By: Rachel Joseph


MARTY – 30-70 years old. Joan’s husband. He wears a worn blue hat.
JOAN – 70 years old. Marty’s wife. She suffers from dementia.
YOUNG JOAN – 25-60 years old. Marty’s wife.
LORI – 10-30 years old. Granddaughter to Joan and Marty. Sister to Dori.
DORI – 6-25 years old. Granddaughter to Joan and Marty. Sister to Lori.

Characters slide in and out of different ages and moments from their lives. Each lives in their own reality that collides with the other character some time to time. MARTY, JOAN, and YOUNG JOAN wander the stage like ghosts; they seem almost translucent and as if they come from another world. Joan’s aphasia-like speech is caused by dementia.

The set is simple—a bare stage, maybe some stairs, a screen door, and a few chairs. The movement of the characters should establish place and time. All objects except YOUNG JOAN’S painting and the yellow dishwashing gloves should be mimed. The pace at the beginning should be brisk and light.

JOAN.  (Rocking gently side by side with YOUNG JOAN) Wonderful. Oh, that is just the wonder. Will we go? When should…ich…ah…that rain. Wonderful. What? Will we go? Take me to the…the…cat.

YOUNG JOAN.  Wonderful. Oh, that is wonderful. Shall we get the groceries? When should we go? The weatherman says it looks like rain. Wonderful about the girls coming! They will need cookies. I’ll get the car.

JOAN.  Sky is gray…ich…gray, gray, gray. Wet. Smell. Wet-smell. Down the street? Huh? Huh? Huh?

YOUNG JOAN.  Oh, Marty it’s so funny. Last night I dreamed you were nude—but I didn’t know you yet. Last night I dreamed that I was running down a street and it had just rained and the pavement smelled wet. Rain smell—deep and musty. The sky was gray, gray, gray—you know, Seattle gray. I was insanely happy. The girls are coming. They just love Oreo’s. Will you come with me to the store? Marty? Are you there? Are you listening? 

MARTY.  (His back is to the audience.  He wears a blue hat and speaks as if delivering a joke) There’s a man with two drumsticks and a drum. The man gets a bus going downtown and gives the bus driver ten cents. He goes to the back of the bus and sits with his two drumsticks and the drum. The bus goes around the block twice. The man stands up, walks to the front of the bus, and gets off the bus. Get it? Listen carefully. There’s a man. He has two drumsticks and a drum. He gets on a bus going downtown. He pays the fare—ten cents. He goes to the back of the bus and sits. He holds the two drumsticks and the drum. The bus goes around the block twice. The man stands up, walks to the front of the bus, and exits the bus…

JOAN.  Drum picks?

YOUNG JOAN.  Oh, Marty.

MARTY.  No. No. Listen. There’s a man. He has two drumsticks and a drum. He gets on the bus…

JOAN.  The woman at the end of the road…

MARTY.  The bus goes around the block twice…

YOUNG JOAN.  That hat reminds me of my father.

JOAN.  Blue, blue. Sky-blue. Father?

MARTY.  Listen! Listen! He gets on the bus! Two drumsticks and a drum. Ten-cent fare, back in the day of the ten-cent fare…

JOAN.  Is. Fare-is. Ferris. Ferris Wheel. Round ball.

YOUNG JOAN.  High up. Remember that? Remember he was waving below?

JOAN.  Yes. Oh, yes. Round and round

YOUNG JOAN.  He yelled, “Hold your horses!” He grabbed his hat.

MARTY.  Around the block. Twice.

JOAN.  Wonderful.

YOUNG JOAN.  Marty? We better get those Oreo’s. The girls just love Oreo’s. They’re coming soon. They’re really coming!

MARTY.  Don’t you get it? Huh? Listen, there’s this. . .

JOAN.  I never wanted this…this…-at…h-at…ach. All gone.

YOUNG JOAN.  I never thought he’d be gone. (Chanting) One, two, three, four—hut the door and say no more. Five, six, seven, eight, pick up sticks and stay up late. Nine ten—A big fat hen!

JOAN.  Ah-ha. Those chickens.

MARTY.  I always salt my food. I like things fried.

JOAN.  What happened to the man?

YOUNG JOAN.  Shhh…listen. There was a time you could go to the supermarket and buy a real live chicken. And you did. You bought six. The house was the only house on the block. Remember? Remember? You brought six live chickens, home. And there was that dog—Chico.

JOAN.  Oh, Chico! Chico.

MARTY.  Chicken sounds good.

JOAN.  Oh, yes. Those…yellow…

MARTY.  I always loved the way you fried chicken.

JOAN.  Chick…chick…chick-en. Chicken. Ha, ha.

YOUNG JOAN.  Well, Chico killed one of those chickens!

JOAN.  Aw.

YOUNG JOAN.  Just killed it dead.

JOAN.  Oh dear. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

MARTY.  Pass the salt.

YOUNG JOAN.  And you. You Joan…Joan…

JOAN.  I? I?

YOUNG JOAN.  You tied that chicken around Chico the dog’s neck.


MARTY.  (Half-singing) I-owa, I-owa. Place where the tall corn grows.

YOUNG JOAN.  You wanted to teach that dog a lesson.

JOAN.  (Laughing) Well, I never!

MARTY  (Half-singing) “Never fall in love again.”

YOUNG JOAN.  Chico wore that chicken for a week. A week!

JOAN.  For heavens’ sake!

YOUNG JOAN.  A dead-old –rotten-old-chicken. Around that poor old dog for a week!  Poor Chico. Rotten old chicken. My God.

MARTY.  A real stinker.

JOAN.  Oh, my! (Imitating a chicken) Bawk, bawk, baaawk!  Baaawk! Bawk, bawk, baawk.

MARTY.  Pass the salt, Joanie.

JOAN.  I love you honey.

YOUNG JOAN.  I love you honey.

MARTY.  Pass the salt.

JOAN.  Marty was a prince.

YOUNG JOAN.  A prince like in the book with bright pictures. I always got chocolate ice-cream on those pictures. All those blues and the gold stained forever brown.  Mother never complained.

JOAN.  Where? She? The girl?

MARTY.  I’m finished

JOAN.  Am. I? Where I am?

MARTY.  I wish I didn’t go. I’m finished.

JOAN.  Wonderful. Just wonderful. When we should…ich…ah? The girl…car…ich…ah…that rain. Take me to the…the…cat.

YOUNG JOAN.  Marty? The girls are coming. Will you go to the store with me? It looks like rain. We need Oreo cookies. The girls love Oreo cookies. I’ll back the car out of the garage. Will you come with me? I had the funniest dream. You were nude. Will you back the car out of the garage?

MARTY.  I’ve gone fishing. Finishing. I’m finishing.

JOAN.  Hurry and don’t go.

YOUNG JOAN.  Here they come…

JOAN.  Those girls.

MARTY.  They’re here. (Dori and Lori tumble onstage in a rush of excitement.)

DORI.  Wheeeeee!

LORI.  Wheeeeee! We’re here! We’re here!

JOAN.  Hip hip hooray!

DORI.  Where’s the jar, the jar, the M&M’s jar?

LORI.  We love M&M’s love M&M’s love M&M’s.

JOAN.  Whooops.

YOUNG JOAN.  M&M’s! Oh no! We got Oreo’s. Not M&M’s! Oreo’s!

DORI.  Oreo’s! I love Oreo’s.

LORI.  Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

MARTY.  Hello. Hello. Hello girls. Have you heard…?

JOAN.  Hello. Hello. Have you heard? Have you heard the pretty little bird?

MARTY.  I’m telling a joke.

YOUNG JOAN.  Oh, Marty. Not this again.

JOAN.  My, my…sis…sis…sis-te play up. Er. Oh, the children. Ah-ha.

MARTY.  There was a man with two drumsticks and a drum…

DORI.  I don’t get it.

LORI.  Say it again!

MARTY.  Listen…there was a man with two…

LORI.  Say it, say it, say it!

JOAN.  Spray it? Spray what? What?

YOUNG JOAN.  I forgot the M&M’s. What a thing to forget. Oh dear…

JOAN.  Oh dear bread and beer.

MARTY.  Around the block twice…

LORI.  Say it again.  Again and again and again.

DORI.  And again and again and again.

YOUNG JOAN.  Oh, Marty.

JOAN.  Was a prince.

YOUNG JOAN.  Oh dear.

JOAN.  Bread and beer. Where do we go from here?

MARTY.  Oh dear.

DORI and LORI. Again and again and again!

YOUNG JOAN. Bread and beer.

JOAN.  Where do I go from here?

MARTY.  I always loved beer. Now girls, settle down. Did I tell you the one where…

LORI.  Dear oh dear bread and beer.

DORI.  Beer, beer, beer, beer. Berry berry beer beer.

YOUNG JOAN.  Hush. What would your father say? This isn’t going right. Let’s start over.

DORI and LORI.  But we’re already here.

JOAN.  Hello? Hello? Uh, hello?

MARTY.  Hello girls. Have an Oreo. Nice to see you. I’m going down to the basement.  You stay up here. I’ll go down to the basement and you stay up here. I’ll go down to the basement and listen to records and make up a new joke. You stay up here. I don’t often know what to do with loud girls. Perhaps you can make some raspberry jam. Well, hello girls. I’ll be down in the basement, just listening to a little something or other. You can cook and be loud then. Without me here, you can cook and be loud and I won’t hear you.  Then I’ll tell you a little joke.

JOAN.  Watch out girl. Girl. SSS.

LORI.  Sorry.

DORI.  Watch out, Lori.

LORI.  Shut up, Dori.

JOAN.  Uh oh. Shh. Shh.

YOUNG JOAN.  Let’s go swimming. Come on girls. Let’s not fight, let’s go swimming.  Look at my new cap. Isn’t that something? Come on in, the water’s warm.

LORI.  Watch me! Watch me!

DORI.  I’m scared.

YOUNG JOAN.  Come on.

JOAN.  Come on.

DORI.  I don’t like water.

JOAN.  (indicating she has wet her pants) Wet.

LORI.  Watch me! Watch me!

DORI.  I’m scared. I don’t want to swim.

LORI.  Don’t be a baby.

DORI.  I’m scared.

YOUNG JOAN.  I’ll catch you. Come on, Dori. I’ll catch you. I promise.

JOAN.  Ach. Wet. I’m wet. Ach.

DORI.  Don’t let go.

YOUNG JOAN.  There, doesn’t that feel nice?

LORI.  Watch me! Watch me!

DORI.  Hold on.

YOUNG JOAN.  I won’t let go. There. Isn’t this fun? See, you’re swimming!

DORI.  Wheeee!

LORI.  Watch me! I can float on my back. I can do a underwater handstand. Hey!  Watch me. I look like a mermaid. Hey, no. I look like a princess…

DORI.  I’m swimming.

JOAN.  Wet.

YOUNG JOAN.  Now you have it!

JOAN.  Ach. Wet. I’m all wet.

YOUNG JOAN.  You’re a brave girl.

LORI.  But look at me.

JOAN.  Oh my.  Such wet.

YOUNG JOAN.  Lovely girls. Now dry off. Make sure to get in between your toes.

DORI.  Brrrr. I’m cold.

LORI.  It’s not cold stupid.

DORI.  I’m a real swimmer.

LORI.  You can’t even do a waterdance. I can do a waterdance.

YOUNG JOAN.  You were both lovely.

JOAN.  Brrrr…hot.

DORI.  I can so do a waterdance.

LORI.  Can not!

DORI.  Can so!

YOUNG JOAN.  Now girls, hush.

JOAN.  Quiet. Loudwet. Quit, quit.

YOUNG JOAN.  Let’s get along. Let’s have some ice cream.

LORI.  Ice cream?

DORI.  Ice cream?

JOAN.  I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice scream!

LORI and DORI.  Ice cream!

JOAN.  Rah!  Rah!  Rah!

YOUNG JOAN.  Now, lets take a nap.

MARTY.  I’m still down in the basement. Later, I’ll go sit in the garden.

JOAN.  Rah! Rah! Rah!

DORI.  Thank you.

LORI.  Thank you.

YOUNG JOAN.  You’re welcome. You’re welcome.

JOAN.  Ahhh-haaa. Ahhh-haaa.

MARTY.  Later I’ll make French fries and salt them with the silver shaker. Then I’ll tell a joke.

YOUNG JOAN.  Oh, Marty.

JOAN.  Marty was a prince.

JOAN.  Just beautiful.

MARTY.  I sit in the garden and watch for gophers. They tunnel under everything. They leave hard clumps of dirt. Like clay. The dirt here is hard, grainy. The ground is lumpy. I’d prefer to garden in Nebraska. There’s a strawberry. Joanie loves strawberries. Joanie planted all the roses and petunias. She planted the mint too. The raspberries too. Joanie is a real beauty.

JOAN.  Beautiful…oh, honey you’re so beautiful…

YOUNG JOAN.  Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

JOAN.  That girl. Where’s that girl?Yoo-hoo…yoo-hoo…Where are you?

YOUNG JOAN.  What’s happening?

JOAN.  Mm…M-a-t…rrr…Mrrty…


JOAN.  Oh, yes. We danced and danced and danced. All round the dinba.

YOUNG JOAN.  I want to tell you about Marty. He knew how to dance. He put his hand around my waist and knew how to lead me anywhere. I love to dance. How I miss to dance. How I miss to dance with Marty. We danced all around the dance hall. Once they all cheered and we won a ribbon. A blue ribbon. We laughed and danced some more. We were so happy after the war.

MARTY.  That’s how you play it! I’ll take you around the waist like this. Right, like so.  Good. I’ll lead you through the night like this. Yes, that’s right. Hold on tight. I’ll swing you around like this. Right. We’ll laugh like this. Don’t worry. We’ll have a cold drink if we get too hot. Two gin and tonics, please. The rest of the fellas will adore you. You’re a good sport. Let’s dance. Sorry, pal—she’s taken. Aw, Mitch—you’re a real kidder. See? See how I wrap my hands around your waist? Such a small waist. Your lips are red. I’ve never seen such red red…here we go…pick up the pace. I swing you around and around.  Look at you go! Your hips swivel. Your skirt—I love the way it whooshes—grazes your calves. I like to watch your calves move. And then when things slow down—the fellas signal to the band to take it easy. Hey, we’ve got ladies here to sniff and press up against. We’ve got ladies here with red, red and calves that move and skirts that whoooosh. Now I’ll press you close. I’ll smell your hair and of course it smells good. Finally close enough for a whiff of everything that I am not. I think you like how I smell too. I am completely different than you. I am completely the opposite. I make sure you know that I can keep close all night. I’m not scared. Across the water is where I’m scared. Right here I know what to do. I guide you to me all night. We keep going on and on and on and on and on.

JOAN.  We go up and then we go down. We go up and then we go down. We go up and then we go down. Hello…yoo-hoo…where are you?

YOUNG JOAN.  What does it feel like? It feels like a door shutting. A window closing.  It feels like black. Like nothing. Come on, honey…let’s keep walking.

LORI.  (Leading Joan gently by the arm) Does it hurt?

JOAN.  No.  No.

YOUNG JOAN.  No. But everything is slipping.

LORI.  Let’s head back.

JOAN.  Oh my.

YOUNG JOAN.  Couldn’t we keep going? I might remember where I saw her. I might see something for a sketch. I’d like to draw you a picture. I’d like to make a portrait.  You could sit by the ducks and I’ll draw you. My hand won’t slip—my hand will know what to do and my eye will see and everything will be like it once was. Remember? Keep going.

LORI.  (Seats Joan in a chair) Now you can rest.

JOAN.  Oh dear. Oh dear bread and beer where do we go from here.

YOUNG JOAN.  Let’s go! Let’s run! The lights still good.

LORI.  (To Joan) And we’ll take off your socks now and we’ll slip on your slippers now and we’ll wrap you in a warm blanket now and we’ll watch the television now and we’ll have some smooth pudding now and we’ll lay down for a nap now. And we’ll sleep and be quiet now. We’ll sleep and be still now. We’ll remember to just sleep now and let our dreams wander now and don’t make a peep now and just go to sleep now and we’re all warm and cozy now.  Shhh…shhh….sleep.  Just sleep and hush.

DORI.  I can’t sleep. I hate to nap. No one knows what will happen to me. I’ll have my own story. My story will be secret and sad. No one will understand. They will shake their heads and think the worst of me. And eventually I’ll stop knowing what the worst is and it will be the worst but I’ll think it is the best. I’ll become a liar. I’ll lose myself completely. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back. I don’t know the end of my story. I just know about the part where I get lost.

LORI.  The whole world is in my head.

DORI.  I don’t even know what I see.

LORI.  Go to sleep, Dori.

DORI.  We’ll never be close.

LORI.  It’s not my fault.

DORI.  I know.  I’ll blame you for everything though.

LORI.  I’ll blame myself.

DORI.  You will always wonder about me.  Is she dead?

LORI.  I’ll never understand.

DORI.  And maybe one day everything will change. Maybe one day I’ll surprise everyone. Maybe I’ll turn out fine. I’ll be fine. I’ll be happy and content and fine. I’m not like you.

LORI.  It’s not my fault!

DORI.  And maybe one day everything will change.  Everything will change and I’ll know everything.

LORI.  It’s not my fault!

JOAN.  No. No. Please, no fight.

YOUNG JOAN.  Quiet girls. Try to get some sleep.

LORI.  It’s not my fault. Is it? Can’t you just be like you?

YOUNG JOAN.  Hush.  Now it’s time to get up and go to the store!

DORI and LORI.  Wheee! The store! Wheee! Will you buy? Will you buy? Will you buy me this? And this. And this. And this. Will you buy? Will you buy? Will you buy me this? And this. And this. I really need this. Gosh, I really, really, really need this. Why can’t I have this? Please let me have this? It’s really not fair unless I have this. She shouldn’t have this unless I get this. And if I get this I should also get this…and this…and this…

JOAN.  And this is blech. Bla-ta. Ah-ha. What? What? Look at this…bl…at…cat.

DORI and LORI.  Nooo! But I need this! I really need this. And this. And this. Noooo!  Whaaaaa! Give me this! And this! Why won’t you buy this. If you loved me you would give me give me give me this. Noooo! Whaaaaaaaaa!

YOUNG JOAN.  Girls! Hush. Oh, honestly. What would your mother say? Selfish this and this and this. Selfish, selfish this. We’re going home right now. Not another word.  There, now we are home and now you will march yourselves upstairs and go to bed.

LORI and DORI.  We’re sorry. So sorry. Really, really sorry. But don’t you think I need this? Or this? Whaaa! Sorry.

JOAN.  Thank you…oh, thank you.

YOUNG JOAN.  Upstairs. I’m going to count to three—One, two…

JOAN.  Look.  Look.  It goes up and then it goes down.  It goes up and then it goes down.

YOUNG JOAN.  Now I try to paint. Whenever I have quiet I try to paint. Marty watches the Flintstones downstairs and eats liver and onion sandwiches. He’ll fall asleep on the floor. I’ll paint this pretty picture. I saw it in a magazine and I liked it so I cut it out. I cut it out and thought—Well, I’ll just have to paint this up real nice into a pretty little picture.  And I will use yellow and red and blue—not just blue, but many different shades of blue—sky-blue, indigo blue, pale blue, watery blue, clear blue…

JOAN.  Sky.  Up and it goes down.  Hello.  Hello.

MARTY.  This sandwich is good. Liver is smooth and the onions make my eyes water.  Here’s some salt. This is when I take a nap. I eat and then I fall asleep and then I wake up and then I check on Joanie—What’s for dinner? And she will have paint on her nose, which I think is sweet—so I’ll kiss her. Then we will watch shows on television. Joan will read Readers’ Digest and I’ll solve another mystery. Then we’ll sleep. We’ll sleep and we won’t really know how sweet this all is and we won’t really know how brief this time will seem. The next morning we’ll have coffee and start again. And again. And again.

JOAN.  How now brown cow.

YOUNG JOAN.  Girls, dinner’s ready!

DORI.  I want to go home.

LORI.  Shut up, Dori

DORI.  You shut up, Lori.

LORI.  No, you shut up.

JOAN.  Ach. Wet.


DORI.  I don’t fit here.

LORI.  You don’t fit anywhere.

DORI.  What am I supposed to do?

LORI.  I don’t know.  Things are sure going to be hard for you.

DORI.  I know.

LORI.  I’m glad I’m not you. I’m not really glad to be me, but I’m sure glad not to be you.

DORI.  I wish I had two puppies.

YOUNG JOAN.  Dinner! There. See, we like to eat string beans…

DORI.  Please pass the candied yams.

LORI.  Please pass the cucumbers in cream and dill.

MARTY.  Joanie, please pass the ham.

YOUNG JOAN.  Marty, could you please pass the butter?

JOAN.  Pass…t…ban…banana…please. Up down.

YOUNG JOAN.  Let’s clear our places.

LORI.  Clear my place, Dori.

DORI.  No way, Lori.

YOUNG JOAN.  Lori! Come help with the dishes.

LORI.  It’s not fair. It’s not fair.

JOAN.  Come on. Come on. Get up. Come on.

LORI.  I’m tired. I don’t want to help the dishes. I want to read and sleep and dream and wake-up and read and sleep and dream and wake-up…

JOAN.  (singing) “Good morning.  Good morning…”

DORI.  Do the dishes, Lori.

LORI.  Shut up, Dori.

YOUNG JOAN.  Girls. Enough. Lori, into the kitchen on the count of…

JOAN.  One, two, three…

MARTY.  A delicious meal, Joanie. The string beans and mashed potatoes and candied yams and ham and bananas and cucumbers in cream and sourdough rolls and fresh parsley and fresh zucchini and white wine…just delicious.

LORI.  Fine.

DORI.  (chanting) I’m going to watch TV. Now…I’m going to watch TV. Now…

JOAN.  (singing) “Good morning…good morning…”

LORI. (singing) “It’s great to stay up late…”

JOAN.  Why, good morning! Good morning.

MARTY.  Good morning. Good morning. What would you like today? I’ll make you a house today. I’ll buy you a little mouse today…

YOUNG JOAN.  (Putting on yellow gloves and miming washing dishes) When you wash the dishes you want to put on yellow gloves like this. You want your hands to stay soft.  Men like soft hands. You want the water to be warm like this. Not too hot and not too cold. Good. You place the plates in the tub like this. Now add the soap—always buy lemon soap, lemon soap smells the best. Not too much…good. Now you pick up the plate and hold the wet cloth like this. Then you wash the plate like this. Use this scrubber like this for dried food like eggs or sauce or even mashed potatoes. Rinse the plate like this.  See how the yellow gloves protect your hands. See how they keep my hands soft and smooth. Now you try. Now you take the next plate…good…that’s right…beautiful…

JOAN.  Just beautiful…

MARTY.  I’ll make you a birdhouse and a bracelet and a ring…

LORI.  Do you miss sketching? Do you miss painting? Do you miss your mother? Do you miss your father? Do you miss the blue car? Do you miss your house? Your shoes?  Your aprons? Your perfume bottles? Do you miss the garden? Do you miss the gopher mounds? Do you miss walking around the block? Do you miss your kitchen…your kitchen with the bells…your pots and pans and tubs with “Flour” and “Sugar” painted on the sides with little yellow daisies? Do you miss those raspberries? What about Marty?

JOAN.  Marty was a prince.

LORI.  What about him? Do you miss him? What do you miss? Please tell me. What do you miss?

JOAN.  Miss…kiss…mmm…Honey, give me a kiss.

LORI.  Sit down…good…now let’s take off your shoes.

JOAN.  Honey, no.

LORI.  Take off your socks.

JOAN.  Ach. Cold.

LORI.  Take off your pants…

JOAN.  You’re a terrible person.

DORI.  I’m a terrible person. I never tell the truth. I’m going to grow up to be a thief.  I’ll waste my life. I won’t even try. I’ll disappoint everyone. I’ll resent how easily they just let me slip away. And maybe everything will change.

LORI.  Everything will change. Come on. You need to take a shower. A nice warm shower. Come on—step into the shower and we’ll get you clean clean clean…

YOUNG JOAN.  Beautiful. Now we’ll dry them. Take a white towel like this and pick up a plate like this…

MARTY.  I always wonder when this won’t be like this anymore. The house is too quiet at night. I can hear the heat click on and off. Her breathing. All that quiet takes you into strange places. Places that I’d rather not be. During the day I can’t picture this being any different. I sit in the garden and think about sailing around the world. I love to go around the world in my head and know that it will never happen—that I’m in the garden and safe…I don’t have to worry about leaving…it’s just a dream…a nice foolish dream…then I go inside and drink coffee.

LORI.  The whole world is in my head.

DORI.  I don’t understand anything.

JOAN.  How now brown cow. Come on. Come on. I’ve got to go home. I’ve got to go to the end of the road. I’ve got to find the lady at the end of the road. I need to find my brother. I need to find my mother. And Marty…is he? Is he? Kaka…dinba…Yee-ha…life of ease. Life of ease…

LORI.  Shhh….it’s going to be okay….shhhh….

MARTY.  Listen. I left the backdoor unlocked. My dirty laundry is under the bed. I don’t care about the magazines. The storm windows need to be changed in May. Don’t worry about the tomatoes—they’ll be fine. That boy down the street will mow the lawn. I’m going to leave the records where they are and hope that someone will listen to them.  Don’t worry about Christmas—I’ll just leave your present under the bed next to the dirty clothes. Don’t worry. Everything will turn out fine in the end. You’ll see. Everything will be fine.

DORI.  You can’t tell me what to do because I won’t listen. I’m going to go to ballet class but then I’ll quit that because I don’t know. I’m going to learn to ice-skate—but then I won’t because I don’t know. I’ll try gymnastics but Lori will ruin that. Maybe I’ll be in a play—but they won’t let me say any lines. Okay. Maybe I’ll talk to him. Oh, yes.  He’s nice. He likes to talk. Then I’ll talk to a different him. He’s nice. He likes to talk and more. Oh, yes. This is what I’m good at. Then I’ll talk to him and him and him…

MARTY.  Let’s ride this yellow bike. Here I’ll push you. There you go. There you go.  Okay. Let’s go home now.

JOAN, DORI, and LORI.  Wheeeeeeee!

MARTY.  Okay, good. Let’s go home now. Let’s really go home now.

JOAN.  Home now.

YOUNG JOAN.  (painting on a translucent surface) When you draw a flower you need to really look at a real flower. You need to notice the way it is shaped—really notice. You don’t just notice the general overall flower-shape but the smaller parts-of-the-flower-shape. You need to make your eyes work harder. You need to see deeper than before.  And then you pick blue and different colors of blue—sky blue, indigo blue, pale blue—and you begin to paint. Take your time. Don’t rush. Just remember what you saw.

JOAN.  Honey, let’s go…

MARTY.  Wait a second. I need to fix this…

JOAN.  Honey, let’s go…

MARTY.  Wait a second. Now I need to fix this…

YOUNG JOAN.  Let’s go dancing.

JOAN.  What fun!

MARTY.  I can’t just drop what I’m doing.

JOAN.  What fun!

YOUNG JOAN.  Let’s forget about this and this and this and this and this. Remember this? And this? And this. And this.

MARTY.  Swoosh.

LORI.  I could do anything.

DORI.  Something’s broken.

MARTY.  I’ll make sure the door’s fixed. I’ll make sure that leak is taken care of. I’ll water the tomatoes and zucchini. I’ll change the blue car’s oil. I won’t leave my clothes out. I’ll make sure everything is tidy and put away.

YOUNG JOAN.  Remember this? And this. And this. And this.

JOAN.  You’re an angel.

LORI.  You are…

JOAN.  You’re a doll.

MARTY.  When we go to Reno I will remember this and this and this but I won’t come home in the same way as before. Everything is different now. I’m not afraid like I thought I might be. Everything is just fine. Joanie—understand me. Everything is just fine.

YOUNG JOAN.  Put the coin in the slot and pull. And then? Another coin. Put the coin in the slot and pull. And then? Another coin. And pull and pull. Five dollars. And pull and pull. And then…

JOAN.  Where are you? Hello? Where are you?

MARTY.  Everything is different and just fine.

DORI.  Everything might be different.

LORI.  I’m the same then I change then I change and I’m the same and yet I’m different.  My face is fat and different and I hope I will be different.

YOUNG JOAN.  And I pull and I pull and he’s gone. He’s not there and I pull and I pull…

JOAN.  Yoo-hoo! Where are you.

MARTY.  Don’t forget to look under the bed.

YOUNG JOAN.  Empty. The slot is empty. My hand is empty. My eyes are empty. My mouth is empty. My stomach is empty.

JOAN.  Ich.  Don’t go.

MARTY.  Under the bed.

YOUNG JOAN.  Pull and pull and pull and empty. Just empty. I’ll look and look and look and gone. All gone. Nothing left. I’ll come home. After. I’ll come home and the house will look ready to swallow me. I’ll come home and get on the exercise bike. Gotta keep moving. I’ll ride for hours. And then I’ll go to all the places, all the places he was and is and I’ll keep riding and riding and I won’t stop, can’t stop or I won’t ever be able to breathe again, and I’ll keep riding and riding past Chicago and the dancing and past the dogs and the children and the grandchildren and Christmas with a skimpy little tree and the cookies that I bake and bake and bake and I won’t stop riding I won’t stop riding I can’t stop riding and Marty isn’t and I ride and Marty was and I go past the garden and past the church and past the slot machines and past all the people and past the trees and past the clouds, sky, moon. I ride past all this and I’m gone.

LORI.  Are you sad?

JOAN.  Yes.

LORI.  Tell me the secret to life.

JOAN.  Secret to strife?

LORI.  No. No. The secret to life. Tell me the secret to a long happy life.

MARTY.  Things happen fast. Just keep an even keel. Don’t forget to take out the garbage. Mow the lawn once a week. Water the flowers and vegetables. Plant raspberries. Salt your food if you like. Take naps. Remember to go on vacation once a year. Go to someplace warm and exotic. Then come home and secretly be glad. You never did like the heat. Go away sometimes to remember how nice it is to be where you are. Don’t forget to remember what happened. Play music and remember. Tell jokes. Always buy souvenirs. Keep them and store them under the bed. Take them out and hold them. Hold the Detroit shot glass. Trace the Statue of Liberty with your finger. Jingle the Nashville key chain. Don’t forget to wear the plastic Lai. Always have people in your pictures.  Admire the flower she painted and buy a frame. Hang it over your bed and tell her you can smell it at night. Tell her that it smells sweet—a garden over your head. Let her kiss you. Hold her tight and breathe. Like this. And this. And this.

YOUNG JOAN.  And this and this.

LORI.  Take off your shoes.

JOAN.  Honey, no.

LORI.  Take off your socks.

JOAN.  I’m cold.

LORI.  Here get under the covers. Good. Cuddle up…Cuddle up.

JOAN.  Cuddle up, cuddle up.

LORI.  What does it feel like?

JOAN.  Like a door shutting. Dark. B..b…ach. Blaba.


LORI.  I wish I knew the secret. This is empty and it’s full. I wish I was…

DORI.  What?

LORI.  I wish I was inside and outside.

DORI.  Outside and inside.

LORI.  I want to go. I want to go. To go

DORI.  Someplace

LORI.  Inside the outside.

DORI.  Home.

YOUNG JOAN.  The girls are leaving soon.

MARTY.  Have fun in school.

YOUNG JOAN.  Be good.

MARTY.  Listen to your mother and father.

YOUNG JOAN.  Give your mother a kiss.

MARTY.  Ride the yellow bike.

YOUNG JOAN.  Remember how we went to Disneyland and Indian Country.

MARTY.  Remember to pick the raspberries before they wither.

YOUNG JOAN.  Help your mother.

JOAN.  Hold your horses.

YOUNG JOAN.  Let me tell you something.

LORI.  Shh.

YOUNG JOAN.  You won’t remember half of it. Just keep going.

DORI.  I remember everything.

MARTY.  Bye-bye girls.

JOAN.  Bye-bye.

YOUNG JOAN and JOAN.  Good-bye. Good-bye. Bye-bye. Good-bye. Good-bye. Bye.  Bye. Bye. Bye. Bye.

LORI.  Wave hard.

DORI.  I am.

MARTY.  There was this man. He had two drumsticks and a drum. He got on the bus and began to play his drum. They all cheered and he was content. Get it?

YOUNG JOAN.  Draw a straight line and then a curve. Then dab on blue. Short strokes.  Little feathery strokes. Good. Do you see it? Do you see the sky?

JOAN.  I see the sky. I see the sky and the mountain and the house and the tree and the girl and the others and the picture and the garden.

YOUNG JOAN.  I see the sky. I see the sky and the mountain and the house and the tree and the girl and the others and the picture and the garden.

JOAN.  I see blue.

YOUNG JOAN.  I see blue.

JOAN.  Here I go. The light is good today. I’m happy to slip into it. I’ll run. I’ll run and touch things. I’ll take off my shoes and run.

YOUNG JOAN.  Fast. I’ll keep going until dark and then I’ll keep going until day and my feet won’t hurt. It feels like I’m flying.

JOAN.  Home. I am. I’m flying home. Nothing can stop me. I run fast through the dark and through the light and through this and this and this…

MARTY.  Joanie.

JOAN.  All the bright star. Inside the outside. We go up and we go down.

MARTY.  Like this.

YOUNG JOAN.  And this.

JOAN.  And this. (Blackout)

End of Play

Rachel Joseph’s short stories and plays have appeared in literary journals ranging from North American Review to Kenyon Review Online. She was a finalist for the 2017 Arts & Letters Drama Prize, and a finalist for the 2017 Hudson Prize. She is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Trinity University.