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Releasing Shirley

by Charles C. Cole

JB MCKENNEY: Mid-40s. Soon to remarry, but needs to let go of the past first.

UNCLE DONALD: Similar age. Socially awkward. Brother to JB’s late wife

MARNIE: 20s, JB’s daughter, DONALD’s niece

MINKA: 20s, future bride, vaguely eastern European, vamped, smarter than she acts.

OFFICER: Amusement park uniformed staff.

Scene: Night, a quiet corner of a local amusement park, near a fence.

JB, DONALD, MARNIE, MINKA enter, MARNIE leading with a small plush animal, while MINKA has a huge similar plush animal. A bench and trash barrel stand downstage.

DONALD (Trying hard to impress MINKA): So, after the third time on the ride, the kid, who’s only four years old, turns to his father and says, “Daddy, I love this ride; it tickles my penis.”

MINKA doesn’t “get it” but smiles and shrugs, trying to react appropriately.

JB (Focused, faux solemn): This is where it happened. I remember it like it was yesterday.

DONALD (Continuing a prior conversation): You sure it was here? It’s been a long time.

JB (Scowls): Yep, right here (approaching the exact spot where MARNIE stands). Nineteen eighty- (Coughs the remaining number into his hand as he considers how old he really is.): That’s the spot where I lost my virginity.

MARNIE: That’s nice. Please don’t tell me I am the proud product of hot summer air, alcohol, and the “magic” of Fun Town.

JB: No, you were much later. Your mother was not that kind of girl. And it wasn’t the magic of Fun Town for you, no, it was the magic of in-vitro fertilization.

MARNIE: Dad, why are we here?

JB (Hugging MARNIE and indicating MINKA): To give you and Minka a chance to bond.

MARNIE: What happened to good old-fashioned “girls’ night”?

MINKA: No more. Count me out. I see my share crazy strip clubs.

MARNIE: That’s Ladies’ Night.

JB (Moving on quickly): Think of this as “girls’ night” plus two. You hardly know each other. We didn’t want it to be awkward.

DONALD: Your “high school quarterback” father is taking us on a kind of tour, revisiting the past so he can let go of the “old” before he embraces the “new.”

MINKA: And that would be me.

JB: Every lovely inch of you, my sweet bride-to-be.

DONALD: Lucky bastard. For the record, JB’d never have found you if I hadn’t been checking out “The Luscious Ladies of Buxombourg.” I mean, if I hadn’t convinced him to try online dating.

MARNIE: Uncle Donald, we know all about your “online dating,” thank you very much.

JB (Again, moving on): I’ve made lots of memories here.

MINKA: I prefer make new ones.

DONALD (Suggestively): I can help make memories.

MARNIE: Uncle Donald!

DONALD And that’s why I brought (teasing Marnie, pulls out two PBRs): these.

MARNIE: Beer? You brought beer?

DONALD: Not just any beer. The sacred beer: Pabst Blue Ribbon.

DONALD/JB (Chanting): PBR! PBR! PBR!

MARNIE: Should you be doing that here? They’re gonna throw us out.

DONALD (Proudly, to JB): Wouldn’t be the first time. Right, pardner?

JB (They open the beers, as if pre-planned, and pour them into a trash barrel, humming something indistinct.): It’s a farewell ritual. We saw it on some televised biker gang funeral. Don’t judge.

MINKA: Is okay. Is part of plan.

MARNIE: You’re in on this?

MINKA: I want your father to have bachelor party. He say, “I been down that road.” So we make new road. (Looking around, joking) And, look, no traffic.

OFFICER (Entering): Okay, gentlemen, what do we have here?

MARNIE: Apparently, a bachelor party, though nobody bothered to tell me.

DONALD: Officer, it’s not what you think. Feel free to smell our breath. Breaths? (Exhaling demonstrably) We poured it all out. Absolutely, no consuming of alcohol here.

MARNIE: It’s true.

OFFICER: Which doesn’t explain why you brought it. (To MINKA, suggestively) Aren’t you the pretty one?

JB: Hey, now. There’s no call for that. We’ll leave peacefully. We’ve done what we came for.

OFFICER: Have you now? I don’t think so.

DONALD: Is there something wrong?

OFFICER: You tell me. Two old guys and two pretty young ladies.

MARNIE: I’m his daughter.

MINKA: I’m his fiancée.

OFFICER: You don’t say. (Noticing) So where’s the ring?

MINKA: Oh, poop! I take off for work. I am massage therapist and, with the rubbing and the oil, is a goopy job.

OFFICER: A massage therapist, you say?

JB: I don’t really like your tone.

OFFICER: It’s all right, I’m just yanking your chain, one of the perks of the job. That and the tool belt. I’m “in on it.” (Revealing an urn in a rucksack. To MINKA) I suppose you’ll be wanting this back.

MINKA: I drop off Shirley’s ashes here earlier today. I thought we spread by fence.

MARNIE/DONALD/JB: Excuse me!/Wow!/You what?

MINKA: It help you let go. So you can start over — with me. Is no big deal. (Reassuring) She not going anywhere — until we’re ready. (Explaining) So there wouldn’t be accident, I Superglued.

Perhaps due to shock or her accent, they don’t seem to “get it.”

MINKA (Over-enunciating): Su-per-gl-ued.

JB: Superglued?

MINKA: Superglued.

DONALD: Talk about a woman of action.

MINKA: Was I... too ambitious? I thought: to be safe, I mean.

DONALD: Honey, Noah was ambitious. You are Machiavellian.

MINKA (Genuinely): This is good?

MARNIE: A bachelor party where you spread the late wife’s ashes. (To JB) Where did you find her?

MINKA (Defensively): I want make night memorable. We don’t have spread ALL ashes, just enough to make a statement, small statement.

DONALD chuckles. After a moment, JB joins him.

JB: I’m thinking they do things differently where you come from.

MINKA: I am making effort here.

JB (Convincing himself): She did like this place. Insisted we come every summer.

MARNIE (Not a happy memory): Believe me, I remember.

MINKA: We don’t have to use all of it, all of her.

MARNIE: Am I the only sane one here?

MINKA (To JB): For me.

DONALD: I think sis would get a kick out of it, so long as it’s only enough to make a statement.

MARNIE: I hate you all, but I’m not leaving, because I want to make sure this is done right, respectfully.

DONALD and JB share a shrug: “as close to respectful as we can get, given the circumstances.”

OFFICER (Taking the urn from MINKA): If you’re sure, I’ve got all sorts of tools...

JB shrugs reluctant approval.

OFFICER (Tries unsuccessfully to open the urn.): Superglue, huh?

MINKA (Proud that he “gets” it!): Superglue! Yes, that’s it!

OFFICER (Thinking): I’ve got a corkscrew I took off a couple of teenagers.

MARNIE (To the urn): Hang in there, Mom.

OFFICER (Puts the urn on the ground and tries prying it open.): I’m not getting anywhere with this one.

JB (Lightly): Reminds me of our first date.


OFFICER (Defeated): I’m afraid I, ah, gouged it. Sorry.

MARNIE (Grabbing it, suppressing sobbing.): Let me take it, please.

MINKA (Realizing the mood): I think we should call off.

MARNIE: The sprinkling of Mom or the wedding?

MINKA: The... What do you call it when you release something back in wild?

OFFICER: “Reintroduction.”

MINKA (Shocked): Really?

JB (Taking the urn): My late wife, ladies and gentlemen, a woman who needs no reintroduction. (They’re all shocked.) It’s a joke. It’d be funnier if I was younger.

MARNIE: Can we go home now?

JB: Good idea. (All except MINKA start to EXIT.) Hey, Donald, go long! (DONALD dashes off-stage when JB tosses the urn.)

MARNIE: Dad, stop! Uncle Donald, no! Oh my God!

Dust drifts over the stage.

OFFICER (Racing off): We can scoop it back up. I’ve got all sorts of tools.

MINKA (Alone): So long, Shirley. You fly heaven now. I take care things down here.

Copyright © 2016 by Charles C. Cole

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