Become a Fan
By Gail Ylitalo
Monday, November 10, 2003
Not rated by the Author.
A WOULD-BE WRITER FINDS TRUE DIRECTION FROM UNEXPECTED SOURCES.
The playing space is a modest one. At center stage is a desk. On the desk are a typewriter, a few books, blank paper, and one manuscript. Positioned by the desk is a large lamp and behind the desk an office chair. In front of the desk, to stage right, is a worn sofa, and across from the sofa, a large chair. The lighting should be adjustable for scene changes and the exit of some of the characters.
TIME: The here and now.
PLACE: Ross Mann’s home office.
Characters (in order of appearance)
The lights come up to find Ross Mann asleep at his desk. The two entities are seated across from each other. Nick, dressed in black, is seated in the large chair. Michael, dressed in white, is seated on the sofa.
Michael. I grow weary of this one.
Nick. You think there’s no hope for him? (He laughs and shakes his head). I thought you were supposed to believe in all humans.
Michael. (Indulgently). You’re too quick to mock my words. Perhaps your dark side grows even darker. Soon you will cloud your own vision. Now, that would be very amusing—to see you stumbling around in the dark. (He glances at Nick and then turns to the audience and winks).
Nick. It wasn’t me who called for this little tête-à-tête. Take a look at the poor sap.
(Points at Mann’s sleeping form, hunched over his typewriter). He still thinks he’ll write the great classic. He’ll never give up and will grow old and useless as he ponders over this dream. Mann will have one helluva pile of rejection slips before he’s called. I wrote him off a long time ago. (He chuckles).
Michael. You play with words very well. How disgusting that you collect only trash. I wouldn’t want the dark sides of men’s souls for company.
Nick. (Defensively). Look, I take what I can get. The big guy isn’t too thrilled with me. Besides, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
Michael. (Ignores him). Ross Mann could have a rewarding life. He was a good teacher.
It’s my frustration that made me call you. He has a gift—the ability to touch minds! But what does he do with this? He spends his time writing plots that are of interest to no one. I’d like to type EGO across his brow.
Nick. My, but we are getting a bit hostile! I thought the good guys had the patience of a saint. Shall we work together so we can put an end to this little drama?
I’m afraid his type would bore me to tears and, believe me, I’ve collected my fair share of would-be writers.
Michael. (Amiably). So we do something for the poor guy? They say a soul is a terrible thing to waste.
Nick. I’d like to handle this my way. You called me, so it’s my game plan.
Michael. I doubt your true motives, shadow maker. I don’t make deals.
Nick. (Jovially). No deals! I simply want to move on to a better take over. If we can end this fool’s attempt at story telling then all of us come out ahead. Agreed, finder of good dreams?
Michael. (Thoughtfully). Perhaps. What do you have in mind?
Nick. We send in a few special critics of our own. Use the shock method.
Michael. The old “ghost comes to visit” bit? The man is a poor writer not a dimwit!
Nick. It could work. We know he’s not the sort to see things—a real space cadaver.
Michael. I think you mean space cadet.
Nick. (Shrugs). Anyway, his wife works the 11-7 shift at the hospital. He’ll be alone all night. Did you get a gander at his last manuscript? We’d be doing all of mankind a favor! I certainly can’t take much more of this. (He sighs). And when his wife comes in, he’ll go over a new story idea! How long can we be tormented by this bull before we fly off to never-never land?
Michael. (Blandly). You think you’re on a roll with this, don’t you? Like, bad boy makes good? Our taste in literature is different, but I do agree with you on this one. We both appreciate good syntax.
Nick. (Laughs). Touché! So, you do want to go along with my “plot?” This guy will come out ahead, and I can move on to something more interesting. I will not place a claim on this one.
Michael. You know whom you’ll send, don’t you?
Nick. (Nods). Yes. I figured we could do a little creating of our own. Drama is of interest to me.
Michael. We might do more damage. He might ignore them.
Nick. Don’t kid yourself! If you were mortal and these famous, very dead people from the past started popping into your office, the last thing you’d do would be to ignore them! Trust me, I know all about fear. As long as he doesn’t have heart failure, we’re in business.
Michael. I checked his records—he’s not due for a long, long time. This could work. If they appear real then maybe, and that’s a big maybe, he would see the error of his ways.
Nick. A refreshing approach—even if I do say so, myself. To be awakened by a ghost. He could sell that to inquiring minds!
Michael. (Chuckles). Please, we want him to bury his typewriter.
Nick. So let’s go about the business of shaping this poor soul.
Michael. As long as this one’s for the books—so to speak. You will not try to tempt him?
Nick. Trust me. My word’s good.
Michael. I think I’ll need more than your word on this one. You have a nasty habit of changing your mind at the last minute. We will both give our powers to the ghostly critics we appoint to do the deed. This way, you can’t interfere, nor can I.
Nick. (Rubbing his chin). I hate to have to watch this little drama play out, but there could be a few laughs. What the hell (He laughs), let’s get on with the show.
Michael. Here are the ones we’ll use. (He waves his hand, and the lights dim).
The lights come up with Ross Mann seated at his desk typing. He balls up a blank piece of paper as Mary enters carrying a cup of coffee. She is dressed in a nurse’s uniform. Ross playfully throws the paper at her.
Ross. (Smiles). I hope that’s for me.
Mary. (Walks over to the desk and hands him the cup of coffee). You seem to be in a good mood tonight.
Ross. I’ve been working on a draft for a really good book. It came to me while I was sleeping at my desk.
Mary. (Wearily). You’ve been telling me the same thing every night for over a year now. Why don’t you go back to teaching? You had such a way with those kids.
Ross. (Frowns, before taking a sip of his coffee). Do you want to hear it or not?
Mary. (Sadly). I’m all ears. (She goes to the chair and slowly sits down).
Ross. (Stretches out his arms, cracks his knuckles, then pulls the paper from the typewriter). Now remember, this is just a rough draft. It’s only the premise for my book. I know I have a lot of polishing to do.
Mary. Just tell me the idea—what it’s going to be about. I can’t listen to you read it right now. I have to leave for work in a few minutes. Someone has to pay the bills around here. (She shakes her head in defeat).
Ross. I’ll make it up to you. One day, you’ll be able to quit. All I’m asking is for time to write—to get a start.
Mary. (Softly). I know, honey—it’s only…(She closes her eyes)…I want to believe in you, I really do, but we have to get on with our lives—use the talents God gave us. You’re living in a dream world, and I don’t know if I can take it anymore.
Ross. (Ignores her). The idea for this came to me out of the blue. (He waves the paper around). This thing falls from the sky not far from a farm. A small boy comes along and finds it. He touches the thing and this wart starts to grow on his hand.
Mary. (In disbelief). You’re not serious.
Ross. Are you going to let me finish? I don’t understand why you can’t give me a little support. Is that asking too much?
Mary. (Annoyed). Where is it written that I have to support you? How do you think I feel? I’m working my butt off while you sit in here dreaming up crap like this! You want to make it big, but what’s wrong with living a good, simple life and doing what you were trained to do?
Ross. (Scowling). I never thought you, of all people, would lose faith in me! You don’t know what that does to me! It hurts me more than the rejection slips that arrive without mercy.
Mary. (Giving in, for now). I’m sorry, Ross. I’m tired, and I’m taking it out on you. Go on—finish telling me about your idea.
Ross. (Relaxing). Let me see…(He rubs his chin while looking at the paper). Yeah, the boy gets warts all over and infects his parents, who pass it along to others. Pretty soon the whole town is infected. The main character—I haven’t thought yet who that will be—gets away and warns the government. The Feds seal off the town and send in planes loaded with Compound W. They spray it over the area for seven days, which takes care of the problem. Well, what do you think? (Excited).
Mary. (A pained look on her face, desperately searching for a suitable reply). Well, I don’t know…
Ross. (Still excited about his idea). What do you mean you don’t know? It’s going to make the bestseller lists. King better watch out when Mann’s book hits the streets! “Warts” is going to make us money! When people hear the word—Warts—they’ll think of Ross Mann!
Mary. (Sourly). I can buy that. Boy, can I buy that!
Ross. (Annoyed). My dear wife, you don’t fool me, but the proof will be in the pudding. You’ll see how wrong you are!
Mary. (Struggling to keep her composure over Ross’s latest ludicrous idea). The only proof that’s going to arrive is another rejection slip. It’s not a story that will catch on. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.
Ross. Wait until you read the manuscript.
Mary. You’ll be hurt, Ross. When will the rejections be enough to convince you? It’s got to hurt you.
Ross. (Drops the paper on the floor and stands). Yeah, it bothers me, but if I don’t believe in myself, I’m nothing.
Mary. I believed in you when you were teaching.
Ross. (He comes around and stands in front of the desk with his hands in his pockets). But you can’t believe in me now?
Mary. Not when you read me junk like that. (Points to the floor).
Ross. (Hoarsely). Can’t you show some enthusiasm? Is that asking too much?
Mary. Why do you need my support? You didn’t need me when you decided to quit teaching.
Ross. But I knew you’d understand. (He goes to Mary, looks down at her, and smiles). Our life hasn’t changed that much. We still love each other.
Mary. (Sadly). You aren’t listening to me, Ross. I’m tired of supporting you. We should be supporting each other. When I married you, I thought we’d have a couple of kids by now with a house we’d be struggling to pay off. Instead, I have a husband who hides out in his office trying to write down his daydreams. Our life is put on hold so you can find yourself! What’s going on with you—an early midlife crisis?
Ross. (Turns away, walks over to the sofa, and lies down with his hands behind his head). Too bad you can’t see it my way. You can’t hurt me—no one can, not anymore. I’ll prove you wrong. I’ll prove everyone wrong! You’ll see. “Warts” is going to take off.
Mary. (Defeated). The only thing that’s going to take off is me. I want you to do some serious thinking tonight while I’m at work. You can keep playing around at being a writer or you can go back to work and use the talents God gave you. I will not put up with it any longer! Do you understand, Ross?
Ross. (Indifferently). Yeah, I hear you loud and clear. (He closes his eyes). I hardly think the passing of eight hours will change my mind.
Mary. (Standing). Then I’ll come home and pack a suitcase. It’s up to you.
Ross. Yeah, yeah. You do this every month—just like a woman. You’ll come home in a better frame of mind.
Mary. (Anger showing). Not this time! What is it with you? Are you afraid the world will forget you when you’re dead? Is that it? Can’t you see that the world has already forgotten about you! You confine yourself to this room and ignore those you could help. You’ve really lost something this time, Ross. You’ve become selfish and confused by this little dream world you’ve created.
Ross. (Sitting up). Go to work. I’ve heard enough. If you want to leave in the morning, then leave. I can’t stop you.
Mary. (Tearfully). Yes, you can. Come back to me, Ross!
Ross. (Dryly). I haven’t left. (Touches himself). Yeah, I’m still here.
Mary. (Walks away, stage right). I can see I’m wasting my time. I’ll see you in the morning.
Ross. (Watches her leave, before speaking). I’ll be here. (Lights dim).
Lights come up to find Ross asleep on the sofa. A “crash” in the night awakens him.
Ross. (Sitting up and rubbing his eyes). What the hell was that? (He hears it again and stands). Who’s out there? (From the darkened area, down left, we hear someone steadily approaching). Now I know I’m tired—I’m hearing things! (A woman dressed in a plain, dark gown enters the lighted area. Ross shakes his head in disbelief and flops down). This is it—the “big one!” I’m having a nervous breakdown! A woman just walked through my wall!
Emily. (Annoyed). Don’t carry on so. I assure you, sir, you are quite all right. (Walks to the chair and slowly takes a seat). I’m not used to this anymore. (She mumbles more words to herself, looking uncomfortable, almost fearful, then gives Ross a weak smile). Sorry about entering through your wall. I lost my way. Anyway (She shrugs), I made it. You should be relieved about that, Mr. Mann. It’s not every day I come to speak to someone.
Ross. (In disbelief). I’m a goner for sure! I’m hearing voices from a woman who comes strolling in here—through a wall! Pull yourself together, man! (He rubs his eyes). There’s no one here!
Emily. (Softly). This is real, Mr. Mann—very real—so please listen to what I have to say. Your world is very difficult for me. I didn’t care too much for it when I was living, and I can see it’s changed very little since I left.
Ross. (Snaps his fingers). I smoked too much grass in college, and now it’s flashback city! One helluva of a dream!
Emily. Daydreams do not linger nor do they drift in from walls. Daydreams touch us briefly then fade into the shadows. I am truly here. Now try to calm yourself. I have come to help you—to give you some advice.
Ross. (Carefully). You’ll give me advice? Nothing personal, but your manner suggests differently.
Emily. (Sighs). So I’m not perfect. Who is? Maybe that’s why I feel I can help you to see where your future really lies.
Ross. (Smiles). Okay, although I’m sure you can do no better than my loving wife. She’s not perfect either.
Emily. (Annoyed). I might be dead, Mr. Mann, but I’m not stupid. I can smell trash as well as the next mortal.
Ross. (Hurt). I take it, you’re calling my work trash?
Emily. (Uncomfortable with her mistake). I shouldn’t be so harsh. Please excuse my rude behavior.
Ross. Since this is my dream, I suppose I should expect total honesty from the ghost that has drifted in. So what are my “gifts” to this world?
Emily. More than most—you can reach young minds, Mr. Mann, and, regardless of what you pretend, you do care. Don’t you think it’s time to go back and face what you’re running from? You had no idea that that student had made up his mind to call it quits. Your correcting him that day in class did not cause his death.
Ross. (Frowns and shifts his position on the sofa). It figures—my subconscious decides I haven’t suffered enough so my own mind gives me the business! It’s all easy to explain. I’m unsure of myself, so therefore I punish myself. Now I’ll sit here and waste the whole night away debating with myself.
Emily. (Claps her hands). Mr. Mann (She laughs), you should be an actor. You hide your emotions well. (Suddenly serious). I know all about your inner pain—your feeling left out, different. I, too, sheltered myself and took pride in my writings, but I could never feel good about me. We share a lot of the same feelings, but our inner voices are different. You would do well to listen to yours.
Ross. Yeah, and my inner voice stands before me, looking like a certain poet I studied in high school. Go figure—I never even cared for poetry.
Emily. (Smugly). And it shows in your work.
Ross. (Firmly). Don’t push it, ghost lady! I know how to write. I was a damned good English teacher!
Emily. You know the mechanics but not the “soul” of your words. What you put on paper has no spirit.
Ross. (Interrupts, smiling). You should know about the spirit.
Emily. (Ignores this). You, Mr. Mann, are a teacher. It’s people like you who produce the writers of the future. Your place is as important as the writer’s. Without people like you, there would be no one to touch the hearts and minds of readers.
Ross. (Runs his fingers through his hair). I’m doing what I think is right. What’s so wrong with wanting to be alone? I’m working on becoming a great writer. It will take time, but at least I’m not hurting anyone!
Emily. (Shakes her head). You’ve hurt no one; that’s not your way. But part of growing is understanding. There are some who don’t want your help and have decided for themselves about life. You didn’t make your brother drink that last beer, the “one for the road.” He was old enough to know not to drink and drive. You didn’t cause your father to have a heart attack. His time had come. Living in this room by yourself changes nothing.
Ross. (Her words hitting home). I found that life isn’t fair, and I don’t need people to prove to me how unjust it is. So I get rejects from a few editors? (Shrugs). I can live with that. They’re probably frustrated writers themselves.
Emily. Mr. Mann, you haven’t cornered the market on pain and suffering. There are few people living who haven’t felt the sting of life.
Ross. (Laughs bitterly). I didn’t say otherwise. At least I don’t run from criticism. My work isn’t locked away from the world. I take my lumps like the rest of them. I believe my day will come. You can come floating in here trying to kill that part of me, but I’m not buying!
Emily. (Sighs). You didn’t hear a word of what your wife said, did you? The one person you can count on—who loves you—and you lock her out of your heart. She lives your pain! She wants to share her life with you, but you isolate yourself from honest feelings.
Ross. (Indifferently). I didn’t know ghosts could listen in on the living. Don’t you spirits have any ethics in the great beyond? Why can’t you stay on the other side where you belong? Normal people wouldn’t sit here maintaining a conversation with the likes of you. They would’ve run out of the room screaming or passed out from fright. (Smiles). I guess this proves Mary right—I’ve only got one oar in the water!
Emily. (Becoming frustrated). You can try to joke your way out of this, Mr. Mann, but it’s not that easy. You’re forced to face facts. I doubt you could even dream this up. You’ve narrowed your mind’s eye. You can say I’m dust, but when was the last time you carried on a conversation like this with another person? You hunger for the knowledge of others and hate yourself because of that.
Ross. Spare me your attempts at psychodrama. I’m trying to be considerate, but it’s getting harder by the minute. (Stands up). I’m a grown man so I don’t have to do a damned thing I don’t want to do. Regardless of what the floating poet says.
Emily. Was your life really that difficult? Think about it. Nothing should be so dreadful that one has to hide himself away and pretend to be doing something important.
Ross. (Clenches fists). Look, specter, you’re crossing that fine line. What business is it of yours how I decide to spend my life? Did a spirit come to you, when you were living, and tell you to get off your butt—get married, have a couple of kids, be a productive woman?
Emily. (Gently). Please relax, Mr. Mann. I’m sorry to upset you, but the rules are not of my making. Many have formed a committee to try and help you.
Ross. (Remains standing). It must be one helluva of a committee if they want to help me! (Starts pacing). I can’t believe I’m doing this to myself! (Stops and points a finger at Emily). I’m trying to make sense out of a figment of my very disturbed imagination!
Emily. (Crisply). I think you know that I’m really here—for the moment, a part of your reality. You see, I do have a fondness for those that write—be it good or bad. A part of you is searching, and I’m here to help you along—to send you where you’re most needed.
Ross. (Glumly sits back down on the sofa). To get rid of you, all I have to do is promise to change the error of my ways? (Emily nods). Okay, I’ll change, now please turn back into vapors and drift out through the cracks!
Emily. I can see that I’m wasting my time. I know your true motives so it’s useless to try and fool me.
Ross. (Claps his hands). You catch on real quick! I know (Snaps his fingers), why don’t we work together? You’ve had lots of time to think up some really good stuff, and I’m not averse to writing a little poetry—just to get me started.
Emily. (Smiles). They were so right about you, Ross Mann! You can act like such an ignoramus!
Ross. (Teasing). I’ve known many an ignoramus who’s gotten published. That’s commonplace in today’s world. Ah, but you wouldn’t know that, would you? You’ve probably done in your ghostly life what you did in this life—locked yourself away from the rest of the population.
Emily. I see no need for you to insult me. Please remember, you’re talking to a lady.
Ross. (Bitterly). Yeah, and a very dead one at that. I doubt if Miss Manners would care if I’m rude to a ghost. Besides, I’m not walking around in my own little world with verses locked away in my mind.
Emily. You’ve made your points. Yes, I lived a lonely life, but I don’t admit that it was either right or wrong. The rightness or wrongness of one’s life is decided by each person. In your case, I was hoping to speed the process along. I did write about my impressions of my limited world. You would do well to remember this—he who seeks greatness never finds it.
Ross. I’m not seeking greatness. I want to make my own life and not merely go through the motions of today’s society—where I live only to suit those around me.
Emily. There’s nothing wrong with living, so long as you enjoy it. You have to face the fact that it’s only a waiting game.
Ross. (Seriously). Waiting game?
Emily. (Nods). Yes. We wait out our time, doing what we feel is best, then we move on to a better place. You could say this life is only a way station. There’s nothing that’s going to change the grand design, so you might as well take one day at a time and find something special in each hour.
Ross. (Covers his face with his hands). I doubt if I’ll ever find my way. If what you say is true , then why bother? None of this means anything.
Emily. (Gets up, crosses over to him and pats him on the head). I think that you are starting to see. The others will be able to help you more. You will learn to roll with the punches. There’s really no great mystery to all of this. People darken their own lives. Ego can blind one to the truth.
Ross. (Looking up). The poet makes it simple. (He jumps to his feet and goes to his desk, rummages around for a few seconds, then holds up a notebook). In here, are my true thoughts—my real work—the true man! This contains my thoughts about the real world—the dear old rat race—which I’m losing. I started this the night after my brother’s funeral. It wasn’t too long after that when I made note of my father’s death. This is what it’s all about! The masses continue to thrive. Nothing changed because they died. It was as if they’d never even been here—never loved, never felt pain, never enjoyed a Christmas! Don’t tell me what’s right. It’s all in here! (He throws the notebook on the floor in disgust).
Emily. (Returns to the chair). So you want to take the easy way out. By treating your wife so indifferently, she’ll not be that unhappy when you go.
Ross. (Surprise showing, sits down at his desk). How could you? Is that what this is all about—my ghostly visitor coming to give me hope? You want me to give up writing, but has it ever entered your mind that I need this? Sure, I’ve thought about suicide. Although I’d probably fail at that like I have at everything else.
Emily. (Sadly). It’s not hope you need but understanding. We all fail at something. Take a minute and look at what you’ve accomplished.
Ross. I’ve seen enough; I’ve heard enough. I don’t need a woman to tell me what’s right or wrong. If you don’t mind, I’d like to do some work.
Emily. (Sighs). Yes, I can see no reason to prolong this. The others will have their say.
Ross. (Puzzled). What others? (The lights start to dim).
Emily. (Laughs). You’ll find out soon enough. (Lights fade out).
Ross. (In darkness). What the hell?!
Same scene, about an hour later. As the lights go up, Ross is slumped over his
desk. A man enters from stage right, chewing on an unlit cigar and wearing an out-of-
date tux. He goes over to Ross and gently shakes him, then takes the cigar out of his
Sinclair. (Gleefully). Wake up, Mann! We have words to exchange! (He steps back, hands on his hips).
Ross. (Looks up and moans). Not again! What is this—“Tales From The Darkside?” This is getting old, fast.
Sinclair. Good, you’re awake. (He marches over to the sofa and motions for Ross to follow. Ross remains seated at his desk, so he shrugs his shoulders and sits down). Ah, just what my newfound bones needed. It’s so easy to forget about creature comforts.
Ross. I wouldn’t know.
Sinclair. Mann, you’ve got to learn to relax—ease up. Take it from one who knows—time wasted only makes for regrets.
Ross. (Cynically). So it’s okay for you to take up my time? Gee, I have such nice, heavenly friends!
Sinclair. Then you admit to yourself that we are here? A part of your “here and now” life?
Ross. (Rubs his eyes). I don’t think it really matters what I think. A part of me is thinking that I’m crazy, but another part says to “go with the flow.”
Sinclair. (Nods). Not bad wisdom—coming from you. This might not take too long.
Ross. I’m all for that! You tell me what to say to convince you to depart, and I’ll echo the words.
Sinclair. You give yourself too much credit, Mann. We are not fools.
Ross. (Dryly). You could’ve fooled me!
Sinclair. (Laughs). I can tell that you’re going to bare your soul to me. You are so empathetic!
Ross. I don’t have to say anything. You’re supposed to know all about me. After all (He smiles), your vision comes from the other side.
Sinclair. It doesn’t matter if I know all about you or not. It’s up to you to tell me. I’m a very good listener. (He crosses his legs).
Ross. (Thoughtfully). You remind me of someone.
Sinclair. You may call me Sinclair, and that should be enough. Remember, you’re the one in trouble.
Ross. Depends on how you look at it.
Sinclair. For instance?
Ross. Well, you apparitions come drifting in here and tell me how bad things are, when I think I’m doing okay. I’m working on a damned good book. The rejection slips aren’t a bother, and everyone leaves me alone.
Sinclair. Sounds like you want it to be that way. Honestly, you don’t expect me to agree, do you?
Ross. (Defiantly). Look, I’m the one conjuring you up. It’s my damned nightmare! Show a little respect!
Sinclair. (Looking around). Not much of a setting for conjuring anything up. Besides, you lack the imagination to dream me up.
Ross. (Smiles). You’re here; therefore I created you. You know me because you’re a part of me.
Sinclair. (Annoyed). Don’t be disgusting! I was a writer in my earthly form so I’m here to tell you, without further ado, that you are not! Do us all a favor and go back to your former position in life. (Arms folded across his chest, he shifts around, trying to get comfortable).
Ross. Okay, let’s cut the bull and really get down to the truth!
Sinclair. (Gazing at Ross). Ah, the truth. Now that’s the common complaint of today’s society—truth. Everyone hunts for it, but few will admit to it. You can’t make it in this world if you’re for real. You’re a member of the computer age—only a number. There is no true freedom. (Dreamily bites on the cigar end for a moment). Yes, it’s a sad time indeed when everyone wants to be the modern man.
Ross. (Rises from his chair in anger). Sounds like you’re here to knock life. That should be easy for you because you’re no longer a part of it. By the way, green doesn’t go well with your general complexion. You must come from the jaundiced area of my mind.
Sinclair. (Sighs). Son, you’re too quick to reason me, and my motives, away. Come over here and sit down. I can’t carry on a conversation with you standing there like Ichabod Crane.
Ross. (Walks over to the large chair and sits opposite Sinclair). Is this better?
Sinclair. Yes, now it can be more man-to-man.
Ross. Wrong. It’s man-to-spirit. I wonder if you’re the bottled kind—and you know what kind of bottle I’m talking about.
Sinclair. (Smiles). No, I’m more the spirited kind—I really get into my work.
Ross. How about taking a look at my manuscript while you’re here? You could give me some helpful hints.
Sinclair. I don’t need to read it. You’ve made the rounds where I come from.
Ross. Oh, then my hopes for heaven are destroyed—they have editors there.
Sinclair. Are you ever honest with yourself? You know the point I was trying to make! Why must you make me insult you?
Ross. Do you need a reason?
Sinclair. (Sadly). Sometimes it’s very hard to hear the truth about oneself. There are lots of writers who pay their dues and still never make it. If you don’t stop pretending to yourself that you’re a writer, you’ll end up in the slush heap of wasted lives.
Ross. (Shakes his head). You’re just like the poet who came before you. Why do you do this? Why am I so special? What makes me worth saving?
Sinclair. You have the power to help others. It’s not only you who loses but those you might have touched! It’s not that difficult to understand, Mann. All souls are important.
Ross. (Avoiding his eyes). I can’t give it up! I need to believe in this. Don’t you see—while I’m writing, I’m in control; I create—it’s my world!
Sinclair. Your selfish world, you mean.
Ross. Who asked you? I know what I want to do and, for the first time in my life, Ross Mann is looking out for number one! (Anger in his voice). Why don’t you crawl back into “It’s A Wonderful Life” and leave me the hell alone!
Sinclair. (Soothing). You are special. Emily told the truth. Can’t you find those good points and know yourself completely?
Ross. (Slowly). I’ve been trying to tell you that I do know myself, and I see what I need to do for me! It’s my life!
Sinclair. Did I state otherwise?
Ross. (Wearily). You’re here, isn’t that statement enough?
Sinclair. “Warts” is statement enough.
Ross. (Confused). What do you know about my manuscript? “Warts” is a good story.
Sinclair. (Dryly). You know better than that.
Ross. (Hurt, he gets up, walks over to his desk, opens a drawer, and takes out a bottle. Then he walks back to the chair and sits down). I think I need this. (He opens the bottle and takes a drink). Ah, my cup of courage!
Sinclair. (Gestures at the bottle). How long have you needed that?
Ross. (Feigns ignorance). What?
Sinclair. How long have you been using drink as your companion?
Ross. (Smiles). Since life showed me all her wonderful secrets!
Sinclair. (Flatly). That’s no excuse, and you know it. Others have suffered more without diving into the bottle.
Ross. So? You’re a fine one to talk. Frankly, I don’t like life, and I don’t like you! It’s all so damned unfair!
Sinclair. (Ignoring the insult). You’re not saying anything new. Men have always questioned.
Ross. Then I’m no different.
Sinclair. (Gestures again at the bottle). That will not bring them back nor will it help you to understand.
Ross. I like the fog that drinking puts me in.
Sinclair. That’s a stupid reason.
Ross. Pardon me. (Holds out the bottle with a smirk on his face). Does my uninvited desk want a drink?
Sinclair. (Again ignoring the insult). Can we talk—honestly? (Doesn’t wait for a reply). So you’ve decided that the “rat race” can go to hell. Well, that’s okay by me. The world can get along just fine without you. There’s be no problems if Ross Mann cut himself off from society—cut himself off from the thriving masses and wished to end his days in a damp hole. If the drinking made you happy, I’d leave right now, but that isn’t the case. You’re empty inside, and you don’t like the fear that has a hold on your every thought. You keep asking yourself—why does life have to be this way? Why is it so unrelenting? Where’s the joy?
Ross. (A little shaken, he interrupts). And you have the answers? (Points at Sinclair). You can pull me out of my blue funk—give me direction?
Sinclair. (Pleasantly). You’re not talking to a shy poet now, Ross Mann. I’m not bothered by your defensive remarks. Are you interested in what I have to say, or not?
Ross. You’re not the sympathetic type, are you?
Sinclair. (Laughs). Sympathy is for old ladies and drunken teenagers.
Ross. (Confused). I don’t feel very well—like I’m on a roller coaster—I want to get off, but I can’t.
Sinclair. (Stands and paces back and forth, hands behind his back, holding his cigar). Do you mind if I walk around? (He glances at Ross). I think better on my feet.
Ross. (Nods). If that works for you…
Sinclair. (Still pacing). What we have here is not too difficult to figure out. You were hit hard by life’s reality in a short period of time. You lost your brother first, then your father. You loved them but never really told them that you cared—that they were special to you. You never got to say thanks. (Stops pacing for a moment and looks at Ross, who looks away). Men aren’t supposed to do that—one of the rules of modern society. The hurt is there, festering inside of you, and you try to go on—to find something “normal” to hold on to. So you desperately hang on to your job as a teacher, and then it happens—death shows itself in your classroom—the one place you thought was safe! A student’s in trouble, you fail to see this, and the kid becomes another suicide statistic—another number in a pool of many. Failure burns itself into your thoughts. You berate yourself—a good teacher would’ve seen the signs! You try to find comfort in your writing—decide to hide inside a writer’s world to lose the pain. You explain to your wife that you are a writer and need the isolation to create. You can’t tell her the truth—won’t dare admit that you’re hurting inside. At first, the words come easily to you as you sit at your desk. The stories take shape and, at last, you can prove this hostile society wrong…
Ross. (Interrupting loudly, in anger). I did work! I was productive—I am a writer!
Sinclair. (Ignoring this). Only, Mr. Mann, you found that society controlled the success of the words—that you do need people. Rejections arrived to confirm that you truly are a failure as a writer. So the bottle comes out, and your typewriter grows dusty—like your private world. (He goes back to the sofa and sits). But what really rattles your cage is that nothing has changed since you left your job—all remains as it was.
Ross. (Hands shaking, takes another drink). I’m not going to get upset over your words. (Wipes his mouth with the back of his hand). It’s like you said—everyone in life suffers, and I’m no different than anyone else. They all feel as empty as I do. That’s why people are in such a state—they know there’s nothing out there!
Sinclair. Do you really believe that?
Ross. Yes, that’s the way it is for all of us.
Sinclair. All of humanity is special. People remain different, and to each, there is a special dream—a special idea to follow. The poet said as much and, I might add, she lived out her purpose.
Ross. (Thoughtfully). Maybe so, but you (Points a finger at Sinclair) saw the naked truth—the ugliness in all of us!
Sinclair. I saw that part of society created by man’s dark side but not the whole of life. You see (He smiles), there is more.
Ross. No, this is it! (Waving his hands around). Haven’t you ever noticed that the people who are truly happy never stop to think—never question?
Sinclair. If it serves them, they can cope; then it is as it should be. Society is as imperfect as those put in charge of it. But I think the Ross Mann’s of this world have their place, too. You’re hurting, but from hurt comes spiritual evolution.
Ross. (Trying to be indifferent). You flatter me.
Sinclair. I want to reach you—to see an empty soul filled.
Ross. (Puzzled). So you do want to help me? You tend to ignore the facts, sir. Number one—I do know myself, can understand my motives. I know what I want, and I’m in touch with my feelings. Number two—none of this means a damned thing. You can’t convince me otherwise. We’re all part of a dream (Smiles)—a dream within a dream. You see, I do remember the words of others writers—writers who, like me, were lost along the way.
Sinclair. (Annoyed). Is that what you need—your life defined? Put in terms that will give your being meaning? I can tell you this, Mann, you’ll never find your true meaning as long as you limit yourself. Through others you can find growth.
Ross. (Sighs). Maybe it’s all just word games. The lasting cosmic joke—we talk ourselves into oblivion! There’s no ending because there never was a beginning.
Sinclair. (Laughs). What am I? Chopped liver?
Ross. (Seriously). You’re a part of my dream—one that gives me a pain.
Sinclair. (Not amused). I could easily say the same about you. Perhaps we should discuss “Warts” and your “great talent” as a writer!
Ross. (Holds up hands). There’s no need—I know all about my work. I’ve known all along; your visit changes nothing. Don’t you see, I need to define myself as a writer—it explains my wasted days.
Sinclair. Then you want to remain as you are—incomplete?
Ross. (Sadly). Going back to what was before would destroy what’s left of me. You were right about one thing—I am a failure, and there’s no changing that. I will pass away my days here in this room; it’s less damaging.
Sinclair. (Shaking his head). You want to remain in a world of lost ideals—a world that you made?
Ross. As surprising as you might find this, I like being an island. I will live and die without causing so much as a ripple in this pool of humanity.
Into the scene, without pause. Ross and Sinclair hear someone approaching. Puzzled, they
look at each other. A new character appears—a thin man with a moustache, dressed as
the quintessential Southern gentleman. As Edgar enters stage right, the lights dim briefly.
Ross. (Looking at Sinclair). Sending for reinforcements?
Sinclair. (Puzzled expression). I had nothing to do with this; I still had time left. (Edgar enters and Sinclair smiles). I might have known it would be you! You can’t stand to be left out of anything!
Edgar. (Goes over to Mann’s desk and looks around). Where is it?
Sinclair. What are you looking for?
Edgar. You know damned well what I’m searching for!
Sinclair. (Nods at Ross.) He wants that bottle of yours.
Ross. (Stands and holds out the bottle). Here—help yourself.
Edgar. (Winks). I knew you were my kind of guy. (He walks over to Ross and takes the bottle. Carefully he opens it, inhales deeply, places the top back on, and hands it back to Ross). It’s been a long time since I smelled a good drink! I really needed that; thanks, young man.
Ross. (Confused). But you didn’t drink any.
Sinclair. (Laughs). He’s not solid; remember? We do have certain limitations.
Edgar. (Steps back and takes a bow). Gentlemen, I have arrived!
Ross. (Dryly). Let me guess—Ashley from “Gone With The Wind.”
Sinclair. I’d say he “went with the wind” a long time ago.
Edgar. I rather fancied myself the Clark Gable type.
Sinclair. You’d better hope he never hears you utter that. (Looks at Ross). Ross, meet Edgar. (Looks at Edgar). Edgar, meet Ross Mann.
Ross. (Sits back down, helplessly). Another crazy vision from my mind.
Edgar. (Seriously). I doubt that. You’re still trying to make us out as a part of your nightmare. I’ve written better nightmares than you’ll ever have!
Sinclair. (Firmly to Edgar). Don’t be rude, Edgar. I think he’s adjusting rather well—all things considered.
Edgar. He hasn’t tossed that manuscript in the trash?
Edgar. Then he’s not adjusting at all.
Ross. (Interrupts). What is this! Don’t I have a say in what concerns me!
Sinclair. (To Ross). We’re gathered here together because of you. We want you to understand why writing is not for you. As a writer, you will fail to meet your goals in this life.
Edgar. (Gleefully). Who’s fooling whom? This man is too self-centered to make any changes. He keeps telling himself that this is some kind of psychodrama put on by that clouded part of his mind!
Sinclair. (Carefully). You should watch yourself, Edgar. You weren’t due here for another hour or so—you’re on my time. We were not supposed to see each other.
Edgar. (Looks at Ross). He means that we had a rather heated debate the last time our paths crossed. But we were forced to stop, and I was holding my own with this—this defender of the cranial man!
Ross. (Glancing from one to the other). The way you two are acting now you’d think I was the one who wrote “Plan 9 From Outer Space!”
Edgar. (Smiles). You wrote “Warts”, didn’t you? “Plan 9..” is better. After all this time, that’s the best you can do?
Ross. (Deeply offended). How would you know?
Edgar. I know. My being here should prove that.
Ross. If I hear one more word about my book, I’m going to throw both of you out of here!
Sinclair. This isn’t solving anything, gentlemen.
Edgar. Oh, but I think it is. Truth is truth.
Ross. Yeah sure, and you’d know, wouldn’t you?
Edgar. What is that supposed to mean?
Ross. (Smugly). Give me a break! You lived in a bottle while writing about the horrors you saw!
Edgar. Yes, and my work is still known today. You see, I was a writer. You, Ross Mann, are not.
Sinclair. (Bored). I think we should end this.
Edgar. (Holds up his hands). Not so fast! I haven’t had time to say what needs to be said.
Ross. If what you have to say is by your standards then you might as well forget it. Nothing you have to say would interest me in the least.
Edgar. (Hurt). And why not?!
Ross. Because you didn’t have much control over your own life. I don’t think you should or even could tell me how to live mine.
Edgar. (Walks over to the desk, thoughtfully touches the typewriter, then walks over to the chair and sits). You’ve made a nice work area for yourself. It must look good to those that drop in. Yes, you’re smart; this explains why you stay home day after day while your wife works. By the way, this chair is very comfortable.
Sinclair. (To Ross). Edgar could write anywhere he had paper and pen.
Ross. I work well at my desk.
Edgar. (Laughs). If you want to call it work! I would venture to say that you dream well at this desk. It’s too bad your dreams seldom make it to paper.
Ross. I dreamed you up, didn’t I! Not bad for a guy like me.
Sinclair. (To Edgar). I’ve been through all of this with him. He refuses to open his eyes, and we can’t force him to see.
Edgar. (Leans back, hands behind his head, looking relaxed). As long as he hears what we have to say, we’ve played out our parts. If Mann still refuses to change, then so be it. If he wants to waste away his life, that’s his problem. Agreed, Sinclair?
Sinclair. Fine by me. You talk; we’ll listen.
Ross. (Puzzled). Why are you calling my life a waste?
Edgar. Because, this is it. All you will ever be, or could be, is tied to this room.
Ross. You’re honestly saying I’ll never make it as a writer—is that what you’re telling me?
Edgar. (Nods). That’s correct. I see no profits for you, no rewards, just a lonely life.
Sinclair. Against the rules, Edgar.
Edgar. (Drops arms down and sits up). To hell with the rules. You and Emily tried to reason with Mann, and you got nowhere. I say it’s time for cold, hard facts. Honesty will work. Ross Mann (Looks at him), you have about as much chance of making it as a writer as a snowball has in Hell!
Ross. (Unable to disguise his pain). I hardly think a good for nothing drunk understands what today’s readers want. Did it ever cross your mind that by telling me this, you just took away my reason for living?!
Edgar. (Disgusted). Here we go again! That’s such a tired threat. If you were going to blow out your brains, you would’ve done it a long time ago. If you want pity, you were born in the wrong era!
Sinclair. Enough said. (Speaks to Edgar). If you have more to say then do so. (Speaks to Ross). Try and listen before reacting.
Ross. (Trying to sound indifferent). By all means, get on with it!
Edgar. Yes, I do have some additional observations on this fellow. (Nods at Ross). Your problem with writing is that you don’t know what to write. You have nothing new to say. A writer really doesn’t choose to write—writing chooses him. Writers are driven by some inner demon to spend hours upon hours with pen in hand, staring at the wall. Some of the best writers over time have never succeeded in getting their work before the general public—have never even received a pat on the back. But, you see, that’s not why one writes. You, Ross Mann, are trying to write for all the wrong reasons. Writing doesn’t control you like it should! You’re only trying to hide from the world by calling yourself a writer.
Ross. (Jumps up, desperately). I am a writer, and I’m getting pretty damned sick of being told that I’m not!
Edgar. (Calmly). I state the truth, nothing more, nothing less.
Ross. You wouldn’t know the truth if it came up and bit you on the…
Sinclair. (Interrupts). Sit down, Mr. Mann, and let Edgar finish. (Ross does as he’s told).
Edgar. (Smiling). Thank you, Sinclair. Now where was I! (He scratches his head a moment). Yes, now I remember. What I want you to do, Mr. Mann, is to stop and actually give some serious thought to your life. Once you tell yourself you’re not a failure and truly believe that, you’ll free yourself to get on with living. I know life today is different than in my time, but writing will always remain the same. It’s a mortal’s way of relating impressions of the world to others—to give something of himself.
Ross. (Thoughtfully). Why isn’t what I’ve seen, experienced, and suffered through important enough to share?
Edgar. It is, but to a different degree. Not everyone can capture the spirit of life on paper. You develop other ways to add to your life. Each living being is special because they are unique unto themselves. You need not be a writer in order to relate to others.
Sinclair. (Claps his hands. Edgar nods). My, but you are getting better with your verbal skills.
Ross. (Confused). So this little drama is being played out to show me that I do have a purpose, and writing is not it?
Edgar. Not entirely. We want you to feel again, Mr. Mann.
Edgar. Admit you loved your father and brother. You haven’t cried over their loss.
Ross. (Feeling threatened). Okay, that’s it! I want this over, and I want you both out of here, now!
Sinclair. (Stands). As you wish. Edgar?
Edgar. (Gets up and crosses over to Sinclair). I think I hit a nerve.
Sinclair. I know you hit a nerve.
Ross. (Standing and pointing towards stage right). Get out!
Edgar. Keep your shirt on, Mann. We’re going. (Looks at Sinclair). Ready? (Sinclair nods, snaps his fingers, and the lights fade out).
Lights come up to find Ross dozing where he’s most comfortable—on the sofa. Michael and Nick are standing over him.
Michael. This guy seems to do nothing but sleep. Nothing seems to bother him. I doubt if he’s learned a thing tonight.
Nick. (Smiles). It’s now time for the second half of our grand production.
Michael. Come again?
Nick. Now we bring in his father and brother.
Michael. If you had this planned all along then why did you use the others?
Nick. (Shrugs). That was all preamble, glowing one.
Michael. Watch that smart mouth of yours or I’ll…
Nick. (Laughs). Too late!
Michael. It doesn’t mater. We can’t bring his father and brother back. They would never consent to come. Once a mortal is no longer mortal the past is dead—so to speak.
Nick. We will be playing the roles. It will be like one of those psychodramas, only this guy will actually believe he’s seeing his late father and brother.
Michael. It will never work. You’ll do something to blow it—that’s the way your character works.
Nick. (Slaps him playfully on the back). Trust me. He’ll react to us as though we are their spirits. He played it out with the others, didn’t he?
Michael. (Thoughtfully). Yes, we could do it—but why?
Nick. Because if he doesn’t get a second chance at seeing his father and brother—as they really were—he’ll never be free of their ghosts.
Michael. Perhaps he doesn’t want to see.
Nick. (Smirks). Most don’t want to know themselves—if the truth be known. They live their simple, little lives and concern themselves with nothing more important than knowing who’s on the cover of “Time!”
Michael. (Dryly). I like it when you’re so generous. (He crosses over to the desk and leans against it).
Nick. I know there’s not much hope for this one. He’s too depressed, but if I get one more soul like him…
Michael. (Raises up his hands). Okay, okay. Ross Mann is not that different from those around him. Life is full of suffering people. (Sadly). I wonder how people would behave if there were no suffering—life wasn’t such a struggle?
Nick. (Smiles). Much too late for that. (Thoughtfully). I don’t see this world changing for a long time to come. This is it. It’s not going to get any better.
Michael. Then why even try to help this guy? You’ll get him soon enough. I’ve never known you to be so discriminating.
Nick. (Smirks). Perhaps I’ve decided to break with tradition—show a little mercy.
Michael. (Eyes wide in disbelief). Yeah, sure.
Nick. (Crosses over to the chair and flops down). Guess I’ll never be called a “nice guy.”
Michael. Not by me. You’re speaking to one who earned his wings.
Nick. (Smiles). Can’t say I didn’t try to put the kibosh on that but, in the long run, it was for the best.
Michael. Keep this up and you’ll be replaced.
Nick. Me? Never! I have the black soul and control desires!
Michael. (Shaking his head). You always did have a flair for the dramatic. Let’s knock it off and get this deed done.
Nick. (Stands). You, Michael, will be Ross Mann’s brother, Eddie, and I will be his father. In his eyes, we will be them.
Michael. (Doubtful). I hope I say the right things—respond as they would have.
Nick. Simply follow his leads. You’ll figure it out as he speaks.
Michael. Do you think he’ll work it all out? There’s so much left for him to do.
Nick. (Firmly). He will seek out others and grow. There are many who will never see HIS light, but Ross Mann is not among them.
Michael. (Puzzled). How can we save Mann from himself?
Nick. (Annoyed). You’re starting to get on my nerves. You’re supposed to be the guiding light, not me!
Michael. (Understanding). You’re right—I forgot myself. He’s not another heart to bleed into the sighing earth.
Nick. (Claps his hands). Emily would be proud!
Michael. (Slowly crosses over to Nick). She, like me, does not believe in pride.
Nick. (Disgusted). That’s my beat; remember? Besides, it’s needed. Without pride there would be no thrills. Not having pride is a weakness, pale one.
Michael. Or a blessing.
Nick. Now I’m getting really annoyed! (Pauses a moment). Okay, let’s go and do a little acting.
Michael. (Uneasily). I sure do hate to wing it. If only I had a little more insight.
Nick. (Slaps him playfully on the back). Ross Mann will tell you all you need to know.
Michael. How can he do that?
Nick. He’ll be reacting to us through his guilt.
Michael. (Nods). Yes—I see what you mean.
Nick. Good. Let’s fade out before awakening him.
Lights fade for a minute then come back up to find Ross slumped in the chair holding
an empty bottle. Nick and Michael enter from stage right.
Ross. (Hears them but doesn’t open his eyes). I guess it’s time for the grand finale. Who is it this time? Casper The Friendly Ghost?
Nick. You haven’t changed one bit, boy. Still moaning and groaning when life doesn’t go your way!
Ross. (Drops the bottle and sits up. Sees Nick as his father). Dad—how—what—are you doing back? (He blinks and shakes his head). Now I’ve really lost it—all strung out!
Michael. (Steps by Nick. Ross sees Michael as his brother, Eddie). You needed us, so we came. Isn’t that reason enough?
Ross. (Smiles). I should’ve known you would come. There’s no getting away from the past, is there?
Michael. (Shrugs and walks over to the desk). So what are you working on now?
Always trying something new.
Nick. (Dryly). Whatever it is, he’ll give it up when boredom sets in. Ross has never
been able to complete anything of worth.
Ross. (Flatly). That’s not true , and you know it. I went to college, graduated with honors, and landed a good job teaching.
Michael. You were the smart one in the family; I was the jock.
Ross. I was proud of you. We were different so it never bothered me when others talked about you being so good in sports.
Michael. (Points to desk). What are you working on? It looks important.
Nick. (Grunts and walks over to the sofa). A dream, I’m sure. (He sits down while eyeing Ross).
Ross. (Trying to control his anger). Make yourself at home, Pop! What’s mine is yours, right?
Nick. And what is that supposed to mean?
Ross. Nothing, nothing at all. You wouldn’t understand. You’ve never understood me. It was always Eddie who could do no wrong. The great Richard Lee Mann had only one true son. Isn’t that right, Eddie?
Michael. (Looking at Ross). Dad loved you. Maybe you didn’t understand him. As for understanding you, who could? You’d never let anyone get but so close.
Nick. (Sighs). This is all past. Why bring it up now? Nothing can change the past.
Ross. Apparently I thought I needed to see you two—that’s what makes everything we say right now important. Maybe deep down I can’t accept your deaths. (He shrugs, trying to make light of it). It happens all the time.
Nick. I’m here because, per usual, you’re in the process of screwing up your life. You always give yourself too much credit—you had nothing to do with our deaths.
Ross. (On the defensive). I never thought I did. Stop jumping to conclusions!
Nick. (Smugly). I was your father; remember? I know what goes on inside that closed mind of yours.
Ross. Yeah, you wish.
Nick. There’s no wishing to it, my boy. You and I both know why you act the way you do.
Ross. (Blurting out). Where were you when I needed you—all those wasted years!
Michael. Can’t you two be in the same room for any length of time without being at each other’s throats? This won’t solve anything!
Ross. (Calmly). Eddie, we’re not fighting. Pop and I have our own special way of communicating. Don’t you agree, Pop?
Nick. Yeah, we’ve always been too loud. Maybe we should have changed that, Ross—tried to tone it down so the neighbors wouldn’t know we were doing our “communicating” again.
Ross. (Shakes his head). No, that would’ve made us different. We had our own special way.
Michael. There’s nothing wrong with growing up—learning from each other. That’s part of living—to grow.
Ross. (Laughs). Good ol’ Eddie, always the peacemaker. When things get too rough, change the subject.
Nick. He’s like his mother. (Nods at Michael). You’re like me, Ross. That’s why we never got along.
Ross. (Thoughtfully). I never thought about it that way. I assumed you always had it in for me.
Nick. You were my son! A parent sees their children in a special light.
Ross. I never thought you did!
Nick. You never thought about it, period!
Ross. That’s where you’re wrong! It hurts—the way you ignored me!
Nick. Bull! You wanted me to ignore you.
Ross. How would you know what I wanted? You were too busy earning a fast buck.
Nick. (Softly). I took care of my family.
Michael. (Changing the subject). So what’s all this on your desk? Research?
Ross. I’ve been writing. I just completed a rough draft of a book which I’m sure wouldn’t interest Pop.
Michael. (Looking at pages from the manuscript). Really? That’s great! What’s your book about?
Ross. Science fiction. Warts take over a town. That’s it in a nutshell.
Michael. It sure sounds, er—different.
Nick. (Rolls his eyes). Sounds like cow crap to me. I thought you were teaching.
Ross. I gave it up to write. I wanted to do something for me.
Nick. Why in the world would you do something that stupid?
Michael. Pop, it doesn’t hurt to try new things.
Nick. So long as you can take care of your responsibilities.
Ross. (Uncomfortably shifts around in the chair). To hell with responsibilities! I’m sick and tired of living up to society’s standards!
Michael. (Patronizing). I’m sure everyone feels that way at times, Ross, but responsibilities are a fact of life.
Nick. He never was one for the “facts of life.”
Ross. (Disgusted with his father). Another one of your keen insights, Pop?
Nick. (Snorts). My insights are a helluva lot better than yours! Why, when I was your age…
Michael. (Holds up his left hand). Pop, I doubt that Ross needs to hear again about how tough you had it.
Ross. Yeah, that’s very passé. Times are different now. Let’s face it, you’ve been gone awhile.
Michael. (Winks at Ross). You can say that again.
Ross. (Directed at Nick). There had to be at least one time in your former life where you took a chance.
Nick. Not without careful planning. I never wanted to depend on anyone for anything.
Michael. Is that why you were so tough on us—you wanted to make us independent?
Nick. (Nods). A man has to be able to hold his own in this world.
Ross. Sure, and it’s been that way since the dawn of time.
Nick. (Smiles). See, I was right.
Ross. (Pauses a moment to control his temper). You never gave me a pat on the back for anything—encouragement when I accomplished a difficult task! You never showed any emotion except anger! A child needs some open love!
Nick. (Smirks). Bull! A boy has to learn to stand on his own! I was there for you boys. I watched to see that you were handling things okay.
Michael. (Soothing). What he’s trying to say, Pop, is that it would’ve been nice to hear some praise occasionally.
Nick. (Snaps at Michael). I know what he means! You think I’m stupid or something?
Michael. I only meant to say you never gave emotional support.
Ross. (Looks at Michael). Don’t bother explaining things to him. He’s too thick- headed—always has been.
Michael. It’s not just Pop who’s self-centered. You are too, Ross. It always has to be your way—no give and take.
Nick. (Smiles at Ross). So shoot the messenger! You shouldn’t argue with spirits anyway.
Ross. It’s my dream, so I determine what will be said and what will happen.
Michael. (Picks up manuscript). It’s not that simple, Ross. You can’t just “write” us away or put words in our mouths.
Nick. (Firmly). Ross, you’ve lost your way. There’s no new chapter in your life.
Ross. That’s not unusual.
Michael. Nothing we say can change you if you don’t want to change. It’s up to you, Ross. You decide how your life is going to go. We love you and are here to say that—we love you and care about what happens to you. You’re hurting, so we’re hurting.
Nick. He knows that we care.
Ross. (Sadly). No, I didn’t know that.
Nick. Well, you should have.
Ross. Sometimes things don’t look the same to you as they do to others.
Nick. We all arrange things to suit ourselves. If it works…
Ross. (Stands and points at Nick). Damnit—it doesn’t work! It’s never worked for me! Can’t you see that—even now?
Michael. I think he does, but the question remains—do you see yourself? I have questions, too. Why all the games? Why do you lie to yourself? When will you start caring for others and not only for Ross Mann? Pop sees, but do you see?
Ross. (Goes over to brother). I think you’re wrong—Pop doesn’t see at all! Lack of feeling can’t just be explained away.
Michael. (Reaches down and thumbs through manuscript pages). Does this correct the wrongs?
Ross. (Turns away and crosses to the middle of the stage). I didn’t say it did. There are no answers. It’s all one big joke.
Michael. You’ve given me the impression that writing is now your life. These words were made by you—heart and soul.
Ross. (Back to Michael). There’s no heart and soul there. It’s as empty as I am.
Nick. (Chuckles). Now that wasn’t too hard to admit, was it? (Doesn’t wait for a reply). So stop this nonsense and get a respectable job.
Ross. (Rubs his eyes). Respectable? If I enjoy writing then, to me, that’s respectable.
Nick. But you don’t enjoy it.
Ross. How would you know? Even in death, you’re too caught up in Eddie’s affairs! Isn’t that why both of you drifted in here?
Michael. (Sits in the desk chair). We don’t normally see each other anymore. We only came together for this purpose because we were related in life.
Ross. Give me a break. You probably go to the same prayer meetings or go together to whatever it is that goes on in the great beyond!
Michael. Is there nothing your sarcasm can’t touch?
Ross. You’re the one (Faces Michael)—who ran out on me!
Michael. It was my time, Ross.
Ross. (With emotion). But we never got to do all the things brothers do. We never…
Michael. (Interrupts). It wasn’t meant to be, Ross.
Ross. (Tearfully). I never told you how much I loved you!
Michael. I knew you loved me, Ross.
Ross. But I was so jealous—Pop withdrew even more when you died. I couldn’t reach him.
Michael. (Words steady). If it had been you instead, I couldn’t have reached him either.
When a parent loses a child, regardless of the child’s age, something dies inside.
Nick. (Sorrowfully). It wasn’t right.
Michael But it had to be.
Ross. (Anger showing). Damn “had to be” to hell! I have a right to self-pity. I lost you both!
Nick. (Firmly). No one alive has the right to feel sorry for themselves. There’s no room for excuses.
Ross. (Goes back to the chair and sits down, defeated). That’s easy for you to say; you’re not living.
Nick. You’re my son. I do love you, and that makes all of this hard. I don’t enjoy telling you that you’re wrong.
Ross. (Covers face with hands). Why am I such a failure? I can’t do anything right. I try to hide, but I can’t even do that right. A part of my mind sends in ghosts to tell me I’m nothing.
Michael. (Looking at Ross). You are what you believe yourself to be.
Ross. Eddie, you had it all. You never hurt inside like I did—never ached to have friends.
Michael. I hurt, but we were taught not to show the pain. (Looks at Nick, with disgust). After all, we were men!
Nick. I raised you like I was raised. I turned out all right and so did you boys. If you’re waiting for me to say “I’m sorry” then you’re in for a long wait.
Ross. (Looks at Nick). Pop, why couldn’t you tell us whenever you hurt? There had to be days when you wanted to quit!
Nick. (Looking uncomfortable). Children need to be protected from reality for as long as possible. I couldn’t let you see me upset.
Ross. What a joke! Like kids can’t figure things out for themselves! Kids can sense when there’s problems. By not talking about them, you cause children to become afraid, and there’s nothing as awful as unexplained fear.
Michael. Ross, it’s not such a deplorable way—to try and protect children from the harshness of life for as long as you can.
Ross. They’ll find out sooner or later. Why not make them ready sooner?
Nick. That’s just it. When they’re ready, they’ll find out on their own.
Ross. No, don’t you see, it happens before they’re ready!
Nick. (In disbelief). And when were you ever hurt?
Ross. When I was ten I saw how easy it was for people to hurt each other. Pop, kids learn quickly how to hurt others, to go after those who are different. (Sarcastically). Parents are very good teachers.
Nick. (Shifts around on the sofa). That’s nature’s way. What parents protect children from is the lack of meaning in life.
Ross. Isn’t that what churches are for? You forced us to go every Sunday.
Michael. (Looking at Nick). Pop was trying to find us a shelter—a place to turn to when life became too difficult. He wanted to give us purpose.
Ross. (Smugly). Sure, and we turned out real well, didn’t we?
Nick. (Protesting). I don’t see where you’ve turned out so badly! Ross, you’ve built a fine life. You teach, have people’s respect and have a wife who loves you. You’re comfortable—at least you were before you decided to hide out in this room.
Ross. (Sadly). That’s where you’re wrong, Pop. I don’t teach anymore, and I have a wife who’s ready to leave me. I’ve got bills up to my…
Nick. You did all that! Not as a child but as a grown man.
Michael. (Firmly). Ross, you can start again—go back to teaching. You have your education to fall back on.
Ross. “Warts” is all I have left to show for my life.
Michael. You don’t really believe that!
Ross. (Sighs). I can’t teach—I’ve lost it. I can’t reach the kids anymore. They don’t care, and I don’t care that they don’t care. I thought writing would be the answer—a quick fix.
Nick. (Laughs). Yeah, you could write your cares away! Be a kid again—lose respect.
Ross. (Shaking his head). I thought I could find that missing part of myself—feel like I was accomplishing something.
Michael. (Wearily). You’re a teacher—a helper. You can’t walk away from your gifts anymore then I could come back to life—live in this world again. Ross, you knew you were going to be a teacher since you were ten years old.
Ross. (Looking at his hands, thinking back). That boy in my class had a full life ahead of him. He was gifted and because he couldn’t give himself one more day to work through his problems, he blew his brains out. He’d never made a “C” before. I gave him that grade.
Michael. He was looking for an excuse—nothing more.
Ross. I could’ve helped him!
Michael. I’m sorry, but it’s a fact of life—you can’t save everyone. He didn’t want your help—he wanted out.
Ross. It still hurts. After it happened (He clears his throat), I stood in front of my class, looked at all those young, trusting faces, and froze.
Michael. You showed them you cared—that you were human. You touched them more than you’ll ever know.
Ross. I can only hope.
Nick. (Puzzled). What did Ross do? Stand there like a man and go on with his class? Show them he had the guts to go on with life?
Michael. (Softly). No—he cried.
Nick. (A pause as he looks at Ross in bewilderment). I don’t understand!
Michael. Don’t you see—for the first time in his life Ross was able to release his feelings.
Nick. Don’t hand me that bull! He cried like a baby in front of his students? That’s not the way a man reacts to tragedy. I can tell you that, and I don’t have no damned degree!
Michael. You’re really showing your true self, Pop. Stop and think a minute. When was the last time you cried (Smiles thinly) when you were among the living?
Nick. (With obvious pride). I don’t remember ever crying.
Ross. That’s not normal. (He pauses and shakes his head). That’s not something to be proud of!
Nick. Not the way you look at things, my boy. I can’t believe a son of mine would cry. I thought I raised men!
Michael. We have feelings regardless of who raised us. No one can hide their emotions forever.
Nick. (Annoyed). I did, and it didn’t hurt me one bit.
Michael. So Ross isn’t a man because he cried?
Nick. I didn’t say that—exactly. (Frowns). He’s just not the same.
Michael. (Smiles). Good. He needed to grow.
Ross. (Sadly). You could say I grew up that day. Pop, you were wrong about a lot of things when you were alive, and now it looks like you’re still wrong about a lot of things in death.
Nick. (Dismissing Ross’s words). Here I sit talking to a no good writer, Eddie, who thinks it’s okay to run away and lock out the world—who thinks it’s okay to be poor so long as he decides to be poor. Ross, you’re a loser!
Ross. (Firmly). You don’t mean that. You know I’m not a loser, and I know I’m not. Yeah, I lost it for a while, but I needed to see that for myself. I had to realize that there are some things I can’t change—that I’m not supposed to change.
Nick. (Chuckles). What is this turning into—an AA meeting?
Michael. (Disgusted). Try listening to him, Pop. You might learn something.
Nick. (Snaps). He can’t teach me a thing! He’s just a big baby! A grown man doesn’t cry because some stupid kid kills himself!
Ross. (Angrily). Yes, a grown man does cry! There’s nothing wrong with caring—loving people!
Nick. Spare me this bull, will you? You’re just trying to cover up your weakness.
Ross. I ought to…
Michael. (Interrupts, rises and goes over to Ross). Ross? (He steps a few feet away and motions to him). Come over here. It will do no good to fight with Pop. He doesn’t concern you now.
Ross. (Annoyed). Eddie, you can’t please both of us. It’s time you took sides. Pop has pushed you around long enough! (Looks at Michael and smiles). God, you don’t know how long I’ve wanted to say that!
Michael. And now it’s said.
Ross. Yes, and you know the truth of my words.
Michael. (Sighs). Damnit, Ross! I’m dead! He has no power now nor did he ever have power over me. I loved you both and understood you both. We all have our dark sides.
Nick. (Snorts). I treated you both the same.
Ross. (Slaps his forehead). Now I’m beginning to see all of this for what it is!
Nick. (Dryly). Good for you.
Ross. (Looks at Michael). I never stood a chance at pleasing him, did I? (Michael nods). He didn’t want us to make it—to live better than he did! He let Mom work herself to death then, after she was gone, had us doing things for him because he thought we owed him! Pop has never been independent—he was always afraid!
Michael. (Sighs). His fear made him need us all the more. If we were around, he could tell himself he had something left in his life.
Ross. (Looks at Nick with disgust). Pop, you were our father—despite it all, we would always have loved you and come running when you needed us. (Nick remains silent).
Michael. Nobody caused my death, Ross. I was tired, had way too much to drink, and fell asleep at the wheel while driving home. I’m just thankful it was a tree and not another car.
Ross. (Points at Nick). You were tired because you had to take care of him.
Michael. I wanted to take care of our father. You were married—starting a new life.
Ross. But I wanted to be a part of things.
Michael. (Smiles sadly). And I wanted you to be happy. I still want you to be happy.
Ross. (Tears in his eyes, goes to Michael and hugs him, then steps aside). I’ve missed you so much. I guess I always will.
Michael. That’s the way of life, Ross. Enjoy those around you while you can.
Ross. I wish we could change the past. There’s so much I would do differently!
Michael. Then you’d never learn.
Ross. Maybe, but it would be nice.
Michael. Nothing is forever. Come. (He leads Ross to his desk and picks up the manuscript). Here. (Ross takes it).
Nick. (Gets to his feet and looks at them, a little dazed). Believe it or not, I did love you both.
Ross. (Looking at the manuscript he’s holding, not Nick). You never told us that, Pop.
Nick. (Sadly). I know, but I wish I had. (He walks slowly stage right and exits).
Ross. (To departing Nick). Goodbye, Pop. I’ll see you again (Looks at Michael) when it’s time.
Michael. (Nods). You know what you have to do. It’s not going to be easy.
Ross. (Holds up the manuscript). But it was a good effort, wasn’t it?
Michael. You know better. Stop trying to convince yourself that it was.
Ross. (Resignedly). I know, I know. (He slowly tears up the manuscript).
Michael. (Watching). Ross, you just took your first really big step.
Ross. (Still tearing the pages). You might think so, but all I can think about is the time spent on “Warts.” (Stops and looks at Michael and grins). You know, all that I’ve dreamed about tonight would make a good book.
Michael. (Laughs and slaps Ross on the back). Forget it. Keep tearing up those pages. I’ve had my fill of being the good guy in white!
Lights fade out as Ross destroys the rest of the manuscript.
Lights come up as Mary walks in from stage right. She pauses and looks at Ross lying
on the sofa. What is left of the manuscript is in pieces on the floor in front of the desk.
Mary. (Hands on hips). I might have known you’d sleep the night away, Ross Mann! Wake up! We have to talk!
Ross. (Slowly stirs, sits up, and blinks. He looks at Mary a moment then smiles in relief). Honey, I’m so glad it’s you!
Mary. Who else do you think it would be at this hour? (Pauses a moment). You haven’t been fooling around on me, have you?! Because if you have…
Ross. (Interrupts as he stands up and goes to her). No-No, it’s nothing like that! I’d never do that to you!
Mary. (Uneasily). Don’t come any closer! I don’t want you distracting me. I’ve had all night to figure out what to say to you, and you’re not going to stop me. Not this time!
Ross. (Stops). Hon, you won’t believe what I went through last night! I’m not the same man you left eight hours ago.
Mary. Ten hours ago, but who’s counting, right?
Ross. (Pleading). You’ve got to hear me out first!
Mary. (Walks to the chair and wearily sits). I don’t think I want to hear this.
Ross. (Goes to her, gets on his knees, and takes her hands in his). I’m so sorry—I should never have locked you out of my life. I realize now I was consumed by my own hurts.
Mary. (Blinks). What?
Ross. I’m trying to say I’m sorry. I’ve been so selfish!
Mary. (Bewildered, uneasy). Do you mind sitting over there? (Points at sofa).
Ross. (Hurt). No—I have it coming. (Goes to sofa). Now will you listen?
Mary. That depends on where this is going. I don’t want to hear any more excuses. I’m tired and just want to go to bed—to sleep. (She looks at him knowingly).
Ross. (Slowly, as he searches for the right words). I had some kind of—experience—last night. I’m talking about a really strange dream—no make that dreams.
Mary. Drinking again?
Ross. I had some.
Mary. The usual?
Ross. Yeah, the usual.
Mary. Then that’s where your experience came from.
Ross. Do I look like I’m having DT’s?
Mary. (Eyes him carefully). Not really but…
Ross. (Interrupts). But I could be in left field, right?
Mary. (Smugly). You said it, not me.
Ross (Unable to contain his excitement). Mary, I was helped last night!
Mary. (Wearily). I’m glad one of us was. You’re not making much sense, though.
Ross. I found out that I want us to make it in life—together. I want to teach again. To have a family—to do the things that really count!
Mary. (A little stunned but still disbelieving). Ross, you have no idea how glad I am to hear you say those things, but you have to understand my skepticism. You can’t just push the past several months under the rug and say they never happened.
Ross. (Sadly). I know that.
Mary. (Looks him closely in the eyes). So long as you’re honest about this.
Ross. I’m trying to be.
Mary. You realize I was ready to leave you.
Ross. Without talking about it first!
Mary. If memory serves, we did talk about it last night—before I left for work.
Ross. (Thoughtfully). You talked. I was too messed up to think straight—too messed up to accept what I was losing.
Ross. (Still skeptical). Ross, why can’t I trust what you’re saying?
Ross. (Sighs). Because I haven’t given you reason to trust me.
Mary. (Not letting him off the hook). That’s an understatement if I’ve ever heard one.
Ross. Will you please stop being flippant?
Mary. I’m tired.
Ross. I am, too.
Mary. So why are we sitting here?
Ross. Because I love you, and I hope that you still love me.
Mary. (Swallows hard and looks away for a moment). I’ve never stopped loving you.
Ross. (Lovingly). Thank God! I never want to lose you!
Mary. (Still uncomfortable). What about your writing?
Ross. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I don’t need it—I realize now that I never did.
Mary. (Confused). But you were so convinced that you were a writer. Nothing I said made any difference.
Ross. (Thoughtfully, with conviction). I was a selfish jerk then but not anymore. I realize now that I can’t go back and undo the past. I know now, too, that I wasn’t responsible for the deaths of Dad, Eddie, or that poor student.
Mary. (Still unsure, but feeling more at ease). I’m so glad. I thought those three deaths, especially the student’s, were a large part of the problem. But I couldn’t reach you.
Ross. (Smiles). I don’t blame you for having some doubts. But, Mary, you’re my life, and I was a fool not to see it before.
Mary. I so want to believe you, Ross—to feel alive again. (Shakes her head sadly). I can’t take any more pain.
Ross. (Tears in his eyes). Mary, I’m so sorry. I can see now how much I’ve hurt you.
Mary. (Tearfully). Is it really possible for us to live normal lives again? Is this room no longer your cell?
Ross. I meant what I said about wanting to teach again. I want to support you—to take care of you. We can work together—help each other.
Mary. (Smiles as she wipes her eyes). I think you mean it. I pray that you do.
Ross. (Laughs with relief). Now that’s what I want to see! A smile!
Mary. (Caught up in his excitement). Ross, what did happen to you last night? You’re so different! I love it!
Ross. And I love you! (Closes his eyes for a moment). God, I feel so alive!
Mary. So what became of “Warts”?
Ross. That piece of trash! Look on the floor by my desk. That’s all that remains of my “classic.”
Mary. (Shocked). You actually tore it up?
Ross. You were right about it—it’s terrible. It took me awhile to realize that. (Thoughtfully). You might say some wayward souls showed me where I truly belonged. There are those born to pick up the pen and those born to teach them how to fulfill their dream.
Mary. (Won over at last). Ross, I’m so proud of you! I feel so happy!
Ross. (Tears in his eyes). We’ll make it, hon—together. I can’t promise you that I won’t act up once in a while, but you wouldn’t have it otherwise, would you?
Mary. (Shakes her head). The Ross I married still had the little boy inside. I’d miss him if he didn’t act up every so often. I can handle that.
Ross. (Stands up and holds out his arms). Together?
Mary. (Goes to him). Yes, together.
Ross. (Hugging Mary to him). I think that after this life we just might have a go at the Promised Land, after all.
(Lights dim out. Falling curtain ends the play).
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