Aftershocks

by Dottie Blais

SCENE 1:

GEORGE sits on the couch watching TV.   He continuously clicks the remote control.  GLADYS is standing, one hand on hip, the other holding a cocktail.

GLADYS

George, you know that annoys me.

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

Can’t you take a break from that thing?  Get something to drink, fix a meat loaf sandwich . . . hey, we could talk, have a quickie.  Do something, George, anything, to let me know you’re still alive . . .   George?

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

I hate it when you ignore me.  I don’t know why I bother talking to you anymore.  We’re going to end up like the people next door.  Marian says she hasn’t said a word to Ralph in three months.  They live in a silent hell.  Is that what you want?

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

Knowing you, you’d probably love it.

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

You’re really making me mad now.

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

I know what you’re doing.  You’re trying to punish me for Thursday night.  Well, it’s not going to work.

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

Okay, I’m going to have another drink and then I’m going to bed.

GEORGE continues to click.

 GLADYS goes to the wet bar and noisily prepares a drink.

The office was a zoo today.  Two emergencies put us way behind.  Had to reschedule half a dozen angry patients. Pregnant women get mean when they sit too long in those waiting room chairs.

Getting no reaction, GLADYS moves to a chair where several items of clothing are draped across its back.  On the floor are two shopping bags. She holds a dress up to herself.  Then she waltzes downstage, still carrying her drink, trying to attract GEORGE’s attention, but he does not look at her.  Angry, she finishes her drink, goes back to the wet bar and pours another.

GLADYS

For your information, I had three drinks tonight at the banquet . . .  I know I promised to have only two, but after Murphy’s speech, I needed that third one.  How many drinks did you have, Mr. Pokerface?

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

You got a little bit tipsy yourself, didn’t you, George?  Come on, admit it.  Even Murphy noticed.  He whispered to me I should drive home.  Yeah.  Like he was concerned about you being upset.  I guess he figured you should be used to getting passed over by now.  How many years has it been since your last promotion?  Nine? Ten years?  Seems like just yesterday you said you’d be the next regional manager and all that overtime you were putting in would be worth it.

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

 (Offers her drink) Here, Georgie, you probably need this more than I do.

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

I went to the doctor today.

GEORGE continues to click.

George.

GEORGE continues to click.

George, there’s monkey shit in your hair.

GEORGE continues to click.

 Purple monkey shit.

GEORGE continues to click.

 You never hear a word I say.  God, that makes me mad.

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

(Finishes her drink with a flourish) Let’s make love, Georgie.  We can do it on the couch like we used to.  You won’t even have to turn off the TV.   But that damn clicker has to go.  I’ve still got some pride. . . .  And I still have two breasts.  Wanna see? . . . Georgie, are you still going to love me if I lose one of them somewhere?

I’m having a biopsy next Wednesday.  The doctor found a lump.

Did you hear me, George?  The doctor found a lump.  He told me not to worry, but the way my luck has been going  . . .

George, look at me.  Tonight I have breasts.

Pours another drink

The only thing you care about is that damn job.  Just like my father.  Success at any price.  That was his motto too.  Look what it got him.

I remember the look on mama’s face when the hospital called.  I knew she was dead too.

I remember how cold our house was that night.  And how lonely I felt when she started to drink.

I know what you’re thinking. (Laughs) So why do I drink, huh?   Maybe because I’m still cold and lonely.  And because you hate it.  You know what?  I like to see your face screwed tight with anger.  I love it when you have to put me to bed like a naughty little girl.

I’ve thought about committing suicide, George.  Sometimes I lie in bed at night imagining how you’ll feel when you find me dead.  Maybe you’ll fall to your knees sobbing, begging me to come back to you.  Maybe you’ll make a scene at the funeral, throwing yourself into the grave like Hamlet did for Ophelia.  That would be so romantic.

But I don’t want to die.  I just want to get through to you.  Make you feel something for me again.  Make me feel alive.

You see yourself as a tragic hero, don’t you?  Well, you’re not.  Tragic heroes die.  You’re not going to die yet.  You’re going to keep slaving away at Murphy Electronics day after day, year after year.  You’re going to keep sucking up to that old man until you turn into an old man yourself.

Stop clicking that damn thing!  Do you hear me?  Stop it!

She rushes to the TV and attempts to turn it off but cannot.

What the hell . . .?

What’s going on here?  Let me see that thing.

She reaches out to take the remote but a force field prevents her from touching GEORGE.

I can’t   . . . George . . . What the . . .?

She gasps.

Frightened, she moves cautiously around the couch watching GEORGE in disbelief.

 She runs to a door but cannot open it.  Desperate, she throws open the drapes to reveal a blank wall.  She screams in fear.

When she regains composure, she approaches GEORGE again.  Tentatively, she reaches out to touch him but cannot.

 She looks around the room now as if it is a strange place.  She spots her purse on desk, rushes to open it and get her cell phone.  She is horrified to find that it is completely dead.

Where am I?  What’s going on?  Oh, god, I must be really drunk this time.   I’m hallucinating.  And this is one scary dream.  Soon as I wake up, I promise I’m going to pour every bottle of booze in this house down the john.

She moves around the room, trying to open doors, checking everything out.

When she gets to the bar, she hesitates a moment then pours another drink.

Drinking in my dreams should be okay.

She spits out a mouthful.

Salty!

She sips from another bottle, spits again.

What the hell? . . . I was just drinking this stuff. . . . Oh, I get it.  It’s one of those damn frustrating dreams where you can’t do what you’re trying to do.  OK  . .  OK . . . I can handle this.

She starts to sit on the couch near GEORGE but reconsiders and goes to the chair at window.

I’m going to just sit over here and watch TV until I wake up . . . .  Boy, I must have been really sloshed by the time we got home tonight.  I don’t even remember going to bed.  I don’t remember anything after . . . after . . . you told me . . . you’d filed for divorce.  We were in the car.  You’re driving like a maniac.  And there’s so much rain.  I can’t see where we’re going.  George, slow down!  Slow down!  NOOOO!!  

 Screams in terror.

Runs from door to door, trying to escape.  Finally, exhausted, she sinks to the floor sobbing.

 After a few minutes, she stops crying and gets to her feet.  She’s angry.

All right, I’ve had enough.  I want to wake up now.

Spots the telephone on the desk and runs for it.

Puts the receiver to her ear.  The phone is dead.  

Wait a minute!  Maybe this isn’t a dream.  Maybe it’s . . . somehow . . . real.  Maybe . . . oh, god . . . NO! NO! NO!

We’re still alive!

Sees a mirror on the wall, runs to it.

There, there I am.  See!  See, George, I’m alive!

Turns to GEORGE and is jolted back into fear.

Oh, god.

Picks up a picture of a young teenage girl from table.  Addresses the air.

I can’t leave Lindsey.  She’s fifteen.  Please.

Raising her voice.

Can anybody hear me?  Where am I?   Somebody please answer me.

She waits expectantly.  Then stares at GEORGE a few seconds and explodes in anger.

You son-of-a-bitch, you did this!

Tries again to get through the force field around

GEORGE then sinks onto the couch in despair.  Suddenly, as if remembering something, she puts her hands together in prayer.

God?  God, can you hear me?  Please answer. . . (Looks around.)  Please tell me what’s going on.

Where am I? (Beat) Wait a minute.  This can’t be heaven.  There’s dust on the coffee table.

But if this isn’t heaven, it must be . . . uh oh . . . .   Listen, whoever you are, please let me go back.  I’ll be good.  I promise.

I wasn’t all that bad a person.   I didn’t go to church, but I wasn’t evil.  I didn’t do bad things to people – oh, except maybe to George – but he’s my husband, that shouldn’t count.  I didn’t hate anybody — except maybe myself.  Can you end up in hell for that?

If you give me another chance, I’ll do better.  I’ve read about people who die and come back to life.  They’re always better the second time around.  I will be too.

Let George go with me.  It wouldn’t be right without him.  He deserves a second chance more than I do.  He’s really a good guy.

Crosses to GEORGE.

He’s worked so hard and put up with so much  . . . from Murphy . . . from me.

George, can you hear me?  When you shut me out, I was lonely and afraid.  Desperate.  My affair with Murphy was a horrible mistake.  He used me too.  I’m so sorry.

We should’ve held on to each other when life got scary.   Like two kids walking home in the dark.

Reaches out to touch him but cannot. 

People need to touch.  I should’ve touched you today, George.  I wanted to tell you I was sorry, to kiss away the hurt like I used to.  But we’d built a wall between us.   I wanted to slip my hand into yours as we walked up to Murphy’s house tonight.  I was afraid for you.  After his announcement, I wanted to wrap my arms around you, to comfort you, but I couldn’t break through the wall.

I wish I could rub your back right now.  I haven’t done that in years.  We could snuggle up on the couch like we used to and watch TV.  (Laughs)  I’ve got a feeling they show reruns here.  But it doesn’t matter.  We can make heaven out of this place, George.  At least here I get to keep both my boobs.

We were so happy when we first got married.  Remember?  I didn’t mind you watching TV back then because I knew I had more power over you than it did.  Remember what I used to do?  I’d turn off the lamp.  Wouldn’t say a word.  Just turned it off.  Then you’d turn off the TV and we’d hunt for each other in the darkness.  We always found each other, George.

Maybe  . . . maybe if . . .

Turns off the lamp on a table near the couch.  

 The stage goes black.  GLADYS crosses to the bar, her voice gradually changing to the harsh tone she had at the opening of the scene.

George  . . .  George . . oh, my god,  George . . . where are you,  George?    Find me, George!  George . . .

SCENE 2:

GEORGE is sitting on the couch watching TV.   He continuously clicks the remote control.  GLADYS is standing, one hand on hip, the other holding a cocktail.

GLADYS

George, you know that annoys me.

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

Can’t you take a break from that thing?  Get something to drink, fix a meat loaf sandwich . . . hey, we could talk, have a quickie.  Do something, George, anything, to let me know you’re still alive . . .   George?

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

I hate it when you ignore me.  I don’t know why I bother talking to you anymore.  We’re going to end up like the people next door.  Marian hasn’t said a word to Ralph in three months.  They live in a silent hell.  Is that what you want?

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

Knowing you, you’d probably love it.

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

You’re really making me mad now.

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

I know what you’re doing.  You’re trying to punish me for Thursday night.  Well, it’s not going to work.

GEORGE continues to click.

GLADYS

Okay, I’m going to have one more drink and then I’m going to bed.

GEORGE

Oh, don’t stop with just one more.  Have two or three.  A dozen.  Get falling down drunk again.  I don’t give a damn anymore.

GLADYS goes to the bar and noisily prepares a drink.

 GEORGE continues to click.

 GLADYS crosses to chair at left where several pieces of clothing are draped across the back.  On the floor are two shopping bags.  She holds a dress up to herself.  Then she waltzes downstage, still carrying her drink, trying to attract George’s attention.

GLADYS

Do you like it, George?  It was on sale — a hundred and fifty bucks.  Original price three-fifty.  A deal, huh?  Do you like it?  Isn’t too bright, is it?  The dress I really wanted wasn’t on sale.  Looked better on me.  It was blue.  Had a softer neckline.

GEORGE

(Covering his ears) A silent hell would be heaven to me.

GLADYS

Oh well, maybe I’ll see it on the clearance rack someday.  But I doubt it.  It was really chic.

GEORGE

Gladys, stop playing the pauper.

GLADYS gets another item from the chair.

GLADYS

I found a gorgeous sweater on sale too.  Look, don’t you love it?

GEORGE

What does it take to get through to you?

GLADYS

All wool.

GEORGE

Go ahead.  Say it.

GLADYS

Blue is my best color, don’t you think?

GLADYS continues to model her clothes for GEORGE.

GEORGE

You think Murphy screwed me over.  You’re wrong.  He has other plans for me — big plans.  We’re opening a new office in Canada this fall.

GLADYS

This is for the golf tournament next weekend.

GEORGE

Did you hear me?  We’ll have to move to Canada.

GLADYS

I’m taking Friday off.

GEORGE

I know you don’t want to listen to this, Gladys.  But it’s time.

GLADYS

Marian and I are going to leave right after work Thursday.

GEORGE

If I’m ever going to move up in this business, I’ve got to take some risks.  Opening the Canadian office will show Murphy what I can do.

GLADYS

We’ll be back late Sunday.

GEORGE

Damn it, Gladys!  I’m going to Canada!

GLADYS

Not that any of that matters to you.  You’re going to have a heart attack before you’re fifty, George.  You can’t work seven days a week and expect to live to play with your grandchildren.

GEORGE

It’s not work that’s going to kill me.

GLADYS

But you won’t listen to anything I say.

GEORGE

Gladys, I’m going to Canada!

GLADYS

You’ll be lucky if you live to see Lindsey graduate from high school.

GEORGE

With or without you, I’m going.  Do you hear me?  I’m going!  I knew you wouldn’t want to go to Canada.  Shit, look at you, you won’t even talk about it.   Yak, yak, yakking at me all the time . . . but you never listen.

GLADYS

(Goes to the bar)

I’m going to make another drink.  You want one?

GEORGE

I want a divorce.

GLADYS does not respond.

I mean it this time, Gladys.

GLADYS sips her drink and busies herself with the shopping bags, her back to George.

I’m sick of your nagging.  I’m tired of living with a goddamn drunk martyr.  I’ve got to get away.  If I don’t get out of here, my life is over.  Maybe that’s what you want.  You want me dead, Gladys?  You’re always telling me I’m going to kill myself.  Are you wishing?  Why don’t you kill me yourself and get it over with?

GEORGE goes to the desk and takes a gun out of a drawer.

Here, Gladys, go ahead.  Shoot me.  Get it over with. . . . .  Oh, wait, that wouldn’t work.  You can’t be martyr and murderer at the same time, can you?  Ok, I’ll help you out.  But just this once.  Let’s see.  Should I put the gun in my mouth or hold it to my head? . . .   My mouth.  Then maybe you won’t have to get the carpet cleaned.

GEORGE moves toward Gladys.

Aren’t you going to watch?  You deserve the best seat in the house, sweetheart.  Got any final words of wisdom for me?  Don’t you want to beg me not to do it?  What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?  Damn, you’re one cold-hearted bitch!

GEORGE points the gun at GLADYS.

Turn around, Gladys.  TURN AROUND!  I want to see your face when I pull the trigger.

GLADYS turns and walks directly into George.  The gun  fires.  GLADYS shows no  reaction.  Stunned, GEORGE drops the gun to the floor.  GLADYS goes to the bar for another drink.

GLADYS

What Murphy did to you tonight was cruel.  I could’ve killed him.

GEORGE

What the hell . . .?

Terrified and confused, GEORGE rushes to the door to the outside.  When he touches the door knob, he receives an electrical shock.

AHHH!

GLADYS

You work too hard.  All those weekends you put in.  What did it get you?  Humiliation.  Workhorses don’t get promotions, George.  They get more work.

 GEORGE

Tries the kitchen doorknob but is shocked again.

Shit!

GLADYS

You’ve got to learn to pace yourself.  I’ve been telling you that for years.

GEORGE

What the hell’s going on . . .?

GLADYS

I warned you that Murphy was using you.  You’re expendable, George.

GEORGE

Gladys!  GLADYS!

GLADYS is unresponsive.

GEORGE crosses to GLADYS tentatively, looking at her as if she is an alien creature.  He tries to touch her but cannot penetrate the force field between them.

Oh, god.  Oh, my god . . . Gladys, can you hear me?  GLADYS, LOOK AT ME!  GLADYS!  GLADYS!

GEORGE looks around the room as though expecting an ambush.  Then he moves cautiously toward the gun on the floor, listening intently.  He grabs the gun and backs against the wall where he stands frozen in fear, ready to shoot.

GLADYS

Marian’s meeting me at the mall after work tomorrow.  We’re going to see that new Leonardo DiCaprio movie. The one I wanted us to go to last weekend.  And the weekend before that.

GLADYS takes her drink to the couch.  She sits, picks up the remote, clicks it, plumps a pillow, and settles in.

 The phone rings.  GEORGE jumps and fires the gun accidentally.  GLADYS  lies down on the couch.  Thinking she has been shot, GEORGE runs to help her but is again unable to penetrate the force field.   He returns to the desk to answer the phone.

Hello . . . hello . . . HELLO!

GEORGE, on the verge of tears, sits in the desk chair.

GEORGE

George, you’ve finally gone over the edge, old buddy.  You’ve been pushing yourself too hard.

Damn, Gladys warned I’d end up in the hospital if I didn’t slow down.  But I always figured I’d be on the cardiac wing, not in the mental ward.

If this shit is all in my mind, I wonder what would happen if  . . . ?  What have I got to lose?

GEORGE puts the gun to his head, closes his eyes, and grimaces.  The phone rings again.  He jumps to answer it.

Hello! . . . Hello!

Setting the gun on the desk, he looks at the room as if seeing it for the first time.

Wait a minute.  It’s not so bad here in Cuckooville.  I’ve got a couch, a TV, plenty of booze.  I don’t have to go to work in the morning. . . .   But there’s no food . . . I can’t get into the kitchen . . . man, I’d die for a cold beer and salami on rye . . .  I can’t get into the bathroom either.  How the hell is that going to work?   Wait.  Yeah.  I must be hooked up to one of those IV contraptions.   And some pretty little nurse will bring me a bedpan now and then.  So I can just lie around and watch TV all day.  No more Murphy.  No more Gladys.  No more stress.

GEORGE goes to the couch and looks at Gladys’ body.  He tries again to touch her but is unable to.  He walks around the couch surveying the situation.

What the hell is wrong with me?  That’s not Gladys.  This . . . this . . . thing was created by a freaking brain fart.  (Laughs nervously)

Man, I need a drink.

GEORGE goes to the bar and pours a drink.  Just  as he raises the glass to his lips, GLADYS shifts her position.  GEORGE drops his drink and runs to the couch.  GLADYS plumps her pillow and goes back to sleep.

Hey you, can you hear me?

GLADYS does not respond.

Damn it! (Laughs nervously)  If Gladys was here, at least I’d know I was in hell.

GEORGE looks at the gun on the desk.  He crosses stealthily, picks it up and puts it to his head.  Then he remembers the phone and takes the receiver off the hook. Just as he starts to pull the trigger, the phone rings.  He jumps.  Now he is angry.

You guys cut the shit!  These damn shock treatments aren’t gonna work.

Hell, I’ve always wondered what goes on inside a whacko’s head when he’s out to lunch.  Now I know.

GEORGE sets the gun back on the desk.

Gladys was right.  Murphy’s a son-of-bitch and I’m a fool.  That asshole smiled at me last night when he announced Johnson as the new sales manager.  Smiled like an executioner enjoying his work.

And I went whimpering off into a corner like some old dog that’s been kicked.  Lapping up booze for the pain.   Then I took my anger out on Gladys on the way home.  Cursing like a demon.  Driving like a maniac.  Fast.  Real fast.  Rain coming down . . . sheets of water . . .  I can’t see . . .  I want to scare her, make her cry . . . OH SHIT!!

Terrified, GEORGE is disoriented for a minute, looks around wildly.

I’m . . . .  I must be . . .

GEORGE grabs a bottle from the bar and turns it up to drink.  It is empty.  Frantic, he looks for another bottle.  All are empty.

 GLADYS sits up, stretches and yawns.  She goes to the bar and pours a drink, sips it as she returns to the couch.

Gladys?

GEORGE breaks into crazed laughter.

Oh, I get it!  I get it now!  This is a test.  If I pass it, I get to drink booze, go to the john, shoot Gladys, and phone out for pizza.  If I fail, I get to spend eternity with this Gladys thing —  thirsty, hungry, and needing to pee.

(To the air)  Murphy, you son-of-a-bitch!  And you, Gladys, I hope you’re satisfied now, wherever you are!

GEORGE addresses GLADYS, who is engrossed in TV.

You should’ve helped me, Gladys.  Years ago . . . when I wanted to start my own business.  But you went berserk when I told you about it.  Acted like I was going to sell the furniture, hock the china, or something.  I could’ve made it back then, Gladys. . . .   But I gave up on my dream.  I stayed with Murphy.  God, I spent the rest of my life waiting for Murphy to give me a break.  Now it’s too late . . . too late for everything.

I always had big dreams.  When I was little, I wanted to be tall like my brother Randy.  He used to tell Mom he was going to be President of the United States when he grew up.  She’d smile and tell him nothing is impossible if you really believe in your dream.  When I said my dream was to be tall, she just laughed.  Everybody in my family was short — my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, even my cousins.  Randy wasn’t tall either.  He was just five years older.

I’ve had two tall days in my life.  One was the day we got married.  You were so beautiful.  When you walked down that aisle, I could feel myself getting taller and taller.  By the time you reached the altar, I towered over everybody.  The ceiling didn’t even stop me.  I was taller than the church.  The trees.  I grew right up through the clouds.  I could see the whole world and it was mine.

My other tall day was the day Lindsey was born.  Then I had two beautiful girls in my life.

GEORGE sits on the couch with GLADYS.

I wanted so much for both of you.  I didn’t care how hard I had to work.  But making dreams come true takes time.  Lots of time.   And you always want everything right now.  Why couldn’t you wait, Gladys?  I could’ve given you everything you wanted.  Been everything you wanted.

I killed you with that car tonight.  I love you so much, but I killed you and then I wanted to kill you again here, so I know why I’m in this place.  But why are you here?  Look at me, dammit!  (Starting to break up)  I want to tell you how sorry I am.  I want to make love to you . . .

GLADYS rises and crosses to the desk.  She gets the gun, crosses behind the couch.

Gladys?  Gladys!

GLADYS takes aim at the TV and fires. 

(Blackout)

SCENE 3:

Utter darkness.  Voices overlap.

 GLADYS

Find me, George!  George!

GEORGE

Gladys?  Gladys!

GLADYS

George, find me!

GEORGE

Gladys, are you here?

GLADYS

It’s so dark!

GEORGE

Where are you?

GLADYS

George, I’m scared!

GEORGE

Gladys!

GLADYS

Don’t leave me here alone!

GEORGE

Gladys, where the hell are you?

GLADYS

I hate you, you bastard!

GEORGE

Damn you, Gladys, answer me!

GLADYS

I’m scared!

GEORGE

Let me out of here!  God, please, let me out of here.

GLADYS

Help me, George!

GEORGE

Our . . .   our Father which art in heaven . . . .

GLADYS

George!

GEORGE

hallowed be thy name . . .

GLADYS

(In a high-pitched whine)

Aeeeeeeee.

GEORGE

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done . . .

GLADYS

Aeeeeeeee.

GEORGE

on earth . . . as . . . on earth and . . . and . . .

GLADYS

Aeeeeeeee.

GEORGE

Forgive us our sins . . . as we forgive . . . as we . . .

GLADYS

Aeeeeeeee.

GEORGE

forgive . . . our . . . our

GLADYS

Georgieeee.  Forgive.  Please.

GEORGE

SHIT!

GLADYS

George, can you hear me?

GEORGE

Gladys?  Are you there?

GLADYS

I’m so cold!

GEORGE

Gladys, can you hear me?

GLADYS

George!  Where are you?

GEORGE

Gladys!

END


 

Dottie Blais’ plays have been produced in community and professional theatres from Michigan to Georgia, including an Off-Off Broadway production at the American Theatre of Actors in NYC.  She is a member of Dramatists Guild of America and Working Title Playwrights of Atlanta. Her new full-length comedy, STRANGERS, will be workshopped in February by Onion Man Productions of  Atlanta. Dottie is currently an adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of North Georgia.