East of the Reptile House

Susan Lewis

ACT I

 

The lights come up slowly revealing a park bench in the middle of a metropolitan zoo. It is summer and the area abounds with green grass and trees. A tall sign to the right of the bench, in the shape of an orangutan, declares, PRIMATES THIS WAY. A similar sign situated on the opposite side of the stage reads, PACHYDERMS THAT WAY. This one, of course, is shaped like an elephant. Each sign, stated in white block letters, bears an arrow pointing the appropriate direction. Zoo noises come from all sides; animal cries mix with shouts of delighted children.

In a moment a fashionably dressed woman walks towards the bench. Her cotton skirt, blouse and jacket are loose and a bit flowing; with 14 carat gold jewelry she embodies perfection. She glances anxiously at her wristwatch, frowns, and then moves efficiently toward the bench. Sitting down, she pulls a copy of the Wall Street Journal from her handbag and begins to read.

Shortly after, a man appears at the side of the stage opposite where the woman entered. Dressed in sadly worn blue jeans, sky blue “New York j ets” sweatshirt, and scuffed, yellow Adidas, he ambles unconcernedly about, glancing at the various attractions and distractions the zoo offers. Finding himself at the bench, he proceeds to unload his wares, which include a half dozen suede purses adorned with beads, an assortment of ” Save the Crane” vacuumfnormed figures, and picture postcard albums. The woman glances at him as if annoyed, but immediately returns to her paper. The man sits down dramatically and stretches himself as far as his frame will allow. He clasps his hands behind his slightly graying hair, while glancing surreptitiously at the woman next to him. He catches her eye, then smiles. She looks down at her paper. He changes his position; she changes hers. Again he catches her eye and smiles. Again she looks at her paper. He stares at her; she looks up.

ED: Hello.

GWEN: Good day. (She shakes her paper and remains disinterested.)

ED: Do you come here often?

GWEN (She looks at him pointedly.): No.

ED: I do…particularly in the summer time. (He waits for a response.)

GWEN: Oh? (from behind her paper)

ED (encouraged): Yes, I’d   come in the winter too, but they usually put the animals in then. I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t seem like a zoo without animals.

GWEN: I can well imagine. (She again goes back to her paper. )

ED: Do you live around here?

GWEN (from behind the paper): No.

ED (trying to catch a glimpse of her buried face): Really? You look sort of familiar to me. You sure you aren’t from around here?

GWEN (succinctly): Quite sure.

(There is a short silence during which ED looks down at his sweat shirt. He adjusts it a bit, then looks at her. She is involved in her paper. He looks down at his shoes, notices something and then reaches down to brush the offending particle off. He looks around, up at the sky and then finally returns to her.)

ED: It’s sure a nice day.

GWEN (still looking at her paper): Yes, it’s fine.

ED: Not too warm.

GWEN (still behind her paper): No.

ED: Not too cold.

GWEN (still not surfacing):  No.

ED: It’s just right.

GWEN (putting down her paper): Weather or porridge?

ED: I was saying that it’s a nice da y.

GWEN (going back to her paper): Yes it is.

ED: Hey, I’m not bothering you, am I? Because if I am, I can always go and wait at another bench.

GWEN: That’s all right. I shouldn’t be here too much longer.

(She looks at her watch. )

ED: Oh, are you waiting for somebody? (He slides toward her a bit.)

GWEN (noting the move): Yes I am.

ED: Isn’t that something? I’m waiting for somebody too. Or somebodies I should say. We were separated at the porpoise show. I think it was intentional. There’s been something in the air ever since we got here. I was just waiting for them to shake me.

GWEN: I beg your pardon?

ED: What? Oh, I’m talking about the girls. The girls I brought here.

GWEN: You brought more than one?

ED: As a matter of fact, I brought several.

GWEN: So you deal in quantities? (She slowly slides away from him.)

ED: No…wait. Let me explain. My daughter had her birthday yesterday and she had one of those slumber parties with her friends. Though why they call it a slumber party, I ‘ll never know. I now know all of Shaun Cassidy’s vital statistics and the make out rating of every pubescent male at South High. I’m   not sure if any of it will ever come in handy, but it’s there for the asking. Where was I?  Oh,  yeah. And this is the post—slumber activity, bringing the girls to the zoo. Although your initial suggestion has some merit, I might add.

GWEN (intensely): What’s your daughter’s name?

ED: Shelley.

GWEN (realizing): Mr. Kellogg?

ED: Yes… how did you know? Wait! Don’t tell me. You’re into mind reading.

GWEN: No, I’m not.

ED: Astrology?

GWEN: No, I…

ED: T.M.?

GWEN: T what?

ED: Zen Buddhism, then. (She is at a loss for words.) I knew it! I can always tell when someone is into karma.

GWEN: No, no—Mr. Kellogg!

ED: Yes?

GWEN: I’m Colleen Hershey’s mother, Gwen Hershey.

ED: Ahhh— (He reaches back into the pile of purses.) Black disco suede with bugle beads. I remember it well. (He hands it to GWEN.)

GWEN (She accepts the bag with wonder.):  You’re right. That’s amazing.

ED: Not really, I’m into mind expansion.

GWEN: Oh.

ED: Well then, Mrs. Hershey—like the chocolate, huh?

(GWEN nods.) I’m Ed Kellogg—like in the cereal. I’m Shelley Kellogg’s father… but I think I mentioned that before.

GWEN: Yes, Mr. Kellogg, you did.

ED: Hey, you can call me Ed, even though it’s not my real name.

GWEN: It’s not?

ED: No, my real name is Bancroft. But who wants to be called Bancroft? It’s Old English. It means “from the bean field.” My mother was into organics when I was born, but I figure there are only so many sacrifices a child should have to make. You feel free to call me Ed.

GWEN (logically): Like the horse.

ED: What?

GWEN: Never mind.

ED: Were you supposed to meet Posey here?

GWEN: Was I supposed to meet who?

ED: Posey. You know, Colleen.

GWEN: Oh. Oh, yes.

ED: You know, that ‘s some little girl you’ve got there.

GWEN: Why thank you, I think she’s quite ED: She sure can snap the pigskin.

GWEN (mystified): She can?

ED: Yep. That child is good. I’m into the game myself, I’ll have you know.

GWEN: Oh, really?

ED: Sure. Some other guys in my building and I get together every Monday night and have our own game. We call ourselves the “Molar Marauders. ”

GWEN: The ”Molar Marauders”?

ED: Yeah. Catchy, isn’t it?

GWEN: Yes…Tell me, Mr. Kellogg—

ED: Ed.

GWEN (nodding): Ed (eyeing him carefully), what is this building you mentioned?

ED: The dental health clinic on Kendall.

GWEN: Oh! A dental clinic.

ED: Yeah. Got a nice little office there.

GWEN: You have an office?

ED: Sure. I’ve got to keep my equipment somewhere.

GWEN (not comprehending): Your equipment.

ED: Yeah. I’m a dentist. Molar Marauders. Get it?

GWEN: Yes, I do.

ED: Good, I thought it got past you. Tell me, what is it that you do?

GWEN: I’m an investment counselor.

ED: A what?

GWEN: An investment counselor.

ED: Really?

GWEN: I’m serious.

ED: So you counsel investments.

GWEN: In a way, yes.

ED: What for?

GWEN (impatiently): I’m an investment counselor; I help people find the best financial opportunities for their surplus income.

ED: Well that sounds interesting enough. What does your husband do?

GWEN: My husband and I are divorced.

ED: He hasn’t stopped working, has he?

GWEN: My ex—husband is a lawyer.

ED: Hey, that’s pretty good.

GWEN (piqued): I’m very glad that my former husband’s occupation meets with your approval.

ED: Well, to tell you the truth, I’ve never met a lawyer I could like.

GWEN: I’m going to hate myself for asking this, but why not?

ED: I don’t know.

GWEN (matter of factly): You’re kidding.

ED: Hey, Gwen… I can call you Gwen, can’t I? (She nods.) Gwen, if I’m asking questions that are too personal, let me know. I can change the subject. I’m a very good conversationalist.

GWEN (a bit mollified): Well, I’m sure you are, Mr. Kellogg, but I—

ED: Ed.

GWEN: Ed. But I’m getting a little worried about Colleen. She was supposed to meet me here ten minutes ago. (She stands up and walks away from the bench.)

ED: Oh, she’ll show up sooner or later. They always do.

GWEN: But I need to drop her off at her ballet class before I have to meet my client.

ED: You know, she hates those ballet lessons.

GWEN: I beg your pardon?

ED: Don’t look at me; everybody knows it.

GWEN: Mr. Kellogg.

ED: (He opens his mouth before being cut off)

GWEN: Ed. I’m sure that Colleen isn’t overly enthusiastic about her ballet, but it’s right and good for a young girl of her age to be involved in some graceful art form. It’s not only healthy for her body, it’s rewarding to her mind as well. (She stands before him proudly after this speech.)

ED: Where did you read that?

GWEN: I did not read it; I’ve had ballet myself.

ED (looking her over): Well, it can’t hurt her any.

GWEN (a little nervously): Do you have any idea where the girls might be?

ED: It was a definite shake, Mrs. Hershey. They’re probably smoking in the ladies’ room.

GWEN (appalled): And you let them go?

ED: I didn’t let them go. They ditched me.

GWEN: Why didn’t you stop them?

ED: I’m a father, Gwen, not—

GWEN: Of all the… (She sits fuming.)

ED (off on another tangent): Do you go out much?

GWEN: What?

ED: Do you go out much? You know, dates, men, primeval urges—that sort of thing?

GWEN: Of course I do.

ED: Oh, good.

GWEN: What’s “good”?

ED: I bet you went to college.

GWEN: I went to Radcliffe.

ED: I knew it.

GWEN: What’s wrong with Radcliffe?

ED: Nothing.

GWEN: You make it sound painful.

ED: Was it?

GWEN: No, of course not.

ED: Then you have nothing to worry about.

GWEN: Just what are you getting at?

ED: I’m not trying to get at anything.

GWEN: Then what was all that about Radcliffe?

ED: Were you a cheerleader?

GWEN: No!

ED: Damn—it would have been perfect.

GWEN: What?

ED: You were almost perfect there, Gwen.

GWEN: Perfect? For what?

ED: That’s all right, Gwen. You’re not, so don’t worry.

GWEN: I’m not? So what’s wrong with being perfect?

ED: Nothing, if you like that sort of thing.

GWEN: And you don’t.

ED: Not in the women I date.

GWEN: The type of woman you dace wears a Schlitz T—shirt with her Calvios, calls herself ”Muffy” and has never heard of Radcliffe.

ED: So, do you want to go out?

GWEN: For your information, Mr. Kellogg,… (He opens his mouth.) Mr. Kellogg (emphatically), I’m here to pick up my daughter. Now, whether I am perfect, my ex—husband works, or whether my daughter likes her ballet lessons, it’s no concern of yours. You know, I believe in being civil to even the lowest form of human life—my mother raised   me that way—but this is getting to be too much.

ED: Was I too personal just now?

GWEN: Shut up.

ED: Hey, I’m sorry. I’II watch myself; really I will.

GWEN: Yes, Mr. Kellogg. You should be watched very closely.

ED: I said I was sorry.

GWEN: Mr. Kellogg—

ED: Ed?

GWEN: Where are the girls?

ED: Are you in a hurry?

GWEN: I am now desperate.

ED: They’ll be here in a few minutes, I’m sure.

GWEN: Then tell Colleen I’ll be waiting for her in the car—it’s parked just east of the Reptile House.

ED: No, it’s not.

GWEN: Yes, it is.

ED: No, it’s not.

GWEN: Okay, how do you know where my car is parked?

ED: I don’t. But this is just east of the Reptile House.

GWEN: No, it’s… wait. North, south, east… okay, tell Colleen I’m in the car—wherever it is. Let her search for me.

ED: Don’t go, Gwen— please. Stay here—sit down. You don’t want to be cooped up in a stuffy old sedan.

GWEN: I drive a convertible.

ED: Gosh—maybe I’ll go with you.

GWEN: The heck you will.

ED: It’s a free country, Gwen.

(GWEN doesn’t answer, but picks up her things and moves as far from him as possible. After a few moments of being pointedly ignored, ED tries again.)

So how do you feel about the Middle East?

GWEN: It depends on which side of the Reptile House it’s on.

ED: Boy, you sure hold a grudge.

GWEN: Mr. Kellogg, as an American citizen, I have a right to stand here unmolested.

ED: And I have the freedom of speech. I can’t help it, Gwen. I find you intriguing.

GWEN: Oh, help me.

ED: You know, you remind me of my wife.

GWEN: Well, she must be a saint.

ED: She could be—she’s dead.

GWEN: She… I’m sorry to hear that.

ED: That’s okay. She was a great girl—a little temperamental like you.

GWEN: How long has it been?

ED: Five years.

GWEN: I’m really very sorry.

ED: She had a weak heart, something that modern medicine can’t always fix.

GWEN: No warning?

ED: Not much. Just one morning, she didn’t wake up.

GWEN: Oh.

ED: That wasn’t an easy time for Shelley. She was inconsolable.

GWE N: I can understand that.

ED: She’s very high strung. And lately she’s gotten very emotional; it’s hard to keep her happy.

GWEN: Well, she’s at that age, too. Colleen can be a real pill sometimes, I tell you. But, girls tend to get a bit more sensitive at this time in their live s.

ED: Really?

GWEN: I’ve gone through it myself.

ED: No kidding?

GWEN: Sure.

ED: Boy, it’s hard to picture you as a girl. For some reason I can’t see you as a giggly, gawky, skinny little teenager.

GWEN: That’s because I was sullen, lazy, and fat.

ED: Really? You know, that might be the cause of all your problems.

GWEN: I don’t have any problems.

ED: Now stay calm, Gwen.

GWEN: I am calm.

ED: All right, whatever you say. It’s fine with me.

GWEN: Don’t patronize me—you’re not my analyst.

ED: And I bet your analyst is a quack.

G WEN: And I don’t have any problems. I’m fine. Do you understand me?

ED: Sure, sure. But let me run and get you something. How about a frozen banana? It’ll calm your nerves.

GWEN: Forget the frozen banana. I don’t want a frozen banana.

ED: It ‘s no trouble, Gwen. Really, I don’t mind.

GWEN: Then go get me one.

ED: Oh, you really want one?

GWEN: Of course.

ED: Are you sure?

GWEN: Sure.

ED: Well, then—can you loan me a quarter? I don’t have any change.

GWEN: Heaven help me. Forget it. Sit down.

ED: I could cry and get some change.

GWEN: I said forget it.

ED: I heard you.

GWEN: You are so strange.

ED: I know.

GWEN: And it doesn’t bother you?

ED: Of course not.

GWEN: Well, I’m glad we finally got chat out in the open.

ED: I’m also nice. In this city anybody who is nice also happens to be strange.

GWEN: That’s true.

ED: So, are we friends now?

GWEN: I’m afraid I wouldn’t cake it that far.

ED: No, I guess not.

GWEN: How much longer do you think it will be before the girls get here?

ED: Gwen, if you’ re really that worried about it, I could cake Colleen co her ballet lesson if you’d like.

GWEN: You could?

ED: Yes. (He pauses.) What’s wrong?

GWEN: Nothing. I was waiting for the punch line.

ED: Gwen, really. I was going to take the girls to a ball game after we finished up here. I can drop Colleen off wherever it’s necessary.

GWEN: That would be very kind of you….

ED: I know. Do you mind if I ask you a question?

GWEN: Well, no. Go ahead.

ED: Why are you working on such a beautiful Saturday afternoon?

GWEN: I always work on Saturdays.

ED: The investment counseling business doesn’t pay very much, huh?

GWEN: On the contrary, it pays very well.

ED: Then why the six day week?

GWEN: Raising a daughter takes a lot of money.

ED: Oh, I don’t know. Beyond the usual feminine paraphernalia and the orthodontist, it doesn’t take too much.

GWEN: Mr. Kellogg, I have to pay for ballet, music lessons, riding stable fees—the money has to come from somewhere.

ED: No alimony, huh?—if you don’t mind my asking.

GWEN: No—no alimony.

ED: That’s a shame; but it’s still too bad that you can’t afford to spend more time with your daughter.

GWEN: Are you insinuating that I don’t pay enough attention to my own child?

ED: A Kellogg never insinuates.

GWEN: Good for you.

ED: Might as well face it, Gwen: you’re a lousy parent.

GWEN: I’m a?… Look who’s talking. Because of you my daughter is probably contracting a textbook case of lung cancer, or lying in a ditch somewhere.

ED: Don’t be melodramatic. There’s a way to approach this problem logically.

GWEN: Yes, I should turn you in right now.

ED: We need to treat this whole thing in an adult manner.

GWEN: That’s impossible when there’s only one adult here.

ED:   This isn’t like you, Gwen.

GWEN: How do you know what’s like me? You can’t. You’re a lunatic. And why I’ve been wasting my valuable time talking to a lunatic, I’ll never know.

ED: Now I can see why Colleen is high strung.

GWEN: I am not high strung.

ED:Sit down, Gwen. People are beginning to stare. Gwen, I want you to take a test.

GWEN: I’m leaving.

ED: Question number one—

GWEN: Leave me alone.

ED: What about the test?

GWEN: Forget the test.

ED: Well, if that’s the way you feel about your daughter.

GWEN: I love my daughter.

ED: Then you have to take the test. Now, question number two.

GWEN: Hey — I never got to hear question number one!

ED: You forfeited the first one.

GWEN: That’s not fair.

ED: On this test, anything is fair. Question number two: who did Colleen make out with at the Sophomore Sock Hop last Friday?

GWEN: Colleen was making out with a boy?

ED: Well, no— but everyone else did and she felt like a real creep about it. Question number three: wh y is Colleen called Posey by friend and foe alike?

GWEN: Are you going to tell me what this is all for?

ED: Question number four….

GWEN: Listen, I’ve had enough.

ED: Question number four. Will you go out with me Friday night?

GWEN: Are you out of your mind?

ED: Congratulations. You have yet to answer a question.

GWEN: And you have just made a fool of yourself.

ED: Life isn’t easy, is it, Gwen?

GWEN: Does she really hate her ballet lessons?

ED: I mean, it’s like, the pits.

GWEN: What about violin?

ED: Pure torture.

GWEN: Horseback riding?

ED: Well—the stable boy’s a hunk.

GWEN: Really?

ED: Would I lie to you? (Gwen doesn’t reply.) So, what do you think?

GWEN: I think I’m tired.

ED: Then, forget your client and come to the game.

GWEN: What game?

ED: The baseball game. The Mets. Chicago’s in town.

GWEN: I don’t think so….

ED: We’ll get you a nifty sweatshirt like mine.

GWEN: It’s the wrong color.

ED: That’s why it’s so nifty; it’s the only one of its k.in cl.

GWEN: And you must be the only one of your kind.

ED: Yeah, but I sort of grow on people.

GWEN: Then don’t come near me.

ED: Posey loves you.

GWEN: Yeah.

ED: And she’s growing up fast.

GWEN: Yes, but my client…

ED: I bet his mother took him to ball games.

GWEN: You think so, huh?

ED: Of course.

GWEN: You know, this is going to cost a small fortune in fees and she probably won’t even notice that I’m there.

ED: Give the kid a chance, Gwen. It ‘ll make her day.

GWEN (sarcastically): Oh, gee.. ED:I’ll buy you a Schlitz T-shirt.

GWEN: Forget it.

ED: I’ll start camping out in your convertible.

GWEN: You’d better not.

ED: Then come.

GWEN: Oh, all right. But you have to promise me you’ll behave sensibly the whole time.

ED: Scout’s honor.

GWEN: You were never a scout. ED: Don’t you trust me, Gwen? GWEN: What do you think?

ED: Okay, I promise—as a Kellogg—and a Kellogg always keeps a promise.

GWEN (staring at him steadily):  Well, okay. Should we go find the girls? (looks at watch) First, I’d better go call my client.

ED: Oh, they’ll show up—it’s almost lunch time and I have all their money. (He holds up the collection of purses.) Say, how about a frozen banana?

GWEN: No thanks.

ED: Then what about dinner and dancing—say Friday?

GWEN: Mr. Kellogg! You promised, you promised!

ED: Please, Gwen. Call me Ed.

GWEN: Ed! (The lights come down on Act I.)

 

ACT II

 

The setting is the same as in Act I. Ed enters from stage left carrying a large paper bag and a bottle wrapped in brown paper. He wears the same Adidas as before, but has changed into a pair of grey sweat pants and a white doctor’s smock. He walks carefully to the bench and sits down, then begins rummaging through the bag.

GWEN enters stage right, breathless with her hair a bit tousled, but again she is impeccably dressed. She approaches the bench.

ED: Ah, Gwen. So you are here.

GWEN: I am here.

ED: Have you eaten yet?

GWEN: No, I’ve been in meetings all morn ing.

ED: Good. I just started whipping up something. Would you care to join me?

GWEN (She dusts off the bench before sitting down. ): It depends on what it is.

ED: Why, are you watching your figure? GWEN: No, I’m just careful. That ‘s all. ED: Is salmon safe enough?

GWEN: On ‘Ritz’ crackers?

ED: You can’t beat it for convenience (pulling out two packages of frozen vegetables). Do you like broccoli, or cauliflower?

GWEN: No, I don’t think—

ED: Quit playing dainty, Gwen. We don’t have all day.

GWEN: Cauliflower.

ED: Good, I think the broccoli has freezer burn. But, I have some Blue Nun.

GWEN: How continental.

ED: What?

GWEN: Don’t go to all this trouble on my account.

ED: Oh, no trouble at all. It ‘s always nice to cook out. ( He pulls out two paper plates, napkins, styrofoam cups, a handful of silverware and proceeds to set the bench for lunch. ) It sometimes gets a little lonely here at lunch time. Hope you don’t mind styrofoam; Shelle y’s using our cups to sprout alfalfa.

GWEN: Alfalfa?

ED: Yeah. It’s great in salads. (He finishes putting everything in place. ) How much do you usually eat?

GWEN: What? Alfalfa?

ED: No, salmon. I wonder if I should open another can.

GWEN: I think one will be plenty.

ED: Are you sure? I’m really hungry.

GWEN: Then, by all means, open another can.

ED: Are you all right?

GWEN: I’m fi ne.

ED: Is something wrong?

GWEN: Nothing’s wrong. I just can’t see the value of discussing salmon in depth.

ED: Would you rather have tuna?

GWEN: I don’t care what you make.

ED: Well, I’m just trying to make you feel at home. Did you have a good day at the office?

GWEN: No.

ED: Aha! That’s why you’re so cranky.

GWEN: I’m not cranky.

ED: Grouchy then.

GWEN: I’m never grouchy.

ED: Can we open that to a vote?

GWEN: Why do you always do this to me?

ED: Do what to you?

GWEN: Drive me crazy all the time?

ED: I don’t do it all the time.

GWEN: Yes, you do. You’re doing it constantly. You’re doing it right now.

ED: (He looks down at himself to see where th e problem is.): I am?

GWEN: Yes. Don’t you like me?

ED: Of course I do. I think you’re swell.

GWEN: Then do me a favor.

ED: Sure.

GWEN: Act normal.

ED: I’m making lunch. How much more normal can I get?

GWEN: In the middle of a zoo. I’m talking real honest—to— goodness sanity here.

ED: Yes, but sanity is just a state of mind. Here, sit down and I’ll open the wine.

GWEN: I’d rather stand.

ED: You need to relax.

GWEN: I’m relaxing standing up, thank you.

ED: You shouldn’t eat when you’re tense.

GWEN: I’ll chance it. Listen, are you going to tell me?

ED: Tell you what?

GWEN: Why you asked to meet me here.

ED: Do I have to have a reason?

GWEN: Yes, and it better be a good one.

ED: I enjoy your company and I’d like to get to know you better.

GWEN: You must be masochistic.

ED: I beg your pardon.

GWEN: How can you say that after last Saturday?

ED: What was wrong with Saturday?

GWEN: All we did was argue.

ED: I’d like to think of it as an energetic conversation.

GWEN: We practically came to blows.

ED: But we didn’t argue on the way home.

GWEN: Only because by that time I wasn’t speaking to you.

ED: Oh, that’s right. You weren’t. So, how come you’re talking to me now?

GWEN: I don’t know.

ED: Well, while you’re thinking it through, why don’t you sit down and have some lunch?

GWEN: Why did you call me?

ED: Gwen, my Ritz are getting soggy.

GWEN: Life is a pit—isn’t it, Ed?

ED: Oh, you are cranky.

GWEN: And you’re skirting the issue.

ED: Right now my appetite is more important than any other issue.

GWEN: We’re talking about competence as a mother—and that’s a pretty big deal to me!

ED: Ah… So that’s it.

GWEN: I don’t like people making cracks about my capabilities as a mother. Particularly when they have no business worrying about it in the first place.

ED: Gwen, why shouldn’t I be worried? I’m very fond of Colleen and I want what’s best for her. Is that so bad?

GWEN: Well, I appreciate your concern, but why don’t you go peddle your papers elsewhere, Mr. Kellogg? I don’t need this kind of grief.

ED: Are you having disciplinary problems, Gwen?

GWEN: I wasn’t until, for some strange reason, God dumped you in my path. And then—barn! I’m made to look like a fool at every turn. Everything I say and do is contradicted. You made a fool out of me Saturday and if there’s one thing a teenager won’t do is listen to someone who’s a bigger fool than she is. And all this, thanks to you, Mr. Perfect Father.

ED: I never said I was perfect.

GWEN: Well, it’s about the only thing you haven’t said then.

ED: I’m just trying to help.

GWEN: Well, don’t. Please. Just let me be the kind of person I am.

ED: You’re a fine person, Gwen.

GWEN: Thank you.

ED: But as a mother, you just need a little work—that’s all.

GWEN: Mr. Kellogg—just how do you know? No one appointed you my fairy godmother, did they? No one came up to you and said: “Ed Kellogg, we want you to save Gwen Hershey.” I suppose you think you’re going to get a set of wings or something for this.

ED: You’re being facetious, aren’t you, Gwen?

GWEN: I quit.

ED: Don’t you care about Colleen?

GWEN: Care about her? Of course I do.

ED: Then how come I see more of her than you do?

GWEN: Now you’re being even more ridiculous than I thought you could be.

ED: Gwen, she and Shelley are always at my apartment when I come home and Posey usually stays until around nine.

Then she goes home and the housekeeper kisses her good night.

GWEN: Oh, come on! That happens maybe once or twice a week.

ED: More like three or four—and that’s a lot when you’re only thirteen and life is getting mysterious.

GWEN: She knows she can call me at the office if she needs me.

ED: How can she possibly compete with all that important business going on at your office? It’s hard to command some­ one’s total attention when they’re busy in the process of making millions.

GWEN: I have to make a living, you know. Nobody is going to take care of me if I don’t.

ED: Did your ex-husband take care of you?

GWEN: Yes, he did.

ED: Until the divorce.

GWEN: Then he remarried and moved to Morocco. When I was married to him he’d never been out of Indiana.

ED: Does that bother you?

GWEN: No. And don’t get clinical on me or I’ll leave. That’s what I pay Phillip forty dollars an hour for anyway.

ED: Who in the world is Phillip?

GWEN:  My analyst—if you don’t mind.

ED: You call your analyst Phillip?

GWEN: Yes.

ED: Well, you’re wasting your money, Gwen.

GWEN: Oh? How do you know so much?

ED: I get Reader’s Digest.

GWEN: Well that ‘s definitely wasting money.

ED: It ‘s a good magazine.

GWEN: Sure—if you like fiction.

ED: I’ve come across a lot of worthwhile information in that. You ought to get a subscription. There’s a new series being featured about budgeting your time.

GWEN: I make the best of every moment I have, Mr. Kellogg.

ED: You do, huh?

GWEN: Time i.s money.

ED: I prefer to think of it as little pieces of life. Tell me more about your husband.

GWEN: Why? So you can gather up more things to ridicule me about?

ED: Actually, I was just looking for something to send in to ”Life in These United States.’’

GWEN: Over my bruised and broken body.

ED: Then have a hunk of this. (He hands her a chunk of cold cauliflower. )

GWEN: How can you eat this stuff cold like this?

ED: I like it crunchy. Go ahead.

GWEN: No, I don’t think so.

ED: Listen—if we’re going to keep this argument up, you’ re going to need your strength. Go on, go on—you must be hungry if you’ve been in meetings all morning.

GWEN: I’m, uh… used to not having lunch.

ED: Then have a little of this. (He hands her a cup of wine. )

GWEN: Well, maybe just… (She takes a sip.)

ED: Yeah, there you go. Feel better?

GWEN: A bit.

ED: Good. You were telling me about your husband.

GWEN: I was?

ED: Yeah. Something about him moving to Morocco.

GWEN: With Cathi.

ED: Is that his secretary?

GWEN: No—his new wife.

ED: I imagine you don’t like her too much, huh?

GWEN: Like her? What is there not to like? She ‘s bubbly, cute, talented, rich, young. Everything I’m not. She’s a little dream boat.

ED: Like a sister to you.

GWEN: Every man’s ideal.

ED: Including your husband’s?

GWEN: Yes…

ED: Why’d they go to Morocco?

GWEN: Because, oddly enough, Cathi had never been there before. They went on their honeymoon and, like two im­ petuous darlings, they found it so enchanting that they decid­ ed to stay. Lyle went and sold everything through a broker and has never been back since.

ED: What about Colleen?

GWEN: He sends for her at Easter.

ED: And then after the divorce you came here.

GWEN: Yes. ED: Why?

GWEN: Well, my mother was living here at the time. Colleen and I came to live with her while I found a job.

ED: While good old Lyle was in Morocco sipping cognac—or whatever they sip down there.

GWEN: Uh huh. And then Mom died and we were on our own again.

ED: And you stayed.

GWEN: Yes.

ED: So you like it here.

GWEN: It’s as good a place as an y. ED: Not in love with the place?

GWEN: To tell you the truth, no.

ED: I’ve always thought that you should like the place where you live, or life isn’t worth living.

GWEN: That’s very profound.

ED: Have you ever considered trying Morocco?

GWEN: Why? Heavens, no!

ED: Well, if Lyle and Cathi like it—

GWEN: They can have it. I’m not moving to a strange new city again as long as I live, let alone a whole new country.

ED: Not too adventurous, are you?

GWEN: One divorce, one job hunt, and one life transplant is about all the adventure I can take.

ED: That’s just all a part of life.

GWEN: That’s what Phillip says roo, and he doesn’ t know what he’s talking about either.

ED: Then why are you paying him forty bucks an hour?

GWEN: I have to have somebody to talk to.

ED: Don’t drink anymore of that wine, Gwen.

GWEN: You don’t understand what I’m getting at, do you?

ED: Give me a year?

GWEN: Oh, you’re both men.

ED: And proud of it.

GWEN: I’m perfectly serious, Ed.

ED: So was I, but go ahead.

GWEN: Okay. (She picks up her cup and the bottle and starts pacing around the bench.) A man hasn’t got the faintest idea what it’s like to be a woman.

ED: I wouldn’t argue with that.

GWEN: So there’s no way any man can really know what it’s like to lose your life all of a sudden.

ED: Are you talking murder, Gwen?

GWEN: No.

ED: Are you sure I can’t send this in to the Digest?

GWEN: Eat your fish, Ed.

ED: All right.

GWEN: What I was trying to tell you is that I’m… I… All my life I was conditioned to be married. I was given dolls to mother, baby sisters and brothers to care fo r, and I spent all my years in high school sitting for the neighborhood kids. When I got to college I was ready to take on a career. But all the while, in the back of my mind, I was sure that I’d get married and become settled. You know? Somehow my future would become sure because I’ d find a husband—someone to love and care for me—and then nature would take its course. I have a family, my husband would eventually make enough so we could buy a little bungalow somewhere in the suburbs. We could get a dog with papers, and then I could sit back in utter contentment to enjoy my grandchildren in my autumn years. End of story.

ED: But instead, you divorced your husband.

GWEN: No, he divorced me. Because I never could eat sandwich cookies the correct way or remember to replace the toilet paper so that the sheets fell off the roll away from the wall. No. I was the one who woke up one morning to find a note on the pillow that said, “Dear Gwen, I know this won’t come as a surprise to you, as we’ve been having our difficulties for some time, but I think it’s best for me to tell you that I’ve seen a lawyer and think it’s best that we go our separate ways. I wish you the best in your new life. Lyle.”

ED: How prosaic of him.

GWEN: Yes. I laughed myself silly. And then I went down to the kitchen, got a one pound bag of Oreos and twisted all those little beggars apart. And then I started to cry. I mean, how could I find myself a new life when I didn’t even have an old one? I’d given it all up for our life together. I’d worried myself sick over his career! I didn’t really have one thing left that was mine.

ED: Aren’t you supposed to sort of consolidate in a marriage?

GWEN: Money, love, children—      ye s. But you can’t give up your own purpose in life, your own sense of self. So many do.

Men never do though—they still know where they want to go with their careers. They still feel strongly about their opinions, their ideas, their right to grow. They don’t leech off their wives or depend on their marriage to give them an identity. That’s why when men go their separate ways they have a better chance of surviving. They’re whole. They’re intact.

ED: Men don’t have it as easy as you think.

GWEN: I didn’t say it was easy. I just said that you have a better chance. You already have a goal, or a nucleus—whatever you want to call it. Something to work from, something to work for. That helps when your life is suddenly in a shambles. I’ll tell you, when I found that note I couldn’t even decide if I should buy the popular or the bargain—brand anymore. And that’s where my priorities had always been directed.

ED: You seem to have come out of it okay.

GWEN: Lucky for me I have a strong survival instinct. But plenty of other women haven’t been so lucky—they’ve succumbed to the elements. Say, what were we talking about before we got into this drivel about Lyle and me?

ED: We were talking about you and Lyle.

GWEN: Oh…

ED: Have some salmon.

GWEN: It’s like camping trips, really.

ED: Camping trips?

GWEN: Yes. People get lost or separated from their friends in the wilderness all the time. Some make it back to civilization, but others don’t. And it’s not because they starve to death or can’t find food. I read somewhere that it’s because they can’t adapt. So instead of fighting back, they just sit down and die… because of fear, loneliness, lack of purpose. Poof. They’re gone. It happens all the time.

ED: Eat your salmon.

GWEN: I’m not hungry.

ED: It’ll keep you lucid.

GWEN: Aren’t I making sense?

ED: Just barely. So tell me, how’d you get into the financial counseling business?

GWEN: I don’t think I want to tell you. (She helps herself to some more cauliflower and more wine.)

ED: Why not?

GWEN:  You’ll laugh.

ED: No, I won’t.

GWEN: Promise?

ED: Solemnly.

GWEN: I took a night course.

ED: Why would I laugh at that?

GWEN: Everyone else does.

ED: You spread that sort of thing around?

GWEN: No, of course not.

ED: You took one course?

GWEN: Yes.

ED: Really? You must have a lot of natural talent.

GWEN: No, I’m just pushy. I have to be, because if I’m not good, I don’t make any money. Then I’d have to go on welfare with all the other non—survivors.

ED: Oh.

GWEN: Have you ever been motivated by terror?

ED: Not that I remember.

GWEN: Well, it’s a real kick, let me tell you. You know, I have to congratulate you.

ED: Why?

GWEN: You’ve behaved relatively sanely for almost fifteen minutes now.

ED: And it wasn’t easy, let me tell you.

GWEN: Yes, but I’ve been doing all the talking.

ED: But I didn’t fidget, did I? Or squirm, or make obscene gestures?

GWEN: No.

ED: Then I think I did pretty well.

GWEN: My gosh, you did.

ED: Gwen, is there anything I can do?

GWEN: Not really. I’m managing. There ‘s money in the bank, I have a Camaro and life is looking rosy again.

ED: Except that you’re lone ly.

GWEN: Everyone is, to a certain degree.

ED: But you’re more alone than you have to be. You’ re working too hard. You said yourself that you have your little nest feathered. Why not take it easy for a while?

GWEN: I can’t live on my stock dividends alone.

ED: Well, Colleen can’t grow up on friendships alone.

GWEN: Oh, we’re back to this again?

ED: Gwen, it’s important.

GWEN: I know. But I can’t do everything and I can’t be everywhere. I’m the only one who can support us. If I stop, Lyle sure isn’t going to come to the rescue. If I stop—then forget surviving, forget everything. I can’t do that to Colleen. I won’t have her sharing my fear. •

ED: Fear is normal, Gwen.

GWEN: No, it ‘s not. Men aren’t afraid about things like this.

ED: Where’d you get a stupid idea like that?

GWEN: What do you have to be afraid of?

ED: Being alone.

GWEN: You’re kidding.

ED: I wish I were. Nope. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of being alone. I don’t mean being lonely—that’s different. I mean… well, I think most men go through it. Like when I was in college. All the guys in my dorm, at the end of a long, hard day of classes, after dinner was over, they’d all wander over to the girl’s dorms.

GWEN: Yeah, and I wonder why.

ED: Gwen, you have a dirty mind.

GWEN: I do not!

ED: Yes, you do. We went over there simply for the companionship, Mrs. Hershey. We couldn’t explain it; like lemmings we just followed each other there. I guess we just needed the balance, or something—we needed to be home, and home is with the female of the species. I guess that’s why people get married­ even if it does end in an Armageddon sometimes. Men just need women and, for all intents and purposes, women need men.

GWEN: So what’s there to be afraid of?

ED: Gwen, you ‘re worried about not surviving—about being separated and getting lost in the forest. I’m afraid I will survive and then I’ll find out that I never had anyone to camp with in the first place.

GWEN: I’m afraid of not surviving and you’re afraid of surviving for nothing?

ED: Maybe that ‘s a better way to put it.

GWEN: They almost sound the same.

ED: Yeah. Here, have some more salmon.

GWEN: No, thanks. I’d better get going.

ED: No, I don’t think so. I have something I sort of have to tell you.

GWEN: Oh, oh. It sounds serious.

ED: Well, let’s just say that it’s not as big of a deal as you’re going to make it.

GWEN: Oh, then should I sit down?

ED: That might help; I wonder if I can get some coffee somewhere, I think you should be completely sober for this.

GWEN: I’m quite sober. Now, what is it?

ED: Well, on the other hand, maybe a little more wine won’t hurt things.

GWEN: Lunch is almost over, Ed.

ED: I know. Gwen, I have to talk to you about Colleen.

GWEN: Again?

ED: I think that you realize by now that I think you should spend more time with her.

GWEN: I’d have to be comatose not to know that.

ED: I suppose,… but are you sure you wouldn’t like some coffee?

GWEN: I’m sure.

ED: But, are you really sure?

GWEN: Ed, what’s the matter?

ED: Before I tell you, you have to promise that you’ll remember all that we’ve meant to each other these last few days.

GWEN: What?

ED: Okay. But just don’t get mad, okay? You do tend to get hysterical now and again.

GWEN: Only when you exasperate me—the way you’re starting to now.

ED: I am?

GWEN: Is this why you asked me here?

ED: No.

GWEN: What’s happened?

ED (hesitating): Let’s get some coffee.

GWEN: Forget the coffee.

ED: Then, maybe some salmon?

GWEN: It’s Colleen, isn’t it?

ED: Well, sort of.

GWEN: What do you mean ‘sort of’? She hasn’t been hurt, or—

ED: No, she’s fine. Shelley’s fine. They’re both fine. I’m sure of it.

GWEN: Then what’s the problem?

ED: Well, they’re not here.

GWEN: I know that.

ED: You do?

GWEN: This is it, isn’t it? You’ve held it back too long and now you’ve gone off the deep end?

ED: No, I haven’t. I’m trying to tell you as calmly as I can that they’ve gone away.

GWEN: Away? Where away?

ED: They’ve left New York, Gwen.

GWEN: The city?

ED: Yeah. And the state, too.

GWEN: They’ve left New York?

ED: Everything’s going to be fine, Gwen.

GWEN: Fine?… Fine! How can you say that? She’s only thirteen, she subscribes to Tiger Beat! And she’s left New York!

ED: I was afraid you’d take it like this.

GWEN: How did you expect me to take it?

ED: Well, I thought the lunch might…

GWEN: You mean?… How long have you known about this?

ED: Since they took off.

GWEN: And you didn’t call me?

ED: Well, I didn’t want you to worry any longer than you had to.

GWEN: I can’t believe this. We’ve been sitting here, eating tuna on saltines…

ED: Salmon on Ritz.

GWEN:… while my daughter is running away from home. Don’t you realize that we’ve wasted precious time? I’m calling the police.

ED: Oh, you don’t have to do that.

GWEN: Of course I do.

ED: I already know where they are.

GWEN: You do?

ED: Yes. So you really don’t have to worry.

GWEN: Well, do you want to fill me in?

ED: They’re in Los Angeles.

GWEN: California?

ED: I think that ‘s where it is.

GWEN: Are you sure?

ED: Of course.

GWEN: How do you know?

ED: I lived there once.

GWEN: Mr. Kellogg!

ED: It’s okay, Gwen. They asked me if they could go.

GWEN: And you said yes?

ED: Well, I honestly didn’t think that they could come up with the money.

GWEN: But, you said they could go?

ED: Sure.

GWEN: What possessed you to do an idiotic thing like that?

ED (groping): I don’t like to say no?

GWEN: Don’t answer me with a question.

ED: I never thought Shelley would part with her stereo. You know, that’s how I found out they’d gone. The guy down the hall came by with the rest of the money this morning. I guess she wants me to mail it to her.

GWEN: What are two thirteen—year—olds doing in Los Angeles?

ED: I think they want to go into roller disco.

GWEN: I can’t believe this is happening to me.

ED: You know, I actually thought you might get violent over this.

GWEN: Just wait till I digest this salmon.

ED: There’s really nothing to worry about, Gwen.

GWEN: How do you figure?

ED: They were only going to stay about a week.

GWEN: A week?

ED: Yeah, Shelley has a date next Friday with the captain of the football team. I don’t think she’d miss that.

GWEN: Good thinking.

ED: Are you all right, Gwen?

GWEN: Of course I’m all right. You’ve taken care of everything, haven’t you?

ED: I’m sure they’re going to be fine.

GWEN: Well, I’m glad for you. But I’m not the least bit sure.

ED: Gwen…

GWEN: You have every right to let your daughter run all over the earth if you want to, but you have no right to let mine go with her. I’m the only one who can do that. I can’t believe… Colleen had no business running off like that. She knows bet­ ter than to do something like this.

ED: I told you that you should spend more time with her.

GWEN: Don’t you dare start in on me about that again! I’m tired of it. I won’t take this from someone who can’t even say no like a real parent. You’re not perfect by any means, Mr. Kellogg. So stop trying to perfect me.

ED: I’m not trying to make you perfect, Gwen.

GWEN: Then stop trying to make me into something I’m not—whatever that may be! I sure hope you didn’t do this to your wife, rest her soul.

ED: Yeah, I hope I didn’t either.

GWEN: Ed, I… It’s just that if anything happens to that child… she’s all I have left. Everything. That’s why I can’t stand here and twiddle my thumbs while I wait for them to come home. I’m going to go home right now, take some aspirin, and call the police. (She picks up her purse.) Maybe you should come, too.

ED (dejectedly): No, I think maybe I’ll hang around here for a while; eat my lunch.

GWEN: All right.

ED: Don’t be too hard on her, Gwen.

GWEN: I just want to find her in one piece.

ED: Remember, you were young once too.

GWEN:  The memory has grown dim.

ED: Say, how about one for the road? (He holds up the Ritz crackers.)

GWEN: Just finish your fish, Mr. Kellogg. (She turns and leaves. )

ED (watching her go): Ed.

 

ACT III

 

Once again at the park bench. It is now late afternoon and the area is fairly quiet. The Lights come up slowly. In a moment Gwen appears on the set dressed for work, carrying a briefcase and a handbag. She Looks anxiously around the set, but doesn’t see who she is Looking for. So, setting her things down, she wanders around the bench until, momentarily, Eo enters from the opposite side of the stage wearing white pants, a doctor’s smock and the same Adidas. He also carries a small, brown, paper sack.

GWEN catches sight of him.

GWEN: Ed! I thought you’d never get here.

ED: I came here as fast as I could.

GWEN: Well, I’ve been here over an hour.

ED: I had to pick up a few things.

GWEN: I told you it was urgent.

ED: Yeah, yo u did. Well, I’ m here. Shoot.

GWEN: I’ve found the girls.

ED: You have?

GWEN: Yes, they’re in Los Angeles.

ED: No kidding.

GWEN: I know, but at least now I can be certain. I needed to be certain. Anyway, Colleen called me at the office just a little while ago. Apparently she and Shelley were on their way home when they were stopped at the airport.

ED: Nabbed by the cops, huh?

GWEN: What ‘s wrong with you?

ED: Nothing really.

GWEN: I thought you’d be pleased to know that the girls were safe and that they were coming home.

ED: Oh, I’m pleased.

GWEN: I couldn’t tell from looking at you.

ED: Well, I guess that’s because there’s something else that ‘s troubling me.

GWEN: What’s that.

ED: Like, why you’ re talking to me all of a sudden.

GWEN: Oh, that. Well, don’t worry, Ed — I’ m really not mad at you anymore.

ED: Yes, but I’m mad at yo u.

GWEN: Whatever for?

ED: Well, because.

GWEN: That’s not a reason.

ED: It’s the only one I have.

GWEN: Ed, you’re acting very strangely. Could you please behave normally, or in your case more strangely?

ED: I’m still mad at you, Gwen.

GWEN: Okay, how many guesses do I get?

ED: I’ve tried to get ahold of you for three days.

GWEN: Bingo.

ED: I think I’m going deaf, I’ve had the phone slammed down on me so many times. You ignored my messages… I don’t mind telling you, Gwen, that you’ve been awfully rude.

GWEN: Well. I was mad, too.

ED: Yeah, I know. But don’t you think it would have been healthier being mad together?

GWEN: Not for me.

ED: Well, it would have for me. My ego’s never going to be the same.

GWEN: Somehow I think you’ II survive.

ED: I don’t know.

GWEN: Kind of lonely, huh?

ED: Very lonely, Gwen.

GWEN: Well, I’m sorry I have to say this, but you have no one to blame but yourself in this matter. Shelley left with your approval, you know.

ED: I know. And that ‘s another thing that bothers me.

GWEN: You have to think of things like that, Mr. Perfect Father.

ED: Yeah…

GWEN: So, how are the Molar Marauders doing?

ED: Okay.

GWEN: And how about things in the Middle East?

ED: Quit trying to cheer me up, Gwen. GWEN: Why do you need cheering up, Ed? ED: Life is a pit, Gwen.

GWEN: I know.

ED: Well, I didn’t.

GWEN: I know that, too.

ED: Gwen, I’ve just fallen from grace and landed right on my keister.

GWEN: Well, it could have been your head.

ED: I wish it had been, then I wouldn’t feel quite so foolish.

GWEN: I know what you mean. Listen—think you can stand a little advice from Mrs. Perfect Mother for a minute?

ED: I might not recover from this.

GWEN: Ed, remember that insipid old saying from some old B movie that if you love something, you should let it go fly on its own and if it comes back to you it’s yours forever, but if it flies away it was never yours to begin with? Remember that • Well, forget it. Because, when it comes to being a parent, the opposite happens to be true. You can’t let your kids fly free all the time. Because sometimes they’re going to do stupid things and get lost in transit. There comes a time when you can do that—maybe when they’re around thirty— five. But right now, you have to say no. You have to keep them close.

Either that, or you lose them forever. I don’t know about you, but I’m too selfish to let that happen.

ED: So, in other words, I’ve been an ignoramus.

GWEN: Yes.

ED: And a lousy father.

GWEN: Sort of.

ED: Life is a pit, Gwen.

GWEN: Ed, it’s like Weight Watchers or Alcoholics Anonymous—the first step is admitting that you have a problem. Go ahead, admit it, Ed. I did. I’m not a perfect mother.

ED: I knew that all along.

GWEN: Well, don’t rub it in.

ED: I’m not a perfect father.

GWEN: There you go. Now how do you feel?

ED: About the same. Life is still a pit.

GWEN: No—only when you want it to be. ED:  Do you?

GWEN: No, and I don’t think you do, either.

ED: You know, I think this is our first metaphysical discussion.

GWEN: I believe it is.

ED: Let’s talk about something else.

GWEN: All right.

ED: Did Colleen have anything to say?

GWEN: Yes. She and Shelley will be home tonight.

ED: Really?

GWEN: Yep, and they’ve decided against roller disco. I guess the in—thing right now is punk rock.

ED: Hey, that sounds fun.

GWEN: Yes, it does, doesn’t it?

ED: I’m sorry, Gwen.

GWEN: Oh, that’s okay.

ED: No, it’s not. I’ve been thinking about what you said.

GWEN: What did I say? It seems I said a lot of things, some of which I’m ashamed right now.

ED: You asked me if I treated my wife the way I had treated you.

GWEN: Oh, ignore that, will you? I was reacting from fear again.

I never play fair when on the defensive.

ED: I can’t ignore it, Gwen. It was a valid question.

GWEN: So, what’s the answer?

ED: I didn’t.

GWEN: Good.

ED: I was treating you the way your husband treated you, wasn’t I?

GWEN: Yes.

ED: I wonder why?

GWEN: You never worked on his teeth, did you?

ED: Not that I can remember.

GWEN: Well, it was just a thought.

ED: I’m sorry about treating you that way, Gwen. I didn’t know your hang—ups then.

GWEN: I didn’t know yours then, either.

ED: Yeah. But I was right, wasn’t I, Gwen?

GWEN: Half right. And then I was right the other half.

ED: Yeah, well. We figured things out pretty well, didn’t we?

GWEN: We sure did.

ED: And I don’t even have an analyst.

GWEN: You’re amazing.

ED: Not really. I’m into mind expansion, remember?

GWEN: Ah, yes.

ED: You ought to have a hobby, Gwen.

GWEN: I don’t have time for hobbies.

ED: Something that you and Colleen can do together.

GWEN: Like what?

ED: I don’t know—something exotic.

GWEN: Maybe it would be best to start simple and work our way up.

ED: I don’t do anything that’s simple, Gwen.

GWEN: No, you have to make everything complicated—like life.

ED: No, I don’t.

GWEN: Yes, you do. Before I met you I had everything all figured out. I had a job that I was successful at, an apartment from Bonwit Teller and a daughter who I thought was a model teenager. Now I find I have to rethink everything. It’s going to be tough.

ED: Well, I’ll help you, Gwen.

GWEN: You will, huh?

ED: Sure.

GWEN: Don’t you think you have your own rethinking to do?

ED: I’ll work in shifts.

GWEN: I think it’ll be more like the blind leading the blind.

ED: Not really. We’re both lost in the wilderness, Gwen. But I think I can help you survive until you can get out and, in the meantime, you can help me make my own campground, okay?

GWEN: Sounds like a deal.

ED: Why is it so hard to be a parent, Gwen?

GWEN: I don’t know. Why is it so hard to be an adult?

ED: These days, nothing’s easy.

GWEN: Right.

ED: When did Colleen say they’d be home?

GWEN: They’ll be flying in around six—thirty.

ED: Good, that gives us a chance to get a frozen banana, or maybe you’d like these. (He hands her the bag and she pulls out a large package of Oreos.) You can twist them apart, if you want to.

GWEN: Thank you, Ed.

ED: You’re welcome.

GWEN: There’s something I’ve decided I want to tell you.

ED: You’re not pregnant, are you?

GWEN: Now Ed, I’m serious.

ED: Okay.

GWEN: Gwen isn’t my real name.

ED: It’s not?

GWEN: No.

ED: What is it then?

GWEN: Promise you won’t laugh?

ED: Hurry, the guy’s putting the bananas on ice.

GWEN: Now, don’t laugh.

ED: I won’t, whoever you are.

GWEN: My real name is…Ignatia.

ED: Ignatia?

GWEN: Yes, it means “passionate one.”

ED: Really?

GWEN: Yes.

ED: Oh, I get it—your mother was into Roman culture.

GWEN: No, Gothic Romance.

ED: Well, it’s nice to meet you…Ignatia. (He holds out his hand.)

GWEN (She shakes it. ): It’s nice to meet you too, Ed.

ED (holding up his hand):Ah. Bancroft. (They walk out of sight as the lights come down.)

Susan Lewis 

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