by Charles C. Cole
Living room. A married couple, MOIRA and HESTON. She reads, her feet in his lap. He clears his throat.
HESTON: Nothing. (He toys with a broken TV remote, quickly escalating to where he’s moved on to shooting fast-moving invisible targets flying around the room, with requisite POW!’s. She watches, but pretends not to. He clicks at her with a “POW!”)
MOIRA: Hey, I’m on your side.
HESTON: (Suddenly.) I’m tired.
MOIRA: Thumb fatigue? Poor dear. Maybe you should go to bed.
HESTON: Great idea! (Beat.) Wait. Alone?
MOIRA: Heston, honey...
HESTON: Moira, dear.
MOIRA: (Holding up her book.) This is a book. It’s a lot like a movie, but with thousands of “on screen” words, so you really have to pay attention. And you can only watch the images in your head, which is a really tiny screen.
To keep from losing your place, you have to focus and ignore the physical world which is all around you, bigger and louder and seems to always need care and feeding at the most inconvenient moment, no offense.
Reading is a dying art, like carving duck decoys. You would hate it if I interrupted one of your movies. I’ve got probably two chapters to go.
Tell you what: I’ll watch you play one of your first-person shooter games tomorrow and cheer you on towards world domination, even though I’m not a fan of animated gore. Or we can play Scrabble. I’ll even let you use video game slang or Spanish, if you just let me get through two more chapters.
HESTON: Spanish, one of the Romance languages. (Noticing.) And that’s a romance novel. I like the other expression better: Harlequin novel. (He mimes a prancing court jester.)
MOIRA: Goofball. Watch some TV. A game, a race, a match.
HESTON: I was thinking about a fight.
MOIRA: I don’t care what you watch, but please keep the volume down.
HESTON: I mean with you. Us. Like in a classic romance novel: He’s charming but unrefined, clumsy on the approach. She slaps him. But it only excites him further. He slaps her, but not too hard. She collapses in surrender. Then he carries her limp body up the stairs to inoculate her from her prudish ways.
MOIRA: Are you serious?
HESTON: It juices me. I feel energized when we’re going at it.
MOIRA: Are the batteries dead in the remote again? That I can help with.
HESTON: And then, later, I’m exhausted and I sleep better, like after a workout at the gym.
MOIRA: I’m reading. Rain-check, please. Maybe during the next power outage, when it’s too dark to do anything else.
HESTON: You can read any time.
MOIRA: I’m reading now. You can fight any old time; call your dad and talk about politics or remind him how you had a lousy childhood because he was always on the road and there was never enough crunchy peanut butter in the house.
HESTON: (Provoking.) You came home late last night from “book club.” I was only half-awake.
MOIRA: Is that what this is about? Did I wake you? (Thinks about it. Not biting.) You’re right. Sorry. (Beat.) How was boys’ night? Did everybody make it? (Joking.) The place was suspiciously clean when I got in.
HESTON: (Provoking.) We haven’t had my parents over in a while. Maybe it’s time.
MOIRA: That’s true. My, how life flies by. It seems like only yesterday when I was scrubbing the red wine out of the white carpet from their last visit.
HESTON: (Risking it all.) Have you gained weight?
MOIRA: Have you lost your freaking mind?!
HESTON: Now, we’re getting somewhere. It’s like we’re playing footsy on the playground all over again. Did you ever play footsy? It’s like tag, with one boy and one girl. You don’t really want to get away, but you want them to earn it.
MOIRA: This is what you want?
HESTON: Can’t you feel that adrenalin? Pow! It’s like plugging in or turning on a switch. Click. I like it! Bring it on, Superbitch!
MOIRA: Proceed with caution, Icarus. You’ve been warned.
HESTON: (Pacing.) I feel like a boxer. Go ahead, take your best shot. The rules are: no rules.
MOIRA: I’ll pass, thanks. Lovely offer though it may be.
HESTON: Come on! They say you’re only as good as your best opponent.
MOIRA: Well, they better keep their opinions to themselves in future or they won’t be invited to our next pool party. Do I make myself clear? Pass the word to your man friend. (Beat.) Since you’re standing around, why don’t you make yourself useful and get me a beer?
HESTON: Now you’re talking. Wait here. (Exits with renewed groove.)
MOIRA: This is what you want? (She stands, stretches as if preparing for a run.)
HESTON: (From o.s.) Better now, as an exercise, than when we mean it for real. (Enters, hands her the beer.)
MOIRA: (Sweetly.) Thank you, honey. That was very gentlemanly.
MOIRA: You’re sure this is what you want? Think it over. I’ll wait. (Opens the beer and takes a long swig.)
HESTON: It could be good for us. A pretend fight to let go of any petty resentments. And then we could have real, great make-up sex after.
MOIRA: Is that what this is, foreplay? You could have fooled me. That’s the last thing I thought this was.
HESTON: Stewart said you’d see right through me.
MOIRA: Stewart? The man friend who can’t keep the same woman for more than three months. (She pours her drink over his head.) Only because I love you. Turn the lights off when you come upstairs. I’ll leave out clean sheets in the hallway ... for the sofa. You can stay up late and watch a “Die Hard” marathon. (She exits.)
HESTON: (Watches in disbelief. Finishes the beer. Grabs the remote, tests it unsuccessfully.) Did you say you know where the spare batteries are? Honey? (Under his breath.) They’re probably in your vibrator.
(She throws the clean linen into his face.) Thanks. What about a towel? (She throws a towel at him.) It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.
(He picks up her book and opens it, making up his own page, in poor Southern twang.) “Wyatt McElrake carried Miss Juda-Lee like a sack of raw Decatur County potatoes over his broad shoulder, setting her unceremoniously onto her delicate feet beside the ornate fountain. ‘You, sir, are a cad and an unscrupulous carpetbagger. How dare you despoil the decency of a proper-born lady with your unvarnished hands!’ She reached back to slap him across his five-o’clock shadow when he caught her sweeping, velvet fingers in his. They connected. She trembled, her legs nearly buckling. Their eyes locked.”
(Moira enters.) And you wonder where my ideas come from. All I wanted was for you to slap me.
MOIRA: (Slapping him.) Next time, just ask. (Exits.)
Copyright © 2015 by Charles C. Cole