R U READY 4 MORE “CLAUDIA CAN’T THINK OF A GOOD BLOG SO YOU GET GARBAGE THAT SHE WROTE IN THE PAST”?
2 HOT 2 HANDLE
So back in 2006, during my first semester of college when I was sure I knew everything and had the whole world figured out (you know, like all 18-year-olds do), I took an intro theatre class in which we had to get into groups and perform a 10 – 20 minute play. All the other groups chose parts of famous plays or a published skit that had been written to be performed in that amount of time.
Not my group.
No, my group had to suffer through me wanting to write my own play for us to perform. Because that how I rolled back then.
So I wrote this piece of garbage called “Marionette” that, at the time, I thought was absolutely brilliant.
I was an idiot back then.
But anyway, in part to torture you readers and in part to torture myself by reminding myself of just how obnoxiously pretentious I was back then, I present to you: Marionette!
Scene: a darkened theatre. As the lights are brought up, this scene is observed: the walls are a rich, deep red—much like thick velvet curtains. A bar with four barstools but no bartender is set up on the left side of the stage. A small coat rack is next to the bar. A partition separates this from a row of four seats is set up on the front right of the stage. In the extreme left barstool sits RICHARD, a man in his early 30s with dark hair and a healthy complexion. To his immediate right sits HELEN, is wife of three years. She is 28 and has a shy, quiet aura about her. Both are dressed in relatively expensive clothing, an indication of their wealth. Both have a glass of whiskey in front of them. Two other glasses remain full and correspond to each of the two empty seats beside them.
After a few moments, a small commotion is heard, and HAROLD and MARY enter the stage from the right. HAROLD is a younger man, 27, who, like Helen, appears quite shy. His wife of six months, MARY, is 25, and a very pretty woman. The couple’s dress is less fancy than that of Richard and Helen. As they enter the scene, Richard and Helen notice them and motion for them to come over.
Throughout this scene, the “arguments” between Harold and Mary are lighthearted, with no real meaning to them. They argue in the way an old couple still deeply in love would argue.
RICHARD: Well, hello! Nice of you to show up!
MARY: (with regret) Are we too late? What a shame…that darn car…
HELEN: Did something happen?
HAROLD: (taking off his jacket, helping MARY with hers, hanging them up) We had a little car trouble on the way over. Car broke down and no one could get it fixed. Hello Richard. Helen.
RICHARD & HELEN: Hi.
MARY: I told you you should’ve taken it in when it started making those noises a month ago, Harold. You’re such a penny-pincher.
HELEN: We ordered drinks for you, anyway. Come sit. (they move over to the seats. MARY indicates for the couple to move over. They do; MARY sits to the right of HELEN. HAROLD is forced to sit the furthest away from MARY, on the left of RICHARD)
RICHARD: Here. (slides one drink to both MARY and HAROLD. HAROLD takes a sip, but, MARY, seeing this, takes the glass away from him)
MARY: Harold doesn’t deserve any.
HAROLD: (lightly, without any real meaning) Come on now, Mary.
MARY: He’s had enough to drink already. (slides his drink across the table to herself) It’s a good thing we weren’t in an accident (drinks) Though I would’ve probably preferred one to all the trouble we had tonight.
HAROLD: It wasn’t that bad.
MARY: Yes, it was. That car…
HELEN: What kind of car is it?
MARY: An awful car. Cheap car. The kind a farmer owns, or something. Not something people like us should ever have to own.
HAROLD: It’s worked all this time, hasn’t it?
MARY: Being stranded out on the road waving to strangers for help is not how I wanted to spend my evening.
HAROLD: Oh, you enjoyed it. I notice you didn’t complain when that blonde fellow offered us a ride to the theatre. I saw the way your blouse “fell open”. (to RICHARD, laughing) The little fox. I have to keep my eye on her at all times.
MARY: (to HELEN) He’s drunk. Had some whiskey before we left. (to RICHARD) You wouldn’t mind giving us a ride home tonight, would you? I suppose, if worst comes to worst, we can leave Harold behind here at the bar, seeing as how he’s the cause of this whole mess.
MARY: (to HELEN and RICHARD) If he weren’t so thrifty we’d have a nice car. And nicer clothes. I apologize for this shawl; Harold bought it for me.
HAROLD: If I had the money to buy you a nicer shawl, I would, but I don’t.
MARY: You have the money, but instead of a new shawl for me you’re choosing to have the car fixed.
HAROLD: The car’s a necessity—cashmere’s not. Besides, weren’t you the one complaining about the car in the first place?
MARY: It’s an awful car. You should learn how to spend your earnings better.
When you earn the money, you can make the decisions, but until then…
RICHARD: Six months into marriage and they’re already fighting about money. (laughs) Sounds like a good start.
MARY: Oh, we’re not fighting.
HAROLD: No. Nothing to fight about.
MARY: Why, just yesterday, Harold got a $300 paycheck from his piano playing, didn’t you, Harold?
HAROLD: Indeed I did.
MARY: And that’s in addition to the $450 he got for just signing on with the company. (laughs) I’m sure that’s even more than you’re making, Richard!
HAROLD: Oh Mary, don’t say that; it’s rude.
MARY: It’s just an observation, Harold, don’t start getting worried.
HAROLD: Still…it’s not polite to say those kinds of things.
MARY: Richard doesn’t care. (to RICHARD) Do you?
RICHARD: Not at all.
MARY: See? And I’m sure Helen doesn’t mind. (looks at HELEN, who shakes her head) See?
HAROLD: Well, it’s the principle of things, Mary. You shouldn’t say things like that.
MARY: Oh, you’re useless. (turns away from the men and towards HELEN. RICHARD and HAROLD make idle chatter between each other as the two women talk)
HELEN: Can’t you get the car fixed?
MARY: Hmm? Oh, we could—except Harold’s such a miser he won’t let us use any of the money saved up. None of it.
HELEN: Have you got a lot?
MARY: Oh, we have plenty. Over $700. He just won’t let me touch it. Just yesterday we were walking down 5th street—you know, where all the shops are?—and I pointed out this lovely necklace in a jewelry shop window display. A beautiful necklace—and you know what he said? (laughs). He said he’ll have to wait until we get enough money saved up. Can you believe that? With over $700 in the bank? The old miser. (drinks. The focus shifts to the men; the women make conversation between themselves as HAROLD and RICHARD talk)
RICHARD: So how’s the new job going so far?
HAROLD: Real good, real good. I’m working for this theatre company downtown. They were looking for a person to play the piano accompaniment to a show. It worked out great, I got a $200 starting pay, which’ll help pay for the car repair. Though don’t believe Mary about the actual amount of money I’ve earned. She tends to exaggerate when it comes to our financial status.
RICHARD: Mary does that, too? (laughs) Helen likes to tell people that I’m the next Rockefeller. (drinks) Really, though, you’re lucky with Mary. She’s a sweetheart.
MARY: I keep hearing my name. What’re you two talking about?
RICHARD: Money. Harold tells me he’s earning quite a bit from the new job.
MARY: (to HAROLD) See? You have no excuse for not getting me that necklace.
HAROLD: Now Mary…
MARY: (to RICHARD) I bet you would buy it for me, wouldn’t you Richard?
RICHARD: How much is it?
MARY: Oh, it doesn’t matter.
HAROLD: Don’t listen to her, Rich.
MARY: I’m sure you could afford it. Even better, I’m sure you’d buy it for me.
RICHARD: Maybe I would. (smiles at her, then looks at HAROLD and indicates that he was just humoring her)
HAROLD: Now you’re stuck. She’ll hold you to that promise.
MARY: I wouldn’t have to if someone would get me the things I want. Perhaps it’s Richard who loves me, not you.
HAROLD: Now Mary…(the two smile at each other, but HAROLD’s smile is not truly genuine…there is some pain behind it)
RICHARD: (looks at his watch, trying to break the obvious tension caused by MARY’S last remark) Well, I suppose it’s time we were going.
HELEN: Yes, I suppose so. (the men move to the coat rack and remove the coats)
MARY: (as she is given her coat by HAROLD) I suppose we should pay you for the ride.
RICHARD: (putting on his coat) Not necessary. You’re our friends.
MARY: Oh, well. I’m sure Harold would be too thrifty to pay you anyway. (HAROLD smiles shyly at this; he and MARY come together and link arms as they, RICHARD, and HELEN exit slowly)
Scene: Harold and Mary’s home. The wallpaper is a drab yellowish-white, the floor accented with several small throw rugs. Off the left of the stage is the door to the house. A medium-sized table sits in the center of the left side of the stage with a single chair next to it. A small window is seen above the table. To the right of the stage, a small end table with an empty glass on top of it sits. A decorative cloth is thrown over the end table, blocking the audience’s view of the whiskey bottle hidden underneath it.
As the lights come up, HAROLD and MARY enter from the left door. They have just returned from the marionette show.
MARY: What a lovely evening, wasn’t it, Harold?
HAROLD: (distantly, removing his coat and setting it on the table) Yes, it was.
MARY: They’re so fun to be with, Helen and Richard.
MARY: We should buy them something—a present for being so kind to us.
HAROLD: (with the same distance in his voice) Yes. (looking about the room) Where’d I put the whiskey?
MARY: (ignoring his question) It’s too bad we missed the play. Like I said, though, it’s your own fault for being so miserly. (laughs) You’ve always been that way, though. So protective of your money. (moves toward the radio and turns it on. A popular jazz song is heard playing) Dance with me, Harold. (MARY moves to him and he automatically moves to dance with her. MARY hums along with the music. HAROLD remains distant) You know what? This is the first time we’ve danced since last year at that ball. Remember that? (no response. The music switches to a piano tune) Here’s a piano song. (listens for a moment) I bet you could play it better.
HAROLD: (emotionlessly) Bet I could.
MARY: What’s wrong? Why are you so down? (Draws him closer) You should be happy; you’re making all that money with the new job.
HAROLD: I play piano, Mary. Not a lot of money in that.
MARY: Don’t be ridiculous. You’ll work your way to the top. (they are silent for a moment)
HAROLD: Why’d you have to tell them about the necklace, Mary—make me look bad?
MARY: What necklace?
The necklace you wanted me to buy for you. Why’d you tell them about that?
MARY: (remembering) Oh, that. It was just a little story, dear. To lighten the mood, you know? They didn’t take it to heart.
HAROLD: And then you went and asked Richard if he would buy it—it’s obvious he could and he would.
MARY: (laughs at this, pulling HAROLD closer to her) Who cares if he would buy it or not?
HAROLD: (quietly, still obviously upset but trying not to show it) It just makes me sound bad, is all. Makes it sound like you’d rather be with Richard.
MARY: (laughs) You know what your problem is? You’re too insecure. (smiles, trying to lighten the mood) And drunk.
HAROLD: I’m not drunk anymore. It’s worn off. But a drink sounds good right about now.
MARY: You don’t need a drink. (She and HAROLD move apart. HAROLD begins to search around for the whiskey bottle as the song ends. A new song comes on the radio. As the song plays, MARY moves to the chair in the middle of the stage and begins taking off her outer clothes) Remember that time when we went to the coast for Christmas—it was right after we were married, remember?—and I saw those pair of earrings in that shop near the restaurant and you wouldn’t let me have them?
HAROLD: (still searching for the whiskey) Yes, I remember.
MARY: (laughs) I kept begging and begging you to buy them for me, but you were so determined not to let me have them.
HAROLD: (stops searching, reminisces with MARY) It was near the end of the trip. I only had sixty dollars left and those earrings cost fifty-two. I kept telling you if I bought them we wouldn’t be able to get home, but you wanted them so badly I ended up selling my pocket watch so I could afford both the earrings and the tickets home. (smiles, then laughs) You guilted me into it.
MARY: I was crying.
HAROLD: And that man came up to us on the street and grabbed you in his arms—nearly knocked me down—thought I was hurting you. (laughs. MARY laughs, too. HAROLD pauses) That man—I remember you said he smelled good—good and strong. You’ve always had a thing for blondes. (smile slowly fades)
MARY: (not noticing this) It was a lovely evening.
HAROLD: (dully) Yes, it was. (pauses, continues searching for the bottle) Where’s that damn whiskey? (MARY, by this point, is wearing only her dress, her coat, stockings, and shawl is rested on the table next to her. She is holding a small object in her fingers and is looking at it with interest. HAROLD looks about for a moment longer and finds the whiskey bottle under the end table. He brings it out from underneath the table with an “aha!”, then brings it to his lips, about to drink. Before he can, he notices the object MARY is holding. He lowers the bottle before drinking) What’s that?
MARY: (looks up, surprised. Closes her fist around the object as if to conceal it from him) Hmm? I don’t know, I—
HAROLD: Let me see it. (moves to her, opens her hand, and picks up the object. Examines it) This is Richard’s diamond tie pin!
MARY: (innocently) Is it?
HAROLD: Yes, it is! What—how did you get this?
MARY: (looking down) It—must have fallen into my pocket.
HAROLD: That’s impossible.
MARY: No, it’s not.
HAROLD: Even if the tack were broken it would be unlikely. Is the tack broken?
HAROLD: Then you must’ve taken it!
MARY: Why would I take it when we have all that money—?
HAROLD: Oh, give it up, Mary. We’re not with Richard and Helen, you don’t have to keep saying things you know aren’t true. There’s no one here to impress. (pauses, begins pacing) All that money. What money?
MARY: Are you saying—?
HAROLD: You know we don’t have any money, Mary. You know that.
MARY: Not even the $300?
HAROLD: No, that’s gone, it’s—gone.
HAROLD: It’s just—(harshly) Things for the house, Mary. Things we need. That’s what I spent it on; money’s to spend, not to save to show off.
MARY: Well, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that we needed the money for things like that. I thought it was extra. (a little defensively) It’s not like I know much about money, anyway, Harold. You said so yourself. (HAROLD doesn’t answer, his eyes are downcast. MARY looks down at her hands. This brings HAROLD’s attention back to the tie pin)
HAROLD: Well, if you didn’t take it, and since it obviously didn’t just fall into your pocket, that means he must’ve given it to you.
HAROLD: The tie pin!
HAROLD: Why would Richard give you his diamond tie pin?
MARY: He didn’t give it to me—
HAROLD: The only reason would be—(stops, realizes what the reason would be.) Are you and Richard…(he pauses, frowns, and looks at MARY. She understands what he is implying and is shocked)
MARY: No! Never! Why would I be with anyone else but you? (no response. MARY gets up, moves to HAROLD, who has turned partially away from her. She puts her hands on his shoulders) I would never be with anyone else, Harold. Never.
HAROLD: (after a pause) The tie pin?
MARY: I swear it fell into my pocket.
HAROLD: (turns to her) Don’t lie to me.
MARY: I swear!
(long pause. HAROLD stares hard at MARY)
HAROLD: Fine then. (breaks his stare, takes a short drink from the bottle, then makes a face) Did you buy this? It’s awful.
MARY: No, I didn’t.
HAROLD: Tastes dry.
MARY: It’s probably old. You shouldn’t be drinking, anyway. Tonight’s the fifth time this month you’ve gotten drunk.
(another long pause. HAROLD drinks again)
HAROLD: The blonde man. On the road. Why did you signal him over, Mary? We didn’t need him; I could’ve hailed a cab or something.
MARY: The car was broken. We needed to get to the theatre. He was the first one who stopped.
HAROLD: Did he remind you of that guy on the coast? Is that why you signaled him?
HAROLD: The blonde man on the coast. The one who took you in his arms. I remember you didn’t turn away.
MARY: I wasn’t even thinking of him.
HAROLD: We were just talking about him.
MARY: But I wasn’t thinking of him when that man stopped to help us tonight. Why are you so suspicious about this? You were fine about it when we were at the theatre.
HAROLD: I think you know why. I can act in front of an audience just as well as you can.
MARY: It’s not an act—
HAROLD: Yes it is. You were flirting with him nonstop until we got to the theatre.
MARY: I don’t see what you’re getting so defensive about. All I was doing was being nice to him. (pause) I think you should stop drinking.
HAROLD: Did he also give you his pin?
MARY: I told you, Richard’s pin must have fallen into my pocket—
HAROLD: Don’t lie! (pushes her violently. She falls backward into the end table, knocking it and the things on top of it off. She remains lying on the floor, her face shielded from HAROLD. She begins to cry, holding herself with her arms)
MARY: Harold…(pauses, gets no response) Have…have you no shame? (looking at his back. Harold glances at her; a sense of reality overtakes him as to what he’s just done. He goes to her, picks her off the ground, and draws her to his chest. He stands holding her, muttering)
HAROLD: Oh god. Mary. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. (MARY continues crying, but doesn’t pull away) I just—god. I want you to be mine, Mary, only mine. I want all this other stuff to end. (pauses, looks down at MARY while still holding her) I’ll stop drinking, Mary, if that’s what you want. I’ll stop. I’ll stop drinking if you say you’re mine, okay? Okay, Mary? Say you’re mine. (he holds her by the arms, looking into her eyes. She is still teary-eyed, but she looks at him. She doesn’t say anything, she doesn’t smile. HAROLD continues to hold her, muttering her name. Finally, she looks up at him and sees in his eyes genuine remorse. She smiles, and nods)
MARY: I’m yours.
HAROLD: (pulls her to him again, rocks her slightly) Good. Good. Just me and you, Mary. Just me and you.
(Lights fade to black)
Scene: the same theatre. A marionette show is taking place. The action of the show is in the general direction of the audience. All characters, while watching the show, look out into the audience. RICHARD, HELEN, and MARY are returning from the bar to their seats as the lights of the scene are brought up. HAROLD remains in his seat, obviously irritated and touchy. He has not had a drink in over a week. Richard, Helen, and Mary each carry their drinks to their seats.
HELEN: That intermission wasn’t nearly long enough. Barely enough time to get a drink. (sees HAROLD sitting rather stiffly) Would you like one, Harold?
MARY: Oh, no, Harold’s not allowed. He’s given up drinking.
RICHARD: Is that so? Well, congratulations!
MARY: Don’t congratulate him yet, Richard. He’s only been at it for a week now.
HAROLD: (bitterly) I don’t see why you can drink while I can’t.
MARY: (cheerfully, noting that RICHARD and HELEN may hear) That wasn’t part of the agreement, dear.
(HAROLD is about to angrily retort, but RICHARD speaks first)
RICHARD: Don’t be too tough on him. Mary. It’s tough to stop something you’ve done for a long time. I should know. I was a gambler for years.
RICHARD: Yes. Ask Helen.
HELEN: He was. Took him months to tone it down.
MARY: When was this?
RICHARD: Oh, a year or so ago. When I met you.
HAROLD: (awakening from his anger, staring at RICHARD) First met her?
RICHARD: Yes. I’ve known her for about a year now. Before you two were married. She’s the one who introduced us to these plays.
HAROLD: Is that so.
RICHARD: Yes. It was a good alternative to gambling. (laughs, looks at MARY, remembering)
MARY: You had an addiction… (laughs, puts her arm around RICHARD) And here I thought you were perfect!
HAROLD: Yeah, well, he’s not, Mary. None of us are. (all three of his companions look at him strangely. MARY removes her arm from RICHARD. Then, before she has a chance to say anything, music sounds in the background)
HELEN: (points into the audience) Look, it’s starting! (lights dim)
MARY: (aside, to HAROLD. HELEN and RICHARD hear none of this conversation; their interjections are simply about the play. When speaking to each other, both HAROLD and MARY use harsh, angered whispering) Will you calm down? You’re acting like a child!
HAROLD: Is that all you do? Flirt all the time?
MARY: I don’t flirt. I was just being nice.
HAROLD: (quietly) I feel awful. I wish I had a drink.
MARY: Well, you can’t have one. It’s our bargain.
HAROLD: I see you’re holding up your end nicely. (mocking her) “And here I thought you were perfect!”
MARY: I was just being nice. Can’t we just watch the play?
HAROLD: Nice. If you’re just being “nice” to him, why is it you didn’t tell me that you knew him before we got married?
MARY: I didn’t think it mattered.
HAROLD: You lied.
MARY: I didn’t lie—I just never said anything about him. (pause) And while we’re on the subject of truth—
MARY: (breaks her concentration on HAROLD, looks at HELEN. The anger is completely gone from her voice) Yes?
HELEN: Which puppet is that man from Chicago controlling? You know, the famous puppeteer?
MARY: I’m not sure. Probably the jester. Watch his legs—they said he does a lot of movements with the legs. (pauses, makes sure HELEN isn’t watching, then turns back to HAROLD) I might add that you weren’t completely truthful about the $300 we had.
HAROLD: You never asked about it.
MARY: You never asked about Richard.
HAROLD: They’re completely different things!
MARY: No, they’re not.
HAROLD: Yes, they are, Mary—money and fidelity are two very different things.
MARY: (raising her voice) Don’t you—(realizes they’re still in the theatre, quiets down again) Don’t you ever question my loyalty to you, Harold. At least when we’re in public. Besides, you’re blowing this all out of proportion. After all, I knew him before we were married. It’s not like I went with him while we were married.
HAROLD: So you’re admitting you went with him?
MARY: No! Stop being so suspicious!
HAROLD: It’s only suspicion when you’re not already sure it’s happening.
MARY: (surprised by his answer, but trying to blow it off) Honestly, you’re like a jealous little boy. Now be quiet and watch the play. (MARY looks away from him, and turns to RICHARD. Almost instantly her face changes from anger to contentment) Which one’s the puppeteer from Chicago? We can’t figure it out.
RICHARD: I think it’s that blue one with the checkered pants. The one over there. See the way his legs are moving? (points)
MARY: (looks) Oh…oh yes, I see him. (watches) I believe you’re right, Richard. That must be the puppeteer from Chicago. (smiles at him) You certainly have an eye for the little details.
HAROLD: See there? You’ve just proven my point. You wouldn’t stop flirting with Richard if I gave you $1,000.
MARY: Well, we’ll never be able to test that theory, now will we, seeing as though we don’t even have $300!
HAROLD: Maybe if you didn’t beg me to buy you every single bauble you see, we’d have more money.
MARY: Why are you blaming this on me?
HAROLD: Why don’t you get Richard to buy you things? You and him seem pretty close. Are you going with him now?
MARY: I’ve had just about enough of this, Harold.
HAROLD: Well? Are you going with him?
MARY: I’m not speaking to you anymore. This is pointless.
HAROLD: Answer me, Mary.
HELEN: Oh, look!
HAROLD: Why don’t you answer me?
MARY: (trying to ignore HAROLD) What is it?
RICHARD: How awful!
HAROLD: (growing anger) Answer me!
HELEN: The string to that puppet’s arm—
HAROLD: Come on, Mary! Answer!
MARY: (to HAROLD) Be quiet! (to HELEN) What happened?
HAROLD: Answer me!
RICHARD: The string’s broke! His arm’s just dangling there!
MARY: Which one?
HELEN: The jester! Oh, that’s awful!
RICHARD: He’s completely useless! He can’t do a thing!
MARY: (looking at HAROLD) Kind of reminds me of someone.
HAROLD: (looks at her angrily, then almost hatefully) Okay, that does it. (stands up, grabs MARY forcefully by the arm, and drags her to her feet)
MARY: Harold, what—
HAROLD: Get up. (they struggle a bit; MARY doesn’t want to leave)
RICHARD: (noticing the commotion) Where’re you going?
HAROLD: We’re leaving. Mary doesn’t feel well.
HELEN: Doesn’t she? Oh, what a shame! (to MARY) What’s wrong?
HAROLD: She’s sick. I’m afraid we can’t stay for the rest of the play.
HELEN: I’m sorry. I hope you feel better, Mary.
HAROLD: (looking at MARY) I hope she does, too. (he drags her out. MARY’s shawl is still draped across the back of her seat. RICHARD and HELEN look after them)
(Lights fade to black)
Scene: Harold and Mary’s house. HAROLD walks in from the left door quickly, dragging MARY by the arm and slamming the door behind him. They go to the center of the room, where HAROLD roughly releases MARY.
HAROLD: Well, what a wonderful way to end an evening.
MARY: Me? You’re the one who caused the scene, dragging me out like that.
HAROLD: It’s better than you prattling on about how awful a husband I am.
MARY: I have good reason to, after the way you treated me tonight. What’s gotten into you?
HAROLD: (hint of sarcasm; thinking MARY should know why he’s upset) I gave up the drinks, remember?
MARY: That’s no excuse to drag me around. Think of how they see us now. They’re our only friends in town, and think of how they see us now. A pair of Neanderthals. It’ll be a miracle if they ask us to go to the play again.
HAROLD: Pour me a drink.
MARY: No. Why must you drink all the time, especially in front of company? It makes you look desperate. Richard doesn’t drink.
HAROLD: Richard’s perfect. I’m not.
MARY: Richard’s not perfect.
HAROLD: You said he was. You said so yourself. Why don’t you go have an affair with him?
MARY: You’re ridiculous. You’re just cranky because you haven’t had anything to drink.
HAROLD: I don’t have anything clouding my mind. And I’m not being ridiculous. I can see that you’re already having an affair with him.
MARY: (highly offended) I am not! Where did you hear that? It’s not true! Richard’s in no way better than you!
HAROLD: You were thinking that, though. Of course, you’ve thought that about all the other men you’ve been with. (pauses, looks up) How many men have you been with, Mary?
MARY: (shocked at his behavior) You’ve lost your mind!
HAROLD: I know of seven. Are they’re more? (counts off on his fingers) There was George, the clerk. He was the handsome one. You always said he had a nicer face than me. And Clyde, the romantic. Always buying you flowers. More flowers than I ever bought you, you said.
MARY: (looks away) Stop it!
HAROLD: And then there were those three in a row, those rich ones. Who were they? Frank, Ray…can’t remember the third one. They all had more money than me, didn’t they?
MARY: (feebly, quieter) Stop.
HAROLD: And then there was—(cut short by a knocking on the door. MARY looks out the window)
MARY: It’s Helen. For god’s sake, be quiet! (lets HELEN in. The two walk into the room. HELEN is carrying MARY’s shawl)
HELEN: You left in such a hurry you forgot this.
MARY: Oh, thank you.
HELEN: Are you feeling any better?
HAROLD: She’s feeling fine. She’s dandy.
HELEN: (looks at HAROLD strangely, then back at MARY. She doesn’t notice the contemptuous look MARY shoots at HAROLD. Smiles) That’s wonderful. Richard and I were quite worried.
HAROLD: Richard!…that’s right. We mustn’t forget about Richard, Mary. That puts the list at eight, doesn’t it?
MARY: Harold, be quiet!
HELEN: What list? (HAROLD raises his eyebrows and smiles)
MARY: No list. Thank you for bringing my shawl, Helen, I appreciate it.
HELEN: Not a problem. I do hope you’re feeling better.
MARY: I am. (smiles at her tensely, wishes for her to leave) Well, thank you again.
HELEN: Goodbye, Harold.
HAROLD: Goodbye. (pauses, then looks up) Helen! How long have you and Richard been married?
MARY: (quietly but harshly) Harold, shh!
HAROLD: You and Richard. How long have you been married?
HELEN: Married? Well…going on…three years now, I think.
HAROLD: Three years! Three years, you hear that Mary? You went with him what, a year or so ago?
MARY: (to HAROLD) I’ve had just about enough of you and your lies.
HAROLD: My lies!
MARY: You’re a liar!
HAROLD: (laughs) Well, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black!
MARY: If you say one more word—
HELEN: (quietly) Richard? (MARY looks at her) You—you went with Richard?
MARY: (quickly) A different Richard.
HELEN: (hesitatingly, piecing things together) You knew Richard before you and Harold married…we were married, though, Richard and I. (pauses, looks at her) You…?
HAROLD: Don’t put anything past her, Helen.
HELEN: I know you’re a flirt, Mary. (laughs nervously) My god, you’d flirt with any man—and you do, but…I know you wouldn’t do that…would you? (looks at MARY. MARY looks at her, then looks down)
MARY: (hesitates) Helen…
HELEN: (disappointed and angry) Here’s your shawl. (hands shawl to Mary, who hesitatingly takes it) Goodbye. (walks off)
MARY: Helen—(door slams. To HAROLD) You see what you’ve done? You’ve done the very thing you’ve tried to avoid! Social disgrace!
HAROLD: I only told the truth.
MARY: It’s not the truth, and you know it! My god! Don’t you care about me? Now I don’t have a single friend in this town.
HAROLD: You don’t need friends when you’ve got men.
MARY: Stop it. Just stop it. Now…I’m sure you can call Helen and get this all straightened out—
HAROLD: No. I’m not your puppet, Mary. You can’t pull my strings and make me do whatever you want me to do.
MARY: I’m not—
HAROLD: Yes, you are. You’re always doing this—you’re always making me look like the bad guy while you get off scot-free, looking like an angel. I’ve got news for you, Mary—you’re not an angel!
MARY: (glares at him for a moment, then looks away) I don’t know why I stay with you.
HAROLD: I was beginning to wonder that myself.
MARY: (shocked) Harold!
HAROLD: (standing) Come on, you must know what a big flirt you are. A big, fake flirt. Always making me seem like the lesser man whenever we’re with others.
HAROLD: (mockingly) “If Harold were as rich as so-and-so, he’d be a better husband. If Harold didn’t drink like so-and-so, he’d be a better man.” I’m always in second place with you. I can’t win.
MARY: You’re being ridiculous.
HAROLD: Am I?
MARY: Harold, it’s not a competition—
HAROLD: It is a competition! God! Everywhere we go I feel like I’m put in this position where I have to prove myself to you! Every damn place we go! You make me look like this horrible man for not buying you a necklace we clearly can’t afford, you make me put on this charade whenever we’re out with your rich friends, but I’m never good enough for you, I…I work to keep with you, Mary, and, and…(pause, continues, with growing strength and anger) Every time, you sit there with that smug look on your face like you own me. Like you own me and the rest of the men of the world. We’re like dogs to you, and you love to pit us against each other so’s you can get a high out of betting on which one’s gonna come out alive with the prize. (pauses, looks away from her, and then back at her again, continuing) You know where that $300 really went? Huh? I spent it all on booze. You want to know why? Because I can’t stand your childish games of pretending we’re something we’re not. This last week of being sober made me realize…I can’t stand sitting there sober while you tell all your friends that we’re richer and better off than they are when the exact opposite is the truth! You’re a fake, Mary, and you keep dragging me into your little charades, making me look like the charming man that’ll do anything to please his wife. We’re the perfect couple until we’re alone, then you can stand me just about as much as I can stand you! It’s like we’re living two separate lives! It’s not so bad when I’m drunk, but when I’m sober I’m—I’m sick of it! I can’t stand you when I’m sober, Mary! I just can’t goddamn stand you! (long pause. He turns away from her, but remains in the same spot. MARY, in a state of shock, goes up behind him and gently puts her hand on his shoulder)
MARY: …Harold…my god…is that what you think of me?
HAROLD: (turns around to look at her, while simultaneously backing away so that she’s no longer touching him. There is resolve mixed with fear in his eyes) I love you, Mary, but…I can’t stay with you. I—I can’t do this anymore. It’s killing me. (moves as if to go, then stops and turns around. MARY, for a moment, thinks he’s going to her, but instead, he moves to the end table, pulls out a bottle of liquor, and then turns again to go. MARY grabs him by the arm.)
MARY: Harold, stop! You can’t do this to me! You can’t just leave—(door slams) Harold, come back! Please! (collapses into chair pathetically, holding her hand out towards the door through which HAROLD exited.) (feebly) Come back. (pauses, listens) What’s that? Tires screeching? (gets up, looks out the window. Pauses, then turns away from the window) He’s gone. (moves to the chair, sits) He’s gone.
(Lights fade to black)
(MARY enters, alone. RICHARD and HELEN stand, look sympathetically at MARY for a moment, then go to her. There appears to be no hard feelings or anger from HELEN as she and RICHARD embrace MARY and comfort her)
HELEN: Mary, dear…we heard about Harold. We’re so sorry.
RICHARD: Terrible blow. We feel awful.
MARY: (reserved) Thank you both. I can’t tell you how much this means to me…when I heard that he was in a car accident after he left the house, I can’t tell you what I was feeling. (smiles feebly) You know what he was doing, don’t you? He was going to get me that necklace. You know the one I’d asked about? He was going to the jewelry store to buy it for me. What I don’t understand is why he was speeding so—the jewelry store doesn’t close until late. (more somber) That’s what flipped the car, his speed. It’s stupid, really. A silly old necklace costing him the use of his arm. (looks as if to cry) Just after he got that job as a pianist. (teary-eyed, pulls out handkerchief)
HELEN: But at least he’s alive.
MARY: (distantly, but with a slight smile while wiping her eyes) Yes. At least that. (they stand silently for a moment)
HELEN: (taking her hand and leading her toward the seats) Here dear, sit. (MARY sits, RICHARD sits beside her) I’ll go get you some water. (sighs) It’s a shame…the play won’t be the same without Harold. (exits. MARY and RICHARD remain. RICHARD puts his arm around MARY quietly. MARY looks at him and smiles)
MARY: No. No…it won’t.
(Lights fade to black)
SHOOT ME IN THE FACE