What We Do Together
by Charles C. Cole
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
“The Prodigal Grandfather”
Scene 5: Week Two, Tuesday
DEEGAN enters the rec room. He is alone.
DEEGAN: Sid? Mr. Baron? Oh damn, I bet he died. Prick. I knew it. Well, this just sucks, thank you very much. (He removes an e-cigarette and takes a drag, then he takes his cell phone from his pocket and calls out.) Mom? I know you’re working. What do you think I’m doing? Yeah, but you’re used to hanging out with old people: you speak their language. Okay. Okay. I’m sorry to bother you on the job, but did anyone tell you if Mr. Baron died, ‘cause he’s not here.
SID enters unseen. He’s using a walker and carrying a clipboard with lots of notes and motoring fairly quickly, but it’s clearly an effort for him. He stops to catch his breath.
DEEGAN: I told you it was a dumb idea. What the hell can I learn from old people that I can use in the next, I don’t know, fifty years? Seriously? What about that soup kitchen you were telling me about? At least I know something about food.
DEEGAN: (Noticing SID.) No crap. He’s here. The prodigal grandfather’s returned. I gotta go. I’ll stop by your office when we’re done. (Answering a question about Elaine.) I won’t. It was one time. Sid said she wasn’t using it. How was I supposed to know that meant she croaked? I don’t know. I thought she got better.
SID: Sorry I’m late. I lost track of time.
DEEGAN: I thought you were dead.
SID: (Sitting.) I got better.
DEEGAN: (DEEGAN pockets his e-cigarette.) I’m trying to quit. Mom doesn’t know.
SID: You secret’s safe with me.
DEEGAN: For the record, you got me in a piss load of trouble yesterday. I didn’t know Elaine died.
SID: Again with the angry honesty. How refreshing. Deegan, when rooms become available here, it always means somebody’s died.
DEEGAN: News to me. I thought she went home.
SID: No. Just the Fedex truck with another pickup.
DEEGAN: And then I found a picture of you under her bed. Surprise. I didn’t know you even knew her. Here. (Hands it over.)
SID: We were friends. (Catching up.) What were you doing looking under her bed?
DEEGAN: I thought she might have stashed something there. That’s what I would have done. (Beat.) This is NOT about me. I was here like we agreed. What the hell happened to you? I mean, you live here for God’s sake.
SID: Before you start making gross generalities against me and my fellow inmates, I was NOT watching “The A-Team” or “MacGyver” or even “Mayberry.” I was trying to make a list of things that might actually be useful for you to know now (Holds up clipboard.), instead of learning them the hard way like I did. Here.
DEEGAN: (Taking the clipboard, reluctantly.) Jesus Christ! Jesus freaking Christ! When they suspended me from school for a week I didn’t think I’d be - I don’t know - going to school during my time off. What is all this? “Use language in an inviting way. Give respect to earn respect. Treat every woman you’re with like she’s the most important person in the room.”
SID: We don’t have to cover it all at once. We’ve got the whole week. A lot of it’s common sense.
DEEGAN: (Giving it back.) I think my head’s going to explode. Did it just get hot in here?
SID: It’s not as much as you think. I write big, so I can read what I write. And I’m sure I repeated myself. I haven’t had a chance to double-check it. We don’t have to go over every item.
DEEGAN: Oh my god! (Sitting.) I think I’m having a heart attack. What does a heart attack feel like? My brain feels woozy and my ears are on fire.
SID: You’re not having a heart attack, son.
DEEGAN: How do you know? What, were you a doctor in your pre-commitment days?
SID: No, but I do know your heart is not in your head.
DEEGAN: Maybe it’s a stroke then. That has something to do with your brain, right?
SID: I didn’t mean to overwhelm you.
DEEGAN: Did my mom put you up to this?
SID: I told you before: I want this to be quality time. God know it’s not going to be quantity.
DEEGAN: So is my mom, like, your boss? This is just like her: bait and switch. “Come hang out with old people. Test at eleven.”
SID: What? No, she’s in charge of the staff, not the patients. (Blowing up.) Do you know anything about life at all, outside of videogames and movies, about being responsible and preparing for adulthood, about Commitment with a capital C?
DEEGAN: I know when someone’s talking down to me. Is that what you mean? ‘Cause I know that one real well.
SID: Deegan, I’m not talking down to you. I’m making an effort here. Look, we can sit around and play checkers or cards, and you’ll be bored out of your teen-aged mind, or we can talk about bigger things. Maybe you’ll disagree with me, maybe I’ll come across as a know-it-all blow-hard, but at least you’ll be thinking about things. And that’s gotta count for something.
DEEGAN: Is this Sid Baron’s ABCs of right and wrong? Because I know a lot about that already. Like, my parents were wrong to have sex without protection. My father was wrong to text and drive. And I was right to end the most boring-ass Spirit Day assembly of my life. What do they know about class pride? Everybody knows they rig the system every year so the senior class can win. I ask you, what’s the point? It’s not my job to make somebody else feel good about themselves.
SID: No, I think that’s my job. (Back-pedaling.) I’m kidding. I’m kidding. You can dish it out, but you sure can’t take it, can you? That’s your Achille’s heel.
DEEGAN: The Iliad, right? See, I know a few things. Yeah, I’ve got a thin skin. Yeah, it gets me in trouble sometimes. If you’ve got a cure for that, you’re worth whatever my mom’s paying you. But you don’t. Nobody does. What is she paying you anyway?
SID: Not much because it’s against the rules and she knows I would have done it for free. She found me in need of a distraction. Timing is everything.
DEEGAN: You and Elaine were more than just friends, weren’t you?
SID: You say that like being friends is a consolation prize. We were good friends, old friends. Did we trip the light fantastic now and again? You’ll never know. What’s important to know is: if she used my toothbrush, it was no big deal. If any other woman ever dared to stick her finger in my coffee, to tease me like that, I would have immediately dumped it out and started over.
DEEGAN: But not her.
SID: With her, it would invariably taste better. My cup of life was sweeter with her. But no more. So here we are.
DEEGAN: (Reading the list again.) I get that you put a lot of time and thought into this, but you realize we only have one week, less than a week. (Beat.) It’s not happening. (Tears up the list.) I don’t want you to get your hopes up. You’re a nice old guy and everything, but this (Holding up the paper.) is bullcrap.
SID: You don’t know what you’re doing, son.
DEEGAN: I’m taking the pressure off right now. No wonder we lock your kind away; it’s the only way to make you let go of the world, to get you ready for dying. Head to the light, Sid. That’s your only job now. Head for the freaking light.
SID: What are you saying?
DEEGAN: That watching TV may not be such a bad thing. I’ll even make us popcorn.
SID: That’s not going to happen. Deegan, do you know the terms of your suspension?
DEEGAN: Sure: do something for the community, blah blah blah, come back a changed man.
SID: That’s part of it. The other part, and you can thank your mom for this, is: I have to write a testimonial on your behalf.
DEEGAN: (Pause.) I don’t know what that means.
SID: It means that unless you show some sincere interest in what I’m offering you here today, unless you present yourself as contrite and attentive and respectful, your dreams of going back to school with your friends are going to be just that, dreams.
DEEGAN: (Stands.) You wouldn’t do that.
SID: I wouldn’t want to, but I’m also not going to write some glowing recommendation and have you embarrass me your first day back. I’m not going to lie for you.
DEEGAN: (Slow burn, then a whisper.) You little traitor.
SID: Excuse me?
DEEGAN: I’m glad Elaine died.
SID: What did you say?
DEEGAN: Yeah, so she wouldn’t have to see you being a total prick.
SID: I think you should leave. I think you should go back to “Mommy” and tell her this isn’t going to work.
DEEGAN stands, starts to exit.
DEEGAN: (Back to SID.) Are you quitting on me, too, Sid? Is that what this is? Didn’t take long.
SID: (Pause.) Sit down.
SID: Now I didn’t come up with this plan. Your mom and the principal did. She’s a good lady, your mom. She’s always advocating for us with the cost-cutting board, making sure we get to hold onto our dignity in spite of everything. Things have been a little hard on her lately, you’ve been a little hard on her. She doesn’t deserve it. This is me doing my part to help out, like it or not.
SID: (Gently.) Deegan, we can make this work. It doesn’t have to be painful.
DEEGAN: Not! Not! Not!
SID: (Another option.) Maybe you need time to think about it. Elaine’s room is still empty if you want to crash, but I hope not.
DEEGAN: Not! Not! Not! Not! Not!
SID: This isn’t very mature of you. I thought you were the man of the house, now that your dad’s gone.
DEEGAN: (Catching his breath.) That, Mr. Baron, would have hurt no matter how thick my skin was.
SID: I’m just trying to get through to you, to make an impression.
DEEGAN: I’ve got something that’ll make an impression: it’s called a smoke bomb. (Reaching into his pocket and removing a smoke bomb.)
SID: That particular action backfired on you last time. What do you think would happen this time?
DEEGAN: People would notice me, take me seriously. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get kicked out of the old folks’ home. Then I can hang out at home until -
SID: First off, you’d probably get your mom fired. Is that what you want? (Pointed.) Then you could both go to the soup kitchen.
DEEGAN: I meant as volunteers!
SID: I know what you meant. Careful what you ask for.
DEEGAN: I don’t want her to get fired. This isn’t about her. This is my fight.
SID: You’re here because she’s on staff. If you mess up, it could reflect badly on her. I don’t think that’s what you want.
DEEGAN: Why are we joined at the hip? Why can’t I do my own thing without thinking of her first? It’s not fair.
SID: It’s not fair for her either, but it is what it is.
DEEGAN: Why does everything have to have consequences? Just once, I want a do-over.
SID: You haven’t done anything yet.
DEEGAN: I don’t want to do it. Don’t let me.
SID: You want me to overpower you? Is that the idea? Because I don’t see that happening.
DEEGAN: Then give me a reason.
SID: You can start by showing your mom that you are capable of making better decisions than your father was.
DEEGAN: Damn right I am.
SID: Even though we all make mistakes now and again.
DEEGAN: One. I made one mistake, one big one, and came pretty close to lighting a second one. But I haven’t yet.
DEEGAN: I don’t know. Because I’m tired of kids looking at me like I’m the bad guy. Nobody got hurt. I did everybody a favor, ending that scam-fest. I didn’t know it was going to be a smoke bomb.
SID: I don’t think that’s exactly true. I don’t think there was another kid. Was there? I don’t think you would have let anyone in on your little secret. I think you bought it and you knew what was going to happen.
DEEGAN: They were supposed to have the pep rally outside and the smoke would have just blown away, you know? But it started freaking raining and I was already committed, not your kind. It wasn’t my fault they moved everything into the gym. It was just dumb luck.
SID: Deegan, I want to know if I can trust you.
DEEGAN: I fed you Jell-O when you needed it, even though you were just pulling my chain. I didn’t run away or abandon you or make fun of you. For all I knew, I was saving your life. I did the right thing.
SID: Yes, you did.
DEEGAN: Now it’s your turn.
SID: To feed you Jell-O?
DEEGAN: To make me look good.
SID: Let’s lower the bar a little. Put that thing away. Let’s just focus on this week, one day at a time, and build from there. Okay?
DEEGAN: (Putting it back in his pocket.) And then you’ll write me a testimonial? I gotta get back to school. I just gotta.
SID: I know. Our goal is to put some normalcy in your life. I think school is the best thing for you. I think we can get you ready.
DEEGAN: I hope you’re right because this whole “not being in school” thing gets old fast. Don’t get me wrong, school sucks a lot, but it’s what I know, you know?
SID: I do.
DEEGAN: I was even thinking of staying back a year.
SID: That wouldn’t be good for anyone. Let’s talk.
Copyright © 2016 by Charles C. Cole