I’ve written a lot of plays over the years (I guess that’s what happens when a writer gets a PhD in Drama), but this one is my favorite. If someone out there wants to produce it, do a staged reading, make it into a short film, etc., please do so with my blessings. Plays were meant to be performed!
By Adrienne MacIain
NOTE: A “/” indicates an overlap in dialogue. When a “/” appears, the following line should begin, overlapping the remainder of the line already being spoken.
(Nighttime, at an intersection in a residential neighborhood. To the right stands a stop sign, to the left, a telephone pole. Two adolescent boys, “Sour” and “Spark,” are riding their bikes in lazy circles around one another. The bikes are way too small for the boys, but they ride them with surprising expertise. Sour is a good-looking kid and knows it; Spark is going through an “awkward phase,” and also knows it.)
SOUR: I think there’s a poltergeist in my house.
SOUR: Yeah. S’fuckin’ creepy, Dude.
SPARK: Since when?
SOUR: Since, like, I dunno, a while ago.
SPARK: That’s weird.
SOUR: No shit it’s weird. Fuckin’ freakin’ me out.
(They pull over. Bright lights shine on the boys like headlights. We hear the sound of a car coming to a stop and driving off again. The boys resume riding.)
SPARK: What kind is it?
SOUR: What kind of what?
SOUR: What, you mean like, what species?
SPARK: No, I mean like, what does it do? Throw plates at the wall? Make the table levitate when you’re trying to eat dinner? Or what?
SOUR: No, Dude, it’s obsessed with the number two.
SOUR: Yeah, man. I’ll be playing on the computer, and all the sudden, the’ll be all these twos filling up the screen, like somebody’s finger is pushing on the two key, only my hands are on my lap, right?
SPARK: So you need a new computer. That doesn’t mean / you have a poltergeist.
SOUR: That’s how it started, but now it’s spread. So I’ll be in the kitchen, like, pouring a bowl of, like, Frosted Flakes or whatever, and all the sudden I hear this “beep, beep, beepbeepbeepbeepbeep” coming from the microwave. And when I look over, the little timer screen is just solid twos.
SPARK: Isn’t that dangerous? I mean, what if somebody hit start on accident and there was nothing in there? Don’t microwaves like, blow up when that happens?
SOUR: Yeah, man! That happened to my friend’s cousin once. Sparks flyin’ everywhere and like radioactive shit zapping the whole fuckin’ house. Probably everyone on that whole block is, like, sterile now. Or like, dying of some kind of cancer.
SOUR: S’fuckin’ wack, Dude.
SPARK: Maybe you should hire an exorcist or something.
(They repeat the waiting-for-the-car ritual, then resume cruising as usual)
SOUR: Where do you find an exorcist?
SPARK: I dunno. Check the yellow pages, I guess.
SOUR: Right. (Digging a small bag out of his pocket) Wanna sour?
SPARK: Sure. (He reaches his hand out, but on contact with Sour’s hand, they are both hit by a powerful shock, from which they recoil violently). Ow!
SOUR: Shit, Dude. That fuckin’ hurt!
(Sour pops a candy in his mouth, puts the bag away. They cruise in silence for a moment. Sour reaches his foot out and kicks Spark’s tire. Spark retaliates. They continue this “jousting” through the following dialogue.)
SPARK: So did you give ‘em to her yet?
SOUR: Haven’t seen her yet.
SPARK: What are you talking about you haven’t seen her? You see her every morning.
SOUR: I’m just waiting for my moment, yo. It’s all in the timing.
SOUR: Fuck you whatever. You’ve never asked a girl out in your entire fuckin’ life.
SPARK: I’m just waiting for my moment, yo.
SOUR: Fuck off.
SPARK: It’s all in the timing.
SOUR: You’re waiting for my sister is what you’re waiting for.
SPARK: The fuck are you talking about, Sicko? Your SISTER? Now that is nasty.
SOUR: I saw you lookin’, Dog.
SPARK: Unless you’ve got some other sister you keep locked in the attic who isn’t a total über-bitch…
SOUR: You think you’re bein’ all secret agent and shit, hiding up that tree.
SPARK: What the fuck are you talkin’ about?
SOUR: Oh right, okay, so it wasn’t you, it was your identical twin or your, like, CLONE or whatthefuckever.
SPARK: You must be on some heavy drugs, because you are… fuckin’… illusional
SOUR: Whatever, Dude. If you want to be a peeping tom, that’s your problem. But I gotta say, I thought you would have better taste than Sid.
SPARK: If I were the last guy on earth, and Sid came crawling up to me in – fuckin’ – Victoria Secrets underwear and shit…
SOUR: That’s Victoria’s Secret, Dickwad.
SPARK: Whatever. The point is I would let the human race die out, okay?
(Sour stops his bike, gets out another sour candy and pops it in his mouth. Spark circles him.)
SPARK: Those avocados are gonna rot if you don’t give ‘em to her soon.
SOUR: They won’t rot. They’re still hard. And if they do I’ve still got a whole tree full. Unless you’ve been eating them while you’re up there beating off, watching Sid dance to the ‘Chili Peppers.
SPARK: Fuck off.
SOUR: (Doing a mocking impression of Sid’s dancing; he sings:) “Nay-ked in thu rain…”
SPARK: FUCK OFF Sour. That shit isn’t funny.
(Spark reaches out to kick Sour’s bike but misses. He nearly loses his balance, and grabs onto Sour’s bike for balance. Reflexively, Sour grabs Spark’s bike, so that the two are locked in an awkward embrace across their bikes for a moment.
Disturbed by the intimacy of the moment, the two boys step off their bikes and stumble backward, away from one another. They regard each other for a beat, then get back on their bikes and resume cruising in silence.
A beat passes.)
SPARK: Maybe it’s trying to tell you something.
SOUR: What is?
SPARK: The ghost or whatever. Maybe it’s trying to send you a message.
SOUR: Like… from the “other side”? If it is, it’s doing a shitty job cuz all I’m seein’ is the number two.
SPARK: But don’t you think that might mean something? The number two? I mean, it could have picked any number, but it picked two. Alls I’m saying is you should maybe think about that. A little. Maybe.
SOUR: Didn’t you used to have a poltergeist in your house?
SOUR: I thought you told me your house was haunted.
SPARK: When did I say that?
SOUR: You said the clocks were always stopping and the T.V. would get stuck on the same channel and the lights would start flashing on and off and shit like that.
SPARK: Yeah but that wasn’t a poltergeist.
SOUR: So what was it?
SPARK: (Planting one foot on the pavement) A FUCKIN’ ELECTRICAL PROBLEM, I ALREADY TOLD YOU THIS SHIT! Jesus.
SOUR: (Coming to a halt as well) Dude, take your meds, okay? It was just a question.
(Sour’s older sister, Sid, appears. She wears combat boots and is dressed entirely in black. She has also dyed her hair black, and her roots are showing.
She lights a cigarette.)
SID: JESUS WILL YOU TWO CUT THE FOREPLAY ALREADY AND JUST GET DOWN TO BUSINESS? I fucking hate this shit. You’re out here every fucking night circling around each other like some kind of dorky-ass mating ritual. I mean, if you’re gonna fuck, just fuck already. No one will think any less of you, certainly not me. I don’t think I could think any less of you two numbnuts if I tried. But the point is: this hesitation is getting us nowhere, okay? Hesitation. Is deadly. You remember when Dad set the wok on fire tryin’ to make, fuckin’, kung-fu chicken or whatever, and his stupid-ass wife wanted to toss a glass of water on it? I didn’t hesitate: I shoved Henna-head out of the way and put the lid on that shit. Flame went out, “fpouh!” before she could peel her pathetic self off the wall. I saved the entire family from certain death. But did anyone appreciate my heroic deed? Did Dad praise his valiant daughter for her kick-ass reflexes, her ability to take swift, decisive action under pressure? HELL no. I got accused of evil stepmother abuse and sent to my room with no supper. Oh! And what a fuckin’ tragedy that was! No carbonized Chinese food for me. Not like I’m in eminent danger of starvation or anything.
SOUR: No shit. You’ve got enough Almond Joys hidden up there to feed a tribe of Pygmies.
SID: I swear to god I’m gonna start putting mousetraps in my drawers. What are you looking for in there anyway? Trying on my underwear again?
(She tries to smack him, he dodges her)
SOUR: Dad was right: you shouldn’t be pushing Marlene like that. She might be prego.
SID: Bullshit. Those two fuck like jackrabbits. If she doesn’t have a bun in the oven by now, the bakery’s closed.
SPARK: She’s not that old, though.
(Sid and Sour both look at him)
SID: You don’t have to be old to be barren, Dumbshit.
SOUR: And she’s not stupid, either. She’s getting her PhD.
SID: (sardonic laugh) Yeah. Right. Her “PhD.”
(Sour is looking away: Sid takes advantage of the opportunity and gives him the smack he dodged a moment ago. They spar for a few moments. Finally, Sid gets Sour in a compromising position)
SOUR: Hey, Spark, why don’t you go tell my Dad you saw Sid smoking out here?
SID: (To Spark) Do it, Kid, and I’ll kick you so hard you’ll have to open your mouth to take a piss.
SPARK: (To Sour) Why don’t YOU go tell him?
SOUR: (To Sid) What are you doing out of your coffin anyhow? It’s still daylight.
SID: (Giving him a final smack and then releasing him) The step monster sent me to look for you.
SID: So that means it’s time to kiss your boyfriend goodnight and come inside.
SOUR: Aw, are you jealous?
SID and SPARK: Fuck you.
(Sid shoots Spark a look)
SOUR: (To Spark) I’ll be right back, yo.
(He leans his bike against the stop sign, runs off toward the house. During the following, the light from the street-lamp increases in intensity, slowly but noticeably)
SID: (She takes a long drag on her cigarette. Looking Spark up and down) You’re a virgin. Aren’t you.
SID: I can tell just by looking at you.
SID: (Taking a few steps toward him as she speaks) It’s okay. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, you know. Sluts like Sour, they end up with crabs and warts and… syphilis and shit. You’re better off without.
SPARK: I’ll keep that in mind, thanks.
SID: You’re not really gay though. You’d like to think you are. That would give you a sense of identity. Pride. If you were queer you’d at least have a label. An explanation. An excuse. So you’ve talked yourself into having a crush on my little brother.
SID: (Coming even closer) There’s no point in playing dumb, Romeo: I’ve seen you in that tree at night, looking in his window. Surprised he hasn’t seen you himself. Or maybe he likes it. Maybe he likes the idea of you out there, looking at him while he gets undressed. He’s vain that way.
SPARK: Shut up.
SID: Do I repulse you?
SPARK: I said: shut up.
SID: (Coming dangerously close to him now) And I asked you: do I repulse you? Do you find me… repulsive?
SPARK: (Stepping off his bike) I don’t – no. I mean, I don’t know. I mean: no, I don’t.
SID: I know.
SPARK: No you don’t! You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me.
SID: Oh but I do. (Letting her cigarette fall to the pavement and grinding it out with the toe of her boot) I know all kinds of things about you.
SPARK: Yeah? Like what?
(She grabs his ass and pulls him toward her)
SID: I know you’re enjoying this. For example.
(They hold the position for a beat)
(Whispering in his ear) My brother. Is an asshole. You can do better.
(Suddenly, the street-lamp, which is now at full intensity, makes a loud buzzing sound, followed by the sound of glass breaking. Then darkness. We hear the sound of Spark’s bike clattering to the ground.)
(Nighttime. The avocado tree behind Sour and Sid’s house. Spark and Sour are lounging in the branches. Sour is sucking on a lemon.)
SOUR: Fuck her.
SPARK: Yeah, Dude. Fuck her. She’s not even that cute.
SOUR: (In falsetto) “Avocados are fattening!” Fuckin’-A, man. You try to be creative, and they shit all over you.
SPARK: Fuck ‘em.
(A beat. They look up at the sky)
SPARK: Full moon.
They start to howl at the moon, loudly and without prior warning. They thoroughly enjoy this action, and it goes on longer than is really warranted. Then they stop, just as suddenly.
Sour sucks on his lemon)
SPARK: Did you know that the human body is made of, like, ninety percent water?
SOUR: (With the lemon in his mouth) Seriously?
SPARK: S’pretty wild, huh? (Noticing Sour’s lemon) Jesus, how can you eat that shit? My mouth gets all puckery just looking at you.
SOUR: My dentist told me if I keep this up, all the enamel on my teeth will be eaten away by the time I’m forty.
SPARK: So why don’t you stop?
SOUR: Sour stuff’s the only thing I can taste.
SPARK: What d’you mean?
SOUR: I mean, I got no sense of smell, and your sense of / smell is…
SPARK: Woah, wait wait wait a minute, what are you talking about you don’t have a sense of smell?
SOUR: Deviated septum. Had it since birth.
SPARK: So you… can’t smell anything?
SPARK: That sucks!
SOUR: (Shrugging) I dunno. I mean, I don’t know what I’m missing, so I don’t really miss it, you know. I mean, like, I’m curious. As to what things smell like. But I hear descriptions, you know, and my imagination fills in the rest. I kind of figure that’s what most people do, they just don’t think about it that way.
SPARK: So, wait a minute, (he takes off one of his shoes) you can’t tell the difference between that lemon and the inside of my shoe?
(Spark holds his shoe up to Sour’s face, Sour pushes it away)
SOUR: Well, I mean, I know the difference: your shoe smells “bad,” like sweat and vinegar and all those other nasty smells people don’t like. And this lemon smells “fresh” and “citrusy,” which means that it smells “good.” But if you blindfolded me and asked me which one was which, I would have no clue.
SPARK: Woah. That’s intense.
SOUR: And see, taste and smell kind of work together, right? So mostly I have to take people’s word for what tastes good and what doesn’t.
SPARK: Aren’t you scared somebody’s gonna trick you? Give you, like, sour milk or rotten meat or something?
SOUR: That was one of Sid’s favorite tricks. But usually the texture gave it away. And I learned real early on not to trust Sid when it came to food.
SPARK: So you’ve never actually tasted Marlene’s guacamole?
SOUR: Nope. I’ve felt it though. It feels smooth. Slippery. I like how cool it is, next to the warm refried beans. And if I squeeze enough lime on everything, I can at least taste that.
SPARK: But how can you taste sour stuff, if you can’t smell it?
SOUR: Sour stuff you can feel.
(Sour hands the lemon to Spark.
Sid appears behind them.)
Suck on it.
Come on, Pussy, just stick it in your mouth and suck.
(Spark sticks out his tongue and touches it lightly to the lemon. He makes a face)
See? Makes your whole mouth tingle, right? You can feel it all along the sides and under your tongue and even way in the back of your throat. It kind of hurts, right? But it feels good at the same time.
(Spark takes another lick)
See, Dog, you’re starting to like it. I can tell.
SID: Okay, maybe I should have been a little more specific: when I said that you should just go ahead and fuck, I didn’t mean in the fucking BACKYARD within earshot of all the NEIGHBORS!
SOUR: You better get back inside, Sid: s’a full moon. You might start sprouting fur again.
SID: I’m sorry to interrupt this charming little rite of passage, but I’m afraid Marlene requires your… services?
SOUR: What does she want?
SID: Go ask her yourself, Dipshit.
SOUR: Ah, fuck.
SID: Don’t hang the messenger; I’m just following orders.
SOUR: I’ll be right back, okay?
SPARK: Yeah, okay.
(Sour exits toward the house, lemon in mouth. Sid leans against the tree, looks up at the stars.)
SID: Alone at last.
(She takes out a pack of matches)
And in your natural habitat.
(She lights a match, watches it burn)
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
(She looks at Spark)
SPARK: A pyromaniac.
(He blows out the match)
SID: I knew I could bring out the sarcastic bastard in you if I just kept at it.
SPARK: A vampire.
SID: Let that be a lesson to you, Kid, perseverance is the key.
SPARK: What do you want from me?
SID: I just want to talk to you. I’m very curious about that little… incident the other night.
SPARK: What about it?
SID: That street lamp didn’t just burn out. The bulb burst.
SID: Things like that don’t just happen for no reason.
SPARK: Apparently, they do.
SID: I love a good mystery. Looks like you’re my new hobby.
(She lights another match. They both watch it burn.)
SPARK: A pitcher. In the Big Leagues.
SID: Prima ballerina, Baby.
(She blows out the match.
Sour re-enters, lemonless. Sid vanishes.)
(Split scene: Sour and Spark in the tree, Sid and Marlene at the back door)
SPARK: (To Sour) What’d she want?
SOUR: (Climbing back into the tree) Nothin’.
SOUR: That’s what I said.
(Sid attempts to enter the back door, only to find Marlene blocking her entrance. Although Marlene’s age is unclear, she is apparently very well-preserved.)
SPARK: She calls you in there every night.
SPARK: So… why? I mean, what does she want?
SOUR: I don’t fuckin’ know, Dude.
MARLENE: Did you think I’d forget?
MARLENE: What today is.
SPARK: I mean, what happens? When you go in there?
SOUR: She puts away the dishes. Or she folds laundry. Or she washes the windows or… whatever.
SPARK: And you… help her?
SOUR: Not exactly.
SPARK: So… what do you do, exactly?
SID: And what, pray tell, is today, oh great and wise stepmother?
SOUR: I… watch her.
SPARK: You watch her.
(Marlene produces a package from behind her back)
MARLENE: (Singing B la Marilyn Monroe) Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you; happy birthday, Mister president, Happy birthday to you.
SOUR: I just… watch her. That’s all.
SPARK: You don’t…like…talk to her, or anything?
SOUR: Well, I mean, yeah. She asks me about school and shit, you know, stuff she thinks she’s s’posta ask cuz she’s trying to play Mom and whatever, but mostly I just sit there and watch her work. She says it’s the only way she can stand doing boring household chores and shit.
SPARK: Wwwwwwhat is?
SOUR: If she can make it, you know, like, a performance. Kind of.
SPARK: Like a performance.
SOUR: Kind of.
SID: (Not taking the package) Today is not my birthday.
MARLENE: Right, well, technically it’s tomorrow, but it’s almost midnight, so why don’t you just humor the old “stepmonster” and open it anyway? Hmm?
SOUR: (Reaching into his pocket) FUCK!
SOUR: I’m outta sours!
MARLENE: Come on. Just take a little peek. I know you’re curious.
SID: This is stupid: it’s NOT my birthday, okay?
MARLENE: Sidney –
SID: And my name isn’t Sidney. It’s Sid. As in Vicious.
SPARK: You don’t… watch her doing… anything else. Do you?
SOUR: Look: it isn’t like that, a’right? It’s not any kind of weird… incestuous… whatever. She just, I don’t know, she doesn’t like to be alone. She grew up with like five brothers, and she just… likes to have me around her. Okay?
MARLENE: This is a surprise: I’ve never known you to be squeamish, “Sid.” Or would you prefer “Miss Vicious?”
SID: (Snatching the present out of Marlene’s hands) Fuck you.
(Sid tears off the wrapping paper and unceremoniously opens the box)
SPARK: Does she ever let you… touch her?
SPARK: Marlene. Does she ever let you touch her?
SOUR: You are one sick fuck, you know that? First my sister, now my stepmom?! Who’s next, my fuckin’ grandma?
SPARK: Nonononono, that’s not what I meant, not anywhere weird, I just mean, like, have you ever… touched her hand, or her… shoulder or anything?
SOUR: The fuck is wrong with you, have I ever touched her hand? She’s my fuckin’ stepmom!
SPARK: So… you have?
SOUR: Um, yeah!
SPARK: Are you sure? I mean, can you remember, specifically, when she let you touch her?
SID: (Looking in the box) Son of a bitch.
SOUR: Woah, hold up. Spark? You’re starting to freak me out here.
SPARK: Because, I’ve noticed – every time I come over for dinner… I mean, Marlene’s really friendly, right? She’s always smiling at everybody and making little flirty jokes to your Dad and whatever… but I’ve never seen her touch anybody, not even him. Not even on the hand.
SID: That son of a bitch!
(Still holding the box, she runs past Marlene, into the house)
SPARK: So don’t you think that’s a little bit… strange?
SOUR: What are you now like some kinda detective?
SPARK: I just… pay attention to these things.
SOUR: If you want to investigate something, start with that fucking poltergeist. Yesterday I was trying to listen to my Pearl Jam CD, and the stupid player just kept playing the second track over and fucking over.
MARLENE: You’re welcome.
(Marlene closes the door)
SOUR: I mean, that’s getting serious when it starts fucking with my tunes.
(Afternoon, the intersection. Spark and Sour are sitting on their bikes, staring up at the telephone pole.)
SOUR: Dude. That is so wrong.
SOUR: I mean, does he not know that his ass is hanging halfway out his pants?
SPARK: You should talk. Lowrider.
SOUR: Yeah but at least I wear my frickin’ boxers up high. Or like, tuck in my T-shirt or whatever. Stay off the crack, you know what I’m sayin’?
SPARK: Maybe it’s like a uniform. Maybe there’s a strict dress code at repairman school: if your pants aren’t at least three sizes too big and hanging way down past your hip bones, they make you go home and change.
SOUR: No ass, no class.
(Sour takes a small bag of white powder from his pocket.)
The fuck is that, Sour?
SOUR: This, my friend, is the hard stuff. (He pours a tiny amount into his hand) One-hundred percent pure.
SPARK: Jesus! Put that shit away!
SOUR: Wanna try some?
SPARK: Fuck, no! You shouldn’t be messing with that stuff, Sour.
SOUR: Relax. It’s citric acid. I stole it from the Chem lab. (He licks the powder from his palm). Sure you don’t wanna try?
SPARK: No thanks.
SPARK: Look, my Mom spent a lot of money straightening these teeth, okay? I’d kind of like to hang on to ‘em for a while.
(He puts away the bag, looks back up at the telephone pole)
He was up there when I left for school. How long does it take to change a frickin’ light bulb, yo?
SPARK: That kinda sounds like a joke.
(Sid suddenly materializes)
SID: Yeah, like, how many idiots does it take to stand around and watch a fat guy change a light bulb?
SOUR: Ooh, look, Spark! It’s the birthday girl.
SPARK: (To Sid) It’s your birthday?
SID: Why? You wanna give me a spanking? Fuck off.
SOUR: Whatsa matter, Sidsey, nobody came to your party?
SPARK: You had a party?
SID: (Taking an Almond Joy out of her pocket) No.
SOUR: But I bet you anything we get cake after dinner.
SPARK: Right on!
SID: (Unwrapping the Almond Joy) Hate to burst your bubble, but my birthday’s been canceled this year.
SOUR: The fuck you talkin’ about, canceled? You can’t cancel your birthday.
SID: (She takes a bite, speaks with her mouth full) Why the fuck not? It’s MY fucking birthday.
SPARK: But – don’t you want, like, presents and…?
SID: No. I don’t.
SPARK: (To Sour) Can you even / taste cake?
SOUR: Marlene prob’ly made it already. So if Sid’s not eating, that just means more for us.
SPARK: But if Sid doesn’t want / to have her birthday today…
SOUR: What do you care what she wants? She’s “a total über-bitch,” remember?
SPARK: Look, shuttup, okay? I didn’t –
SOUR: Didn’t what?
SPARK: (Pushing Sour) I said SHUTTUP!
SOUR: (Pushing back) The fuck is your problem?
SPARK: (Stepping off his bike and letting it fall to the ground) Why d’you have to be such an asshole? Huh? Why can’t you just be human / you know? Like have a little human decency.
SOUR: (Stepping off his bike and letting it fall to the ground) Oh so now I’m not even fuckin’ human? What the fuck am I then? Huh?
(The two boys start to wrestle. It is reminiscent of Sid and Sour’s match earlier, only a notch less playful. Sid watches calmly, eating her Almond Joy in silence. Sour gets Spark’s arm behind his back.)
SPARK: Ow! Fuck, Sour, that hurts!
SOUR: Say you’re sorry.
SPARK: Come on, Man, cut it out!
SOUR: Say you’re sorry!
SPARK: Fuck you!
(Sour pulls harder on Spark’s arm)
Jesus! You’ll break my arm!
SOUR: Take it back.
SPARK: Shit, Sour! Why can’t you just be a friend? Why you gotta be like this, huh?
(A buzzing sound is heard. Suddenly, Sour lets go of Spark’s arm, sucking in his breath as if in pain. He looks at his hand, then looks at Spark.)
SOUR: Ffffffuck me.
(Sour takes off running.
Spark looks at Sid, who is licking her fingers, expressionless. A beat.)
SPARK: For what?
SID: You didn’t break. I thought for sure you’d take it back. But you didn’t. He’ll think about that later.
SPARK: Yeah, well. Thanks for the back-up.
SID: Oh, yeah, that would have made you look like a real stud-muffin. Getting rescued by the über-bitch.
SPARK: I… Sid. When I said that, I…
SID: Oh spare me the back-pedaling.
SPARK: No I’m serious, I didn’t know you…
SID: Look, Kid: I’ve worked very hard to gain my reputation. You go fucking it up you may just find yourself a testicle short.
(Sid turns to go)
SPARK: Don’t go.
SID: Why not?
SPARK: Because… I want to ask you something.
SID: Huh. Well, I should warn you: I’m a compulsive liar.
SPARK: Oh yeah? Who told you that?
SID: School counselor. Got a real MD and everything, so she must be right.
SPARK: Guess I’ll just have to take my chances, then.
SPARK: So why’d you cancel your birthday?
SID: Because I fucking hate birthdays.
SPARK: Nobody hates birthdays.
SID: Guess that makes me a big fat nobody doesn’t it?
(Sid turns to go)
Did you… always hate birthdays, or…?
SID: I already answered your question. Now it’s your turn.
(She takes a step toward Spark)
The truth: why did that bulb burst?
SPARK: Cause you touched me.
SID: Cause I touched you.
SID: (Moving closer) So what would happen if I were to, say, touch you again? Somewhere else, maybe.
SPARK: I wouldn’t do that if I were you.
SID: (Coming even closer) No?
SPARK: Could be dangerous.
SID: (Dangerously close to him now) That’s what I’m counting on.
(She leans forward to kiss him, but he jumps out of the way at the last moment)
SPARK: NO! (Pulling himself together) Not yet. Tonight. Meet me at the avocado tree at midnight.
SID: (Amused) The avocado tree at midnight.
(She turns to go)
And Sid: come alone.
(Sid exits. Spark looks up at the man on the telephone pole, and heaves a deep sigh of relief. Lights down.)
(The kitchen. Marlene is cutting cake, singing “Mad About the Boy” to herself. After a moment, Sid enters, holding the box from scene 3. Marlene is facing away from the door and does not see Sid enter.)
MARLENE: WHO’S READY FOR SECONDS?
(Sid sets the box down on the counter, and removes from it a pair of exquisite pointe ballet slippers, complete with yards of pink satin ribbon. She holds up one of the slippers, as if by the throat.)
MARLENE: (Turning, startled) Sid – ney.
(Sid grabs a piece of cake with her free hand.)
What are you –?
(Sid mashes the cake into a mass of chocolatey goo, which she wields in a highly menacing stance, ready to besmear her pink satin hostage at any moment.)
(Marlene dives for the ballet slipper. Sid smears the cake all over Marlene’s face. Undaunted, Marlene manages to wrest the slipper from Sid’s grasp unsullied, and clutches it to her chest like a baby.)
Why? Why would you do that?
(Not missing a beat, Sid snatches up the remaining slipper with her clean hand. Throughout the following dialogue, they circle around each other, occasionally lunging for, and inevitably missing, the other shoe.)
SID: You had no right.
MARLENE: I don’t –
SID: That was OURS. That was the one fucking thing we had. And you have to go and stick your nose job in it.
MARLENE: Sid. Listen:
SID: He never gave me ANYTHING. Look at my fucking jeans, Marlene. I’ve been wearing these things since Junior High. Every year for Christmas I ask for a new pair. And every year I get a box of fucking SHORTBREAD COOKIES.
MARLENE: Sid –
SID: Do you have any idea what it felt like? On my thirteenth birthday. To open that box and see that leotard, and think, so he knew, all along. He was listening, all those years, all that time, when I thought he was reading The Tao of Physics or Einstein’s Dreams, and I was trying so hard to get him to listen to me for just FIVE MINUTES…
MARLENE: Sid –
SID: He knew. He heard.
MARLENE: Please / just listen…
SID: And every year, another box. Another piece. One. Good. Reason to keep breathing for another twelve months.
MARLENE: Sid, there’s / something I –
SID: (Throwing another handful of cake at Marlene, but missing) ALL I NEEDED WAS THE SHOES!
(A beat. The lights flicker.)
You don’t. Understand.
SID: How’d you get it out of him? Hmm? Were you. In bed?
MARLENE: Stop it, Sidney.
(The lights flicker a few times throughout the following exchange.)
SID: Did you. Climb down off him right after one of your infamous fake orgasms and say, “Oooooh, Daddy, you are sooooo amazing!”
MARLENE: That’s / enough.
SID: “But Daddy just tell me one little thing: what can I get that little hellion of a daughter of yours for her birthday so she won’t hate me so much?”
MARLENE: I SAID THAT’S ENOUGH!
(Marlene pushes the remainder of the cake violently from the table.
The lights flicker for a few seconds. Sid looks up at the lights, confused, but Marlene keeps her eyes firmly locked on Sid.)
(Visibly controlling her temper) Okay: you hate me. Or you think you hate me. Understandable.
(Marlene lifts her dress up to her face to wipe off the cake. She does this slowly, and with the full intention of showing Sid her undergarments; it is an oddly seductive gesture.)
But unfortunately for me, the feeling isn’t mutual.
(Marlene moves toward Sid)
I like you, Sid. I’ve always liked you.
MARLENE: (Moving closer) You’re smart, and strong, and you don’t take shit from anybody.
SID: Fuck you.
MARLENE: Case in point.
SID: FUCK. YOU.
(Marlene makes a move for Sid’s slipper, and, barely missing it, ends up on the ground)
MARLENE: ALL RIGHT, FINE! You want to know the truth? You asked for it.
It was ME, Sid. It was my idea all along. The leotard, the tu-tu. The whole nine yards.
MARLENE: (Still on the ground, leaning against the wall) I saw you dance. When you were in seventh grade. You were in the chorus for The Wizard of Oz. The Lullaby League. Your father invited me, but of course I couldn’t sit with him. But I could see his face from where I was sitting, and I’ll tell you this much: he was smiling like I’ve never seen him smile when you came out onstage. I wanted to hate you. But then, there you were, dancing like your life depended on it, and – and I was overcome with this feeling like – like I wanted to give you something. Food for your passion.
SID: Stop it.
MARLENE: I understand passion. I wanted you to know that.
MARLENE: But of course he had to pass it off like it was from him …
SID: STOP IT!!
MARLENE: We were going to tell you.
SID: (Setting down the ballet slipper) So the leotard? And the tights?
MARLENE: And the tu-tu and the little rhinestone tiara. Yep. All of it.
SID: Son of a bitch.
MARLENE: (Standing up) I’m – sorry.
(Sid moves toward Marlene – it is unclear if she intends to threaten Marlene or embrace her. Perhaps it is unclear to Sid herself.
Marlene jumps back, avoiding contact with Sid.
The lights flicker with great intensity; a buzzing sound is heard.
Sid puts her hand up to the back of her neck: the hairs are standing on end. Disturbed, she makes a hasty exit.
(Later. The kitchen. The ballet slippers are on the table. Marlene is cleaning the cake mess from the floor. She sings the blues. Again, she is facing away from the door.
Spark enters. He comes very close to Marlene, taking great pains to make no sound. He reaches out one hand and holds it just above her head. There is a loud buzzing sound, as might be emitted from a high-voltage generator. Marlene stops cleaning and straightens up slowly, as if pulled by some magnetic force. They hold that position for a moment, then Spark pulls his hand away and stumbles backward.
Marlene turns to face him.)
MARLENE: Oh. Spark.
(The lights flicker.)
MARLENE: Have you seen Sour?
(Spark shakes his head “no.”
The lights flicker.)
It’s getting late. He should be home by now.
SPARK: I can go… look for him, if you want.
MARLENE: He didn’t eat much at dinner.
SPARK: We… kind of… got in a fight. Earlier.
(The lights flicker with greater intensity.)
MARLENE: Oh. Well, I’m sorry about that.
Did you get enough to eat?
SPARK: Sure. Yeah. The cake was really good.
(The lights go out and come back on.
They stare at each other.)
SPARK: You’re a really great cook.
MARLENE: That’s very sweet of you, but / cooking was never my…
SPARK: No, I mean it. I love coming here for dinner. I think you should maybe write a cookbook / or open a restaurant, or…
MARLENE: Now I know you’re just teasing me!
SPARK: No, I mean it!
MARLENE: Well, I’ve worked in enough restaurants over the years…
SPARK: You should! You should open a restaurant!
MARLENE: I used to think about doing that… before I went back to school…
SPARK: And you could call it “Marlene’s Canteen” – or, no: “Marlene’s Cuisine”…
MARLENE: (Starting to enjoy the fantasy, showing imaginary guests to their seats) And I would be the hostess, and I’d wear beautiful gowns from the nineteen thirties…
SPARK: And there would be a stage / where you could …
MARLENE: With a piano!
SPARK: Right, with a piano, and you could / sing for everybody.
(The buzzing sound is heard, Marlene speaks over it)
MARLENE: (Sprawling herself across the kitchen table) AND I COULD DRAPE MYSELF ACROSS THE PIANO, AND SING (Using one of the ballet slippers as a microphone): “MEN CLUSTER TO ME, LIKE MOTHS AROUND A FLAME, AND IF THEIR WINGS BURN, I KNOW I’M NOT TO BLAME!”
(Impulsively, Marlene reaches out her hand to Spark as if to invite him to dance. As if unable to stop himself, he snatches up her hand.
Suddenly, almost painfully, the room goes silent.
They look at their adjoined hands with mutual shock and wonder.
After a moment, Marlene carefully moves Spark’s hand to her waist, and takes the other hand in hers. She sings. They dance – slowly, awkwardly, and not too close: reminiscent of a junior high school slow dance.)
Falling in love again
Never wanted to
What am I to do?
I can’t help it.
Love’s always been my game
Play it how I may
I was made that way
I can’t help it…
(Spark stops dancing. He looks at Marlene; Marlene stops singing.)
SPARK: It doesn’t get any easier. Does it.
(Marlene kisses the tips of her fingers and rubs them into his earlobe. She shakes her head “no.”
(The inside of Marlene’s walk-in closet. “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” plays in the background. Sour stands in the half-light, surrounded by Marlene’s clothing. He lifts his hand to touch the fabric, but hesitates, as if he is afraid of something. Finally, seeing a fur coat that has fallen off a hanger, he collapses on top of it and curls up into a ball. He convulses for a moment, silently. Is he weeping? Is he laughing? Is he masturbating? Difficult to say. Then he sits up, pulls the fur coat around him and holds very still, as if listening for something specific. Lights down.)
(Midnight. The avocado tree. Sid is hanging upside down by her knees from a branch.
SID: You’re late.
SPARK: I was… looking for Sour.
SID: (Swinging down from the branch) Let it be. He’ll forget the whole thing by tomorrow.
SID: I know my brother. One time I pinned him down and made him eat a live cockroach, and the very next morning, I kid you not, he comes into my room and says, “Hey Dragon Breath, you wanna play Nintendo?”
SID: The boy has the memory of a goldfish.
(Sid turns and looks directly at Spark)
But not me. I remember everything.
(They are standing awkwardly in front of the tree, with quite a bit of space between them. A long, awkward pause.)
Has anybody ever told you you smell like the beach? You do. Not like seaweed. But like… heat. Hot sand. And salt.
SPARK: You smell like suntan lotion. Like… coconut milk.
(She smiles, takes an Almond Joy out of her pocket, holds it out to him. He takes it, unwraps it, splits it in half, and gives half back to Sid. They chew in silence for a bit.)
I used to love to build sand castles. Huge ones, entire neighborhoods practically. With super-smooth walls, and moats and towers and little damsels in distress with long seaweed hair coming outta the window… People would come by and just stare, like they couldn’t believe a little kid could do something like that.
But no matter how far from the water I made them, a big fat wave would always come and wipe it out before I was finished. The water was just… drawn to my castle. All the other kids’ castles would be left standing and mine would be this pile of wet sand and shells and sticks and shit. And the crowd would all go “awww,” and then they’d walk away and leave me alone with the mess. And I would just stand there, you know, like, staring at it. Up to my ankles in sea water. Thinking, why me? Why not that fat kid over there and his ugly-ass castle with a frickin’ diaper hanging off it like a flag, or that girl who’s just making a huge pile of pebbles and going “Mommy Mommy look at my beautiful palace!” Why my castle?
SID: You mean you could actually pull in the tide? Like the moon?
So why didn’t you go stand by the other kids’ castles? Let the waves come and wipe them out, too.
SPARK: Never thought of it, I guess.
SID: That’s what I’d do.
SID: Why’d you ask me here?
SPARK: I… have no idea.
(Sid starts to leave)
Because you make me feel.
SID: (Turning back towards Spark) Things?
SPARK: Things I’ve never… things I didn’t think I could… could feel.
(A buzzing sound is heard)
SID: (Moving towards Spark, as if pulled against her will) What are you – are you doing this?
(The buzzing stops: she is released)
SPARK: I can’t help it. You’re made of water.
SID: I don’t get it.
SPARK: Yeah, well, you love a good mystery.
So what happens when the mystery’s solved? You find another mystery. Right?
Maybe not. It all depends.
Some mysteries you can solve with one clue. You find a fingerprint, you squeeze out a confession, case closed. Others take years of careful investigation before you even get one lead, and a lot of times that first lead takes you straight to a brick wall and you’ve gotta start all over again. Or other times you find an answer you don’t like, and you waste a whole lot of time trying to come up with some other explanation just so you don’t have to admit to yourself right away that that’s what it is… (Sid stares off, deep in thought)
SID: What do you want from me, kid? And don’t answer this out loud, just think the answer to yourself. Hold it in your mind. Specifically: what do I want from Sid?
You got it?
SID: Now answer me this: if I promise not to give it to you, will you promise you’ll keep wanting it?
SPARK: (After a beat) Okay.
(They look at one another for a beat. Then Spark looks at the avocado tree)
SPARK: There’s something I’ve been wondering.
SPARK: Where’s the other tree?
SID: What other tree?
SPARK: Avocado trees – they cross fertilize. This tree’s got avocados on it, so there must be another tree someplace.
SID: Looks like I’m not the only one who loves a good mystery.
SPARK: Come on, aren’t you even curious? There’s gotta be two. But I don’t see any other trees back here.
SID: The tree knows. We don’t have to.
(A spotlight comes on)
SID: So tell me something, / Spark…
(He starts to climb up into the tree)
SPARK: Ssssshhhh! The show’s starting.
SID: The show?
SPARK: Watch. And learn.
(Marlene walks out into the spotlight, wearing a tuxedo B la Marlene Dietrich. She holds one of the ballet slippers like a microphone, and sings to the audience.)
You’re my thrill
You do something to me
You send chills right through me
When I look at you, ‘cause you’re my thrill
You’re my thrill
How my pulse increases
While I just fly to pieces
When I look at you, ‘cause you’re my thrill
Mmmmmmm, nothing seems to matter
Mmmmmmm, here’s my heart on a silver platter
Where’s my will?
Tell me why this strange desire
That keeps mounting higher
When I look at you, I can’t keep still
‘Cause you’re my thrill
(Lights out. End.)