Deegan Meets Jell-O Man
by Charles C. Cole.
A retirement community. SID BARON, early 80s, sits in a wheelchair. DEEGAN, mid-teen boy, ENTERS, watches from a distance, resisting engaging. SID, noticing DEEGAN, finishes his lunch-on-a-tray, indelicately slurping the last of his Jell-O between his teeth.
DEEGAN (Impressed): Gnarly!
SID: Somehow it tastes better that way.
DEEGAN: I bet you could slurp even louder if you took your dentures out.
SID: Is that “prosthesis envy,” I hear?
DEEGAN: Only if you’ve got one of those glowing pacemaker deals like Iron Man. That’d be cool.
SID: No such luck, my boy.
DEEGAN: Mr. Baron, right?
SID: Sid. You must be Deegan. Come closer. I don’t bite, but only because it’s too much work on my fancy choppers. (Snapping) They’re mostly just for looks, to enhance my come-hither smile.
DEEGAN (A dig): Hah. Hah.
SID (Trying a tough love approach): You will sit down now and talk with me, to this I am committed.
DEEGAN: Bad choice of words, even if they are the right ones. Committed like a squirrel in a nut house. (Mimicking dribbling and taking a jump shot) Two points for me for getting you to come clean so soon.
SID: It’s worse than that. I’m here by choice. True, a grown man voluntarily paying serious money to be treated like a neglected houseplant in his twilight years.
DEEGAN: Must be one of those bucket list things.
SID (With meaning): Like being suspended from school for tossing a smoke bomb during a crowded assembly.
DEEGAN: My idiot friend told me it was a stink bomb, not a smoke bomb. The ashcans probably sold him the wrong thing.
SID: Or he set you up for his own amusement.
DEEGAN: That’s crap. Friends don’t do that to friends.
SID: Not in my day.
DEEGAN: Anyway, now I gotta hang out here for a week with Mom while things get ironed out. What do I know about dealing with old people?
SID: Deegan, to take advantage of your time with us, your mother has hired me to mentor you, to show you what’s at the end of the road you’ve only just begun. Let’s not throw her hard-earned wages away, shall we?
DEEGAN: I so don’t want to be here. Can I say that? Just to clear the air up front. Everybody always asks for honesty but then they get really pissed off when you give it to them.
SID: Sounds about right. You’ll learn through trial and error to temper the truth.
SID: Temper. It means telling the truth is not just about what you say but how you say it.
DEEGAN: Were you in politics or something?
SID: I’ve just lived a long life, most of it married. You’re mother says you need to see what maturity looks like. I’m happy to oblige. It’s something I have plenty of experience with.
DEEGAN (Sotto voce): Like an overripe plum. It’s not looking very pretty, I gotta tell ya. She had to come up with something that looked like community service. Though it’s a lame idea, the old lady has the best of intentions.
SID: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
DEEGAN: Well, that’s a freakin’ waste.
SID: You don’t socialize with seniors much, do you?
DEEGAN: If you mean talk to, then no.
SID: I can’t be the first white-haired elder you’ve ever encountered in the flesh. Or can I? What do your grandparents think about your colorful expressions?
DEEGAN: Never met ’em. My parents were older when they found each other.
SID: Love at last glance.
DEEGAN: The in-laws were dead and buried when Mom finally popped me out. I was an unplanned expression of her late-in-life mad-love, so I missed the extended family hijinks you see in sitcoms. My loss. I’m over it.
SID: Aren’t you the resilient one?
DEEGAN: Believe me, I whined about it for years. You don’t get as many presents on your birthday or Christmas. No adult allies to call your parents on their crap. But what are you gonna do?
SID: You know, you can step a little closer. I don’t see as well as I used to. I don’t hear as well either. Still, my condition is not contagious.
DEEGAN: Isn’t getting older just the prequel to getting dead?
SID: Do my rheumy eyes offend you, young fella?
DEEGAN: In my opinion, old age is just an excuse to live drug-dependent and sit around on your butt watching TV shows from twenty-five years ago, chewing soft food, and trying without success to not fall over and break your bones.
SID (Dryly): Clearly, you’ve done your homework.
DEEGAN: I’d rather self-destruct on recreational pharmaceuticals while my skin is still free of liver spots, tan and taut and not some wrinkly sack held together by the miracle of Spanx and Suzanne Somers skin-care products.
SID: You’re talking about your parents’ generation, kid. They don’t make Spanx for my age group. I say: Take me as I am or don’t waste my time.
DEEGAN: I dig that. You should make up a T-shirt, seriously, if your kind still wears T-shirts.
SID: Getting older is not interesting to you in any way. Have I got that right?
DEEGAN: Honestly, I don’t see the appeal.
SID: It’s when you finally get to look back and take stock of the difference you made in people’s lives and get rewarded for it. I get discounts everywhere. A free donut with my coffee. Young people give up their seats on the bus for me, even though they’ve probably had a harder day than I had. No more 9-to-5.
DEEGAN: I don’t work 9-to-5. . .yet. I’m a full-time student, usually. I mean, who’s got the time?
SID: Old ladies love my company. They can’t get enough of me. When you get to my age, there are a lot more women than men, so I don’t have as much competition as I used to.
DEEGAN: I don’t “get” girls. They’re always after you to impress ’em. It ain’t right. It wears me out. Don’t get me wrong, I like fooling around. I just like being alone more.
SID: I did for a long time. You’ll change your tune.
DEEGAN: Girls cost money, which means getting a job which means having a boss which means bending over and doing what you’re told. I like money, but not if I have to work for it.
SID: I have money: a pension and Social Security. And I never have to work.
DEEGAN: You have my attention. How do I get in on that? What is it exactly?
SID: Payback. For work I did years ago, the government gives me a check every month, in my case, enough so I can afford “living large” at this fancy establishment.
DEEGAN: If it’s for work you did years ago, why didn’t they pay you then instead of now when it just buys you another helping of Jell-O?
SID: They’ve been keeping it safe for me. Otherwise I would have spent it all on fancy cars and expensive women. I didn’t need it then. I need it now.
DEEGAN: Okay, you’re rolling in it. That’s cool. And the old ladies want you. But isn’t it true men your age can’t, you know, perform?
SID: Some, the poor guys on blood thinners. But the ladies around here are mostly just looking for company, someone to fawn over and flirt with.
DEEGAN: I’d kill myself if I could never –
SID: Not everyone’s on blood thinners. My equipment works just fine, thank you.
DEEGAN: Good. I’d hate to think you’ve retired your man card.
SID: Nope. Still got it. Still active as ever.
DEEGAN: Hope you use protection.
SID: I do as a matter of fact. It’s called not getting caught alone with the opposite sex behind closed doors, unless it’s someone you want to spend a lot of time with. When you live in a senior center, breaking up is near impossible. If you start dating here, you’re an item until one of you flat-lines. And with all those life-saving pills you were talking about, that could take a while.
DEEGAN: I’ll bet Death is like the Fedex truck: every afternoon another pickup. How do you get used to it?
SID: You don’t. Some people keep to themselves. They think it hurts less that way.
DEEGAN: What about (indicating): Jell-O man?
SID: I’m talking to you, aren’t I?
DEEGAN: I’m a kid. I’m not planning on dying any time soon. Death is...that crap is for other people.
SID: Sorry about your dad.
DEEGAN (Intensely): Jesus! That was almost two years ago. It was his own damn fault. You don’t do that crap in a moving car on the highway and live. Death didn’t come for him; he volunteered. I’m over it.
SID: I can see that. Maybe we should call it a day. We’ve got the whole week.
DEEGAN: Maybe we should. I saw an empty room down the hall. Think I can crash for a bit?
SID: That was Elaine’s room. She’s not using it anymore. (Takes a moment.) Tell your mom we have a deal.
DEEGAN: Will you still be alive tomorrow? I mean I don’t want to start all over with some other old coot.
SID: I’ll be around, unless there’s something good on TV or I’m busy overdosing on my neighbor’s meds.
DEEGAN: Nah, not you; you’ve got a job, which you apparently take way too seriously.
SID: That’s me. Maybe I’ll even take out my dentures for you as an extra treat, in case you need incentive.
DEEGAN: Well, if I have to spend time with my mother’s parents’ generation, it beats the alternative.
SID: You don’t want to go back to school?
DEEGAN: Are you kidding? In a heartbeat. But if I mess this up, they may not think I’ve learned my lesson. They’ll be watching me like a hawk, hoping to expel me next time. I just want to put everything behind me and start over. It was a dumb thing I did. You ever do dumb things, things you can’t take back, things that haunt you?
SID (With a self-deprecating laugh): Me? Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you about a few.
DEEGAN: Okay. But it better be more than just cutting someone off in traffic. (EXITS.)
Copyright © 2015 by Charles C. Cole