Spring 2012 Class Anthology: Introduction to Creative Writing

Class Anthology
CW205: Introduction to Creative Writing
John Cabot University Spring Term 2012
Instructor: Dr. Carlos Dews
1 May 2012

COPYRIGHT STATEMENT The copyright for the selections in this anthology is retained by the authors. Do not republish, reprint, or duplicate in any manner without the written permission of the author.

Fiction:

Patricia Clasen:   “A Permanant Vacation”

Sarah Rae:           “Waiting Room”

Molly Skubak:       “Untitled

Creative Nonfiction

Patricia Clasen:     “Keep the Beach Clean”

Sarah Rae:             “A Running Definition”

Drama

Charlotte Brooks   “Game Over”

Andrew Fink           “Excuse Me”

FICTION

A Permanent Vacation

by Patricia Clasen

Before her feet have enough time to talk things over with her brain, they shuffle their way towards the exit. Her slippers barely make any noise as they slide along the cold, marble floors. Her right elbow leans into the heavy door; her left hand grips the knob, and twists it to the right. Pausing for a moment to catch her breath, she feels the cold brass underneath her fingers. With one swift maneuver, her body slides through the door’s opening. She cringes at the boom the door makes as it slams behind her.

She finds herself behind the counter at an antique shop. The clanging of the door signals that a customer just walked in. “Can I help you sir?” This job constantly tests her patience; each new customer proves to be more elderly and eccentric than the last. A middle-aged man walks in, donning a torn pair of Levis and an old Hanes t-shirt. He seems different from the others. He has an envelope filled with ten-dollar bills, surely his entire life savings. His demeanor reminds her of her father. She wonders what he is searching for among all of the artifacts. She watches him warily as he strolls around the store. He finds her uneasiness attractive.

“Dolores, where are you going?”

She cannot be here anymore. That is all she knows. Her hazel eyes glance away from the elderly nurse’s worried glare. Eye contact means submission. Her feet make a quick left and hasten down the corridor. Her palms face outward to graze the surface of the textured walls. Pulse quickening, heart racing, the need to escape becomes more immediate. She hurries away, but hears the faint echoing of footsteps in the distance.

She is twelve again. The bottoms of her feet feel blistered, surely from walking shoeless along the splintery boardwalk. She hears her father’s voice in the background. Please. Per favore. Por favor. She notices the passerby averting their eyes, refusing to drop even a penny into his cracked cup. She blinks and she is eighty again.
With the turn of the corner, the moment of freedom disappears into the distant horizon of her past. Her eyes begin to blink uncontrollably, as they become tired and useless. Her left hip bangs into the corner edge of the security desk. A bitter taste creeps into the deep corners of her mouth. The breath escapes from her lungs. Her throat clenches as it starts to gasp for air. The smell of ammonia and disinfectant overwhelm. Her head hits the floor.

“Quick, grab the doctor!”

Her eyes open. She sees that she is right back where she started. She is surrounded by a sea of nurses, connected to a net of wires, lost among the sounds of monitors. A silent buzzing that only she can hear gives her a headache, and prevents her from hearing all of the doctor’s worried commands. Tears hinder her ability to read anyone’s lips or detect any changes in their body language. Confusion reigns, exhausting not only her mind, but her entire body as well. A quick flinch of her arm leads to a painful discovery. She is strapped. Unable to move, unable to speak, unable to understand, she forgets what freedom feels like.

Waiting Room

by Sarah Rae

“It’s going to be alright. I have a good feeling. God is on your side,” Mary whispered in the ear of her sister-in-law, as the two awaited the fateful news, hands still clenched. The shadows from the fluorescent lights accentuated the bags under Elizabeth’s eyes. She spent the past three hours sobbing in Mary’s arms, fighting off thoughts of a life without Jacob. She may have erupted in a full-fledged panic attack had it not been for Mary’s soothing embrace. Mary, the elder of the women, accepted her maternal role. Whether it was due to her spirituality or effortless optimism, Elizabeth was generally envious of her sister-in-law’s composure under pressure. Yet today, as Mary brushed Elizabeth’s blonde ringlet away from her running mascara, she was only grateful.

The two women rushed to Saint Francis Memorial Hospital after receiving the call. The straight-toned police officer informed the wives that the Williams brothers were hit by a newly licensed driver and had sustained severe injuries. Mary Williams’s husband, Bradley, suffered burns from the airbag and whiplash from hitting his head on the dashboard like a paddleball; yet it was Jacob’s contorted, bloodied body that caused the ambulance to weave erratically through traffic.

Bradley felt guilty earlier that morning for leaving Mary alone with their three very active children. All under the age of five, he knew the children could at times be as difficult as they were adorable, but Mary insisted he go on the fishing trip.

“You know I will be fine. And besides, your father has been looking forward to taking the boat out with his boys for ages. Really, you should go. Jacob is waiting. Go.” Mary readjusted their youngest son from her left hip to her right, as the older children ran behind her playfully pulling dandelions in the yard. Bradley could not help but smirk at his
wife’s determination; she was rarely without a relaxed smile so her attempts to be serious were almost comical.

“And besides, little Georgie here wants to try some fishies tonight!”

There it was. The smile he had fallen in love with crept across her face and he knew that was his cue to depart.
“Well then, fish we shall have!”

Bradley lunged for George’s stomach with wriggling hands, sending him in a fit of giggles. Simultaneously, the two other Williams children latched onto Bradley’s legs and he planted kisses on their foreheads. He began to walk towards his car, and turned back to meet Mary’s eyes. “I love you” he mouthed to his wife, realizing just how lucky he was. A couple miles down the road, tensions were high in the home of Jacob and Elizabeth. Jacob stared out the front window with rod in hand, impatiently awaiting the arrival of his brother.

“I thought you said you were going to mow the lawn yesterday.” Jacob heard his wife’s nagging tone and knew better than to make an excuse. “Jacob. Have you seen the neighbors’ lawns compared to ours? It’s pathetic. It
looks like a frickin’ jungle out there. And you know I can’t push that thing.” Jacob looked down at his watch, wondering how many more minutes he was going to have to bear this. “And the worst part is you make these promises to me and I believe them and then you spring a fishing trip that has apparently been planned for weeks that I was never informed of –”

“Tomorrow. I’ll get it tomorrow.”

As Bradley’s pickup pulled into the driveway, Jacob robotically leaned in to give Elizabeth a kiss goodbye. She turned her face so he could only plant one on her cheek and watched him walk a little too eagerly out the door.
The men left their wives with thoughts of halibut, not hospital beds.

The aroma of disinfectant was nauseating. Elizabeth glanced down at her watch to verify that the second hand was still ticking along.

“Jacob knows that you need him, and he is going to fight through this, Elizabeth. Your love is enough to keep him going.” Resting her head on Mary’s chest, Elizabeth inhaled the perfume from her sister-in-law’s sweater.
“I hope so, I really do,” Elizabeth exhaled a slow, silent breath – the kind that makes the lungs plead for oxygen. Her eyelids closed like the wings of a ladybug that finally reached a distant flower.

***

“Mrs. Williams, may I speak with you in private?”

Elizabeth opened her sticky lids to the blinding whiteness of the waiting room. Body numb, she abandoned Mary’s warmth to walk with the surgical resident towering above her. As they moved further away, she developed a heightened awareness of her surroundings.    The faint squeaking of hospital beds, the foul smell of industrial food from the hospital cafeteria, the tired gaze of the nurses that passed by. For being a place of healing, Elizabeth felt this was a more appropriate setting for death.

“Mrs. Williams, I am so sorry…”

His words were icicles, cascading down one by one on Elizabeth. She rehearsed this scene countless times in her head, but no amount of premonition could have prepared her for this moment.

“No.”

“I want to tell you we did everything we could…”

“No.” She began to shake and let her head sink into the shoulder of the resident. Where was the sweet smell of perfume? Why were his arms not warm like Mary’s?

“There were unforeseen complications…”

The resident could have been speaking in tongues for all Elizabeth knew. Neither the words nor the world made sense.

“He suffered a ruptured brain aneurism. The doctors did everything they could to keep him alive but the trauma to his head was too damaging.”

She did not need this stranger holding her with his oversized, cold hands. She needed Mary to soothe her with her words and rock her like a child.

“Mrs. Williams, I’m sure Bradley was a great man and I am so sorry for your loss.”

Elizabeth raised her head to make eye contact with the resident; the disconcerted expression on her face caused his poise to wane. He had given news of this nature before, but never had he seen a look such as this.
“Mary, we are all very sorry for your loss.”

Down the hallway, out of earshot, Mary watched as Elizabeth hugged herself, her concave shoulders drooping with the pain of loss. She wished her sister-in-law would turn around so she could tell her with one glance that everything was going to be all right.

Untitled

by Molly Skubak

“Lean back for me now. There you go. You may feel some slight pressure, but just try to relax.”

The paper lining the examination table crinkles as she repositions her slender body. She is careful to concentrate on the white ceiling above, but she hears the pings and the clangs of the metal utensils, she catches their gleam in the corner of her eye.

“Okay now, deep breaths. We’ll be done soon.”

She winces slightly and grips the edges of the table. She feels a future being drained from her, a future of swollen ankles, elastic waist jeans and a permanent seat in that cubicle facing the corner office. A future of minivans and dance recitals and plastic-covered electrical outlets, of sleepless nights and pea puree. She winces slightly and it’s done.

“Okay, let us just check over what we’ve got here and then you can head over to the recovery room.”
She breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth, the corners of which are dry. Her brown eyes break from the ceiling only for a second, but it’s long enough to see a flash of the deep, velvety red that was once a part of her now resting in a disposable plastic bag.

In the recovery room she sits still, absentmindedly peeling the polish from her nails. The flakes of red lacquer shower her lap like a bloody snowfall. Her eyes focus on the clock above the exit. At last it makes its final tick to signify that her recommended hour of recovery is up. Without waiting for further approval she is out the door and on her way home.

At 6:00 her headlights illuminate the pale blue exterior of the two-story home. The living room and hall lights create a warm glow that pours out from the upstairs windows, inviting her inside. Although on these summer evenings she normally bolts through the front door to avoid the bugs that gather outside of it, tonight she pauses in front of the red frame.

Beyond the door she knows she will find the tall, strong man who has shared this home with her for six years, probably preparing dinner. She knows that before she reaches the top of the steps he will ask her how the check-up went. ‘How are my two favorite girls?’ he will surely ask. He will smile, gently rub her stomach, kiss her. In return she will sigh and avoid his trusting eyes. She will tell him that something went wrong, that she lost it. She is certain his smile will fade into disbelief and disappointment, but without hesitation he will pull her into him. And she knows that he will silently curse those tiny pink shoes he bought and carefully hid beneath his dress shirts last week. He had been so sure they were going to have a girl.

CREATIVE NONFICTION


Keep the Beach Clean

by  Patricia Clasen

Close your eyes. The world becomes silent. It is winter. There are no babies crying, no teenagers gossiping, no radios blasting. The quiet is briefly interrupted by the sound of the ocean waves crashing along the shore. Breathe in. As the tides change, a salty aroma flows into my nostrils, overwhelming all of my other senses. The crisp air hurts the innermost part of my chest, but just barely. Now breathe out. A gust of wind skids along my spine. I shiver. The cold is exhilarating, rather than intimidating. Feeling daring, I kick off my boots in order to wiggle my toes in the sand. I don’t need to worry about squishing any sandcastles as I exfoliate my feet; I am not sharing this sand with anyone else. The winter air transforms this beach into the ideal of serenity, the picturesque scene of solitude.

“Discovery Raises Suspicion of a Serial Killer.” December 14, 2010. My roommate sends me the link to The New York Times article through Facebook chat. Surprised that the link did not take me to an article about Kate Middleton, my hands tremble as I scroll down, enthralled with the story. Four bodies are found on the beaches of Long Island, tucked behind bushes, buried in the same sand in which I had just dug my toes. Investigators dismiss suggestions of coincidence, leading to suspicions of a serial killer on the loose.
It is springtime. Normally, I head straight to Jones Beach the second I return home from Boston, but now I am in no hurry. Yet, the looming awareness that I will soon be five hours away from this beach again leads me to hop in the car with my dad and brother. With a heat wave hitting the Northeast just in time for Easter, I get away with wearing shorts and flip-flops. However, my brother still wears a sweatshirt and sneakers. I notice the sweat trickling down his forehead, but don’t say anything. Jumping out of my dad’s convertible, I find myself only a few steps away from the splintery boardwalk, the boardwalk where my parents walk their way to good health once a week. As soon as I clear the planks, I toss aside my sandals and spread my toes in the sand. The breeze of the ocean helps me appreciate the warmth of the midday sun. There are more people outside today – taking leisurely walks on the boardwalk, braving the frigid cold water, grabbing fries by the docks. This comforts me, although I am not exactly sure as to why. The textbook I brought along with me in my knapsack presses against my back, presses me to stop thinking about it. Frustrated, I close my eyes. Taking a deep breath, I take in the calm of the ocean. Immediately relaxed, I am assured it is almost summer.

“Bright, Careful and Sadistic: Profiling Long Island’s Mystery Serial Killer.” April 21, 2011. The New York Times posts several updates after their initial article piqued the interest of so many Long Islanders. This article proves to be particularly interesting, as the reporter types out interviews with criminologists, FBI agents, and incarcerated Long Island serial killers. All in an attempt to paint a portrait – 20 to 40 years of age, married, well educated, employed, well articulated. The New York Post claims a different identity for the murderer, reporting that he must be a resident police officer. Later on, officials will start doubting whether these murders are the act of one sole serial killer. One thing is agreed upon; whoever is responsible for stashing the bodies among the shoreline is familiar with the land. The question of identity remains as the investigators continue to search for answers.

It is summer. After tossing a towel into my oversized bag, grabbing a pair of sunglasses and throwing on a bikini, I drive down the backstreets of Bethpage. With my friends in tow, we stop by the bagel store before continuing our way in the direction of the shore, down the scenic highway. Sometimes we close our eyes and listen to the contrast of the soothing waves and the shrieks of four year olds digging moats nearby. Other times we all bring our own iPods, each equipped with a relaxation playlist. My iPod has found a permanent spot in my beach bag this summer, as I hope the melody of Jack Johnson could overpower the screams of slain victims that overwhelm my thoughts. Exhausted from the evening before, napping at the beach is most pleasurable. Nestling in the sand, cuddling with the warmth of the sun, I attempt to fall asleep. The ocean cools off any splotchy sunburn, but we blanket ourselves in SPF 30. The sounds of bottles opening and coolers being dragged through the sand force us to open our eyes. I cannot help but wonder what else has been dragged through this sand recently. I blink quickly, trying to erase the thought from my mind. I desperately look for a distraction. It is nearly impossible to find the beach completely empty. There is a different energy to the shore during summertime, a different excitement, a different serenity. Only on the occasions where my friends and I sneak onto the beach past sunset hours do we find some seclusion.

“Mourning Slain Women, Families Hold Vigil on Long Island.” June 11, 2011. The New York Times joins the families of the victims for a vigil on the south shore. Poems, posters, candles, and songs commemorate the lives of the girls who lost their lives so brutally and unexpectedly. Lifetimes are expressed through storytelling and bittersweet sentiments. Stories of these victims resonate within the hearts of many; these victims are mainly young, white females. Balloons of assorted colors fly into the sky as families let go of their grasp, as families try to let go of their bitterness and depression. A scene of serenity transforms into one of despair.

It is autumn. Labor Day is approaching, and I pack my boxes once again to make the trek up to Boston for the fall semester. Days before my Ford Focus is all packed, there is news that a hurricane is headed for the Northeast. A rare occurrence, Long Islanders are acting as if they have seen the all-telling sign of the apocalypse. With grocery stores emptied of all their staples – their milk, paper towels, egg cartons, loaves of bread gone – my mom heads to Target to buy gallons upon gallons of bottled water. The storm hits. The island blinks and it is gone. Before the weather forecasters display images of demoted Tropical Storm Irene hovering over Massachusetts, I grab my camera and meet my dad in his convertible. We make the twenty-five minute drive. The parking lots are all closed off with emergency vehicles and police tape. Another body found? No, it was just the storm. My dad tucks the car along the side of the road behind an SUV, and we climb out to estimate the damages. The verdict is indecisive. My dad jokes, “Where did the beach go?” I reply with a more serious, “yeah Dad, where did the beach go?” The sand is buried beneath pools of ocean water. The food court is boarded up. Volleyball nets are scattered at a distance in the faraway ocean. Finally the beach shows signs of what has been happening for the past few months. Terrified of finding another body floating among the flooded sands, I close my eyes. After taking a long deep breath, I reopen them. With the salty aroma, I am reminded of the beach’s strength. I feel at once both serene and secure. However, this is fleeting.

“Pursuing Identities, Police Disclose Details About L.I. Victims.” September 20, 2011. The New York Times has another update. A thirty-two month old baby is discovered further down the highway, extending the crime scene, further sullying Long Island’s panoramic seaside strip. Her mother is assumed to be one of the other bodies found along the shore. As the number reaches ten, the detectives are beginning to run out of fingers on which to count the victims. Only five out of these ten have their history, backstory, identity discovered. The Suffolk police commissioner reminds his people that real police work takes longer than the sixty-minute episodes of CSI. Long Islanders are growing impatient. So far no arrests have been made; no suspects have been questioned. The identity of the killer remains unknown.

It is winter once again. The brisk cold night limits the plans for the evening. Avoiding the cold, my friends and I resort to the comfort of a heated car, taking the familiar drive to the southern shore. Driving the open expanse of highway at night, we are mesmerized by the distant, subtle stars. We roll down the windows to breathe in the crispness of the salty air. Smells like low tide. I suddenly shiver. Chills are racing up my spine as I imagine him driving these same roads, haunting the serenity of my safe haven, whispering into his victims’ ears… “Close your eyes. Breathe in. Now breathe out.”

A Running Definition

by Sarah Rae

Running is natural.

I am built to run. In a way,we all are. It’s in our genes. Be it by the hand of the supernatural or natural selection, our blueprints for creation give us the mechanisms to endure miles of heart pumping, blood rushing, feet bounding, running. The skull allows sweat to evaporate from the scalp, forehead, and face, cooling the blood to prevent overheating. A ligament runs from the neck to the thoracic vertebrae, acting as an internal shock absorber and counterbalances the head and the arms. An enlarged buttocks and long limbs allow for stable strides across distances. Even the arrangement of the smallest bones in our feet creates a stiff arch to enhance the springing motion when pushing off. Running is one of the most primitive and pure actions. Whether it is thanks to fate or fruition, the potential for humans to run has existed for millennia.

Running is playful.

Recreational running dates back to the ancient Olympic Games of 776 BC where it was practiced as a religious celebration for Zeus.    The first time I participated in this joyous act was around 1994. Clumsy with my heavy head leading the way, my limbs flail with centrifugal force. Making determined laps through the house, I feel the cold linoleum of the kitchen beneath my toes followed by the segmented wood of the hall and finally the itchy carpet of the living room. My laughter permeates the air when I hear my father’s footsteps pretending to chase me, his wooly arms extended. Had I been born a decade later, I probably would have been dubbed hyperactive, yet on this day, my parents call me “The Road Runner.” No chair leg nor refrigerator door can halt me in my tracks. Inhaling my mother’s cooking, I begin to salivate for this familiar smell. But before I take my seat across from my older sister at the kitchen table, one more lap.

Running is necessary.

Our ancestors embraced these anatomical gifts. Long before running was a form of recreation, it was a means of survival – a question of growling stomachs or gluttonous reward. The pace-pushing bi-pedals of the past needed their lean muscles to hunt, scavenge, and escape predators. Even before the invention of bows, arrows, and spears, man’s first defense was his endurance. Across scorching plains and mountainous woodlands, humans ran for their livelihood

Personally, running has never been a necessity for survival, but growing up in my father’s household, it was important. As a Division 1 collegiate wrestler who only recently retired from coaching, he has trained me in both athletics and life.    My attitude was never the issue; I was always the proud recipient of “Most Enthusiastic” or “Best Sport” at childhood awards ceremonies. However, my coordination was on par with a rock’s. After dropped lacrosse ball, wide soccer goal, fudged field hockey trap, and missed softball catch, my father was about ready to put me in a wrestling unitard. Seemingly, the only athletic asset I had was that I could sprint around the field for entire games with a smile on my face.

Running is challenging.

Evolving from religious jests to organized competition, betting on runners became popular in 17th century England. From that point on, the sport of running has developed into a science of preparation, nutrition, and genetics. Centuries of runners before me have beaten their bodies and tested their limits, yet it is not until 2005 while attending Hatboro-Horsham High School that I become acutely aware of the agony of training.
I dread the end of fifth period, knowing as soon as the hand grazes 2:45, I have fifteen minutes to panic before the crippling waves of nausea and lactic acid buildup. I grip my pubescent figure as my mind apologizes for the undeserved punishment my body is about to endure. The relentlessness of the turns. The hot swell of my teammate’s breath growing stronger on my neck as she attempts to muscle by. The memories of past speed workouts haunt and excite. The adrenaline has already begun to bolt through my veins like Spain’s encierro – the running of the bulls. A saner self would hop on bus 49 to my suburban sanctuary, but I know my teammate’s disappointment will be more unbearable than any time trial. As the bell wails to signal most students’ departures, I come to terms with my awaited task. I trudge to the stadium, taking for granted my taunt limbs that know nothing of limitation.

Running is passion.

One must be passionate if one is going to attempt to run just over twenty-six miles consecutively. In fact, so much passion is needed that only .13% of Americans have successfully finished a marathon. Legend states the first marathon was accidentally completed by a Greek solider, Pheidippides, who ran 25 miles from the town of Marathon to Athens in 490 BC. Now the passion for distance running has become an international epidemic, with approximately 800 marathons held every year; one of these is the Suntrust Richmond Marathon, which I had the privilege to compete in during 2011.

Lightheaded, lips cracking, hip flexors about to snap like rubber bands pulled one too many times. I have never been this happy. Prior to rounding the corner, I can hear the onlookers’ melodious chanting. Their words, insignificant, but they herald me home past the 26-mile marker. Stumbling, bumbling, my whole way down; I revel in the accomplishment I am about to realize. If endorphins were a drug, I would be an addict. When I half-heartedly began training in August, I never imagined I would dedicate the excessive number of hours, sweat, and calories towards this endeavor. This is the first race where neither time nor place mattered to me. The simple pleasure of setting a goal and accomplishing it does the body good.    As I cross the finish line, I crumple under the weight of fulfillment and fatigue.

Running is a gift.

And like any gift, it can be taken away. Time passes. People grow old, weak. Days, like the lane markers on a highway, fly by. One day you could be running along the river, wind caressing your cheeks with smooth sensuality, a bullet cutting through time and space. And then the unexpected happens that makes you wish life could be simpler. A little gentler on you. It is the day when you appreciate the gifts you have been given, even if it’s too late. I had that day in 2012.

Do not move. Do not breathe. I want to shed my skin like a snake. Who was that girl bounding along the murky bank a few days prior, serene smile, sun reflecting in every blonde strand as her ponytail pirouetted in the wintry breeze? She is a foreigner to me now. Restless, I roll on my left side, sending lightning pain through my core. If only I could sleep away the shame, the hopelessness, the unrelenting fear that this is the first time, but not the last. My eyes scan the room for some sort of distraction, but all I can see in the darkness are the outlines of sad looking furniture. The desk, the chair, the chest of drawers. They mourn for me. I feel small. Fragile. Nighttime is the worst because there are no distractions to keep me from my tormenting thoughts; while my vessel remains motionless, my mind races forward, tripping over the how and the why and the irony of illness. Warm tears creep into the crevices of my face and I am too detached to wipe them off.    Alone, I suffer, yearning to be on an open road, sprinting far away from this prison bed I am bound to, nothing before me but infinite horizon.

Running is inspiring.

It is amazing the impact such a primitive action can have on people’s lives. In 2007, Anne Mahlum founded the organization Back on My Feet, which uses running as a means to build self-esteem and strength within homeless populations across the country; Back on My Feet boasts a 90% attendance rate of members to every run and has helped 50% achieve an independent lifestyle. Running has also inspired John Prenguber of Colorado, who before having both legs amputated due to a diabetic infection, completed nine marathons. If that was not a feat in itself, he continued to complete his tenth marathon on May 14, 2011, with two prosthetics. These stories are two of many that prove the willpower of a runner may be enough to conquer any hardship. Running is not my life, but it has always been a part of it. It is difficult to define the place or moment I realized this, but the lessons I have learned from running have built my character. I have felt the beauty of bounding up rocks, letting nature’s buzz surround me, my lungs collapsing atop a picturesque lookout. Likewise, I have felt the pain of knowing there will be days in my future when I will not be able to lace up my sneakers and head out the door. But the ability to run, to laugh, to dream, to forgive, to love, are the gifts I have been given so I will keep moving forward, one foot at a time.

GAME OVER

A Play by Charlotte Brooks

Characters

JENNA, in her early 20s. Emotionally unstable. Quick mood changes.

DAMIEN, in his early 20s. Nice guy, polite, clean cut.

POLICEMAN 1

POLICEMAN 2

911 Operator

Setting

In a living room. There is a couch and a chair center stage, and a table off to the side in the back of the room. There is a large purse on the table. There is a small table with a glass vase on top. Present day.

Lights up to reveal DAMIEN and JENNA sitting on the couch, each with a drink in their hand.

DAMIEN

Well, thanks for letting come over to bring your things. I wasn’t sure you’d want to see me after…You know. I mean, I’m really sorry if I hurt you but I-

JENNA (interrupts)

You don’t need to explain again. I know your reasons for breaking up with me, even if I don’t agree with them.

DAMIEN

We can still be-

JENNA

Friends, yeah, I know. You said that already. (Brightening up) Let’s drink then! To being friends.

DAMIEN

(Relieved)To being friends!

(They touch glasses and drink, JENNA keeps her eyes on DAMIEN. He finishes the glass.)

DAMIEN

I’m glad everything’s okay between us. I always try to avoid the dramatic breakups, and so far, I’ve avoided them all.

JENNA

Well, there’s a first time for everything. But anyway, thank you for bringing my things.

DAMIEN

(Stands up.) No problem. I, uh, better get going then.

JENNA

(Stands up) You can stay longer if you want.

DAMIEN

Actually, I’m feeling a little… dizzy. I’d better go home and…and…

(DAMIEN stumbles and passes out on to the floor. Lights blackout.)

(A few moments later, lights up to reveal DAMIEN center stage, tied to a chair, hands behind his back, and unconscious. JENNA sits on a couch nearby, casually reading a book. DAMIEN begins to stir, coming back from unconsciousness.)

DAMIEN

(Confused mumbling, then) What the…? What’s going on? (Struggling against the ropes)

JENNA

It’s about time, Sleeping Beauty. (Stays on couch) You’ve been out for over three hours.

DAMIEN

(Still struggling) Jenna? What the hell?! What do you think you’re doing?

JENNA

I’m reading my book, obviously. It’s just getting to the good part, right before-

DAMIEN

(Interrupts) Why am I tied up? Have you gone insane?

JENNA

(Feigned hurt) Oh, Damien, you’re making me feel bad. I’m not insane. You, on the other hand, are crazy to think you could get rid of me so easily.

(JENNA gets up and walks behind DAMIEN, putting her arms around him. DAMIEN tries to lean away but JENNA is oblivious to his efforts.)

DAMIEN

This is all because I broke up with you? Jenna, I already explained to you, things just weren’t working!

(Angry, JENNA pushes away from him and begins pacing.)

JENNA

I know what you said! (mockingly quoting him) “We’re too different, we don’t want the same things” and my personal favorite, “We’re better as friends”!

DAMIEN

Look, I’m sorry if I hurt you but I can’t help how I feel. We aren’t good for each other.

(JENNA stops and smiles.)

JENNA

That’s exactly why I brought you here.

DAMIEN

Why? To convince me even more that I made the right decision? To show me that you truly are crazy?

JENNA

If you know what’s good for you, you won’t call me that again.

DAMIEN

Did you drug me? Have you been planning this?

JENNA

(Dismissively) As soon as you said you would bring my things over, I started thinking. This would be my chance to talk some sense into you and show you why you can’t live without me. So I slipped something into your drink when you weren’t looking and waited. I’ll admit, you didn’t hit the ground a hard as I was hoping.

DAMIEN

(Under his breath)And she says she’s not crazy…

JENNA

Excuse me, what was that?

DAMIEN

Forget it.

JENNA

That’s what I thought. Now are you ready?

DAMIEN

Umm, ready for what?

JENNA

I said I brought you here for a reason, and trust me, it’s all for your own good. I’m going to show you how much you really need me.

DAMIEN

Jenna, you can’t change my mind! If anything, you’ve made me know without a doubt, from the deepest corners of my being, that I do not want to be with you! I don’t know how to make that any more clear to you!

(JENNA playfully sits on his lap, arm around his shoulders, and behaving flirtatiously.)

JENNA

You’re so attractive when you’re angry. (Tracing her hands on his face) I love the look in your eyes, like everything inside of you is about to ignite. That fire, that heat, is what drew me to you.

DAMIEN

I have no idea what you’re talking about anymore.

JENNA

Oh Damien, don’t pretend like you don’t remember when we first met.

DAMIEN

We met six weeks ago, of course I remember!

JENNA

Then you remember how you followed me around that night like a lovesick little boy? And how you asked me out five minutes into our first conversation? You had asked me to be your girlfriend by the end of the week.

DAMIEN

That was back when you were… (thinking of the right word) normal. At least you seemed that way for the few days. But then you started acting strange, calling me every hour, checking up on me! It wasn’t normal, Jenna!

JENNA

I loved you so much baby! (JENNA forcefully kisses him on the cheek)I just wanted to know what you were doing, who you were with, how long you’d be there. I don’t see the problem.

DAMIEN

And when I came home to find you moving your clothes into my closet? Don’t you think that was a little soon?

JENNA

Not at all, I mean we were already in love and-

DAMIEN

Threatening calls to my last girlfriend?

JENNA

I had to tell her-

DAMIEN

And finding out that you had been talking to my mom on the phone about wedding colors? Please, explain that one for me.

JENNA

I like to be prepared. Obviously our wedding isn’t very far away. Besides, me and your mom have become, like, best friends! Isn’t that what you want?

DAMIEN

You know what? I give up. What do I have to do for you to let me leave?

(JENNA stands up and moves in front of the chair, pulling it towards the couch. She sits down on the couch facing DAMIEN.)

JENNA

Look me straight in the eyes, and tell me you love me and will never try to leave me again.

DAMIEN

(Robotically) I love you and I’ll never try to leave you again.

(JENNA leans in and kisses DAMIEN. He shows no movement.)

JENNA

That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now we can always be together.

(JENNA turns the chair towards the audience. She begins to untie DAMIEN. She unties one knot, enough that he can finish the rest. She begins walking to the table on one side of the stage as DAMIEN finishes untying himself.)

JENNA

(As she is walking)I’m so glad you decided to make things easy for yourself.

DAMIEN

(While he is still working on the rope) Did I have a choice? I couldn’t stay here forever.

(JENNA freezes and shoots him a warning look.)

DAMIEN (CONT.)

I mean, I couldn’t stay tied up! I could stay with you forever. That’s what I meant.(Tries to smile convincingly)

(JENNA relaxes and begins looking around in her purse. She pulls out a cell phone and sets it down.)

JENNA

I love your smile, too. You have more than one of them, you know, and I’ve memorized every single one. There’s the little half-smile you give when you’re shy, like you don’t want to show too much of yourself.

(JENNA slowly moves in front of the table with her hands behind her back. DAMIEN is now untied and standing up. He slowly begins walking towards her.)

JENNA

 Then there’s the one that really made me fall for you. When you’re laughing and it reaches all the way to your eyes, and the sound of your laugh pulls everyone towards you like an irresistible magnet.

(DAMIEN is now an arm’s length away from her. He stops.)

JENNA (CONT.)

And probably the most important one of all is the one you gave me, just now, when you said you could be with me forever.

DAMIEN

(Nervously) Why is that the most important?

JENNA

It’s your lying smile.

(JENNA pulls a handgun out from behind her back and aims it him.)

DAMIEN

(Panicked) Whoa, Jenna! C’mon baby, listen to me! I’m not lying to you. I love you! You know I do!

JENNA

(Fake laugh) You know I can tell when you’re lying. And you’re going to pay for what you’ve done to me.

DAMIEN

Okay, I made a mistake! I know that now! I love you and I want to be with you so let’s forget about the breakup! I wasn’t thinking straight!

(JENNA steps towards him and pokes the gun into his chest.)

JENNA

You’ll have to be more convincing if you don’t want me to pull this trigger.

DAMIEN

You’re really going to shoot me for breaking up with you? (Unconvincingly) But I love you.

JENNA

(Lowers the gun) Of course I’m not going to shoot you. You’re going to shoot yourself. At least that’s what the cops will think.

(JENNA grabs her cell phone from the table and raises the gun at DAMIEN again. She dials and waits for an answer. A 911 OPERATOR is heard in the background.)

911 OPERATOR

911, what’s your emergency? (pause) Hello? Is everything okay?

JENNA

(Hangs up phone and sets it down. Speaks to DAMIEN) This isn’t how I planned on ending things. I was going to untie you and let you go, but I had a lot of time to think while you were out in the chair.

(JENNA begins circling around DAMIEN, gun still aimed at him, as they continue talking.)

DAMIEN

You won’t shoot me! You may be crazy, but you aren’t stupid enough to do that. You know you’ll get caught!

JENNA

The police are on their way here now. They’ll come in, find you with the gun in your hand and a hole through your head. I’ll be the poor, loving girlfriend who couldn’t talk you out of killing yourself.

DAMIEN

You know why I fell in love with you?

JENNA

(Surprised, lowers the gun) Why?

DAMIEN

Not only were you the most beautiful girl I had seen in my life, but I knew from the beginning there was so much more to you.

(JENNA relaxes, seemingly surprised at where the conversation is going. DAMIEN steps closer to her and continues talking.)

DAMIEN

And now… I feel like I’m right on the edge of discovering it.

(DAMIEN is now right in front of JENNA. JENNA has the gun loosely at her side. DAMIEN leans in as if to kiss her.)

JENNA

(Quietly) What do you think it is?

DAMIEN

(Puts his hands on her arms and almost whispers) You’re a crazy bitch.

(The following all happens very quickly. DAMIEN twists JENNA’S arm behind her back and grabs the gun. DAMIEN pushes her away and aims the gun at her.)

DAMIEN (CONT.)

(A little shaken) Did you really think that you could get away with this? What the hell were you thinking, Jenna? (He lowers gun.) You can’t treat people like this!

(JENNA flings herself at him, trying to wrestle the gun away. DAMIEN pushes her away again. JENNA falls and hits the table, causing the glass vase to fall and break.)

JENNA

(Smiles at a confused looking DAMIEN, then begins screaming) Don’t hurt me! Please, stop! Don’t!

(Two POLICEMEN burst through the door before DAMIEN can put down the gun. DAMIEN is still pointing the gun at JENNA.)

(POLICEMEN have their guns pointed at DAMIEN.)

POLICEMAN 1

Freeze! Drop your weapon and step away from the girl!

(DAMIEN drops the gun and steps back. POLICEMAN 1 keeps his gun pointed at DAMIEN. POLICEMAN 2 crosses to JENNA and helps her up.)

DAMIEN

You’ve got it all wrong, this isn’t what it looks like!

POLICEMAN 2

(To JENNA) Are you hurt? What happened?

DAMIEN

Listen to me! She was holding me hostage here, that’s her gun, and she was going to sh-

(JENNA begins wailing loudly, leaning on POLICEMAN 2, and covers DAMIEN’S words.)

JENNA

(Dramatically)He’s crazy! I tried to break up with him but he wouldn’t let me leave! He said he would shoot me unless I stayed with him! (Fake crying) I’ve been so scared, thank God you’re here!

DAMIEN

No! She’s lying! She’s-

POLICEMAN 1

Enough! You are under arrest. (Begins handcuffing DAMIEN. Continues talking as he leads DAMIEN out the door.) Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law.

(POLICEMAN 2 begins looking around the room. DAMIEN looks shocked. Just before DAMIEN exits the door, he makes eye contact with JENNA. JENNA blows him a kiss and waves. He angrily begins shouting protests as he exits with POLICEMAN 1.)

POLICEMAN 2

(Approaches JENNA) Miss, are you going to be okay?

JENNA

I’m a little shaken, but I’ll be fine. I guess you never really know who you’re dating.

(POLICEMAN 2 nods and exits through the door. Lights fade as he closes the door.)

END OF PLAY

EXCUSE ME

A Play by Andrew Fink

Characters

ELAINE, a young secretary in her twenties. Spunky and optimistic but nonetheless frustrated with her job.

GORDON LAWSON, a 68 year old business man with glasses.  Single, scrooge-like, frustrated with everything despite his financial successes.

Setting

The 96th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001.  8:36 in the morning.  Above center stage is a digital clock with the date that reads Sept. 11 2001 8:36 AM, through the course of the play it progresses towards 8:46.

Lights up on ELAINE sitting stage right at her desk typing.  There are several photos and a candy dish on her desk.

GORDON LAWSON enters stage right

ELAINE

(Looking up from her computer, addressing GORDON LAWSON) Hello Mr. Lawson!  What a beautiful morning we have today, wouldn’t you say?

GORDON LAWSON

Beautiful my ass.  All I saw were break lights and bums trying to wash my windows.  God I hate traffic (stops at ELAINE’S desk to look over a stack of memos)

ELAINE

(Smiling) Well the weather is nice I mean.  Not a cloud in the sky.

GORDON LAWSON

(Still looking over documents, appearing not to have heard ELAINE)  Oh and those damned street vendors trying to hawk their shit right outside the door.  They think just because it’s the (stressing the word “World” in a disdainful way) World Trade Center anyone can post up and sell their counterfeit crap.

ELAINE

Yes they can be rather pushy, but I suppose they’re just trying to support their families.

GORDON LAWSON

(Head still down flipping through paper, now walking towards his office stage left) Support their families!? Ha! More like their drug habits. (Muttering to himself) Worthless parasites (He enters his office, closes the door, and sits at his desk, ELAINE’S phone begins to ring)

ELAINE

(Picking up the phone) Hello, Lawson Controls Incorporated, this is Elaine speaking, how may I help you? (Beat) Oh Benny! How are you? (Beat) Great!

(ELAINE pauses shortly)

ELAINE (CONT.)

Oooh the good doctor needs help from his baby sister!  I just love being useful, but remember nothing in this world is free.

(ELAINE pauses as she listens.)

ELAINE (CONT.)

Yea (Beat) Uh huh (Beat) Oh no! (Beat) Ahhh, what terrible timing! (Beat) I’ll see what I can do.  But… you know how my boss can be. I’ll make it work though, don’t worry.  I’ll call you when I’m out the door. (Beat) Yup, bye bye Benny!

(ELAINE puts down the phone, takes a deep breath, fixes her hair and walks towards GORDON LAWSON’S office, stage left.  She raises her hand to knock, then lowers her hand and paces back towards her desk, takes another deep breath, smoothes her blouse and walks confidently towards the door then knocks.  Lights up on GORDON LAWSON now)

GORDON LAWSON

Yea what is it?

ELAINE

(Awkwardly standing at the door) Uhh, well, Mr. Lawson (interrupted)

GORDON LAWSON

(Interrupting in an exasperated tone) Well come in for God’s sake

(ELAINE opens the door and walks in with her hands behind her back)

GORDON LAWSON (CONT.)

Ok, what is it? And make it quick, I’m trying to get through these damn emails before Hong Kong calls.

ELAINE

Ummm, my brother just called, and you see his son is flying in from Wisconsin and he needs me to go pick him up at JFK, so I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind if I ducked out of the office for an hour or so.

GORDON LAWSON

(Running his hands through his graying hair) Look, Elaine this isn’t a Friday and it sure as hell isn’t a Saturday.  Now if you come to me with something like this on a Tuesday morning, what the hell am I supposed to say?

ELAINE

Yes, well, its just that he is only…

GORDON LAWSON

(Interrupts after “just”) In September no less!  You know this is our biggest month.  I pay you to sit at your desk, not play taxi.  No.  Now get back to work.

ELAINE

(Speaking rapidly) Mr. Lawson, I know this is inconvenient, but my brother just got called into the hospital and his son is only seven years old and… (Interrupted by GORDON LAWSON)

GORDON LAWSON

(Interrupting) Then why the hell is this kid flying alone?

ELAINE

He lives with his mother in Wisconsin.  My brother is divorced.  His son is coming to visit for the week.  His birthday is tomorrow.

GORDON LAWSON

Ok so now I’m supposed to take pity on little Johnny because his parents were stupid enough to get married and believe they could live happily ever after?

ELAINE

Mr. Lawson there’s no one else who…

GORDON LAWSON

(Interrupts after “Lawson”) (Sarcastically) Ha! I don’t think so!

ELAINE

Mr. Lawson there is no one else that can pick him up.  I can’t leave him there at the airport.  He’s only seven!

GORDON LAWSON

The kid’s got to grow up eventually.  Waiting a couple hours with airport security won’t kill him

(GORDON LAWSON goes back to typing on his computer assuming that the conversation is over.  Elaine remains standing in front of his desk.  Defiantly, hands on her hips.)

GORDON LAWSON (CONT.)

(Still looking and typing on his computer) Do you like your job Elaine?

ELAINE

Have I asked for a break like this before?

GORDON LAWSON

(clearly frustrated, turns his attention back to Elaine) Apparently you didn’t hear me. (Removes his glasses)  I said, do you want to continue working here?

ELAINE

I want you to show a little compassion.

GORDON LAWSON

Compassion?  Compassion?  Do you think compassion is what got me this office, with this view?  Do you think compassion will improve our third quarter earnings?  Do you think compassion will bring me any closer to my retirement in the Hamptons?

ELAINE

I don’t know if compassion will help any of those things but it will make you feel more like a human being.

GORDON LAWSON

(Interrupting after “compassion” and ignoring all of what ELAINE says) There’s one thing I’ve learned after working in New York for thirty years, is that in this town there is no room for (with disdain) compassion.

ELAINE

Are you happy Mr. Lawson?

GORDON LAWSON

(Surprised) What?

ELAINE

Do you want to be happy?

GORDON LAWSON

(Annoyed and slightly nervous or unsettled) I don’t know what you are getting at here.

ELAINE

Do you want to feel that people care for you?  That someone loves you, that someone is grateful for your existence?

GORDON LAWSON

(Angry) Elaine you are way out of line right now.

ELAINE

(Interrupting after “Elaine”)  That someone looks over and sees the bags under your eyes and hears that wheezing cough and worries.  And worries that you go home to an empty house and an empty fridge and order delivery every night and every night you look out your window to see the city’s lights and wonder if anyone sees yours, and wonder if anyone will notice if you die of a heart attack alone in your apartment as the muffled sound of your neighbor’s dinner party seeps through your off-white walls.

(GORDON LAWSON stares back at ELAINE, momentarily speechless, but showing no emotion.  ELAINE’S desk phone begins to ring)

GORDON LAWSON

Are you going to get that?

ELAINE

I have to pick up my nephew at the airport.

GORDON LAWSON

I don’t have time for this Elaine. Pick up the goddamn phone.

ELAINE

I have to pick up my nephew at the airport

GORDON LAWSON

(Phone continues ringing GORDON LAWSON getting angry) If you go you may as well take your things with you.

ELAINE

Believe me I want to!  I’ve wanted to walk out of this God forsaken office for years!(Phone stops ringing)

GORDON LAWSON

(Losing his cool)Then for Christ sake go!  Take the picture of you and Benny at his med school graduation! And take the little clay snowman that Danny gave you last time he came to visit your brother! Take the picture of you and your parents with all those perfect white teeth smiling like jackals at me! Take the picture of you and your fiancé, what is his name? Jeff!

ELAINE

Do you think I enjoy this job?  I think about leaving every day I’m here.

Gordon

Everyone has to accept compromises in life.

ELAINE

(Whimsically, almost musical, with dramatic flair) I could be working at the Rockefeller Center.

GORDON LAWSON

Then go!

ELAINE

(Wrapped up in her own musings) I could work at the U.N.

GORDON LAWSON

Then go!

ELAINE

I could be a tour guide.

GORDON LAWSON

Then go!

ELAINE

I could open my own restaurant.

GORDON LAWSON

Then go!

ELAINE

I could audition for a part on Broadway

GORSON LAWSON

Then go!

ELAINE

I could move to Australia and raise kangaroos and wrestle alligators.

GORDON LAWSON

Then go!

ELAINE

(Back to reality, more somber, now addressing GORDON LAWSON directly) I can’t

GORDON LAWSON

(Now GORDON LAWSON takes off on a dramatic flair with bitterness) Aw yes, that’s right, you need my paycheck.  The almighty paycheck.  How does it feel to make sacrifices for your career?  How does it feel to make the difficult decision, to skip your sister’s marriage in order to gain that promotion, to stay in every Friday night pouring over spread sheets and binders and graphs, and look at your father and reply “No” when he asks if you can take a few days off to go fishing in Canada (Wistfully) as the leaves change from green to a riot of reds and yellows and oranges then brown and brittle and begin (Depressed) falling to the frozen ground as the first frost preludes a long winter?

ELAINE

(Moved by GORDON LAWSON’S words, speaks in a tender/loving way…not in a romantic love sort of way but more like a granddaughter-grandfather sort of feel) I can’t walk out on this job.  Gordon you need me.

Gordon LAWSON

(Shocked with a slightly panicked look on his face…in denial)  Ha! I.  Need you?  What kind of drugs did you smoke this morning?

ELAINE

(Resolutely) You know it’s true.

GORDON LAWSON

(Starts to sounds a little more panicky) Do have any idea how many eager young women would jump at the chance at working in this office, on this floor, in this building?  Hell I could have someone here to take your place in twenty minutes.

ELAINE

(Calmly, serene, confident) I bet they wouldn’t last a week.

GORDON LAWSON

(Panic…as if on the verge of witnessing a secret being revealed) You are delusional.

ELAINE

You need me Gordon.  So does my nephew.  I’m going to go now, but I’ll be back as soon as I can

(ELAINE turns to leave and takes one step towards the door)

GORDON LAWSON

(Talking to ELAINE)I do not need you.  I don’t need anyone. (getting frantic talking to himself now) I am not weak. I am a self made man.  I am successful, I am wealthy, I am whole, I am fulfilled.

(ELAINE looks back at GORDON LAWSON with a look of pity and compassion on her face)

ELAINE

(Not in a romantic/sexual sort of way) I love you Gordon.

GORDON LAWSON

(Bewildered) Excuse me?

ELAINE

I love you Gordon.  You’re a terrible boss but you aren’t a terrible person. I can see that you are suffering, and I can’t stand it, and I want you to know that someone cares.

(ELAINE walks around his desk and sits down in the chair next to his chair, placing her hands on his arm (which rests on the arm rest) tenderly.  GORDON LAWSON has a look of disbelief on his face and stares back)

ELAINE (CONT.)

You’re lonely.  You don’t need to be.  Allow yourself to feel for others and you will find that others feel for you.

GORDON LAWSON

(Stuttering)  I, uh, you, I mean, uh…

ELAINE

I am going to go Gordon ok? It’s 8:45 now but I’ll be back as soon as possible. Certainly before noon.  I’ll forward my calls to your desk.  The only thing you have scheduled is Hong Kong in a half hour.  I’ll be back.

(ELAINE stands, bends and kisses GORDON LAWSON on the forehead then walks to the door and opens it.  GORDON LAWSON sits in disbelief with a look of awe/relief/serenity on his face)

GORDON LAWSON

(Just before ELAINE gets through the door)  Elaine.

(ELAINE stops in the threshold and turns)

GORDON LAWSON (CONT.)

Thank you Elaine.

ELAINE

(Smiling) You’re welcome Gordon.  Goodbye

GORDON LAWSON

Goodbye

(GORDON LAWSON and ELAINE freeze. Lights fade to black with the exception of the digital clock reading 8:45.  It descends from the high above center stage down halfway to the floor.  It stops. The roar of a plane is heard, it crescendos until the clock clicks over to 8:46, then fades out to black.  Curtains descend)

END of PLAY


Advertisements