By James Ralston
(early spring: wet and cold)
Storm music. Lights slowly rise on a family living room (stage left) with jagged edges that blur into a cemetery (stage right). A fog surrounds a hollow tree, and we have to look hard to see a young woman, DAPHNE, reading in the hollow. On the other side of the cemetery, we see the balcony of a rectory. A flash of lightning and thunder correspond to rising spot light on Daphne. The spot snaps off; stage to black; lights now slowly rise in the living room where OTTO, 50’s, in work clothes, holding a bat in his hand, sits with HENKA, 70’s, in front of the TV, watching a ball game. Near the TV, we see a punching bag, trophy case, boxing gloves hanging on a hook, baseball bats mounted on the wall. More lightning. Daphne appears meditating in her upstairs room.
TV: There’s a drive into deep left center. It’s in the gap and …
OTTO: (with lots of body language) Go.
TV: … off the wall on the second bounce. One run in. Two runs in. Lopez is rounding second. He’s digging for third. Here comes the throw. Lopez slides…. Safe!
OTTO: Yes. (high fives Henka) This crowd goes wild, sport fans.
TV: This Comerica Park crowd is on its feet.
OTTO: Triple, Mom. Look. They’re showing the re-run. Most beautiful hit in baseball.
HENKA: You’re a beautiful man, Charles Grabowski.
OTTO: (holding up his hand to signal he’s concentrating on the TV) I know. I know.
TV: Oh my. Look at this. Here it comes….. Here comes the rain, folks.
OTTO: Noooooo. Damn the luck.
HENKA: I have to go to the little girl’s room now.
TV: And it is a deluge, Tiger fans. Oh my. Just when we get a little lead.
OTTO: I hate this world. (turns the TV down; punches a punching bag mounted nearby)
HENKA: If you hate, you become the hate…. I have to go powder my nose, Charles.
OTTO: (while TV continues on the cloud burst, the grounds crew coming onto the field, etc., Otto wanders over to the window, stage left, opens it, lights a cigarette) Otto, Mom. Charles is dead…. We planted Charles forty years ago…. All this rain. The ground just can’t hold it. No rain for months, now it won’t stop…. What is it, Ma? You got to see a man about a horse? Hold on a minute, okay. Here come the girls.
Otto fans the smoke out the window; enter DORA, 17 and ROSA, late 40’s, shaking umbrellas. Dora is wearing a hippy skirt and is looking at her cell phone. The TV is still on, but lower. From upstairs, one hears an ommmm.
DORA: Hi Grandma. You should see it out there. It’s pouring.
Henka grasps Dora’s hand, looks at her adoringly, like Dora might be the Madonna herself. Rosa, meanwhile, crosses to an interior exit to the upstairs bedrooms.
ROSA: (smelling the smoke, scowling at Otto, before going to the interior exit/entrance, looking up the staircase) Daphne? Are you up there? Why don’t you come down and help set the table for dinner?
OTTO: (headed for the basement via the kitchen exit) Don’t ask her. Tell her.
ROSA: (going up the stairs a few steps) I could use a little help down here.
DORA: (looking at her cell-phone) It’s okay, Mom. I can set the table.
OTTO: (putting on his rubber boots) Let Daphne do it.
DORA: Why bother her?
ROSA: (from upstairs) Look. You didn’t eat one bite of your lunch. Why do I even try?
OTTO: (to Dora) Bother her?… Bother her to “do” a few things around here. We got our own Lake Belleville laying on the basement floor. We can go fishing down there. While Daphne’s up in her god-damn room, meditating … becoming “all one.”
ROSA: (returning to the living room with a tray of food) Watch your language, Otto.
DORA: Don’t make fun of her, Dad. (starts to text-message; Otto glares at her)
ROSA: You’re not down at Kopenski’s, you know.
DORA: You know why she’s the way she is … right now.
OTTO: No. I don’t know why. (Looking at her phone, Dora laughs.)
HENKA: You’re a beautiful young lady, Daphne Grabowski.
DORA: Dora, Grandma. Dora.
OTTO: You tell me why. My father died in a West Virginia cold mine when I was ten. Did I go live in a tree? The world’s a lonesome place. Life’s a bitch, then you die.
DORA: He’s so funny.
OTTO: Who’s so funny? (seeing she is looking at her cell phone) Hey, this is your father talking…. What are you doing?
DORA: I’m texting, Dad. You know what I’m doing.
OTTO: (approaching her) Texting who?
DORA: Isn’t that my business?
ROSA: Watch your tone with your father, young lady.
DORA: Larry, if he must know…. (to Otto) Larry LaRue…. Lash.
OTTO: Lash Larue?
Dora, looking at her messages, laughs again; Otto tries to grab it out of her hand.)
DORA: Hey!… Mom! Tell Dad to stop menacing me.
ROSA: Stop fighting, you two.
OTTO: The kid that tried to burn the rectory down. That Lash Larue we’re talking about?
HENKA: (trying to stand up) The Lord helps those that help themselves.
DORA: He’s not a kid anymore. He has his own home improvement company.
ROSA: That’s right, Otto. Over in Westland. On Ford Road.
DORA: We text sometimes, okay?… He’s offering me a summer job, okay?…
OTTO: Daphne’s pal, back in high school?… He’s offering you a job?
DORA: Yes. And it’s a free country, by the way. I can talk to who I want to. (slamming her phone shut) I hate this family!
ROSA: Dora Grabowski!
Dora exits upstairs; Rosa continues setting the table; TV continues to be on.
OTTO: Why didn’t she just tell me?
ROSA: Otto. This happens every time.
OTTO: Did you hear that? My old buddy Lash Larue has offered Dora a summer job.
ROSA: I come home from mass, walk through that door feeling inspired, like things are going to move forward. Within minutes I’m not feeling good anymore.
OTTO: Why do I have to be the last person to know things around here?
ROSA: Is it that you feel guilty for not going to mass with me anymore? Is that why you need to always bring me down?
HENKA: I gotta see a man about a horse.
OTTO: It’s Friday. Who goes to church on Friday?
ROSA: It’s Good Friday.
OTTO: (returning to the chair by the kitchen door) What’s good about it? No money. No job. Basement flooded. I could water ski down there, if I had a boat and motor.
ROSA: You drive a limo. That’s a job…. while you’re looking for another job. You’re probably doing the best that you can…. Under the circumstances.
OTTO: (lacing up boots) Black Friday, why not? That’s what they used to call it. Goddamn government.
ROSA: Watch your language. Dora’s picking up that bar-room tongue of yours, I hope you notice. Oh, you were quite the devoted Catholic, back when you were courting me.
OTTO: My church is in here. (thumps his chest) Father Thomas and his long winded sermons. Give to the poor, give to the church, be a happy giver…. A cheerful giver.
ROSA: Well, you don’t have to worry about becoming one of those.
OTTO: That’s all I hear.
ROSA: Because that’s all you listen for. Father Thomas is wonderful.
HENKA: It always starts out so warm and nice.
OTTO: Can you spare me a couple bucks, Rosa?
ROSA: No I can’t spare you a couple bucks. A couple bucks for what?
OTTO: For later.
ROSA: For later down at Kopenski’s? (emotionally) Otto, I work my fingers to the bones thirty-seven and a half hours a week—-
OTTO: You don’t have to have a k’niption fit. I was only asking. The band is practicing this afternoon. I’d like to buy myself a beer, is that a crime? I’m sure you had some folding money for the old offertory.
ROSA: What folding money circulates in this house?… Do you think I might feel a little cheap, friends hearing my loose change clanking into the collection plate? (getting more emotional) While Father Thomas is counseling our Daphne for free.
OTTO: Talk’s cheap, but nothing’s free.
ROSA: No, talk isn’t cheap either. (close to crying) Do you know how much this counseling would cost if we were paying for it?
OTTO: What’s this? Come onnnnn. We’re having a little disagreement. It’s no big deal.
ROSA: All we ever do is fight anymore.
OTTO: That’s not all we do. (approaching her with one boot on) No tears, okay. You know I can’t stand that. Come on, I said. Give me a hug.
ROSA: What’s happening to us?
OTTO: We’re married. We’re a family. This is how families are.
ROSA: We start out fighting against the world…. We end up fighting each other.
OTTO: Families fight. We’re going to get through this. We’re good people. (points to Henka) We come from good people.
ROSA: You’re always down at Kopenski’s, or the Elks, jamming with your pals.
OTTO: Look. I’ll go to mass with you Sunday…. And no more talk about divorce, okay? I don’t want to hear that word ever again come out of your lips. We said forever. Till death us do part. I’ll go with you to Easter mass Sunday…. Sunrise service. I’ve got a limo ride to Lansing at ten.
ROSA: (tearfully) Who’s going to take care of Henka if you go to Easter mass?
OTTO: Let Daphne take care of her.
ROSA: Daphne can’t even take care of herself.
OTTO: There. Isn’t that just my point? We gotta get her doing stuff. She can’t be grieving for this dick-head forever…. I’m sorry. I’m not going to pretend anymore. I didn’t like him while he was alive, and I only like him a little bit more now that he’s dead. And that’s only because he’s dead.
HENKA: I’m sorry.
ROSA: Otto. Stop it this minute!… What’s wrong, Mama? What are you sorry about? Do you have to go potty?… Do you have to do your duties? (seeing that Henka has wet herself) I guess we’re a little late this time. Did Henka ask to use the bathroom, Otto?
OTTO: I was in the cellar, Rosa. How many places am I supposed to be at one time?…
(muttering) That sump pump’s got about half the pull it oughtta have. There’s another two hundred bucks I don’t have down the drain.
ROSA: (as she leads Henka, who’s using a walker, toward the bathroom) I hope you’re not working with electricity down there, standing in water.
OTTO: No. I’m standing in beer. I’m standing in piss.
ROSA: I hope you’ve got your life insurance paid up…. Why don’t you just have an electrician come in?… Call up Lash. He’s very mechanical. He can do everything.
OTTO: Why is this Lash’s name coming up all of a sudden? I haven’t heard his name for ten years around this house, now five times in one hour.
ROSA: Just a minute, Mama. (approaches Otto) Otto, I’ve been meaning to talk to you….There’s more going on between Lash and Dora than the summer job thing. He’s asked her to the senior prom.
OTTO: What?… Boy, I can I smell it out, huh?… Lash was in Daphne’s class, in high school. That makes him, what…. almost 30. What’s going on here, Rosa? Come on. Give it to me. Both barrels…. What are you waiting for? Christmas?…
HENKA: (staring off towards the graveyard, starting to weep) Where am I going?
ROSA: You’re ten years older than I am.
OTTO: That’s different…. I can tell you right now the answer is no. I won’t hear it.
ROSA: You will hear it. If a nice, handsome man like Lash has now—-
OTTO: Nice? The boy spent half of his childhood in reform school. The answer is No. It’s time to put the old foot down, Rosa. We didn’t put our foot down with Daphne, and look where she ends up?
ROSA: Oh. Has Daphne “ended up” someplace?
DAPHNE: Ommmm. (Om-ing continues in the background for the next few exchanges, as does Henka’s sniffling and depressing news and silly ads on the TV.)
OTTO: In the goddamn insane-asylum. That’s where she’s gonna end up!
ROSA: I’m going to start crying again. When you talk about her like that.
OTTO: When I tell you the truth, you mean?
ROSA: She’s grieving.
OTTO: You know. That grieving crap was kind of tender there for the first few months. Kind of broke your heart. To see her hanging on her husband’s grave. A year later, it’s not cute at all.
ROSA: Father Thomas is working very hard with her. Twice a week.
OTTO: (disgusted) Father Thomas is a priest. Not a psychiatrist.
ROSA: He’s had training in pastoral counseling.
OTTO: The girl needs some real help. Some pills…. Pastoral counseling! Is that for cows or sheep?… What kind of counselor is it that throws his TV out the upstairs’ window. Who knows whose head that TV could’ve landed on. Was that clear thinking? Give the damn TV to me if he don’t want it. (as he exits) Anybody can use an extra TV. And Dora is not going to the prom with Lash Larue. That’s my final answer.
ROSA: (closes her eyes a few seconds, then walks to the interior entrance) Dora.
DORA: (running down the stairs; looking to see if Otto is still there) What did he say?
ROSA: He said okay…. He’s getting used to the idea.
Dora, all excited, talks to Lash on her cell.
Daphne in a half lotus sitting position beside the hollow of the tree, a pile of books beside her. Thomas arrives, doesn’t see her right away.
THOMAS: Ah. There you are…. Hiding from me…. (A roll of distant thunder) Are we ready to go? It’s quarter past. (no response) You should respect my time a little bit, Daphne. Does my time mean anything to you? (singing to David Bowie’s Space Oddity) Ground Control to Daph-n-e. I was looking at the church records last night. You like coincidences. I christened you on Easter Sunday, 28 years ago. My first year as a priest. I was 28. Now you’re 28.
DAPHNE: And Saturn takes 28 earth years to circle the sun…. Add that in.
THOMAS: I have a present for you. (hands her a book) The life of Saint Teresa of Avila. Also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus.
DAPHNE: Thank you, Father. (looking at the cover; thunder) Listen to the sky.
THOMAS: You should put it on the top of your pile. It’s exciting reading. She was a friend of Saint John of the Cross. They both came this close to burning in the Inquisition. I was thinking, Daphne—
DAPHNE: Do we have to talk right now?
THOMAS: (looking upward) We don’t have to do anything. Except maybe go inside.
DAPHNE: (rumbling thunder) We can make a run for it. If it comes to that.
THOMAS: Lightning can be miles ahead of the storm. We could fry at any second and never know what hit us. Under a big tree like this.
DAPHNE: Just listen…. It’s like God is angry.
THOMAS: I am listening. (walking away) God is telling me to put a roof over my head. Are you coming?… Forget the session, then. (turning back) Speaking of angry, I’m a little angry myself. We’ve been working, so-called “working,” for months and—- I know, you’re only doing this “counseling thing” for your Mom and Dad, but I thought we would at least talk. All this time together, you’ve said maybe ten words of substance.
DAPHNE: What’s wrong with silence? Why talk at all?
THOMAS: To get to know each other, let’s say. To communicate. Look. I’m a busy man. Our cook down at the Soup Bowl is sick today. I could be helping out. All kinds of places.
DAPHNE: David says talk is how people avoid communication.
THOMAS: David. There. Two sessions a week, several months later, the first time you mention his name…. And how did David tell you talk is how we avoid communication? With words?
DAPHNE: (standing up, smiling) Relax, Father Thomas. You’re so uptight.
THOMAS: I’m sorry, Daphne. But if it’s only a charade we’re acting out here, to pacify your parents, I don’t want to play it anymore. We’re just spinning our wheels here.
DAPHNE: (stretching) You’re spinning your wheels. Rushing around, like the world will fall apart if you aren’t constantly propping it up, whipping it into shape?
THOMAS: Where do you want to go with this? Tell me, little sister. Right now. Or I have no more time to give to it.
DAPHNE: I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to go where I already am.
THOMAS: Well, where you already are, wherever that is, doesn’t seem to include me.
DAPHNE: Because we live in different worlds.
THOMAS: So different that we can’t even talk about them?
DAPHNE: What’s to talk about? When it all ends in death?
THOMAS: Does your world end in death?
DAPHNE: No. Yours. That’s why you’re in such a hurry all the time. All this to accomplish before you die forever.
THOMAS: When did I ever say death is the end? I’m a priest. When did I ever say that?
DAPHNE: You didn’t have to say it. I can feel it all through you.
THOMAS: Well, face it? On one level, death is the end. (goes looking for a grave) Where are you, David?… Here you are. David Darwin Walker. Born. Died. A tragically short life…. Don’t close your eyes please. Look at me. He’s not dead to you, dear child. He’s not dead inside of your feelings for him. He’s not dead to God. But here in the real world. Yes. He’s dead.
DAPHNE: Here in the “real” world! Now you’re making me angry.
THOMAS: This world, I mean. The one we dwell in, hour by hour, minute by minute.
DAPHNE: The one you dwell in. I don’t dwell in your “real” world!
THOMAS: Yes you do. (kicks the tree, startling Daphne) Be angry at me all you want, but David is still going to be dead. And no amount of hanging out in the graveyard is going to bring him back to life again…. I know I’m being harsh, but maybe it’s time to take the bull by the horn. You have too much to offer life to be languishing away here to nothing.
DAPHNE: I can take the bull by the horn, too. This real world you talk about is what is dead to me. That’s why I “hang out” in the graveyard. And I’m not “languishing away to nothing,” either. (emotionally) I’m meditating. Your “real world” is a bad dream that David and I woke up from. And death is a word you say that allows you to think you know something about it. (comes to tears; FATHER PAUL appears on rectory balcony)
THOMAS: Well, at least we’re talking. There’s a lot of anger in there, you know…. Are you okay?
DAPHNE: I’m not “okay.” I don’t want to be “okay.” “Okay” means nothing to me!
THOMAS: I know you can’t see it, but this is becoming madness, the ferocity with which you are holding on to David. It’s time to move on. Are you ready to take that first little step?
DAPHNE: Take that first little step to where?
THOMAS: “To where” is what the two of us could be exploring together. Don’t be quite so brave. Nobody makes it in this world all alone.
DAPHNE: If you see me as so alone, why don’t you take a little step towards me, instead of calling me dear child, or little sister, and always insisting on something?
THOMAS: What would you have me do?
DAPHNE: Take off the collar…. That’d be a start. At least for our time together. Why do you wear it? It’s strangling you, can’t you feel it? You’ll be dead soon.
He unfastens his collar; she looks at him, smiles big.
THOMAS: This changes something?
DAPHNE: Yes. It’s a start. Now you can tell me what you think. You.
THOMAS: Shall I take off my shirt, too? Would that make me more … me?
DAPHNE: Relax, Thomas. (flirting) What’s your hurry?… You’re always in a rush.
THOMAS: (walking away) I’ll see you next week, Daphne. Maybe. If I have the time.
Daphne laughs, spins around. A bolt of lightning, a loud thunderclap.
House side, TV is on with depressing news and silly ads. “A new car!” etc. Rosa, in her slip, is ironing her Walmart uniform and Otto again is putting on his boots. Henka, a suitcase beside her, looks at the TV.
OTTO: The answer is no. Look. Nothing against Lash. When he was living next door over at the rectory, he was like the son I never had, almost. I taught him how to box, swing a bat, all kinds of stuff. Steal second base. What did Father Thomas teach him? How to march in peace rallies?… I like Lash just fine.
ROSA: Then what’s your problem?
OTTO: Lash is too old for Dora. Let some kid on the football team take her to the prom.
ROSA: Well, nobody on the football team has happened to ask her. And you know perfectly well why…. There’s ugly talk going around, Otto, and Dora’s taking the brunt of it. You know how mean kids at school can be…. Dora was doing just fine before Daphne came back home.
OTTO: I don’t want to think about it right now. I got a head-ache.
ROSA: Well, take a couple aspirin, and for Dora’s sake, think about it. Do you know what it means to be a girl of seventeen and not be asked to a big dance? Let her go to the prom with Lash. Give her your blessing.
OTTO: Oh, she’ll go to the prom with Lash whether I give my blessing on not. I know exactly what my blessing is worth around this house. But listen up, Rosa, because I’m only gonna say this one more time. Working around Daphne is not the answer here.
ROSA: We have no answer here.
OTTO: We do have an answer here, and I’ve laid it out to you many times.
ROSA: Are you really ready to turn your own daughter out of the house?
OTTO: My “own” daughter doesn’t even talk to me.
ROSA: (putting on her uniform) Do you talk to her?
OTTO: What would I say? Nothing she wanted to hear. The girl’s almost 30. She needs a life. Out there! In the world!
ROSA: She’s not ready yet.
OTTO: Do you know how you get ready to do something in this world? You do it. The girl is beautiful. Educated. And she can’t make a life for herself in America, the richest country in the world?
ROSA: (grabbing a newspaper) Look what I read in the Free Press this morning. About how long a wife in the old world – Italy, Spain, Poland – wore black after she lost her husband. One year. Isn’t it odd I’d read this today. A year to the day that David died.
Daphne appears at interior entrance. Otto and she catch each other’s eyes. Otto exits.
ROSA: (goes to Henka to finish her story; sits on the arm of her chair, holding a picture of her father ) It took me back, Mama Grabowski, to when my Daddie died. It was like I was seeing my life through one of those black veils. I went back to college that fall like I was in a dream, just going through the motions. I didn’t know if it was day or night. Winter came and went. Spring broke out. The flowers. Trees. The birds. Nothing stirred me. We were doing “Macbeth” in my English lit class. All my life I’d dreamed of going to college. Studying great writers. Now I was doing it and it all meant nothing.
HENKA: Charles says to go ahead and tap that keg out in the garage.
ROSA: We had to memorize a passage, and I picked MacBeth’s “Out-out” soliloquy, you know, when he discovers Lady MacBeth is dead. When it was my turn to stand in front, I read it angrily, like this. “Life is a tale told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.” I was shocked to hear myself, like I had suddenly grown fangs and was taking a piece out of God’s neck. Dr. Spengler said he’d never heard that soliloquy interpreted quite so violently.
HENKA: Charles says he’s pretty parched. His thirst is running pretty deep.
ROSA: After class, I was walking back to my dorm. Oh, I was crying so hard. It was raining, but the sun was breaking through and I saw this amazing rainbow. I was standing under a canopy of pink apple blossoms with raindrops dripping off the petals, and I said, oh, my God,… who turned on the lights.
HENKA: You’re a beautiful person, Rosa Parks Grabowski.
ROSA: And that was one year to the day that my Daddie died. (Rosa sees Daphne.) Oh. There you are. We were just talking about you, darling.
DAPHNE: (begins looking through drawers) Mother. I’m missing one of my books. “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.”
HENKA: Will someone help me up, please?
DAPHNE: If you find it, will you leave it for me on the table?
HENKA: Charles is waiting for me at the station.
DAPHNE: (coming to Henka) What station would that be, Grandma?
HENKA: The big station. Who are you? Who sent you?
ROSA: (putting on her Walmart uniform) Don’t upset her, Daphne. Please. It upsets her if you engage her … when she’s in her own world…. Then I have to settle her down, and I’m going to be late for work.
DAPHNE: (still looking at Henka) Where did my book disappear to?
ROSA: I’ll look for it later. You’re going to come down to dinner Easter Sunday, aren’t you, Daph? You never eat with us anymore. Are you going to throw your whole life away? When you have a college degree from the University of Michigan…. Look. I know what day this is. I know what happened last year on this day. So we don’t have to talk right now. Not today. But tomorrow, Daphne. (Daphne starts spinning.) You stop that. Right now. (Rosa stops her) You do that only in your room, if you have to. Not in my living room. Not in the grave-yard either. People can’t understand this behavior. One year of this is enough, don’t you think? (Daphne exits through interior exit, resumes spinning in the graveyard as Rosa addresses her through the exit.)… Tomorrow we turn over a new leaf. Aunts Tillie and Brenda and some friends will be joining us for Easter dinner. Father Paul will be here. Lash. You remember your old friend Lash. He’s coming. As a guest of Dora. And I expect you to be at the table, eating with us, joining in the conversation, wearing the nice skirt and blouse I bought for you. There are going to be demands around here, do you hear me? I’m going to need some help around the house.
As Daphne spins in the graveyard, lights slowly dim to a dark stage. Strobe lights come up. Jungle sounds. A stuck pig squeals. Rosa screams. Music becomes cacophonous, punctuated by other distressing sounds. Machine guns. Helicopters. Wolf howls. Curses. Whips cracking. And Daphne spinning through it all. A chain of dancers appear, the actors and stage hands (except for Thomas, who watches from the rectory balcony) doing a snake dance, Rosa carrying an Easter ham in the clear shape of a dead pig, Daphne breaking the invisible wall between the cemetery and house, everyone in the chain shrinking back from her when she spins near. An auditory-visual cacophony which slowly subsides to depressing news on the TV.
Lights up on Fathers Paul and Thomas in the rectory, Thomas watching Daphne whirling slowly in the cemetery, Paul reading, all else quiet. Stage left, LASH mounts a ladder standing against the side of the house; stops to watch Daphne spinning.
THOMAS: I’m a little hungry. Are you, Father Paul?
THOMAS: I am. I’m starving.
PAUL: Well, go raid the refrigerator, why don’t you?
THOMAS: It’s not in the refrigerator…. What I’m hungry for?
PAUL: Stare it down then. Your hunger. That’s what I do. (standing up, yawning) What’s she doing out there now?
THOMAS: She’s spinning around.
PAUL: (looking for himself) How long can she go on like this?… What possesses her?
THOMAS: Maybe she just feels like spinning around.
PAUL: Civilized people don’t do this.
THOMAS: Civilized people do all kinds of things. They torture other people. They burn women at the stake. They drop atom bombs on cities.
PAUL: We’re not talking about dropping atom bombs. We are referring to weird stuff like spinning around in the cemetery. You weren’t in her home on Easter, Thomas. We were shocked. It was uncalled for what she did. She can thank her lucky stars Otto was out on a limo run. When he finds out about this, all hell is going to break loose next door.
THOMAS: Do we have to talk, Paul?
PAUL: If you are defending her, Thomas, then you’re becoming as strange as she is. Look. She’s stopping. Tell her she has to go home. (Thomas exits) The graveyard belongs to everyone. It’s not her private campground. (Thomas appears in the graveyard below the balcony) Talk to her. She comes out here looking for you, you know. Everybody sees how fond she is of you.
THOMAS: (speaking up towards Father Paul) Fond? Of me? No, not at all fond. But Daphne has invited me to tell her what I really think and that’s just what I’m about to do. (approaching Daphne, who is now reading) Do you think I “am” this collar. Do you think this collar is who I “am”?
DAPHNE: (smiling) Thomas…. Apparently I hit a sensitive spot…. I’m sorry. I only meant to say that your collar is in your thinking, that’s all.
THOMAS: Or maybe you just like to insult people. How would I know?
DAPHNE: I was having a hard day. David and I were having troubles.
THOMAS: What kind of troubles would those be?
DAPHNE: All different kinds. Just like always…. Forgive me for taking it out on you.
THOMAS: Of course. We all have hard days now and then. But back to my first question. So what if religion is in my thinking? I see you out here reading religious type books all the time. (picks up a few lying beside the tree) “The Tao of Physics.” “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” “Bhagavad Gita.” I read books like these. (looking at another book) I’ve heard of this Swedenborg fellow. Why close me out?
DAPHNE: I told you.
THOMAS: Because I said David is dead? I was just shaking things up a little bit, don’t you see? I didn’t mean to say his soul is dead. Of course I believe in the afterlife…. That’s what faith is? The belief in things unseen.
DAPHNE: Once you’ve seen the afterlife, you don’t have to “believe” in it.
THOMAS: … And you have seen it?
DAPHNE: Yes. Many people have. Anybody who wants to. Look at your hand. The skeleton is already visible. The afterlife isn’t something waiting at the end of life. The afterlife is inside you. To be with David, I go inside my own death.
THOMAS: Oh…. But lately there’ve been troubles you say?… Like what troubles? He’s found someone new maybe? (points upward)
DAPHNE: You’re laughing at me.
THOMAS: I’m just trying to see how you think. It is not immediately clear to me what kinds of troubles a living person can get into, excuse me … with a dead person?
DAPHNE: We can’t always reach each other lately.
THOMAS: In your meditations?
DAPHNE: Less and less.
THOMAS: I’m sure that makes you feel lonely.
DAPHNE: Yes. Very.
THOMAS: Have you considered that maybe, on some level, you’re letting go of David now? Or he’s letting go of you? And that this might be a good thing?… Talk to me, Daphne. You need a friend. An embodied friend, and I don’t know who else it could be presently, except me. You’ve got everybody else pretty pissed off right now. To borrow from the vernacular, you are in deep shit. Easter Sunday, at your house.
DAPHNE: Please. Don’t.
THOMAS: I wish I didn’t have to bring it up. You’re really quite beautiful, you know. You’re a beautiful person. But you are not navigating this world well at all. You are hurting people. And are about to be hurt back.
DAPHNE: How am I hurting people?
THOMAS: Doesn’t your mother deserve better than what you gave her Easter Sunday?
DAPHNE: Yes. My poor lost mother.
THOMAS: Your poor lost mother? Some are calling your behavior on Easter a psychotic episode, do you know that? At minimum, it was just plain mean. I think you’ve got some anger issues, Daphne. Maybe hurting people’s feelings is a release valve to siphon off some of that anger. You’ve got a lot to look at.
DAPHNE: Why would I be angry? I feel compassion for lost souls.
THOMAS: Then why would you hurt people who love you? Even lost souls?… Why did you come to dinner like that? What was your pleasure in it?
DAPHNE: I forgot, that’s all.
THOMAS: You forgot what? You forgot you were naked?…. What do you think is going to happen when Otto gets wind of this?
DAPHNE: Why are you raising your voice at me? As if I’m a child?
THOMAS: Nobody forgets they are naked.
DAPHNE: You’re the angry one inside.
THOMAS: Are you ready to get yourself thrown into the loony bin? Because that’s the way people are talking. That’s becoming a real possibility.
DAPHNE: People exaggerate. I wasn’t naked.
THOMAS: Almost…. That’s what I hear. Nothing left to the imagination.
DAPHNE: I do feel bad, embarrassing my Mom. Dora. Everybody. I didn’t know where I was, because I went into a trance. It just happened. David and I broke through. It had been weeks. I was in ecstasy.
THOMAS: Well, a little ecstasy is good now and then. But you have to keep it inside your room, at least.
DAPHNE: I’m sorry the whole thing happened. What can I do about it now?
THOMAS: Nothing. And maybe it’s a good thing it happened, because now it’s pretty clear, isn’t it? You have to come back more into this world. Before you hurt somebody worse, or before somebody hurts you. I can see it coming.
DAPHNE: I couldn’t find my way back now,… even if I wanted to.
THOMAS: If you look at the harsh consequences of not finding your way, believe me, you will want to. And I can help. I can be a bridge for you. We’re not in such different worlds as you are making us out to be…. Look. Sister Charity, buried not ten yards from David. I loved her deeply, just as you did him. Then she was gone. Here. Gone. I’m not going to sugar coat death, and neither should you. Death is a frightening thing. Grief can overwhelming. I’ve grieved too. Bitterly.
DAPHNE: Ah … Bitterly.
THOMAS: … There was bitterness for awhile. Life gives us a bitter pill to swallow now and then. Priests can feel, too. Just like regular human beings.
DAPHNE: There’s the great chasm between us, Father Thomas. You say move on, but I say to what? People may call me crazy, but I’ve never felt more alive than in my grief. My grief for David is like a gift, a divine madness. Even when it’s hard going between us, I embrace this grief. We both do. It opens up countless doors.
THOMAS: And gets you into terrible messes. We don’t understand this kind of talk here in Belleville. Embracing grief. Communicating with the departed. It scares people. It hurts them somehow. If you break off from the emotional norm too severely, the emotional norm responds harshly. We are talking heavy medication here, or the insane asylum, and maybe both. If you don’t navigate this world, that’s where you end up. Locked up, one way or another. You’ve got to keep your clothes on in public. And remember this, while you’re keeping your clothes on,… even grief has a lifespan. Time heals grief, if you let it. You can come out of it.
DAPHNE: Come out of it where?
THOMAS: To more life here. Bitterness becomes bittersweet. It’s still a blessed world. Bittersweet.
DAPHNE: I’ve gone too far to turn back. And too far for you to reach me, bittersweet priest. Please don’t take that wrong. I like you. You’re a poet. Like a death poet.
THOMAS: A death poet?… Maybe you have gone into other worlds that I can’t see. Other worlds within this world. Other worlds here…. That’s what you’re telling me, isn’t it? That’s what you are insisting upon? So be it. But read Teresa of Jesus, if you haven’t started. It will speak to you. Teresa has spiritual raptures, like you have, where she doesn’t know where she is. She also masters this world. does both. I’m not trying to take your eyes away from you. They’re your eyes. I’m saying learn to navigate among those who don’t have your eyes. Because you are also still here. I can see you. I can touch you.
DAPHNE: How sweet that would be. Death-poet. If it were true.
THOMAS: (as lights fade) It is true. I can reach you. Because I want to. Because I can see the big life in you, and your great work still to do. Here.
DAPHNE: I have been reading Teresa of Jesus. The priests around her love and protect her, just like you do me. (looking above his head) Oh, Thomas, if you could see what I see coming. What joy! What suffering!
Lights up in the living room. Henka is sitting on the couch. Otto and Lash in work clothes and boots, enter from basement via the kitchen entrance.
LASH: That sump-pump should work fine now.
OTTO: I won’t need to buy a new one then?
LASH: It was just one corroded screw. You’ll get two more years out of that pump now.
OTTO: Well, that’s great, kid. That’s good news…. How much do I owe you?
LASH: Nothing, Mr. Grabowski. One loose screw. That was it. (sees the boxing gloves, puts them on) Wow. I remember these. I sure remember these. (pushes the money away) For all those boxing lessons you gave me. Really.
OTTO: You had occasion to use them lessons, did you?
LASH: Oh. Many times…. Hit and bob. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
OTTO: (doing a little boxing pantomime) The old one two.
LASH: Getting the first hit in. Best advice a man has ever given me. Surprise ‘em….
OTTO: … So, it was one screw loose. That’s it. Maybe luck’s changing, huh. I should buy a lottery ticket.
LASH: But remember, up top is your real problem. Your eaves troughs are all rusted out. And I can see from the top of the ladder you’ve got some shingles going bad. Some rotting boards underneath. Next time I’ll bring my roof shoes take a closer look.
OTTO: Trouble is, well, I don’t need to explain to you. Times are not good in good old Michigan. The water wonderland.
LASH: No charge to just check it out.
OTTO: I fought in two wars for this nation. My Daddie was an underground coal miner in West Virginia. My granddaddy, the same. I can work. I know how to goddamn work, and yet I don’t know where my next house payment is gonna come from…. You own your company already, Rosa tells me…. You don’t need any help, do you?
LASH: I just laid three fellows off, Mr. Grabowski. Just wasn’t the work coming in.
OTTO: I owned my own company, back when you and Daph were this high. Made little dash vents for GM. Government Motors. Then for a few years, I worked for the guy who bought me out. Then, when I came back home from overseas, fighting for my country, they were making these vents someplace in Mexico. If it wasn’t for Rosa clerking down at Walmarts and the little bit I make in the Guard, I’d be standing in line down at Father Thomas’s soup kitchen right now with the rest of the bums.
LASH: That’s your limo out there, right?
OTTO: Mine and Detroit City Bank’s…. That’s what everybody thinks when they see a limo out front. That guy must be doing all right.
LASH: It’s a job, at least. Driving a limo.
OTTO: An act of desperation, that’s what that is. What’s a limo bring in when nobody’s got two dimes to rub together? (goes to the bat rack, selects a bat, and holds it in his lap for the rest of the scene) President talks about recovery. People have to make money to buy things. All these Ivy League ignoramuses running this show here don’t know that if you send all the jobs to Asia and Mexico, families at home won’t have money to buy things. These guys earning ph.d’s in economics can’t figure this out?… You still love the old Tigers, I hope. God, you use to love those Tigs. Knew every batting average. Big bunch of losers. Some things don’t change…. See that black guy warming up in the bullpen. Just signed a six million dollar contract. Never went to college. Rosa says you asked our Dora to the prom.
LASH: Well, yeah.
HENKA: (looking slightly above Otto) Charles marched with Eugene Debs. Could have reached out and touched him. Tell the young man, Charles.
OTTO: Yes, Henka. I marched with the great Eugene Debs.
HENKA: When you died, we didn’t have enough money to buy you a coffin.
LASH: Is Mrs. Grabowski calling you Charles?
HENKA: Made your coffin out of cardboard boxes.
OTTO: She confuses me with my father on the odd occasion. Or her father. Just go along with her. It’s better, believe me…. You know, over in Iraq, fighting with your buddies for your country, you don’t see a person’s color anymore. Black, brown. I take that back. I have prejudice against Asians and Mexicans…. Taking our jobs away.
LASH: I can understand.
OTTO: A person’s clock stops somewhere down the line. Mom, for example. Her clock stopped back in West Virginia, in the 60’s when my dad kicked off. She has never really lived here in Belleville…. My clock stopped in Iraq. Second war. Lost two close friends over there, while good Father Thomas was back here marching in peace rallies. Have flashbacks to this day. Like it was happening again right now…. You don’t want to be around when one of those is going on…. What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Clocks. Rosa’s clock stopped when she dropped out of U of D to get married. Always talking about how she’s gonna go back and finish college someday. She can’t say that often enough…. Wasn’t you in Daphne’s class in high school?
LASH: Daphne was one class ahead of me. After I failed fourth grade.
OTTO: So that’d make you … almost twenty-eight, twenty-nine now? Twenty-nine. Seventeen. Those numbers kind of jump out at you, don’t they? Eleven year differential…. I mean, how much would a 29 year old and 17 year old have to talk about? See that guy coming up to bat right now. White guy. One of three on the whole team. Utility infielder. Hits 230 on a good year. Four million.
LASH: Mr. Grabowski. About the prom thing.
OTTO: No need to be embarrassed. Dora’s a beautiful young lady. Just too young for you, that’s all. You get my drift. (offers his hand) I appreciate the help today.
Otto turns on the volume up. Some depressing Tiger baseball talk. Long losing streak.
LASH: It’s not a date really…. The truth is that Dora asked me…. (Without looking at Lash, Otto turns the sound down again.) You see, I knew Dora when she was knee high to a grasshopper. Daphne and me was, like you said, classmates … friends really, back in middle school and high school days, and Dora was always tagging along.
OTTO: Back when you were burning down rectories? Things like that?
LASH: See how hard it is to live a rumor down? Something that happened ten, eleven years ago that had almost nothing to do with you, but someone said it did? Anyway, Daph leaves for college. I move to Westland. One day, Dora, all these years later, sees me on Facebook, sends me an e-mail, I send her one back….Am I talking too much?
OTTO: No. Go on.
LASH: So it sort of casually comes up in our conversation that nobody has asked her to the prom. We start joking about me taking her, and then she asks me if I would. At first, I think she’s kidding. I’m still seeing her as a little girl. Then I take a closer look at her profile page, and she is definitely not a little girl anymore…. I’m talking way too much.
OTTO: You’re doing fine. Why didn’t she get asked to the prom, in your opinion? You got any thoughts on that? Dora’s great looking. There’s nothing lacking with Dora?
LASH: … Well,… you must know … why she didn’t get asked?
OTTO: I know. I’m just testing to see if you know. What’s Dora saying about it? On the My Face thing?
LASH: (Lash shrugs.) I guess it doesn’t exactly enhance your reputation in school when you’ve got a sister that’s —-
OTTO: Go ahead, say it. When you’ve got a sister that’s nuts.
LASH: I tell Dora she’s not nuts, but what good does that do Dora, when it’s all over Belleville now, stories about Daphne. And now this Easter story. I was there for that one myself…. I mean, I grew up next door and I know Daph is different. When you’re kids, different is kind of normal. You like playing Wiccan, all that. Howling at the moon. Did you ever read The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. Daphne turned me on to Jack London when we were ten years old. That wasn’t Wiccan, of course, but it was in that general arena. (Lights fade and Lash’s voice fades with them; music comes up like a wind that has a howl in it.) I don’t live in Belleville now. I only hear what people are saying. I’m talking too much, I know. My mouth always get me into trouble. But the Easter dinner thing. I was there for that myself. That kind of took it over the top,…
Lash voice becomes barely audible; Otto’s fist smacks against the punching bag, then tap tap tap, after which silence but for the TV, a half minute of stupid ads.
Lights up Rosa and Thomas in the rectory balcony. Rosa is wearing her Walmart uniform
ROSA: I have been feeling terrible resentments towards Daphne. And I lied … to Otto. About Easter Sunday. He found out anyway.
THOMAS: We knew that would happen.
ROSA: Now he’s drinking. Next come the flashbacks. I know how this goes. My life is unraveling, Father. I work the all week at this thankless job, one hour short of full time, so they don’t have to give me insurance, and then what do I get to come home to. Is God punishing me for something?… Otto’s taking steps, as we speak, to get Daphne admitted into the psych ward. Over at the U of M hospital.
THOMAS: Can he do that? Without her consent?
ROSA: If he can show she is a danger to herself. They’ve got an experimental program going in … mental illness. It’s free, if we can get her in. Otto wants you to write a letter of reference. As her therapist.
THOMAS: You know I can’t support this, Rosa Take one step down this path, Rosa, and she may well become a danger to herself.
ROSA: And the path she’s on now? How is she doing on that path? You did your best, Father Thomas. A person can’t get better if she doesn’t want to. I’m in Otto’s camp now, after the Easter dinner thing. I listen at her door sometimes. She talks to David as if he were there. I also hear her answering. In some foreign language, Hindi, but Otto’s convinced she’s talking in tongues…. Oh, I so regret she ever went to India. India’s where she went off her rocker.
THOMAS: Daphne’s an extraordinary young woman. Put her in the hospital and electro-shock therapy is maybe what were talking about. That’s what they do sometimes. To the severely depressed. Plus heavy medication.
ROSA: You see. Even you think she’s sick.
THOMAS: That’s what the medical people are going to say. “Severely depressed.” She won’t come out the same person.
ROSA: I’d almost settle for “severely depressed” at this point. I need a name for what’s going on. It’s been a year now!
THOMAS: I’ve been impatient, too. I’ve walked away several times. But then I thought about it. Being in love in itself can make a person a little crazy. Now add a death. You’re going to go off the deep end for awhile.
ROSA: It’s been over a year now. If she doesn’t come back soon, she never will.
THOMAS: We’re working on the coming back part. Deep grief is a passion like no other. When you really go inside what you’ve lost, like she has done, it’s primal. It’s pagan. It strips a down a person to her primitive self.
ROSA: Pagan?… Primal?… You don’t talk like this to her, I hope!… And if they were so much in love, why was David in Tibet at the time of his death, and Daphne in India?
THOMAS: What are you suggesting?
ROSA: I think they were splitting up. I hear hints of it, between the lines. If you’re that much in love, why would you live a thousand miles apart?
THOMAS: There could be a lot of reasons. Other than splitting up.
ROSA: It doesn’t matter. Listen to the stuff she reads now. (takes a book out of her purse) “You will see your family and relatives crying and realize you are dead…. Oh child of Buddha,… do not cling to them. Though you call out to your relatives, they will not reply.”
THOMAS: “The Tibetan book of the Dead.” A sacred Buddhist text…. Very mystic.
ROSA: We have to stop kidding ourselves. (stands up) There’s a word for what she is, and it’s not mystic. It’s a medical word. It’s starts with an S, and it hurts me to say it out loud. Schizophrenia! (reading again) “You will see your family and relatives crying and realize you are dead!”… I have to go. I’m going to be late for work. Frankly, it troubles me, Father Thomas, that you’re not more shocked by Daphne’s behavior. In front of all my family and friends. She knew how much that would hurt, and she did it anyway. My home is the laughing stock of Belleville. Don’t take it as an insult, but she may—- Otto’s going to tell you she needs a different kind of help than you can offer her.
THOMAS: Go in this direction, Rosa, and Daphne may well decide to leave this world.
ROSA: (Thomas’s remark catches her off guard; lights begin to fade.) Oh, Thomas…. Don’t say that…. I won’t say the thought hasn’t occurred to me. (wipes away tears)
THOMAS: She’s got some delusions, perhaps. I won’t say she doesn’t. Those I can’t speak to, but I’m pretty sure she’s also angry inside, and if we can get underneath that—- Daphne and I are talking. That’s a huge break-through. Give me more time with her.
ROSA: I would, Father. But Otto—- I’m afraid he’s going off the deep end with her.
Living room, where Lash is groping Dora and she’s fending him off. Henka is stage front in a lipped conversation with somebody not there. In the intervals of the groping and resistances, Dora and Lash check their cell phones. Henka, with a cane and small suitcase, is walking towards the invisible wall between the house and cemetery.
DORA: (having escaped Lash by going to attend Henka) Are you okay, Henka? Where are you going? Are you hungry?… Are you thirsty?
HENKA: (having come to the edge of the invisible wall) Whose little girl are you?
DORA: I’m Dora, Grandma. Stop that. You know who I am.
HENKA: (taking out a compact and putting on lipstick) Charles is waiting at the station.
LASH: (coming up behind her) Let’s blow this popsicle stand.
DORA: I can’t leave Grandma here alone. She’ll wander off.
LASH: Upstairs then? We’ll keep one eye on the window.
DORA: No…. Daphne’s up there.
LASH: I just saw her in the cemetery. She’s sitting beside her tree.
DORA: Why is it that half the time you’re kissing me, you’re talking about Daphne?
LASH: (checking his cell phone) You’re the one who brought her name up.
DORA: (checking hers) Because I know how much you love to talk about her.
LASH: (points to interior entrance) Come on. Grandma will be okay by herself.
DORA: (still checking her cell phone) You know what’ll happen if we go upstairs.
LASH: Nothing will happen that you don’t want to happen.
DORA: That’s the problem. I want everything to happen and I’m not ready yet, Lash.
LASH: Are you a virgin?… You’re still a virgin, aren’t you?
DORA: (looking at her cell phone) Would that be a bad thing, if I was?
LASH: A bad thing? (comes to her) Come on. You told me you loved me.
DORA: I do want it to be you…. But not like this, hurrying off someplace, when I’m supposed to be taking care of Grandma. Or worrying Daddy or somebody is going to walk through the door.
LASH: (embracing her) Those are the times it’s really good.
DORA: After the prom. I promise…. Let’s do it right. Let’s not be like other people…. (breaking the embrace) Wait until you see the dress Mom is making for me…. Don’t be mad at me, Lash. I just want it to be special. You can wait.
LASH: Easy for you to say…. You’re not going to send me out in the street like this, are you? (kisses her neck) Help me out here. You know what to do…. Save mankind.
DORA: In front of Grandma?
LASH: Grandma’s fast asleep.
DORA: Grandma’s standing up!
LASH: Behind the couch then…. I’m dying here.
DORA: (losing her will) I don’t want us … to be something like that. Just getting each other off…. I don’t want that to be how we begin. Is this all you want me for?
They drop behind the couch. Some moaning. Henka seems to be in a waking sleep.
HENKA: Charles. Be a gentleman. Can’t you wait until we’re alone?… Do you always have to be in such a big hurry for your yum-yum?
Noises of someone coming down the stairs. Dora’s head pops over the couch.
LASH: It’s just Grandma. Talking in her sleep.
DORA: Daphne’s coming down. Quick.
She hustles Lash, buckling up, towards the kitchen exit. Sounds of a car stop them in their tracks. Dora runs to the window.
DORA: Oh God. It’s Daddie.
They slide back in behind the couch just as Daphne enters through the interior entrance, and starts looking for something in a drawer. Unbeknownst to Daphne, Otto appears at the kitchen exit, wearing his limo uniform, carrying a brown sack.
HENKA: Yum yum yum yum yum yum…
DAPHNE: What are you saying, Grandmother? Who are you talking to?
HENKA: Who sent you?
DAPHNE: Are you talking to Charles?
HENKA: Charles is waiting for me at the station.
DAPHNE: (coming to her chair, kneeling before her) Which station, Henka?
HENKA: The station station. (looking clearly above Otto’s head as he enters, unbeknownst to Daphne) Oh, there you are.
DAPHNE: Is Charles here now, Grandmother?
Henka points to above Otto’s head, as Otto stands at the kitchen door, arms crossed, a pint of Jack Daniels in his hand. Seeing Otto, Daphne freezes. They look at each other a few seconds, then cross, she to the upstairs exit, he to his TV chair, but first picking a bat off the rack, turning on the TV. Daphne soon reappears in the grave yard spinning. Otto zones out with Henka, in front of the tube watching a baseball game. Daphne slides into the hollow of her tree and begins to ommm to Henka’s snoring, and finally Otto joins in, as the lights slowly rise on Fathers Paul and Thomas in the confession booth. While they are talking, Lash emerges from behind the couch, slowly tip-toes towards the outside exit.
PAUL: I have doubts, but I don’t over think everything, Thomas. I follow here. (holds up a bible) I do what it says to do here. I think what it says to think here. Could our little thoughts be wiser than God’s?
THOMAS: Even if it was God’s voice who called me to the priesthood, couldn’t He now be calling me out of the priesthood.
PAUL: For what possible purpose?
THOMAS: I don’t know. For a deeper taste of life would be enough reason in itself.
PAUL: Wouldn’t this be the enemy speaking? Wouldn’t this be pride? Rebellion? Are you here to confess, or to discuss theology?
THOMAS: To confess, Father Paul. I have committed a sin. The sin of not living.
PAUL: Twenty hail Mary’s, then, and be done with it.
THOMAS: (as lights slowly fade on the rectory) At Judgment Day I will present to the Lord an unlived life. Will the Lord love me the more for that?
PAUL: You will have done your best.
THOMAS: God have mercy then.
As Lash’s hand reaches the door, Otto chokes on a snore, wakes up.
OTTO: What?… Who’s there?
LASH: (acting as if he’s coming in, not going out) Oh, sorry Mr. Grabowski. I knocked, but no one answered, so I let myself in…. Seems I’ve lost my wallet. I thought it might have fallen into the crease of the chair I was sitting in, you know, the other day, watching the ballgame…. Sorry I just walked in. I’ve been so worried. All my credit cards.
OTTO: (feeling into the seams of the chair Henka is sleeping in) No fun to lose a wallet.
(Henka waking up, trying to hug him) Mother. Damn it. Behave yourself.
LASH: (hiding his wallet in his hand) Here. Let me look…. I think maybe—- My god! Here it is. What a relief. I can’t tell you…. Well, sorry I bothered you.
OTTO: (yawning, stretching, looking at the TV, as Henka nods off again) No bother. Sit down. The Tigs are about to go into extra innings, looks like. Let’s see how they manage to lose this time. (going to the bat rack) I like a bat in my hands when I watch a game. Do you want to hold one?
LASH: Nah. I’m alright, thanks.
OTTO: I got a thirty-five inch Harvey Kueen. Detroit batting champ, 1959, year I was born. I got a thirty-six inch Rocky Colivito. Come on. Hold a bat. Takes the pressure off.
LASH: Ah. Okay. The Colivito.
OTTO: (as he’s handing it to him) There’s a reason for this bat being on display, you know. I led the Eastern League in triples with that bat. The Buffalo Bisons. Double A. Never made it to the majors. That’s the one big regret of my life. So goddamn close. To being really somebody. Hey, Willie Horton. Home runs. 1968.
OTTO: Al Kaline. Batting Average. 1955.
OTTO: You knew those Tigers, didn’t you. All the way back. The things you could always remember.
LASH: Because I wanted to be a Tiger myself. It was like an ache in me…. Until I was about ten and started getting interested in girls.
OTTO: Ten?… Well, you got me there by a couple of years.
LASH: Once girls are in the picture, count out sports…. Girls have a way of taking over.
OTTO: You know a little bit more than baseball, I can see that. I’ve got three women in this house right now that have totally taken me over.
LASH: Well, that’s a lot of women to wrestle, Mr. Grabowowski.
OTTO: Call me Otto, okay? When you say Mr. Grabowski, I keep wanting to look behind me to see who you’re talking to.
LASH: Just showing my respect, sir. Otto. For becoming the kind of man you did. I mean, you served your country.
OTTO: Two wars. First Gulf and second. Past forty by the time of the second. And you know what Father Thomas was doing while I was in harm’s way over there in Iraq. He was marching for peace down in Washington, D.C. Giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
LASH: (shakes his head) Plus you were almost a major league baseball player. You’re in a band. You married Rosa. Why wouldn’t a kid next door admire a man like that…. I tried to join the marines, but I had a felony. Nothing big. Drugs. Did a little time down in Milan. No big deal.
OTTO: You were in the Big House?
LASH: I met the some very intelligent people in the Big House.
OTTO: I guess you don’t do that stuff anymore then.
LASH: I do a little bit…. I just don’t get caught now.
OTTO: Got anything on you?
LASH: I got a little. (takes out a joint and lights it, passes it to Otto) It was just a couple months. They wanted to put the scare into me…. You’ll like this.
OTTO: It’s not too strong.
LASH: No. You can reason with it.
OTTO: (exhaling) You’ve been in the Big House. I never would’ve thought it…. Dora know about this?
LASH: Yeah. Now she does, I guess.
OTTO: Rosa? (Lash shakes his head no.) I’m about ready for a beer. How about you?
LASH: (glances over to where Dora is hiding) Well, okay. One for the road, then.
The instant Otto disappears through the kitchen door, Lash whisper-shouts in the direction of Dora’s hiding place. In between inning television ads in the back-ground.
LASH: Go. Go.
Dora scoots for the interior exit, hears Otto coming back, singing “put me in coach, I’ve ready to play. Today.” Scoots back behind the couch, just makes it in time.
LASH: I guess Dora’s not home from school yet.
OTTO: I don’t have any idea where that little rabbit is. Supposed to be watching Ma. (as Lash lights Otto up again) You know. Back when you were a kid over at the rectumry, I was one who said you might make something of yourself. You had athletic skills. They can be translated into anything. Now look at you. Got your own business. And I bet you never went to college?
LASH: I tried college. Didn’t make it very far.
LASH: I mean, Daphne was going to college, so why not me, I told myself. So I sign up at Hamtramck Community College and I’m reading all that literature and philosophy kind college stuff. Shakespeare. Plato. Like, is this chair real? Or is the idea of this chair real? That’s how they talk in college. I sat there thinking, man, this ain’t for me. I had to get out of there and pound some nails, grab myself a crowbar and pry something up.
OTTO: You had initiative, you see. You could do things. That’s what America used to be. Boys today can’t screw in a light bulb. Wouldn’t know which way to turn it.
LASH: Philosophy101. That was the class that did me in. Existence precedes essence. I had to memorize that. I’d be heavy wiring my garage, or I’d have my head down in the engine of my car, and saying to myself over and over, “existence precedes essence,” so I could remember it for the test. That’s how college messes with your head.
OTTO: Tell you the truth, I wish Daphne had never even went to college.
LASH: (with a faraway look in his eyes) That’s where she met what’s-his-name, isn’t it? He was a big brain, I heard. What happened to him? I know he died, but—-
OTTO: Yeah, he died. And his big brain died right along with the rest of him.
LASH: (takes another hit, then offers to Otto) A bus accident or something like that?… I read somewhere a bus he was on went off a mountain over in Asia someplace.
OTTO: You got the Asia part. He died in a cave. That’s always been the story. He got lost in a cave someplace over there in Tibet, where that Daily Lama lives. Hiding from who-t’-hell knows what. Probably his battery ran down. Didn’t have a back-up. I’m telling you kid, people get way ahead of themselves. Go into a cave, in a foreign country, on the other side of the world, and not have back-up batteries. Now there’s a man that probably wants to die.
LASH: What did Daphne see in him?
OTTO: Maybe she wanted to die, too…. Hell, who doesn’t want to die on occasion…. Sometimes I feel what Daph is going through like it was me myself. If I spend too much time alone sitting here with Henka, I can start crying like a baby, that’s how much it hurts. (grabs a yearbook out of the trophy case) Look, at this. Her senior year yearbook. Captain of the soft-ball team. I taught her how to swing a bat. Half these trophies are hers. Here she’s scoring the winning basket in the girls basketball state finals up in East Lansing. (tearing up) How did this happen?…. You knew Daphne.
LASH: Way back when. But Daph always had that other side in her, too. The rebel.
Dora screams. Stands up. Otto swings the bat, and breaks a lamp.
OTTO: Jesus Christ, Dora. What t’ hell’s going on.
DORA: Daphne, Daphne, Daphne! I’ve had my fill of Daphne up to here. Fuck you, Lash. Is Daphne all anybody ever thinks about around here!… Go to hell. You too Dad.
OTTO: You scared the devil out of me. Jesus. Now I’ve got two weird daughters. Come on Lash. Have a drink with me down at Kopenski’s. Let’s blow this popsicle stand.
Dora huffs out through the interior exit. Lights to black.
Lights up on Thomas standing in the rectory garden, talking up to Paul in the rectory balcony. Daphne whirling beside her tree. Moonlit, surrealistic.
THOMAS: I had a dream, Father Paul. I think it was a dream…. It’s mid-night. There’s a full moon. I’m in my study. I ask her, from my window, (turns to Daphne) what are you doing out here night after night? Ommm-ing? Whirling hours and hours?
PAUL: (to himself) She’s possessed…. “She” is not doing anything.
DAPHNE: (stopping) It’s a Sufi meditation. I’m a whirling dervish?
THOMAS: A whirling dervish. Here I thought you were a Hindu goddess.
DAPHNE: I was a Sufi before I was a Hindu. And before I was a Sufi, I was a Gypsy.
PAUL: (aside) And before that you were Jezebel.
THOMAS: (approaching her) Do you see Gypsy as a kind of religion?
DAPHNE: Yes. They’re nomads. Religions are all the same at heart. They’re about not staying in one place, not becoming attached. Even Jesus had no where to lie his head.
THOMAS: But I’m not sure he liked that. I think it was a complaint.
DAPHNE: Jesus doesn’t strike me as a man who would complain about his life. Who would prefer the life of a bird, just because a bird had a nest, or a fox because a fox had a hole. (whirling) Want to try?
THOMAS: Whirling? I’d be no good at it.
DAPHNE: Just think of it as whirling off the world. So the world is light and easy. Try.
THOMAS: Doesn’t it make you dizzy?
DAPHNE: At first. But you pass through dizziness. Come on. You plant one foot down and whirl around it, the other foot lands, you whirl around that. See it like dancing. Dancing for Allah. Dancing for God. Pretty soon it’s like you’ve left the ground…. Even John of the Cross danced. With Teresa of Jesus. It’s all in that book you gave me.
THOMAS: It may be too late for me to dance, Daphne.
DAPHNE: How could it be too late? If I’m asking you?… Just jump in. Start turning around and around and around.
She stops in her spin, directly in front of him, smiling.
PAUL: (clanging a triangle) Dinner.
THOMAS: (turning back toward Paul) “Do you like teasing priests?” I asked her, Father Paul…. “Thomas,” I think she said. “This priest habit isn’t you. It’s the weight of the world you carry on your back.”… I think it was a dream. But I’m not sure.
Paul throws up his hands, exits; lights to black. The triangle is struck again several times. A Lion roars. A wolf howls. Muted lights come up slowly in the cemetery, Daphne sitting beside the tree, a book in her hand, Thomas standing beside her. Everything is different. Flatter. A cat me-ows. A dog barks. The waking life, not the dream.
THOMAS: Why did David go to Tibet, and you stay in India? (no response) You rarely talk about him. A know almost nothing.
DAPHNE: I don’t want to think right now.
THOMAS: Okay. I don’t feel much like thinking either…. I haven’t been sleeping.
DAPHNE: Do I have a fever, Thomas? Feel my forehead.
THOMAS: (feeling her forehead) A little one, maybe. You know, you whirl around for hours, then sit on the damp ground. (walking among the tombstones) The day after Sister Charity died, I was sitting in the flower garden and a bird lit on my head. That was she, I was convinced of it. Telling me she was okay. For weeks, particularly at dawn and dusk, any old thump I’d hear in the rectory, that was Charity, poking around, trying to communicate. Every day it was a new something. A breeze on a summer’s night, rustling up the leaves. Charity whispering, she was still here. But as the months wore on, she was “still here” less and less. Now whole days go by I don’t even think of her…. What are you reading? (She shows him) Swedenborg again. Tell me a little about it.
DAPHNE: He describes how angels are like human beings,… live in communities, fall in love, get hurt feelings … have bodies, sex, just like here on earth. (looking into the high branches of the tree) Newcomers have a hard time understanding they don’t have earth bodies anymore. The truth comes to them slowly.
THOMAS: And Swedenborg knows this how?
DAPHNE: God gave him a tour of heaven. With instructions that he would come back and tell people what’s on the other side.
THOMAS: (pause) Do you take that as something that literally happened?
DAPHNE: Sometimes I feel like I’ve died and don’t know it yet.
THOMAS: Why not see this book as an allegory? Like Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”
DAPHNE: (looking off) It is like that. Like “The Divine Comedy.” (taking back the book) But what do you make of this story then? In the introduction? “Swedenborg was sitting down to dinner one evening in Gothenburg. He suddenly went pale and said to his company, oh my God, there’s a huge fire raging in Stockholm and it is about to reach my door step. Days later, news arrived from Stockholm confirming everything he had said.” … His life is full of such experiences. (smiling) What do you think about that?
THOMAS: They call it second sight…. Where a person can be in two places at once. Or in two times at once.
DAPHNE: That’s not what you think about it. That’s a definition. (looking up high into the branches of the tree) Now you can dismiss the miracle. You don’t have to be amazed that Swedenborg could see Stockholm while he was in Gothenburg.
THOMAS: I’m open to miracles. The wind is a miracle. The sun. The birds. Your hair. (touching her hair) You. People are always making extraordinary claims. Then these stories get exaggerated over time. You have to sort out the wheat from the chaff. If I believed them all, I’d lose my own grounding.
DAPHNE: The resurrection is an extraordinary claim. Do you believe that one?
THOMAS: Yes. Symbolically. The great life reverberates beyond its own death. Sometimes for centuries.
DAPHNE: Your “grounding” is all up here. (kisses her hand, places it on his forehead)
THOMAS: (smiling at her) My grounding is my work. Some of it is here. (points to his head) Some is here. (touches his heart) Some in the garden. Some in the soup kitchen. Some in prisons. Some in graveyards. There’s largely our grounding. Being our brothers’ keepers.
DAPHNE: (looking up into the branches again) That’s all very rational and … safe, don’t you think? Horizontal. Kind of depressing. Never venturing out. Never leaving the ground very far Never getting lost…. I’d rather be in prisoner than visit a person in prison. I’d rather be hungry than feed the poor.
THOMAS: (as if he hadn’t heard an insult) What do you keep looking for? Up there?
DAPHNE: Way up. The buds aren’t forming in the top branches.
THOMAS: (moving closer) You’re right. The top isn’t coming out. I hadn’t noticed.
DAPHNE: What do you think is happening?
THOMAS: (putting his arm lightly her back) I bet this tree was hit by lightning. That day. You remember.
DAPHNE: When a tree has been hit by lightening, there’s a spiral that comes all the way down the trunk. The problem’s somewhere else. (they turn in toward each other, loosely embracing each other’s arms) In the roots, maybe.
THOMAS: It’s an old tree. Trees die, too.
DAPHNE: Is there anything we can do?
THOMAS: We could call in a tree doctor. It’d be a waste of money. We’ll know soon enough ourselves if it has to come down.
DAPHNE: There must something in the church budget for the churchyard?
THOMAS: We barely have enough money for people outreach, let alone trees.
DAPHNE: (Daphne breaks the loose embrace, steps aside) “People outreach.” I despise that kind of bureaucratic, do-good talk.
THOMAS: Why are you always half looking for a fight, aren’t you? Just when we start to open up to each other a little bit.
DAPHNE: I’m not looking for a fight. I see lots of fights to have, that’s all. We should say what we think. You don’t know this tree. I do. This tree has consciousness.
THOMAS: Hm. (taking off his collar) Okay, let’s say what we think. This New Age talk. I have to separate the wheat from that chaff, too. I don’t know if this tree has consciousness or not, but I think that a tree is easier to love than a human being. And that a dead person is easier to love than a living person.
DAPHNE: Why do I even consider you? You see so little of the world I see.
THOMAS: And I think you need to visualize me as horizontal,…as depressed, sort of, because your hiding that part of you from yourself.
DAPHNE: My hidden depression. (yawning) You’ve told me all about it. How boring. Your psychologizing…. Explain Swedenborg with psychology. Explain Teresa of Avila.
THOMAS: And I think when you get aggressive with me, that’s your anger seeping through the cracks of your depression. (She mimics him with fingers, like “talk, talk,”) Because people who are depressed are generally angry underneath.
DAPHNE: If you keep blathering on about anger and depression, yes, I’m going to be angry and depressed. Stop pounding on me, will you? I told you I’m not feeling well.
THOMAS: I think you are not feeling well because you’ve created an imaginary world where nothing dies, but you live in this world where everything dies. Where David dies.
DAPHNE: Just shut up, will you!
THOMAS: And in this world, where you actually live, I think you’re angry at David for dying and leaving you. Angry at God for taking him away. And angry at me for telling you this.
DAPHNE: And so what if I’m angry. At least I’m not just talking about it. I’m being it…. Even Jesus got angry. When people made rubbish of their spiritual gifts, making money off God, or … hiding behind their costumes of being religious, yes, he got good and angry.
THOMAS: But that’s not what you’re angry about. You’re angry because the one person in this whole wide world that you love, except for yourself, is dead.
DAPHNE: What does it mean to love someone else if you don’t know who you are!… You can’t be a real priest if you don’t have second sight.
THOMAS: Oh. We’re back to second sight, are we?… Are you saying you have it?… Like a Swedenborg?
DAPHNE: (angrily) Yes. I do have it. And you could have it, too, if you wanted it. But first you’d have to want it. Then you’d have to work for it. But that would terrify you because along the way all your beloved grounding would give out from underneath you, and you’d have to discover that you are free-flying through dark empty space and that don’t have a clue. So fuck you, Thomas…. Yes. Today I’m a little angry. Because now and then it would be nice to communicate with somebody who’s got the stuff in him to break out of the mold. And you could be that person.
DAPHNE: Stop being so rational. So psychological.
THOMAS: Stop being intelligent, you mean?… If breaking out of the mold means being two places at once, show me how to do that? Lead me on. You’re the leader here.
DAPHNE: You’re not ready to follow me. (looking up into the branches of the tree)
THOMAS: Who’s ever ready for a vision? I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be.
DAPHNE: Second sight is a sacred gift. Not something to show off to skeptics.
THOMAS: You were willing to show off Swedenborg…. Show yourself off….
DAPHNE: (as she looks up into the branches of the tree) I was with David the night he left his body. In the cave. In Tibet. I don’t know how I got there, but there I was. And I can go there anytime, and be with him again…. As if it were now. And I know exactly what you’re thinking. That I imagine all this to keep David alive, and that I feel guilty for not being with him that night.
THOMAS: You are right…. That’s what I am thinking? Am I right? Do you feel guilty?
DAPHNE: Guilt is your true love, priest. David and I don’t operate out of guilt. There is no guilt between us, because if even the littlest bit of guilt comes in we work on it immediately, as if it is a life and death surgery.
THOMAS: The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
DAPHNE: Guilt is your thing, Father. You find in this world what you’re looking for.
THOMAS: Is that why I found you?
DAPHNE: You haven’t found me. I’m still waiting.
THOMAS: Are you? (as he is disappearing on the rectory side of the stage, and then shortly reappearing with an axe.) I’m not…. Because in this world here, this one where we are now living, the lady should take an immediate and long, hard look at the upset she is creating. To the point that she may well be asked to leave soon. To the point that she may be forcefully taken away…. Does the lady know this? Things are not at all good in your home. You put no energy at all into the living people in your life. They know that about you, and resent you for it. You are losing your home base, Daphne. Your home is becoming an enemy territory….
He lifts the axe and buries it into the tree.
DAPHNE: Stop! What are you doing? You are hurting it (gets between him and the tree)
THOMAS: What are you going to do? Chain yourself to it?… Maybe you have already chained yourself to it. But David is moving on, Daphne. He’s letting you go.
DAPHNE: David never had me! I never had him!
THOMAS: And he’s not coming back.
DAPHNE: That’s not who we were. Having! Owning. Possessing.
THOMAS: “Were?” That’s progress. You used the past tense…. See. You’re also letting him go now. He wants you to. It doesn’t mean you don’t still love him. That he doesn’t still love you somewhere in this universe. Listen. I’ve talked to Father Paul about setting you up a room in the rectory, where you could stay on occasion. To give yourself some breathing room from the home situation. And your home some breathing room from you.
DAPHNE: What would your parishioners say to that, Thomas?
THOMAS: They won’t say anything…. I’ve always taken people in…. For twenty-eight years I’ve been taking people in.
DAPHNE: Women people?
THOMAS: There’s been a woman or two.
DAPHNE: A woman or two whom you yelled at, then hold like this?… A woman or two who were being called pagans and wiccans and witches?
THOMAS: I don’t listen to that talk. Let us protect you for awhile…. Because I’d be sorry and sad if the lady left quite yet. Avail yourself of the rectory for awhile, Daphne. I’ve already talked to Father Paul about it…. We’ll ask just one thing.
DAPHNE: Ah. Of course. The one thing. (puts her head aside, as if awaiting a blow)
THOMAS: (pulls her head back to face him) It’s very little…. We think it would be better … necessary really, that you not hang around in the cemetery.
DAPHNE: Very little to you. You know this is where I meet David.
THOMAS: David is not allowed back here anymore…. (Yells into the branches of the tree.) Don’t come back here for awhile, David. Take a break. This tree is dying from overwork. (back to Daphne) I think he heard me.
DAPHNE: You offer and then you take away. You give and then you take away.
THOMAS: Give the tree a rest, Daphne…. Let David go.
DAPHNE: (pause, then emotionally) I need to see him one more time.
THOMAS: And then one more time after that. And one more time after that.
DAPHNE: (charging him, beating him on the chest.) Goddamn you, Thomas! You give and then you take away. See how unrepressed I am now. Does this please you? (picks up axe) You want my anger, do you? I’ll show you anger. (whacks the tree) Goddamn you, David. You give and then you take away. (whacks again) Goddamn You, God.
THOMAS: Goddamn the whole world then…. Let it out. Get it all out.
She drops to her knees. A lightning bolt, a crack of thunder, lights to black. End of Act I
(late summer: hot and dry)
Lights (moonlight) up in the graveyard. Lash and Daphne are passing a joint.
LASH: You should make up with your Dad. I actually saw him cry about you. Hey, be careful with those ashes. Everything’s bone dry. We don’t want to start the cemetery on fire. Hasn’t rained a drop since Easter…. People are saying it’s you, you know…. You’re an urban legend, Daphne. The 2001 Belleville prom queen, dancing in the cemetery.
DAPHNE: This is the first time I’ve come out here in weeks. And you find me. Are you stalking me, Lash?
LASH: I just know, that’s all. Something comes over me. When you’re in the church- yard. Same as when we were kids…. The word is you’re staying over at the rectory a good bit. Probably sleeping in my old room. One door down from Thomas’s, right?… Hey, I don’t want to be insensitive or anything, but what’s-his-name,… your husband,… he’s buried in here somewhere, Dora tells me.
DAPHNE: Do we have to talk, Lash?
LASH: Dora says you talk to him sometimes, like he was alive…. What’s going on, Daph? Come on. It’s me, Lash. We grew up together.
DAPHNE: I want to meditate now. He’s very near. Can’t you feel him?
LASH: (handing her the joint) I told you this was good shit…. Are you going to talk to him?… Why don’t you let me listen in?… I’ll just sit over there.
DAPHNE: He’s waiting for me to be alone. You understand.
LASH: I don’t have trouble believing that stuff. Hell, I’ve talked to you, Daph, when you weren’t there. And answered myself back, too. You told me all kinds of things I used to want to hear. Remember those games we played out here when we were kids. We made use of the old grave-yard, didn’t we? That was the best year of my life. Nine.
DAPHNE: (exhaling) Lash. People don’t say nine was the best year of their lives.
LASH: If it’s the year they met you, they do. Nobody’s ever challenged me like you did. You saw me as a smart person so with you I was a smart person….
DAPHNE: You are a smart person.
LASH: Nobody makes it very far in this world without parents. That’s the attitude out there. But you saw me different.
DAPHNE: You had Father Thomas.
LASH: Father Thomas. I know stuff about Father Thomas that few people have any idea about. That wall between our rooms was thinner than he realized. (pantomimes putting a cup to his ear) I’m talking too much, I know. I’m always like that when I smoke.
DAPHNE: What do you know about Thomas? That other people don’t?
LASH: (standing up) He’s a hot potato. I know that.
DAPHNE: Hot potato? Your language, Lash! It’s deteriorated.
LASH: He’ll burn you, that’s all I’m saying. You want a story? When I was still living over there in the rectory, about midnight, like clockwork, I’d hear Sister Charity tip-toeing down the hallway. On came the stereo, right away. A Gregorian chant, something along those lines. … I’m taking your picture on my cellphone, okay?
DAPHNE: Are you trying to steal my soul?
LASH: Not to put on Facebook or anything like that. Just for me to look at. (as he takes pictures, and looks at them) Charity wasn’t too good at muffling her … spiritual ecstasy. I really doubt that was chanting I was hearing on the other side of that wall. “Oh God,… Oh God.” Then there’d be a good bit of crying and whispering. Two in the morning, clockwork again, little Sister Charity would glide on out, sniffling down the hall. (Dora appears on house balcony) Then she had the nerve to rag on my ass because she’d seen me out here with you. That fire business I took the rap for? Want to know who really started that fire?
DAPHNE: Please go now.
LASH: You asked me what I knew.
DAPHNE: (puts her finger to her lips, and tilts her head at Dora) You have to go.
LASH: Sure. I’ll go. I’ve got my own things to do…. Will I see you again? You’ll let me know … if you need something? (takes a couple steps towards leaving, sees Dora go inside) Speaking of Dora. You never thanked me, by the way, for taking her to the prom.
DAPHNE: Why would I thank you for that?
LASH: You’re the one who put the idea in my head.
DAPHNE: Lash. Until tonight, we haven’t spoken in years.
LASH: There’s more than one way to put an idea in a person’s head.
DAPHNE: Why wouldn’t you thank me then? If I put the idea in your head…. Come here. Please. (Lash comes to her.) Are you courting Dora?
LASH: A little young for me, don’t you think?
DAPHNE: Do you care about her?
LASH: What do you mean by care? She just graduated from high school.
DAPHNE: (shaking down a thermometer) Then leave her alone…. She cares about you.
LASH: She’s still a virgin, so she says. Likes to play around though, and then leave me hanging. Wait until the prom, wait until she graduates. Then this, then that. She’s afraid it’s going to hurt. And it might a little bit…. Does that make you jealous? I hope so because when I get around to Dora, I can say I deflowered both of the Grabowski girls.
DAPHNE: Would that make you feel like you were a man?
LASH: I already know I’m a man.
DAPHNE: When did you start talking like this? A real man doesn’t have to swagger.
LASH: I’m not swaggering…. Truth is, you deflowered me. Does sound like swaggering, me saying that? Right here in the cemetery. Twelve years ago, tonight. June 21. Summer solstice. Pretty cosmic, huh, wiccan girl? Not to say I minded, but was you who wanted the whole nine yards.
DAPHNE: You’re remembering all the wrong things.
LASH: (getting aggressive) Oh, there’s plenty more memories where that came from. Afterwards we were lying in the grass, in the shadows of the tombstones and you were teaching me the sky. Mars equals war. Venus, love. Jupiter, power. I can remember every word you said that night.
DAPHNE: You’d better go now.
LASH: Then you made up this signaling system. One “hoo” answered with two “hoo’s,” the coast was clear. Almost every night there for a stretch. Hoo. Hoo, hoo. Hoo. Hoo, hoo…. Why are you taking your temperature? Are you feeling sick or something?
DAPHNE: (reading the thermometer) I’ve got a little fever…. We were teens, Lash. You were the boy next door. You should remember that sweetly and let it be.
LASH: I wish I could just let it be. Sometimes I wish you were never born. How’s that for a situation? To wish that the best thing in your life never happened?
DAPHNE: Don’t be ridiculous. Put your thoughts on someone new. Just not Dora.
LASH: I’ve had lots of new. But it’s who you’re thinking about that you’re really with.
DAPHNE: (looking strangely at Lash) It’s who you’re thinking about that you’re with.
That’s clever. That’s like the old Lash. You always said clever things. Please go now. Before I lose him again. David.
LASH: When we were kids sometimes I didn’t know where you began and I left off. If it was you talking or me talking. (Daphne starts spinning; he stops her) Sometimes this life doesn’t feel very real to me, Daph. I think it’s because I’ve suffered. Look at that moon coming up. Could just as well be no moon. Nothing, where that moon is. Is that a clever thing to say? Why did this world ever happened at all? Why is there anything when there could just as easy be nothing?… Yeah, I’ll go.
DAPHNE: You’re squeezing my arm. Stop it. Is this the way you treat Dora?
LASH: But I need there to be something. One more time.
DAPHNE: And what’s that supposed to mean? One more time? Let go, Lash
LASH: One more time would mean everything. One more time I would die for.
DAPHNE: And one more time after that. One more time after that. You’re hurting me.
LASH: You used to like it when it hurt a little. You told me that…. One more time and then I’ll let you go. It’s going to be either you or her. I know myself. It’s going to be somebody, and it’s going to be tonight.
DAPHNE: Lash! (in pain) Oh!… And then you’ll let me go…. Forever! Say it!
LASH: And then I’ll let you go….
DAPHNE: (as lights go down) Forever! Promise! Say it!
Lights to black as Daphne and Lash disappear into the shadows of the tall tombstones.
Lights up on the house side, Dora in the living room watching “Survivor,” texting and talking to the television in a way that is reminiscent of Otto. Door bell rings. Dora jumps up and answers it.
DORA: Father Thomas. Come in.
THOMAS: (in a rapturous mood) Dora…. Come look at this sky. This incredible sunset.
DORA: You heard about Henka?
THOMAS: (coming in a step or two) No…. Did something happen?
DORA: She wandered off. Looking for Charles, I’m sure. Daphne found her downtown Detroit, wandering in middle of Woodward Avenue and had someone call Dad and Mom.
THOMAS: Daphne found her?… Where has Daphne been anyway? I haven’t seen her for a couple weeks now?
DORA: I thought we were talking about Henka?
THOMAS: Yes. I’m sorry. Is she okay?
DORA: She may have had a heat stroke. It was almost a hundred today. They took her to Ford hospital. I’ve been waiting for the phone to ring. (Dora’s phone rings; she holds up a finger to Thomas.) Hi, Mom.… She’s okay, then?…. No. Isn’t she with you?… He’s here right now. (hands the phone to Thomas, who looks at it as if it were strangely foreign, and hands it back) I’ll tell him to wait for you. (turns off her phone) They’re keeping her overnight for observation. But now Daphne’s disappeared. What a life!… Mom and Dad are on their way home. Mom wants you to wait for them.
THOMAS: I don’t know…. The TV is on.
DORA: “Survivor”… It’s just about over. You don’t mind, do you?
THOMAS: Well, I just had this extraordinary outdoor experience.
DORA: (curious, but with still one eye on the TV) Yeah?
THOMAS: And it wants to linger inside me a little.
DORA: (looks at him) What? (looks back at the TV) Tell me.
THOMAS: I was working in the graveyard, watering. You know how dry it has been. The grass is burnt to a crisp but there’s this one wildflower poking through the fence, like it is trying to get out. Escape. Then I see a watch lying there beside the flower. Somebody’s lost his watch I’m thinking and then, no forewarning, I feel like I’m standing a couple inches off the ground…. Eternity. You know how you’ve got a word for something and because you have that word you think you know what that something is. My whole life I’ve thought of eternity as a clock that never runs down. A thousand years go by. Another thousand. A billion, another billion. Time never ending… Instead of now, now, now. Timelessness.
DORA: Hold that thought a minute. The vote’s coming in.
THOMAS: The vote?
DORA: Who they’re voting off the island…. You know. The TV show. “Survivor.” (exclaiming) No. Not Sheila. Nooo. She was my favorite.
DORA: Each episode somebody is voted off the show by the other contestants. The last person standing is the Survivor and wins a lot of stuff. It’s stupid, I admit. But it’s like life. That’s why it’s called reality TV. This is the only show I watch. And “American Idol.” (lights a cigarette) Gives me a break from the madness around here. Now rumors about you and Daphne flying around.
THOMAS: Daphne and me?… Come on. We’ve provided her a room. For when for when your father—- Jesus, why am I defending myself? Let’s talk about something else…. Henka’s okay, your Mom says?
DORA: If you want to call “okay” not knowing who you are nine-tenths of the time.
THOMAS: (as Dora walks to the TV) Jesus said if we knew who we were, we’d be in heaven already, and seeing each other as angels.
DORA: (looking at one last tidbit, before turning it off) Jesus said that?
THOMAS: In so many words. One day the disciples were talking about heaven as a far away place after death, and Jesus said, “Look at the fields; they are ripe for harvest now.” It’s what I saw there for a second in the graveyard…. It’s how Daphne sees, I think.
DORA: (under her breath) Yes, Daphne once again.
THOMAS: She’s doing so much better, can you see it?… It’s like a miracle.
DORA: I thought we were going to talk about something else.
THOMAS: Sorry. Tell me what’s going on in your life.
DORA: If I had a life, I’d be happy to talk about it.
THOMAS: You graduated from high school. You’ve started college.
DORA: Big deal.
THOMAS: You’re dating my old friend, Lash…. (Dora’s cell rings.) I don’t know what to think about that.
DORA: Speak of the devil. Hi baby…. She’s going to be okay…. Well, not right now. ….. Father Thomas is here.… Come over later…. No, I don’t know if Daph’s home? It’s not my week to watch her, okay…. Why do you ask about her right now? (closes her phone) See what I mean, Father Thomas. Daphne. Always Daphne.
THOMAS: Is that Lash … you just called baby?
DORA: Of course. Who else?… It’s just a word people say. Like honey, sweetie…. Can I have a look at that watch you found?
THOMAS: (as he hands it to her) Take your time with Lash. Get to know him.
DORA: (as she examines the watch) Waitresses say it to customers. It’s nothing.
THOMAS: It didn’t sound like nothing when you just said it.
DORA: This is Lash’s watch.
THOMAS: Really. What’s Lash’s watch doing in the cemetery?
DORA: I’ll give it to him…. Boy, will I give it to him. You don’t like Lash very much, do you? He says you two had a big falling out.
THOMAS: Lash has a little trouble with the truth now and then…. Or he used to. I don’t really know him anymore.
DORA: (putting the watch in her pocket) Father Thomas, can I confide in you?… When I was a kid, and Daph … sorry, but here we go again. When Daph and Lash were in high school together,… I don’t think they dated but I know they kissed sometimes. Long kisses I’m talking about. One time I saw more than that. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was seeing. I was too little. I thought he was hurting her…. Now I know different, of course, but it bothers me that Lash and Daph maybe went, you know, all the way. What if Lash and I end up getting married…. Father! Are you listening?
THOMAS: … Yes, I’m listening. … if you end up getting married or something.
DORA: We’re talking about it…. Maybe we … have to. You know.
THOMAS: (as if breaking out of a trance) Oh. Maybe you have to?
DORA: (checking her cellphone) We don’t know. I’m a few days late, that’s all…. Everything’s so crazy here. Now Grandma in the hospital. (checking her cell) Doesn’t he know he’s supposed to call back when I hang up on him. Well, if we do get married, it’s going to be a real wedding, not like Daphne and David’s.
THOMAS: (pause) Oh? Theirs wasn’t real?
DORA: I don’t know. Nobody from the family went. She sent us a copy of the vows. Instead of God, they’d say Apollo, or the next time, Dionysus. Everything was in negatives. Do you promise to un-have and un-hold. Weird things like that.
THOMAS: (absorbed) Do you have a copy of those wedding vows, by any chance?
DORA: Daddy burned them. He walked them straight to the fireplace, holding them out like this (puts her hands out from her body) as if they were evil and could rub off on him. Something was wrong with David. He was running away from something, I think.
THOMAS: You didn’t care much for David, it sounds like.
DORA: Barely met him. I saw him more inside his casket than when he was alive. He had a nice looking corpse…. Sometimes I think I see him in the grave-yard.
THOMAS: See whom? What are you saying?
DORA: David. David talking to Daph in the graveyard. You know, like when a mime acts like a person is there and after while you start to see him…. That’s the scary thing about all the witch talk going around. It gets inside your head. The power of suggestion.
THOMAS: (car noises) Well, don’t let it. Turn away from it. Don’t look at it.
DORA: She can put a spell on a person. When I saw Lash staring at her across the table on Easter Sunday, he wasn’t Lash anymore. He was someone else. And now his watch shows up in the graveyard. Go figure!… Well. They’re home.
THOMAS: We can finish this talk another time.
DORA: What’s to finish. I got to take care of my own problems, that’s obvious enough. (as Otto and Rosa enter, going off into a corner with her cell) I’ve just got to suffer.
ROSA: Oh, Thomas. Thank God you waited…. What next? (They hug, as Otto goes to the trophy case, pulls out a bottle he’s hidden, secrets a long hit, then grabs a bat, turns on the TV, which becomes background noise to the conversation.)
THOMAS: But Henka’s okay, I hear. Daphne found her.
ROSA: Found her or led her there, take your pick. (to Otto) One of us should have stayed with her, Otto. (back to Thomas) But we needed to talk to you, too.
OTTO: Best thing that could happen to Mom is if she’d go quietly in her sleep tonight.
OTTO: If she wants to go. She’d say the same thing. Always talking about meeting up with Charles. Let ‘em meet up and be done with it…. I mean, do we believe in the next world, or don’t we? We’re all going to get planted someday. There’s a time to go…. These emergency room visits aren’t exactly free, you know.
ROSA: Why don’t we just put her to sleep, then? Like she is a dog or something.
DORA: I’m out of here. (exits upstairs)
OTTO: I’m talking about quality of life, Rosa. Nothing more than that….
ROSA: Turn the TV off, Otto…. Thomas came over to talk to us.
OTTO: Well, let him talk…. What’s he waiting for? Christmas?
ROSA: Otto. Turn off the goddamn ball game…. Participate!
OTTO: (still watching) I’m ready when you’re ready. (waits a few seconds more, then turns the TV off, muttering) Talk about my language.
ROSA: Tell Otto what you told me, Father Thomas.
THOMAS: (To Rosa, as Otto stares at the blank TV) Maybe this isn’t the right time.
THOMAS: I think Daphne and I are finally getting somewhere, Otto.
OTTO: Yeah, I’ve been hearing all about it. Down at Kopenski’s.
THOMAS: I’m amazed at the progress she’s making. Our sessions have very much deepened recently, and—-
OTTO: Yeah, I’ve been hearing that, too…. Down at the Elks.
ROSA: Otto. Straighten up.
OTTO: (looking at the screen) Look. We had a chance to get Daphne some help, I mean some real help, for a sick, hurting person. For free. Something we could afford. It was within our reach, and this man stopped us. I can’t forget that. I got nothing to say to him.
ROSA: Don’t say anything! Just listen for once!… Tell him, Thomas.
THOMAS: (ignoring the affront) If we can be patient a little longer—-
OTTO: (looking at blank screen, interrupts) If we are patient a little longer, what’ll happen, Father?… Daphne will get better? Will be the normal Daphne we once knew?
THOMAS: What’s normal, Otto? Who’s normal every hour of his life? You?
OTTO: (evil eyeing Thomas.) Yeah, I’m normal enough. What about you?
THOMAS: I’m going now, Rosa. (starting for the door, turning back to Otto) Otto, it’s lies you are telling yourself that give you permission to judge Daphne so harshly.
OTTO: (standing up) Oh, I guess you’re saying Daphne is okay as she is. You see what I mean, Rosa. What did I tell you? (approaches Thomas) Father Thomas here says Daphne is just fine as she is. Then might I be so bold as to inquire, what is the end point of all this so-called counseling? What are we shooting for?
THOMAS: One end point is that Daphne finds enough stability in her life to move out into the world again. Find her way into circles that understand her better. Among certain people, she’ll be seen differently than she’s seen here in Belleville. Maybe like an adept.
OTTO: An adept. What’s an adept? Talk regular English.
THOMAS: A person with special gifts.
OTTO: Whew. She’s got you buffaloed, man…. Didn’t I tell you, Rosa?… I think the heat’s finally got to Father Thomas.
THOMAS: But since those circles aren’t available to Daphne at present, she still needs your love and protection, Otto. Not your constant goddamn hostility. She’s fragile. That means breakable. And you are her father…. If you know what that means.
Otto puts a finger on Thomas’s chest; is surprised that Thomas whacks it aside. They get chesty, but Rosa jumps in between them. Thomas exits, slamming the door.
OTTO: That kind of language coming out of the mouth of a priest…. It’s out of love and respect for you Rosa, that I don’t bust him over the head, next time he dares to set foot in this house. I never hit a priest before, but there’s a first time for everything. And you can go ahead and tell him that. You like to run your butt over there to the rectory. (Rosa exits upstairs; the phone rings; lights begin to fade.) Hello… Yes. This is Otto Grabowski, who are you?…. She couldn’t have…. You made a mistake. We were just there a half hour ago?… She did?… Rosa!… I’m going to let you talk to my wife…. No. I can’t tell her this. I don’t even know what you just said to me, to tell you the truth. You tell her. Rosa!… Telephone…. It’s somebody from the hospital.
Lights slowly rise on Thomas, shirtless, gardening on the edge of the cemetery; Daphne is sitting inside the tree, wearing shorts and a halter, reading. Paul arrives.
PAUL: Good Lord, look who’s back in her tree again. Thomas, we agreed she can’t be hanging out in the cemetery anymore. You’re supposed to be in charge of this person! (sees Thomas smiling at Daphne) Heaven help us. Has she totally bewitched you?
THOMAS: Bewitched?… Your vocabulary, Paul! Please. Are we in the 17th century?
PAUL: She is, perhaps.
THOMAS: (putting on a regular shirt) You are, perhaps. Bewitched!
PAUL: Be careful, my friend. You talk to me about how she’s getting better, then look at this…. Thomas? Are you listening to me?
THOMAS: I’m trying not to, for fear I’ll hear the word exorcism soon?
PAUL: She needs treatment. In a hospital. Something is going badly wrong here.
THOMAS: It doesn’t help our cause, Paul, when you give voice to such views. Daphne and I are talking now. Really talking. Rationally. Heart to heart.
PAUL: Is she’s talking rationally to someone right now? Look. Her lips are moving.
THOMAS: What big eyes you have, to see her lips from all this way. Where’s a good exorcist when you need him, Father Paul?
PAUL: Nobody has said the word exorcist here, except you.
THOMAS: Yes. Because it has become obvious to me the problems of this world start here in Belleville, Michigan with Daphne Grabowski. Every human being who feels superior to Daphne ought to voluntarily submit himself to an exorcist. She’s exposed us for the little people we are. The devil we need exorcized is our own little minds.
PAUL: Dear God. She has possessed you…. Get her out of the cemetery, Thomas, or I will take action myself. She can’t start that up again. That was our agreement…. (starts to huff off, come back) Can I ask you a personal question? Do you love me as an equal brother in Christ, or do you just see me as some kind of green kid.
PAUL: It hurts me that you don’t take me very seriously.
THOMAS: Sorry, Paul. I just see myself when I was twenty years younger. All bound up. Wanting out of here but afraid to know it. I like your intensity though. Watch. I may be able to show you how to bust out a couple walls. (looking at Daphne) Or die trying.
Paul departs gesticulating. Thomas approaches Daphne. Sounds of morning birds. There is a fresh grave, lots of flowers.
DAPHNE: (as if as refreshed as the morning itself) Hello, Thomas.
THOMAS: What are you doing out here?
DAPHNE: Reading Saint Teresa’s “Life.” Enjoying the beautiful morning.
THOMAS: Are you also enjoying breaking our agreement?
DAPHNE: Can you hear the meadowlark? It’s the poet’s bird. Listen with me. Like we are God’s ears. (They listen a few seconds; she breaks the silence, holding up a book to him.) Is that how you see me? As Teresa of Jesus? (as if flattered by that thought) Is that why you gave me this book?
THOMAS: I thought you would maybe see yourself in her a little. A mystic who masters the world…. I don’t know what I thought. I just gave it to you…. And you are going to give Father Paul a heart attack if you start coming into the cemetery again. (They go on the other side of the tree.) I have a confession to make, my new friend. I found out a few things about you and David. I went behind your back a little bit…. Well, you never tell me anything.
DAPHNE: It’s alright. I found some things out about you, too. You and Sister Charity.
DAPHNE: Behind your back. Bad priest.
THOMAS: That was a long time ago. I don’t want to talk about it.
DAPHNE: (fanning herself with her book) Nor I. It would make me blush.
THOMAS: Maybe Charity and I weren’t as close as I once let myself think. I may have been using her a little. You know. Testing myself. Trying to find out who I was. I hurt Charity in the process, and I regret that.
DAPHNE: I thought you didn’t want to talk about it…. I have a present for you.
THOMAS: Ah. Something from this material world?… Something to unwrap? Really?
DAPHNE: (as he unwraps it) It’s a book of my poems.
THOMAS: Your poems?
DAPHNE: They’re in Hindi, though. I hope you don’t mind.
THOMAS: Oh…. Too bad I don’t read Hindi then.
DAPHNE: That’s why I translated them. Or tried to. (hands him a notebook) But I was thinking in Hindi when I wrote them. From the point of view of Shmashana-Kali. They look strange to me in English. (shielding her eyes) Like you look a little strange to me now in your man shirt…. Strange in a good way, I mean.
THOMAS: Well, thank you. (holds up the book) For this…. Translate the title for me.
THOMAS: I’ll get to know you better. The poet. Already you’re a little different, just my holding your book in my hand…. Isn’t that one of Saint Teresa’s titles? “Dwellings”? “Moradas” in Spanish.
DAPHNE: Amazing, isn’t it? I wrote these Kali poems three years ago, before I had ever heard of Teresa…. Oh, there’s that dark, worried look creeping into the corners of your eyes. Is that going to last a long time? I feel like flying right now. I’m all wound up.
THOMAS: I can see that… Why are you out here in the cemetery again? We were doing so well. Taking little short steps.
DAPHNE: Little short steps are too slow, if that’s all there ever is. Today I want to soar like an eagle. (smiling) Why be afraid of mysterious things?… Even if I were Teresa of Jesus incarnate, or something, it wouldn’t make me not me. It would make me more me.
THOMAS: When you start flying high like this, I know I’ll lose contact with you soon. That’s the worried look you see in the corners of my eyes.
DAPHNE: Wipe it out, why don’t you? (She wipes the corners of both of his eyes) Look at this coincidence. You give me a book by an author you love, and here, five centuries later, unbeknownst to even me, I’ve written a book by that same title. That’s an invitation to play. Allow yourself to be amazed. It’s good for the soul to be amazed now and then…. Life is God playing. That’s what Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita. (runs her fingers under his chin) So come on. Let’s play Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross. Who do you want to be?… Okay, you can be John. I want to be Teresa anyway. She’s beautiful. Look at this painting of her. (shows him the picture on the book jacket) And John is a short man with a head too big for his body. Borderline ugly, but Teresa thinks he’s beautiful because he’s so brave. Even the Inquisition can’t break him down. He’s thrown into a nasty prison for nine months. Tortured. Starved. A little pinhole for a window. Leaves prison ever more resolved to be true only to Jesus.
THOMAS: (discouraged) What would a big ugly head matter against heroics like that?
DAPHNE: Someday I’d like to put down on paper what are the qualities all mystics have in common, in all religions…. A love of life, whatever comes. That would be number one. An intense life. Nothing wasted…. Living everything! Come on. Play. Your turn, John of the Cross.
THOMAS: (as Paul appears in the balcony) Life as service. As opportunity to serve.
DAPHNE: Yes, dear John of the Cross. Rightly spoken. But to serve in the sense of whatever comes, that’s the key. To serve with no thought of reward, with no thought of being seen as a good person. That’s right thinking, John. You serve in a way that you don’t even know you are serving. (looking at her book) I’d like to live a life so true and deep that someone would write a book about it someday.
THOMAS: I trust you see the vanity in that desire.
DAPHNE: If you’re vain, you’re vain. No sense backing away into a false humility. Of course it’s vain to try to live a big life. That’s where your vanity gets knocked in the gut. You fail to live up to your ideal. Or you think you fail. Why else does Christ cry out in agony on the cross: “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?” He had failed his ideal. Or thought he had.
THOMAS: (taking her arm and moving her out of earshot of Paul) Look. Some things you can think you know and say out loud, and other things you can only think you know. Who dares to see Jesus in your brave terms?
DAPHNE: You. You’re protecting me from the Inquisition, aren’t you?
THOMAS: The one here in Belleville, you must mean. That’s why it’s so hot, you know. They’re burning vain witches in the town square.
DAPHNE: I was reading in the bible the other day. The story about seven brothers who married the same woman, one after another, after the next older one died. And someone asking Jesus whose wife, of the seven, she would be in heaven. (flirting) Can you imagine Jesus and Mary Magdalene laughing their heads off at such a question?… What a lucky woman, to have so many husbands die, each time with younger brother to take his place. (spins) And up in heaven she will be free of all of them.
THOMAS: (stopping her) Daphne. Settle down.
DAPHNE: We are playing. I am having a good time with my new man friend.
THOMAS: Please. Listen to me. I am protecting you. I’m taking a good bit of heat for you. I may be your one friend of any kind in this town. So why did you break our agreement? You promised me you would only pass through the cemetery — at most — like everybody else. Until the situation here has entirely calmed down. (He takes the book from her, uses it like a pointer) I thought you agreed to be inspired by the grounded side of Saint Teresa for awhile. That part of her life. The work she was doing here. Helping people. Founding convents. Doing her turn in the kitchen. Visiting the sick.
DAPHNE: I’m not inspired to found a convent or visit the sick. I wish convents ceased to exist. I wish the sick would get better. I’d rather visit them after they got better…. Died, or got better.
THOMAS: Work with me down at the Soup Bowl, then. What a beautiful presence you would bring to all the old men. There’s where you could play. While you were also doing good.
DAPHNE: If I were going to serve Jesus, like Teresa, it would have to be simply love overflowing. Do-gooding doesn’t inspire me.
THOMAS: It doesn’t inspire your ego. That’s one of the positive things about it. It doesn’t inspire my ego either.
DAPHNE: No? You don’t feel a little proud of yourself down at the Soup Bowl?
THOMAS: Of course I have a proud thought now and then, that I might be doing good. But I don’t let that thought stop me. I turn to other thoughts, like how it must feel to be hungry and homeless…. Daphne. Why have you suddenly backslid to where we were months ago? What happened?… Something happened. I feel very far away from you.
DAPHNE: It’s only going to get farther. Because now we are becoming attached to each other. (They look at each other.) Sorry. The woman generally knows first…. And there will be some big work to do…. Not all work is in the soup kitchen, you know. David and I are still working on attachments to this day. He’s a little jealous of you.
THOMAS: So. You saw him again.
DAPHNE: (She nods.) Do you want to hear about it? (Thomas hesitates, but then nods) Henka must have taken a message for me…. You can travel somewhat freely just after you die, so Swedenborg says. You don’t know where you belong for awhile. Sometimes you’re up there, sometimes you’re down here, trying to be near what you’re used to. She’s here right now. (closes her eyes and whirls once) Can you feel her? (Thomas shakes his head no.) Coming back to this world feels like dying to David now. Henka and I spend most of the night trying to calm him…. We know it’s the last time that we can meet again like this. Him there. Me here.
THOMAS: Then he has given you his blessing to be … here in this world?
THOMAS: Then you have … let him go?
DAPHNE: Not really…. Thomas, I want to tell you something big. Something bigger than you want to hear, but I’m bursting to tell you anyway. I want to trust you so much.
THOMAS: (looking to see if Paul may be listening) This won’t go anywhere. Trust me.
DAPHNE: Oh, I trust you that way. But something did happen. Something terrible and yet wonderful at the same time. And I want I tell you about it, in love and joy, that I know you’ll first take to be odd, even insane, but I am asking you to hear it in the joy that I am telling you. Is that possible?
THOMAS: I have big doubts about that word joy right now.
DAPHNE: Then I can’t tell you.
THOMAS: Tell me.
DAPHNE: I’ll tell it to you this way, then. David is coming back again. One more time…. Don’t close your eyes please. Oh, there’s that frown. (She starts to spin) I knew it. I hate it so…. You can never let yourself go and fully play!
THOMAS: Stop it right now. Enough. Stop spinning around. (stops her roughly) And stop spinning me around, Daphne. One minute you have accepted that you and David are in different worlds, irrevocably. The next minute, he’s coming back again?
DAPHNE: He’ll regress. He knows how much I still need him. He’ll step back one life. Maybe your Jesus did that.
THOMAS: Don’t bring Jesus into it, okay. It just muddies the waters…. It’s you who have regressed into flights of fantasy. Ungrounded imagination. Back to square one.
DAPHNE: What’s one small regression in the infinity of infinity…. It’s just more play. David will get to experience sartori all over again. That’s the point that wins him over.
THOMAS: I was afraid something like this might happen.
DAPHNE: It wouldn’t sound strange, if you had lived where I have lived. It wouldn’t sound strange in India. In Tibet. People would be celebrating. Dancing in the street. A great soul has decided to be born again.
THOMAS: (holds her firmly) Break yourself out of this trance. Right now. Stop it!
DAPHNE: Let me go!… I can’t stop it. I’m pregnant. David is coming back as my baby.
THOMAS: Oh, boy.
DAPHNE: It wouldn’t sound strange at all. In India. Or Tibet.
THOMAS: But we’re not in India or Tibet. We’re not in either one of those exotic faraway countries. We’re in little Belleville, Michigan. A materialistic little nowhere, between Detroit and Ann Arbor.
DAPHNE: And what possible good could come out of Belleville? Huh?
THOMAS: And who is the father of new baby David?
DAPHNE: He will be the father of himself.
THOMAS: This is a sharp fork in the path for us, Daphne. (starts walking away) You know that, don’t you? I can’t walk beside you anymore. (exits)
DAPHNE: Unless you would be his father. He agreed to that possibility.
She spins a couple times, holding up her hands to heaven. Stops. Drops into a half-lotus. Buries her face in her hands, almost pouting. Lights to black.
Lights up on Otto watching a ball game, Lash coming in with Dora, Dora immediately heading for upstairs. Meanwhile, Thomas is leaning against the tree in the cemetery, smoking and secretly drinking. Daphne is meditating in her room.
OTTO: Ah. The man with the brown sack. (pulls out a fifth of Jack Daniels) Now ain’t that pretty…. Join me?
LASH: Too early for me.
OTTO: (pouring himself one) How much do I owe you?
LASH: (looks at receipt) Forty dollars and eighty cents. Forty. Close enough.
OTTO: You know I’m good for it. My Guard check comes in Tuesday…. Either this Tuesday or the next…. What you been up to? No good? It’s been a couple weeks…. But thanks for coming through for me. (holds up the bottle) I hated to have to call you, but—- By the way, did you ever get a chance to … you know … talk to her?
LASH: Daphne? Yeah. We talked. Sort of…. Same old Daphne, alright. Same strange logic – pretty out there — and now add to that she’s been around the world a few times, China, Tibet, countries like that. She’s lived in places I can’t even find on a map.
OTTO: But what’s going on right next door is my question? Did you find out anything? Why would she have her own room over there? That ain’t right.
LASH: I warned her about Thomas…. She didn’t say much, one way or the other. But I don’t think anybody’s going to know what Daphne’s thinking, even when if she does say something…. Yeah, I’d say she’s a bit more out there now, than when I knew her ten, twelve years ago. A good bit further.
OTTO: In short, she’s totally nuts. You don’t have to say “out there.” Call a spade a spade. (Doorbell rings.) She’s bonkers…. Rosa! Somebody’s at the door.
ROSA: (from upstairs) Answer it, Otto.
OTTO: Me and Lash are watching the ballgame. (goes to the door, sees that it’s strangers) Sorry. We don’t want any.
PAULINE: Is this the residence of Otto Grabowski.
OTTO: Who are you? Did I win the lottery or something?
PAULINE: Mr. Growbowski, I’m Pauline Tucker. And this is Ernie Becker.
OTTO: I don’t want anything.
PAULINE: Ah, I’m sorry, we’ve come to take the limo away. I’m very sorry.
ERNIE: (pushing in front of the woman) And we need you to sign a couple things.
OTTO: (in Ernie’s face) You knock on my door, on the Labor Day, the day we celebrate the ones who built this country, all the sacrifices that took, to take my limo away. This is how I make my living.
PAULINE: You’re five months behind on your payments. You don’t remember me, do you. We know other a little bit. I went to Belleville High with your Daphne. A while back there…. We weren’t in the same class, but—- May we come in?
OTTO: How am I supposed to catch up if you take my livelihood away?
PAULINE: You’ve been sent several warning letters, Mr. Grabowski.
OTTO: What good’s a warning if you can’t do nothing about it?… You know the times we’re living in.
ERNIE: If you’ll just sign the old John Hancock, at the bottom, beside the asterisks…. A cousin of mine was in the same algebra class with Daphne. (dreamily looking around) He asked me to say hello for him, if she was around.
OTTO: (pushes Ernie back) Get out of my house. I’m not signing nothing.
ERNIE: Hey, get your hands off me. We’re just doing our jobs here.
OTTO: And I’m doing my job. Now get out…. Toss me over one of them bats, Lash.
LASH: Not a good idea, Mr. Grabowski…. Ah, why don’t the two of you clear on out of here? The man’s angry, can’t you see?
PAULINE: Okay, you don’t have to sign, if you don’t want to. But we do need the key.
ERNIE: We’re just following procedures man, that’s all. Procedures are procedures.
LASH: Better cut out. Before someone gets hurt or goes to jail.
OTTO: What’d they bail out that insurance company with? Eighty billion of my tax dollars. Bail me out now. Bail out the little man, too.
PAULINE: We’re just following orders, Mr. Grabowski.
OTTO: Well, here’s an order you can follow. Get out of my house, before I throw you out. And take your goddamn procedures with you.
PAULINE: If we tow it away, you’ll be billed. And billed for the police escort, too.
ERNIE: The hole just gets deeper and deeper when you fight it, man.
OTTO: You don’t know who you’re talking to here. My daddie was an underground coal miner and I fought in two wars for this country. I’ve shot men dead and I’ve seen men shot dead. I’m not a man you want to mess with. (yelling out the door, after them) You lay one finger on my limo, I’ll greet you outside with a fuckin’ twelve gauge.
LASH: (at the window) Are they going to do it?… Looks like they’re going to do it.
OTTO: We got any of them cherry bombs left over from the Fourth of July? Where did we put the cherry bombs, Lash? (He feels behind a trophy in his trophy case.) Ah!
LASH: Don’t light that in here. (running to the door) You’ll blow out our ear-drums.
Otto opens the door tosses the cherry bomb out. A loud explosion. Some cursing. A car starts up and peals out. Otto and Lash start laughing, leaning over each other.
ROSA: (rushing down from upstairs) Otto. What t’ hell’s going on?
OTTO: A man can’t let off a couple cherry bombs on Labor Day. (to Lash) Sounded just like a twelve gauge, shotgun, didn’t it?
Lights up on Paul in rectory.
PAUL: (knocking on a door) Thomas. Wake up. I have a bone to pick with you.
THOMAS: (a distant voice) What is it Paul?
PAUL: I saw her out there again this morning. The agreement is she can stay over, on occasion, in the guest room, if she doesn’t go into the graveyard. I’m asking you to enforce that. School has started and she can’t be out there for children to gawk at. Tell her. Take charge.
THOMAS: Daphne and I have fallen out of communication, Paul. You’ll have to tell her yourself.
PAUL: No. She keeps asking for you? Open this door. What’s happening here, Thomas? You’re depressed, that’s what. You’re in your room way too much. Or walking the streets of Belleville at four o’clock in the morning, talking to yourself. Yes. I’ve been hearing about it, and from very reliable sources.
THOMAS: What were reliable sources doing up at four in the morning, I wonder?
PAUL: Everybody knows that your attachment to Daphne is behind this collapse in you. What do you see in her?
THOMAS: You’re asking me what I see in her?…. I think it’s her mind.
PAUL: Her mind! Very funny! The woman’s insane. She hears voices…. Open the door.
THOMAS: Speaking of insanity, if I were you, Paul, as young as you still are, I’d re-examine your call to the celibate life. I’d examine those vows every few months for the next few years, before it’s too late…. If I were young like you.
PAUL: Have you been drinking? You’ve been drinking, haven’t you?… Meanwhile our school enrollment is off twenty-some pupils and maybe folding. The Soup Bowl has been shut down for a dirty kitchen. People are starting to develop little tics and twitches when they walk past the cemetery…. We’re dealing with some dark forces here, Thomas. Do I have to call the police and have her forcibly removed?
THOMAS: (opening the door) Come on. Settle down. There are some new developments that we have to sort through.
PAUL: What new developments?
THOMAS: My guess is you probably aren’t ready to hear this.
PAUL: Probably not. When you start out that way. But you’d better tell me anyway.
THOMAS: Okay, but this is not to be treated as idle gossip. It was told to me in sacred trust. I’ll come straight to the point. Here’s the point. Daphne may be pregnant.
PAUL: My God, Thomas…. How?… I mean how do you know this?… Heaven help us, it’s not you, is it? (Thomas shakes his head no.) Then who?
THOMAS: Maybe nobody.
PAUL: Women don’t get pregnant without a man!
THOMAS: Did you ever hear of the Holy Virgin…. Or a fertility clinic? They have one of those over in Ann Arbor, you know.
PAUL: Did you ever hear of a scandal? You, or not you, people are going to say that it’s you. How did this happen?
THOMAS: How did this happen? This is going to sound strange to you, Paul. I would like to give you this in three or four steps, but I don’t know what they would be. Daphne is set on giving rebirth to her dead husband. Reincarnating her dead husband. She wants to bring David back. As her baby…. Are you able to hear any of this?… Are you okay? What are you thinking?
PAUL: You’re asking me what I am thinking?
THOMAS: If we lived in India or Tibet, it wouldn’t sound so strange. Those are ancient civilizations. Hinduism is far older than Christianity. Buddhism grew out of Hinduism.
PAUL: Then she should immediately go live in one of those ancient civilizations! Do you know what I’m thinking, Thomas. You got us into this. You get us out.
THOMAS: I’m on my own here then.
Daphne appears in the graveyard, dressed differently. Western. Stylish. Sexy.
PAUL: I wish you were on your own. Here she comes for you again…. Your Madonna.
THOMAS: Just don’t call the police, okay. I implore you. Not a good idea…. Give her a message for me. Tell her I can’t see her right now. Tell her I’m … indisposed. Use that word. Indisposed.
Lights to black. A longer musical interlude; a Gypsy rendition of “The Autumn Leaves.”
Lights up on Rosa and Otto sitting at the table, Otto wearing Army camouflage, playing with his guns.
ROSA: Will you say good-bye to her when she leaves? For me? Just those two words. Don’t let her go in silence.
OTTO: We haven’t said two words to each other since she came home. Why start now?
ROSA: Because she’s our daughter and you love her. Oh so much more than you know.
OTTO: I’m angry at Daphne, Rosa. Here comes a man to my house, already an hour late, so I can sign it over to him. Not even on time to take over my own house.
ROSA: That’s not Daphne’s fault.
OTTO: It is. She’s the rabbit hole the whole family slid down. So damn fast. What did it cost to bring David’s body home and bury him. Twenty-five grand. That was where we started slip sliding down. And we never got back to the surface again.
ROSA: How could we know you were going to lose your job?… Don’t resent her, Otto. She doesn’t resent you. She said to me, just the other day, it was a good thing we are asking her to leave. It’s a help, she said. It’s helping her do what she has to do.
OTTO: And none of this had to happen. We’ve lost everything. Our self-respect. Our daughter. Our home.
ROSA: We haven’t lost our home, or any of those things. It’s called a reverse mortgage. It’ll still be our home. They pay the monthly payments, that’s all.
OTTO: And when we die, everything belongs to them. Not us. It’ll go to strangers.
ROSA: What’s ours after we die?
OTTO: Once our John Henry goes down on the piece of paper, this will not be our house. And I’ll know that fact to the day I die. We’ll be living in a house that is not ours.
ROSA: We don’t have a choice anymore.
OTTO: You always got a choice. I’ve been thinking.
ROSA: Me, too, Otto. We should let Daphne stay a little longer. No. Listen to me. Don’t you notice how she’s getting better. Talking. Sometimes. Dressing right. Eating. Even putting on a little weight. She could get a part-time job. Help out with the bills.
OTTO: November first.
ROSA: Just till Christmas…. It’s a cruel world out there…. Thanksgiving then.
OTTO: I’m not waffling on this one, Rosa. The day’s been set. Don’t make it harder on everybody by waffling. (Doorbell rings.) Baxter. Thanks for coming over. This is a day off or you, I suspect. Columbus Day.
BAXTER: Sorry I’m a little late, Otto. I just drove over from the Elks. I probably smell of fish and beer. A couple of my colleagues enjoying the long week-end. Hi, Rosa.
OTTO: Enjoy life while you can. Can I pour you something?
BAXTER: Well, we’d better get down to business, don’t you think? (looking at his watch) Little lady’ll be wondering. (Otto holding up the bottle) No thanks, Otto. (noticing the gun on the table) Okay, a short one. (Otto tipping the bottle) Hey, how about those Lions, huh? They almost won one yesterday. I won a hundred dollars on that game. In our little bank pool…. Is that a real gun? That looks like a real gun.
OTTO: You bankers have lots of fun, it sounds like.
BAXTER: Hey? Why a long face? This is a happy day. Everybody wins here. You win. The bank wins. A foreclosure is avoided. America wins. We’re going to get this country going in the right direction again…. How are the girls, Rosa?…. Where do you want to do this? This won’t take anytime at all…. Is that thing loaded?
ROSA: The girls are good.
BAXTER: (as he is spreading papers on the table to sign) I noticed, down at the Elks, you guys were in charge of the Halloween party this year.
OTTO: Yeah. Maybe. We might be resigning down at the Elks. I don’t know. The dues goes up about every other month, do you notice?
BAXTER: Be patient, Otto. Happy times are coming again. We’re going to pull out of this recession, mark my words…. Watch Fox news. All the indicators are good. If we can just keep the Democrats out of office…. Okay, where are we? Several things for you to sign here. Just formalities. I’ve already told to you how this procedure works. This document is to basically attest that all your options have been explained to you, and they have. Read it if you want, but we got about thirty or so of these. It’s just a formality.
OTTO: Just a formality to sign away my home. The lord helps those that help themself, Mama always said.
BAXTER: It’s still going to be your home. In fact, signing this reverse mortgage is what makes it all possible…. Would you mind putting that gun in a drawer somewhere?
OTTO: (pushing himself abruptly away from the table, alarming Baxter) I can’t do it, Bax. (walking to his TV seat, grabbing a bat off the rack) Sorry for your trouble, but the Tigers are on in a couple minutes. Season ain’t over yet.
ROSA: Otto. It’s October. This is football season.
OTTO: The Lord works in mysterious ways.
Lights to black, Rosa and Baxter looking awkwardly at each other.
Lights up on Thomas, in autumn clothing, raking, Daphne approaching him.
THOMAS: (as if a shy stranger) Hello.
DAPHNE: (smilingly sadly) Hello.
THOMAS: How are you?
DAPHNE: (cupping her womb) My cup runneth over.
THOMAS: Well. Then between the two of us, we’re doing average.
DAPHNE: (laughs) The three of us. I’m starting to show a little, can you tell?… I’m sorry. You’re the only one I can talk to, you know?… About anything important. Do you think I don’t miss that?
THOMAS: What’s the difference? You’re leaving soon. Everything is in motion.
DAPHNE: Yes. Everything is in motion. Saturn, Jupiter and Venus are about to converge, if you haven’t heard. A big sky event, in case you’ve been too “indisposed” to keep up with the sky news. It’s like a window opening. I look for signs, you know me.
THOMAS: Just this week have I been starting to feel better. Every day a little stronger…. If you’re waiting for a sign from me, Daphne, I hope you’re not in a hurry.
DAPHNE: I can be patient when I have to be…. They cluster this closely once every couple millenniums or so.
THOMAS: Forever is a long time.
DAPHNE: Forever is a long time. You should remember that, too.
THOMAS: … Where are you planning to go? Do you have a destination?… Do you have any money?
DAPHNE: Money? Seek first the kingdom of heaven. (she laughs) I’m a Bible woman now. That’s my new thing. I’ve come full circle. The Sayings of Jesus. That seems all the money one would need.
THOMAS: Let me give you some money. To help you get started.
DAPHNE: I’ll accept your money, thank you. If you take it out of your wallet while you’re sitting beside me on the train…. You have been invited to come along, you know.
THOMAS: Why come along when you’ve created an inner world that has no place in it for me? All filled up with David. And now more David on the way. Who would I be?
DAPHNE: I have room in my inner world for one big headed poet.
THOMAS: There’s no poetry in delusions. You went too far. I can’t reach you.
DAPHNE: Is Saint Teresa deluded in her love for Jesus? Her life is like a sacred poem. Is her marriage to Jesus a delusion?… You shouldn’t give people books if you don’t want them to read them…. Perhaps you didn’t go far enough.
THOMAS: I was ready to leave the Church for you. That’s pretty far. Well beyond far. And then you fly off into your own world, as if I am nothing to you.
DAPHNE: Nothing? I am starting to love Jesus, Thomas, without having to. Without trying. That’s nothing? That’s closer to this world – let’s say to your world – than I’ve been since I was a child. And you are the one who has led me here. You and Teresa. I begin to see better your points about service. The Soup Bowl, visiting prisons, all of that. An overflow of loving Jesus. Loving Jesus spilling over everywhere. Everyone you see is sacred. Nobody but Jesus in the whole wide world. I’ve come down my piece of the road to meet you. Is all the travelling mine to do? What about your piece of the road?
THOMAS: (softening) I read your poems. Several times over. I came that far. They are excellent. Exciting. How bravely you and David travelled in India, and everywhere. Your dialogue poems, near the end, are superb. His yearning towards the high mountain air of the Tibet. “The perfect white nothing at the top of the world.” I think that’s how you had him say it.
DAPHNE: Yes. You sounded like him just then.
THOMAS: That’s been my reading, lying there in bed, these last weeks. You…. You and David. Asking myself what would it be like for me to travel with a person like you. Now you would be the one yearning for high mountain realms I couldn’t reach and I would be the one writing love poems. And the more I thought about these poems I would write to you, the weaker and sicker I became. One morning, a fly was buzzing around my room, and lighted on the bedpost. I had my swatter ready, but I was so weak I just looked at it instead. One real fly. With two real wings. And a big head for the size of its body. And a line from Emerson popped into my head, about how he’d rather see one actual fly over a thousand possible angels. And suddenly, like a miracle, I was feeling better.
DAPHNE: Ah, yes. It’s easier to love a fly than a person, I suppose. I told you were a death poet. Death attracts flies. Flies love death.
THOMAS: Say what you will, I’d turned a corner. And I went down on my knees in gratitude. And for the last week or so I’ve been down on my knees aplenty, scrubbing floors and counters, getting the Soup Bowl up and running again.
DAPHNE: The flies will love you.
THOMAS: What a flight of fantasy, that after 28 years as a priest, I could have imagined myself waking up one morning as a romantic type man, giving up everything I know, my calling, the Soup Bowl, all that, and running off half cocked with a New Age Teresa of Jesus, pregnant with her late husband,… reincarnating her dead husband. I couldn’t put that together in my head with things like working in the garden or raking leaves, or helping people – the everyday life. So can we laugh about these dreams now, and be done with them?
DAPHNE: Laugh or cry. Because if the death poet would stand up off his knees and look out of the soup kitchen window one night soon, he would see — besides for maybe a dying fly or two entangled in spider webs — Saturn and Jupiter and Venus quickly lining up. And he would possibly recall, from his book-learning, that 28 years is what it takes for Saturn to circle the sun and start a new circle. You asked me to come more back into this world. Here I am. The whole package. Soul and body. The part that can fall in love is also back, and can barely stand to feel the wind against my skin. Come on.
THOMAS: How I wish such language eluded me.
DAPHNE: Then don’t read Teresa of Jesus…. Or give her to me to read. She had her Soup Bowl, visit the sick things going, and she had a sexy, dancing soul, just like I do. The priests drew straws to receive her confessions. If she so much as brushed her skin against a feather, or the petals of a flower, she went into another rapture.
THOMAS: Why do you insist on tempting me?
DAPHNE: How else can I reach you?
THOMAS: If I’m going to break my holy vows, let me decide, in quietude, with God.
DAPHNE: Vows aren’t holy. They’re on the surface. That’s why you have to make them. They don’t go deep enough on their own. If you live your religion, it’s out of joy, not vows…. If we’re going to travel together, we have to be ready together. The train doesn’t even stop at this station anymore. We have to jump from the platform through an open window as the train passes by. Only lovers can move so quickly. I wasn’t ready to jump with just David. I missed the window to Tibet, because the Jesus part wasn’t there, but with you, it has come in.
THOMAS: It’s your beauty that seduces me.
DAPHNE: If you didn’t see the truth in me, could I still be beautiful to you?
THOMAS: Yes. Yes, very.
DAPHNE: Because I am God’s skin. And these are God’s lips…. And this is God’s sky. November first, on your calendar. Then forever. I can see it coming. With you…. And David. And Jesus.
Lights to black.
Lights up upstairs in Dora’s room. Rosa dressed in a nun’s costume; Dora getting her costume ready.
ROSA: I was the one who got you into this mess. I was the one who encouraged you.
DORA: Mom. Come on.
ROSA: It just worries me that he never had a family. That he didn’t grow up in a real family…. Why didn’t you make him wait, like I told you?
DORA: I did make him wait.
ROSA: What? Ten minutes? If you had made him wait, he would be begging you to marry him…. Oh, forget it. I never listened to my mother either.
DORA: You can’t make them wait forever. You know that.
ROSA: Do you love Lash?… Let me ask that differently. Are you in love with Lash?
DORA: Is Lash in love with me, that’s the question. He’s pretty pissed right now. He feels like I trapped him.
ROSA: Has he said it like that?
DORA: Not directly. And he’s the one who was pushing so hard…. Not that I —- We had all this chemistry going on between us. He was like a wild animal sometimes.
ROSA: And now the wild animal feels trapped, does he? That’s what he’s telling you.
DORA: No. Not in words. But I can feel it, Mother.
ROSA: Of course. The chemistry isn’t quite so strong, now that you’re having a baby.
DORA: Do we have to talk?
ROSA: If he feels trapped, that’s a good thing, that’s all I’m saying. It means he accepts the situation as it is.
DORA: “The situation.” I was hoping for something a little bit grander than “the situation.” “Accepting the situation.” I was hoping for a little more of a joyous response, that’s all. Was that asking too much?
ROSA: You’ll learn in time, baby girl, what’s too much to ask and what’s not. In the meantime just be thankful Lash is going to stand by you…. And if he doesn’t, well, you can be thankful for that too. You’ll get by. Lash ain’t all that…. The more you hang around him. None of them are. The more you hang around them.
Lights down upstairs, up on Otto, in army fatigues, and Lash in Halloween costume.
OTTO: I saw this coming weeks ago.
LASH: We were going to wait until next summer. After she got a foothold into college. Her first year. I was going to give her a ring for Christmas.
OTTO: Well, it ain’t the first shotgun wedding in the family…. So I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m all shocked and superior. (He gives a head-nod towards upstairs.)
LASH: … You and Rosa?
OTTO: Don’t ever tell her I told you. She’d rather that little life detail sort of disappeared down the river of time. She might not even remember herself anymore, but that’s the way it happened to happen. And we were okay about it, you’d better believe it. Joyous. At the time. (punches the bag, and picks a bat off the rack) Just like you are, right, kid?
LASH: Oh, hell yes. We’re joyous enough, I guess. Just my apartment’s so small, and so little work coming in. Dora’s one month into college. Winter around the corner. Heating bills. Another car to buy…. I’m not sure the old company’s going to make it through the fall, to tell you the truth.
OTTO: Why don’t you live here with us for awhile? Upstairs. Daphne ain’t going to be making a claim on her room much longer.
LASH: We couldn’t do that. Kick Daphne out?
OTTO: She’ll be moving out tomorrow in fact. November first. That’s the day we more or less put on it. Hell, Mom under the ground, bless her heart, you guys would have the whole top floor. Make a little apartment out of it. We’d go halves on all the bills. We could build you a separate entrance. Daphne’ll be in Timbuktu somewhere. Mom ain’t coming back soon from where she is. Everybody wins. We’ll start having a regular life again. Sweep all the spooks out of here. (yelling upstairs) Come on, you guys! I’m supposed to be greeting people at the door. We’re already a half hour late. (sarcastically) Let the fun begin. (back to Lash) We’re going to have a good time tonight, okay?… What’s Dora coming as?
LASH: I don’t know. Hester somebody. From literature. She’s wearing a big red letter “A” on her blouse. Stands for adulteress.
OTTO: Is that supposed to be a joke?
LASH: I guess she’s trying to make a point.
OTTO: Well, why haven’t you two tied the knot by now?… Am I going to walk my Dora down the aisle cradling a newborn baby in her arms?
LASH: We’re working on the knot. There are a lot of details to take care of.
OTTO: Like what details? Give me an example of a detail.
LASH: We weren’t even going together, Mr. Grabowski. We barely know each other. Where do you want me to start?… Like is there going to be the occasional boy’s night out? Details like that. How does a guy all of a sudden change into somebody else?
OTTO: You’re going to give that baby a daddie, aren’t you, Lash?
LASH: Of course I am. Nothing changes about that. We’re just working out the details.
Lights fade on the main floor, rise and the second floor, Daphne packing a suitcase.
ROSA: (to Daphne) You know you’re always welcome here.
DAPHNE: I know.
DORA: I hope you don’t think you’re being kicked out.
ROSA: Look at us. The three of us. The three Grabowski women.
DORA: Mom, I don’t want to wear this costume anymore.
As Rosa and Dora talk, Daphne moves to the window overlooking the cemetery, and stands in profile and silhouetted to both the audience and Rosa and Dora.
ROSA: Wear it…. Look. You don’t want to hide the truth. I’ve hidden the truth all my life, and it started when I hid that I was pregnant before I was married. I’m going to see that you don’t do that…. Everyone knows anyway. The worst thing to do is act ashamed.
DORA: I was just hoping it would make Lash think a little bit.
ROSA: Wear the costume. It was your idea. And a good one.
DORA: Now and then he gets in a mood where he wants to back out. Anyway, he’s never heard of “The Scarlet Letter.” … The joke kind of loses its value, doesn’t it?
Daphne burst into a laugh. Dora doesn’t know how to take it. Daphne stands up and goes to Dora, hugs her.
DAPHNE: I’m sorry. I thought it was a funny joke. That’s all.
ROSA: No. God. Laugh. Right, Dora? When’s the last time we heard Daphne laugh?
DAPHNE: Oh, Dora. I wish I could have helped you more. I wish I could have been a better sister.
Rosa comes forward to hug them both simultaneously. Stands back.
DORA: Dear me, Daphne. You are gaining a little weight! (Daphne turns her back to hide that she is starting to show.) Too much reading and sitting around. You’re getting out of shape, honey. It’s the spinning. You’ve stopped spinning. Those were a lot of calories burned, back in your spinning days…. You look like you’re pregnant. Look at her, Dora. Doesn’t she? She looks just like you. Stand up next to each other. Profile.
Lights go out upstairs, just as Rosa screams. Light pop up downstairs, Otto and Lash watching television with bats in their hands.
OTTO: What t’ hell was that?
LASH: (rushing to the interior entrance/exit) That sounded real.
OTTO: Jesus Christ. What now.
Lights to black. Cacophonous music, starts slowly, then increases in pace and volume into beginning of next scene. Reminiscent of music in surrealistic scene in Act I, mixed in with cries of anguish from the house and TV. Sirens. Helicopters. Search lights.
Lights up dimly in the lower rectory area, with pulsing lights indicating a fire in the basement. Thomas and Lash are beating it out. Finally, they step back exhausted.
THOMAS: What t’hell are you doing?
LASH: I was going to just ask you that?
THOMAS: Did you just light the basement entrance on fire, Lash? Are you sick in the head or something?
LASH: What do you mean, did I “light it”? I helped you put it out. You saw that. I was helping you put it out.
THOMAS: Yes. But why did you start it? What’s wrong with you?
LASH: I could ask you the same question, too, you know…. I just came over to tell you good-bye. Maybe to ask you something. Then I saw this fire.
THOMAS: Are you saying I started this fire?
LASH: Somebody started it…. You’re pretty good at starting fires. You and Daphne. Everybody in town has been watching that fire blazing.
THOMAS: So that’s it, is it?
LASH: People see what people see.
THOMAS: What most people see are loose pieces of themselves floating around in their own heads.
LASH: (shoves Thomas ever so slightly) You should have kept it in your pants, like a good little priest…. Well, now Daphne’s knocked up, how about them apples?
THOMAS: Knocked up? How eloquent.
LASH: Pregnant. With child. How many ways do you want me to say it?… You can’t hide behind the collar with me, El Senor. I know what you’re capable of. I knew everything that went on with you and Sister Charity. Back then. I learned a lot from you.
THOMAS: But not how to mind your own business, apparently. And you never got very good at telling the truth, either. Just all in all, you’re not doing so well, Lash. The world has failed you.
LASH: What do you want, with you as my teacher? You’re not so good at telling the truth yourself. Then what would a lie be a priest who’d break the biggest vow of all, and make a liar out of the whole damn church? It’d be nice, while a kid was growing up, if he could believe in something. In somebody. You’re the kid’s father. I know you are.
THOMAS: Here’s my New Testament. I place my hand on it. Whether you think so or not, that is the same as placing my hand on the heart God. I am not the child’s father.
LASH: (long pause) Well, then you’re looking at him…. (picking up a small suitcase)
The kid’s father. You’re looking at him. You figure it out. I just had to be sure. Seems like I’ll be leaving behind about twice as much of Lash Larue here in Belleville as I thought. Good-bye, Thomas. This has got a little too complicated for me. (starts to leave) Luckily I don’t have too much in the way of the material world to walk away from. I was always a bit of a priest that way myself. Travelling light…. Oh, don’t bother following me or making a big noise about that fire. (waves his cell phone at him) I’ve got pictures this time. Of who really started it.
More cacophonous music. Cries from the upstairs. Otto lurks through the house in battle fatigues, carrying a bat and a hand gun. Thomas calmly takes up the axe and buries it into the tree several times. Exhausted he drops to his knees. Lights to black.
Lights up on Thomas, leaning against the tree, as if he has just finished vomiting. Daphne appears in loose flowing hippie clothes, carrying a backpack.
DAPHNE: Ah. There you are. It’s time, Thomas! Are you ready to go?
THOMAS: (as if looking at a ghost) Jesus. You startled me…. Ready to go where?
DAPHNE: What happened?… You look like you’re standing in your own soup line.
THOMAS: Yes. I had a hideous night.
DAPHNE: I can see that from here.
THOMAS: I was finally sleeping. Then this black bile rose up in me… I’m already grieving for you. That’s what you’re seeing?
DAPHNE: Grieving when I haven’t left yet? When you’ve been asked to come along?
THOMAS: I thought maybe you’d left with Lash…. That’s how little I really knew you. Or myself. I was dreaming you, I think…. It feels like I’m dreaming you right now…. But, like I said, I’ve had one hell of a night.
DAPHNE: Well, me too. I won’t even begin to tell you the events of the last twenty-four hours on my side of things. But here I am. Here we are, at the station. The train is coming in. (coming to him) And you’re saying you’re not jumping on?… This is our chance to taste the joy side of life, Thomas. The suffering will come, it can’t be helped. To not taste the joy now would make the suffering unbearable.
THOMAS: Taste the joy on top of someone else’s loss? Kick off against somebody else’s suffering? How could that be a good thing to do? You can’t advance your life at the expense of someone else. That’s the dream you’re dreaming…. (in a darker, louder tone) How could you use Lash as a vehicle to bring David back into the world? And then not even tell me about it?
DAPHNE: (pause) I didn’t feel the deep desire to tell you about it.
THOMAS: I dare say!
DAPHNE: Because I knew you’d go directly onto your righteous mountaintop to judge me…. Like you’re doing right now…. Things happen. Sometimes people act, without thinking. From another source than almighty thought.
THOMAS: And that’s exactly when people hurt people.
DAPHNE: To be alive is to hurt people…. And to be hurt by people.
THOMAS: Say that to Dora…. Look me in the eyes, and say it to me. Say it to Lash!
DAPHNE: Lash? Who is Lash to me? I will never see Lash again. And he will see me until the day he dies. But here’s something more to the present. Otto’s out looking for Lash right now, and after he doesn’t find him, he’ll come looking for you…. I wish we had time to talk all this out, but the cat’s out of the bag, as I see you already know…. He assumes you are the father, of course.
THOMAS: And you let him assume it, of course?
DAPHNE: We can’t even say good-morning to each other. How could we talk about something like this?
THOMAS: So if we’re going, we had better hop to, is what you’re saying?… How am I supposed to look at you now? As the same person I was seeing before?
DAPHNE: Yes. Even if there were Lash’s baby inside me, as you are so ready to believe…. See me as Jesus sees me.
THOMAS: Even if there “were”?… What are you saying?…
DAPHNE: I’m saying to practice your religion!
THOMAS: Speak plainly.
DAPHNE: What makes a baby? Lash got to go swimming one more time, and brag about it to you, it sounds like. That would have been a great ten great minutes for Lash, (turns and looks intently at Thomas), but it’s who you are thinking about that you make a baby with. It’s who is inside your heart.
THOMAS: (long pause) Is there something you haven’t told me? That if I knew … I’d feel about two inches tall right now?… Did Lash—-
DAPHNE: Yes…. Lash did!… But I was thinking about you. I started out thinking about David, and I ended up thinking about you. I didn’t know who you were to me until that moment…. Then when you stopped looking for me, I suffered so much…. Where are you going?
THOMAS: (picking up the axe) I know a couple of Lash’s old hiding places. If I find him—-
DAPHNE: What are you doing? Where are you going? (blocking his way, as Paul appears on the rectory balcony) “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” Live your religion, Thomas.
THOMAS: I’m not Jesus.
DAPHNE: And there is no baby…. Nothing more to be born here, except you and me. Last night, Teresa sent me a message, I’m sure of it. A question. I heard a woman’s voice, asking me how could I ask David to come back to me, when David was already where he wanted to be…. And when I was already thinking about you?
THOMAS: Are you now telling me it was a false pregnancy? What? I don’t understand you?… Did you miscarry?
DAPHNE: I willed it, Thomas. We willed it together. Teresa and David and I. Last night. I feel very weak. (sounds in the house, Otto and Rosa entering, Otto with a bat in his hand) Do we have to talk, Thomas? We don’t have a lot of time. I need you. Is that grounded enough, or do you want me to be a nun? (They look at each other; he takes off his collar) A woman then? (They kiss.) Father, forgive me if I have sinned.
PAUL: (from rectory, as he dials his cell-phone) Twenty hail Mary’s and be done with it.
THOMAS: My God, Daphne, are you alright?…
DAPHNE: I don’t know.
THOMAS: I will be a jealous man, you know, as just a man. I will be incomplete. Unfinished. I have no experience almost, as just a man. Your beauty will overwhelm me. I will not be someone ever to look up to again.
DAPHNE: I love you, too, Thomas…. I’m feeling faint.
THOMAS: We have to find you a doctor. Immediately…. (crossing towards the rectory, as Daphne starts to cross in the direction of the living room) I’ll just be a minute. You’ll be okay. The gods are shining on us, I can feel it.
DAPHNE: First they shine. And then they don’t shine. (breaking the invisible wall)
THOMAS: (as he exits into the rectory) We’ve got to get you to the emergency room!
DAPHNE: Then they shine again…. One more to forgive. (embraces Otto; he seems not to see her.)
ROSA: (from the balcony) Daphne? Thomas? If you’re out there, go. Now!
DAPHNE: (coming back into the graveyard, looking up at the rectory) Let’s blow this popsicle stand. That’s what Otto will tell us. When he wakes up and knows who he is.
PAUL: (intercepting Thomas in the rectory balcony) Go. Leave it all behind. The taxi is out front waiting for you…. You’re in for it now, Thomas.
THOMAS: You’re right. What joy! (looking over the railing at Daphne) What suffering!
DAPHNE: Thomas! What are we waiting for down here? Christmas!
PAUL: (as lights go to black) I’ll be watching you. We’ll all be watching you.
©James L. Ralston