from Act II

Christmas Eve does not go well for Alan. He calls his son, Skip, and then asks to talk to his wife. When she rebuffs him, he becomes upset. She hangs up on him, he calls again, but the phone doesn't answer. Tempted to drink, he calls his AA mentor, but at last he seems ready to give in to temptation. He looks at the bottle of Peppermint Schnapps, then picks it up.

ALAN: For me?
(He unscrews the cap and sniffs it but is interrupted by a great commotion from below, glass breaking. There is the sound of footsteps on the stairs. He sets the bottle back on the table and goes to the hall door.)
Who's there?

JENNIFER: (Off:) The ghost of Christmas Present.

ALAN: Mrs. Bates?
(JENNIFER appears in the hall, obviously tipsy.)

JENNIFER: You remember that china pitcher at the bottom of the stairs?

ALAN: Yes?

JENNIFER: Good, because that's all it is, now-a memory.
(She comes into the kitchen, sits at the table. He helps her.)

ALAN: What have you done to yourself?

JENNIFER: (A bit indignant:) What do you mean?

ALAN: I mean you're drunk.

JENNIFER: I am? Am I really? I thought I was just slightly whacked out of shape. (She sees the bottle) For me?
(She reaches for it, but he grabs it away from her, screws on the cap and sets it on the counter.)

ALAN: Maybe you'd better give it a rest.
(He sits down with her.)
What happened?

JENNIFER: Is it warm in here?

ALAN: You've got your coat on.
(JENNIFER opens the window.)
Steady.
(He helps her with her coat, shuts the window.)

JENNIFER: Santa Claus tried to pick me up.

ALAN: What?

JENNIFER: I said, Santa Claus tried to put the make on me. At the bar. (She sits at the table.)

ALAN: What were you doing at a bar?

JENNIFER: I went to the hospital first. Gary was having pain. They gave him a sedative. He dozed off. He looked so peaceful. I sat there a long time, watching him sleep. I started to envy him. Then I left. It was still early.

ALAN: Why didn't you come back here? I could have used the company.

JENNIFER: I was afraid.

ALAN: What of?

JENNIFER: I don't know. Of what could happen.

ALAN: What did you think was going to happen?

JENNIFER: I don't know.

ALAN: Nothing you wouldn't want to happen.

JENNIFER: That's what I was afraid of -- So I had the time and there was this bar. You wouldn't believe the people at a bar on Christmas Eve.

ALAN: Yes I would.

JENNIFER: So I started talking to Santa Claus. Very sad. He's got this seasonal job. Tomorrow he joins the ranks of the unemployed. I felt sorry for him. That's my weakness, feeling sorry for people.

ALAN: And he bought you a couple of drinks --

JENNIFER: A couple drinks. And then he started getting fresh -- putting his mittens where they didn't belong --

ALAN: And then, like a good little girl --

JENNIFER: I kneed him in the nuts and came home.

ALAN: You what?

JENNIFER: (Singing:) "Jingle balls, jingle balls -- "

ALAN: Santa Claus?

JENNIFER: It was sad. A bar on Christmas Eve has to be the saddest place.

ALAN: I know.

JENNIFER: (Opens window.) Is it warm in here?

ALAN: Maybe you'd better get to bed.

JENNIFER: Don't start that again.

ALAN: (Closes window.) I mean sleep.

JENNIFER: I'm not sleepy. I'm hungry. I didn't have anything to eat. That's the trouble. Never get drunk on an empty stomach.

ALAN: Why did you want to get drunk?

JENNIFER: Do I need an excuse? (Opens oven and peers in.) I'm hungry. I need an olive.

ALAN: Sit down. I'll get it for you.
(He gets a jar of olives from the refrigerator. She gets one out with her fingers and eats it.)
You want a fork?
(She gives him a nasty look.)
For your olives?

JENNIFER: (Eating another:) Finger food.

ALAN: Don't eat too many. You'll get sick.

JENNIFER: You can't eat too many olives.

ALAN: You can get too much of anything.

JENNIFER: Except T-L-C.

ALAN: Except what?

JENNIFER: Tender loving care. You can't get too much of that. Or olives.
(She tries to fan herself with her skirt.)
Why is it so warm in here?

ALAN: It's the booze.

JENNIFER: It's like a steam bath. Can't we open a window?

ALAN: It's freezing outside. You'd get pneumonia.

JENNIFER: I never get sick.
(She kicks off her shoes.)

ALAN: There's always a first time.

JENNIFER: Not for me. Everyone else in the family gets sick. Not me. There's got to be someone left to play nursemaid. Nurses don't get sick. (Frantically fanning herself with her skirt:) I am being boiled in oil. I'll get the window.
(She starts to the window, staggers into him. He catches her and holds her up)
Want to dance?

ALAN: Why don't we waltz to your room?

JENNIFER: You've got a one-track mind, don't you?

ALAN: I think you could use some sleep. Come on.
(He tries to steer her to the hallway. She tries to make a dance out of it, humming "You Were Meant For Me.")

JENNIFER: You're a good dancer, you know that?

ALAN: I know. Be careful, now.
(He gets her into the hallway.)

JENNIFER: I could never get Gary to dance.
(He gets her to the door, but it is locked.)

ALAN: Where's your key?

JENNIFER: In my purse.
(He props her up against his door.)

ALAN: You stay right here. I'll get it.
(He lets her go. Her knees start to buckle. He holds her up against the door until she's balanced. He goes to the kitchen to get the key.)

JENNIFER: It's hot in here.
(She pulls her dress up over her head, but she can't get it the rest of the way off. ALAN returns.)

ALAN: What are you doing?

JENNIFER: I'm suffocating. Get me out of here.
(He pulls the dress off her head. He drapes the dress on a hall stand and tries to get the door opened while she leans on him)
You're a nice man. You know who you remind me of?

ALAN: Your husband?

JENNIFER: My father.

ALAN: Wonderful. Arthur Godfrey, Franklin McCormick and your father.
(He gets the door open, helps her in and seats her on the edge of the bed.)

JENNIFER: My father didn't want me to get married. He wanted me to be a teacher.

ALAN: (Turning down the covers:) A teacher is a good thing to be.

JENNIFER: That's what my father thought. He thought teachers had all the answers.

ALAN: Don't teachers have all the answers?

JENNIFER: Not the teachers I had. They had nothing but questions. And my father died. And I'm not a teacher. So what's it all about?

ALAN: Who knows?

JENNIFER: That's what I want to know. what's it all about?
(She stands up, hoists her slip and hooks her panty hose down, tries to pull them off while standing up.)
What difference does it make? Being a teacher or being a nurse or being a wife or being a mother. It's all the same isn't it? You're so busy being something, you don't do anything. You don't get anything done.
(She gets the panty hose off except for the toes, jerking at them all the time. Finally they slip free.)

ALAN: You want to do something?

JENNIFER: I want to do something.

ALAN: Get in bed.
(She looks at the bed, lies down, suddenly docile. He starts out.)

JENNIFER: Don't I get a bedtime story?

ALAN: You want a bedtime story?
(She nods, closes her eyes.)
"Once upon a time -- " Let's see -- "Once upon a time, there was a princess. A beautiful princess, much more beautiful than her ugly stepsisters. One day, while she was playing in the garden beside the castle, a frog came along -- " Mrs. Bates?
(He pulls the covers over her, starts out.)

JENNIFER: Go on.

ALAN: "So the frog said, 'Lovely Princess, will you give me a kiss? One little kiss?'"
(He stops, looks at her. She is dozing off. He bends over her and kisses her.)
Don't you want to know how the story ends? Mrs. Bates? Princess?
(She's asleep. ALAN looks at her a long moment. All the tension has gone out of her face now. He shakes his head in wonder.)
Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Black Out, End of Scene


Copyright © 1983 by Ron Robinson. All rights reserved


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