Ain't the Same as Love

Photo by Leon Biss

Photo by Leon Biss

If you would prefer to read this 90-page play as a PDF, here's the link.

Characters

  • SIGRID 39, a young widow and an occasional artist’s model. Michaela’s mother
  • MICHAELA 20, nine months pregnant, and a pre-med student. Sigrid’s daughter.
  • ALBERT 21, a fledgling radio personality. Michaela’s husband.
  • EDNA 57, a “substantial” woman with a failing brain. Albert’s mother.
  • ELI 63, an auto mechanic recently obsessed with his genealogy. Albert’s father.
  • JOE 31, a doctor and Marine no longer on active duty. Edna’s physician.

Time

October 1977

Place

The living room of a suburban home in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

Scenes

Act I

  • Scene 1. Sunday, October 2. Late afternoon.
  • Scene 2. Sunday, October 2. Evening.
  • Scene 3. Monday, October 3. Late afternoon.
  • Scene 4. Monday, October 3. Evening.
  • Scene 5. Tuesday, October 4. Late afternoon.
  • Scene 6. Wednesday, October 5. Late afternoon.

Act II

  • Scene 1. Saturday, October 8. Late afternoon.
  • Scene 2. Sunday, October 9. Late afternoon.
  • Scene 3. Monday, October 10. Morning.
  • Scene 4. Monday, October 10. Afternoon.
  • Scene 5. Monday, October 10. Late afternoon.
  • Scene 6. Tuesday, October 11. Morning.

ACT I

SCENE 1

(Lights up on the living room of a middle class New England home in 1977. There is a door to the outside, a door to the second level of the home, and a hallway leading the rest of the first floor. EDNA sits at a small table by the window, playing solitaire. MICHAELA is asleep on the couch, a heavy-looking medical text book resting on her chest and the upper part of her enormous belly. After a beat or two, we see SIGRID, laden with bags, passing by the window in the living room. She stops and knocks. Edna smiles and waves her toward the door.)

EDNA: It’s open.

(Edna continues to play while Sigrid enters, sets down her bags, and removes her coat.)

SIGRID: I’m so sorry I’m late.

EDNA (With a dismissive wave): Nonsense.

SIGRID: An opportunity came up.

EDNA: An opportunity?

SIGRID: Yes.

EDNA: What was his name?

SIGRID (Sitting): Henry, maybe? (Beat) Or was he a Hank?

EDNA (Gathering cards): Is there a difference?

SIGRID (Wistfully): Such a difference.

EDNA: If there’s such a difference, how could you not remember?

SIGRID: Well, he started like a Henry. But he finished like a Hank.

EDNA: And the finish has left you discombobulated, is that it?

SIGRID: I should say so.

EDNA (Holding the deck toward Sigrid): You want to play?

SIGRID (Nodding, taking the cards): Five-card draw?

(Sigrid shuffles and deals as the conversation continues.)

EDNA: Where did you meet this Mister H?

SIGRID: One of the artists in the class I was modeling for on Friday.

EDNA: And he was talented?

SIGRID: Some of the finest pencil work I’ve seen.

EDNA: I’ll bet.

SIGRID: Enough about me. What about you?

EDNA: The doctor is worried about my noggin again.

SIGRID: Your memory?

EDNA (Gesturing toward Michaela): He has your daughter quizzing me, but these things that she asks me—these memories will be the last things to go.

SIGRID: Which memories?

EDNA: The day Eli and I met, for one.

SIGRID: Okay. How about I give you something tougher?

EDNA: How about you give me a card?

SIGRID: What about the first time you felt… one of the big emotions. Love, or hate, or fear?

EDNA: Fear.

SIGRID: Do you remember?

EDNA: The night my mother died.

SIGRID: When was that?

EDNA: I’d just had my seventh birthday.

SIGRID: My God. So young.

EDNA: They found her with her head in the oven, my brothers.

SIGRID: Oh, Edna. I didn’t know.

EDNA: My father had been gone four years by this point, and—

SIGRID: My God. Gone?

EDNA: Two men attacked him in our front yard, over a bottle of moonshine he owed them. They beat him with a chair. Papers said he died of pneumonia, but my brothers told me the truth, said that was poppycock.

SIGRID: So, when your mother died, you were all alone?

EDNA: Nearest relatives were a seven-mile walk. But we had nowhere else to go, so we made the hike. My brothers took up the front and the rear, keeping we girls surrounded.

SIGRID: That sounds frightful.

EDNA: That’s for sure. But it pays to be that scared that young. If you can get through that, nothing’ll ever spook you again.

SIGRID: You don’t get scared?

EDNA: What’s the point? What will come will come.

SIGRID: I wish I had your courage.

EDNA: What do you have to be scared of?

(Sigrid motions toward Michaela.)

SIGRID: For starters? That book resting on my daughter’s baby.

EDNA: That? Oh, for crying out loud. She’s fallen asleep under books twice that size.

SIGRID: Has she?

EDNA: The baby will be fine.

(Michaela stirs.)

SIGRID: The book that good?

MICHAELA: It’s my second time through it. Reviewing for the exam.

SIGRID: So, you sleep because you already know everything there is to know.

MICHAELA: I sleep because making another human being is tiring.

SIGRID: Perhaps you’re tired because you’re trying to do too much at once.

MICHAELA (Sighing, exasperated): I am not going to be one of those women who puts off her degree until after the kids are out of diapers.

SIGRID: Woman? You’re still just a girl.

(Michaela grabs her book and moves closer.)

MICHAELA (To Edna): She quizzing you?

EDNA: I don’t need quizzing, dear.

MICHAELA: The brain needs exercising, just as sure as any muscle does.

EDNA: That’s a load of nonsense, Dr. Silver, and you know it. The brain isn’t a muscle at all.

MICHAELA: Didn’t say it was. I said it needs exercise. Like a muscle.

EDNA: It’s still nonsense.

MICHAELA: And I’m not a doctor yet. Let’s not jinx it. I still have pre-med to get through, and my MD, and my residency.

EDNA: What’s your quiz?

MICHAELA: How about the day Albert and I met?

SIGRID: How could she forget that? Albert tells that one so often you’d think his life depended on it.

MICHAELA: Then it’s a softball. She’ll knock it out of the park.

EDNA: A softball for sure.

SIGRID: Go on then. Let’s hear it.

EDNA: Well, we all hear it so damned much, what’s the use of me repeating it? Why not just wait until Eli and Albert get home?

MICHAELA: Humor me.

EDNA (To Sigrid): A little help here? Tell her to give me something harder, like you did.

SIGRID: She doesn’t listen to me. You know that.

MICHAELA: Come on, Edna. It’s an easy one. I’m just warming you up. We’ll get to the tough stuff in a minute.

(The phone rings.)

EDNA: Excuse me.

(Edna picks the receiver up off of its cradle.)

EDNA (Into the receiver): Y’ello?

(Edna unravels the cord and takes it around the corner, behind one of the doors.)

MICHAELA: She’s stalling.

SIGRID: The phone rang.

MICHAELA: She was stalling before that.

SIGRID: You think she doesn’t remember? That was two years ago.

MICHAELA: Her doctor said it was those sorts of things that might go first, not the memories from childhood, and not the short term things, but the memories in between.

SIGRID (Gesturing to the book): The photographs in that book are disturbing.

MICHAELA: Disturbing things can happen in childbirth.

SIGRID: Childbirth is a beautiful thing.

MICHAELA: Says the woman who hasn’t been through it in twenty years.

(An uncomfortable pause and a look between Michaela and Sigrid that suggests Michaela has gone too far.)

MICHAELA: I’m sorr—

SIGRID: When you were born, it was beautiful.

MICHAELA: Selective memory, I’m sure.

SIGRID: Are you scared?

MICHAELA: I’m scared my water will break during class, if that counts.

SIGRID: And what would you do if it did?

MICHAELA: Depends. Is it a regular class, or am I taking a test?

(Edna returns and hangs up the phone.)

EDNA: The World Series! You met during the World Series.

SIGRID: See, she remembers.

MICHAELA: Who was on the phone?

EDNA: Oh, no one. Wrong number.

MICHAELA: Was it Eli? Al?

EDNA: Really, dear, it was no one.

MICHAELA: Okay then. Which game?

SIGRID: Oh, now you’re trying to confuse her, switching subjects so fast.

EDNA: Which game?

MICHAELA: During which game of the World Series did I meet Albert?

EDNA: Does it matter?

MICHAELA: Albert certainly seems to think so. It’s one detail he never leaves out.

SIGRID: Oh, Edna, you know this.

MICHAELA: No hints, Mother. Doctor’s orders.

(All are silent for a beat. Edna looks flustered.)

EDNA: Oh, alright. It was Albert on the phone. They’re going to be late.

MICHAELA: And did you ask him for the answer?

EDNA: Of course. And he got all ugly with me, like he does. ’The Series, Ma,’ he says. ’Do you have a brain between your ears, or what?’

SIGRID: That boy! Does he speak to you like that often?

MICHAELA: He does, and I’ll talk to him about it. At length. But we’re getting away from the point here. Edna, if you’re having trouble remembering that story, one you hear so often, I think you’ve got to tell Joe when he stops by.

SIGRID: Joe?

EDNA: My doctor. He’s going to stop by on his evening jog.

SIGRID: The doctor is a runner?

EDNA: He is. Lives just around the bed and he—

MICHAELA: Can we get back to the point?

SIGRID: And he what?

EDNA: He jogs back and forth from his house to the new high school every evening. About six miles round-trip.

SIGRID: Six miles? So, he’s not one of these people who read that Fixx book and fell into the fad?

EDNA: No, he was a Marine. Picked up the habit in the service and never gave it up.

SIGRID: This Doctor Joe, how old is he?

MICHAELA: Mother, for Christ’s sake!

EDNA: Do I see your ears perking up there, Mrs. Yorickson? Are you on the hunt again so soon?

MICHAELA: So soon? What did I miss?

SIGRID: When I’m on the hunt, it’s not my ears that perk up.

(The two older women laugh. Michaela, exasperated, returns her textbook to a stack on the table.)

EDNA: So sorry, Michaela. Are we saucy old dames embarrassing you?

MICHAELA: No, it’s just the baby. He’s been— I mean, it’s—

EDNA: He? Did you just say he?

SIGRID: How could she possibly know?

EDNA: They know all sorts of things now that we didn’t.

MICHAELA (Awkwardly): Slip of the tongue.

SIGRID: Michaela?

MICHAELA: Okay, fine. This morning at my check-up, they gave me an ultrasound.

SIGRID: An ultra-what?

MICHAELA: An ultrasound. They ran this machine over my belly to see how the baby was doing. It works like a submarine. Like sonar.

SIGRID (Concerned): And this doesn’t hurt the child?

MICHAELA: No.

EDNA: And this, this—

MICHAELA: Ultrasound.

EDNA: It showed you his little—

MICHAELA (Smiling): Yes.

EDNA: Is it as wee as Albert’s? I mean, I know it’s a long time before the size of it will matter to anyone, but—

(Edna and Michaela laugh. Sigrid looks uncomfortable, but they don’t notice. She stands, grabs her bags, and makes to exit to the upstairs.)

MICHAELA: Mother, where are you going?

SIGRID: To unpack.

MICHAELA: What’s wrong?

SIGRID: Nothing.

MICHAELA: You disapprove?

SIGRID: I’m thinking only of the child’s well-being. The risks that must have been involved in learning such a thing. And for what? The baby is due in a week. Where’s your patience? Why not let nature take its course?

MICHAELA: Nature has taken its course, Mother. The baby’s sex was determined a long time ago. And that wasn’t why they did the ultrasound. They were just checking—

SIGRID: I need to lie down for a while. Long day.

EDNA: But you’ll miss the doctor. (Peering out the window) He’s on his way down the driveway right now, in fact.

MICHAELA: And he is worth it.

(JOE jogs by the window.)

SIGRID: Is he really a Joe, or simply a Joseph in disguise.

EDNA: He’s a Josiah, actually.

MICHAELA: But definitely a Joe.

(There is a knock at the door. While Michaela answers it, Sigrid sets down her bags and adjusts what she is wearing. Joe enters.)

MICHAELA: Joe, this is my mother, Sigrid Yorickson. Mother, this is Doctor Josiah Payne.

JOE (As he shakes Sigrid’s hand): Call me Joe.

SIGRID: Doctor Payne?

JOE: If you insist.

SIGRID: No, I’m sorry, it’s just that… is your name really Doctor Payne?

JOE (Smirking): It really is.

EDNA: You think that’s bad? My dentist, over in Littleton, is this ex-Air Force pilot by the name of Root. Dr. Root the Dentist! Can you beat that?

SIGRID: I think Dr. Payne might.

(Joe makes his way toward Edna and sits across from her at the table.)

JOE: How is my favorite patient?

EDNA: Losing her patience, that’s how.

JOE: Don’t be upset. There’s a lot of folks concerned about you. That’s all.

EDNA: I’m fine, Doctor. Just fine.

MICHAELA: She’s forgetting some things.

EDNA: Not everything is worth remembering, anyway.

JOE: What was it you had trouble with most recently?

SIGRID: The story of how our children met.

JOE: You forgot Albert’s story about the Series?

EDNA: It’s a broken record. My noggin just can’t play it anymore.

JOE: You sure you don’t want to come by the hospital and let me run some tests?

EDNA: I have my mind set on taking a trip this week, Joe. You know that. You are not going to keep me bedridden. No sir.

JOE: Nobody’s talking about keeping you bedridden.

MICHAELA: Let him take a look.

EDNA: What’s he going to tell me that I don’t already know? Sooner or later, all the records in my head are going to be broken and I’ll just be squawking at myself like a loon. I understand that, and I’m done fussing about it. (Edna stands.) Thank you for coming, but I have supper to fix.

(Edna exits. Michaela follows. Joe shakes his head.)

SIGRID: An impossible woman, isn’t she?

JOE: No more impossible than any other.

SIGRID: You have difficulties with the ladies, Doctor Payne?

JOE: I have difficulties with my patients. The young doctor—it sounds good in theory, but patients trust experience, not youth.

SIGRID: I know a little something about that.

JOE: You do?

SIGRID: I had Michaela when I was just nineteen.

SIGRID: I was going to say, you do look a little young to be a grandmother.

SIGRID: Well, I’m not there yet.

JOE: You also look damned familiar, like we’ve met before.

SIGRID: Really?

JOE: What do you do for a living, if you don’t mind me asking?

SIGRID: Well, I was a housewife for many years, until my husband passed and Michaela went off to college.

JOE: And now?

SIGRID: A little of this, a little of that. Financially, I’m set, so I just try to keep myself busy. I’m doing a little modeling these days.

JOE: Modeling?

SIGRID: For life drawing classes.

JOE: But never before that?

SIGRID: Well, my husband, before he died, ran a garage, and I did some pin-ups for their calendar, once upon a time.

JOE (Snapping his fingers): The calendar!

SIGRID: The calendar?

JOE: I had it on my dorm room wall. Used to be my older brother’s, but I stole it. Wasn’t even the right dates anymore, but, man, that calendar…

SIGRID: You have fond memories of it?

JOE: Fond memories? Yes, I would say so. And I would say more, but it would be ungentlemanly of me to elaborate.

SIGRID: Gentlemen are overrated.

MICHAELA (Off-stage): Mother?! We could use some help.

JOE: Well, I best be off.

SIGRID (As he moves to exit): When do you go running, Joe?

JOE: You run?

SIGRID: I do.

JOE: Five o’clock, every day.

SIGRID: Would you mind some company tomorrow?

JOE: I’d love some.

SIGRID: Then you’ll have some.

(Joe exits. Sigrid watches him jog by the window and smiles. Then, her eyes fall on Michaela’s textbook. She picks it up and pages through it. Her face saddens.)

MICHAELA (Off-stage): Mother?! Are you coming?

(Sigrid sets the book down and exits. Lights down. End of scene.)

SCENE 2

(Lights up. It is late that evening. Sigrid enters in night clothes and a robe, grabs Michaela’s book, and sits as she begins to leaf through it again. After a beat or two, we hear the voices of ELI and ALBERT outside and off-stage. They pass the window and make their way inside as they speak their first few lines.)

ALBERT: What I’m saying is that every band has their Sgt. Pepper, and—

ELI: I understand what you’re saying, Al.

ALBERT: And I think it’s sad that Aerosmith had theirs two years into their career.

ELI: I understand what you’re saying, Al. But all of this assumes that I believe Sgt. Pepper was the best album The Beatles ever did—

ALBERT: Which it was.

ELI: When, in fact, their best record, by far, was Revolver.

ALBERT: Pop, you are crazy.

ELI (With a wave to Sigrid): Hey there, Siggy. What’s cooking?

(Sigrid gives a cordial wave, but keeps to the book.)

ALBERT: You’re just trying to wind me up.

ELI: Wind you up? If I wanted to do that, I’d tell you that Toys in the Attic ain’t really Aerosmith’s best.

ALBERT: Oh yeah, then which one is?

ELI: Rats in the Cellar, of course.

ALBERT: That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard you say.

ELI: What about the records they’ve yet to make?

ALBERT: You haven’t heard the new one, Pop. We got an advanced copy at the station and, man, they are through. Not a single to be found on that piece of garbage.

ELI: Siggy, you mind settling an argument for us?

SIGRID (Setting the book down still open): I’m certainly willing to try.

ALBERT: My father here is convinced that Revolver is superior to Sgt. Pepper.

SIGRID: I’ve always been more of an Abbey Road girl myself.

ALBERT: Abbey Road? Abbey friggin’ Road? (To Eli) At least she didn’t say Let It Be. That friggin’ travesty.

SIGRID: Only because of what Spector did to it.

ALBERT: Yeah, but are you telling me you can hear anything but Spector on that album?

ELI: See how worked up he gets?

ALBERT (With a shake of his head): I’m gonna go grab a beer. Pop, you want one?

ELI: I wouldn’t say no.

ALBERT: Sigrid?

SIGRID: Sure, Al. Thanks.

ELI (Picking up Michaela’s book): Bit of light reading?

SIGRID: Truly ghastly, that book.

ELI (Leafing through the book): Birth, death. All of it mixed together like a stew. I guess ghastly’s the word for it. (Closing the book and setting it aside) Did you know that Edna is six years younger than me? Six years. And yet, here she is, falling apart while I’m fit as a fiddle.

SIGRID: Falling apart? Isn’t that a bit over the top?

ELI: Truth be told, substantial woman like that, I thought it’d be her heart that’d get her, not her brain.

SIGRID: Nothing’s gotten her yet.

ELI: My father, he had to deal with this predicament seven times. Seven times, his wife went before he did. Never thought I’d have anything in common with that old goat. And yet, here I am.

SIGRID: He married seven times?

(Albert enters with three beers.)

ALBERT: He telling you about his latest discoveries?

SIGRID: Is that why you went into town with Al today? To research the family’s history?

ALBERT: It’s his new hobby, ever since he saw that program—

ELI: Roots.

SIGRID: Roots?

ELI: It was this program about a negro family that—

ALBERT: Black, Pop.

ELI: Negro, black—what’s the difference, so long as I’m not calling them the other thing?

SIGRID: So, you saw this program?

ELI: And it got me thinking. It really did. I’ve heard all sorts of stories, and I thought, now I’m retired—

ALBERT: You’re retired like Sinatra’s retired.

ELI: I thought, now I’m retired, I might as well have a hobby.

ALBERT: A retired guy doesn’t travel to friggin’ Pennsylvania for spare car parts the week he’s due to become a grandfather.

ELI: I’m excited about your baby, Al. But this meet happens but once a year, and I’ve already been a grandfather twice. I’m sure the tyke’ll be just as cute when we get back.

SIGRID: What was the most interesting thing you found? About the family, I mean.

ELI: Well, you know that book, Treasure Island?

SIGRID: Sure.

ELI: We, Albert and I, we’re descended from the pirate in that book: Long John Silver.

ALBERT: We’re descended from a John Silver, Pop, not that John Silver. That John Silver is made-up, a fairy tale.

ELI: Was that John Silver a pirate?

ALBERT: Yes.

ELI: And was our John Silver a pirate?

ALBERT: That’s what you tell me.

ELI: I rest my case.

ALBERT: Aw, jeeze, Pop. (To Sigrid) You see what I have to deal with?

SIGRID: I see what your parents have to deal with. And your wife.

ALBERT: You think I’m the handful?

SIGRID: I do wonder why you’re so difficult, so… argumentative.

ALBERT: If I argue a lot, it’s because there’s a lot of sense that needs to be knocked into the people round here.

SIGRID: You’ve got lofty standards. That’s what it is.

ALBERT (To Eli): You think so? You think I have high standards?

ELI (Gesturing with his bottle): Well, not when it comes to beer.

SIGRID: Your mother and father, I see them trying hard to keep up with you. And your wife, she is trying too hard.

ALBERT: What do you mean? What happened?

ELI: A rough day?

SIGRID: She fell asleep studying again. This huge book, right on top of her belly, on top of the baby.

ALBERT (Dismissively): She’s a hard worker. That’s all.

SIGRID: That is not all. She’s going to work herself straight into the hospital, if she’s not careful.

ALBERT: Well, that’s what she wants: to work in a hospital.

SIGRID (Standing): This is a joke to you?

ELI: Don’t get sore, Siggy. Don’t get sore.

(Sigrid drinks the rest of her beer in one fierce gulp, then slams it down on the table.)

SIGRID: Good night.

(She exits.)

ALBERT: Jeeze. (With a chuckle) What got into her?

ELI: I don’t know. But you might want to dial it back a bit.

ALBERT (With a nod): Sure thing, pop.

(Lights down. End of scene.)

SCENE 3

(Lights up. It is late afternoon, the next day. The room is empty as we see Michaela outside, walking slowly past the window. A moment or two later, she opens the door and enters, laden with a book bag, rubbing her belly.)

MICHAELA: Hello? Anyone home?

(Sigrid enters from the upstairs. She is dressed for a run and she stretches as she speaks her next few lines.)

SIGRID: Hi there.

MICHAELA: Where is everyone? The party is in an hour a half.

SIGRID: Eli and Edna are down the store, picking up the food and some last minute supplies for their trip. Albert is down the packie, picking up the booze. And I am off for run with Joe.

MICHAELA: You’re going for a run now?

SIGRID: I’ll be back in time for the party. Don’t you worry.

(Michaela sets her book bag down and lowers herself into a seat.)

MICHAELA: I heard you laid into Al last night.

SIGRID: He had it coming.

MICHAELA (With a shake of her head): I can’t figure out why you’re here when you hate him so much.

SIGRID: I don’t hate him. And I’m here to help you prepare for the baby.

MICHAELA: Mother, I know. But the baby isn’t due for a week, and it’s not like you live hours away. Why you’re staying here instead of at your place, especially when it means you have to interact with Al every day—I just don’t get it.

SIGRID: Do you wish I wasn’t here?

MICHAELA: No, I’ve just never understood the way your mind works. Daddy, as aloof as he was, was at least consistent. But you, you’re mercurial.

SIGRID: Mercurial?

MICHAELA: Yes. Ever-changing. Like the wind whipping through a fjord.

SIGRID: Is that what the winds do there?

MICHAELA: I don’t know. You never took me with you on any of those trips back to the homeland. So, you tell me.

(Joe jogs by the window. Sigrid notices.)

SIGRID: It’s a beautiful place, not as bleak as you might imagine.

MICHAELA: I don’t imagine anything.

SIGRID: Yes. Yes, that’s the trouble with you.

(There is a knock at the door.)

SIGRID: It’s open.

(Joe enters.)

JOE: Afternoon, Michaela. Sigrid, you about ready?

SIGRID: I should freshen up. Only be a moment.

(Sigrid exits down the hall.)

MICHAELA: Take a load off.

JOE: If I sit, I might not get up. (Gesturing toward the book bag) What are you studying?

MICHAELA: At the moment? Obstetrics.

JOE: Babies, huh?

MICHAELA: It might be a phase, I suppose, given my situation. But I do find it interesting.

JOE: Ah, to be an undergrad again, to have all those choices still in front of me.

MICHAELA: You’re not happy with your specialty?

JOE: Me? Oh, I love brains. I’m like one of Romero’s monsters in that way.

MICHAELA: The fascination with brains doesn’t come from Romero, according to Al. He says that’s something that’s developed in the intervening years.

JOE: Really? Well, I only saw the film once, and I was, how shall we say, under the influence.

MICHAELA: Of?

JOE: Several things, Doctor Silver.

MICHAELA: Don’t jinx it!

JOE (With a smile and shake of the head): Jinx what? You’ll be fine. And if you take as good care of your patients as you take care of Edna, they’ll be very lucky people indeed.

MICHAELA: You really think I might have what it takes?

JOE: Might have? You doubt yourself that much?

MICHAELA: Doubt is healthy for people like us, isn’t it?

JOE: Doubt? No. Caution and pragmatism, yes. But never doubt. Never fear.

MICHAELA: You’re not afraid?

JOE: Of what? What good has fear ever done in this world?

(Sigrid enters.)

SIGRID: Shall we go?

JOE: Sure thing.

(Sigrid and Joe exit. Michaela looks at her watch, then around the room.)

MICHAELA (Groaning): I don’t want to get up. (Hoisting herself up) But if somebody doesn’t start setting this thing up…

(Michaela picks up her book bag and exits to prepare the party. Lights down. End of scene.)

SCENE 4

(Lights up. Later that evening. The song "Big Ten Inch" by Bull Moose Jackson plays. Albert huddles around the record player; Michaela sits, tapping her feet; and Eli and Edna dance. Mid-song, Sigrid enters and Edna, winded, hands Eli off to Sigrid. Once the song is finished, conversation begins.)

ALBERT: It’s the same song, Pop! The Aerosmith version is exactly the same.

ELI: Except that, when Bull Moose Jackson sings it, you’ve got an actual black man, with actual soul, instead of the whitest honky ever to come out of Yonkers.

MICHAELA: I thought you liked them.

ELI: I like them for what they are, which is a dumb rock and roll band. But when I want soul, it ain’t Steven Tyler I’m looking to.

EDNA: Is there any soul in that song to begin with? I thought it was more about, you know, the hanky panky.

SIGRID: Hanky panky? I thought he was singing about a record. What was ten inches then?

MICHAELA: Oh, Mother.

SIGRID: Oh. Oh, really. Well, I should very much like to meet this man.

(All but Michaela laugh. She blushes and ducks her head.)

MICHAELA: Won’t Joe be jealous?

SIGRID: Joe hasn’t earned the right to be jealous.

MICHAELA: I don’t think that’s how it works.

ELI: Afraid she’s right, Siggy. Jealousy’s a funny thing.

SIGRID: How so?

ELI: Well, my father, see—

ALBERT: Oh, here we go.

(Sigrid throws something at Albert, and he shuts up.)

ELI: My father, he was jealous not only of other men who caught his wives’ attention—something that grew more common with each successive wife, given that he grew older between each successive wife—he was jealous of his sisters’ husbands, too. Those men were able to get their women pregnant just by blinking at them—

EDNA (To Sigrid): Blinking! Sounds so much easier than the other way round, doesn’t it?

ELI: Whereas my father, empty vessel that he was, tried and failed with every wife. For the witch—

SIGRID: He married a witch?

ELI: A half-Indian witch, yes. For her, because she told him the whole house was beset upon by evil spirits, he tore down the house, built a new one in its place, and took her in each and every room, all without so much as a missed visit from Aunt Flo to show for it.

ALBERT: And what does all this have to do with Joe and jealousy, Pop?

ELI: I was coming to that. See, a man’ll get jealous over the simplest things, whether he has cause to or not. And a jealous man will do crazy things to get rid of that feeling. Rumor is, and I can’t prove it yet, but I’m looking, that my father, he killed the witch. Her death certificate says she died of consumption, but the stories passed down say he strangled her while she was in the midst of some perverted fertility ritual.

ALBERT: Sounds like she was the crazy one, not him.

(Michaela slaps him.)

MICHAELA: The woman couldn’t get pregnant. You think that didn’t hurt her, too?

ALBERT: That’s not what I was saying.

EDNA: Loss of a baby hurts a woman, breaks her to her core.

ALBERT: Even if she didn’t want the baby to begin with?

MICHAELA: You’re saying the witch didn’t want a baby?

ALBERT: I’m not talking about the witch anymore. I don’t know the first thing about the damned witch. I’m talking in general.

EDNA: Well, ask Sigrid.

SIGRID: Ask me what?

EDNA: About losing a baby you didn’t want.

SIGRID: Edna—

MICHAELA: Mother?

EDNA: They all remember. You told them when you first arrived.

ALBERT: Told us what?

(All eyes focus on Edna. The silence should last for a few beats and be unbearably uncomfortable.)

EDNA: Oh, no. I… Sigrid, I—

MICHAELA: Mother, did you lose another—?

ALBERT: Lose?

ELI: Another?

EDNA: I’m so sorry, Sigrid. I thought you told them. I remembered you telling them.

(Sigrid stands to leave.)

SIGRID: All of a sudden, I’m not… Eli, Edna—have a safe trip.

(Sigrid exits. Those remaining look at each other, dumbfounded and silent, for another uncomfortable few beats. Lights down. End of scene.)

SCENE 5

(Lights up. The next day. Sigrid and Joe enter from the outside in their running clothes. Sigrid doubles over, hands on her knees, out of breath.)

SIGRID: My God, you don’t fool around.

JOE: When you’ve seen what I’ve seen, what happens to a body that’s not taken care of—

SIGRID: I take care of my body. But this, what you do, is something else.

(Joe grabs Sigrid, pulls her close.)

JOE: I could help you take care of that body, if you’d let me.

SIGRID: I’m disgusting right now.

JOE: There’s nothing wrong with a little sweat.

SIGRID: A little? No. But this is a lot.

(He lets her go, then sits.)

SIGRID: What would you want with en gammal dam like me anyway? A mormor?

JOE: You’re not my grandmother.

SIGRID: Talar du svenska?

JOE: Ja, lite.

SIGRID: Utmärkt! Where’d you learn?

JOE: The war. Served with a svensk fresh off the boat. I taught him, he taught me.

SIGRID: Was it hard, the war?

JOE: Not any harder than any other war.

SIGRID: You’ve been in other wars?

JOE: No, I’m just saying that, some of us, we have this tendency to complain like we had it so much worse than our fathers did, or their fathers. And sure, we didn’t exactly get a hero’s welcome when we came home, but who said we were heroes anyway? We were soldiers. We had a job to do, and we did it.

SIGRID: A hard job, though.

JOE: I suppose.

SIGRID: Harder than keeping house, or preening before an artiste.

JOE: Every job has its challenges.

SIGRID: But a model doesn’t die if she is shot poorly.

JOE: Neither does a soldier. You have to be shot well for that to happen.

SIGRID: You know what I mean.

JOE: I do. But, listen: some indigenous and aboriginal people believe you might actually die, at least a little, from a bad photograph. They think the camera steals part of your soul when the shutter snaps.

SIGRID: They might be onto something, I suppose.

JOE: Have you ever felt it? A piece of you leaving when—

SIGRID: I have lost many pieces.

JOE: I don’t see anything missing.

SIGRID: If only that were true.

(Sigrid stands and removes her running coat.)

JOE: Are you sure this is a good idea? Isn’t Michaela due back from class any minute?

(Sigrid removes her running pants, revealing that she is wearing a one-piece bathing suit underneath. Something modest, nothing risqué or impractical.)

JOE: You were a bathing suit for your runs?

SIGRID: An old habit. When I was a girl, in Sweden, I ran to the water, for a swim. That was my goal, not simply the sweat, or the burn, as you put it.

JOE: Well, I’ve got to tell you, if you’re hoping to disprove my theory about the perfection of your body, I think you picked the wrong tactic.

SIGRID: You don’t see?

JOE: See what?

SIGRID: The stretches from when Michaela was born, the veins that’ll make themselves known no matter what I do, the fat that none of those students ever dare to draw, that they erase away or cover up. Oh, what I would do with an eraser!

JOE: You’ve gotten older, Sigrid. But that doesn’t mean— You know what they say about a fine wine, don’t you?

(Sigrid looks at him looking at her, sees for a moment what he sees, and then cannot bear it. She gets dressed.)

SIGRID: Don’t start on me with the lines.

JOE: The lines?

SIGRID: You should go. Michaela will be back soon. I need to shower, make dinner.

JOE: Sigrid, I don’t know what I said, but—

SIGRID: You said enough. Enough for one day. Save your words. We’ll run again tomorrow and see if I have more patience for them then.

(Joe exits. Sigrid goes to the window and watches him. Lights down. End of scene.)

SCENE 6

(Thunder sounds overhead, then rain. Lights up on a gloomy next day. Albert enters, soaked. Then he notices a sound almost as loud as the thunder: somebody running up and down the stairs. He notices that some of the furniture has been rearranged in the living room.)

ALBERT: Sigrid? That you?

(Sigrid enters and proceeds to do basketball-style suicide drills in the living room.)

SIGRID: Depends.

ALBERT: On what?

SIGRID: On whether you’re going to prod me about you-know-what.

(Albert maneuvers toward a seat when he can.)

ALBERT: No prodding. I promise.

SIGRID: Then, yes. It’s me.

ALBERT: You training for the Turkey Trot or something?

(Sigrid stops, doubles over.)

SIGRID: The what?

ALBERT: Well, you’re training so hard. I wondered if you were—

SIGRID (Defensive): You said no prodding.

ALBERT: I wondered if you were training for the Turkey Trot. How’s that prodding?

SIGRID: What’s the Turkey Trot?

ALBERT: A race. On Thanksgiving morning. Starts at the middle school and finishes down here in the center.

SIGRID: So, the same route Joe and I run.

ALBERT: Only it’s one-way.

SIGRID: I could do that.

ALBERT: Yeah. No kidding. You’re in better shape than I am.

SIGRID: You could fix that.

ALBERT: Never been a priority for me.

SIGRID: No kidding.

ALBERT: Michaela’s never said nothing bad about my body.

SIGRID: She ever said anything good?

ALBERT (With a laugh): You know, I think the reason you don’t like me is that we are like two peas in a pod. You’ve got wit to spare.

SIGRID: I’m going again.

(Sigrid runs back toward the door to the upstairs and begins running them again. Albert follows her and stands by the door.)

ALBERT: Probably why you got along with Mikki’s dad so well. He was a dour son of a bitch. Left you room to be the class clown, so to speak. And Mikki can be just like him at times, which is probably why she and I get along. Only room for one comedian in each family, right? Or you get into a whole game of oneupmanship, don’tcha? They say girls marry guys who remind them of their fathers, but I think Mikki married a guy who reminded her of her mother.

(Sigrid enters the living room again and goes back to her sprints.)

SIGRID: Dour is the wrong word.

ALBERT: For Mikki’s dad?

SIGRID: Severe, stern, gloomy—he was those things, but only toward himself. To us, Michaela and me, he could be sweet and kind. He had high expectations. That was all.

ALBERT: That doesn’t sound familiar at all.

SIGRID: Michaela inherited the worst parts of his personality, yes.

(Sigrid runs for the stairs again. This time, just after she disappears, we hear her fall.)

SIGRID (Off-stage): Herregud!

(Albert helps her back into the room and into a chair.)

ALBERT: What the hell happened?

SIGRID: My knee?

ALBERT: I’ll call Joe.

(Albert picks up the phone, dials, and waits.)

SIGRID: I hurt my knee, not my head.

ALBERT: He’s a doctor, and he’s right around the corner.

SIGRID: I look hideous.

ALBERT: You look like— (Into the receiver) Oh, hey, Joe. No, no, Michaela’s fine, as far as I know. Still at class. It’s Sigrid. She banged up her knee a bit. Alright. Thanks.

(Albert hangs up.)

ALBERT: He’s running over right now.

SIGRID: In this weather?

ALBERT: You want me to look at it, in the meantime?

SIGRID: What are you going to do? You’re no doctor.

ALBERT: I was just looking for excuse to check out your legs.

(Sigrid laughs and nods toward her injured knee. Albert begins to roll up the pant leg, but she winces and he stops.)

ALBERT: Why were you doing that to yourself?

SIGRID: Doing what? Exercising?

ALBERT: That wasn’t exercise. That was punishment.

SIGRID: Are you prodding?

ALBERT: Well, where you gonna go if I am?

SIGRID: I don’t want to talk about—

ALBERT: I know. (After a beat, with a hint of concern in his voice, as if looking for reassurance) Do you worry about Michaela’s baby, after, you know?

SIGRID: I said—

ALBERT: I know. I’m sorry.

(Outside, there is the sound of screeching tires/brakes and then a soft thud.)

SIGRID: What was that?

(Albert goes to the window to look.)

ALBERT: Holy— It’s Joe. And Michaela.

(Sigrid moves to get up, winces, and sits back down. We see Joe stumble past the window. Then, he stumbles in, mostly hopping on one foot, a bit bloodied and muddied, but otherwise OK. He falls backward over the arm of the couch and onto its cushions. While he stumbles in, Albert rushes out.)

JOE: Ow.

SIGRID: Joe. Jesus, what happened?

JOE: She came round the corner—

SIGRID: Sigrid?

JOE: —that blind spot. Wasn’t going too fast, but…

(Albert returns with Michaela. She brushes off Albert, who looks concerned.)

ALBERT: I’m just trying to help.

MICHAELA (To Albert): Antiseptic. Hydrogen peroxide. Any bandages you can find. A wet towel, or two.

(Albert exits.)

MICHAELA (To Sigrid): What happened to you?

SIGRID: Never mind me. Take care of him.

JOE (To Michaela): I’m fine. What about you?

MICHAELA: What? Me? Joe, I’m fine.

JOE (Sitting up): Have you felt the baby move in the last few minutes?

SIGRID: The baby?

MICHAELA (To Joe): It’ll be fine. Please, lay down.

JOE (Lying back down): Lie. Things lay, people lie.

MICHAELA: You’re a grammarian now?

JOE: No, but I have this uncle down in Jersey who never let me forget the difference.

SIGRID (To Michaela): Why are you even driving at this stage? How do you fit your belly behind the—

MICHAELA: You want me barefoot and pregnant? You think that would make a difference?

SIGRID: That’s not what I’m saying. And I resent your—

JOE: Michaela, your mother is right. You really shouldn’t be driving at this—

MICHAELA: Albert! Where are those supplies?

(Albert returns, arms full of supplies. He hands them over to Michaela, who begins to clean Joe’s wounds.)

SIGRID: What happened? I still don’t understand what—

MICHAELA: I hit him with the car, Mother.

SIGRID: How? Were you driving too fast?

ALBERT: It’s the corner. Bound to happen at some point. Mom’s been after Dad since they bought the place in the 40s. But the tree that’s there, that big oak, he can’t bear to part with it.

JOE: It was an accident, plain and simple.

SIGRID: An accident that could have been avoided.

MICHAELA: Would you like to take my license away, Mother? Is that it?

SIGRID: I’d like to take your attitude away.

MICHAELA: My attitude? Well, I’m sorry to say, Mother, but— (Beat. Feels her belly.) Well, that doesn’t feel right.

ALBERT: Mikki?

(Michaela attempts to stand, finds she cannot.)

MICHAELA: Al, a hand?

(Albert helps Michaela up, but as soon as she makes it to her feet she swoons and falls against him. She passes out.)

ALBERT: Mikki?

SIGRID: What’s happening?

JOE (Standing up gingerly to take a look): Probably just passed out.

ALBERT: Do we take her to the hospital?

JOE: She’s 40 weeks pregnant, Al. I should say so.

ALBERT: Okay.

JOE: Can you get her to the car?

ALBERT: Yeah. Yeah, of course.

(With some difficulty, Albert hoists Michaela into his arms. He then recoils in shock.)

ALBERT: Did she just pee on me?

JOE: Al, have you been to any of the Lamaze classes?

ALBERT: The what classes?

JOE: The pregnancy classes Michaela has been to.

ALBERT: No.

JOE: That’s probably not pee.

ALBERT: I thought she was peeing on me because she passed out.

JOE: Just get her to the car.

(Albert exits with Michaela in his arms.)

JOE (Extending a hand to Sigrid): Can you put any weight on that knee?

SIGRID: My baby.

JOE: Sigrid. Snap out of it. Your daughter needs you. The baby is coming. You’re going to be a grandmother.

(Sigrid takes Joe’s hand and the two of them limp out into the rain, closing the door behind them. Lights down. End of scene. Intermission.)

ACT II

SCENE 1

(Lights up. A few days later. Sigrid enters wearing Joe’s workout shirt. She sits down in one of the arm chairs and pick’s up Edna’s knitting from a basket there. After a few moments, Joe enters, shirtless, but clad in whatever running pants/shorts we’ve seen him in before.)

JOE: I’m going to need that back.

SIGRID: Would you have me walk around the house naked?

JOE: We do have the place to ourselves.

SIGRID: I’m afraid it might give you ideas.

JOE: I’ve already got ideas.

SIGRID: And then the shirt would end up on the floor again, and I would pick it up again, and put it on again, and we’d be right back where we are now. (Beat) Can’t you run without it?

JOE: Bare-chested?

SIGRID: Yes. What would be wrong with that?

JOE: Ha! You’re afraid of ideas? I go running without a shirt on, the housewives of Chelmsford, Massachusetts are going to get plenty of ideas.

SIGRID: Well, that won’t do. The women in this town, they already have more ideas than they can handle. More ideas than they should.

JOE: The women of this decade, you mean to say.

SIGRID: I suppose.

JOE: And we’re almost through with this one.

SIGRID: What one?

JOE: This decade. Just imagine what the next will bring.

SIGRID: I do imagine it. It makes me sad. And tired (Beat; then, with a sigh) I suppose that’s the fate of the old.

JOE: You’re not old.

SIGRID: I’m older. Even you can’t argue with that.

JOE: And how are you different now, now that you’re older?

SIGRID: How? In every way.

JOE: Give me something specific.

SIGRID: I wrinkle. I sag.

JOE: Superficial things. And I’d argue that you’re doing neither of those anywhere near as much as you think.

SIGRID: My bones grow brittle, my muscles grow weak.

JOE: You get a point for the bones. But you can prevent that, if you care enough. Same with the muscles, and I know you’ve been taking good care of them.

SIGRID: I don’t see like I used to.

JOE: Again, superficial. At least in part. Glasses are there as an option, and I have to say— (Making glasses with his finger and holding them up to her eyes) —You’d look damned sexy in glasses.

SIGRID: That’s not what I meant. I mean that the world looks different when I look at it, even if my eyesight stays the same. It’s smaller, emptier.

JOE: Ah, now you’ve hit upon something.

SIGRID: What’s that?

JOE: Perspective. When I say that age ain’t nothing but a number, that’s what I’m talking about. You’re only ever as old as you want to be.

SIGRID: I don’t want to be old.

JOE: Then what’s stopping you from being young?

SIGRID: This body! Do you know what this body has done to me? What it’s taken from me?

(An uncomfortable silence passes between them before she continues)

SIGRID: Do you dream?

JOE: Of course.

SIGRID: What do you dream of? What do you want, more than anything else in the world?

JOE: Sigrid, I—

SIGRID: What do you want?

JOE: To run across the country, from Cape Cod to the Golden Gate.

SIGRID: Anything else?

JOE: To hike the Appalachians. To tour Europe and see the Old World.

SIGRID: Anything crazier? Anything out of reach?

JOE: Climbing Everest, I suppose.

SIGRID: Ah, to use Eli’s expression, that’s the ticket.

JOE: The baby, Sigrid—did you want it?

SIGRID: It would be crazy if I said yes, wouldn’t it? A woman my age?

JOE: Did you?

SIGRID: Do you know why I tried so hard, and so often?

JOE: How often?

SIGRID: I lost count. Edna doesn’t believe me when I tell her, thinks a woman who’s been through it as many times as I have would have the tally marks etched into her brain like numbers carved into marble—but the truth is that I stopped counting a long time ago. Michaela thinks she knows the number, but there were times I never told her about, never burdened her with.

JOE: Why did you try so hard, when it hurt so much?

SIGRID: Don’t presume you know how much it hurt!

JOE: I’m not trying to be presumptuous.

SIGRID: My husband. He was the only son amongst a half-dozen daughters.

JOE: It was about the family name?

SIGRID: After Michaela was born, he told me it didn’t matter to him. But the next time, I could see it in his eyes: that hope.

JOE: Did he ask you to keep trying, knowing what it was costing you?

SIGRID: You think he knew what it cost me? I didn’t tell him.

JOE: Did he have eyes?

SIGRID: Yes.

JOE: You think you could see the hope in his eyes but he couldn’t see the despair in yours?

SIGRID: Do you know much worse it would be if he did see, if he could?

(Another uncomfortable silence passes between them, before he speaks)

JOE: This one wasn’t his. He died over a year ago, didn’t he?

SIGRID: It wasn’t his.

JOE: You’re still trying? Even now that he’s gone?

SIGRID: Trying what?

JOE: I assumed you were using some kind of— Are you trying with me?

SIGRID: I’m not trying anything.

JOE: Well, if you’re not actively trying to prevent it, then, by definition—

SIGRID: You think I want to go through this again?

JOE: You want another baby.

SIGRID (Not crying; holding it back): A baby? It wasn’t a baby! It never is. Have you seen what it looks like? I’ve seen, seen it floating in the toilet when it’s gone. It’s blood, mostly. So much blood. I’ve given it everything I can, and, in the process, I’ve drowned it. Smothered it. (Beat) Do I want that again? No. No, I do not.

(There is a crunch of gravel outside.)

JOE: Sigrid—

SIGRID (Peeking out the window): Someone’s here. Eli maybe. Let me change, so I can give you back your shirt.

(Sigrid exits. Joe sits where Sigrid had been, in Edna’s chair. He picks up Edna’s knitting. After a few moments, Eli enters with a couple of suitcases and sets them down.)

ELI: Taken up knitting, I see.

JOE: Well, I seem to have lost my shirt.

ELI: That there is a Halloween costume, Joe. I don’t think it’ll do you much good.

JOE: I was wondering what it was.

ELI: It’s a bookie. Something like that. One the aliens from that Space Battles movie that everyone’s on about.

JOE: Chewbacca?

ELI: That might be it. Where the hell did I get bookie from then?

JOE: He’s a wookiee. With a W. Name’s Chewbacca, but the kind of alien he is is a wookiee.

ELI: Gotcha. Well, Edna’s knitting it for our older son, Robert, who lives across town. She already made a Man Solo costume for my grandson Matthew, and I guess this Chewbacca is tall, is that it?

JOE: Pretty tall, yeah.

ELI: So, Matthew’s going to be Man Solo and Robert’ll be Chewbacca. Little Veronica, I gather, she’s going to be the princess. There is a princess, right?

JOE: Yes.

ELI: It sounds like a damned crazy yarn, that film. Is it one of these that you need to smoke a little reefer beforehand to appreciate?

JOE: I suppose that wouldn’t hurt.

ELI: Never does, the reefer. Sometimes leads you to other junk, but…

JOE: Where’s Edna?

ELI: Dropped her at the hospital to see the new baby. Would’ve stayed myself, but we drove here straight from the last day of the meet. Since I got myself all greased up looking at engines, Edna tells me I’m in no fit state to see the child.

JOE: A little grease never hurt no one, not even a baby.

ELI: That’s where I’m coming from. Especially a baby boy! Get him used to hard work early, or who knows what’ll become of him. Right?

(They share a laugh.)

ELI: So, where’d you lose your shirt?

JOE: Sigrid took possession of it.

ELI: Losing your shirt to a woman. You should know better. Most common way to lose your shirt, of course, but—

JOE: But sometimes it’s worth it.

ELI: Only sometimes?

JOE: More women you’ve been with, more chances you have to be disappointed. Wouldn’t expect a respectable fella such as yourself to understand that, though. You and Edna have been together for how long now?

ELI: Married in ’39. So, coming up on forty years.

JOE: You find a good one, you stick with her. I wish I’d listened to my father when he told me that.

ELI: There are plenty of good ones out there.

JOE: Yeah, but good for who? That’s the real question.

(Sigrid returns in her robe and night gown. She tosses Joe his shirt. Joe puts it on.)

JOE: Not coming with me tonight?

SIGRID: Not feeling up to it.

JOE: Fair enough. Take it easy, okay?

SIGRID: Okay.

(Joe exits. Eli gives Sigrid a curious look as she sits down with the deck of cards and begins to lay out a game of Solitaire.)

SIGRID: How was your trip?

ELI: Did you lay it all on him?

SIGRID: He asked.

ELI: Did he?

SIGRID: In a way.

ELI: Well, he didn’t run.

SIGRID (Gesturing toward the window): Eli, that’s exactly what he did.

ELI: He didn’t run until you pushed him away.

SIGRID: There’s nothing to push away. He and I, we’re nothing.

ELI: I don’t think he feels the same way.

SIGRID: How would you know?

ELI: Because he’s still out there stretching, getting ready. He’s waiting.

SIGRID: For what?

ELI: To see if you’ll change your mind, I expect.

SIGRID: I’m not feeling well.

ELI: Have you seen the baby much?

SIGRID: I saw it delivered, saw it born.

ELI: How about since? Have you been back to hold him? That’s the grandparent’s prerogative, you know: to hold him until he starts to fuss, and then give him back. All the fun parts, and none of the bad.

(Sigrid stands, rubs her stomach, and begins to exit.)

ELI: Siggy, I’m sorry. I wasn’t teasing. I wasn’t trying to make you feel—

SIGRID: I know.

(Sigrid exits. Lights down. End of scene.)

SCENE 2

(Lights up. Eli, Albert, and Sigrid sit in the living room, playing cards.)

ELI: You know the one connection I would love to prove?

SIGRID: What’s that?

ELI: I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story before.

ALBERT: There’s a story you haven’t told? Will wonders never cease?

SIGRID: Don’t tease.

ELI: That’s right. It’s in the family, this gift for oration. You’ll have it, too. And little Michael will lament it just like you do.

(Albert beams at the mention of his new son, a proud father.)

SIGRID: You’re glowing. I thought that was the woman’s job.

ALBERT: The mother glows while she’s pregnant; it’s the father’s job, once the baby’s here. Mom’s too exhausted to glow, after all that hard work.

SIGRID: A tone of appreciation in your voice? Wonders really don’t cease, do they?

ALBERT: So, Pop, what’s the story?

ELI: Ah, well, it is said that us, we Silvers, we are descended from Judas himself.

ALBERT: Judas who?

SIGRID: Is he joking?

ELI: The Judas. Judas Iscariot.

ALBERT: Who’s that?

ELI: Did you spend so much time with your Satanist pals that you’ve forgotten—

SIGRID: Satanist?

ALBERT: I was never a Satanist.

ELI: A witch then. Or a warlock, or whatever the hell—

ALBERT: I dabbled in a lot of stuff. (Sensing Sigrid’s unease) But I’m a good boy now, now I’m a father. I’m on the straight and narrow.

SIGRID: You really don’t remember who Judas is?

ALBERT: My memory’s full of pot holes, you know, like an unloved road, or something.

ELI: Pot holes. I’ll bet.

SIGRID: Judas was the apostle who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

ALBERT: Silver? Like our name? Is that the connection?

ELI: Yes! It’s said that we are descended from Judas himself, that he had a wife and children who changed their name, out of shame, after he hung himself.

ALBERT: If they changed their name, why change it to something as damned obvious as Silver? Why not Smith? Or Jones?

SIGRID: A fair question.

ELI: They were first-century Jews. I doubt Smith or—

ALBERT: Okay. Goldberg or Friedman then!

ELI (To Sigrid): Don’t you think that’d be something else, to trace your roots all the way back to—?

ALBERT: To a guy who betrayed the son of God for a lousy thirty bucks?

ELI: Not thirty bucks. Thirty pieces of silver. That was a lot, in those days. Four months pay, I remember reading.

SIGRID: You haven’t answered the question.

ELI: Which question was that?

SIGRID: Why Silver? Why change their name to Silver?

ELI: It was a reminder.

ALBERT: Of?

ELI: The way in which we had betrayed not only a friend, but ourselves.

SIGRID: So, your family name is all about guilt. Is that it?

ALBERT: Well, that’s something I’m sure proud to pass on.

ELI: It kept us honest for centuries.

ALBERT: Wait. Aren’t you the guy who also wants me to believe we’re descended from a pirate? Long John Silver, right?

ELI: No family line is perfect. There are bumps along every road.

SIGRID: May I ask a question?

ELI: Shoot.

SIGRID: Can’t you just be happy being average, being descended from the sailors and soldiers and simple folk you are related to?

ELI: I am happy. But I got into this genealogy racket because I wanted a challenge. And now that I’ve found that book my cousin wrote about us, the one that takes us all the way back to the Mayflower, I’ve got to believe there’s something more to find.

SIGRID: What if there’s not?

ELI: I don’t know. It’d be pretty sad, that would.

ALBERT: To be average and unremarkable?

ELI: No. We’re plenty remarkable. I just mean it’d be sad to have nothing left to remark upon. When you find that there are no stories left untold, what do you do?

ALBERT: I don’t know, Pop. Go out and tell a new one, I guess.

(Silence, for a beat or two.)

ALBERT (To Sigrid): Mikki’s been asking for you.

SIGRID: For me?

ALBERT: She’s coming home tomorrow and she’s wondering why she hasn’t seen you since the delivery.

SIGRID: Surely, she understands.

ALBERT: Understands what?

ELI: Don’t be that way.

ALBERT: Be what way? I’m just looking for an answer.

SIGRID: Surely, she understands how seeing the baby is making me feel.

ALBERT: Making you feel? Do you understand how avoiding your daughter and her child is making your daughter feel?

SIGRID: I don’t expect you to understand.

ALBERT: Why?

ELI: Al.

ALBERT: Why? Because I’m young. Because I haven’t been through what you—

SIGRID: That’s right. You haven’t.

ALBERT: She needs you!

SIGRID: You’re being a child, throwing a tantrum like this.

ALBERT: I’m being a child?

ELI: Al. Give it a rest.

ALBERT: Who’s hiding out here, pouting over everything she’s been through like her daughter hasn’t been through it too?

SIGRID: She hasn’t been through it. She has no idea.

ALBERT: All those babies you lost, you think you were the only one who hurt when they were gone?

SIGRID: It’s not the same thing.

ALBERT: Love ain’t the same as love?

(Albert throws down his cards and exits.)

SIGRID: Has she really been asking for me?

ELI: Does that surprise you?

SIGRID: When she—she will never forgive me for telling you this, but…—when she had her first period, she hid it from me, didn’t want me to help. Her way of telling me it had come was to leave the bloodied pad on top of the garbage in the bathroom: proof she’d handled it all on her own, that she didn’t need me at all.

ELI: Your kids will always need you. They just forget for a while in those middle years. Hormones, I’m told.

SIGRID: What’s my excuse then?

ELI: For what? Forgetting?

SIGRID: Yes.

SIGRID: You’re old. It comes with the territory.

(He deals a new hand. They play. Lights down.)

SCENE 3

(Lights up. Edna is asleep on the couch, mumbling incoherently. Sigrid enters with a box of party decorations: streamers, etc. After a beat or two, Edna begins to speak clearly, though still asleep. She thrashes out as the nightmare grows dark. Eventually, Sigrid tries to calm her.)

EDNA: Mama? No, you’re not… where’s… Tata? Where is my ojciec? No, I will not go with you. Odchodzić! Odchodzić! Tata! Tatusiu, pomagać! Oh! Nie! Nie!

SIGRID (Overlapping, repeating): Edna?

(Edna wakes up.)

SIGRID: A bad dream?

EDNA: Yes.

SIGRID: About?

EDNA: After my parents were gone, they split us up: my brothers, my sister, and me. My sister and my elder brother, they went off with family friends; my younger brother, he was sent off to the Polish Home for Little Wanderers; and me, I was placed with a family out in the country, on a farm—and I’m still not sure how those people were related or got involved. I didn’t see my siblings for years.

SIGRID: Terrible.

EDNA: Well, one of the ways this couple—the couple that took me in, that is—one of the ways they made money was by bootlegging. They kept a still in the basement.

SIGRID: Isn’t that dangerous? Aren’t they meant to be kept—?

EDNA: Very dangerous. A ticking time bomb, you might say. And one night, while I was sleeping, that bomb went off.

SIGRID: There was an explosion?

EDNA: Ripped straight through the middle of the house.

SIGRID: Were you alright?

EDNA: Slept right through it! If you can believe that. I didn’t wake up until there was a knock at the window. I lived on the second floor, mind you, so knocks at the window were a bit uncommon. And that, of course, is where the nightmare comes in, with their faces at the window, the faces of the men who worked for my step-father, or whoever he was. Their faces were blackened, their hair all asunder, and they were begging me to come with them, through the window, and not to go out into the hall.

SIGRID: Why?

EDNA: Because there was no hall. The house, beyond my bedroom door, it was gone. If I’d stepped out there, I would have fallen straight down into the fire in the basement.

SIGRID: And is that what happens in the nightmare?

EDNA: Yes. In the nightmare, before they can grab me, which is what really happened, I run away from them. ’You’re not my daddy,’ I scream at them. ’Where is my father?’ And then, their arms reach out for me, so many arms, and I say, as I run for the door, ’Go away! Go away! Daddy! Daddy, please help!’ And then I fall. ’No!’ I yell. "No!’ And then I wake up.

SIGRID: That sounds frightful. But, someone once told me that it pays to be that scared that young. If you can get through that, nothing’ll ever spook you again.

EDNA (With a weak smile): I am so sorry, Sigrid. For what I—

SIGRID: It’s okay. Had to tell them, sooner or later.

EDNA: This one hurt more than you ever let on.

SIGRID: Didn’t feel it was right to lay more pain at your doorstep.

EDNA: You can lay whatever you want at my doorstep. 9 times out of 10, I’ll forget it’s there by the morning anyway.

SIGRID (Referring to the box): Would you like to help me set up for the big welcome home?

EDNA (Cheering up): That is today, isn’t it?

SIGRID: This afternoon, if all goes according to plan. At least according to Albert.

EDNA: But wait. (Counting on her fingers) Isn’t today…? Today is Mikki’s big exam, isn’t it?

SIGRID: It is. And she’s not at all happy about missing it, from what I gather.

EDNA: Oh, that test meant so much to her.

SIGRID: It’s one test.

EDNA: Not to Michaela.

(Edna walks to the window. Sigrid takes not of Edna’s blanket and pillow.)

SIGRID: Edna, why were you sleeping on the couch?

EDNA: Oh, that? That’s nothing.

SIGRID: Trouble with Eli.

EDNA: If there was trouble with Eli, he’d be the one sleeping on the couch.

SIGRID: Then what?

EDNA: I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to bother him.

SIGRID: Did he have somewhere to be this morning?

EDNA: No. I just figured he could use some beauty sleep. I mean, he could, couldn’t he?

(Sigrid chuckles.)

EDNA: I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re home early.

SIGRID: Albert made it sound as if the doctors were firm on when they would be discharged.

EDNA: More firm than Michaela was on taking that test?

SIGRID: She’s a mother now. She’ll learn to adjust her priorities.

EDNA: How long did it take you learn?

SIGRID: I was young. And stupid.

EDNA: She’s young.

SIGRID: I thought this nonsense would end with the baby.

EDNA: Nonsense?

SIGRID: This need to prove—

EDNA: To prove what?

SIGRID: To prove that she can do this better than I did! That she won’t need to sacrifice, like I did. To prove me wrong.

(Outside, there is a crunch of tires on gravel.)

EDNA: They’re here. (Shouting off-stage) Elijah Silver! Rise and shine! Your grandson has come home!

SIGRID (Referring to the box): We’re not ready. Christ almighty, I couldn’t even do this right.

EDNA: Quit feeling sorry for yourself.

(Michaela and Albert walk by the window, the baby in Michaela’s arms.)

SIGRID: I’m not ready for this.

EDNA: You never will be.

(Michaela and Albert enter with the baby bundled up in Michaela’s arms. Just then, Eli stumbles in groggily from off-stage.)

EDNA: Welcome home!

(Albert sits in a chair, looking beat. Eli and Edna crowd around Michaela, peeking at the bundled baby. Sigrid stays put, a few steps away.)

SIGRID: They let you out early.

ALBERT: She twisted their arms. Might’ve broke one or two.

MICHAELA: It took some doing, but I got what I wanted. And now, now I’ve got to get upstairs and study. So, who wants the baby.

ALBERT: I want a nap.

MICHAELA: He stayed up for the late night feedings last night. A real trooper. So, Edna? Mother?

EDNA: Well, I’ve had my share of cuddles, so I think it’s Sigrid who’s owed.

MICHAELA (Moving to hand the baby to Sigrid): Okay, Mother. You win.

SIGRID (Still holding the box): Can’t you reschedule this test?

MICHAELA: That’s not the way tests work.

SIGRID: Do you really think it’s best to separate yourself from your child, especially when he’s this young?

ELI: Siggy, what’s a few hours? Girl’s got her mind made up. Ain’t no harm—

SIGRID: So be it. But give the baby to Edna. I have to put this away.

MICHAELA: Mother, what is this about? Are you afraid to—

SIGRID: Afraid to what?

MICHAELA: Afraid to hold the baby. Is that why you didn’t come to the hospital?

(Sigrid sets the box down.)

SIGRID (Reaching out for the baby): Here. Hand him to me. You want to go study, go study.

MICHAELA: Why are you so angry?

SIGRID: Are you going to give me the baby, or aren’t you?

MICHAELA: Edna? Do you mind?

(Edna takes the baby.)

SIGRID: Fine.

(Sigrid storms outside, slamming the door behind her. She stands on one side of the window, Michaela on the other. Lights down.)

SCENE 4

(Lights up. Edna sits, playing Solitaire while the bundled baby lies asleep beside her. Sigrid enters through the front door, and then, seeing that Edna is alone, takes a nearby seat.)

SIGRID: How is he?

EDNA: He’s an easy baby. Except when he’s not.

SIGRID: And when is that?

EDNA: When he’s hungry. When he’s sleepy. And, of course, the worst is when has a movement or a tinkle.

SIGRID: Not a fan of the dirty diaper, our Michael?

EDNA: As particular a child as I’ve ever seen. When he’s happy, he is happy. But when he’s upset… Well, I suppose it’s something he’ll have to work on. (Beat) Would you like to hold him now? Now that there’s no pressure?

SIGRID: Pressure?

EDNA: Sure. That’s why you didn’t want to before, isn’t it? It’s all been built up now. Such expectations.

SIGRID: I don’t have any expectations.

EDNA: Maybe not. But you’re worried that everyone else does. (Beat) So, go ahead: pick him up. Hold him. I promise I won’t look.

(Sigrid makes her way toward the baby. She bends to pick him up. But then she backs away.)

SIGRID: Perhaps there is one expectation.

EDNA: And that is?

SIGRID: Can’t you guess?

(Edna does look at her now. They look at each other deeply for a moment.)

EDNA: Oh, for heaven’s sake. You’re not going to—

SIGRID: How do you know?

EDNA: You are not going to hurt him, Sigrid. You’ve held a baby before. You even raised one into a—

SIGRID: One. Out of how many?

EDNA: I’m sorry.

SIGRID: Don’t be. It’s my own—

EDNA: No. I’m not sorry for what I said. I’m sorry that you can’t escape your yawning chasm of pain for even one moment. For even one moment to see what’s lying right in front of you.

SIGRID: And what’s that?

EDNA: What’s that? It’s a baby, goddamn it. Pick him up.

(Sigrid picks up the baby. She holds him.)

SIGRID: He smells good.

EDNA: Enjoy that while it lasts. He’s due for a two any time now.

(There is a commotion overhead, and then the rushing of feet on the stairs.)

MICHAELA (Off-stage): Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.

(Michaela appears, hair a mess, looking for keys in the seat cushion where Albert had been sitting.)

MICHAELA: I fell asleep. I fell asleep. I can’t believe I fell—

(Michaela stops long enough to see her mother with the baby.)

MICHAELA: When did this happen?

SIGRID: Aren’t you running late for something?

MICHAELA: Yes. Yes. But we are going to talk about this when I get home, young lady.

SIGRID: I’m sure we are.

(Michaela exits. We see her race by the window. Lights down.)

SCENE 5

(Lights up. Sigrid and Edna are playing cards again, the baby resting nearby. Joe walks by the window in his running gear, and then there is a knock at the door. Edna stands.)

EDNA: I’ll get it.

(Edna opens the door.)

EDNA: Why, hello there, Doctor Payne.

JOE: Is Sigrid in?

EDNA: Indeed she is.

(Joe enters. Edna retrieves the baby.)

EDNA: I shall go see if Albert will stop snoring long enough to take his son for a spell.

(Edna exits upstairs with the baby.)

SIGRID: Fancy a game?

JOE: I was about to go for my run and wanted to see if you—

SIGRID: I’m waiting to see how Michaela did with her test.

(Joe takes a seat. Sigrid shuffles and deals, despite his earlier objection.)

JOE: Didn’t she just come home with the baby today?

SIGRID: She did.

JOE (As Sigrid deals to him): Really, Sigrid. I don’t think I should. My run.

SIGRID: Are you that afraid of going soft in the middle, that you can’t skip your run one day to play cards with your—

JOE: My what?

SIGRID: Well, girlfriend strikes me as just plain wrong for a woman of my age.

JOE: Womanfriend? Ladyfriend?

SIGRID: Ladyfriend. Now, that sounds scandalous. Like the kind of friend one gets to know by the hour. If you know what I mean.

JOE: Truth be told, after that last conversation, I wasn’t sure—

SIGRID: Of?

JOE: Of anything, really.

SIGRID: Because?

JOE: Well, I thought maybe I treated you unfairly. That I didn’t take the time to show you that I understood how you were feeling.

SIGRID: You were worried that you weren’t a gentleman?

JOE: I suppose.

SIGRID: Don’t you remember what I said about gentleman when we first met?

JOE: They were overrated.

SIGRID: I do appreciate the effort.

(An uncomfortable pause.)

JOE: How is the baby?

SIGRID: Good. He’s doing well.

JOE: And how are you… how are you handling it all?

SIGRID: What all?

JOE: There being a baby around, given what we talked about.

SIGRID: Well, as a matter of fact, I’m handling it far better than I expected I might. Holding him, I even felt a bit, I don’t know, hopeful.

JOE: Hopeful?

SIGRID: For myself.

JOE: You aim to try again?

SIGRID: Well, if the right man for the job comes along.

JOE: Sigrid.

SIGRID: Joe.

JOE: Are you suggesting—?

SIGRID: Well, it’s early days, but—

JOE: Don’t you remember what I looked like, what I sounded like when I thought you—

SIGRID: I was being unfair. I should have told you. Things are different these days. Expectations. And there are options now that I didn’t have before. I should have told you, and I’m—

JOE: Did you hear what I was saying?

SIGRID: What were you saying?

JOE: Sigrid, I… I don’t know how else to tell you this, but I don’t want—

SIGRID: Oh.

JOE: You asked me what I dreamed of. Did any of those things sound possible with a family?

SIGRID: No. No, you’re right.

JOE: Jesus. I was leading you on, wasn’t I? Is that what I did?

SIGRID: No. My hopes got the better of me for a moment. I see now what I should have seen. Or what I did see but forgot.

JOE: Sigrid, I’m sorry.

SIGRID: Don’t be. You’re too young for regret. (Beat) It’s getting dark. Maybe you should go for your run now.

JOE: If you don’t mind, I’ll play one more hand.

(Sigrid deals another hand. Lights down.)

SCENE 6

(Lights up. There is a baby stroller with a blue bow on it sitting in the living room. Michaela enters from the stairway. She is in her pajamas and carries the baby with her.)

MICHAELA: Mother?

(She sets the baby into stroller and rocks it back and forth.)

MICHAELA: Well, Michael, how do you like that? You’ve got yourself a stroller.

(Sigrid enters in her running clothes.)

MICHAELA: Mother, it’s wonderful. Thank you.

SIGRID: You’re welcome. How was your exam? I’m sorry I didn’t wait up.

MICHAELA: Did the baby tucker you out?

SIGRID: No, no. I figured Edna deserved her turn with him.

MICHAELA: What’s wrong?

SIGRID: Nothing. Why do you ask?

MICHAELA: Because Edna will have plenty of turns with him. She lives downstairs from us, after all.

SIGRID: I had a lot on my mind. That’s all.

MICHAELA: Because of Joe?

SIGRID: I asked Edna to zip her lip about that.

MICHAELA: She just mentioned he was here. She didn’t say anything else.

SIGRID: Have you ever misjudged a person?

MICHAELA: I’ve misjudged you.

SIGRID: Anyone else? A man, perhaps?

MICHAELA: Albert.

SIGRID: Really?

MICHAELA: When the hot dog vendor at a ball game starts hitting on you, with the lines he was using, it’s pretty darn easy to misjudge him.

SIGRID: I don’t think my misjudgment will lead to quite the same happy ending.

MICHAELA: He meant something to you?

SIGRID: They all mean something to me.

MICHAELA: Something more, I meant.

SIGRID: I saw potential, yes.

MICHAELA: Potential for?

SIGRID (After a beat): It’s silly. An old woman’s fancy. Or, well, the fancy of an old woman who hasn’t yet realized she’s old.

MICHAELA: Another baby?

SIGRID: Foolish, I know.

MICHAELA: Not foolish. I guess I’ve just never understood.

SIGRID: Understood what?

MICHAELA: Every time you lost one, it hurt you. I saw how much it hurt you. And, as I got older, as I got to thinking, I couldn’t help but wonder…

SIGRID: Yes?

MICHAELA: I couldn’t help but wonder if I wasn’t— if that’s why you were always so gung-ho on trying again and again.

SIGRID: If you weren’t what?

MICHAELA: Good enough.

SIGRID: Good enough… If there was anyone who wasn’t good enough—

MICHAELA: Stop.

SIGRID: I wanted another baby because I wanted a second chance.

MICHAELA: Why would you need a second chance?

SIGRID: To get right all those things I got wrong. I was so young, Michaela.

MICHAELA: I’m young now. Do you think I’m going to get it all wrong?

SIGRID: You have a better head on your shoulders.

MICHAELA: I have your head on my shoulders.

SIGRID (Gesturing to the baby): And whose head does he have?

MICHAELA: Well, from the outside, he’s all Albert.

SIGRID: And on the inside?

MICHAELA: Who knows? He’s still a baby.

SIGRID: Edna says he’s particular.

MICHAELA: These Silvers and their euphemisms. Edna is ’substantial,’ Michael is ’particular.’ Why not just come right out and say ’large’ and ’fussy’?

SIGRID: The poetry of polite.

MICHAELA: Yeah. Well, the hell with that. (Off Sigrid’s clothes) Hey, are you going for a run?

SIGRID: I was thinking of it.

MICHAELA: Avoiding Joe?

SIGRID: Oh, because it’s the morning? No, I… Well, maybe.

MICHAELA: Didn’t say it was a bad thing.

SIGRID: I thought about taking the baby with me.

MICHAELA: On the run?

SIGRID: Well, it might be more a brisk walk, depending on how the stroller holds up.

MICHAELA: I can just take him back to bed with me. It’s no problem. I know it’s your morning to watch him, but I don’t really need to—

SIGRID: I can do two things at once, too. After all, as you said, we have the same head on our shoulders.

MICHAELA: If you’re sure you don’t mind.

SIGRID: Mind? This mormor has a race to train for. Maybe even to win.

MICHAELA: Okay. (To the baby) You and Grammie, go get ’em.

*(Sigrid pushes the stroller out and exits. Michaela watches her from the window. Then, smiling, she picks up a book and a pencil, plops herself down on the couch, and begins to read and take notes. Lights down. End of play.) *


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