that makes! The rest of us spent half the party trying to drag the thing back up the steps again. And Cooke wore dentures and he leaves them in his coat….and somebody steals his coat. It’s hard to be convincingly pissed off when you got no teeth in your mouth.

KEVIN: (laughs……loving these old stories) I’ll try to live up to expectations.

HANK: (takes a drink) Don’t.

KEVIN: (mock incredulous) I’m sitting here drinking whiskey at 9 o’clock in the
morning.

HANK: I’m sure you’ve heard the stories….

KEVIN: What? About you?

HANK: Don’t believe half of what you read.

KEVIN: Spoken like a true newspaper man. What about the other half?

HANK: You can believe that.

(they laugh)

KEVIN: So you…ah….take a drink?

HANK: That’s one way of putting it.

KEVIN: (sucking up maybe) Doesn’t seem to have affected your work any. You’ve been
here since the civil war.

HANK: Never missed a day.

KEVIN: Really?

HANK: Even when my son was born.

KEVIN: I’m sure the wife loved that.

HANK: (fondly) I walked in this place the first time and it looked like a scene from
Dante. Guys were sprawled all over the place…asleep on their desks. The place smelled
like the backwoods of West Virginia. The fumes alone were enough to make you dizzy. It
was part of the culture. You couldn’t survive without it. Nobody would trust you if you
didn’t have a bottle in the bottom drawer. You ever talk to a guy who’s all bleary eyed
from drink? You can’t understand a damn word he says. But if you’re bleary eyed too,
everything makes a sort of drunken sense. It’s got its own rhythm to it…conversation
like that. A long time ago I met Jimmy Breslin in New York. He pinned me in a corner
talking about the Son of Sam. If I took one step backwards the guy would have fallen
down. His liver must look like a peach pit. But a great reporter. You separate the two.

KEVIN: Where are all those guys today?

HANK: What guys?

KEVIN: The ones sleeping on their desks.

HANK: They’re all dead.

KEVIN: (good natured) Ah….the good old days. How come it didn’t kill you too?

HANK: God doesn’t want me I guess. He’s let me live through all sorts of things that
should have killed me.

KEVIN: Neither does your wife apparently

HANK: (getting into it now) Yea well….It was the job. It was always the job. Back then it didn’t stop for you. The story didn’t just hang there and wait for you to get to work….or to get back
from vacation. Or hold when the wife is in labor. I brought her to the hospital. Once she’s
there….what am I supposed to do? Push for her? I said call me when it’s over and I’ll
come back.

KEVIN: (sarcastic) I can’t believe she divorced you.

HANK: (bitter) Nowadays these kids are taking days off to go skiing….or leaving early
to get to yoga class.5 o’clock comes and they’re out the door. (motioning upstairs)
They’re like aliens up there. Thank God WW II was fought when it was or we’d all be
speaking Japanese and German.

KEVIN: You were in the war?

HANK: We all were. This ain’t a 9-5 job….a 40 hour a week job. It’s not what you do.
It’s who you are. It’s like being a Marine again. Being a Marine wasn’t what we did. It
was who we were.

KEVIN: Jeez…..you’re laying it on pretty thick aren’t you?

HANK: You think?

KEVIN: Maybe a little. I mean…..Hitler, the Emperor…and the Scranton Times?

HANK: Yea well….don’t underestimate what it can do to you. (takes a drink, looking the
kid over) How come you didn’t get ashes this morning?

KEVIN: What?

HANK: It’s ash Wednesday. Why didn’t you get ashes on your way in here?

KEVIN: Ashes?

HANK: Yea. Ashes.

KEVIN: I guess it slipped my mind.

HANK: You worrying about other things then?

KEVIN: Yea, I guess so. How the hell we go from the war to getting dirt rubbed on my
head?

HANK: Ashes smartass. And don’t fucking blaspheme in here.

KEVIN: (incredulous……but jokingly) You’re drinking whiskey.

HANK: Wine. Whiskey. All from the same vat. Who am I to quibble with Jesus.

KEVIN: You never struck me as the religious type.

HANK: I’m not religious. I’m Catholic.

KEVIN: I thought Catholics didn’t believe in divorce?

HANK: They don’t.

KEVIN: Well?

HANK: I married a Presbyterian.

KEVIN: Oh. Why’d she leave you then?

HANK: You playing reporter now?

KEVIN: Sounds like it might be a good story.

HANK: Here’s a tip for you rookie. You see a guy drinking whiskey at 9am, he’s
probably divorced.

KEVIN: And he’s probably a reporter.

HANK: Touché.

KEVIN: I’ll keep that in mind. So what are you telling me…..that you’re an alcoholic?

HANK: Stupid fucking word. No meaning. Jesus….when I write my leg bounces up and down…and one time somebody told me I had “restless leg syndrome”…that there was medication I could take for it. Everybody needs to label things…

KEVIN: Ok. You’re perpetually thirsty.

HANK: Yes….I am. I don’t like to complicate things….and being a drunk is about the
most uncomplicated thing in the world. Your needs are condensed to the bare minimum.
Drink. Toilet. The occasional intake of food. They you simply stay put and wait for the
world to wander past.

KEVIN: Yea….well what if it doesn’t?

HANK: Then you don’t have to deal with it, which I suspect is the point. Jesus you’re thick.

KEVIN: You seem to function fairly well regardless.

HANK: (getting riled up a bit….the drink hitting it’s mark) You watch too many movies.
Work is the refuge. It’s what allows the other half to blitzkrieg itself. By definition
“news” is when shitty things happen to people, right?. That’s just the way it is.
Sometimes you see more than you want to see….that’s all.
(switching gears) I covered this guy’s trial one time. He was a serial killer. The guy was
nuts. He goes to jail and he starts sending me cards. Birthdays. Christmas. Nice cards
too…each with a nice note inside it. He’d make the cards himself in prison. I don’t know
why he picked me. There was nothing sinister about them on the surface at least. But I’d
look at these things…and my hands would shake….and I’d get the sweats. It was like
going through withdrawl. I felt like some sort of pervert even having these things….like
there was blood all over them. It’s hard to cope sometimes is all. (takes a drink) I guess we all need an excuse. Otherwise, it’s our own fault.

KEVIN: I guess I never met anyone who….what?….so freely admitted his faults?

(laughs)

HANK: I can admit that I’m an asshole. Why can’t I admit that I’m a drunk?

KEVIN: I don’t know. Most are in denial I guess.

HANK: It’s not all bad anyway. Turns you into an adventurer. Shimmied up a flag pole
naked one time. What a view from up there. Of course I couldn’t resist and slid down like
I was a fireman and nearly split myself in two on the rope cleat.

KEVIN: (cringing) Oh man! I could see that coming a mile away.

HANK: Ah…..you’re the life of the party. You got nothing to fear except the next day.

KEVIN: And then?

HANK: You gotta do it all over again. You’re expected to do it all over again.

KEVIN: But do you want to?

HANK: Being thirsty means it ain’t your decision anymore.

KEVIN: (maybe a little uncomfortable) Why are you telling me this?

HANK: My hairdresser is on vacation.

KEVIN: You trying to scare me off or what?

HANK: Nah. I’m not trying to scare you. I’m an old man. I can’t scare anybody anymore.

KEVIN: (losing patience a little) It’s a job. Like any other job. You leave it…get in the
car…and go home. Who do you think you are anyway….Walter Cronkite? Excuse me
Mr. Lindsay….but look at where you are. You’re a beat reporter in a shit town working
for a shit paper. They didn’t exactly commence a manhunt to replace you either. Talk
about watching too many movies.

HANK: (mockingly) You trying to hurt my feelings or what?

KEVIN: No I’m not trying to hurt your feelings. It’s just that….(pause) sorry. I shouldn’t
have said that. Don’t worry about me. I’m not about to use my desk to stash bad whiskey
is all

HANK: (jokingly) The columnists get the good stuff.

KEVIN: (smartass) Yea….and they’re not in the furnace room either.

HANK: You sound like me. I wish I could be your age for a day or two. Or even a few
hours. To have all that certainty back.

KEVIN: It’s not certainty. It’s perspective isn’t it?

HANK: You think you have it?

KEVIN: I hope I do.

(pause)

HANK: Tell me more about this girl of yours…

KEVIN: Well…what do you want to know?

HANK: Is she in love with you?

KEVIN: Shit….I don’t know.

HANK: You love her?

KEVIN: I think so….I don’t know. Some days you do and some days you don’t.

HANK: What about today. You love her today?

KEVIN: Yea…..I guess I do.

HANK: What about tomorrow?

KEVIN: I plan on it…..but I try not to think that far ahead. Why are you so interested in
my love life all of a sudden?

HANK: It matters.

KEVIN: (dismissive) Why does it matter? Who cares…

HANK: I care.

KEVIN: Why?

HANK: When the bottle is empty….and you turn the lights out at night….it’s all you
have left. It’s either hugging her or dreaming about the Japs.

KEVIN: How long you been divorced.

HANK: Long enough to know better. Sleeping alone sucks.

KEVIN: (smiling) I’m sure you weren’t always alone.

HANK: Well…..you have your fun I guess. It’s what they call it anyway. Must have been
more fun when it was happening than how I remember it. I would have thrown my ass
out a lot sooner than she did.

KEVIN: I don’t know. Things don’t have to be left as they are do they? You can always
change ‘em I guess.

HANK: Well….it was a fun ride anyway. Better to change now than then. (takes a
drink……pauses and closes his eyes for a moment) You know something kid. You play
your cards right, and they’ll fear you.

KEVIN: Who?

HANK: Mario Cuomo came to town a while ago….while he was governor of New York.
I was with a guy who knew him….and he calls him over. “Mario, this is Hank Lindsay
from the Times.” So Cuomo goes right into survival mode. To him the “Times” means
the New York Times….so he’s like….”yea…of course. Hank. How you doing? It’s been
a while.” You know…full of shit. Never saw me before in his life. But he wanted to be
sure. I was a reporter…..a newspaper man. If I got pissed off enough, I could hurt him.
Start an avalanche maybe. The Governor of New York. Kissing my ass. That kind of
things gets in the veins. You start getting free tickets to everything. Fruit baskets at
Christmas and tables when there are none at restaurants. I went into the hospital one time
and they were lining up to get into my room. Judges. County Commissioners. You start
getting like Sally Field….you know. “You like me. You really like me!” But it’s all shit.
Either they’re looking for you to write something good, or looking for you to not write
something bad. As soon as everybody found out I was retiring? It all stopped. The
baskets. The free tickets. Oh, I get the tickets in the mail still. But now they want me to
pay for them. Get sick now….and your only visitors are the nurses changing your bed
pan. They stop returning your calls. You’ve outlived your usefulness. And so what do
you do? You go back to the ones that were there at the beginning…..the ones you’ve been
ignoring all these years because you had more important things to do. But you know
what? They’ve moved on. Probably a long time ago and you just never noticed.

KEVIN: Is that what happened to you?

HANK: I’ve known my wife since we were kids. So, you know…..she was bullshit proof.
But it creeps up on you…..the booze. The late nights. Waiting on the story….right? You
tell yourself that’s it. But it never is. You wake up with that taste in your mouth….and
that smell on your hands. You have a hard time even looking her in the eye anymore.
(pauses……looking him hard in the eye) What the hell am I telling you this for?

KEVIN: Because your hairdresser is on vacation.

HANK: (laughs…grateful to have someone to talk to) Right. That’s it. Do as I say son,
not as I do. You’ll come out of it better looking than me.

KEVIN: You look alright to me.

HANK: (laughs) You don’t realize how much times it takes me in front of the mirror to
look this way.

KEVIN: Yea…right.

HANK: You plan on having kids?

KEVIN: Yea….I guess so. When the time is right.

HANK: They’ll break your fucking heart you know.

KEVIN: My mother says that about me all the time. She doesn’t say “fucking heart”
though.

HANK: Of course not. She’s got a little class. Unlike the two of us.

KEVIN: She wanted me to be a lawyer….or a priest.

HANK: Jesus….and you with the clean forehead on Ash Wednesday.

KEVIN: A lawyer was an even bigger stretch. I needed a lawyer…..but I wasn’t going to
be one.

HANK: And look at you now? Drink? (offers him more)

KEVIN: No….thanks.

(the phone rings. HANK picks it up)

HANK: (on the phone) Yea. Johnny? Where you calling from? You in town? No….it’s
just that I never expected to hear from……no no…..it’s fine. I’d love to see you. Are
you….alone? Can you come down? It might be easier. What about? Is she ok?
Well…Ok. Come down then. Did you eat? Ok….I’ll see you soon…(he hangs up)
My son….

KEVIN: Mmm

HANK: Haven’t seen him in a long time.

KEVIN: (wanting to make himself scarce) Well listen….(phone rings again)

HANK: (on the phone) Yea. When? What’s going on, do you know? (he’s writing
something down) Ok…alright. Alright. Thanks…(he hangs up)

KEVIN: What’s up.

HANK: (hands him the paper, which has an address on it) Up in the Mid-Valley. Can
you fly solo yet? I gotta meet with my son.

KEVIN: (grabbing his coat…excited) Sure. Not a problem. Any last words of advice?

HANK: Don’t hitch a ride on the back of a firetruck.

(KEVIN leaves. HANK sits at his desk…..he looks exhausted. He takes a drink and waits)

Lights
SCENE II – HANK remains at his desk, looking a little more bleary eyed than before.
His son JOHNNY appears in the doorway. JOHNNY is about 40, well dressed and
handsome. He knocks on the wall to get his Father’s attention

HANK: (jumps up) Hey…there he is. (father and son share a quick hug) You sure you’ve
eaten? We could go out?

JOHNNY: No no….here is fine. I gotta get back soon anyway.

HANK: (surprised) What….you going back home already? When did you get in?

JOHNNY: Last night.

HANK: Yea? Drive up ok?

JOHNNY: Fine. No trouble.

HANK: Jeez. It must kill you on gas.

JOHNNY: Not so bad. Cheaper than flying.

HANK: Which way you come?

JOHNNY: Turnpike.

HANK: Yea?

JOHNNY: Not a straight shot but it’s still quicker.

HANK: They got that EZPass thing now. You just fly right through.

JOHNNY: Yea…well…..I don’t drive it enough for that. Tolls aren’t bad. Just a few
bucks.

HANK: There’s a job for you…huh?

JOHNNY: What? Toll collector?

HANK: Jeez…can you imagine?

JOHNNY: You tried to get me a job there once.

HANK: Just a summer job.

JOHNNY: I was afraid I’d get in and never get out.

HANK: Pay’s alright.

JOHNNY: I know….that’s what I mean. Too easy to stay put.

HANK: You were never one to stand still for long.

JOHNNY: Yea

HANK: Can I get you anything? Here…give me your coat (he takes it and lays it across
his desk)

JOHNNY: Jeez Pop….what the hell you doing down here? What happened to your office
upstairs?

HANK: I think better down here.

(they settle in……an awkward silence passes)

JOHNNY: So you’re retiring?

HANK: Yea…everything’s different now. Computers. I’m an Underwood Typewriter
guy. It’s time. The world’s changing and I’m not. That’s when you know it’s time.

JOHNNY: Jeez….I can still hear that thing when you were writing at home. Sounded like
machine gun fire.

HANK: Underwood ‘s make the most beautiful sound in the world. So how’s your
mother? You see her?

JOHNNY: (suddenly uncomfortable) Mom’s what I’m here to talk about…remember?
When’s the last time you’ve seen her?

HANK: Well….we don’t exactly travel in the same social circles anymore…

JOHNNY: She’s sick Pop.

HANK: (sits up a bit) Sick? What do you mean? Sick how….?

JOHNNY: She’s…well….she’s been forgetting things. Wandering around. Getting lost. Mixes up names. Places. Lost her keys. They were in the refrigerator.

HANK: Sounds like me at 3am (laughs)

JOHNNY: They think it’s Alzheimer’s. We just started the medication.
HANK: (not wanting to face it) Hell John…she’s just old. Why does everybody have to label things? So she’s slowing down. We all are. You can’t just stop doping her up.

(long silence. JOHNNY gets up and opens his Father’s bottom desk drawer. He knows
they’ll be a bottle in there. He takes it out….gets 2 coffee mugs off the shelf, and pours
them each a drink)

JOHNNY: You never did like to drink alone

HANK: Don’t kid yourself. How long?

JOHNNY: (annoyed) How long what?

HANK: (nervous) I don’t know. Just how long?

JOHNNY: It’s been going on for a while. Some days are better than others. Her and
Sylvia were still going out for dinner on Thursday nights….and she’s the one who called
me and told me something was wrong.

HANK: Jesus Christ. How often you been coming in then?

JOHNNY: As often as I can. Twice a month at least.

HANK: (quiet…almost under his breath) You could have called.

JOHNNY: I could have. But what…your phone don’t work?

HANK: (suddenly shuffling papers around on his desk) Yea well….lots to do. Trying to
get out of here. Training a new guy.

JOHNNY: They have you training your own replacement?

HANK: Yea…why?

JOHNNY: (sarcastic) Nothing….I just thought they’d be more careful is all.

HANK: (hurt) What’s that’s supposed to mean?

JOHNNY: You’re not exactly a shrine to virtue.

HANK: Yea…well…..I wouldn’t go there if I were you.

JOHNNY: Ah forget it. (doesn’t want to do this now……a pause) She’s been asking for
you.

HANK: Who?
JOHNNY: (short) Your ex-wife. My Mother.

HANK: Yea?

JOHNNY: (bitter) That’s when I knew it was dementia

HANK: (lets this go) Yea…well….I have a marvelous effect on people. Should I go
over?

JOHNNY: (as in “of course you should”) What do you think?

HANK: Jesus I don’t know. Will it help her any?

JOHNNY: She’s asking for you.

HANK: So what. Will it help her any me going to see her?

JOHNNY: I guess that depends. You plan on being sober?

HANK: (pissed…snaps) Watch your mouth. I’m still your goddamn father!

JOHNNY: That’s debatable.

HANK: Goddamn smart ass

JOHNNY: (staying calm…they’ve been through this before) Hey…look. We can sit here
and insult each other all day if you want.

HANK: You show up here out of the blue and dump this shit on me!

JOHNNY: Dump it on you? Hey….I’m sorry if Mom’s illness inconveniences you.

HANK: (weary) Jesus Christ…..we gonna start this now?

JOHNNY: Do you have any idea what’s happening outside of your own head?

HANK: (ready for more now) You said Alzheimer’s?

JOHNNY: Yea.

HANK: I did a story on a guy with Alzheimer’s a few years back. He didn’t know his own wife and kids anymore. Couldn’t remember where his own bathroom was. But he sang in this barbershop quartet. And he knew every word to every song. Sang like a bird too. And then when it was over his wife would lead him away and he’d say “what’s your name gorgeous?” (laughs)

JOHNNY: Yea
HANK: It scared the hell out of me.

JOHNNY: Yea well….right now she’s sometimes still aware that she’s slipping….so it’s the worst part for her. But eventually….that goes away. She’ll be a child again. Happy even. But somebody will…

HANK: (cuts him off) Jesus…

JOHNNY: Yea…..well let me just tell you what’s in store….ok? In case all you know about it is from your barbershop quartet story. Eventually, she won’t be able to speak at all. Maybe some grunts but that’ll be it. She’ll have to be fed….and she’ll have to wear a diaper so she doesn’t shit and piss herself. She’ll be unable to walk. Then she’ll be unable to sit. Then she’ll be
unable to smile. Then she’ll be unable to hold her head up. Then she’ll be unable to
swallow. Then she’ll be unable to breath. And then she’ll die. You wanna jump in here? I
don’t think I missed anything.

HANK: (starts to get up as if to strike him) You sonofabitch.

JOHNNY: (sharply) Sit down. You’re liable to fall over.

HANK: (sits back down…lost that one) What do you want from me?

JOHNNY: For me? I don’t want anything. (bitter) That train has left the fucking station.

HANK: (explodes) Watch your mouth! We’re not in one of your godamn gay bars!
(gets up and starts to walk around the office….looking at the things hanging on the walls)

JOHNNY: (wanting to cool things down some) You need a hand moving anything out?
You boxing this stuff up or what?

HANK: (deflated again) I haven’t thought about it. I guess I should.

JOHNNY: Where’s my picture?

HANK: What?

JOHNNY: I’m your only child…..you don’t have my picture on your wall….or on your
desk?

(HANK reaches into the drawer where the booze comes from and pulls out a framed pic)

JOHNNY: Wow….and in a place of honor too. I’m sorry I doubted you.

HANK: You should be sorry for a lot of things.

JOHNNY: (lets this pass) Do you know she never stopped loving you? After all this
time?

HANK: She did a good impression of it when she changed the locks and threw my
clothes in the front yard.

JOHNNY: You’re lucky she didn’t shoot you.

HANK: (again weary) Do we have to do this?

JOHNNY: What? You need an anchor? Here (he pours him another drink)

HANK: (nervous) How’s….um….

JOHNNY: Paul?

HANK: Yea Paul.

JOHNNY: You mean Paul…..my gay lover right?

HANK: (embarrassed) Yea….that’s the one.

JOHNNY: Still can’t remember his name after all these years?

HANK: Yea…well I’m kinda bad with names.

JOHNNY: He’s fine. He’s still gay too, if that’s what you mean.

HANK: (exasperated) Jesus…..I was just asking how the kid was.

JOHNNY: He’s as old as I am Pop. We’re not kids anymore.

HANK: You both getting those tests?

JOHNNY: What tests would those be?

HANK: You know what tests.

JOHNNY: (exasperated) Jesus….

HANK: I just want you to be careful is all.

JOHNNY: I’m in a serious relationship. Neither of us sleeps around. We’re fine.

HANK: (exploding) Jesus Christ you can’t be in a serious relationship with another man!

JOHNNY: (not shouting……very calm) Time to get all biblical on me now?
HANK: Forget it.

JOHNNY: Why do I have to be your “gay” son? Can’t I just be your son?

HANK: (weary) Jesus Johnny….why is your Mother my “ex” wife. She just is.
(pause……like 2 old fighters who have been through this before)

JOHNNY: What would you rather. Mom not sick….or me being straight?

HANK: (exploding) What the hell kind of question is that?!

JOHNNY: A damn good one I think.

HANK: Go to hell.

JOHNNY: Your God says I’m halfway there.

HANK: My God?

JOHNNY: Well according to your bible he ain’t mine.

HANK: I’d do anything to cure you both….and so would He.

JOHNNY: (sticking the knife in) Really? I didn’t know I was sick.

HANK: (tired) I pray for you every day.

JOHNNY: Really?

HANK: Yes

JOHNNY: The nun’s used to tell us that when a prayer isn’t answered that’s God saying
no.

HANK: Maybe it is.

(long pause)

JOHNNY: You know….Mom is…

HANK: (cuts him off…desperate to be away from the subject of his son’s sexuality)
How’s work? I heard there was some layoffs.

JOHNNY: There’s always layoffs. But I got enough seniority…I hope anyway.

HANK: You need anything? You short on cash?
JOHNNY: No no, we’re fine. Things are good.

HANK: Good.

(pause)

JOHNNY: You look older Pop.

HANK: I am older John.

JOHNNY: (smiling) Remember that time down the shore when I let go of that kite?
Christ, you were like an Olympic hurdler going after the string. You seemed super human.

HANK: Don’t let go again. I’ll just stand there and watch the fucking thing fly away
(they laugh) You know what it used to cost us to get a house down there for a week?
$150 It’s $4000 now. I always bring this up when I’m asking for more money. You know
what the old man upstairs tells me? He says “Lindsay, you like it so much down there,
why don’t you get a job at the Beach Haven Times”. Bye bye raise. (pause) It wasn’t all
bad was it?

JOHNNY: No…(pause….can’t help himself) but most of it was. I always wonder how
things would have turned out if you’d been around more.

HANK: You would have gotten sick of me sooner (they laugh)

JOHNNY: Probably. You been to the beach since we went?

HANK: Nah.

JOHNNY: We went down last year.

HANK: We?

JOHNNY: Me and Paul. Stayed on Liberty ave. The same street. First thing I did was look for that kite all tangled in the phone wires.

HANK: I almost got it in time (they laugh) The house still there?

JOHNNY: Yea….fixed up some. They added to it but you’d still recognize it. Shower still out back. Screened in porch to watch the storms.

HANK: (longingly) The storms…

JOHNNY: Remember that night you went out in the storm?

HANK: Shit yea. Wrapped that blanket around myself and went out on the rocks.
Thought I was gonna get swept away.

JOHNNY: What the hell were you doing?

HANK: I don’t know. I always wondered what it was like out there in a storm. With the
rain coming down sideways and the waves crashing up against the rocks. Make you feel
like maybe you shouldn’t give too much of a shit….you know what I’m saying? (they
laugh)

JOHNNY: Yea. What are we compared to something like that….right? Like grains of
sand.

HANK: Exactly. Some much needed perspective. (they laugh)

JOHNNY: Mom was scared. She could just barely make you out from the window. I
think she thought you’d flipped your lid.

HANK: God, I’ll never forget that. What a storm that was.

JOHNNY: What were you thinking out there?

HANK: I don’t know. Jumping in maybe.

JOHNNY: (reflective) I was scared too. I wanted to go out and get you. Lead you back
home.

HANK: You were just a kid.

JOHNNY: I still catch myself thinking about those days…I think that’s why I needed to go back down there.

HANK: I don’t know. You can’t be two people at the same time….but we all try to be. Maybe….I don’t know. Things seem a lot simpler in hindsight. It sucks to get old John.
(again, uncomfortable) You get your ashes today?

JOHNNY: (laughing at the absurdity of this) Jesus Dad…..I’m a happily practicing
homosexual and you’re worried about ashes?

HANK: I can give you some of mine. Bishop says it’s alright….(rubbing ashes off his
own head and offering them to his son)

JOHNNY: That’s awfully nice of you but….no. I don’t want to mess with your head.

HANK: (quiet) I just want my son in heaven with me is all…

JOHNNY: Why, so you can make up for lost time? You married a protestant, have a gay
son, drink like a man on a desert island, and slept with any woman with a pulse. What
makes you think you’re going anywhere near the place?

HANK: Call it a hunch.

JOHNNY: (with some bitterness) All the damage you’ve done….

HANK: I’ve done? Hold on a minute. Twelve years in Catholic schools that I couldn’t
afford…..we mortaged the house 3 times. For you. And at the end of it you bring a guy
home. Were you paying attention? It’s a sin John. Sin. Do you know what sin is?

JOHNNY: (as if he’s been waiting for this opening) I’ve seen it up close. Mom used to
get me out of bed late at night. Pack me in the car….and go looking for you. And I
couldn’t see her face from the back seat, but I could hear her. And she’d be crying. And
when I’d ask her what was wrong she’d just turn on the radio so I couldn’t hear her
anymore. She’d be out for hours. I’d wake up when she was carrying me back to my
room and sometimes it’d be light out. And I’d ask her….”is daddy home yet?” and she’d
always say….”soon….soon”. And she’d tuck me back in. She looked 100 years old. I
wasn’t old enough to tie my shoes, but I was old enough to know that other Mom’s didn’t
drive around in the middle of the night looking for their Dad’s. I can’t begin to fathom
what epic damage you did to her very soul.

HANK: You blaming me for what’s happened to her?

JOHNNY: You know what I’ve noticed? Now she’s in sort of a fog. And on those nights
she didn’t know where you were….it was almost the same thing. She was always looking
for you then. And now…..her brain has brought her back there again. And she’s walking
around wondering where you are still.

HANK: (furious….yet with a trace of guilt) You can’t lay this shit on me.

JOHNNY: Who should I lay it on?

HANK: (wanting to divert blame) You think your Mother was happy with your choices?

JOHNNY: Mom was honest about it. Her convictions were her own. She didn’t wait for
Rome to tell her what to do. She evolved. That’s what non-Catholics do. (what he’s been waiting to say) My God, I still can’t believe you think you’re a better man that me.

HANK: (long pause…..this stung more than anything) I never said that.

JOHNNY: I was terrified to tell you what I was feeling. It had been driven into me like a
spike. I was a freak. A sinner. Beyond redemption. And you’re walking down the street
being stopped by every other person…like the goddamn mayor……them kissing your ass. My God….I felt like I was holding a sword over your head. There was no way I could ever face up to it. I buried it as deep as I could. But it was like a bad horror movie. It kept coming alive again.
Receiving communion…..you’d always step into the aisle first, and then let me go ahead.
You were always behind me. And it felt like your eyes were in the back of my skull. I
wanted the ceiling to open up so I could fly away.

HANK: (self pity) It was hard for me.

JOHNNY: For you? I’d come home with black eyes….or a busted lip. I always felt like
you were saying “I told you so”. Like you were on their side.

HANK: You’re my son. When you hurt I hurt.

JOHNNY: But why? You were always more worried about what others would
say…about you. You know….”what’s wrong with him….having a faggot for a son.
Maybe he’s not all that we think he is.”

HANK: Is that what you came here for?

JOHNNY: Forget it. You’re not about to change now.

HANK: What do you want me to say? I can’t take anything back.

JOHNNY: All I wanted to do was please you. That look you’d get when you got the
frontpage? That’s the look I wanted. That’s what Mom wanted. But you’d be gone. Just
gone….fuck knows where. And it had to be somebody’s fault, right? I was just a kid. And
you were….what…..a fucking giant. So it can’t be yours. It must be mine. There’s
something wrong with me, you know? And so I drove you away. I must have…right?

HANK: Oh Jesus…

JOHNNY: Go ahead….take a drink if you need one.

(he does)

HANK: I’m sorry.

JOHNNY: Don’t be.

HANK: But I am….that should count for something.

JOHNNY: It would if I believed you.

HANK: You don’t?

JOHNNY: No. If you had it to do over you’d do it the same way.

(long pause……he looks at his son’s picture)
HANK: Your mother thought a child would help…

JOHNNY: (confused) What?

HANK: The marriage. She thought a child might…..what?…..pacify me or something.
You know? Shit…..I wasn’t even there when you were born. I went out to get cigars and
it took me 2 days to find them. I got back to the hospital….I remember I had this big
wool coat on even though it was warm out….and with the rain there was steam coming
off me. I kept thinking I was on fire…and that made me happy ‘cause nobody could
come near me. Truth was I probably smelled like a garbage truck by then….stumbling
into the elevator and stopping at every floor looking for the nursery window. I didn’t
know if you were a boy or a girl. Had no idea. I pasted my head against the window until
I saw the name. “Lindsay”. There you were. About the size of my fist. A nurse came over
and picked you up….to give you a bottle. She looked at me. I think she thought I was a
homeless person or something because she turned her back to me while she fed you. And
I was thinking…..you know…..I’m forgetting something. What am I forgetting?

JOHNNY: You always forgot her.

HANK: I didn’t forget. She was just the last thing I’d remember. Small difference bit…Before I’d pass out…or go to confession. I didn’t have to work at it….you know? She loved me. She would always love me. And now we had you….and how can you take that away? She went and
got pregnant. I didn’t know it was coming. But I know what she wanted. I know what she
thought you’d do. I don’t blame her for any of it.

JOHNNY: (seething at this) How big of you…

HANK: Yea….how big of me. I said….”ok…..I let you have yours….now you let me
have mine”. In my head it was like you were a gift….something I’d given to her. And it
bought me all kinds of leeway.

JOHNNY: Yea…well your gift turned on you.

HANK: Your mother told me. You never did.

JOHNNY: Yea….well I didn’t think I could handle the fire and brimstone speech.

HANK: I didn’t understand. I still don’t understand.

JOHNNY: Yea well….you tried….right? You even paid for a hooker. On a reporter’s
salary. That must have hurt……although I remember she had about 3 teeth so she
couldn’t have broken the bank completely.

HANK: (smiles at the memory) It’s the thought that counts.

JOHNNY: Where does the pope stand on 3 tooth hookers?
(they laugh)

HANK: About the same place he stands on homosexuals. I figured they’d cancel each
other out.

JOHNNY: Well….like you said. Mom’s always the last thing you remember. She’s what
I’m down here for. She’s not gonna get better. They can slow it down with drugs….but
that’s all. And she keeps asking for you.

HANK: (slowly) Does she know I’m retiring?

JOHNNY: Dad….sometimes she still thinks you’re in the fucking house. Are you
listening to anything I’m saying here? The world’s bigger than your byline and your
bottle.

HANK: Can she take care of herself?

JOHNNY: No. Not anymore. Sylvia called me a few weeks ago. Mom was in the
backyard….in her nightgown. And she was shoveling. Not the driveway. She was
shoveling the snow off the grass. God knows how long she was out there. She was near
frozen when they got her back inside. There’s only so much I can do 150 miles away.

HANK: So what are you saying?

JOHNNY: Take care of her. Go back home. You owe her at least that much.

HANK: (knew this was coming) Jesus Christ, I’m barely house broken myself.

JOHNNY: She asks for you. Nobody else. She wants you. Pretend it’s one of your
goddamn worthy causes that you were always writing about. I don’t care how you justify
in your head. Just do right by her for a change.

HANK: It’s what you fear isn’t it?

JOHNNY: What?

HANK: Being called to serve….

JOHNNY: It’s not a war.

HANK: No?

Lights

SCENE III – Later that day. HANK sits at his desk, staring vacantly ahead. He picks up
the phone and dials….then thinks better of it and hangs up. The bottle is noticeably more
empty and he is bleary eyed. KEVIN returns. He appears distressed.

HANK: (looking up) Back so soon?

KEVIN: I’ve been gone for 6 hours.

HANK: Better be a helluva story.

KEVIN: Yea…well….it’s not. (removing his coat and throwing it on the ground)

HANK: What’s the matter with you? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.

KEVIN: There’s no such thing as ghosts. (seeing the bottle) You’ve been busy I see.

HANK: Figure I’d earn my money right to the end.

KEVIN: Why don’t you go home? No need to be sticking around.

HANK: (bitterly) You got it all covered do you?

KEVIN: (genuine) I didn’t mean it like that.

HANK: Lemme see your story.

KEVIN: I didn’t write it yet.

HANK: Lemme see your notes.

KEVIN: I didn’t take any.

HANK: Well, it ought to be fun reading your byline. What happened out there?

KEVIN: I gotta gather my thoughts. Can I sit there? (meaning the desk with the
computer)

HANK: Oh…by all means. Don’t let the help get in your way. (he gets up and they
switch chairs) I heard 2 died.

KEVIN: Yea. The father’s still alive though.

HANK: Burned up?

KEVIN: Yea….pretty good. I was just over there.

HANK: The hospital?

KEVIN: Yea.

HANK: You know the family?

KEVIN: No.

HANK: It’s hard.

KEVIN: Harder for him than it is for us. (staring straight ahead…doesn’t know what to
write) He ran in.

HANK: Whadda you mean?

KEVIN: He worked nights. He was just coming home. Had no idea. It’s what he came home to.

HANK: How’d it start?

KEVIN: Don’t know yet. Does it matter really?

HANK: (cynical) Arson sells better than a cigarette in the sofa

KEVIN: That’s a lovely fucking thought. They tried to stop him.

HANK: What?

KEVIN: They had it cordoned off when it was burning. He broke through and went right
in the front door. Never even made it upstairs. Smoke took him right out.

HANK: At least he never saw them.

KEVIN: There wasn’t much to see from what they told me. (remembers
something……looks at HANK now) The guys from the firehouse asked about you. Told
me to say hello. (now turns back……can’t look at him) The little girl was 8 years old. She
was in her Mom’s bed. They never had a chance.

HANK: It’s a lovely fucking world.

KEVIN: Just another story though….right?

HANK: (annoyed) Yea…that’s right. It’s just another story. You wanna blame me for this too? What else do you want me to say?

KEVIN: Sorry….nothing. I guess the less said the better. Let me do this. They need something in an hour.
(He starts to type some……as HANK looks on drunkenly. He can’t stop talking)

HANK: There was this 16 year old kid. Killed an 8 year old girl and a 4 year old boy.
With a shotgun. Just blew their fucking heads off from about 2 feet away. When the kids
were reported missing he actually turned up to search for them. I heard the name of this
kid and I kept thinking…..”where do I know that name from?” Turns out his mother was
a nurse. She helped deliver my son. He cried and cried all the time when he was born.
Wasn’t ready to come out I guess. I couldn’t get him to stop. But she could. He’d coo like
the dickens when she held him. It was unbelieveable.
Anyway, the kid didn’t give a shit that he killed anyone. He was a by the numbers
psychopath. He wouldn’t talk to anyone, even his lawyer. So one night the phone rings.
It’s his mother. She remembers my son. She’s crying her eyes out. She wants me to go
down to the jail with her to visit her kid….to see if I can get him to talk. She wants to
know why the kid blew a gasket. You know, was it her fault or what? So I’m thinking….
….this is great. What a story. The kid’ll only talk to me. I knew I wasn’t gonna get to
cover the trial….so this was my big chance. So I get down there and here’s this
kid….maybe 100 pounds soaking wet. And he’s got these eyes like a rag doll…..just
black all the way through. Like pieces of coal shoved through his sockets. His mother is
trying to get him to talk….pleading with him. He just stared at me….didn’t even blink. I
actually became conscious of that. That he wasn’t blinking. It was like staring at
something that was built from spare parts. All I could think of was that I wanted to wring
the kid’s fucking neck…..just choke the ever loving aspirations out of him. I never saw a
mother more heartbroken in all my life. She made sounds I never heard before. Sounded
like some sort of wounded animal. But there was no story. I’m not sure what pissed me
off more.The kids gets convicted and sentenced to die. Stands up after being sentenced…..pumps
his fist towards his family and says….”it’s party time!” (long pause) This is one of our own. He’s no outsider. I think of his mother….holding my child. And holding this monster too. How
could she not make them both feel the same way….you know? Safe.
When the trial is over I’m riding down in the elevator with the guy who covered the
story. Good reporter. Named Weston. Nice guy too. Way too nice for this business.
Anyway….what’s there to say really? We head down in silence. I should have said
something. But I didn’t. So we say goodnight to each other. “See you tomorrow” and all
that. He goes home and hangs himself from his kid’s swing set in the backyard.

KEVIN: (now looking at him) That story meant to break my writer’s block or what?

HANK: It’s just another story. That’s the way you have to look at it. When I was looking at this kid….for a few minutes at least….I lost my perspective. I wanted to kill the fucker. You can’t be like that. That’s not reporting. In the end….who gives a shit what you or I think about anything? What does it matter?

KEVIN: It matters. (he turns back towards the computer screen. HANK takes another
drink) If it didn’t you wouldn’t still be here. Do they know you drink down here?

HANK: What are they gonna do, fire me?

KEVIN: What if it was your kid?

HANK: What…

KEVIN: Would you feel something then?

HANK: Who says I don’t feel anything?

KEVIN: (getting pissed off now) By now you’re practically waterlogged with booze. I
doubt you could if you wanted to.

HANK: Yea…well…..I feel too fucking much maybe.
(they sit in silence…..KEVIN can’t help himself)

KEVIN: When my father left I hated him. I fucking hated him. I was 15 years old…so
you know the world was on my shoulders already, right?. And then I come home from
school one day and he’s home. He was never home. Worked all the time. But he wanted
to be the one to tell me….to spin it I guess. And that was it. Fifteen years packed into 2
fucking suitcases. And he’s saying….”I’ll always love her”….you know? Divorce 101.
“I’ll always love her”. What a crock of shit that is. If you love her….who’s the fucking
redhead in the car, you know? My mother forced me to see him on weekends. In the
beginning at least. All this shit I could never get away with before….now I got free reign.
Like I’m radioactive and he doesn’t want to touch me. I’d drink his beer. Take his
money. Stay out all night long. What’s he gonna do? He just kissed my ass…not for me,
but for himself. I wanted him to put the clamps on me almost. But he never did. I don’t
need some guilt ridden beer buddy. I need a father. It’s like he’s rubbing my nose in it. So
finally I said screw it. Once a week became once a month….and then a few Hallmark
cards….and then nothing.

HANK: You don’t see him at all?

KEVIN: Last time was my Mother’s funeral. Her heart gave out. He broke the fucking
thing….so I knew it was coming. When she died part of me was actually happy for her.
And then he shows up to put on the “woe is me” act….you know. Some new pretty
young thing on his arm. And he’s dripping tears in the coffin like he’s gonna dig the hole
himself and jump in with her. I thought about that today….when I heard about what this
guy did. And I wondered….would my old man have done that for me? Everybody said it
was hopeless. The house is practically in cinders. But he went in anyway. It was almost
like he wanted to….not protect them….it was too late for that. But to go wherever they
were going.

HANK: Kid….don’t do this. It’s just a story.

KEVIN: I still think about him. Shit….my story isn’t unique. All of us walk around saying “oh…I hate him I hate him”…you know? Acting all tough. And folks say “oh you poor dear of course you hate him”…blah blah blah….and it’s all a pile of shit because…deep down in places you don’t want to go….I don’t hate him at all. I love him more every day he’s gone. My life is incomplete without him. And years of therapy bills and fucking Doctor Phil talk shows never wash away the feeling that….it was all somehow my fault. So yea…you know what? What that father did today? It’s not really news at all is it?

HANK: Jesus kid….

KEVIN: Tell me….am I gonna end up like you?

HANK: It’s just not worth it.

KEVIN: What if it was your kid?

HANK: You asked me that already.

KEVIN: You never answered.

HANK: What was it you said? Just ‘cause the answer isn’t at the tip of my tongue doesn’t
mean I don’t have one?

Lights
SCENE IV – Evening. HANK enters the living room of his ex-wife’s home. He calls for
her.

HANK: Clare? Clare? (he looks around…..takes off his jacket. On an end table is their
wedding picture. He picks it up and then puts it back down again. He’s really drunk
now….swaying and slurring his words) Clare?

(CLARE enters shuffling…..wearing a nightgown. She looks somewhat disheveled. She is
roughly the same age as HANK.)

I’ve been calling. You’re not anwering your phone….

CLARE: (as if him being there is completely normal) I never answer my phone.

HANK: Why not? It could be something important.

CLARE: Like what?

HANK: I don’t know. It could be Johnny calling.

CLARE: Johnny’s gone.

HANK: He go back home?

CLARE: He comes to see me.

HANK: Does he call first?

CLARE: I don’t know. I don’t answer the phone.

HANK: You have an answering machine though. I’ve been leaving messages.

CLARE: Johnny bought that for me.

HANK: (confused) What….the answering machine?

CLARE: Yea.

HANK: He’s a good kid.

CLARE: He’s gay you know. Has a boyfriend.

HANK: Yes, I know.

CLARE: I didn’t know if you knew. He just told me.

HANK: Clare, I think he told you a long time ago.

CLARE: Did he tell you?

HANK: Yes. A long time ago.

CLARE: Where have you been anyway?

HANK: I don’t know. Working…..I just retired.

CLARE: You don’t work anymore?

HANK: Today was my last day.

CLARE: Maybe you’ll get home earlier now.

HANK: (afraid this might be coming) Clare, I don’t live here anymore.

CLARE: I found my wedding dress in the attic.

HANK: Clare….

CLARE: (giddy…like a young girl) I tried it on too.. I can still fit into it. Imagine, a
woman my age still fitting into her wedding dress. I’d bring your Tuxdeo down but don’t want to embarrass you. You’re a lucky bastard you know….having me for a wife. It made me
feel like dancing…that dress did.

HANK: You were a wonderful dancer.

CLARE: I have to drag you around.

HANK: Yea….I know.

CLARE: You’re a lousy dancer.

HANK: (hurt) I’m not that bad. (he does a few steps to prove it)

CLARE: (disapprovingly) Three left feet. When are you going to clean that attic? It’s a
mess up there.

HANK: Well….I can do it anytime I guess.

CLARE: I found some old records up there too.

HANK: Which ones?

CLARE: Sinatra.

HANK: (booze making him sentimental in spite of himself) Send in the Clowns.

CLARE: (sings)

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?

HANK: (finishing the verse)

Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

CLARE: (sings)

Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer,
Losing my timing this late
In my career?

(they sing it again and dance)

HANK: You got a long career ahead of you…

CLARE: (scolding herself) A wedding dress in the attic. Isn’t that a sad place for it? All
rolled up, protected by moth balls. What a way to treat the damn thing.

HANK: Well….tell me….how are you feeling Clare? You look good.

CLARE: Fine. Would you like some tea? I was making some.

HANK: (surprised) Since when do you drink tea?

CLARE: Where have you been? I drink it everyday.

HANK: I thought maybe you were out with Sylvia.

CLARE: Who?

HANK: Sylvia.

CLARE: Who’s Sylvia?

HANK: Your friend Sylvia.
CLARE: I don’t know any Sylvia. Are you drunk?

HANK: No! (pause…unsteady) Well….maybe a little. It’s my last day. Boys threw me a little party.

CLARE: What boys?

HANK: You don’t know them. All new kids. I’m the token relic down there.

CLARE: I can smell you. You smell like you always smell.

HANK: (jokes) Same aftershave.

CLARE: Jameson’s make an aftershave?

HANK: Jameson’s? You think I moved to Waverly or something? Maybe a few pints of Yuengling is all I can afford these days.

CLARE: Maybe we can mortgage the house again. How we gonna pay for Johnny’s tuition?

HANK: He’s out of school now Clare….we managed. Somehow.

CLARE: They say my mind’s going.

HANK: Who says?

CLARE: I don’t know. They. The always faceless and nameless they. (stops…notices his
forehead….the ashes) What’s that on your head?

HANK: (not catching on) What?

CLARE: You’ve got dirt on your head.

HANK: It’s Ash Wednesday.

CLARE: I don’t care what day it is. You still have dirt on your head.

HANK: (trying to keep her on track) Clare….what are you going to do?

CLARE: About the dirt on your head?

HANK: No…about what’s happening. Your memory.

CLARE: What do you expect me to do?

HANK: Johnny says you can’t take care of yourself anymore. We have to do something.
CLARE: Johnny worries too much.

HANK: I worry too.

CLARE: Where is Johnny anyway?

HANK: You said he went back home.

CLARE: Ok…that’s right. (losing her train of thought again) What does that dirt mean
anyway?

HANK: (trying to follow) What? The ashes?

CLARE: Why do you get them?

HANK: Because it’s Ash Wednesday.

CLARE: Well….what if it was “Shit Thursday”? Would you let them rub shit on your
head? (she starts to sing again….Sinatra’s “All or Nothing At All”)

And if I fell, fell under the spell of your call
Don’t you know I would be caught in the undertow?
So, you see, I just got to say “No, no”
All or nothin’ at all

HANK: (exhausted) You’ll never forget those words. Clare, I’m going to sit down, Ok?

CLARE: Another dance first?

(she leads him)

All or nothin’ at all
Half a love never appealed to me
If your heart, it never could yield to me
Then I’d rather, rather have nothin’ at all

CLARE: (matter of fact) It’s your house. Sit down wherever you like.

HANK: Clare, it’s not my house anymore. You threw me out of here more than 25 years
ago.

CLARE: Don’t be silly.

HANK: You don’t remember?

CLARE: Do you want a drink?
HANK: No.

CLARE: (sarcastic) Sweet Jesus are you sick too?

HANK: (exasperated) Clare….

CLARE: Where have you been anyway? Dinner’s cold.

HANK: I’ve been at work.

CLARE: I had to eat alone again.

HANK: (deciding to play along) I’m sorry about that.

CLARE: You never sound sorry. Do you know that?

HANK: I am though. I think that comes from saying it so many times.

CLARE: What do you know about this thing that’s wrong with me that Johnny told me about?
Anything?

HANK: Not really….no. Just that I’m going to have to keep my eye on you.

CLARE: What’s John been saying?

HANK: Nothing. Just that you need a little help is all. (pause) Do you remember
throwing me out?

CLARE: Why would I throw you out?

HANK: Christ….where should I start?

CLARE: How are things down at the paper?

HANK: I’m retired Clare.

CLARE: You? Please. What would you do without it. How’s Joe Cooke doing? I feel so
bad for his wife. That man is totally crazy.

HANK: Clare….Joe’s been dead for 10 years.

CLARE: How’s his wife. I feel so bad for his wife.

HANK: I really don’t know.

CLARE: What’s her name anyway? I can’t remember.
HANK: Neither can I.

CLARE: (frustrated….hitting herself in the head) Sometimes I feel like banging my head
off a wall….like that’ll slip things back into place. People getting on you about your
memory too?

HANK: Well….no….not really. Sometimes maybe.

CLARE: Maybe the nightmares will stop.

HANK: What nightmares?

CLARE: (tenderly) If you forget things when you’re awake, you’re not gonna dream
about them, are you? You get so sweaty sometimes it’s like sleeping next to a pool.

HANK: That was a long time ago.

CLARE: Scares me still

HANK: You mean the war?

CLARE: All these years later and it still scares me. You lying there shaking in the dark. I
never know what to do.

HANK: (quiet……even lovingly) You do alright.

(pause……she seems to lose her place, and tries to get back)

CLARE: I wish you’d stop drinking. You’re gonna end up like Joe Cooke.

HANK: Nah….I’m fine. I’ve cut back a lot….really.

CLARE: I worry about you. Look at us. We’re not spring chickens anymore.

HANK: I’m Ok. Really.

CLARE: It’s been hard….but

HANK: Don’t worry about any of that now.

CLARE: You know…..I thought the baby might….I don’t know …help. You. Us.

HANK: (not wanting to go here) Clare, it’s Ok. Johnny is ok. He’s gonna be ok.

CLARE: It’s terrible to feel this way you know. Like my own son belongs in a specimen
jar or something. (starts looking around the room) Have you seen my glasses?
HANK: No….

CLARE: It’s like I’m talking to a blur. If you can’t see, don’t lose your glasses. It’s like
trying to look up a word you can’t spell in the dictionary.

HANK: You were always losing your glasses.

CLARE: Where do I find them?

HANK: I don’t know. On your head sometimes.

CLARE: What a beautiful baby though. I didn’t need glasses to see that. I was alone
though. Why was I alone? Where were you?

HANK: I was working.

CLARE: Don’t they give you time off down there?

HANK: Well….now….yea. Maybe I’ll use it up to take better care of you.

CLARE: You mind yourself. Don’t go worrying about me. Johnny gets on me about my
memory. We’re old aren’t we? What do you remember?

HANK: (hand on his head) Christ, I try not to.

CLARE: It’s just getting old is all…..and everybody all of a sudden is fixating on the
past. What’s done is done. Never met anyone able to go back there and change anything.

HANK: No.

CLARE: Everybody sounding like one of your Priests in a confessional. I should have
never let you raise the boy Catholic.

HANK: Clare, what are you talking about?

CLARE: Can you imagine growing up like that? All that hell talk. Just a little boy. A
scared little boy having to hold everything in…

HANK: John is fine.

CLARE: (mad at him now) You throw your weight and your byline behind every any kid
that needs so much as a band-aid….yet you’re ashamed of your own son. He came home
crying again today. All black and blue. Eyes looked like slits. They threw his books in the
mud. One forced an earring into his ear. Do you know that? With a ball point pen. They
held him down and rammed the pen tip through each ear lobe. Then they pulled down his
pants…took the pen….and rammed it up his behind. The blood was
everywhere…running down his shirt, and in his underwear. He wouldn’t tell me who did
it. I begged him to tell me. He won’t.

HANK: (nervous……scared) Clare…those days are over. Gone. What’s done is
done…remember?

CLARE: Why won’t you talk to him. The boy worships you.

HANK: Clare….I talked to John earlier today….and he’s fine. He’s worried about you
now.

CLARE: Where have you been anyway?

HANK: Working I guess.

CLARE: You gotta write down your schedule. I’m never sure what days you’ll be late or
whatever….I had dinner waiting. (looking closely at him) When did you get so old
looking? I’m more handsome than you are. What’s wrong with you?

HANK: I’m old Clare…..that’s what’s wrong with me.

CLARE: No. It’s more than that.

HANK: Maybe.

CLARE : I talked to Gina Weldon today. Ran into her at the store… about her boy James.

HANK: (gently) Clare, the Weldon’s don’t live here anymore…

CLARE: She wanted to thank you she said….for squashing it.

HANK: (stunned) What?

CLARE: It was her James who did that to Johnny, with the ballpoint pen. Calling him a queer. A pervert. But how would that look? The County Commissioner’s son….right? Johnny
tried to tell you….but you wouldn’t listen. So finally….he told me. It nearly destroyed
him. And I called the police. They were going to pick up the kid….for assault. But then
the chief got a phone call. Gina was crying…..saying thanks…..saying we saved her
boy’s life. His scholarship. His future. So I guess I’m just passing the message along.

HANK: (wanting a drink now….fidgeting) Clare….do you know what that would have
meant for us? If that story got out? I did it for John…..not the Weldon kid. For John. And
for us.

CLARE: (steely-eyed…determined) Well….your stuff is outside now. It’s on the lawn. I
separated the whites and the darks first though. You were always lousy at that.
HANK: Clare….all this happened 25 years ago.

CLARE: First time I saw you….I knew. So did my father…that’s why he hated you from the start. He knew. There was something there that the men don’t know but the little girls understand. Nothing else mattered to me. Being your wife was enough. Mrs Lindsay. Without you I was nothing. But now…(she spins herself around) look at me. It’s a ticket to everything. Nobody paid me any mind. Now they’re stopping me on the street too. Kisses on the cheek from all the witches. They fear me because I have your ear. Oh the stories I could tell though! I could shatter the whole thing like Johnny throwing a baseball through that glass. You remember coming home after that happened? Us telling you the pitch just got away? Hell….that morning we got a package….from that artist you wrote about. He took a picture of you and painted a portrait. And I stood it up on the dining room table…facing outward so you might see it on your way in from the car. But Johnny saw it first…outside throwing baseballs up against the garage. And he turns and throws a strike through the window….nailed you right between the eyes. Told me it slipped but when I started laughing he did too. So we took the picture up the back and burned it up with the leaves. It was the closest me and my son ever got to talking about what happened. And I’m ashamed of that. So maybe this is my penance.

HANK: (pleadingly) Clare….all this happened 25 years ago.

CLARE: No Henry. It happened today. It all happened today. Now please leave. I don’t
want a man like you in this house anymore. Leave me in my own head.

Lights
SCENE V – Late in the evening. HANK is dead drunk and asleep sitting at his desk at
the paper. Empty bottle is next to him. JOHNNY comes in and shakes him awake.

JOHNNY: Hey…

HANK: (groggy….slowly revives) What….

JOHNNY: (matter of fact) I knew I’d find you here.

HANK: (groaning) Is this the morgue?

JOHNNY: Must not be. You’re moving.

HANK: So does a chicken after you decapitate it.

JOHNNY: So she kicked you out again eh?

HANK: I thought you went home.

JOHNNY: I’ll leave in the morning. You have to go back you know. I don’t care what
you need to do to get past it….but you need to do something. And you need to go back.

HANK: I know. (pause) Isn’t it morning now?

JOHNNY: Not yet. You’re actually going to feel worse then.

HANK: Not possible.

JOHNNY: (looking at him long and hard) Look at you. You look disgusting.

HANK: I don’t have a mirror handy so I’ll take your word for it.

JOHNNY: She told me she sensed something was wrong with you…

HANK: Like what?

JOHNNY: I don’t know. She’s pretty good at those kinds of things. You tell me.

HANK: There’s not much I can say now that can change things you know.

JOHNNY: You did it for yourself. Just admit that.

HANK: Will that make you feel better?

JOHNNY: I think it will

HANK: (filled with loathing and self-pity) Jesus….I feel a million years old. What is it
you want me to say?

JOHNNY: Do you have any idea….even now…..what you did to me?

HANK: (still trying to dismiss it) Aahh….you turned out alright.

JOHNNY: Everybody found out about it. It was like being forced to wear the Scarlet
Letter. I couldn’t get out of this fucking place fast enough. And here’s you picking up
another man of the year award….for all your good deeds. You always got the story and
then rolled in it like a pig in shit. But the one under your nose….

HANK: (cuts him off) When I was in the Solomon’s in ’43…..they taught us to always go
forward. Don’t stop. And don’t look back. God gives you one set of rules…..and war
gives you another. And just in case you’re not fucked up enough, they tell you you’re
fighting with God on your side. So we’re running across the coral with the Japanese mortars falling all around, and my buddy Jimmy McCarthy is next to me……and he gets his leg torn off by shrapnel. I mean….it was like somebody had cut it off clean with a knife. I can still hear him
screaming. Usually things were so loud you could only really make out yourself
breathing….and that’s it. The rest of it was just like the ocean waves…..relentless. It’d go
in and out….like when you dunk your head in and out of water. But his screaming….I
swore it was something you could hear back home. He called my name. For a second I
actually stopped….or at least I think I did. And then the training kicked in and I went
forward again. Left him there to die. A few days later we got pushed back the same way
we came….and he was still there. Swollen up like somebody pumped air into him. Black
from the sun. I recognized him by the class ring he wore on his finger.(pause……waits…then goes on) I went to see the priest. Told him what I’d done…..or what I hadn’t done I guess. And he says to me….”Private…..at times I be praying that God himself comes down here to fix
this mess….because this is no place for even His child.” And then he tells me to quit
wasting his fucking time. So you want to know if I did it for myself? From that moment on….I can’t think of anything I’ve done for any other reason. How’s that? So yea….it would have ruined me….something like that getting out. It casts a shadow…..back then especially. And in this world? Shit…

JOHNNY: Are you sorry for it?

HANK: I think in doing right by me…..I did right by you too. So no….I’m not sorry. It
pays to be hard sometimes. It kept me alive.

JOHNNY: (hurt……real bitter) Why go back to Mom’s then? What do you get out of
that? You can’t write about yourself in the paper anymore…..like you’re giving her a
wheelchair or something so everybody can talk about how fucking generous you are. This
one’s invisible old man. Only you, Mom’s ghosts, and whatever God it is you pray to.

HANK: Maybe it’s my penance.

JOHNNY: You better hope she lives a long fucking time if you want it to be your
penance.

(pause….tense now…..both can feel it….)

HANK: How long does your mother have?

JOHNNY: I don’t know….I really don’t

HANK: Because I don’t want to leave her again.

JOHNNY: What are you saying? You can’t leave her again.

HANK: John…..I’m dying.

JOHNNY: (stunned) What?

HANK: Cancer of the bone they say. Who knows. Few months maybe. Maybe a year.
Depends who I talk to and how much my insurance covers (laughs). You got punished for your
sins, and I get to punished for mine.

JOHNNY: (insulted) And all this time I thought they were getting rid of you because you were a
asshole.

HANK: Nope. Nothing like a death sentence to force a man into retirement.

JOHNNY: It pays to be hard sometimes……right?

HANK: As long as you get the story.

HANK: So this Paul fella…..when can I meet him?

JOHNNY: You’re welcome any time

HANK: How about you bring him to the house? My and your mother will cook a nice dinner.

(JOHNNY rubs some ashes off his Father’s head….and rubs them on himself)

JOHNNY: Sacrilege.

HANK: You gotta live with it.

JOHNNY: So do you Dad. So do you…..

(they stare at each other in a long silence)
LIGHTS

End of Playa