by: Clarinda Ross
(Roles may double. If not specified, any ethnicity or gender can play a role.)
C.A., Caucasian, 55, a college professor, a Southern gentleman, educated family man, a sportsman and a gun collector, a lifetime member of the NRA and president of his local gun club. He is all about safety. Would never leave a gun unattended.
APRIL, Caucasian, his daughter, plays ages 14-33
Restraining Order or God Is Among Us
MAGGIE, a mother and a part-time waitress of Mexican descent
MANNY, her soon-to-be ex-husband
SONIA, Maggie’s sister and owner of the diner of Mexican descent
RAUL, from Central America, a fry cook
Why are you shooting me?
ANDREW, 30-60, mentally disabled Caucasian or Hispanic
KENNETH, late ’20’s – 30’s, a behavioral therapist African-American
2 POLICE OFFICERS, any age, any gender, any ethnicity
CARL, 40-55; a family man, in his car
DEBBIE, 40-55; a lioness mom, all flying thumbs
TERRY, 12; a smart kid, at middle school, either gender
Shooting Fugue #4
Various recorded voices.
They did a good thing today
LITTLE C.A., 5 or 6 years old, either gender
Real guns may be used as props. However, if real guns are used, please no blanks, no live shots, no pyrotechnics. GUNSHOTS should be depicted theatrically, with movement, lights, or sound. TEXT MESSAGES should be projections, distinguished by individual “text tones.” If projections are not feasible, TEXT MESSAGES could be read by actors and played as prerecorded sound cues at the discretion of the creative team.
Time: February 1976
Place: An outdoor shooting range.
C.A., stands legs apart, wearing protective ear- and eyewear.
On the ground beside him is a backpack and maybe some ammo cases.
He aims his PISTOL down the center aisle. He is in deep concentration.
He fires three SHOTS in rapid succession.
C.A.: All clear!
He opens his gun, checks to see that the
chamber is empty, reloads, and puts on the safety.
APRIL (14 years old) in pigtails, enters, runs past her father.
C.A. picks up his shell casings and pockets them.
C.A. (CONT’D): How’d I do?
APRIL: (O.S.) Pretty good, Daddy. All inside the circle.
April returns with a paper target and gives it to him.
C.A.: Your turn.
He places earmuffs and eyewear on her. He carefully
hands her the pistol, nose down, stands behind her,
helps her get the proper stance, then steps back. She takes aim.
C.A. (CONT’D): Waaaaait. Check right—
APRIL/C.A.: (speaking in unison) Check left. Look front. Look back. See any living thing?
APRIL: No, Daddy.
She resumes her stance. She pulls the trigger. Nothing.
She drops the nose of the gun toward the ground.
She looks at him, perplexed. He walks over and reaches for the gun.
He removes the safety. She smiles apologetically.
She takes her firing stance.
C.A. (CONT’D): Use that bottom hand to support. Shoulders back. Find your sight. Soften your knees. Deep breath. Relax. Go when you get still.
She takes a deep breath, focuses, then fires a few shots.
C.A. (CONT’D): Good job.
She points the gun toward the ground
and moves toward him. He holds up his hand.
C.A. (CONT’D): Wait. What do you say?
APRIL: All clear!
She hands him the gun, careful to keep it nose down.
C.A.: Pick up your shells.
She picks them up. He checks the gun to make
sure it is empty and then puts on the safety.
C.A. (CONT’D): Run and see how you did.
She gleefully exits While she’s gone, he packs up
the gun in its case and gathers his thermos.
She returns waving a paper.
APRIL: Daddy. Daddy! Look! I got one in the middle.
C.A.: Let me see that.
She proudly hands him the target.
C.A. (CONT’D): Well, how about that.
She beams with pride.
C.A. (CONT’D): You’ll be besting me soon.
APRIL: Naw, Daddy, you’re pulling my leg.
C.A.: Am not. Women are better shots than men. Everybody knows that.
She looks at him, disbelieving.
C.A. (CONT’D): It’s true. Women have got better aim. You keep practicing, I’ll enter you in a tournament.
C.A.: Yes, ma’am.
APRIL: But I thought that it was just boys at the gun club.
C.A.: Just boys ’til now. You keep pulling like you did today and they’ll elect you president.
C.A.: You keep on just like that. You’ll see.
APRIL: But, you are the president.
C.A.: (winking) Well, I am the president of the gun club—for now, ’til some little gal beats me. out.
APRIL: Daddy, do you think a woman will ever be the real president of America?
C.A. :Well, sure. Why not? Sure. There definitely will be. Could be you.
APRIL: Ha. Ha. Ha.
C.A.: I’m not joking. America’s behind the times. There’s Golda Meir in Israel. Indira Gandhi over in India. Nobody tougher than her. Be good to shake things up. I reckon men been running it a long time.
She smiles, basking in the glow of her father’s confidence.
The Shooting Fugue #1
The Shooting Fugue scenes work like the movements of a symphony. This first scene is fast-paced or Allegro.
Place: Any suburb in America
In DARKNESS, we hear a rapid barrage of SOUNDS;
static, radios, police scanners, cellphones buzzing, ringing, and VOICES.
NEWS ANNOUNCER: (V.O.) Breaking news, there has been a shooting at Rolling Oaks High School.
POLICE DISPATCHER: (V.O.) All units to Rolling Oaks High. We have an active shooter. Approach with caution, all units.
NEWS ANNOUNCER: (V.O.) Rolling Oaks is a suburb just northwest of (name of nearest large city). Police and rescue vehicles are on scene—some students fled on foot, but many remain inside the school. Some terrified students have been texting their parents.
VOICES fade, as the SOUNDS of Police
SIRENS and SCANNERS, CELL PHONE
tones and RINGS distort growing in speed and
intensity until all SOUND SLAMS OUT.
SILENCE. LIGHTS UP.
SOUND gentle wind, leaves, birds.
Time: Spring 1978
Place: The woods, near a creek
Nature sounds of birds and babbling water.
C.A. wears blue-jeans and a holster containing his PISTOL.
He sits on a folding camp chair reading a thick history book.
April (now 16) lays on an old army blanket, looking at a magazine.
C.A.: You want some boiled peanuts?
He gets out a bag of boiled peanuts and a thermos.
He sets up another empty paper bag for the shells.
They eat in silence for a bit, sucking down peanuts
and dropping the shells in the paper bag.
He pours lemonade into the lid of his thermos
and offers her a sip. She drinks, then hands it back to him.
APRIL (CONT’D): Thanks, Daddy.
He drains the rest of the lemonade.
She lays down and looks skyward following some birds.
Restraining Order or God Is Among Us
An empty diner in West Texas.
A cold, dry Wednesday, between breakfast and lunch.
A waitress, MAGGIE, is filling saltshakers.
The cook, RAUL, can be partially seen
through a pass-through to the kitchen.
The radio plays country music.
MANNY enters wearing a plaid wool jacket.
He stamps his feet. Maggie stops her work.
She remains stock-still, waiting, watching. He takes a seat.
MANNY: Why what?
MAGGIE: Why are you here, Manny?
MANNY: Cain’t a man get some by-God breakfast?
MAGGIE: You can get breakfast but that’s it. No crap okay?
He takes a seat.
MAGGIE (CONT’D): We’ve got a restraining order.
MANNY: Yeah. Yeah. I know all about the restraining order. It’s for the house. This ain’t the house, is it now, Maggie?
MAGGIE: No. It is not the house.
MANNY: So, I can come here and eat; can I not? Because THIS is NOT the HOUSE. MY by-God house that I paid for, that y’all get to live in.
She goes to the counter to get a set-up and a glass of water.
MAGGIE: Nobody owns that house but the bank, Manny. Been working doubles to pay the mortgage on my own.
MANNY: Lucky you got a job. I don’t have a sister giving me hand-outs. Where is she?
She sets his place. He eyes her; she is careful.
MANNY (CONT’D): I asked you a question—where’s Sonia?
MANNY: Where are they?
She does not respond. She gets a cup and the coffeepot.
MANNY (CONT’D): They ain’t been home in three days. I got a right to know the whereabouts of my kids—
MAGGIE: —after the way you behaved in front of them—
MANNY: What the hell? A man, a father, has got no rights?
MAGGIE: Manny, if you could control your temper, you’d get your “rights” back . . . the supervised visits will be over soon.
He makes a guttural noise.
MANNY: They at your mama’s, ain’t they?
MAGGIE: Please don’t, Manny. You’ll see them on Sunday. We will meet you in the church parking lot. It’s all in the agreement.
MANNY: What the fuck do you mean, agreement?
MAGGIE: The restraining order.
MANNY: Well, that’s an order not a fucking agreement. Agreement. Shit. I got zero say-so. Fucking “family” judge. That woman was a piece a work, a real cunt—
MAGGIE: C’mon, Manny, don’t.
MANNY: Do they even ask about me?
She does not respond.
MANNY (CONT’D): What the hell are you telling ’em? Telling I don’t want to see them?
MAGGIE: No. I tell them that we have decided not to be married anymore, but we will always love them. That’s what I tell them.
MANNY: Yeah, right. You and your bitch of a sister and your bitch of a mother are over there singing my praises, I’m sure.
MAGGIE: You gonna order? You better get some breakfast and move along before Sonia gets back.
He turns over the coffee cup. She pours coffee.
MANNY: Move along? I’m not a fucking bum.
She waits, struggling not to get upset.
She holds her pad and pencil with determination.
MANNY (CONT’D): (sickly sweet) Ain’t you gonna get me the by-God menu?
She turns away, irritated; he knows the
damn menu by heart. He’s testing her.
She gets a menu, then pushes it across the table,
careful not to get too close. He opens it, taking his time.
She waits for a reasonable amount of time.
MAGGIE: Are you ready to order?
MANNY: (angry) I will tell you when I am by-God ready!
She retreats and resumes filling saltshakers.
She finishes a tray of shakers and distributes
them to the remaining tables.
While she goes about her business, Manny is
eyeing the room, checking the exit options.
Maggie hands a bus pan filled with dirty
dishes through the opening to Raul.
MAGGIE: Raul? Mas sucios. Por favor. Gracias.
Raul takes the bus pan. Manny clears his
throat loudly. Maggie doesn’t respond.
MAGGIE: You ready?
MANNY: Yes, I am by-God ready, if you ain’t too busy speaking a foreign language in the United States of America.
MAGGIE: Chill. Why are you like that? When your own grandma is Mexican.
MANNY: Not anymore she ain’t. She became an American when she married my grandpa. She sure wadn’t like—
Shouting toward the kitchen loud enough for Raul to hear.
MANNY (CONT’D): —these motherfuckers coming up from Central America!
MAGGIE: Why do that? He just wants a better life, Manny. Sends all his money back there. What’ll it be?
MANNY: Ham and eggs. Over easy. And tell him not to break the yolk.
MAGGIE: Grits or hash browns?
MAGGIE: Toast or biscuits?
MANNY: Where’s the ashtray?
She points to a “No Smoking” sign behind the register.
She pins up the ticket in the cook’s window.
Raul reaches for the ticket, but it slips out of
his hands and falls to the ground.
RAUL: Señora? Disculpame.
Maggie picks up the ticket and hands it to Raul.
MAGGIE: De nada.
Meanwhile, Manny has lit a cigarette and
is using his coffee saucer as an ashtray.
She smells the smoke, walks over with the coffeepot.
MAGGIE (CONT’D): Refill?
MANNY: Sure thing, sweetheart.
MAGGIE: You need to go outside with that cigarette.
MANNY: Why? Ain’t nobody else in here.
MAGGIE: I’m here and Raul’s here.
MANNY: Well, I sure as shit don’t count him.
MAGGIE: Be nice. You can’t smoke in here. Sonia will have a fit. Go outside, have your smoke. I’ll come and get you when your eggs are up.
Manny makes a big production out of
getting up and putting on his coat,
he pushes a chair out of his way with a loud screech.
MANNY: What the hell is happening to this country? No goddamn freedom anymore!
She retreats behind the counter.
MANNY (CONT’D): Can’t do nothing, can’t smoke, can’t see my own damn kids. All ’cause of you—
He opens the door and slams out.
MANNY (CONT’D): (O.S.)—BITCH!
As soon as he exits, Maggie dials the phone.
SOUND: a truck door slamming offstage.
MAGGIE: (on the phone) Hey, Mama, listen Manny’s in here—take the kids out somewhere. He’s getting breakfast so you have a minute but hurry on. I’m afraid he’ll try and come over there. Where’s Daddy? Okay. Okay. Bye.
SOUND: car arriving, car door slamming.
SONIA enters from the kitchen, carrying a
zippered change bag from the bank.
She is older and braver than Maggie.
SONIA: Maggie, what the hell? Why didn’t you call me?
Raul rings the bell. Eggs are up.
Sonia marches straight to the door and calls out into the parking lot.
SONIA(CONT’D): (calling off) What in the hell are you doing here?
SOUND: truck door opening.
MANNY: (O.S.) Are you talking to me?
SONIA: (calling off) Yes, asshole. Why can’t you leave her alone? You can’t come around here—
GUNSHOT. Sonia is hit. She falls. Maggie screams.
MAGGIE: Sonia! Aaaaaah! NO!
Manny enters, stepping over Sonia.
He holds a pistol, a cigarette
is hanging out of his mouth.
He starts casually shooting around the diner
hitting salt- and sugar shakers like they are targets.
He’s counting the number of shots he takes.
He does this calmly, even happily.
Glass bursts and sugar runs out.
Maggie is terrified, crying, backing toward the kitchen.
Meanwhile, Sonia, who is bleeding,
manages to quietly crawl off, unbeknownst to Manny.
Once he’s busted the sugar shakers,
he turns on Maggie. He raises his gun and takes his aim.
MAGGIE (CONT’D): No. No. NO! Manny. Don’t. Don’t. Please, the kids!
MANNY: I can’t see them. So what does it matter?
MAGGIE: (pleading) Please, please, don’t do this, Manny. Please, they need their mama. Please I—
Manny fires. Maggie falls behind the counter out of sight.
Raul makes a break for it.
RAUL: Dios mio!
SOUND: back door slamming.
Raul’s footfalls are heard running,
crunching across the gravel lot.
Manny follows to the door. Raul can be heard screaming—
RAUL (CONT’D): (O.S.) Ayuda! Ayuda!
Manny fires two shots. No more screaming.
Manny puts the gun in his pocket. He takes a drag off his cigarette.
He stubs it out on the floor. He steps over Maggie’s body.
He picks up his plate of eggs, goes back
to his table, sits, and eats. He takes his time eating.
He knows this is his last meal.
From behind the counter, we hear Maggie,
who is gurgling, gasping; then she is quiet.
Manny eats for several minutes. Slowly,
there are noises from outside encroaching.
Sonia has reached the neighbors.
Police have been called. The jig is up.
Manny knows it. He finishes his plate.
He drinks his coffee. He calmly reloads his gun.
VOICES rise: “Go ’round the back. I got a visual. Going in, etc.”
SOUND: Back door opens. Manny puts the gun in his mouth.
BLACKOUT. SOUND: a GUNSHOT.
Time. Summer. 1980 Place. Outdoors.
April (now 18) and her dad sit on a log
and watch birds. A shotgun leans beside C.A.
He laughs quietly to himself.
C.A.: (snickering) I was just thinking of this story your granddaddy told me when I was home.
C.A.: You know my daddy, is always telling it—
APRIL: —Granddaddy’s ghost stories are the best. The one about the lights going around him on the road and him holding out his claw-hammer. Ooooh.
C.A.: Yeah, that’s a good ’un. But this story he tole struck me ’cause it was about hunting and I like hunting.
C.A.: Lemme see if I can tell it like Daddy did . . . Ahem.
He assumes “Granddaddy’s voice” and
demeanor, with a more pronounced country accent.
C.A. (CONT’D): Did I ever tell you the one about the best bird dog in the world?
APRIL: Naw, Granddaddy, why don’t you tell me about the best bird dog in the world.
C.A.: Alrighty, I wuz workin’ for that ol’ boy Davis. You know he’s got more money than sense. Has to have the best of everything. Anyhow, I’ve trained a couple a dogs for him so he can show off when his city friends come up here to go hunting. Well, ol’ Davis heard tell of this codger in Tennessee that claimed to have the best bird dog in the world. An’ Davis just could not stand it, he wuz just gonna have to have that par-tic-u-lar bird dog. So, he gives me the ol’ boy’s name and address, it wuz a ways over yonder, in Tennessee, near Copper Hill, and Davis tells me I can spend up to $1,000 dollars to buy this prize bird dog off of the ol’ boy. So, I go up into Tennessee, and find the man. His house was a way up in a holler. I parked down on the road and walked up a dirt trail and yelled a “Howdy” up to him—you know, stating my business so he’d know I was all right, that I wasn’t the law or nothin’. The man yells back, “C’mon up here.” Now, he’s standing on the porch with a old 22, you know, real old, with the outside hammers on it, and I told him why I’d come. He asked me to sit down thar with him and I told ’im that I was there to see his famous bird dog.
We talked for a bit, then he whistled and the flea-bitten-est dog you ever saw, came a- running out from under the house. I asked if we could see her hunt. So, we go over to the cornfield back of his house, ’bout an acre. That dog started running in great big circles, and her circles kept getting smaller and smaller. Then I figured out that this dog was herding a covey of quail, that were out in the corn patch. She runs around tighter and tighter. They wuz this hole in the ground where they wuz trying to pull up a stump, and the birds all hid down in that hole underneath the stump and then the dog ran up to the stump and lo ’n’ behold if she didn’t hunker down over the hole, at the top at that stump. That dog was crouched down there stock-still, panting, and waiting. The ol’ codger turned to me and said, “What’ll be? Singles or Doubles?”
He laughs like this is the funniest story ever told.
She looks incredulous.
APRIL: Are you telling me the dog was gonna let the birds out one or two at a time?
C.A.: (laughing) Yep. On his call.
APRIL.: That ain’t so.
C.A.: (laughing) Well, you better ask your granddaddy if you don’t believe me.
They sit for a minute, sun on their faces, watching the birds,
listening to the water of a nearby brook,
not talking, just enjoying the day for a full minute.
Then he dusts his hands and gets up.
He picks up his gun holster and straps it on.
C.A. (CONT’D): Well, reckon we better git on. Your mama will give us out.
He puts his backpack on one shoulder and stretches
out his hand to pull her up. She lingers, a moment,
looking out over the creek. She extends her hand,
he pulls her up, and they exit, his arm around her shoulder.
TIME: December 2, 2015
PLACE: Various locations in and around San Bernardino, California.
The majority of the lines in this scene are text messages. When texting, the Actors will speak their texts outloud. They are dictatin.
Sound design should include some opera music and a plethora of appropriate beeps and text tones.
DEBBIE, CARL, and TERRY are never in the same physical space.
The family is spread out, in different locations
amid the suburban sprawl of San Bernardino, California.
The characters should be separated by pools of light.
LIGHTS up on DEBBIE. She sits alone reading
over a report in a bland conference room of
the Inland Regional Center, a governmental agency
that provides services for the disabled.
Offstage, sounds of Regional Center workers
drift in as they prepare for a party that is to take place that evening.
LIGHTS up on CARL, he’s driving in heavy traffic
on the 210 freeway just outside of Los Angeles.
Carl speaks into the hands-free technology of his late-model luxury car.
CARL: Text Debbie. Where are you? Send.
Debbie’s purse buzzes on the table. She retrieves her phone
from her giant ‘mom’ bag, dictates her text messages
and occasionally manually fixes an auto-correct mistake
in her messages before she hits send.
DEBBIE: At the Regional Center. Waiting to start Clara’s meeting.
CARL: Reply. Can you pick up Terry from school? Send.
DEBBIE: Sure. Should be done here in about an hour. xo D.
CARL: Reply. I’m just leaving Pasadena, it will take me a while to get home. What are we doing about dinner? Send.
LIGHTS up on TERRY on the sidewalk in front of
the middle school, phone in hand. S/he waves to offstage friends.
TERRY: (speaking to offstage friends) Bye! See you guys! (dictating into the phone) Hi, Mom. Builder’s Club meeting until 4:30. Can we go to Staples after? I need colored markers for my project.
DEBBIE: Sure. I’ll have Clara with me, so I’ll give you money and you’ll have to run in.
TERRY: Don’t forget tonight’s school fund-raiser @ Pieology, can we please go? Sissy can come too she loves pizza. 🙂
DEBBIE: Okay. But tomorrow night all of us are all sitting down together, as a family, for dinner—at home. See you. We’ll go to Staples. Then meet Dad & Frank @ Pieology. xo M.
TERRY: Emojis of Smiley faces and green creatures and hearts and three thumbs-up signs, the American Sign Language hand symbol for “I love you” and the letters I, L, Y in ALL CAPS followed by an exclamation point.
DEBBIE: ILY! What’s that mean?
TERRY: I love you.
DEBBIE: Yeah? Is it just because I am giving you pizza?
TERRY: Not just that. I’d ily you w/o pizza.
DEBBIE: Awww. Thanks hon. & ily. Right back @ you.
TERRY: & if you really really mean it you say ilysm = I love you so much!
She hits send. Types again.
DEBBIE (CONT’D): New language skills! See you after Clara’s meeting. ilysm my beautiful boy/girl. xoxo 🙂
Debbie hits send and puts her phone down.
It immediately buzzes. She picks it up again.
Lights shift to Carl in his car.
CARL: Reply. I just got a text from you ilysm? What’s that? & What about dinner? Send.
DEBBIE: That was for Terry, I’m told it means “I-love-you-so-much” but ilysm to you too. Could you pick up Frank from practice? Then head to Pieology? Tonight is a fund-raiser for Terry’s school. I have the coupon. Should be there by six, give or take, with traffic.
CARL: Reply. Ok. We will be there as soon as we can. XO Send.
Lights fade on Carl and Terry.
Debbie puts her phone down on the conference table.
She walks upstage, waves to an offstage social worker.
DEBBIE: (speaking offstage) Hi Angela, I snuck in the back so Clara wouldn’t see me. Ready whenever you are.
ANGELA: (O.S.) Give me five minutes, the therapy dogs just arrived.
DEBBIE: Oh, that is so great. Those dogs are the highlight of Clara’s world! No rush. I’ll just check my emails. Better anyway if Clara doesn’t see me until we’re done with the meeting. Oh, do you know if Amy is coming?
ANGELA: (O.S.) Amy?
DEBBIE: Amy Cress, the occupational therapist.
ANGELA: (O.S.) Yes, of course. She can’t come in today, but she sent her treatment notes.
DEBBIE: Sorry she can’t come but . . . we will plow ahead.
Debbie sits back down and scrolls through
her phone for a few moments then—
GUNSHOTS. At first it sounds like firecrackers,
a few pops, then SCREAMS, then a deafening barrage
leaves no doubt about what is happening.
Debbie moves toward the door. BLACKOUT.
In DARKNESS, we hear a cacophony of SOUNDS;
screaming, dogs barking, children crying, calls for help,
moans, phones ringing, then sirens, and at last
the sounds of police scanners and police on loud speakers
giving instructions. Doors are being opened.
Sounds of the injured being evacuated.
LIGHTS slowly come up and we see half of
Debbie’s body, the other half is offstage as if
she’s fallen in a doorway, her legs are visible.
Blood and matter are visible.
Debbie’s PHONE lies near her motionless body buzzing constantly.
In another area, lights come up on Terry
still waiting at school. S/he dials the phone.
Listens to the recording of Debbie’s outgoing message followed by a BEEP!
DEBBIE: (V.O.) Hi, this is Debbie, mama to Clara, Frank and Terry. Sorry, I missed your call but I am rooting around here, oh, shoot, I cannot find my phone inside this giant purse in time to answer your call. I know it’s a pain but please leave me a message and I’ll get back to you just as soon as I can. And, be comforted by the fact that if we’re ever stranded in a snow storm together, we could live for a week off all the things in this purse—PowerBars, mints, cough drops, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, you name it. Have a great day and I’ll call you back just as soon as I find my phone.
TERRY: (leaving a message) Mom! Where are you? It’s 4:45. I’m gonna call Dad.
Terry hangs up and dials.
Lights up on Carl in his car answering the call.
CARL: Hey. What’s up?
TERRY: Daaaaad. Mom’s not here and she said she’d pick me up and we could go out to eat.
CARL: No worries, kiddo. I’m sure she’s still in her meeting. I’ll try her, you just sit tight. Do some homework. What’s the best advice your father ever gave you?
TERRY: Always carry a book.
CARL: That’s my guy/girl. See you.
Carl and Terry hang up. Freeway noise.
CARL (CONT’D): Text Debbie. Hey, hon. Hope you are almost there. Terry just called me, worried. Are you stuck? I’m still on the 210. Traffic is insane. Something must be going on. I’ve seen a lot of cops and paramedics. Send.
Terry tries mom’s number.
Debbie’s phone rings and rings and rings.
Terry hangs up and dictates a text message.
TERRY: Mom, I called Dad and he is still really far away. When will you be here?
Carl tunes the radio in his car.
NPR ANNOUNCER: (V.O.) We have some breaking news, there has been a mass shooting, at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. Police have blocked off the area surrounding the Center—
CARL: Text Debbie. I just heard the news. Are you okay? Are you still in the building? Send.
TERRY: Moooooooooom! Where are you? It’s getting dark and almost everyone has left my school.
CARL: Call Debbie.
Carl grows frantic as he listens to Debbie’s
outgoing message followed by a BEEP!
DEBBIE: (V.O.) Hi, this is Debbie, mama to Clara, Frank and Terry. Sorry, I missed your call but I am rooting around here, oh, shoot, I cannot find my phone inside this giant purse in time to answer your call. I know it’s a pain but please leave me a message and I’ll get back to you just as soon as I can. And be comforted by the fact that if we’re ever stranded in a snow storm together, we could live for a week off all the things in this purse—PowerBars, mints, cough drops, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, you name it. Have a great day and I’ll call you back just as soon as I find my phone.
CARL: Oh, my God. My God. Deb, please just be okay. Are you in there? Call me! Oh, my God. Did you get out? What about Clara? Oh my God. Please. Please be okay. Hang on. I’m coming to get you both. I love you. I’ll be there soon. Oh God. I love you so much.
Debbie’s phone continues to BUZZ and RING as the lights come down.
Time: Feb. 4, 1987
Place: Upscale living room.
LIGHTS up on C.A. locking his GUN SAFE. April is watching TV.
She is now twenty-six years old and visibly pregnant.
She sits with her feet up. C.A. joins her and drinks
from a large mug that reads Best Grandfather in the World.
TV ANNOUNCER: (V.O.) Good Evening. Today, February 4, 1987, the Brady Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress for the first time. Sarah Brady, wife of White House Press Secretary James Brady, is working to make the passage of the Brady Hand Gun Bill their top legislative priority. Some NRA members argue that a thirty-day waiting period is a violation of their Second Amendment rights.
C.A.: Nonsense. Psssh. That doesn’t make a bit of sense. I’m a lifetime member of the NRA and there’s not a gun in the world I cannot wait thirty days to have.
APRIL: You waited longer than that for the one I got you.
C.A.: That I did, and that was the biggest surprise I ever got for Christmas. Well, until you gave me this mug.
He holds up his MUG. She pats her belly.
APRIL: Were you surprised?
C.A.: Yes I was. In a good way.
APRIL: You’ll be a fine granddaddy.
C.A.: Oh, I intend to be—nothing more I’d aspire to.
APRIL: You’re a good history professor.
C.A.: Hope so.
APRIL: Think you’ll ever retire from teaching history?
C.A.: No, I’ll never retire. I’m just gonna be Emeritus.
They laugh. LIGHTS.
The Shooting Fugue
Place: Any suburb in America
In DARKNESS, we hear a rapid barrage of SOUNDS;
static, radios, police scanners, cellphones buzzing, and ringing.
Lights up. The REPORTER and her CAMERA- PERSON
stand behind a barricade or tape.
A uniformed POLICE OFFICER rushes in with a bullhorn.
POLICE OFFICER: (on bullhorn) We need to clear this area. We ask that you clear the area for your safety. Parents, if you are looking for information about your student, please go to the community center on Sunset.
FEMALE NEWS REPORTER: (to her cameraman) Did you get that? We ready?
FEMALE NEWS REPORTER (CONT’D): (to camera) Leslie Queen live outside Rolling Oaks High School, where there are reports of shots fired. We are being asked to stay back by police. A hundred or so students fled the school on foot. However, many students remain inside on lockdown. Earlier, I spoke to a student who says she saw the shooter. Can we roll that?
Video of a prerecorded student.
STUDENT: (O.S.) I saw him. He had two guns. I think they were like, like assault rifles. He was just spraying bullets! Spraying bullets everywhere. Like water from a hose!
Distraught mother enters.
FEMALE NEWS REPORTER: Parents are swarming the area awaiting news. Some are texting with their children inside the school. Ma’am, can you tell me what you know?
DISTRAUGHT MOTHER: She thought it was a DRILL. My daughter, my BABY, she’s a freshman. She’s hiding in the bathroom. Look at these TEXTS.
MOTHER shows her phone to the reporter.
FEMALE NEWS REPORTER: (to her cameraman) Can you get a shot of this?
DISTRAUGHT MOTHER: What is wrong with our world? Whhhhhy? Why is this happening over and over to our CHILDREN?
FEMALE NEWS REPORTER (CONT’D): (to mother) When was the last text? Is there a time stamp?
MOTHER bursts into tears.
DISTRAUGHT MOTHER: OH MY GOD! I – I – My BABY is hiding in a bathroom telling me GOOD-BYE! What is happening? OH my GOD, what is wrong with our world? Oh my God.
The REPORTER instinctively holds her while she sobs.
SOUND: Police SIRENS and SCANNERS,
CELL PHONE tones and RINGS distort growing
in speed and intensity until all SOUND SLAMS OUT.
They did a good thing today
Place: Living room, Walnut Creek, CA
During the final scene. All actors (except for April and her child) gather on the edges of the stage, or in the aisles. They are the FAMILY MEMBERS of the mass shooting victims, silently waiting for news of their students. They do not acknowledge the April scene. The hold vigil, sometimes hugging, checking their phones, waiting in the DARKNESS.
LIGHTS rise on April’s six-year-old child
playing with puzzles. CNN is on TV. April folds laundry,
but as the report goes on, she is drawn in and sits beside her child.
BERNARD SHAW: (V.O.) “Good evening. It’s September 13, 1994. Following a close 52–48 vote in the Senate, President Bill Clinton signed into law The Federal Assault Weapons Ban; officially the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, a subsection of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits the manufacture, for civilian use, of semiautomatic firearms defined as assault weapons, as well as certain “large capacity” ammunition magazines. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is the bill’s author and says it is a watered-down version of the original. Former presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan all wrote in support of the legislative ban on semiautomatic assault- style weapons.”
APRIL: Well, isn’t that great?
LITTLE C.A.: What is great, Mommy?
She silences the TV.
APRIL: They did a good thing today.
LITTLE C.A.: What good thing?
APRIL: The good thing is, they made a really good law today. Offices, malls, and schools will be safer. Which is a really good thing since you just started (insert appropriate grade for the child actor i.e. – kindergarten or second grade)!
LITTLE C.A.: I love my school. I got double strawberries from Mrs. Dworin. Wanna see?
S/he runs to backpack and comes back with two
bright red, strawberry-shaped pieces of paper.
APRIL: Two strawberries. That’s great, honey. You’re such a good student. Just like my dad.
LITTLE C.A.: I wanna be a teacher just like Granddaddy.
APRIL: Awww, really?
LITTLE C.A.: Mm-hmm.
APRIL: That would make him happy. He would have been so proud of you and of your two strawberries.
LIGHTS fade on April and her child.
In the shadows, FAMILY MEMBERS hold their breath.
End of play.
Clarinda Ross is a mom of three, an actress, a writer, a special-needs advocate, a yogi, a lover of cats, a maker of lists, a worrier, and a daddy’s girl. She was born in Georgia and raised in North Carolina. Her plays have been produced at several Equity theaters and published by Applause Theatre Books and The Kenyon Review. Her first play, From My Grandmother’s Grandmother Unto Me just had its thirtieth production. She lives in L.A. with her husband, actor/producer Googy Gress. She is becoming increasingly sure that greed is the problem.