by Charles C. Cole
Dusk. The muffled sound of a DOOR BELL. DONALD WESTON, 40s, step-son, approaches GRANTHAM DeBOYERS, 70s, sitting on a bench in his back yard. GRANTHAM nervously squints through the evening air for something he thinks might be briefly exposed by flashes of spectacular lightning. He is exhausted.
DONALD: Grantham? Dad? There you are! Didn’t you hear me banging on the front door?
GRANTHAM: I’m done with visitors.
DONALD: What are you doing out here? It’s been pouring buckets all day. Where’s your umbrella?
GRANTHAM: Just one more thing to lose.
DONALD: You weren’t visiting Mom in this weather, were you? That’s above and beyond the call.
GRANTHAM: I wanted to. I started to. I promised, but the bridge is washed out. (Beat) Why are you here?
DONALD: Susie said you called, talking nonsense about selling the place.
GRANTHAM: I’m one person. It’s a little big.
DONALD: (Blurting) You can’t. I grew up here.
GRANTHAM: I remember. Some of it.
DONALD: Mom and I were in this house for ten years before you joined us.
GRANTHAM: So you’ve often reminded me, even after I’ve lived here for over forty years.
DONALD: Why don’t you sell it to me? We’ll keep it in the family. Hate to think of someone else living here. If I close my eyes, I can almost hear Mom calling me inside for supper.
GRANTHAM: You can’t go back, son.
DONALD: Don’t call me that.
GRANTHAM: Even now? You’re all I have and I don’t have you at all, do I?
DONALD: You took her away from me.
GRANTHAM: You grew up and married. Susan’s a good woman. You love her. She loves you. If I hadn’t married your mother, I don’t think you ever would have made a life of your own.
DONALD: We were happy enough. You changed that.
GRANTHAM: I’d like to think for the better.
DONALD: Every year we’d go to Disney World, just the two of us. You get married and suddenly I’m staying with the Barnetts while you honeymoon without me in (said like it’s Monaco) Costa Rica.
GRANTHAM: You would have hated it. Besides, we needed time alone. (With real pain.) She was my world.
DONALD: She was my world.
GRANTHAM: You still have Susan.
DONALD: (True. Gentler.) Look at you, all wet. You look like a drenched cat. You’ve got to let her go. Would she really want you to walk around the neighborhood in the rain, uncovered, soaking? What if I hadn’t shown up? Let’s get you inside.
GRANTHAM: I’ll drip on the wood floor. She wouldn’t like it.
DONALD: I think she’d go gentle on you this one time.
GRANTHAM shakes his head, resigned.
DONALD (CONT’D): Maybe we can compromise, move you into the garage until you dry off and then you can transition to the house in your own good time. What do you say?
GRANTHAM: She’s out there, Donald. (Pointing.) My sweet Coriander.
DONALD: A private vault at the end of the road: Glen Moor Cemetery. Nice way to keep her in your life. She should be very happy there. She can watch over you from up on the hill.
GRANTHAM: Cori wasn’t the kind to simply sit and watch the world pass her by.
DONALD: (Relaxing.) No, she wasn’t. Keeping up with her was pretty exhausting. I’ll bet Costa Rica was her idea.
GRANTHAM: Everything was so lush. We hiked everywhere, around Arenal and through Rincon de la Vieja. We tandem kayaked, along with a guide, down the Corobici River, passed howler monkeys and Jesus Christ lizards. They run across the water, you know.
DONALD: (Distracted by something off-stage, staring off.) I saw the pictures, 300 as I recall, more. There’s probably still an album or two in the den.
GRANTHAM: We were finishing a picnic on the riverbank, when this odd fellow with a tall hat drifted near in a small plastic kayak: his arms crossed and his eyes closed, as if in repose, with no sign of a paddle. Our guide, Ernesto, whispered this was a known shaman and to keep our distance.
DONALD: I never heard this part. Is this for real?
GRANTHAM: It was... weird. We chose not to talk about it. The shaman opens his eyes. “Help!” he cries. “A crocodile took my paddle!”
DONALD: And you fell for that?
GRANTHAM: Instinctively, your mother holds out her paddle and pulls him closer. “We can’t just leave him. We can get by with one paddle. Take mine,” she says.
DONALD: My mother, the hero, even when it’s against her better interests.
GRANTHAM: “You have much love,” he says. “Let me repay you. Ask for anything.” “He thinks he’s a genie now,” says Ernesto. “What would make you happy?” says the shaman.
DONALD: I know this one: Not having a no-good step-son.
GRANTHAM: (Dismisses him with a wave.) “Share nothing,” says Ernesto. “He’ll use it against you; it’s in his nature: he creates mischief.” “We’re already happy,” says your mother. “The only thing that could make me happier,” I say, “is knowing I’ll sleep in the same bed with my darling wife for the rest of my life.”
DONALD: Mr. Romance.
GRANTHAM: “And so you will,” he says. He removes a black marble from his pocket, wraps a large leaf around it, holding it together with a rubber band off his wrist, and throws the offering into the river. “You have your wish,” he says, pushing himself away. “You should hope she outlives you.” And for forty years, whether due to his magic or ours, we always slept in the same bed.
DONALD: Too much information.
GRANTHAM: You and Susan have separate bedrooms, I suppose.
DONALD: A beautiful story, really. But I don’t think you stayed together because of some medicine man.
GRANTHAM: When you’re young, you don’t think about dying. You think about living.
DONALD: It must be rough to break with routines, I get it.
GRANTHAM: I don’t think we’ll ever break with our routines. That’s the point. I think she’s coming now and will keep coming. That’s why I have to move.
DONALD: Who? Mom? I don’t think so. Not in her condition.
GRANTHAM: The shaman said for as long as I live, not as long as we both live.
DONALD: She’s gone. Not to be rude, but I don’t think you really want to sleep with her tonight.
GRANTHAM: Last night, I was pretty heavily sedated, for my own good, I’m sure. I don’t think I would have slept without it. And in the morning, I found the front door ajar.
DONALD: Must have been the wind.
GRANTHAM shakes his head.
DONALD (continuing): Maybe some opportunistic teenager knew you were drugged up and alone. They were scoping things out. Good thing you live in a gated community.
GRANTHAM: There was a long, distinct impression in the bed beside me. I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep alone. I remember feeling her against me, but I was afraid to open my eyes. Afraid to breathe in the smell of her. Formaldehyde? Is that what they use? She was a beautiful woman in life, right up until the end, but I don’t trust that’s still true. Is that bad of me, to feel that way?
DONALD: I’m sure you wanted her back. It’s natural.
GRANTHAM: I think she’s walking back through the rain to join me again tonight.
DONALD: But you said the bridge–
GRANTHAM: She was always a strong swimmer. And stubborn. She’ll find a way. She has to do what she has to do.
DONALD: Tell you what, let’s get you in and give you something to sleep. I’ll lock the door on my way out and bring the key back in the morning. How’s that?
GRANTHAM: I can’t find the spare key. I think she has it. She always kept it on her.
DONALD: (Concerned.) Can I call someone? Let me call someone.
GRANTHAM: Love is for the living, don’t forget that.
DONALD: I won’t. (Noticing something off-stage, struck with fear.) What the... who’s there?!
GRANTHAM: (Making the best of a bad situation.) She’s early. Look who’s here, honey! Donald’s come for a visit.
DONALD: Mom? Oh my God! Oh my God!
Copyright © 2017 by Charles C. Cole