CHARACTERS

 Gretchen Nelsen         Older woman with a propensity to acquire things that don’t actually
                                  belong to her.

Thomas Trahan            An active, older widower who’s not quite ready to give in to just being old.

Barbara Winter            Gretchen’s responsible adult daughter who is trying to balance the
                                 challenges of becoming a parent to her parent.

Jack Trahan                 Thomas’s easy-going and supportive adult son.

Jim Cappazolli             Older gentleman with a cane, a slightly outrageous wardrobe and the recipe for an
​                                  assortment of cocktails.

Gail Johnson               Older woman. A true lady, and the friend we all wish we had.

Donna Holbrook         Administrator at Casa della Vecchia. A middle-aged woman who can be rather two-faced
​                                (and neither face is pretty).

 

SETTING

The Casa della Vecchia (“House of the Old” in Italian) is located in Columbus, a small town in east Central Texas, a ways outside of Houston. It’s a newer, comfortable retirement community for active older adults. It is the present time.




ACT 1 Scene 1


The common area of the Casa della Vecchia. There is a table with comfortable chairs for playing games, puzzles or chatting. One wall has floor to ceiling bookcases with games, videos, puzzles and books. French doors lead out to a patio area and pool. Double doors exit that leads to the entrance of the facility and another door that leads to resident apartments. There is a bar with a small refrigerator and sink. Over the sink are cabinets with glasses and small plates for snacks. One glass-front cabinet is filled with various liquor bottles and is locked. We find THOMAS and GRETCHEN in the very early hours of the morning.



GRETCHEN    Oooh that was exciting!

THOMAS       That was mortifying!

GRETCHEN    Mortifying? No, exciting! I’m glad I don’t have a pace-maker!

THOMAS       Okay, it was exciting, but it was still mortifying.

GRETCHEN    Did you see that big gun he had?

THOMAS       I’m surprised he didn’t use it to shoot us both dead.

GRETCHEN    Oh phoo! Don’t be ridiculous! You don’t shoot old people!

THOMAS       No. That’d be too humane.

GRETCHEN   That was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

HOLBROOK   (Enters in a huff and hears that last comment) Well it better be the most fun you have for a very long time to come, too, Ms. Nelsen.

GRETCHEN    It was like that Christmas morning and the first day of summer kind of fun all rolled up together.

THOMAS       Please, Mrs. Holbrook, let me assure you that we won’t be having any more fun any time soon.

HOLBROOK   As an administrator here, I have never had one of my residents on the wrong side of the law like this! It’s outrageous!

GRETCHEN    Exactly! You’re exactly right! Outrageous! It was the best kind of outrageous.

HOLBROOK   Ms. Nelsen, you and your partner in crime here have caused an incredible amount of trouble this evening.

THOMAS       You’re completely justified in being upset, but please don’t blame Gretchen.

HOLBROOK    There’s plenty of blame to spread around. You do realize, Mr. Trahan, this is a respectable community, and we have respectable people living here.

THOMAS       Yes, of course. I have gotten to know several of the respectable people and will make more of an effort to spend time with them.

HOLBROOK   We do not expect to be dealing with the police regarding our residents at 1 o’clock in the morning!

GRETCHEN    It was just like an episode of Hawaii 5-O! Well, except this isn’t Hawaii. Or, really, even sort of close to being Hawaii. Although I do like the new palm trees that got planted by the pool. Maybe we could get a swim up bar put in so that we could…

HOLBROOK   Ms. Nelsen! This is hardly some fantasy TV police show! This is a very serious situation that will have consequences.

GRETCHEN    Consequences?

HOLBROOK   If you two will kindly stay here, I have to go open the gate for your families and try to give them some explanation as to how this all happened. (She exits)

THOMAS       What an incredible mess, Gretchen!

GRETCHEN    Messy? She’s just cranky. I think we should just not pay any attention to her and tomorrow she’ll have a better day.

THOMAS       I haven’t done something that outrageous or really stupid in, I don’t even remember how long! What were we thinking?

GRETCHEN     Thinking?

THOMAS       That we could just run off to New Orleans without telling anyone, like a couple of crazy kids.

GRETCHEN    We’re hardly kids, Thomas. So would we be what? Crazy seniors? Crazy old people?

THOMAS       Both of those things at the very least.

GRETCHEN    Geriatrically crazy? Is that a real thing?

THOMAS       Although I thought we’d get a little further before they caught up to us. Still, it was an outrageous idea.

GRETCHEN    I don’t think it was actually outrageous, just a poorly planned idea. Don’t you think with a little practice that we can get the hang of it?

THOMAS       Yes, poorly planned, which in no way erases the outrageous part. But imagine what a time we’d have had if we’d actually made it!

GRETCHEN    We’ll plan better and go again! I’m pretty free all week. Tomorrow even.

THOMAS       We have to fix the mess we’ve made this time before we think of pulling another stunt.

GRETCHEN    Yes, you’re right. We need to fix up a better plan. (She casually pulls a tissue and a pair of handcuffs out of her pocket.)

THOMAS       We’ve got quite a bit of explaining to do in just a few minutes…  Gretchen? What do you have?

GRETCHEN    These? (She holds up a pair of professional police handcuffs) They’re handcuffs.

THOMAS       Holy Mother of God, Gretchen! You stole that officer’s handcuffs?!

GRETCHEN    No! I did not steal anything! These were just there in the officer’s car. Nobody was using them.

THOMAS       You can’t just take them. That’s government property.

GRETCHEN    They shouldn’t be left just laying around like that or someone will steal them!

THOMAS       We have to do something with those! The last thing anyone needs is to see handcuffs right now. We can’t explain that.

GRETCHEN    I’m sure I could explain it.

THOMAS       Can you try putting them in your purse for now?

GRETCHEN    I can try. (With her purse which is stuffed to overflowing already) Oh! I knew I bought gum. The handcuffs won’t fit, Thomas.

THOMAS       (Realizing cuffs won’t fit, takes the cuffs and the purse) Let’s just stash those for now. Look for a place we can hide them.

GRETCHEN    (Looking around) I shouldn’t pick the place. I never remember where I put things anymore.

THOMAS       I’ll remember. Help me look!

GRETCHEN    I’ll put something somewhere and find it somewhere completely different. You’d think someone sneaks into my apartment and moves everything around.

THOMAS       I’ll come back later and get them. We have to get these cuffs back to that officer before he realizes they’re gone.

GRETCHEN    Let’s have him over for dinner one night next week. What night is the potato buffet?

THOMAS       Yes! Dinner! And for dessert, he could serve your arrest warrant for grand theft out of an auto.

GRETCHEN    Don’t be silly. I don’t think he’s going to arrest me.

THOMAS       (He puts the handcuffs between the seat cushion of the chair, puts the purse on top of it and sits.) There. Now we have to deal with this more immediate mess.

GRETCHEN    Where did you put my handcuffs?

THOMAS       In the chair. When the kids come in, let me do the talking. I’m going to tell them it was all my idea.

GRETCHEN    It wasn’t your idea. I took the handcuffs.

THOMAS       I’m not talking about the handcuffs!

GRETCHEN    I can have a few good ideas. I’m still perfectly capable of taking care of things on my own!

THOMAS       I’m talking about this cockamamie scheme to drive to New Orleans.

GRETCHEN    Oh yes! That was so much fun!

THOMAS       Jack will be reasonable, but your daughter is going to be spitting nails, so I’m taking all the blame.

GRETCHEN    We can tell them we temporarily lost our good sense. They’ll believe that. They already believe that.

THOMAS       Just remember to act remorseful.  Say you’re sorry a lot.

GRETCHEN    I’m not sorry.

THOMAS       Say you’re sorry anyway. They like to hear that.

GRETCHEN  What about the handcuffs?

 (Gretchen’s daughter BARBARA, along with THOMAS’s son JACK enters. THOMAS stands.)

BARBARA    Mom! Thank goodness you’re alright. (Hugs her then her tone hardens) What were you thinking!? Do you know how scared I was?

JACK              Hey Dad. You okay?

BARBARA      Mother!?

THOMAS       I’m fine. We’re both fine.

JACK              I’m just glad nothing serious happened.

BARBARA      They told us you were stopped out on Interstate 10 driving erratically. I-10?!

JACK              What were you two doing out in the car so late?

BARBARA      Where were you going?

GRETCHEN    Going? Uh, we were going…

THOMAS       (To BARBARA) I’m sorry about all this, Barbara. It was my idea. We thought we would take a drive.

BARBARA     I’m sorry. You thought what?

GRETCHEN    We were going to take a drive.

THOMAS       Out of the city. So that we could, um, see the stars better.

BARBARA    Stars? Really?

THOMAS       Yes, there’s so much light pollution that we thought if we drove outside of town, we could get a clearer view of the stars and such.

JACK              It was pretty late.

THOMAS       You know, after sunset, you can see Jupiter about 40 degrees southwest of the moon this month. So that’s what we did. Drove out of town.

BARBARA    (Squaring up on THOMAS) You both had to pack suitcases to go out of the city limits to see stars?

JACK              You packed suitcases, Dad?

GRETCHEN    Suitcases! Where are the suitcases? Did we leave them in the car?

BARBARA    Were you planning to look at Jupiter the entire month?

THOMAS       No, not exactly.

BARBARA    Obviously, your father isn’t telling us the whole story here. But I’d kind of like to know where he thought he was taking off to with my mother.

JACK              Dad? Had you planned to take a trip and just not told anyone about it?  

BARBARA      (To THOMAS) I’m sorry, but this is irresponsible. To just take my mother off somewhere. Without saying anything?

JACK              Easy there. It’s not as if he kidnapped her.

BARBARA      She needs to be here. Where I know she’s safe.  Don’t you, Mother?

GRETCHEN    No.

BARBARA      (Wheeling on GRETCHEN) What? Mom, how did you let him talk you into this?

GRETCHEN    He didn’t talk me into it. I talked him into it. This was my idea. Should we find the suitcases?

THOMAS       No, I’m taking the blame for this.

GRETCHEN    No, you’re not!

JACK              I’m not sure it really matters whose idea it was. You’re both back safe and sound.

GRETCHEN    It matters to me. I’d like to get the credit I deserve!

 (MRS HOLBROOK enters)

HOLBROOK   I’ve spoken with the police station. They have your car there and you can pick it up tomorrow.

THOMAS       Thank you for doing that.

GRETCHEN    Did they say they have our suitcases, too?

JACK            (To GRETCHEN) Dad’s a pretty stand-up guy. I’m sure he’ll get your suitcase back for you. No problem.  

BARBARA     What kind of stand-up guy sneaks off in the middle of the night?

JACK            I suppose, one who is old enough to decide where he wants to go and when!

THOMAS       We weren’t sneaking off, not like you’re talking about.

GRETCHEN    Yes we were.

BARBARA      The point is that he left here with my mother without permission.

JACK            They’re hardly inmates. The only razor wire I can see around this place seems to be you.

BARBARA      WHA… I can’t believe you just said that to me. Obviously, the smart ass bad apple didn’t fall too far from the tree!

JACK              I can’t believe you just…

HOLBROOK   Everyone! Let’s not get upset. It’s been a long night. Why don’t we all just get home to our beds and talk more about this tomorrow.

THOMAS       That’s probably a good idea.

JACK              Dad, do you want to just call me tomorrow?

BARBARA    Get your purse, Mother. I’ll walk you back to your apartment.

GRETCHEN    Where did I leave my purse? Thomas, didn’t you have my purse?

HOLBROOK   Is that your purse in the chair? Let’s just collect that up and get you headed back to your apartment. (Reaching for GRETCHEN’s purse in the chair, she notices the handcuffs partially sticking out from the cushion) Oh, this fell…What in the world…

BARBARA    (Seeing handcuffs) Are those handcuffs?

GRETCHEN    Yes! They’re mine.

THOMAS       They’re not hers.

GRETCHEN  They are, too, mine.

BARBARA    Why the hell do you have handcuffs?

HOLBROOK   These must be the cuffs the officer is looking for.

JACK              Did they handcuff you, Dad?

THOMAS       No!

BARBARA     Mother! Where did you get these?

GRETCHEN    There’s no reason why I can’t have handcuffs.

BARBARA      There’s no reason why you should.

JACK              (Smirking) I can think of one.

THOMAS       Jack.

BARBARA    That is so… so juvenile and inappropriate!

THOMAS       (Realizing what he’s implied) Oh! Jack!

HOLBROOK   I’m sure there’s a logical explanation. The officer said he may have just forgotten them when he was dropping you off. That’s probably what happened.

GRETCHEN    It’s not.

THOMAS       That’s exactly what happened.

BARBARA      He forgot them under the cushion?

THOMAS       They must have slid down there when he was sitting in the chair.

GRETCHEN    This happens to me all the time. I put something one place and it reappears under the couch cushion.

JACK              Check the couch. Maybe he lost his revolver, too.

THOMAS       (To JACK) You’re not helping.

HOLBROOK   It’s very late. Everyone is safe. The excitement is over. Let’s just all get home.

GRETCHEN    Did we get our suitcases back, Thomas?

HOLBROOK   We’ll straighten it all out tomorrow.

JACK              You okay for tonight, Dad? I can come back over and check on you.

THOMAS       I’m okay, just worn out.

GRETCHEN    (To JACK) Can you bring my suitcase when you come back?

THOMAS       We’ll get them, my dear. Don’t worry.

HOLBROOK   (As BARBARA and JACK exit) If you don’t mind, we’ll need to stop at my office for you both to sign a report for our files here.

BARBARA    That’s fine, I just want to be sure she gets settled in first.

HOLBROOK   Of course. I’ll walk that way with you. I’m so sorry you had to come out so late.

(She turns back to THOMAS and GRETCHEN sharply and giving them both a look that stops them in their tracks and indicates the handcuffs. She pastes the smile back on her face and exits out behind BARBARA and JACK.)

THOMAS       (Concerned) She has our handcuffs.

GRETCHEN    I don’t think that’s a problem.

THOMAS       I do! We have to get those back and return them to the officer.

GRETCHEN    Of course we do. She’ll give back my handcuffs because she’ll want her keys.

THOMAS       What do her keys have to do with this?

GRETCHEN    I have her keys. (Holding up a set of keys)

THOMAS       How’d you get those?

GRETCHEN    I couldn’t find mine in my purse. She left hers right there on the table earlier. So I took them.

THOMAS       Gretchen, what else have you picked up?

GRETCHEN  I pick up all kinds of things. You’d be surprised what…

BARBARA    (Offstage) Mother. Let’s go!

GRETCHEN    Maybe we can trade these keys for those handcuffs!

THOMAS       Maybe I could just have my head examined.

GRETCHEN    You, too? They examined mine just last week!

BARBARA    (Offstage) Mother!

(black out)

ACT 1 Scene 2

The next day. GRETCHEN and GAIL enter carrying their art projects: bird feeders made from soda bottles. GRETCHEN’s has been more successful than GAIL’s which is more project than art.

GRETCHEN    I think it’s a perfectly nice bird feeder. You’re too critical.

GAIL              The bird world diner’s guide will probably classify it as a “questionable dive” or at the very least a birdie greasy spoon.

GRETCHEN    But everyone flocks to those places because they’re so good.

GAIL              Did you get a bag of the bird seed to fill these up with?

GRETCHEN    Oh dear, no. I forgot.

GAIL              I think they had a few stacked on the ground next to the crafting tables. We’ll pick one up later.

GRETCHEN    When I put mine out, I think I’ll mix some potatoes in with my bird food.

GAIL              You’re going to put potatoes in the bird seed? Do you mean mashed potatoes kind of potatoes?

GRETCHEN    Yes, why not? I think birds like potatoes. And then the bird seed won’t all fall on the ground. It’ll be stuck in the potatoes.

GAIL              I don’t have the foggiest idea if birds actually like potatoes, but it certainly can’t hurt to give it a try.

GRETCHEN    Everyone likes potatoes.

JIM               (Enters carrying an empty soda bottle with no work done on it. He is obviously unimpressed with the craft) Who comes up with these craft projects? Craft projects are nothing more than a gentle reminder that death won’t be the worst thing that happens to us.  

GAIL              Come on, Jim. You just needed to put a little effort into it. Not that it helped my outcome any.

GRETCHEN    I thought bird feeders were a nice idea. Especially if it means there’s one less hungry bird out there.

GAIL              A bird will have to be pretty close to starved to want to eat out of my miserable excuse for a feeder.

JIM                  I’m starved. What’s in the people feeder? (He checks the fridge) Bah. Nothing.

GRETCHEN    Maybe you just need to add more sparkly things, Gail. Sparkly things make everything better.

GAIL              Perhaps you’re right, my dear. More sparkle. Jim, is there at least a bottle of cold water in there?

GRETCHEN    Here, I have some sparklies and glue, too. We could fix it up. (She takes a handful of plastic jewels from one pocket and a glue stick out of the other.) Then it won’t look so much like a dive.

GAIL              You took the glue with you? Oh my, and plenty of sparkly things.

JIM                  I don’t know if you’ve got more stuff stuck on that bottle or stuck in your pockets. (Snooping in the cabinets, he’s found a package of cookies) Aha! Pay dirt!

GRETCHEN    Good thing I have these, looking at her feeder (She sits and starts gluing sparklies onto Gail’s feeder)

GAIL              Now it’ll be a sparkly questionable dive.

JIM                  A few more and it’ll be a birdie brothel.

GAIL              Jim! Stop that! And get out of those cookies!

JIM                  They’re not cookies. They’re Fig Newtons.

GRETCHEN    I always wanted to go to all the questionable dives in New Orleans.

GAIL              To the dives? I’d want to go to Brennan’s for brunch or oysters at Antoine’s.

GRETCHEN    Those are nice, too, I suppose, but the dives are where you find the best gumbo.

JIM                  You sound like you know your way around New Orleans.

GRETCHEN    No, I’ve never been there.

GAIL              Really? You know so much about the food and restaurants, I thought you’d been there several times at least.

GRETCHEN    No, never. We almost made it last night, though, Thomas and me. We were having a wonderful adventure.

JIM                  Almost? Didn’t you get stopped over in the next county?

GRETCHEN     Well, yes, but that’s closer to New Orleans than right here. A whole county closer.

GAIL              Okay, yes, you’re right. Closer.

JIM                  You two carry on. I’m going to see if the esteemed Mr. Trahan is headed this way. We’re off to run a few errands. Oh, there might be a Fig Newton left over there for you, Gail. (He exits)

GRETCHEN    I hope we’ll try to go again. You know, we were going to go to the New Orleans School of Cooking and take a class.

GAIL              Cooking school? Wow. How wonderful. I didn’t realize Thomas liked cooking.

GRETCHEN    He likes eating which is kind of the same thing.

GAIL              That’s an important part of the process, too. No point in cooking if no one is eating.

GRETCHEN    I’ve wanted to go to the New Orleans School of Cooking for the longest time. I really think they’re the best choice for helping me with my signature creation. Will you bring me a paper towel, please?

GAIL              You have a signature creation?

GRETCHEN    Oh yes! I’m working on a recipe to incorporate potatoes into gumbo.

GAIL              Seriously? Putting potatoes into gumbo? Do you think that’d really taste good?

GRETCHEN    Potatoes taste good in chowder. They’re good if you boil them up with shrimp. Why shouldn’t they be good in gumbo?

GAIL              I… uh… you know, I can’t answer that.

GRETCHEN  Thomas thinks it’ll be good.

GAIL              Well then I’m sure it will have to be.

GRETCHEN    He’s never been to New Orleans either. Or to a cooking school. So don’t you think it’s pretty exciting that he said he’d like to go.

GAIL              You know, Gretchen, what I think that Thomas really likes is …you! Just my observation.

GRETCHEN    Well, yes, I suppose he does. We are friends, after all. I never thought he might dislike me. He likes you, too. And Jim.

GAIL              No, silly goose. I think Thomas really likes you.

GRETCHEN    Me? Oh, Gail. I don’t know about that. I mean, we’re friends.

GAIL              I’m your friend, but I’m not driving you to the next state for cooking school. I think our Thomas is quite sweet on you.

GRETCHEN    (Giggling) Oh phoo. People our age don’t… don’t, I don’t know… get sweet on each other.

GAIL              Why not?! There’s no age limit on love.

GRETCHEN    Love? Oh my gosh.

GAIL              What?

GRETCHEN    I hardly think Thomas Trahan is in love with me! Such an idea.

GAIL              Why wouldn’t he be? I think if you wanted to club baby harp seals, he’d jump on board with it and drive you to the Arctic Circle.

GRETCHEN    Those little fuzzy, white seals with the great big doe eyes? I’d never do that! I think maybe I’d club a fuzzy, white spider. One time I even hacked a snake into a lot of pieces with a garden hoe…

GAIL              Gretchen!

GRETCHEN    But I think the snake deserved that. I felt bad afterwards. 

GAIL              I didn’t mean it literally.

GRETCHEN    But not baby seals. Oh Gail! You don’t think Thomas would…

GAIL              Gretchen! It was just a random example. I was just saying it seems he’d do pretty much anything for you.

GRETCHEN    I don’t think I’d want him harming seal babies.

GAIL              No, of course not. No one wants that.

GRETCHEN    Especially the seals.

GAIL              Most especially the seals. So why New Orleans? Why don’t you take a cooking class here?

GRETCHEN    It wouldn’t be the New Orleans School of Cooking.

GAIL              No, it’d probably be the community college, but it’d be a class. It’d probably be fun.

GRETCHEN    But it wouldn’t be the same. It has to be the New Orleans School of Cooking.

GAIL              Well, no, I suppose it wouldn’t be exactly the same.

GRETCHEN    This is Columbus, Texas. That… that’s New Orleans, Louisiana! New Orleans is world famous for its cooking. Columbus, Texas is famous for… for…

GAIL              Right, maybe Columbus hasn’t quite landed on that one thing to stand out about, but you could still...

GRETCHEN    I want to learn to make gumbo. I mean, I know how to make gumbo. Who can’t make gumbo?

GAIL              I can’t really.

GRETCHEN    Because you live in Texas!

GAIL              Now, I’m almost sure there are plenty of people in Texas who can make gumbo.

GRETCHEN    No, they make barbecue. I already can make a great barbecue brisket but, who cares because everybody makes that.

GAIL              I don’t.

GRETCHEN    What do you mean you don’t.

(JIM enters)

GAIL              I don’t barbecue.

JIM                  What are you? Some kind of Yankee or something?

GAIL              Now that’s not very nice.

JIM                  What self-respecting Southern woman can’t lay down a mean barbecue dinner? That’s just shameful.

GRETCHEN    We aren’t judging, but I wouldn’t tell anyone else.

GAIL              I’ll keep it to myself. Where’s Thomas?

JIM               He was finishing up what he was doing. We’ll get him on the way back out. He wanted me to wait for Jack.

GRETCHEN    Where are you three going?

JIM                  Police station, for one.

GAIL              Got a ticket for illegal use of speed in a cross walk again?

JIM                  Are you calling me fast?

GAIL              All the girls say you’re fast, Jim.

JIM                  And I am. Thomas, however, just needs to pick up his car from last night.

GRETCHEN    Right! It got pounded.

GAIL              Pounded?

JIM                I think she means impounded.

GRETCHEN    Whatever. The officer drove us home and his officer friend drove Thomas’s car down to the police station.

GAIL              Why didn’t they just follow you here with it?

JIM                It eliminated the flight risk. You know, it gave them a cooling off period to reconsider that kind of crazy idea.

GRETCHEN    That’s okay, we need to work out the plans better.

JIM                  Plans like: Buy a map.

JACK              (Entering) Hey there ladies. Hi Jim. Are you coming along with us?

JIM                  I am. Thomas said to pick him up at his apartment on our way out.

JACK              You’re looking pretty today, Gretchen.

GRETCHEN    Oh! Well, thank you!

JACK              You ready, buddy?

JIM                  Let’s head ‘em up, move ‘em out!

GRETCHEN    I don’t think we got our suitcases back last night. Will you see if they have them with the car?

JACK              Yes, ma’am. I’ll be sure to get them for you. (He and JIM exit)

GAIL              He is such a nice man.

GRETCHEN    I think he’s a little feisty. And some of the things that come out of his mouth!

GAIL              Are you kidding?

GRETCHEN    He’d make a sailor blush.

GAIL              He’s never been anything but utterly polite and kind.

GRETCHEN    He was watching some game here on the TV and his team lost. Oh, the string of swear words! It could have peeled the paint right off the walls.

GAIL              He was watching a game here?

GRETCHEN    I thought we’d have to slip nitroglycerine under his tongue.

GAIL              Are you talking about Jack?!

GRETCHEN    No! Jim.

GAIL              Oh! Yes! You’re right about that. I meant that Thomas’s son, Jack, is such a sweet gentleman. That apple didn’t fall far from the tree either.

GRETCHEN    I think Barbara said the exact same thing last night. Jack is definitely a good apple, which, therefore, I think, means Thomas is a very nice tree.

GAIL              Let’s go get the bird seed while there’s still some out there and see if we can’t get these hung up.

GRETCHEN    (As they’re exiting) I have some twine in my apartment we can use. Do you have your own potatoes?

HOLBROOK   (Enters as they’re exiting. On her phone) You’re right, it could be… Hello, ladies. Nice feeders. Good job…

GRETCHEN    Oh thank you!

HOLBROOK   See you both later. Oh wait! You haven’t seen a set of keys lying around, have you?

GAIL              Keys? I don’t think so.

HOLBROOK    Let me know if you do. I’m looking for mine… (Into the phone) Sorry about that. Just a minute (She checks to be sure GRETCHEN and GAIL are gone)… Ok, I actually just walked right past her… No, no, she was with Gail Johnson… I think you have absolutely every reason to be concerned, Barbara. I’m concerned… In my opinion, and I’ve seen plenty of situations exactly like this, you’ve done the right thing by taking those steps… No, I imagine it wasn’t easy and I’m sure it won’t make her very happy at all, but, by God,  you do what you have to do! … (She exits.)

(black out)

ACT 1 Scene 3

Pitchers of orange juice and water are on a small portable drink cart along with a bucket of ice. A bowl of pretzels is on the counter.

Later the same day. THOMAS and JIM enter carrying the suitcases.

JIM                I’m just surprised she didn’t do worse to you.

THOMAS       Believe me, it was bad enough. I walked Jack out to his car, and she caught us out there in the parking lot.

JIM               Oh no.

THOMAS       Oh yes. Without Gretchen around, or witnesses in general, she unloaded both barrels.

JIM               Bonnie and Clyde went down in a blaze of gunfire. I suppose being chewed up by Gretchen’s daughter is comparable.

THOMAS       I have to say it was worth it. And Jack seems to almost enjoy getting her fired up. We probably haven’t heard the end of it, though.

JIM                Oh God, I hope not! This excitement has to last at least until college basketball starts. (Gesturing to drink cart)

THOMAS       It may last longer than that!

JIM               I see they’ve got the supplies out for happy hour. What time is it anyway?

THOMAS       Only 4:30. We’ve got another hour. What I really need is to find a way to smooth it over with Gretchen’s daughter. She was breathing fire last night.

JIM               You know that isn’t going to happen. (JIM starts climbing on a small step stool to retrieve a bottle of vodka from behind the books on the shelf while THOMAS starts putting ice in a glass.)

THOMAS       You’re right. Barbzilla is on a rampage, stomping the city and all its inhabitants. No survivors.

JIM               But if you want to continue catting around with her mother, you better make nice with the daughter.

THOMAS       Catting around? Who even says that anymore? And I’d hardly call it catting around. Whatever you think that is.

JIM              Doesn’t this place realize that, for old people like us, the future isn’t a guarantee. At my age, I might not make it until 5:30. I need happy hour now.

(GRETCHEN and GAIL enter in exercise clothes having just come from a fitness class.)

GAIL              Oh, it’s that happiest of hours before Happy Hour!  Pour one for me, will you, Jim?

JIM               It’d be my pleasure. How ‘bout you, Gretchen?

GRETCHEN    I would, but I don’t want anything with orange juice. It erodes the enamel off my teeth.

JIM                Don’t you have dentures?

GRETCHEN    I do. Because I drank too much orange juice.

JIM                Get a soda out of the fridge, then, and I’ll mix you something else. (He carefully gets on the floor to look under the sofa.)

GAIL              Who’s month is it to pay off the cleaning crew so they don’t move our stash?

GRETCHEN    It’s mine. I wrote a check two days ago. At least I think I did.

GAIL              It’d be a lot easier if they didn’t keep the liquor cabinet under lock and key! Do they think we’ll go crazy and raid the joint? Swing from the chandeliers?

GRETCHEN    We don’t have chandeliers here.

THOMAS       I would have gotten that for you, old man.

JIM               No worries. I’ll do a push up while I’m down here. The exercise’ll be good for me.

GRETCHEN    You could just come to the senior-size classes with us if you want a little exercise.

JIM               My doctor says that class is bad for my heart and not to go.

GRETCHEN    Bad?! How could it be bad for you?

JIM                All those women shaking their business, getting all hot and sweaty, I’m having palpitations just talking about it. Doctor says I’m likely to keel over if I go in there. Better off not taking the chance.

THOMAS       (Taking the bottle of rum JIM has found under the couch so he can get up off the floor) There’s worse ways to go.

GAIL              Is that coconut rum? I’ll have that rather than the orange juice, too. We’ll save my enamel for another day.

THOMAS       (To JIM) Can you get back up?

JIM                (Rolling onto the couch) I’m half way. I’ll rest here a minute.

GRETCHEN     What does your doctor say about crawling around on the floor after bottles of rum?

JIM                  I haven’t exactly mentioned it to him. But for safety’s sake, let’s put the rum in a spot more conducive to my long-term good health.

GAIL              I guess, though, when you’ve got a group of people just trying to control their blood pressure and bladders, someone else has to control things like the liquor cabinet.

THOMAS       (Mockingly) Naturally, because “this is a respectable community with respectable people living here.”

JIM                Then what are we doing here?

THOMAS       My friend, I have been asking myself that very question a little too often lately.

GRETCHEN    Do they still have hippy communes? Maybe we could move to one of those!

JIM                We are the hippies. We got old. Welcome to our commune.

GRETCHEN    (Seeing her suitcase) Oh! My suitcase came back! I’d almost forgotten about it. I hope nothing’s missing out of it.

THOMAS       I’m sure it’s all fine.

GRETCHEN    I should check first to see if everything is there.

THOMAS       Let me walk it back to your room for you.

GRETCHEN    What if something was taken out?

THOMAS       It’s been locked in the car at the police station. It couldn’t have been more safe.

GRETCHEN    I don’t know. I saw how they leave their things lying around in their cars.

(She opens the suitcase and starts taking things out including: clothes, an umbrella, a small skillet, two potatoes, a snow globe, shampoo, and a brush)

GAIL              (Picking up the vodka bottle) Jim, where should I put the vodka that you can get it without becoming a danger to your dear self or others?

JIM                  You had some kind of interesting packing list there, missy. What were your plans for that skillet and the potatoes?

THOMAS       Are all your things there? Let’s put it all back together.

GRETCHEN    Cajun cooking, of course. Weren’t we going to New Orleans?

GAIL              I suggest we find a spot for that rum now, too, before Holbrook locks it up with the rest. Where do you want the vodka?

THOMAS       Here, Jim. Can you take the rum and get it stashed while I help her with her suitcase?

JIM                  I’m on it, but I think we should put the rum and vodka in different places. Increase our odds of retention.

GAIL              Oh good Lord. Thomas, you know he’s one ladder away from hip replacement. You go help him. I’ve got the suitcase.

GRETCHEN    (Showing the snow globe to GAIL) I got this the last time I took a wonderful trip. My husband and I went to Holland. Before he died, I mean.

GAIL              Holland? That must have been beautiful.

THOMAS       I’ll put the rum behind the John Wayne section. I’m sure the Duke won’t mind that it’s not Sauza tequila for the time being.  

GRETCHEN    Oh it was, the windmills and the flowers. Like in my snow globe.

GAIL              It’s perfect. I see why you treasure it.

GRETCHEN    I thought I might find another one on this trip. Although there’s not usually any snow in New Orleans so maybe they won’t have snow globes there.

 (HOLBROOK enters. GAIL tries to hide the vodka bottle among GRETCHEN’s belongings.)

HOLBROOK   There you are, Thomas. I saw that you’ve gotten your car back, but you’ve parked it so that it’s difficult to load the passenger van. Do you mind moving it?

THOMAS       No. Of course, not. I’ll go right out.

HOLBROOK   Have you by chance seen my keys? I’m looking for them. What are you doing there?

(A little guiltily GAIL, THOMAS and GRETCHEN all answer a bit on top of each other)

THOMAS        Who me? I was just, uh,
GAIL              Doing where? Absolutely nothing
GRETCHEN    Keys? Your keys?

JIM               (Causing a distraction) Well, hello there, Mrs. Holbrook! Did you watch the game last night? Heck of an exciting ending. I wasn’t sure they were going to pull it off, but then…

HOLBROOK   (Interrupting him) Mr. Cappazolli, I didn’t see you over there.

JIM                  Sometimes it’s okay not to be seen.

GAIL              Please be careful on that step, Thomas. Why don’t you get down?

THOMAS       I haven’t seen keys. Your keys. I was up here, uh, looking for a movie that we might watch this evening.

JIM                (Impersonating John Wayne) Gonna circle up the wagons and watch a picture show there, Pilgrim.

HOLBROOK   That’s a terrible impersonation.

JIM                  Be thankful, then, we aren’t watching a musical.

HOLBROOK   Gretchen, your daughter said she was coming by later. If you would, bring her to my office. We can all three chat a bit.

GRETCHEN    I didn’t know she was coming. But I’ll certainly ask her when she gets here.

HOLBROOK   Thomas, there’s spaces to park the car behind the building. Unless you’re planning to take it out again tonight for more star gazing.

THOMAS       Seems the forecast calls for clouds. Guess I’ll just stay in.

HOLBROOK   See that you do. (She exits)

JIM               Or she’ll unleash the flying monkeys.

GAIL            That was close. I almost got caught red handed with this!

GRETCHEN    Oh! Maybe that nice police officer from last night will come back and arrest you, too.

THOMAS       He didn’t arrest us.

JIM                I say we just destroy the evidence. Get the rum back down.

THOMAS       I’ll drink to that!

GRETCHEN    Thomas, instead of moving your car to the back lot, why don’t we move it to New Orleans? My suitcase is still packed. I’m ready to go.

GAIL              You’ve hardly let the dust settle on the last wild adventure. Do you think now’s a good time to make another run for the border?

THOMAS       That might be a heck of a lot more fun than unpacking suitcases, but maybe Gail’s right.  

JIM               Bonnie and Clyde ride again! (Looking in the fridge) There’s no more soda. I’ll get one from the machine by the pool.

GRETCHEN    Let me get it for you, Jim. I think I took that last one. (She exits)

GAIL              (Waiting for GRETCHEN to exit) Far be it for me to question the foundational strength of your ability to reason, but have you lost your mind?

THOMAS       There is that possibility.

GAIL              You can’t actually be considering another attempt on this New Orleans idea, are you?

THOMAS       Without a little adventure, what have we got, Gail? I still want to sow some oats, not just add them to my diet as additional fiber.

JIM                  Now I’ll drink to that!

GAIL              I just don’t understand why Gretchen is so hell bent on this little road trip and why all the secrecy. Why not just tell your families?

THOMAS       I don’t think my son would have an issue, but Gretchen’s daughter has her own ideas about how Gretchen should be living her life.

GAIL              Maybe she has good reasons for that.

JIM                  I think she’s set on world domination and plans to accomplish it one old lady at a time.

THOMAS       At what point do our children become our parents?

GAIL              Be that as it may, do you think maybe you’re getting in over your…

BARBARA    (Enters) Oh! I didn’t realize happy hour started so early.

THOMAS       Barbara! Hello.

JIM              Aha! The power of the conjuring!

BARBARA    I was hoping to find my mother. She wasn’t in her…

GRETCHEN    (Entering from pool) Barbara! When did you get here?

BARBARA    I just walked in. How are you, Mom?

GRETCHEN    I’m fine. What are you doing here?

BARBARA    I wanted to come back and check on you after last night.

GRETCHEN    I was fine last night. Wasn’t I fine? I don’t think I changed any since then.

THOMAS       No, of course you haven’t. It was just a silly miscommunication last night.

BARBARA      Miscommunication. I’m not sure I’d…

GAIL              Barbara, can we offer you a drink?

BARBARA      Oh! Well, okay. A glass of white wine would be kind of nice right now or a spritzer, if you have it.

JIM               White wine? (Checking his watch) Well, that’d take another 45 minutes.

GAIL              It’s not quite yet in season.

JIM                  Could we offer you something more immediate? Screwdriver? Or we’ve got rum with a dress up from the soda machine.

BARBARA    Oh. Well, I suppose whatever is fine.

GAIL              Happy Hour doesn’t officially start for another little while, you see. We’re just practicing.

GRETCHEN    I could open the liquor cabinet if you’d like some wine.

THOMAS       Ooh, Gretchen, dear, I wouldn’t do that.

GRETCHEN    No, I can. I have the keys! (Digs in her pocket and pulls out HOLBROOK’s keys)

BARBARA    Are those yours?

GRETCHEN    (Going to liquor cabinet, trying keys) No.

THOMAS       Why don’t we just wait until they come officially open that.

JIM               Well, I’ll be dipped in honey and rolled in glitter! How’d you get keys to the kingdom, my girl?

BARBARA    Mom, why do you have those keys? Where’d you get them?

GRETCHEN    I couldn’t find my apartment keys, so I have these.

BARBARA    Does someone know you have those?

JIM                I know and I’m okay with it!

GAIL              They do say possession is nine tenths of the law.

THOMAS       She borrowed them actually. And we will return them.

JIM                  I don’t think there’s a big rush on that.

THOMAS       Why don’t you let me take care of that for you right now, as a matter of fact?       

GRETCHEN    (Getting the cabinet open). It’s open now! But maybe we should keep these for next time, too.

JIM                There’s a bottle of white wine, Barbara, but it’s not chilled.

BARBARA     Actually, I think I’m okay after all. Mom, whose keys are these?

GAIL              Jim, since you’ve got access to greater options and opportunities, what do you think of mixing up pina coladas?

GRETCHEN     They belong to Mrs. Holbrook, I suppose.

BARBARA     And how did you get them?

JIM               I think that’s a much better use of that coconut rum. Anyone else on board? (Starts busying himself with finding the blender, etc.)

GRETCHEN    She left them lying around. You’d be surprised at what people just leave lying around.

THOMAS       Why don’t I take the keys and your suitcase back where they all belong?

GRETCHEN    My suitcase? But I thought we were going to New Orleans tonight!

BARBARA    New Orleans?! What?!

GAIL            (Checking the cabinet) I don’t see the tiny umbrellas, but I think we can still make them.

THOMAS       Well, yes, we talked about that, but…

BARBARA    You’re going to New Orleans? Is that where you were headed last night?

GRETCHEN  Yes.

THOMAS       No.

BARBARA    Were you?

THOMAS       Possibly.

GRETCHEN    I’m going to learn to make decent gumbo. You know gumbo is my favorite, and I want to know how to make it. So, I’m going to New Orleans, and Tom is taking me.

BARBARA    (Looking at Thomas) Is that true?

THOMAS       It’s true her gumbo really isn’t very good, but the kitchens in the apartments here are so tiny, so that might be…

GRETCHEN    My gumbo isn’t bad, but I can learn to add potatoes to make it better. One can’t ever believe that they’ve reached perfection with gumbo and then just give up.

BARBARA    So you’re going to drive her to New Orleans because she gets a wild hair that she wants to make gumbo!? Are you … (Whatever she has to say is drown out by the sound of Jim running the blender)

GRETCHEN  Yes, he is. And no, he is not!

BARBARA    (Confused) W-What?

GRETCHEN    Yes, he is going to take me. And no, he is not what you just said he is!

GAIL              (Brightly) Pina colada anyone?

BARBARA    You are by no means going to New Orleans tonight. Not tonight. Not tomorrow night. You’re not just flying off on some crazy whim like that.

JIM                  (Tasting his drink) I don’t think they planned to fly off. They were going to drive off on a crazy whim.

BARBARA    I don’t care if they were going to crawl off on their bellies like reptiles. This is ridiculous!

(JIM and GAIL continue to enjoy the escalating fireworks along with their beverages and a few of the pretzels in a bowl on the counter)

THOMAS       I have to admit, I thought it was a little crazy at first, but, quite honestly, I don’t think it’s a problem. I have a good car. I can still drive at night…

GAIL              That puts you at the top of the eligible bachelor list in almost any book around here.

BARBARA    That’s great. Then you go to New Orleans. My mother isn’t going anywhere.

GRETCHEN    I am, too. I already have my suitcase packed.

BARBARA    Your suitcase is just as much a disaster as this whole idea! Why is your stuff strewn all over everywhere? This is all yours, right?

GRETCHEN    Yes, it’s mine. And it’s perfectly fine. (Starts putting it back in her bag) I’m perfectly fine!

BARBARA    (Picking up the potatoes) Potatoes? You packed potatoes? In your suitcase? Mother, this is… This is not okay.

THOMAS       I see that you’re not exactly excited about us going, Barbara, but we’ll go, we’ll cook, we’ll come back.

BARBARA    Oh my God, you’re serious!

GRETCHEN    Of course, we’re serious.

THOMAS       She is a grown woman. Don’t you think she can make her own decisions?

GRETCHEN    I don’t need you to stick up for me. (To BARBARA) I’m a grown woman and can make my own decisions.

BARBARA    The question here isn’t whether or not you’re an adult. But, I’m sorry to say, there is some concern about you making your own decisions.

JIM                  (To GAIL) This here is the reason I made the decision not to live near my kids.

GAIL              You don’t have kids, Jim.

JIM                Even better decision.

BARBARA    Let’s get your things together. We’ll discuss this in your apartment.

GRETCHEN  I’m getting my things together to go to New Orleans.

BARBARA    Mother, you already know why that isn’t a good idea. I don’t think you want to go into it any further right here or right now.

GRETCHEN    There’s nothing to go into.

THOMAS       I’m fine with going and think the trip will be fun. Good medicine, in fact!

BARBARA    (To THOMAS) I’m sorry, this isn’t up for negotiation. She can’t go.

THOMAS       I just don’t see a reason why not.

GRETCHEN    There’s not a reason why not!

BARBARA    There are extenuating circumstances that you don’t know about and aren’t necessarily any of your business. She’s not going.

JIM                  If she’s not going, would she at least like a pina colada?

BARBARA     (At JIM) No! And do you mind?

JIM                  I just thought it’d be a reason to stick around.

GRETCHEN    I am too going! Oh yes I am! With my skillet and my snow globe! And you, Barbara Marie, are not going to have a say in this!

BARBARA    Oh no you are not! And, by God, I do have a say! Legally, I do have a say!

THOMAS       Legally?

GRETCHEN    You won’t control me! And I’m going if I say I’m going! So you don’t have a say!

BARBARA    Listen to me! You very likely have Alzheimer’s! You gave me guardianship! That, Mother, gives me a damn say!

(There is a stunned silence as all of them absorb what has just been said.)

JIM                  (Putting down his drink) I think I won’t drink to that.

GAIL              (Putting hers down) I think I won’t either. My. I’m sorry, Gretchen.

GRETCHEN    Well, it’s not true. She’s just saying that to be a toot. She’s always been a bit of a toot. Even as a little girl. Quite a toot.

THOMAS       (To BARBARA) Are you serious about this? When did this happen? (To GRETCHEN) How long have you known this?

GRETCHEN  There isn’t anything to know.

BARBARA    We had some testing done last week.

THOMAS       Gretchen, why didn’t you tell me? Don’t you think I should have known about this?

GRETCHEN    There isn’t anything to know!

THOMAS       It sounds like there’s plenty to know.

GRETCHEN    I have a few missteps or whatever and suddenly doctors who don’t know anything want to say stuff that isn’t true.

BARBARA    They believe it is true. It’s probably very early, but it’s true. We’re just waiting on test results for confirmations.

HOLBROOK   (Entering with handcuffs) Oh, Thomas. I still need your car moved. And I came across these when I was looking for my keys. They must be returned to the police station. I said you would bring…

GRETCHEN    It’s NOT TRUE! I AM FINE!

HOLBROOK   What’s going on here? What is all this?

GRETCHEN    And I will not stand here and have you say otherwise to me. I’m still your mother. I still deserve a little respect! (She bolts from the room)

JIM                  Wow. I didn’t see that coming.

BARBARA    (After a pause) I’m terribly sorry this all came out like this.

GAIL              My dear, there’s no reason for you to apologize.

HOLBROOK   What happened? This is probably something I should know about.

BARBARA    It’s been difficult. For all of us. I’m sure you understand. (She starts trying to collect all of Gretchen’s things into her suitcase.)

GAIL              Please, let me take care of that. We’ll take it down to her later.

BARBARA    Thank you. If you’ll excuse me. (She exits, following GRETCHEN)

HOLBROOK   What’s happened to Gretchen? Is she alright?

GAIL             No, she’s not alright.

JIM              Well, I’ll be dipped.

HOLBROOK  Would someone like to explain what’s going on here?

THOMAS       I’m not sure I actually understand what just happened here.

JIM               That’s really a blow. Bless her heart.

HOLBROOK   What blow? Would someone give me some answers?

GAIL              It seems she may have Alzheimer’s. They had words, Gretchen and Barbara, and it came out.

HOLBROOK   Oh Lord. That is a blow, but I can’t say I didn’t see it coming.

JIM                Let me help you with that, Gail.

GAIL              You finish this. I’m going to go see if I can do something there. (She exits)

THOMAS       (Laughing uncomfortably) Right, go do something. Go see how she is. That’s fine. (Yelling after her) I can tell you how she is: She’s perfectly fine! (To himself) Perfectly fine.

JIM                  Well, she is fine, Tom. Barbara said they didn’t have any kind of confirmation. Maybe it’s not what they think.

THOMAS       Right. Gretchen isn’t losing her mind any more than the rest of us. We’ve all misplaced our glasses or cell phone.

JIM                  The TV remote, the electric bill.

THOMAS       (To HOLBROOK) You can’t find your keys. Does that mean you have Alzheimer’s?

HOLBROOK   No, but Thomas…

THOMAS       That’s hardly a reason to … So what’s the big deal? Who hasn’t had their thoughts get all tangled and … It’s ridiculous.

JIM                  Lord knows, I’m muddle-headed most of the time. Ask anyone.

THOMAS       She was perfectly fine. She IS fine! We’ve been having a great time. (Picks up the road map, then crumbling and throwing it) We’ve been having fun, damn it!

JIM                  And you two will still have fun.

HOLBROOK    But her daughter has some reasons for believing she has Alzheimer’s.

JIM                  That’s what Barbara said, although they don’t have the tests back to prove it.

THOMAS       Barbara. It was fine until Barbara stuck her nose in it.

JIM                  You can’t say this is all actually her fault. She’s just looking out for her mom.

THOMAS       It’s too much that we’re having fun, fun that she couldn’t control. She’s making something out of nothing, seeing what she wants to see, because she can’t handle that her mom might actually have fun in her life. That her mom might actually still have a life period!

JIM                  Now, you can’t really think that she’d…

THOMAS       Because, God forbid, if Barbara ever had any fun, she’d turn into a pillar of salt. So she makes up this crap. That’s what this is. She worries herself into believing it and won’t let it go until everyone jumps on board and believes it, too…

HOLBROOK   This would certainly be extreme, don’t you think, to invent a situation like this and put Gretchen through it all just to make everyone believe something like that. You’re not being logical.

THOMAS       Well, I’m not believing it, Barbara!! … I’m around Gretchen all the time. I haven’t seen … (considering) I mean, it’s not as if there’s a single indication that…

HOLBROOK   I don’t know, Thomas. Maybe you’re wrong. 

(THOMAS takes the handcuffs from HOLBROOK, realizing that the signs have been there and he hasn’t wanted to see. Turning and looking to where she’s exited)

THOMAS       So what Alzheimer’s? It’s not as if… That only means that… (considering the consequences of it).

HOLBROOK Yes, it may mean exactly that. (Pause, letting the weight of the realization soak in)

THOMAS       (Yelling after GRETCHEN again) What is it you want from me, then?! A party?!

JIM                  No, no. Come on. It’s not her fault, either.

THOMAS       Well, I did want a party. I didn’t want this.

JIM                  Of course not. Here, why don’t you sit down.

HOLBROOK   Yes, sit down. Catch your breath. This isn’t good for anyone.

THOMAS       This isn’t what I signed on for.

JIM                  No one jumps in line for this, my friend. But it happens.

THOMAS       This isn’t my storm, Jim! This isn’t my sickness! I’ve already done this once and I’m not going to do it again.

JIM                  What do you mean? Do it again?

THOMAS       I’ve spent my whole life carrying the load, being the man, holding the hand until death parted us. I buried my heart once. Once was enough! ENOUGH!

HOLBROOK   Your wife?

THOMAS       Yes. Yes, my wife.

JIM                  Oh gosh, Tom. I’m really sorry. I didn’t know what happened there.

THOMAS       It wasn’t Alzheimer’s with her. It was cancer.

JIM                  That must have been hard, unbearably hard.

THOMAS       You have no idea. And just when I think I might survive, there might still be a heartbeat in this old chest… Now you want me to handcuff myself back to the heartache.

JIM                  Nobody’s asking you to do that.

THOMAS       I’m sorry this happened. Geez, I can’t even tell you how sorry I am. But I’m fighting like hell to be something more than just old.

JIM                  I think we’re all fighting for that. You can’t give up that fight either. The minute you do, it’s all over.

THOMAS       It was too hard to fight my way back to life before, and now I’ve got other things. Things to live for.  And dealing with … caring for … How do I do that again?!

JIM                  I can’t answer that one for you, my friend. That’s one you have to settle between you and your heart.

THOMAS       I don’t think I can do it. I don’t think it’s in me.

JIM                  We don’t always know what we can do until we’re tested.

THOMAS       Tested? And if I fail that test? Then I’m just a heartless monster. That’s what I am and that’s what I have to live with.

JIM                  It’s not like that. You know it isn’t like that.

THOMAS       She has to live with her, her whatever it is, disease, illness, diagnosis, whatever. And I have to live with the hand it looks like I’ve been dealt. She’s got her world. I’ll be in mine.

JIM                  Tom, you don’t even know for sure what it is. Maybe it’s not even Alzheimer’s at all.

THOMAS       Yeah maybe it’s not and maybe it is. (He exits)

HOLBROOK   Why did I not know about any of this?

JIM                  Don’t beat yourself up. None of us knew.

HOLBROOK   Oh, I knew about the testing. Why did I not know about this relationship between Gretchen and Thomas?

JIM                  It’s not as if you give a girl your letterman jacket and class ring at this age. Besides, it looks like it might be a moot point now.

HOLBROOK    But it’s my job to be on top of the lives of my residents.

JIM               Just goes to show how sneaky us old folks can be. Don’t turn your back for even a minute.

JACK             (Entering) Hey, Jim. How’s it going?

JIM                  Oh hey there, Jack. I’m glad you’re here.

HOLBROOK   I’m going to go follow up on all of this mess. If you see Thomas, please remind him to move his car. And let me know if you happen to see my set of keys. (She exits)

JACK              I just came by to see my dad. I’m guessing he’s in his apartment.

JIM                  Wait, Jack. Before you go down there, you should probably know some things.

JACK              Is there still friction around here because of last night’s Great Escape?

JIM                  No, it’s something more than that. About Gretchen. Your dad’s pretty upset.

JACK              Uh oh. Lover’s quarrel?

JIM                  Sit down, son. They think Gretchen might have Alzheimer’s.

JACK              Alzheimer’s? You’re joking. She’s a little zany, but I wouldn’t think…

JIM                  Her daughter’s had her in for testing.

JACK              Barbara took her for tests? Wow. That explains a lot. How did you find all this out?

JIM                  We were all in here just now and it got blurted out. I think Gretchen didn’t want anyone to know.

JACK              Which means Dad didn’t know.

JIM                  Right. Caught him a bit flat-footed, I’m afraid.

JACK              Well, hell. How did he take it? I know Gretchen is pretty special to him.

JIM                  Yes, she is. They’ve become quite a pair.

JACK              My dad hasn’t spent time with a woman since my mom passed. Gretchen seemed like the real deal for him, too. Geez, I bet he is upset.

JIM                  Talk to him, Jack.

JACK              That could be tough. I’m not sure I’d even know what to say. When he locks his heart up, it’s full on solitary. He can be a hard man to talk to on these things.

JIM                  He’s always seemed pretty open as long as I’ve known him, but I suppose this… This might be a different thing.

JACK              Something that serious, it’s not somewhere he’ll willingly want to go.

JIM                  He said a little bit about how hard it was to lose your mother.

JACK              You have no idea. As my mother was dying, so was my dad. When she finally passed, I honestly thought he would just go, too.

JIM                  That happens sometimes.

JACK              But he didn’t. Instead, he got dark and depressed and angry that he hadn’t died, too. It was a hard battle back for him. There were times I didn’t know if he’d make it.

JIM                  Gretchen, though, seems to really make him happy. 

JACK              She does. He’s been so full of life again. Like I say, she seemed the real deal for him. This is just so damn tough.

JIM                  Jack, how often do you get a shot at a real deal anymore?

JACK              Not often, that’s for sure. Not often at all.

JIM                  Not at this age.

JACK              I just don’t know if he’s willing, or even able, to take that risk, Jim. Not if it means facing anything like what he faced with my mother. Not again. But going back into that darkness because she’s not there to light up his life can’t be an option either. That, for sure, is NOT an option.

(black out)
 

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Jean Ciampi. Writer.