Not necessarily Detroit. However, we are in a "first ring" suburb outside of a mid-sized American city. These are the suburbs that comprise the first "ring" of houses outside the city proper. They were built perhaps in the late '50s, smaller houses, perhaps of outdated design. The kind of house many people today would consider a "starter house" or a house you would want to purchase, live in, and keep your eye on the lot next door so you could buy that, knock both houses down, and build a double-lot house.
BEN--Raised in the United States, somewhere inland: Kansas City, maybe Denver. He worked at one bank for five years and another bank for six years. Recently laid off from his job.
MARY--Raised in the United States, somewhere inland: Kansas City, maybe Denver. Met Ben after college, when they were both working, at a happy hour. She works as a paralegal at a small to mid-sized law firm.
KENNY--Raised in several cities in California until he was 12 or 13, when his parents finally split up and he moved to Omaha with his mom. Now he works as a warehouse manager. Fresh out of major substance abuse rehab.
SHARON--Raised in Tucson, Arizona, until she was nine, then she and her mother moved to Columbus, Ohio, for two years and then to Indianapolis, where she went to high school. In her junior year, her mother moved back to Arizona with her boyfriend, and Sharon lived with her best friend to finish school. Now Sharon works at a phone bank, answering customer service calls. Fresh out of major substance abuse rehab.
FRANK--Two generations older than the other characters. Maybe he's in his late 70s-early 80s? But he's spry, the kind of man whose been fixing his roof and rewiring the electricity on his house and taking care of his impeccable lawn for many years. He's happy.
A NOTE ON CASTING
When I wrote the play, I imagined Mary, Ben, Sharon and Kenny to be around 34 years old. I've since realized that there is some flexibility in terms of the ages of the characters. For example, the show can be cast with Mary and Ben a little older, in their 40s, and Sharon and Kenny younger, in their late 20s-early 30s. It's also possible that Kenny is quite a bit older than Sharon. I just ask that directors consider how the age of the characters reverberates through the whole script: the focus of the story can shift quite a bit depending on how old they are.
A NOTE ON THE SET
This play is set in the front- and backyards of the characters' houses. There is a way to produce the play by setting it only in the backyards by cutting certain lines and adding a few lines. I can provide notes about how to make this work. In the initial production at Steppenwolf, the show was produced with two backyards, side by side, visible through the whole show.
"PLYWOOD has a lifespan of 40 years. Over time, the glue that holds plywood together dries up. Then, walls buckle, split and peel. Panels pop loose. Rooms, doors and windows morph into trick-or-treat versions of themselves."
The New York Times, October 19, 1997
"Dogs, by this same logic, bark at what they cannot understand."
Lights up. Sharon and Kenny are in Mary and Ben's backyard. They sit in newish looking lawn chairs--part of a set from maybe Home Depot. Mary struggles to get a patio umbrella to go up as she speaks--it's in the middle of the table and it's heavy. There is a grill nearby.
MARY: And the man with the birthmark looked up and slid a handwritten receipt across the table to me. He said "Is there anything else I can help you with" and I said "No thank you" and I turned and walked out onto the wooden pier and I saw a very old seagull swoop down into the water and eat a fish. SHARON: How did you know it was old? MARY: I just knew.
KENNY: And the bank was an old card table on the edge of an abandoned boardwalk?
MARY: And all the deposits went into an Adidas shoe box the banker kept under the table.
SHARON: They make those shoes in Germany. I went there for a week on this high school trip and everyone wanted to buy them. We all thought they were cheaper over there. I didn't buy any.
MARY (Under her breath): Shit. Shit shit shit.
KENNY: Can I help you with that?
MARY: No, I'll be right back.
Mary goes inside. Kenny and Sharon sit in the chairs in silence. They hardly even look at each other. The sounds we hear: birds. A lawn mower in the distance. A clanging sound, like someone fixing something. A siren that quickly fades. Mary comes out with Ben following her. Ben has a pan full of meat, some kind of steaks. Mary is kind of in a tizzy.
MARY: I hold it up and I press the button but nothing works, sometimes it stays for like two seconds but then it falls down again.
Ben fools with the umbrella. They all watch. He pulls his hands away. The umbrella stays up. Pause.
Sharon laughs just a couple laughs. No one else laughs.
MARY: It's funny when you first moved in we didn't know if anyone was actually living next door. Ben swore he saw someone coming and going. But at weird times. And the sheets stayed up for so long it still looked empty. It was driving him crazy! So when I saw you yesterday morning I knew I had to grab you. And tell you that we didn't know you were there, that's why we didn't stop by to say hello.
SHARON: We're still not totally moved in. The house belongs to his aunt.
KENNY: Belonged to my aunt. She passed away.
MARY: Oh, that was your aunt?
KENNY: We're renting it for a while before they sell.
SHARON: We'll probably buy it, though.
BEN: That's the way to do it, from a friend or family member. You can avoid a lot of closing costs.
KENNY: That's what they say.
SHARON: So yes, it's a new start! I mean we don't have any furniture even!
MARY: Oh everybody says that. "We don't have any furniture."
BEN: There are some good outlet stores over on 265. That's where I got my TV chair.
MARY: Oh wait I've got something!
Mary goes inside. She has a. little trouble with the sliding glass door.
SHARON: Such a great backyard.
MARY(Calling from just inside): Isn't it great?
BEN: Thanks, we love it. It sold us on the neighborhood.
SHARON: Hey, who is the woman who jogs around the neighborhood in the hot pink jogging outfit?
SHARON: Who is the woman who jogs around the neighborhood in the hot pink jogging outfit?
MARY: I don't know. I've never seen her. Ben, have you seen this woman? Jogging?
BEN: No, I don't think so. There are a lot of people jogging in the morning.
SHARON: This one wears a hot pink jogging suit.
Kenny opens the door; Mary carries a coffee table, trying to get it through the door.
MARY: I don't know. I don't know who that is.
KENNY: Wait, wait let me help.
MARY: Oh God, this door!
KENNY: Hold on, I've got it. I've got it.
Mary brings the coffee table through the door. It is an older model, kind of heavy and clunky, maybe with a glass top. Mary puts the coffee table down in front of Sharon.
MARY: This is for you.
MARY: You said you didn't have any furniture. So this is for you.
BEN: Honey, that's our coffee table.
MARY: I hate this coffee table. Do you like it?
KENNY: Uh yeah it's nice. Do you like it?
MARY (To Sharon): I mean it's a good coffee table, it's very sturdy, I think it will be good for you, I just--
SHARON: I love it.
SHARON: Thank you.
MARY: It's for you.
SHARON: I know. It's amazing.
Sharon half-touches the coffee table.
MARY: Now Ben has to buy me a new table! Ha Ha!
Sharon sits and indicates the coffee table to Kenny, like "nice table, right?"
BEN (Kind of loudly): Alright everybody, I'm going to throw these puppies on the grill!
KENNY (To Sharon; if Mary hears him, she pretends not to hear it): Can you imagine if they really were puppies?
Sharon and Kenny giggle at their private joke.
MARY (To Ben): Did you do the marinade? (She takes a step and something hurts in her foot) OW!
Sharon half gets up from her chair.
SHARON: Are you OK?
MARY: Yes, no, ow, it's fine, I just have this well I have this oh God plantars wart in the bottom of my foot, God so embarrassing but do you know what that is? This is a really nasty yes wart that grows upward, into your foot slowly so it takes you a while to notice it, and when you finally do it hurts hurts hurts and you try to put that drugstore wart remover stuff on it and it won't work, and so you go to the doctor--I went to the doctor, I went to the doctor today--and he said he could cut it out but he would have to inject anesthesia into my foot and then do minor surgery--I know--and since I knew you all were coming over I thought it would be best to wait so I'm having it done next Thursday and just making do until then. It is only when I step a certain way ... it must hit a nerve or something.
KENNY: Like when you have a cavity?
SHARON: Oh right and you bite down on ice or something soft like an apple that goes way up?
KENNY: Or like a caramel candy.
MARY: And start chewing everything super cautiously, like half-chewing because you're afraid of that zap and then one day you forget and you bite regular--
Everybody kinds of groans and cringes.
BEN: OK OK let's not--eew--now you've given me the creeps.
KENNY: Let's talk about something else.
MARY: Yes, let's. Sorry, let's.
BEN: So where do you guys work?
KENNY: I work in a warehouse over off of 694.
SHARON: I work in a phone bank. Is that what you call it? It's like customer service. I sit in one of the booths, take the calls, and either give people answers or send them on to the supervisor.
MARY: Oh that sounds interesting.
MARY: I work as a paralegal at Furley, Clark & Lamb.
KENNY: What do you do, Ben?
BEN: Ha ha I'm a deadbeat. No but really I got laid off from my job at this bank, I was a loan officer and they like laid everybody off--like literally--I don't know who is doing the work anymore and so they gave me this like halfway decent severance pay and also I could get unemployment so I am using it as an opportunity to set up my own business.
MARY: He's home all day.
BEN: It's a financial planning business. Helping people with their credit scores, that sort of thing.
SHARON: Ha we could use that help!
BEN: You and a lot of people, it can slip so fast.
SHARON: And then you can't get it back up again.
BEN: Well, there are strategies, but it takes a lot of patience. We can have a session sometime.
SHARON: That would be great.
BEN: I need to practice on people. You all can be my test case. And then when you're hanging out on your private yacht I can use a quote from you on my website.
SHARON: Sounds good to me!
MARY: He's designing a website. The whole business is going to be run right inside of it.
BEN: I'm building it myself to save money.
MARY: He's got this great book and it talks a lot about breathing deep and taking your time.
BEN: And how important it is to spend a lot of time doing things you're passionate about. If you follow your passions, you're halfway there.
MARY: If you panic and start to cut corners, then forget it, it's like building a house on quicksand.
BEN: It's really all about envisioning your life as financially sound.
MARY: It's scary but I really think it's true. It's a great book.
KENNY: Oh so maybe that's why you had that dream?
KENNY: The one about the bank being a card table at the edge of an abandoned what chamacallit. With the deposits in the shoe box.
MARY: Oh right.
BEN: Alright, we gonna eat some meat!
Ben gets up to check the meat.
SHARON (To Ben): Are you British?
SHARON: Are you from England?
BEN: No, why?
SHARON: I don't know. Something about the way you talk. "Now you've given me the creeps."
BEN: "Now you've given me the creeps." I didn't even realize I said it like that. Huh.
SHARON: Maybe you're British.
BEN (Kind of laughs but he doesn't really know what she means): Yeah, maybe.
We hear the meat sizzling on the grill.
SHARON: Wow, steak.
We hear the grill and some surrounding sounds.
BEN: Does anyone want a beer?
KENNY AND SHARON (Simultaneously): We don't drink.
MARY (Under her breath): I told you that, Ben.
BEN: Oh well does anyone need anything? What are you drinking, seltzer?
KENNY: I'm OK.
SHARON: I'd love a little more ice.
MARY: Oh I'll bring out a bucket.
BEN: Mary, these are just going to be a couple more minutes if you want to check the potatoes.
MARY: Oh right.
Mary goes inside.
KENNY: So this is a nice patio. Was it here when you moved in?
BEN: Yes, it was, yeah, it's great.
KENNY: I thought maybe you laid it yourself.
BEN: No, no I work in a bank.
KENNY: The edges, the way the cement is pulling up from the edges, it looks like a do-it-yourself job.
BEN: Really? Is that a problem? I don't / think I noticed--
KENNY: No, no it's totally fine, it's just cosmetic, I only noticed because for a little while I was laying concrete, helping a friend with his business, and we did a lot of patios so I learned a lot about it. But it's fine.
BEN: Yeah, I never noticed.
KENNY: You have to buy this sealant and put it on at just the right time or the concrete wants to pull away like that. Really though you're fine.
BEN: Maybe you know why our sliding glass door slides so funny.
KENNY: Oh well I--
BEN: See you have to jiggle it like this to get it over the "hump," see? So you start to open it and you have to go--(He jiggles the door, it opens) And then it opens. It isn't a big deal but--oh shit hold on--(He goes over to the grill) Kenny checks out the door.
KENNY: Oh yeah right look it's the track, I think you might just need a whole new track but later on let me bang on it a bit with a--do you have a rubber mallet?
BEN: No, I don't think so.
KENNY: I'll get one. I'll get one and I'll bring it over here and I'll bang on it and we'll see, I think I can fix it.
Mary slides through the door with the ice bucket.
MARY: Excuse me.
KENNY: Excuse me.
MARY: The potatoes are perfect!
BEN: Ditto on the steaks!
Sharon takes some ice and puts it in her glass and smiles at Mary.
SHARON: This is awesome. It is so awesome. I mean who invites their neighbors over for dinner anymore?
BEN: Ha we don't have any friends.
SHARON: Really though I mean we've lived in a bunch of neighborhoods now--apartments, houses, condos even a hotel for a little while--
KENNY: The house we were renting had a sewer leak--
SHARON: So the landlord had to put us in a hotel--we've lived in a lot of places and never, never did the neighbors give us the time of day. Neighbors. I mean why is that word still in the dictionary, it's archaic--am I saying the right word? Because you don't need to talk to your neighbors anymore. I mean does anyone borrow a cup of sugar anymore? No, you drive to the 24-hour grocery. Because you don't want to bother your neighbors. And so if you come home from work and you do see your neighbor like, getting out of their car or calling their kid inside--wait, what am I saying, kids don't play outside anymore, they might get seduced by some homicidal drug addicts ahhhh! Anyway if you get home and your neighbor is out setting the timer off on their watering system, then you look at the ground or maybe give a quick wave and run inside. Because maybe you had a bad day or maybe you have pink eye or something and you don't want to get too close to them. Always an excuse. And when you get inside, behind your closed door, quiet in your house, you make a pact with yourself to talk to them next time but then things get ... fucked up ... oh sorry I didn't mean to say that, I apologize--
KENNY: She has a sailor mouth.
SHARON: I do, I'm working on it, but I just think there is no real communication anymore, real communication about real things, about that steak or that sliding glass door or yes, I would love some more ice, but here we are, having that sort of communication and it's just so ... it's so beautiful--
Sharon starts to cry. Head in hands. A moment or two of just Sharon crying, like, deep, private weeping. Ben and Mary look for a moment, then Ben busies himself at the grill. Kenny gets up.
KENNY: It's OK sweetie, just--
Kenny leans over to comfort Sharon and WHAM the patio umbrella comes crashing down, hitting him on the head.
BEN: Oh shit.
Kenny is holding the back of his head.
SHARON: Baby, are you OK?
KENNY: Yeah, yeah it's just hold on I gotta sit down. Whoo I'm seeing stars.
MARY: Oh wait you're bleeding you're bleeding let me get a towel. Mary races inside, she can't get the sliding door open.
BEN: You have to jiggle it jiggle it jiggle it no like this--Ben runs over and jiggles the door or does Kenny get up and jiggle it with his hand still on his head?
KENNY: No, it's OK really I'm sure it's just I just need a second--(He takes his hand away; he really is bleeding) Oh wait yeah, maybe a towel.
SHARON: Shit, baby, just keep the pressure on--Mary runs back out with a towel.
MARY: I can't believe this. Ben, that (Quickly, almost under her breath) goddamned (Back to normal voice) umbrella!
BEN: I know, I know.
KENNY: It's OK it's gonna be fine--
SHARON: He's got a hard head, right baby?
KENNY: Heh-heh. Maybe a little ice?
SHARON: The ice is right here.
Sharon gets a handful of ice out of the bucket and puts it in the towel.
MARY: Ben let's just take the umbrella out, OK? Like I suggested yesterday. Because this keeps happening and I didn't want anyone to get hurt. So let's just take the 30 seconds--
Ben slips the umbrella out from the hole and leans it against the house.
MARY: Yes, the 30 seconds it takes to take the umbrella out so no one gets hurt, and we can consider a new umbrella, that isn't from the Ricking--excuse me--bargain basement--
MARY: So that our guests aren't required to get stitches just for daring to come into our backyard.
SHARON: It's OK really--
KENNY: I don't need stitches. I've had stitches before.
BEN: Where's the tag. I'm calling the manufacturer. In fact I should call them right now--
Maybe Sharon and Kenny are like "no no no no don't worry, really."
BEN: Kenny, we can take you to the hospital. Sharon and Kenny are even more like "no no no, really."
BEN: Where is that tag--
Ben realizes something about the situation. He slips outside of his tizzy and returns to calm host mode.
BEN: OK. OK look at us. Look at us. Kenny, you're fine?
KENNY: Totally. I'm just going to keep the pressure on for a bit.
BEN: Alright, then.
SHARON (In a bad British accent): "Alrighty, then, Ben."
SHARON: I said "Alrighty ole chap, cup a tea!" You're British! Admit it! Admit it!
BEN: So. How bout some steak?
SHARON: Let's do it!
Ben starts taking steaks off the grill.
BEN: Kenny, you get the first one in honor of your concussion.
KENNY: Ha Ha.
SHARON: Do you all ever have "twice-baked" potatoes?
BEN: Oh yeah with all that cream in them.
MARY: Sometimes but they are so much work.
SHARON: My mom used to make those all the time.
A few moments of sitting down, settling in and taking first bites.
KENNY: Aw yeah.
Kenny gives Ben the thumbs up.
MARY: Delicious, honey.
Does one of them get a piece of gristle and do that weird chewing thing where you have to get it out of your mouth and spit it in your napkin? Ben glances over into Kenny and Sharon's yard.
SHARON: I can't believe I cried.
MARY: Oh, now--
SHARON: A few minutes ago. When I was talking about neighbors.
BEN: God did I miss that? Did I forget?
SHARON: They say it's part of the process, feeling things, letting your emotions just happen, in real time, rather then running away from them on that glossy motorcade of substances.
KENNY (Under his breath): Baby, we were going to keep that / to ourselves--
SHARON: Kenny and I met in Eldridge Smith Tomforde.
MARY (Gets it): Oh.
BEN (Chipper, oblivious, eating): What's Eldridge Smith Tomforde?
Pause for a moment.
MARY: It's a rehab facility, honey. For substance abuse.
BEN (Still chipper): Oh so that's why you don't drink.
KENNY: Yes, and that's why we don't smoke crack or shoot crystal meth or snort big fat lines of cocaine at four in the morning for the third day in a row.
Quick pause, then Sharon starts to laugh. Then Kenny laughs and Mary sort of smiles. Mary stays really quiet during this next section.
BEN: Well, more power to you. And so you met in this ... this ...
SHARON: Facility. Yes we were both in for three months--we arrived the same week.
KENNY: And we resisted the attraction for at least a month.
SHARON: Because you're supposed to. You're actually supposed to resist it for a year but--
KENNY (Re: hot Sharon): But who can resist this, right?
Ben and Kenny laugh knowingly, but it is a little weird.
SHARON: And it's so strange "getting out." Those doors part and you walk outside into the hot air, thinking about your apartment that's waiting for you, still sealed shut, filled with all your crappy stuff, dishes molding in the sink, countertops piled with old beer cans and underwear and pipes and stuffed animals covered in puke. And you're standing outside the hospital, clutching each other's sweaty hands for dear life--(Pause) And then there was this house.
KENNY: My aunt died.
SHARON: There was this house, and--this is not a lie--we went to T.J.Maxx, and I bought a dress with flowers on it, and a pair of "flats." "Flats" and Kenny bought a suit--
KENNY: It was $250 marked down to $34.99.
SHARON: And he bought shoes also, and an undershirt and socks ...
KENNY: And we went to see my great-uncle, who was very close to my aunt--she left the house to him--
SHARON: And we asked if we could live here. We asked him to give us a chance.
The sounds of the neighborhood moving into night: the hum of air conditioning units, and air conditioning units starting up and shutting off, a couple cars driving by, a car or two parking, doors opening and closing. Perhaps an automatic garage door opening? The faint sound of a few joggers jogging, and a few kids riding their bikes.
The car and people sounds begin to fade and are replaced by crickets and maybe a few frogs, still mixed in with the air conditioning sounds.
And someone is having a fight behind closed doors. Then the sound of "No, No, No, No, NO" as a door opens and the No's become louder. The same door slams.
Loud knocking on another door. A knocking and then the sound of Mary yelling "SHARON! SHARON OPEN UP! SHAAAARON!" And more knocking.
The lights fade up, middle-of-the-night outdoor light. We are in Kenny and Sharon's front yard. Theirs is a very basic brick suburban house. Or maybe siding. Some shrubs but no flowers. Really bare bones. There is one taller potted plant on the porch, like a small tree, with some blossoms on it. Other than that, nada.
Mary is in her bathrobe, banging on the front door. She is near tears. Sharon opens the door in her T-shirt and underwear.
SHARON: Mary, what's--
Mary falls into her anus. She weeps outright for maybe five seconds.
SHARON: Mary, can you just--
Another wave of weeping. Eventually Mary half-composes herself. Anytime Mary curses, she says that word kind of under her breath.
MARY: It's just I don't know how to help him. I'm at the frayed edge of my wits. He gets to be home all day and I don't get home until 6:45 because of the fucking traffic on 694 and he's been home all day and I get home and he's already on his first drink. He says it's his first drink anyway. And he's cooked dinner which is of course very sweet but then I say something about how his green beans taste different than my green beans, you know like "oh these taste different" just like that, not saying anything bad but he drops his fork and I know he's offended and then it starts. And I hate "NASCAR Unmasked and Personal" and he knows I hate it I mean he's not a NASCAR kind of guy, he doesn't like NASCAR he just likes that show, and he turns it on anyway while I'm finishing my dinner, while I'm washing the dishes and he watches the TV so fucking loud even the commercials and he laughs at commercials, at dumbfuck commercials like the one with the cartoon chicken getting rubbed down with chicken magic. (Mary imitates the commercial. It is a Latino chicken:) "Ieeee! It tickles!" I mean Sharon it's so fucking crackass dumb. And so I ask "How was it today? Did you bring the files to Kinkos?" And he's like "Oh shit no I forgot oh well I'll do it tomorrow" and I say "You know you can do it on their website through the file uploader, it's super easy" and he says "Yes YES I know" and I say "well you know that book you bought for $65.00 said you've got to be hard on yourself about keeping to a schedule. Because Joe Blow down the street is also probably laid off, and also probably about to set up his dream business where you get to sit home all day and tell other people how to clean up the fucking financial wasteland of their day to day existence. And if Joe Blow gets his portfolio together before you do then Joe Blow gets the clients, not you." And he says "Joe Blow can suck my nutsack." (Pause for a moment, that word is like a bad taste in her mouth) And I say "Oh that's a winning attitude." And then that's it we're fighting and he's all "I'm trying to be proactive" and I'm all "Today sucked, I barely got to eat lunch" and he's all "I'm afraid" and I'm like "Don't say it like that" and he's like "Look I have to put my beer on the floor! The photo album too!" And I'm like "That coffee table didn't GO in this ROOM--"
SHARON: You can have it / back--
MARY: I don't want it back. I want to live in a tent in the woods. With one pot and one pan. And an old-fashioned aluminum mess kit with its own mesh bag. I want my hair to smell like the smoke from yesterday's fire, when I cooked my fish and my little white potatoes. I want to dry out my underwear on a warm rock. And feel the cold water rushing around my ankles, my feet pressing into the tiny stone bed that holds up the stream. Silver guppies nosing their heads into my calves ...
Quiet for a moment. We hear suburban wind, maybe a car passing on another street. Maybe some teenagers laughing, maybe some kid in the house across the street listening to music in his room.
SHARON: Were you a girl scout?
SHARON: I thought so.
Mary leans over into the bushes--she doesn't get up, she just leans over--and pukes. And pukes. And sits back up.
MARY: Oh God, my head. I think I need some water.
SHARON: Mary, have you ever thought about getting some help?
MARY: Some help with what?
SHARON: With your drinking problem.
Mary looks at Sharon like she is an alien from another planet.
MARY: I thought I could just come to you and talk.
SHARON: You can, you did.
MARY (Simultaneously): Because you cried at my house and--
SHARON (Simultaneously): I know.
MARY: I thought that was awesome. That you felt comfortable enough to do that, it made me feel like a good host that you felt OK letting go in that way--
SHARON: You are a good host. But you can be a great host and still have a drinking problem.
Mary gets loud. Too loud for this neighborhood. She no longer quiets her curse words.
MARY: You know what FUCK YOU. (She stands up and stumbles a little) I come over here asking for HELP and what is the FIRST THING YOU FUCKING DO? Accuse me of being a fucking DRUNK? I MEAN IF THAT IS NOT THE BLACK CALLING THE KETTLE POT. God. My husband is offering the two of you his services FOR FREE. He wouldn't even blink to ask for payment. Wouldn't even BLINK. And look at you. This fucking yard.
Ben walks up. He is obviously not drunk, he is stone cold sober. It takes Mary a little while to see him.
MARY: There's not even a single FERN. You've made no effort.
SHARON: Well we just moved in--
Maybe Mary grabs on to Sharon?
MARY: I was hiding behind our bushes. I snuck out the door to get some air. I JUST NEEDED SOME AIR, I needed to get out of the house. And he wouldn't let me. He kept locking the door on me. And so when the commercial came on I snuck out the back and climbed over the fence and just squatted there behind the bushes. He called and called. My toes were in the mulch, I was breathing, I was not answering. Because he doesn't like me, nobody likes me, and I just wanted to breathe. And then I thought, Sharon likes me. She cried in my yard.
Mary pukes over Sharon's shoulder; she has to kind of brush it off her back and the back of her arm. Ben catches Mary. Kenny opens the door, half asleep, in his boxers. Mary notices Ben.
MARY: GET AWAY FROM ME GET HIM AWAY!
Ben pulls Mary to him and speaks to her softly in her ear. She's listening. She's saying these words as he whispers in her ear.
MARY: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. My head is pounding. It's like there's cats inside. I know. I know I'm a good person. I know tootsie, too. Yes. Yes. I want to go home. I want to get in the tub. Ow, my foot.
Mary is quiet in Ben's arms. Ben looks at Sharon and Kenny. Everyone except Mary sees someone approaching. Ben tries to hold Mary up a little better. We hear the sound of footsteps jogging by. All at once Ben, Sharon and Kenny give a quick wave, like they are waving back to someone.
BEN: That's her?
SHARON: That's her. How dumb is that, jogging at 11 at night.
KENNY: And she'll be back at it at 6:30.
KENNY: I really need to start exercising again.
Pause for a quick moment as they watch her go.
BEN (Starting to apologize): I'm really--
SHARON AND KENNY: No, really, it's OK really.
BEN: We'll buy you a new shirt--
KENNY: Don't worry, please--
SHARON: We've been through this--
BEN: I'll see you tomorrow, Kenny.
Ben starts to walk Mary home.
BEN: Please don't worry about your yard--
Mary's foot hurts as she walks.
MARY: Ow. OW.
BEN: It's going to be a nice yard. I like that new plant.
Ben and Mary are almost to their house.
SHARON (Softly): The funny thing is it's fake.
Sharon and Kenny watch them go for a few seconds. A quick kiss, then they head back inside. Before the door closes: blackout.
Daytime sounds. Lawn mowers, kids on bikes, a plane overhead, hum of air conditioner compressors in people's backyards, a couple of birds.
Lights up bright on Ben and Mary's backyard. Are Kenny and Sharon in almost the same seats they were in the other day? The umbrella is gone and the table is set just a little bit fancier--perhaps a lace doily on the table and some fresh flowers.
BEN: Hey Kenny, are you building a deck over there?
KENNY: Yeah, I'm getting started. That's the foundation you see right there. I'm going to finish the decking in the corner. I can't decide if I want to put up a railing or not.
BEN: Well it's nice for leaning--
KENNY: Yeah, but then you have to really reinforce it.
BEN: Or if mere are kids around, if you want to keep the kids on the deck.
KENNY: Yeah, we'll see. (Kenny smiles at Sharon) We're just taking it one step at a time.
MARY (Offstage in the house): Honey, will you get the door?
Ben slides the sliding door open for Mary.
MARY: Look how that sliding door just zips open!
BEN: Your husband's a genius, Sharon.
Kenny smiles. Mary enters with an enormous tray of hors d'oeuvres, beautifully presented. It is a little intimidating how beautifully presented they are. Her foot is bandaged and she is wearing a funny orthopedic sandal on that foot that doesn't let you put pressure on the front of your foot.
MARY: Alright everybody, so we've got some dates wrapped in bacon drizzled with some chili oil and this is a Danish Havarti that I mashed with some basil and it is really great with this special olive oil--you just need a little. These are slices of "heirloom tomatoes"--do you know what that is? I drove all the way to Whole Foods to get them. They've been grown from the same seed for hundreds of years, meaning the plants grow and drop their seeds and those seeds are used for the next plants. Try that with the olive oil and a little bit of this special pink salt--
KENNY: Special salt?
MARY: I know, I know, you think "salt ... salt is salt," right? But here taste it with a tomato--
KENNY: Oh I don't like tomatoes--
SHARON (As in: be polite): Kenny--
MARY: Oh well taste it with the Havarti then. Go ahead taste it--
She hands him a cracker with havarti and a bit of salt. They watch him taste it. He chews.
KENNY: Oh yeah.
MARY: See? I was right, right?
KENNY: Yeah it takes a second but then--wow! Taste this.
SHARON: I wish I could cook.
He feeds a bite to Sharon.
MARY: Oh you can cook! It's special pink salt from the bottom of a special river. Ben, what's the name of that river? Ben? And this--(She holds up a little bowl) is caviar.
MARY: Caviar that came all the way from Norway.
SHARON: Wow. Kenny won't even let me buy Dijon mustard.
Mary hands Sharon some caviar on a cracker.
BEN: Where did you buy caviar?
MARY: It doesn't matter, Ben.
SHARON: Oh it's good!
Ben claps his hands.
BEN: OK let's throw these puppies on the grill!
MARY: Oh Ben, let's wait just a few minutes. I just brought out the appetizers.
BEN: Yes, but chicken takes longer.
MARY: Let's sit a minute--
Mary pulls a patio chair so it is side by side with hers.
BEN: But I--
MARY: I know but let's just relax a minute.
KENNY: Come sit, Ben.
BEN: OK, alright.
Ben sits next to Mary. Mary grabs his hand and holds it. Smile. Pause. Sharon sings to them, getting the words a bit wrong.
SHARON: "Don't Stop. Believin'. Hold on to that Feeeever ..."
BEN: Oh I love that song.
KENNY: Remember MTV?
SHARON: It's still on, dummy.
BEN (Singing the next line with wrong words): "Streetlight, fever ..."
MARY: What about you, Sharon, how's work?
SHARON: Oh, you know--
MARY: Sure and you, Kenny?
KENNY: You know it's a job.
BEN: You've just got to reach the one-year mark.
KENNY: One solid year with the same job and same address. Then everything starts to open up--
MARY: Like a good bottle of wine.
BEN (To Sharon): We had a great session.
SHARON: He told me. So Ben is it true you're a NASCAR man?
BEN: No, no. I just like the show, that behind-the-scenes show. It's just brain drain you know. The drivers and their trophies. And their trophy wives. A good way to decompress. I barely have to pay attention.
MARY: One time I watched a whole episode of "Fit to Be Tied" and when it got to the end, I realized that I hadn't really seen any of it.
MARY: I was thinking about something else the whole time ... stewing about something ... and so to Ben it looked like I was watching the show, but really I was on another planet ... a really angry planet.
KENNY: That sounds like the last five years of my life.
SHARON: Up until now, right?
KENNY: Sure thing, hotpants.
BEN (Laughing a little): Hotpants--
SHARON: I like "How Far Will You Go for Your Man?"
BEN: Oh, what's that one?
SHARON: There are all these boyfriend girlfriend teams and the man asks the girl to do things ... sometimes simple things like give him a bath, and rub him with hot oil and other times it's like crazy, like three-ways or four-ways. And the girl that will go the farthest for her man gets 1.5 million dollars.
MARY: Is that like on the Playboy Channel or something?
SHARON: I don't know. Our house came with magic cable.
KENNY: It was just there when we screwed it into the TV.
SHARON: It all just gets piped in from somewhere out in the cosmos.
KENNY: There's this one channel that is just a picture of this satellite dish on top of a building. I think it is a hospital. And the satellite is facing out--so you really just see the back of it. And there is this voice reading from some kind of manual ... I think it is maybe instructions to work the satellite dish? It's hard to tell. And that's all the channel shows.
SHARON: Why do you watch that channel?
KENNY: I don't really watch it.
SHARON: Well then what are you doing when you stare at it?
BEN: I think I'll put the meat on.
KENNY: You need help?
Ben motions: "no, no sit."
BEN: All I want in the whole world is a meat thermometer. Alary, can we get a meat thermometer?
MARY: After we make our first million from your website ha ha.
KENNY: Hey Mary, how's your foot?
MARY: Oh it's good. The thing took like 20 minutes. The worst part was the shot. The doctor stuck the needle into the arch of my foot and I could feel it shoot all the way up, through my stomach and heart and throat and into my eyeball.
BEN: I've never heard her yell like that.
MARY: But then everything went dead and the doctor could just dig right in.
SHARON: That's good that it's better.
MARY: This shoe helps a lot actually.
SHARON: See, Mary went to the doctor and it was fine. Kenny's afraid of the doctor.
KENNY: I'm working on it.
MARY: Kenny, do you want to try some caviar?
KENNY: The funny thing is I'm allergic.
MARY: To caviar?
SHARON: He puffs up instantly. We were in the VIP section in this club in Atlanta, and they had all this fancy shit--excuse me, this fancy food. And we were well we were high as kites and just eating and eating and all of a sudden he was on the floor, his eyes turning black, his whole face getting puffier and puffier.
KENNY: I couldn't breathe.
SHARON: They called an ambulance.
KENNY: Which sucked because I didn't have insurance.
SHARON: Three days in the hospital. I slept there. He woke up with night sweats. The doctor said if I ever eat caviar I should brush my teeth because if I kiss him, especially if I tongue kiss him, he could just blow up again. Like a blowfish. He's that allergic.
KENNY: It was crazy. That was like eight years ago. I've avoided caviar ever since.
MARY: But wait, I thought you met in rehab?
KENNY: Oh that's a funny story.
MARY: What do you mean?
SHARON: We did meet in rehab but we just realized a couple weeks ago that we had met before. In Hotlanta. And we had that adventure together. I actually snuck out of the hospital while he was asleep and got on a bus to Chi-town. Chicago. I mean I hardly knew him then. I mean we were a mess.
KENNY: I think we both just erased Hotlanta from our minds. What was the name of that club?
SHARON: Who knows. Razoo. Numbers. Buzz Buzz.
KENNY: The Compound. Third Base.
KENNY: Pirate Dan's.
Sharon kind of chuckles a hit. Kenny does too. It's a private moment. Hotlanta was fucked up, yo. Mary picks up a pitcher.
MARY: Lemon Ginger Iced Tea?
SHARON: Why thank you, I would love some Lemon Ginger Iced Tea.
Mary pous Sharon some iced tea.
SHARON: You guys have to come over. Soon. I mean look at that, the yard is right there. I could spit and hit it. Watch, I'm going to spit.
(She spits and hits the yard)
KENNY: Yes, let's make that happen. As soon as the deck is finished.
SHARON: Fuck the deck! Oh, sorry. I mean fart on the deck! These are our neighbors, Kenny. We've lived here almost five weeks. We've got to have our neighbors over. We've got to fight against the anonimater ... anonyminimous ...
MARY AND BEN (Staggered, trying to help her with the word): Anonymity?
SHARON: Yes! We've got to fight that. I mean everywhere else we lived we hid from our neighbors and they hid from us because nobody wanted to interact with us ever, I mean they knew, they could see. And they could just ignore us la la la la la--that's your space, this is mine, no I don't hear the screams and moans of a drug addict, no I don't see those junkie friends with blood caked in their hair la la that's your space. Dust your hands, shoot the rooster in the foot and be done with it. But things are different now. We can have company. We can have a nice time.
MARY: Of course you can.
SHARON: Tomorrow. Come over tomorrow.
KENNY: Sharon, there's nowhere to sit!
SHARON: We'll figure it out. Mary and Ben, would you like to come to our house for dinner tomorrow?
KENNY: It's not our house.
SHARON: Shut up. Will you? Come over? Will you let us make you dinner at our place? Tomorrow?
BEN (Singing): "Streetlight, fever ..."
MARY: Ben. I mean Ben, do we have plans?
BEN: Sure, I mean no. No plans.
MARY: That would be lovely.
Sharon is excited but also kind of freaked out, as she really does not have the skills or money to pull this sort of thing off.
SHARON: Awesome. Great. Fun. Alright. Dinner at our place. Fantastic.
(She spins around in one circle) Really, super fun!
Outdoor sounds again, the next day.
When the lights come up, we are in Kenny and Sharon's backyard. The deck is half finished, the floor is only three-quarters put down and most of the boards are loose. Ben and Mary sit in super-crappy folding chairs that really look secondhand--maybe Sharon and Kenny got them out of the basement. There is also an old-fashioned card table with one joint taped up with duct tape. Sharon is sitting on a plastic milk crate, upturned. Maybe Kenny will sit on a couple bags of charcoal? Oh or maybe a suitcase? The grill is from the dollar general. There is a plastic pot of plastic flowers on the card table.
Kenny is working the grill. Sharon relates a dream.
SHARON: And I was wandering around inside this strange house. But I knew the house was inside of another house. A house inside a house. I could feel the two houses. And there were these rubber walls, you could press your hand right into them. And I was walking through the house and thinking "I've got to get this caviar to Alary." Mary laughs.
SHARON: But I knew that Kenny was allergic to caviar and so I didn't want to touch it, so I built this contraption out of chopsticks? To carry the caviar and I hooked it around my waist right--(She indicates her abdomen)
MARY: Oh my God, do you think you're pregnant?
SHARON: NO. Definitely no. God no. So I opened this door in the hallway and inside on this fancy bed was the lady in the pink jogging suit getting the shit fucked out of her / by some guy--
Sharon lifts her hand to her mouth quickly.
SHARON: Oh God. Shit I didn't mean that.
BEN: Well, that's what was happening. In the dream.
SHARON: I know I'm just trying to work on my language. Can I finish it? The dream?
Ben and Mary are like "sure, sure."
SHARON: So I closed the door on her and then I was in the supermarket, the one I used to go to when I was a kid. And I was with Ben but Ben wasn't Ben. He was this short guy, maybe five feet tall, with this really bad brown dye job on his hair and his beard, and he may have been a leprechaun, but I knew it was Ben and I knew he was starving and I had to buy him food. And I would put food in the cart and check my purse for money but the amount of money I had kept changing, so I would put back the tomatoes and put in maybe green beans because they were cheaper and I would check my purse and not have enough money and put stuff back, and so on and so on--And I knew I had to feed Ben, he was shriveling, getting smaller, he was sitting in the child's seat of the shopping cart by then. And then we were at the butcher counter and I picked Ben up and went behind the counter into the meat locker back there. I sat Ben down on an icy side of beef and he smiled at me and the butcher came by, looked in, and closed the door right on us. It was cold and I could feel the frost on my face. I tried to form words--I tried to say "Ben, Ben get the door open, we're going to die!" But it just came out like--"Buuuh--Buuuh" and then Ben scratched his little beard and put his hand on my hand and I got this intense wave of peace. Radiating through me, like when a tab of ecstasy hits, and I thought "Oh, I'm dying" but it was so amazing, this feeling of sadness and happiness coming from inside and radiating out, like what bleeding to death must feel like, and then Ben said, in a British accent:
BEN (In a British accent, a pretty good one): When I look at you, I see nothing but becoming.
Mary kind of freezes.
Sharon smiles. Mary is a little freaked.
MARY: I--I--I think I'm--
BEN (Still in a British accent?): Well, I was in the dream wasn't I?
Short pause. Then Ben and Sharon start laughing.
SHARON: No, no I already told him the dream--
BEN: She told me before you came over.
KENNY: That was a good accent, Ben!
BEN (In a British accent): Not bad there chap, eh?
SHARON: See? It's in there somewhere ...
Does Sharon kind of tickle Ben like the Pillsbury Doughboy?
MARY: That was ... weird ...
SHARON: That was my dream. And I think it was my closure dream. I think I'm better now. Kenny, I'm completely healed.
MARY: I'm going inside. Sharon, did you put the vodka inside?
SHARON: It's on the counter.
MARY: And may I use your bathroom?
SHARON: Sure, you'll see it. Right there in the hallway.
Mary goes inside Kenny and Sharon's house. Kenny claps his hands together.
KENNY: Alright let's throw these puppies on the grill!
SHARON: Hey Ben, I figured out the other day that all the streets around here are named for different kinds of light. We're on Sunshine Way and then there's Ultraviolet Lane, Fluorescent Avenue.
KENNY: Also Rainbow Road.
BEN: Yes, and did you also notice Feather Boulevard ... Weightless Avenue ...
KENNY (Getting it): Oooh, right--Helium Street ...
SHARON: Uhhhh ...
BEN: "Light" and "Light."
Sharon gets it.
KENNY: Weird right?
SHARON: Totally weird.
BEN: They planned it that way back in the '60s. If you go to the corner of Sunshine and Route 20, there is this big brick sign that fell backwards a long time ago ... 20 years ago? It's all overgrown with weeds and ivy. But if you peel some of it away you can see the original engraved sign "Bright Houses. Come to the Light."
KENNY: How'd you find that?
BEN: I had a friend who lived here in high school. We were just messing around.
KENNY: It's still there?
BEN: I think so.
Weird beat. Will the conversation shift?
SHARON: Oh shit! I forgot the appetizers.
BEN: That's OK.
SHARON: No, they're just inside. I'll be right back.
Sharon goes inside. Ben goes up to the deck, kind of "testing" it.
KENNY: Hey man, thanks again for all the advice.
BEN: Oh, it's not me, it's the book.
KENNY: Yeah, but I never would have read that book.
BEN: I'm glad it helped. The deck's sure coming along.
KENNY: Yeah, it's gonna be nice. We should sit down again sometime soon.
BEN: Sure thing. (He looks at the grill) What is it, burgers?
KENNY: Yes, with a ball of American cheese inside. It melts while it cooks.
BEN (As in: shit yeah): Yeah.
KENNY: You have to be careful though you'll burn your mouth. Hold on I need some salt. (He moves toward the house) You need anything?
BEN: Maybe another beer.
KENNY: You got it.
Kenny goes inside as Mary comes outside. She has a very big plastic cup of vodka tonic. Mary goes to Ken, speaking with her voice a little hushed.
MARY: Ben, there's nothing in there.
MARY: They've lived here five weeks. And there is no furniture in there. Nothing. Except the coffee table we gave them and this one arm chair with stuffing coming out of it. It looks like a dog ate it. And a tiny TV sitting on a cardboard box ...
BEN: Well they said they had no furniture.
MARY: Yes, but no furniture?
BEN: They're starting from scratch.
MARY: And I think there is a smell. Like a bad carpet smell. Like a sick carpet smell.
BEN: Oh come on.
MARY: Even the bedroom--
Mary takes a big gulp of vodka tonic.
BEN: You went in their bedroom?
MARY: There's not even a bed. I mean there is this mattress-looking thing, and some sheets barely hanging off it, onto the floor, and that T.J. Maxx suit hanging like a carcass in the closet.
BEN: You looked in the closet?
MARY: I don't know it just makes me feel strange, I mean who are we talking to?
BEN: They're getting it together. I'm sure they have no credit cards, no nothing. I don't even know how he bought this lumber.
MARY: They did buy curtains.
BEN: Only for the front, did you notice?
MARY: Well. They're trying to be good neighbors, I guess.
BEN: I don't know, I think they're great. And Kenny's got a good game plan now.
MARY: No furniture, no clothes.
BEN: Mary, will you just shut up about it? You're being judgmental. How much vodka is in there?
MARY: It's not yours.
BEN: I can smell it over here.
MARY: It's just strange. I feel strange.
KENNY: Ladies and gentlemen, drum roll please!
Kenny holds the door open. Sharon enters with a rusty cookie sheet with some snacks on it.
SHARON: Alright, so you all the theme is white trash because I'm trying to own up to what I am these days ha ha and anyway the Cheetos are always the first things to go at a party right? Even when they're sitting right next to the brie. SO, we've got Cheetos, saltines, a canned bean dip and Cheez Whiz, and then I made Delta Caviar, ha ha no really its like anti-caviar so we don't kill Kenny. It's got a can of corn, red peppers and yellow peppers, a can of black-eyed peas and some Italian dressing, and salt. At least we can afford salt! Wait till you taste it!
BEN: I have a weakness for the bean dip. Ben digs in.
SHARON: Mary, try some.
MARY: I'll have a Cheeto.
Mary takes one Cheeto. Kenny returns with Ben's beer and goes to the grill.
BEN: God it's so nice to just chill out like this. When I started working from home I imagined myself totally relaxed, working a couple hours, going for a jog, doing a little gardening--
MARY: You don't garden--
BEN: I know I just imagined it. But instead my days are so hectic. I'm always on the phone or trying to learn HTML for my website--
SHARON: Ha ask Kenny about trying to learn HTML--
KENNY: HTML can kiss my sweet ripe ass--
BEN: Running to Staples. Jesus Christ how many times a day can a man go to Staples! Anyway I am totally fried by the time Mary comes home and kind of panicky because I feel like I didn't get enough done. KENNY: When do you "launch"?
BEN: Well it was supposed to be this past Monday. But everything always takes longer than you think.
MARY: I still don't understand how just a website is going to attract customers. I mean it is just hanging out there in the ether. Is someone just going to decide they need a consultant and then POOF find your website?
BEN: I've got it, baby--
MARY: No, I just mean there are like what, a gazillion bazillion websites out there--
BEN: I've got it.
SHARON: Anyway I heard the "next internet" is coming out soon. Something that we can't even imagine. This super fast thing that will change everything. Change everything so much that like we won't even have to own things anymore.
BEN: Do you mean--I don't understand. I mean what will happen to websites? I don't understand.
SHARON: That's just it, I can't explain it, and it's outside of our understanding at this time--
BEN: I mean I'm sure there'll be some sort of conversion, a way to convert the website into--
SHARON: Ben. No worries. Our tiny brains can't conceive of it, it's totally new, like finding out ... this table is actually alive, and has been for a long time. We can't understand it yet, but the inventors of the "next internet" are doing that part for us. So you, Ben, should just unfurrow--is that a word? Unfurrow that forehead and enjoy some bean dip and Delta Caviar.
The distant sound of Sharon and Kenny's doorbell. Sharon looks puzzled.
SHARON: Is that our doorbell?
Everyone pauses, listens. Ambient sounds of the neighborhood. Are they the same as usual or have they changed? A moment. Another moment. Another doorbell.
MARY: I think it is.
SHARON: Who on earth can be ringing our doorbell?
KENNY: Do you want me to get it?
SHARON: No, you finish the burgers.
KENNY: Okay, two minutes. (He yells to Sharon) HEY SHARON WHEN YOU COME OUT BRING THE BUNS AND THE KETCHUP AND STUFF! She also made potato salad. She makes awesome potato salad.
MARY: I wonder why it was a meat locker.
MARY: In the dream.
KENNY: Oh. Who knows.
Mary might say the next line in a British accent.
MARY: Ben, would you get me another drink?
Mary kind of pouts. Kenny turns back to the grill.
BEN: I'll get you 7UP. I'll get you 7UP if you want it. Mary, will you please let me get you a 7UP?
Mary kind of clicks her tongue and sighs.
MARY: Sure, alright.
She hands Ben her cup. Ben gets up and starts to go to toward the house.
KENNY: Hey Mary, Sharon was asking about those plastic plates you have--
Suddenly, Ben falls through one of the hoards of the porch. Either it breaks or there was like a slot that his foot could slide through. He falls one or two feet into the porch and catches himself with his hand.
KENNY: Oh God--
Kenny goes to help him.
BEN: Ow ow ow SHIT!
MARY: Is it broken?
BEN: The porch?
MARY: No your leg, you fucking imbecile.
KENNY: Let me help you.
BEN: I think it's bleeding, ow OW wait take it slow shit ... Ahhh ...
Ben is now sitting on the porch, his leg has a deep scratch or gash from the wood.
KENNY: I'm getting some ice, and water, don't move. Are you sure it's not broken?
BEN: No, no I don't think so.
Kenny runs inside.
BEN: It wasn't me, it was the porch. The porch isn't finished.
MARY: That new internet is going to come and then where will we be?
Kenny comes running out with a cup of water and some ice and a paper towel.
KENNY: Man, this was totally my fault man, shit hold on let's pour some water in it, to clean it out--(He pours water on the wound, it really hurts)
BEN: Ow Ow! This is so dumb!
KENNY: I think there are splinters in there. I think we need to pull them out with a tweezer.
BEN: Give me a second, man. Just give me a second.
KENNY: Aw man, do you have insurance?
MARY: Maybe hydrogen peroxide.
BEN: Just give me a second.
We hear Sharon yelling at someone from inside the house.
SHARON: YEAH YOU TOO, YOU FUCKING NUTCASE! YOU'RE A FUCKING STINKY CUNT, YOU HEAR ME? YOU ARE INSANE!
Sharon enters carrying buns, a bottle of ketchup, a jar of mustard and a jar of hamburger dill slices. It is a little awkward. Oh and also she is furious. At some point during this tirade Mary slips in the house for some more vodka. Also at some point Sharon puts down the buns and the condiments. By the end of the tirade, Mary is back outside.
SHARON: Kenny, you are not going to believe this I am fucking losing it do you see me I am losing it! It was the pink jogging suit lady. At our door! Only she wasn't wearing a pink jogging suit she was wearing shorts and a blue T-shirt. And she came over to ask us politely--sort of politely--if we could keep our dog from shitting on her lawn.
KENNY: We don't have a dog.
SHARON: WE DON'T HAVE A DOG. Exactly. And so I said to her, politely, I said "We don't have a dog" and she said "Yes you do have a dog and it is quite fond of taking craps on my lawn." "Quite fond." Like slicing a razor blade across my face "quite fond." And I said "Lady, do you want to come in my house? We've got NOTHING in our house, especially a DOG. Especially we do not have a DOG." And she said "Listen, Missy." FUCKING MISSY! "Listen, Missy. I've lived in this neighborhood for six years, and I jog every morning. This dog appeared out of nowhere and started crapping on my lawn. I'm not asking you to get rid of it, I'm just asking you to clean up his crap." And I practically started crying--look at me I'm crying now--and I said "Ma'am, people have accused me of many things before but they have never accused me of having a dog, you need to investigate further you need to knock on other doors"--And she said--her voice changed and she said "Look if it craps on my lawn one more time I am calling the police" and I said "Are you kidding? The police are going to fucking LAUGH IN YOUR FACE if you call them about some dog shit." And she said "AHA! So you DO have a DOG!" And I said "No, no, no, no, no fucking NO there is no dog here, lady!" And she just shook her head and kind of kicked our plant and said "Ha I thought it was fake." And turned around I mean FUCK. KENNY. FUCK. This is like FUCKED UP.
Sharon sees Ben.
SHARON: What the fuck happened?
KENNY: He fell through the porch.
MARY: It's his own fault.
BEN: Can someone get me a wet towel? These paper towels are going to stick.
SHARON: Oh um, yeah, um--(She starts turning in circles) Oh wait also the potato salad.
KENNY: We only have one towel and I really think it is too dirty to put on your cut.
SHARON: I mean what kind of neighborhood have we moved into!
BEN: I think we have, Mary, can you--
MARY: Maybe we should move to the woods.
KENNY: Oh shit the burgers just a second.
Kenny goes to the burgers. Ben tries to pull a splinter out. Sharon looks at Mary.
SHARON: Yes, that's it. I'm moving to the woods with my friend Mary. With chipmunks and baby deer for neighbors. Fuck this bullshit place. Where nobody likes you and you get fired from your job because you went back to your car to get your weight lifting belt.
BEN: You got fired from your job? Kenny?
KENNY: Baby, can we not--
SHARON: It's a fucking crack of shit, crock of shit. And I thank the pink jogging suit lady for helping me see the light of day.
MARY: In the woods we could eat rabbits, and if hunting was hard we could eat grasshoppers.
SHARON: And we can put a spout into the tree to get the maple syrup out. Do you know how to do that, Mary?
MARY: Sure. And just like you said no men, baby, no men, just you and me in our tent with our fucking mess kits in the mesh bag and the one pot and the one pan--
SHARON: And the sunsets shit there will be sunsets!
MARY: And no phones.
KENNY: The burgers are OK. They're well done but they're fine.
BEN: You know I think I need to go to the emergency room.
BEN: Yeah, I mean it's not stopping.
MARY: Paul Bunyan! We can meet Paul Bunyan!
BEN: I think you need to take me to the emergency room.
BEN: I'll send Mary inside.
KENNY: She can stay here.
BEN: No no no no no no. She's drunk.
MARY: I'm not drunk! I'm planning a trip.
BEN: She needs to go home.
SHARON: Kenny help, Kenny help it's happening--
KENNY: It's not happening.
SHARON: Just like they said it would happen in our meetings--
SHARON: They said our old life would feel like real life and our new life would feel like a dream. I'm dreaming right now.
BEN: No, you're not.
SHARON (Starting to hyperventilate): I am. I can feel it. I'm dreaming--Mary grabs Sharon in some awkward and intimate way. Ben and Kenny are trying to deal with Ben's cut leg.
MARY: No, you're not. You're here, Sharon. I am here. And we are going camping. For real. This is not a dream. Blackout.
The lights rise and Sharon is tiptoeing onto Mary's back porch wearing a T-shirt and underwear. Maybe a ratty robe? Suddenly, Mary opens the sliding door. She is dressed in pajamas. They look at each other for a moment.
MARY: Too excited to sleep?
MARY: Oh my God, me too! I can't believe we're actually going! Do you know the campground is only 12 miles away from here? I've googled it so many times. In case of emergency. I sit there and look at the website and imagine.
SHARON: I got hot dogs and buns and coffee.
MARY: I got bug spray and bacon and toast.
SHARON: We can make bacon?
MARY: I'm bringing a frying pan!
They kind of giggle like little girls.
SHARON: I think nature is really going to help. Mary, every day really is a new day. But Mary, I open my eyes every morning and all I want is a pipe to smoke. It's like there's a fire burning in the center of my head, Mary, and the pipe is the water that will put it out. And I say this at our meetings, and they are all very supportive but the fire only goes down a little bit. Every day, all day. And in the middle of this burning I am supposed to envision my life, Mary. I'm supposed to set goals and maybe take night classes that will expand my horizons. And I guess that works, Mary, I guess so. But to be honest I feel like the real opportunities are the ones that fall into your lap. Like winning the lottery or someone's rich uncle needing a personal assistant. That almost happened to me once, Mary. And everything would have been different. Mary, I fell off the wagon for a day. I called in sick and walked down to the gas station and bought a stash from the kid with the skateboard. And I got high right there, Mary, in the parking lot by the dumpster. And I walked home, and nobody fucking walks here so I stuck out like a sore thumb, and I got lost a little so I wound up walking around the neighborhood--which looks soooooooo beautiful when you're high, especially when you let the street signs really sink in--and this guy in a pickup truck gave me a ride home--by that time I had accidentally walked out of one of my shoes and didn't realize it, Mary. So anyway we were talking in his truck outside my house and he finally said "Are you high" and I said "Yes, I am" and he told me about all the ways he parties--he does ecstasy, he eats mushrooms and every now and then but not too often he shoots heroin. But he's careful because he doesn't want to get hooked on it. Oh and sometimes he takes hides and sometimes he does whip-its just to remind himself of high school. All like three streets away from here, on Solar Power Lane. And I said "What do you do for a living?" And he said "I'm an electrician. I do house calls." And I said "How do you afford all that stash?" And he wouldn't tell me. And I said "Do you want to be an electrician forever?" And he said what he really wanted to do was be a marine biologist and we were just getting into this amazing conversation about the many varieties of sharks--the guy was Ribbing my feet--when Kenny came home. Kenny knew immediately what I had done. He was nice to the guy, considering. I spent the rest of the day drinking Diet Coke and watching Jerry Springer and then like four hours screaming my face off and trying to escape. Somehow Kenny tied me to the wall, to the door handles?
SHARON: No, no he had to. He had to.
MARY: This all happened--
SHARON: Two days ago. Between the last time I saw you and now.
SHARON: I know.
MARY: I think I was at work pretending to type a letter while surfing the internet looking for plastic outdoor tablecloths.
SHARON: This is a nice table. You don't need a tablecloth.
MARY: I know I just get bored with it every now and then. Sharon notices the light on. She looks at it.
MARY: He's working on his website. They both look for a second more.
MARY: And Kenny's still letting you go?
SHARON: Kenny thinks you're good for me. Aw. Mary is a little touched by that.
SHARON: And what about your life? Do you feel like a construction worker building a house, or a twig floating in the stream? Mary laughs.
MARY: You say some funny things sometimes.
SHARON: Washing our faces in the fresh water. Gathering a few nuts.
MARY: Why don't you have any furniture in your house?
SHARON: Because we're broke. Crazy broke. I mean I'm 34 years old and I still eat ramen noodles for dinner a lot. Because we have to.
MARY: What's going to happen to you?
SHARON: What do you mean?
MARY: I just ... I don't understand ... how you and Kenny ... are ever ... I mean something's going to happen again ... and you're going to be ... I mean how many times do you get to ...
SHARON: You've got to live this moment, Mary. That's all you can do. I'm as beautiful on the inside as you are.
Sharon touches Mary's face. The sliding glass door opens. Ben comes out. He is wearing a cast on one leg. He's not alarmed, just curious.
BEN: What's going on?
MARY: We're too excited to sleep!
BEN: You girls are going to get eaten by bears!
SHARON: Stop it! I hate bears.
MARY: There's no bears around here. Sheesh.
BEN: Come get some sleep.
MARY: Good night, Sharon.
Sharon mumbles good night. Mary and Ben go inside. Sharon scratches each of her arms. She goes toward her backyard.
What are the sounds? Is it the neighborhood sounds, only processed? Or is it construction sounds, because they are knocking down the house a few blocks over?
The lights rise. Kenny and Ben are sitting on the front steps of Ben's house. Ben has a light cast on his ankle and shin. It is the afternoon. They are each drinking a beer, like a Budweiser. They are quiet for a couple seconds.
KENNY: Well, whatever new job I get they're gonna garnish the paychecks.
BEN: Have you ever thought of sitting down with a credit specialist?
KENNY: I thought I was sitting down with a credit specialist.
BEN: And how much do those specialists usually cost? When you pay full price?
Silence for a moment.
BEN: I'm not asking for a lot of money. I just need to place some value on my time. Services cost money. If you offer something for free, it is seen as having less value. My book told me this.
KENNY: How is $25 going to make a difference to you right now?
BEN: It's the principle. I've got to stick by my principles.
They both take a sip of beer.
BEN: It's not a lot of money.
KENNY: Let's see, we'll see. I've got a court case I'm waiting on in Arkansas. It's gonna save us, if it comes through.
BEN: In Arkansas?
KENNY: I slipped and fell in a supermarket a few years ago. That's how I hurt my back. That's why I have to wear the weight lifting belt. The belt that cost me my job.
KENNY: When I get that settlement, I'll give you your $25 and you can give me more ''advice."
A few seconds.
BEN: Are you supposed to be drinking that?
KENNY: One is OK.
KENNY: So are you ready to start taking "real" clients?
BEN: I better. I have one more month of severance pay.
KENNY: One more month and you'll be just like me.
BEN: I guess so, yeah.
KENNY: Bruh-thaaaz. Ben and Kenny clink beer cans.
KENNY: How much you want to bet they're gonna call us any minute. "Ah! There's snakes! There's roaches!"
BEN: I don't know that their cell phones work out there.
KENNY: "Come out here! It's dark!" And you know what, we're not gonna go.
KENNY: No really, they're out there in nature, sitting in the menstrual hut, eating crickets, whatever, that's what they want, and we have to honor that. We have to let the women be women.
BEN: They better not come back wanting to burn that ... that ...
KENNY: Sage stick.
BEN: Yeah! I went to a wedding once where they did that. So weird.
KENNY: That stuff stinks.
BEN: Wearing feathers and a deerskin skirt.
They both laugh.
KENNY: So whaddaya say, brothah? Boys night out. There's Dan's Place and Deja Vu and Temptations and Barely Legal.
BEN: I don't know--really?
KENNY: I've only been to Dan's Place and Deja Vu. Deja Vu is upscale but Dan's Place is traaa-shee!
BEN: I mean really I should work.
KENNY: Work? It's Saturday. Our wives are away--
BEN: I know but maybe--
KENNY: We're just embracing our human nature, man--
BEN: But Kenny, those clubs are expensive.
KENNY: We're just relaxing after a hard week's work.
BEN: The drinks alone are like nine bucks. And it's usually a three-drink minimum. It adds up, and then what?
KENNY: Aw man. Aw man, is that what this is about? You think it's irresponsible? For us to have a night out? For me to have a night out?
BEN: No, I didn't say that. I's just ... it's just one night ... if we take a step back for a second--
KENNY: Oh God, that fucking book!
BEN: I have ... I have a vision for my life, Kenny.
KENNY: So do I, douchebag.
BEN: Hey, hey, hey. This is coming out wrong. I mean I don't even know how ... can we ... can we just drink, please?
Both men take a sip.
KENNY: You're a good man, Ben.
BEN: I don't know.
KENNY: No really, you are.
BEN: In a parallel universe I'm a good man.
KENNY: I'm an asshole.
BEN: No you're not.
KENNY: I'm like "You too good for yellow mustard!?" right in the middle of the store.
BEN: You're under a lot of stress.
KENNY: I'm an asshole, and it's too late for me.
Ben doesn't know what to say. The two men sip their beers.
BEN: I think this might be against the law.
BEN: Drinking beers in the front yard.
KENNY: You own your house right?
BEN: Of course. Well I mean the bank owns it--
KENNY: Shit then, private property. You gotta hang on to that house, Ben.
BEN: Of course.
KENNY: Don't let anyone take it from you.
BEN: No, no we're fine. I mean we haven't even dipped into our savings and I don't think we'll have to. We're not ... we're not anywhere near that yet.
KENNY: Hang on to that house. That's what my grandfather always used to say to my dad.
BEN: And did he hang on to it?
Kenny doesn't say anything. It is obvious his dad did not hang on to the house. Silence. Sound of the suburbs. Kids in the distance on bikes. A plane over head. The compressors for several central air conditioning units. Maybe hovering a little closer than usual, pressing in. Ben contemplates boys' night out.
BEN: I mean I've got this leg.
KENNY: I bet it could get you a sympathy lap dance.
BEN: I don't know.
KENNY: I'll drive.
BEN: It's just such a hassle to go anywhere.
KENNY: We deserve it, Ben.
A few moments of silence where they kind of sit and watch and sip. Then Ben finishes his beer and crushes his can.
BEN: Alright let's do it.
BEN: Yeah, you decide where we're going and you have to drive. Except I've been to Dan's too and it really is too skankified so not there.
KENNY: You've been?
BEN: Sure for an um bachelor party.
KENNY: Yeah right.
BEN: So maybe one rung up the ladder.
Ben looks down the street.
KENNY: Temptations then, let's try Temptations.
BEN: Should we get dinner first?
KENNY: Nah man, let's just eat something here.
BEN: We've got nothing in the house.
KENNY: Fuck it let's scrounge. I've got a can of Manwich.
BEN: I think we have hot dogs.
KENNY: Yeah, we'll chop 'em up, mix 'em around.
BEN: Spaghetti? Over spaghetti?
KENNY: Oh man no, I think maybe no--
BEN: Alright we might have some white bread.
KENNY: My brothah we're good to go! Chow down and get there in time for happy hour.
BEN: I think it's two-for-one navel shots.
Kenny kind of dances and sings that line from the song "Hey Ya!" by OutKast.
KENNY: Awright, awright, awright--
BEN: That's what they advertise, anyway.
This next speech cracks Ben up.
KENNY: See! For two brothahs on a budget! For two men whose wives are out playing "Survivor." For two men in need of a little R&R after a tough couple of weeks. For two men in search of a little good clean fun. For two men in need of a boys' night out. For two men who appreciate God's gift to this green earth. Who appreciate that special titty talent of the special titty dancer. For two men who want to feel more connected to their bodies and to the world. Who want to get out of the house and live a little. For two men who aren't afraid to have a good time even though their financial lives are swirling around in some kind of homemade toilet bowl--
BEN: Come on--
KENNY: For two men who are men. For two men who are going to have a great fucking night. For two men who are going to have a fucking great fucking night on the town, not far from their house. For two men who can take one night to not worry so much, to go out on the town and engage with the night life, with the life of the night, who want to see what kind of good clean fun is out there and if in the process they get their hands a little dirty well hey, it was in the name of good clean fun. For two men who oh shit ... oh shit ... oh shit ... oh shit ...
Kenny sees something down the street. Ben looks.
BEN: Oh shit.
KENNY: Oh shit.
Ben takes the beer cans and tosses them behind the bushes.
KENNY: Oh shit. Shit.
Sharon and Mary walk up. They carry pretty big backpacks, like camping backpacks, on their backs.
SHARON: Hello! We didn't make it!
MARY: We didn't make it!
BEN: I guess not.
Ben hops up, hopping on one foot, and helps Mary take her backpack off.
MARY: First we drove out onto the loop and got totally lost.
SHARON: We thought we were going toward the campground but actually we were going away.
MARY: And then all of a sudden we were in this tiny town called "Sooter"--
BEN: Oh that's where the minor league baseball field is.
SHARON: And there was this store with a little lunch counter.
MARY: Can you believe it? It was like straight out of an old history book.
SHARON: And so we had sandwiches and Diet Cokes.
MARY: And the guy gave us directions back to the campground. And I went to pee and we got back on the road.
SHARON: And we were on our way and then I had to pee.
MARY: So we got off the interstate and stopped at a gas station.
SHARON: And I peed in this nas-tee bathroom while Mary flirted with the counter guy--
MARY: I did not! I bought a pack of Big Red.
SHARON: "Big Red."
MARY: Shut up!
SHARON: And then we were pulling out of the gas station and the car started making this crazy ass noise.
MARY: Like the gears were crunching together.
SHARON: Like the car was eating celery mixed with ice cubes.
MARY: So we stopped the car and the guy from the gas station came to look at it and he fooled around for like 30 minutes and did something with the gears--
SHARON: He rigged it with a coat hanger!
MARY: And we asked if he thought it was OK for us to take the car to the campground. And he said sure it should, the campground is close. So we got in the car and we set off but we were really quiet.
SHARON: For like 10 minutes we didn't talk. And finally Mary said: Sharon, are you afraid of breaking down in the woods?
MARY (Pointing to Sharon): And she said: YES! I'm terrified! I never thought about breaking down before we left!
SHARON: There are bears in the woods!
BEN: There aren't really bears.
MARY: And I started thinking about my foot. And how I didn't have a clean bandage. And the wet ground.
SHARON: Slugs. Dead frogs.
MARY: And I said well it's late so maybe we should just--
MARY AND SHARON: Go home--
MARY: And right that second I saw the exit for Richfield Road, the back way home and so I cut across three lanes of traffic.
SHARON: I spilled my Diet Coke all over the window!
MARY: And I started laughing so hard I almost peed myself, even though I had just peed!
SHARON: And we started laughing so hard we kind of swerved to the side of the road. And BAM!
MARY: A flat tire! So I pulled over--I mean I've changed a flat tire before--
BEN: And you didn't have a spare.
MARY: I didn't have a spare!
BEN: I haven't had a chance to get a new one since we popped the old one.
MARY: And we canceled Triple A to save money so we were like well do we call the guys or maybe a gas station and wait for them to come here? Or do we hike the 20 minutes home?
SHARON: A hike. That's like camping.
MARY: Sure it is!
SHARON: So that's what we did!
MARY: We fucking hiked!!
BEN (Quick, re: her cursing): Mary--
SHARON: And here we are! I hate camping anyway. All those BUGS!
MARY: And rapists!
SHARON: Baby, did you miss me?
MARY: We got cat-called.
SHARON: We thought maybe we could party here.
MARY: We thought maybe we'd grill.
BEN: We've got to get the car I guess.
KENNY: I've got a spare you can use.
BEN: Thanks, Kenny.
KENNY: Just a $15 charge. For the rental.
Quick moment of quiet.
KENNY: Just kidding!
BEN: Alright let's go.
MARY: We'll get together some snacks.
SHARON: It's so weird how nothing ever happens.
KENNY: I'll get my keys.
Kenny leaves and goes into his house.
BEN: We were going to watch soccer.
SHARON: You keep thinking things are going to happen but nothing ever does.
MARY: You don't watch soccer.
BEN: Kenny likes soccer. He lived in Ireland for a year when he was a kid.
SHARON: No, he didn't.
SHARON: Jesus that stupid story.
MARY: It's funny, just making the effort to go camping made me feel a lot better.
Kenny comes back with his keys.
BEN: Alright well should we grill?
SHARON: Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
MARY (A little over the top, a little dorky): It's Saturday night! Let's have a gooooooooood time.
Quick moment where Ben, Sharon and Kenny are like "Huh? That was sort of dorky." Mary doesn't notice. Blackout.
Night sounds. Then, the sound of music, low. Some kind of party music. Maybe music from Sharon and Kenny's Hotlanta days? It gets louder and louder.
When the lights come up, Ben, Kenny and Mary are dancing their asses off on Ben and Mary's porch. Ben is dancing on a chair with his broken leg. Kenny is maybe fake-humping the grill. Mary is spinning in circles. They are all beer-wasted. Which is different from bourbon-wasted. Bourbon makes you mean and switches on your regret; beer-wasted makes you sloppy-happy.
BEN (Chanting): Yay-eah, Yay-eah, Yay-eah Yay-eah Yay-eah.
MARY (Singing): I'm a sexy mothafuckah on yo roof I'm a sexy motha-fuckah on yo back porch I'm a sexy mothafuckah in yo kitchen I'm a sexy mothafuckah on yo lawn
BEN (Chating): Yay-eah, Yay-eah, Yay-eah Yay-eah Yay-eah.
KENNY (High-pitched R & B style): I'm your lover I'm your daddy I'm your car tire I'm your devil I'm your sexy I'm your burger I'm your boyfriend I'm your superstar!
BEN (Wailing): I'm your superstar! I'm your superstar!
MARY: Hey Ben, do this! Do this! Ben, do this!
Mary does some kind of dance move she wants
Ben to do. Ben does it. Kenny comes up behind Mary and dirty dances with her a little.
MARY: Wait everybody do this! Do it!
She does a dance move.
MARY: DO IT!
The two guys do it, they are all in a line.
MARY: We're on that show! You know that show with the dancers.
BEN (Chanting): Yay-eah, Yay-eah, Yay-eah Yay-eah Yay-eah.
KENNY: I was on that show when I was 16!
KENNY: No. Sometimes I just say shit.
BEN: Look I'm doing the one-legged twist.
Kenny cracks up. Mary twists with Ben. Kenny cracks up more.
KENNY: That is some funny shit.
Kenny starts doing some weird, vaguely John Travolta-esque humping of the air, almost like he is swinging his dick around. Or maybe using barbecue tongs as his dick?
BEN (Kind of cracking up but kind of like "what?"): Holy Shit!
Kenny wails and grinds.
KENNY: I'm a superstar!
MARY AND BEN: I'm a superstar.
Sharon enters with two bowls--one filled with water and one filled with some other kind of food. She puts them on the floor and looks at them.
KENNY: What are you doing?
SHARON: I'm feeding my dog. I have a dog remember? I'm feeding it.
KENNY: Oh that is fucking funny.
Kenny gets two beers out of the cooler.
MARY: Oh right, your dog! You love your dog!
BEN: Ha ha that is fucking funny.
SHARON: Now I'm walking my dog.
Sharon fake walks her dog, it is on a leash and she kind of dances while she does it. The others crack up.
KENNY: Walk that dog.
Sharon walks the dog sexier. The others take up fake leashes and walk their dogs, dancing while they do so.
MARY: Oh no my dog just pooped! Look at me!
She pretends to pick up the dog shit with a fake bag and throws the bag away. They all hoot and holler and cheer while she does so. Sharon steps up on to the table and walks her dog up there. Kenny hands her a beer and she gulps it down.
MARY: Are you allowed to have that?
SHARON: Yeah sure it's just beer.
KENNY: Her problem was really freebasing heroin anyway.
MARY: That was a joke right?
Sharon keeps dancing.
BEN: Yay-eah, Yay-eah, Yay-eah Yay-eah Yay-eah.
SHARON: Yay-eah, Yay-eah, Yay-eah Yay-eah Yah-eah.
Kenny gets up on the table and starts dancing with Sharon. Ben and Mary walk their dogs.
MARY: Oh my God I just got the greatest idea!
MARY: We should all fake walk our dogs over to the lady in the pink jogging suit's house! We should fake walk our dogs over there and have them take a fake crap on their lawn! And we'll be like whoooooo hoooooo!
BEN: Let's do it!
SHARON: Oh my God, that's hilarious.
Mary, Ben and Sharon start to go. Kenny starts herding them back: he is a seasoned partier and he knows that crazy shit could bring cops and spoil everything.
KENNY: No no no we're going to stay back here.
MARY: Come on!
KENNY: Come on, let's keep the party here. No no, come on.
MARY: Party pooper!
Sharon cracks up.
SHARON: Get it? Party pooper!
Mary cracks up. Mary and Sharon fake poop or fake fart on Kenny.
KENNY: Alright bitches!
Kenny picks both ladies up and spins them around. The ladies squeal. He puts them down and the three of them dirty dance for a few seconds. Ben sits on the patio table with his feet on a chair.
SHARON: Come on, Ben!
BEN: Just a second I'm resting.
MARY: No! No resting! No resting! No resting resting resting resting!
It becomes a chant. Ben kind of dances in his seat. Mary couple-dances with Sharon.
MARY: Oh my God, I really needed this! Some down time!
BEN: It feels good just to release!
The patio table breaks and Ben falls to the ground. A moment, they look, just music, then Ben jumps up.
BEN: I'm OK!
They all chant and dance. Maybe do a little "He's OK!" chant. Ben dances with everyone. Sharon acts like she is holding a giant cup.
SHARON: Guess what this is?
Everybody says "What!"
SHARON: It's a giant cup of party juice and I'm drinking it down!
Everyone hoots and hollers as Sharon drinks. Mary pretends to be holding something over her head.
MARY: Guess what this is?
Everybody says "What!"
MARY: It's a big bowl of get down and I'm pouring it all over you!
They all hoot, holler and get down as Mary pours the fake juice. Kenny pretends to be holding something over his arm, like a purse.
KENNY: Guess what this is?
Everybody says "What!"
KENNY: It's my hand basket and we're all going to hell in it!
Everybody hoots and hollers "Going to hell! Going to hell!"
Sharon starts dirty dancing with Ben.
Pretty quickly they start to make out. Pretty quickly it is pretty hot.
Mary and Kenny are still dancing and saying "Going to Hell!" Then, Mary sees Sharon and Ben and stops dead in her tracks. She reaches out for Kenny's arm, who is still dancing.
MARY: Kenny, what's happening. What is that?
KENNY: Oh it's nothing, nothing hold on.
Kenny dances over and dances Sharon away from Ben. He dances with Sharon and whispers in her ear. Sharon kind of giggles and says "You 're right, you're right" only to Kenny.
Ben is shell shocked for a minute and then starts dancing again.
Mary is shell shocked for a minute longer and starts dancing again.
Kenny is dancing with Sharon, and when Mary isn't looking, Sharon looks to Ben and mouths the words "Sorry, I'm sorry" to him. Ben smiles at her and kind of shrugs his shoulders and laughs back.
Kenny and Sharon start making out. Ben and Mary get a little uncomfortable and sort of half dance. Kenny grabs Sharon's ass in this major way, like his finger is sliding down the back of her ass crack on top of her pants, over and down between her legs. Sharon kind of rides his leg. Mary freaks a little.
MARY: Okay okay okay okay! I think we are stopping! I think it is time for us to be stopping!
Sharon breaks away from Kenny.
SHARON: No, no, no no stopping! No stopping!
MARY: Weird things are happening!
SHARON: No, no, THINGS are happening. Can't you see?
BEN: It's OK Mary, don't worry.
MARY: I'm going to call the police.
KENNY: No you're not.
MARY: I mean somebody--somebody is going to call the police.
BEN: It's our house. We're on our lawn.
SHARON: This is nothing compared to what's going down on Solar Power Lane right now.
MARY: Yes but they do it quietly.
SHARON (Yelling): AND WE DO IT LOUD! Whoooo!
Kenny turns the music up a bit.
KENNY: Just keep dancing Mary, it gets the endorphins going. We learned this in rehab. It can take the place of drugs. But you have to keep moving.
Mary keeps moving: half-dancing, half-exercising.
SHARON: It's beautiful! You're beautiful, Mary.
Sharon kisses Mary deeply. Mary lets her. The guys watch. Sharon lets go.
MARY: Did that really happen?
SHARON: Of course it did! Things can happen. You can just DO them. You have to just DO them. If you don't, then the world just stays the same.
Music. Music. Mary busts a chair on the cement patio. Music. Music. Is Ben going to be mad?
Another mad round of dancing. On chairs, with each other. Nothing real sexual just mad dancing. At some point Ben breaks another chair.
BEN: I hate these fucking chairs! Who wants a chair that you can break with one hand?
MARY: They were on clearance from Patio Depot.
BEN: Fuck Patio Depot!
They cheer and dance. Sharon starts putting the wood from the chairs into a pile. Kenny downs another beer.
MARY (Chanting): I'm feeling, I'm feeling, I'm feeling, I'm feeling--
Kenny joins her.
KENNY AND MARY: I'm feeling I'm feeling I'm feeling I'm feeling.
KENNY: Take it, Mary!
MARY: I'm feeling electricity, electricity running through my arms and legs--
MARY: It's in my blood, the electricity is in my blood!
SHARON: That's good!
KENNY: I'm feeling, I'm feeling, I'm feeling--
MARY: Yes, Kenny?
KENNY: I'm feeling like my whole body is filled up with some kind of sweet air, strawberry air, and strawberry shortcake air--
KENNY: And it's making me feel like I can do fucking anything!
KENNY: Look at me!
BEN: I'm feeling, I'm feeling--
KENNY AND BEN: I'm feeling, I'm feeling, I'm feeling--
BEN: I'm feeling like telling the truth!
MARY: Tell it! Tell it! Tell it tell it tell it!
Sharon breaks another chair and keeps piling wood.
BEN: Should I?
MARY: Tell it baby tell it!
MARY AND KENNY: Tell it baby tell it!
SHARON: We're here for you! We'll catch you! It's a truth fall, a trust fall!
Does Sharon get Ben to stand on a chair?
BEN: I'm feeling it!
MARY: Say it!
BEN (Still in party chant mode): Alright! I have no website! I said there ain't no website! I have no website, I have no business cards I have no plan, I got nothing! Nothing nothing nothing!
KENNY: Yea-ah, Yeah-ah, Yeah-ah Yeah-ah Yeah-ah!
Kenny is dancing around.
BEN: After seven whole weeks.
I've got nothing! Nothing to show!
Nothing to show show show!
MARY: What did your computer crash or something?
BEN: No. I just. I think I don't want to, Mary.
MARY: You don't want to?
BEN: I mean I've got a domain name. A domain name that I own. On the internet. But I don't think I want to run a financial planning business.
MARY: Well what do you want to do?
KENNY: Ben's got nothing! Ben's got nothing!
Sharon joins in. Mary and Ben stare at each other, bewildered and alive.
KENNY AND SHARON: Ben's got nothing! Ben's got nothing! Ben's got nothing!
SHARON AND KENNY: Ben's got nothing!
Mary kind of runs at Ben, to hit him. Sharon and Kenny catch her.
SHARON: No no no Mary. It's a beautiful thing, Mary! Do you know what just happened? Do you realize what just happened? A beautiful thing has happened! Ben just admitted he's at zero. And guess what, Mary? When you are at zero anything can happen. It's like total possibility.
BEN: Yeah, Mary
SHARON: He's like a tennis player with his knees bent, poised to jump in any direction.
It's a beautiful thing, Mary.
BEN: Yeah, Mary.
MARY: But what are we going to do?
A moment. Then Sharon:
SHARON: We are going to start a fire.
SHARON: Yeah, just like we used to do in Piano.
KENNY: Yeah but that was Texas.
SHARON: Yes, but it's such a beautiful thing.
KENNY: True dat.
SHARON: It's a ritual, a healing ritual for Mary and Ben. Their clearance patio furniture will go up into the air, like a flower petal on the wind. And then you will be at zero, together.
Sharon couple-dances with Mary.
SHARON: We're going to do this, Mary. It's going to happen right here before your eyes. And it is going to open up a space.
MARY: What kind of space?
SHARON: You are living inside a tiny spectrum, Mary. (She shows Mary with her fingers--like pinching her forefinger to her thumb) Like this small. And do you know how big the spectrum really is, Mary?
Do you know?
MARY: I don't know.
SHARON: Light it, Kenny.
Kenny lights a match. Somehow the pile of wood instantly catches fire. A roaring fire. They are all mesmerized.
MARY: A campfire!
BEN: Woah. Isn't that kind of big?
MARY: You're taking me camping!
SHARON: Yes, Mary. Yes.
Kenny maybe dances around the fire a bit.
MARY: I can feel the heat. And the wind. Going into my eyes. I can feel my eyeballs and my inner ear, my inner ears. And I feel a splitting feeling, like maybe in my bones down here, the bones that make up my hips. I feel a splitting feeling, Ben? Ben? Where are you?
Mary goes to Ben.
BEN: The funny thing is, I always wanted to be British, but I never really told anyone.
MARY: My forehead separating from my skull ...
BEN: When I was 10 I would watch "Masterpiece Theatre" and read Agatha Christie. And when I would go to McDonalds I would order iced tea because I thought that is what a British person would do. And there was a whole year, when I was eight, when I ate all my sandwiches with the crusts off. Until one time I got beat up for doing that and so I stopped. I think I've felt British from the moment I first opened my eyes.
Sharon goes to Ben and Mary. At some point, both couples stand together before the fire, maybe even in a kind of group hug. This is a shared experience.
MARY: I think I am feeling another skin just below my real skin. It's been there the whole time.
BEN: I rolled up my pants just above my ankle for a time. "For a time." That sounds kind of British. Falling asleep wondering what a crumpet was.
SHARON: That's so sweet. Mary, are you hearing this?
BEN: And the funny thing, Mary, is there is a website out there called "Brit-Land" and it is designed especially for non-Brits who want to be British. And I have an identity on that website. A British identity. It all plays out in real time.
SHARON AND KENNY: Tell us, tell us ...
BEN: My name is Ian. I'm a prep school teacher. I teach History. I like to bike. I have a cat. I am engaged to be married. I drink a pint of ale each afternoon. Right now I am asleep, because I like to get up early to go for my jog and a cuppa tea before heading to campus. Right now I am asleep in my flat.
The fire is getting pretty big.
BEN: Right now I am asleep in my flat. With my girlfriend, Julia. I spend more time there than I do on my website, Mary. I spend quite a bit of time in Brit-Land.
SHARON: That's amazing!
KENNY: Anybody got marshmallows?
SHARON: So much is happening right now!
MARY: Yes but is the table supposed to be on fire too? Is that really happening?
They look into the kitchen.
KENNY: Uh ...
BEN: Oh shit look at the curtains!
MARY: Somebody call the ... oh shit my phone is inside.
SHARON: This could be good! This could be amazing!
Sharon and Kenny dance.
MARY: Ben, let's go next door. Quick, let's go next door!
Mary helps Ben off the porch.
Sharon and Kenny keep dancing as the lights: blackout.
We hear the sound of fire burning, of the fire getting bigger. We hear neighbors and sirens and the crackling of wood. We hear the shouting of firemen. We hear the "whoosh" of water coming out of the fire hoses.
We hear the fire die down. We hear the neighbors start to disperse. We hear the police arrive and ask questions. We hear the wet wood smoldering. We hear the last cinder popping. We hear the fire trucks drive away. We hear the morning breaking. We hear no more voices. We hear morning sounds, pretty much like any other early morning in the Bright Houses subdivision.
The lights come up on Mary and Ben standing in front of their burned-down house. Sharon and Kenny's house stands next to theirs. Their front door is wide open.
There is a man standing with them. He's dressed casually, like maybe a plaid shirt and blue pants. Perhaps the style of his clothes is just a little out of date.
This is Kenny's great-uncle. The keeper of the house Sharon and Kenny were living in. His name is Frank.
FRANK: I lived around the corner for 29 years. Bought one of the model homes, the houses people would come pick from. There were five of them, and every house in the neighborhood was one of the five. Hard to tell now, because people have redone things, repainted, knocked down, rebuilt. But yes there were five model homes and you just picked the one you liked and they built it for you. You could choose some colors, and you could decide things like if you wanted the closet here or there, but mostly they just built it from the model. It was no big deal that your house looked like a lot of the other houses. It was a new house! You were living in Bright Houses. It was like stealing second base. You were safe.
They were magic times. Kids running ragged everywhere, skinning their knees, catching beetles. Lemonade stands. All the fathers pulling into the driveways at 5:30 sharp in their Belvederes, their Furies. Kids running up into their arms. Our arms. And two Saturdays a month in the summertime were the "Noontime at Night" dances. They'd light up the pavilion with all these colored lights and you'd dance till you had blisters on your blisters. Everybody's shoes tossed off to the side. All outdoors! Nobody had any money. We all doubled up on babysitters. We'd pick up little Walter and Katie from the floor of Ed and Shirley's house at 2 AM, 3 AM sometimes.
I mean not everyone was living this life. It was 1968. But the whole country wasn't hippies. Most of us were just living like this. (He looks at Kenny and Sharon's house) Roger was my niece Donna's son. I never got to know him all that well. Donna never quite settled down--Roger was her son with her first husband, and then she has two girls with the man I think she's still with now. I don't think they married.
I knew Roger best when he was nine years old. We would have them over for Thanksgiving. I took him fishing for perch a couple times--there used to be a pond you know, at the end of Feather Way, where they keep the bulldozers now.
He was a good kid.
I heard about his trouble in high school. At first the arrests sounded like typical boy stuff--graffiti, cheap wine. Even when his son was born, when Roger was 17, it seemed like it was going to be OK. He was working for a construction company. His girlfriend, the mother of his child, cleaned houses. Sometimes those things work. Sometimes a child focuses you towards your life.
BEN: We didn't know he had a son.
FRANK: Well, to be honest I stopped keeping track the last five--10 years. He was my great-nephew, and I wasn't even that close with his mother, my niece Donna. She moved to Nebraska years ago and seemed to want to ... separate herself from us. She's a high school guidance counselor.
But I know Roger's had troubles. Drugs. And I think a spell in jail. Spells in jail. And when Roger came to me with this new girl all dressed up to ask about staying in the house I told him I'd think about it, and give him a call. And I never gave him a call. It was a can of worms I thought best to keep closed.
They got in through a back window I guess. I bet he fixed it right away. Roger always was a handy guy. Got in through the back window and then probably never locked the door.
MARY: They really didn't have much of anything in the house.
FRANK: It's spooky in there. There's just a mattress and a coffee table and some dirty laundry. A few dishes. Sheet rock's all banged up in the bedroom. I think there's blood too.
MARY: He went by Kenny. He told us his name was Kenny.
FRANK: Kenny huh? No, it's Roger. It's always been Roger. Well, I'm going to put padlocks on the front and back doors and the big windows. I'll be back in the next few days to clean the place out. I don't think they'll come back, but if they do I can't let them in. They've done enough already.
BEN: They weren't bad people. They were trying.
FRANK: Mm hmm.
MARY: We enjoyed them.
FRANK: Ma'am, they burnt your house down.
The sounds of Bright Houses: cars, the hum of air compressors, kids in the distance, etc.
FRANK: To be honest it hurts my heart to come back here. Half the houses falling apart, the others so fancified they seem untouchable. (He indicates a large house across the street) I mean how are you going to ask for a cup of sugar from someone who lives in that place? You'd have to buy a new pair of shoes just to walk up their driveway. This is not what the developers intended. They wanted you to have neighbors. They wanted you to be in it together. Do you two have some help?
FRANK: Help. Family, friends? To help you clean up, rebuild?
BEN: Oh yeah, we have insurance. For this sort of thing.
FRANK: Insurance isn't going to bring by a home-cooked casserole.
MARY: Well, we're in a hotel tonight.
BEN: Our parents might come. And I have a brother.
FRANK: Well, I wish you the best. I really do. And, well, here. Frank takes a couple bills out of his wallet. Ben and Mary are like "no ... no."
FRANK: No, really. I would like to give you a little something. I feel like I participated in this somehow. I'd like to help.
Ben takes the money.
FRANK: You know someone should really start an archive about this place, and the things that happened here. I'm going to get my granddaughter to help me go on the internet, and help me find people who lived here over the years. My granddaughter--whoo! She can find anything on the web. She helped me get driving directions from Dublin to Galway in Ireland. Like that! (He snaps his fingers) She could help me I bet. Find people and ask them for photos. It's easy now to get copies made at the machine in the drugstore and they could mail them to me Parcel Post and I could put them all into one big book. Maybe with memories written out next to each one. I think my sister Lois had a picture of herself standing right there planting that tree, come to think of it ... that could kick off the album ... And we could put the book here somewhere ... maybe where the old pavilion was, and folks could come look through it, to see what life used to be like. I'm going to follow up on that idea, with my granddaughter. An archive.
FRANK: Alright then. Well, it's very nice getting to know you. Oh and some lady came by asking about a dog? Roger's dog? She seems very concerned to know that Roger had taken his dog with him.
MARY: I'm sure he did.
FRANK: She insisted that I check. If you see it, let me know. OK then. Nice to know you. Heck, we're practically neighbors, just a decade or two apart. I do hope you'll rebuild.
Ben and Mary smile.
MARY: We're thinking of moving to Britain.
FRANK: Oh. Really?
MARY: Ian's got some family over there. I'd like to have a farm.
FRANK: Oh well Britain's great. Beautiful place. Nice people.
MARY: Not really. I find them a bit snooty.
BEN (In a British accent): A bit snooty, yes.
FRANK: Oh, well, then, I don't really know about that. Well, we'll miss ya. The neighborhood will miss ya that is. So long now.
MARY: So long.
Frank signs off, walks to his car. Mary and Ben are alone in front of their house. Ben pulls some forms out of his back pocket.
MARY: What's that?
BEN: They want a list of things that didn't burn.
MARY: That didn't burn?
BEN: Something about our net worth.
Ben looks at the form. Then he looks at Mary.
BEN: You know my website isn't as bad as I made it sound. I mean I could be moving faster. But I mean everything I worked on is still there. Websites don't burn.
BEN: I'll do whatever you want. We can do whatever.
MARY: Well, we have the car.
Ben and Mary look at the remains of the house.
MARY: I think I dreamt about the people in the next room in the Super 8. I dreamt that they were wizards. Cooking something up for us in a big cauldron.
BEN: Did they reach in and pull out a new house?
MARY: One of them ladled out a cup for me, and right before I took a sip I thought: Oh right. This is my closure dream.
Does Mary take Ben's hand?
MARY: They were loading up their suitcases this morning when I went down to the 7-Eleven for coffee. They drove away in an old station wagon.
BEN: Only two of them. The other two stayed. They were watching "Good Morning America" when I left. I saw them through the window.
MARY: Who knows who they are. They could be anybody, really.
Ben puts his arms around Mary. They look at the remains of their burnt-down house.
END OF PLAY