Pimp My Lent/Day 5
From Sheila Anderson
“Her presence influenced who I was, and her absence influences who I am. Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as by those who stay. Loss is our legacy. Insight is our gift. Memory is our guide.” (Hope Edelman)
Okay. Hang in here with me because today’s post requires back story.
For an embarrasing number of years now, I’ve been working on “The Chickasha Chronicles,” a trilogy of plays about three generations of the Yates-Sunday family. The first play, AN HOUR SOUTH, is done. It takes place in 1969. The second play EMPTY CHAIRS, close to completion, is set in 1985. The third play GRACE ROSE SUNDAY is set in 1995, and is just scenes and monologues that I’ve been cobbling together for far too long.
The setting for the plays is a homestead farm outside of Chickasha, a small city just south of Oklahoma City. The Yates family has lived here since the 1889 Oklahoma land run.
In 1995, the current resident, Mrs. Sunday (born Yates) has summoned her youngest daughter GRACE ROSE SUNDAY home from New York City to help empty the house before it’s sold. Grace Rose and her older sister Lynn spent most of their childhood here. It’s been the scene of a lot of unpleasant family drama through the years, including the 1985 still-unsolved disappearance of Mrs. Sunday’s brother Joe, and Joe’s wife/Mrs. Sunday’s best friend Acie.
Sixteen years ago, it took everything Grace Rose had to leave her mother and her family, and make her escape. When she arrived at the farm house, nobody was home, so Grace Rose broke in — and was almost arrested by deputy Michael Cielo, a friend of her sister’s. Lynn, a recluse, is crushed when Michael falls for Grace Rose and the two quickly become inseparable.
This family is always full of secrets – a huge one has just come to light, and there’s more in store.
Two days before this scene, Grace Rose and Lynn’s mother, Mrs. Sunday, collapsed in the kitchen and died of heart failure.
NOW. I hope that kinda explains most of what you need to know for this scene. I hope so!
Very early morning, before sunrise. The house is dark and quiet.
Michael enters through the yard. He’s in uniform, being working all night. He takes out his keys, but discovers the back door is already open. He walks in quietly, wary, not alarmed yet – but keeps his hand close to his gun.
MICHAEL: Grace? Lynn? Hello?
(He edges quietly onto the screened-in porch, turns on the light. The kitchen is empty of furniture – just the refrigerator, stove, and a card table and four folding chairs.)
MICHAEL: Left the damn door unlocked…
(Grace Rose’s voice comes from the darkened dining room)
GRACE ROSE: I’m in the dining room. Don’t turn on the light.
(Michael turns on the kitchen light. Before he can enter the dining room)
GRACE ROSE: Don’t turn on the overhead light, my head will explode.
MICHAEL: What are you doing up?
(He opens the door into the dining room. LIGHTS UP DIM. Dining room is empty of furniture. But there are casserole dishes, covered bowls and food in Tupperware all over the floor. And Grace Rose lying down in the midst of it, her arm flung over her eyes)
GRACE ROSE: We had a few visitors yesterday. (Michael laughs) Twenty-one casseroles, eight cobblers, two big pans of buttered rolls, and a huge tub of cole slaw. What am I supposed to do with all this food?
MICHAEL: I’m hungry.
GRACE ROSE: Not. Funny. All this food going to waste – Mama’s not even in the grave yet, and she’s already spinning. I can’t let food go to waste, what am I gonna do?
(He steps around the casseroles and crouches next to her)
MICHAEL: Move over. (she does. He lies down) We’ll sleep a few hours, and then deal with it. (kisses her, touches her face) You feel hot- You okay? Want some Tylenol? (she doesn’t) Want something to eat? (she looks at him) Joke.
GRACE ROSE: Joke. …I’m 42 years old, and I’m having sex with a man who is twenty years younger than–
MICHAEL: Eighteen years, and it’s not just sex.
GRACE ROSE: We’ve never gone out on a date. We can’t stop having sex long enough. We don’t even know each other.
MICHAEL: Want me to ask you out?
GRACE ROSE: No.
(Beat. She won’t let him kiss her. Won’t let him hold her hand. He lays on his side, watching her)
MICHAEL : I…maybe I should go to my place.
MICHAEL: Okay, then.
GRACE ROSE: I’m only here to help clear out my grandparents’ house and get out, but then, here’s you. And there’s my mother – And my mother the Lesbian. I’m a liberal, the only liberal ever born, ever, in this family. Ever. How did I not know that my mother was a Lesbian?
MICHAEL: Because she didn’t want you to know.
GRACE ROSE: Wasn’t she trying to tell me? The other night, when we were talking about Daddy, and Acie, and… I think she was in love with Acie, Michael, I think that’s what Mama was trying to tell me. Now, I’ll never know.
MICHAEL: What bothers you more – that your mom had this huge secret, or that she didn’t want you involved in that part of her life? …Sorry.
GRACE ROSE: You’re creepy-smart. Like born-to-be-the Dalai Lama smart. I’ve never been that smart. Especially not at your age.
MICHAEL: Stop talking about age.
GRACE ROSE: Okay, but then I have to think about my mom. God. My mother’s dead. (Michael puts his hand on her stomach. She moves away) Sorry. You just – I startled.
(She sits up)
MICHAEL: How’s Lynn?
GRACE ROSE: Doc Waverly upped her xanax dose until she finally fell asleep.
MICHAEL: She still saying she killed your mom?
GRACE ROSE: Well. Since Lynn was screaming “I know what you are! I hate you!” at Mama when Mama collapsed and died on the kitchen floor…? (beat) It’s not her fault. Yes, I know. (beat) All those years taking care of Daddy with his health issues and his bad heart and she had a heart issue that she never told anybody about. Except for her girlfriend Nila, who, as it turns out, is her girlfriend. All this– this is not good for my recovery. I only have six months sobriety, after years of trying to drink myself into oblivion. My sponsor told me not to get involved with anyone for at least a year, to “keep it simple,” and I thought, hey, sounds great to me. But she’s the one who told me I should come down here, and help Mama pack up, and maybe make a few amends…. I really was happy for her, after being a slave to this place, she was finally ready to have a life for herself. She and I talked about her coming to New York, all the places she wanted to go there. She wanted to come visit me, and it didn’t make me sick to my stomach, it made me happy. And she’s laughing and telling me about the cruise she and Nila are going on, we were both laughing, just two days ago, we were laughing and laughing, and – My mother’s hugging me. She never hugged. She was a patter. She patted. But two days ago, she was hugging, and talking about how she’s so excited about “the all-girl cruise,” which I thought meant a bunch of retired women playing bridge and getting pedicures and making quilts and listening to Neil Diamond. … (looks at his watch) There’s a hundred things that need to be done before the funeral this afternoon.
MICHAEL: Let’s go upstairs and sleep a few hours, then we’ll deal with the food. Come on, there’s plenty of time before the funeral. It’s just now – (checks his watch) Four-thirty.
GRACE ROSE: You go on. I have to pick up Aunt Ebby in the city in a couple of hours.
MICHAEL: You’re not driving to Oklahoma City on no-sleep. Upstairs, right now. I have a gun, don’t make me use it. (She almost laughs. He gets to his feet, holding her wrist) You need your rest, especially now.
(He’s ready to pull her to her feet. She’s looking at him, wide-eyed)
GRACE ROSE: I failed a pregnancy test.
(She points at him, points at herself, points at him again, at herself, back and forth. Michael pulls her up to face him)
GRACE: Listen – hear it? That spinning? Wasting food, an unplanned, unwed pregnancy with a man that I’ve known less than two months? Pretty soon, she’ll shoot off into infinity. (he puts his finger on her lips) I can’t have a baby, I’m not even married!
MICHAEL: (whispering) Just a minute. Give me a minute.
(Michael pulls her close, his eyes shut, breathing. Grace Rose stands there with him, tense, a fish caught in a net, waiting. Long pause)
GRACE ROSE: I’ll deal with this. I’ll just – I’ll deal with it. I’ll go back to New York, and I’ll –
MICHAEL: (softly) Shhh, shhh, shhh.
GRACE ROSE: I need a meeting. I really need a meeting. Can you help me find a meeting – not in Chickasha, I can’t- I need to go where people don’t know me. Or you. After the funeral, I mean. I really need a meeting.
(He nods, still holding on, eyes still shut, breathing)
GRACE ROSE: You don’t have to-
MICHAEL: Shhh. Just breathe.
GRACE ROSE: I can’t! We don’t breathe in my family, we flip out, we lose our shit. We don’t breathe, and we don’t relax, and we don’t “go with the flow, let it all go.” We never let anything go. We hold onto things and talk bad about other people behind their backs, and we have heart attacks and we die.
(Michael opens his eyes. He’s calm and smiling)
GRACE ROSE: Okay – now you’re just creepy. (pulling away)I will deal with this, I’ve dealt with worse.
MICHAEL: What worse? I feel…lucky. (she scoffs) That’s how I feel, Grace. Get over it. I’m scared, hell yes. But I’m lucky. I love you, you love me, and I like kids. I wanted them someday anyway, right, so what’s the problem?
GRACE ROSE: What about how I feel?
MICHAEL: How do you feel?
GRACE ROSE: Oh shut up.
MICHAEL: I don’t like it when you tell me to shut up. I don’t like it.
GRACE ROSE: Sorry. I’m sorry. You’ve told me that before. Sorry.
MICHAEL: …It’s okay. It’s just the baby talking.
(He’s grinning. She punches his arm)
MICHAEL: I know this is worst time for this to – But can I be a little happy? Just a little? Just this much?
(His tenderness starts Grace Rose coming undone)
GRACE ROSE: The one person? That I want to tell about this, the person who’d be so excited, even though she’d totally lose her mind, and probably not speak to me for a six months?
MICHAEL: I know, it’s okay, I’m here, I’m right here.
(End of scene, for now….)