Eighteen Minute Play
by Keith A. Kenel
Cast of Characters
Jean Rose: Female. Fifty-eight. Cocoa skinned, beautiful, silver haired patrician. Strong, stoic and beaten down.
Willy Rose: Male. Fifty-eight. White and jaundiced, old beyond his years. Failing health and suffers from memory loss.
Adam Kassem: Male. Twenty-six. Turkish descent, fourth generation American, no “foreign” accent. Registered Nurse, muscular, athletic, upbeat.
Room in a nursing home. A bed with a nightstand that holds some monitors. A couch with a coffee table. Both the table and nightstand are heaped with drawings and scribbles.
SETTING: Early morning, May 11, 2019. Willy is sleeping in his bed. Jean, with a laptop on the coffee table, is working.
AT RISE: There is a soft knock on the door as Adam enters.
(From Doorway.) Oh! Pardon me! Didn’t know you were in here. Should I come back?
(Rising) No, no. Please. Come in. I was waiting for you. I’m Jean, (Takes three steps toward door and extends hand) Willy’s wife.
(Smiling and nodding as they shake) Ah. Pleasure. I haven’t met Mr. Rose yet. I’m Adam.
(Smiling and nodding in return) Pleasure to meet you, Adam. My name is Jean. No, you haven’t met Willy yet. He won’t let you call him, “Mr. Rose.” He’ll tell you that’s his father’s name. Or was. If he can remember that his father passed away. His memory’s pretty bad.
We get that a lot. Did you say you were waiting for me, MS Rose?
(Smiling and nodding) I’m sure you do. And please, call me Jean. Well, technically I was waiting for whomever appeared. I didn’t want to leave Willy alone in his sleep. You’ve probably noticed that he gets very discombobulated at times. That’s one of his words. “Discombobulated.” He uses it a lot.
I see. Uhm, Mr. Rose, er, Willy was admitted on Monday, right? Back on the sixth?
Yes. Monday. The sixth. I just. Couldn’t. Anymore. You know? God bless him.
(Nodding) I understand. You can only do so much. We haven’t met yet. I only work here weekends. Was there something in particular you needed from me?
No, no. I just wanted to make sure someone was in the room while I stepped out to the car. I left some papers in the trunk that I need. As I said, I didn’t want Willy to wake up here all alone if I could help it. He gets-
Jean and Adam:
Discombobulated (Jean laughs lightly in polite response)
Yes. It happens. I’ll be a while if you wanted to go to the car?
Thank you. I will. If he wakes up while I’m gone would you please tell him I’ll be right back? He may be very disoriented, probably won’t know where he is or the date. Not even what year it is. If he wants to talk I’d suggest you focus on things from the past, not current events. We have two children, a daughter named Kay-Dee and a son named Thomas. I’d start there. If he wakes up.
(Nodding and checking Willy’s monitors) Okay. I’ll do that. (Smiling) Anything else?
(Gathering her purse) No. (To Willy) I’ll be right back. (Nodding at Adam she exits)
(Watches Adam silently for four seconds before asking. Perplexed but not concerned) Who are you?
Mister, er, Willy! Good morning! My name is Adam Kassem. I’m your morning nurse. You’re at Sisters of Mercy? Your wife Jean just stepped out to the car; said she’d be right back.
You know Jean? Quite the hottie isn’t she?
Where am I?
Sisters of Mercy. A care facility? (Adam checks Willy’s adult diaper) Did you want to use the bathroom or are we too late?
Too late? Too late for what? The ball? Get it! The ball!
No, it’s not too late.
I’m in an old folks home, aren’t I?
Sisters of Mercy is a care facility for seniors. Bedpan or walk to the john?
I thought that was Bedpans and Broomsticks? Or is that bedknobs and bedpans?
Either way it’s not too late. If we hurry!
(Places Willy’s walker by the bed, checks monitors before unhooking them) Well, nothing ventured nothing gained. (Adam pulls the blanket and top sheet down and then helps Willy to his feet) If we make it, great, if not then the Depends will take care of you.
Oh, God. Not that.
Do you know how irritated the boys get when they’re soaked in piss? No, sirree, Bob!
To the John, uh, what was your name again?
Adam. My name is Adam.
Adam? Like Adam West!
Right! To the John Mobile, Batman!
Did you ever see that movie?
(Walking with Willy to the bathroom) Batman? Sure. Which one?
(Stops and looks at Adam) Batman! What are you talking about?!
No! Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
You seem a bit discombobulated.
I saw that in Aspen Hill. Christmas Day!
Did you see it?
I don’t think so. Last Christmas?
Last Christmas? No! In seventy-one.
We’d just moved to Maryland.
I was pretty miserable. (Beat)
You weren’t born in seventy-one, were you?
(Opening bathroom door) Nope. About twenty years too soon. Nineteen-ninety-three. (Helps Willy to bathroom then exits but leaves door open) Where’s Aspen Hill?
(From bathroom) Can you shut the door? I’d like some privacy.
(Shaking head. Conciliatory) No, sorry. I can stand out here but I can’t close the door.
(Sighing. Resigned, not angry) Won’t, more like it. Fine. I understand.
“I’ve fallen! And I can’t get up!”
Just outside DC. Straight up Georgia Avenue. That’s where my parents are buried. Or interred. They’re in a mausoleum.
I used to tease my father that he belonged in a mausoleum. I wish I hadn’t now. Dad was good people. So was Mom.
Gonna get stinky. Gotta poop. If I can.
Damn drugs. Make me constipated. I was never constipated before.
Did you say you were born in ninety-three? I have a son who was born in ninety-three! His name’s Thomas. Named after his uncle. Do you know him?
Thomas Rose? Doesn’t ring a bell. Does he live around here?
No. Not anymore. In Florida, near Tampa.
You’d have to ask Jean the address.
She’s my wife. Have you met her?
Jean? Yes, sir! She just stepped out to the car. Said she’d be right back.
Oh, good! She’s a hottie, isn’t she?
And so strong. Inside and out. Big muscles. Not like yours of course. She does triathlons.
I was wondering where she was.
You grow up around here, uh, Alan?
Adam, sir. Jean does tris? So do I! In fact I head down to Tampa most springs and do a triathlon in Dunedin. That’s just north of Tampa. And yes, I sure did, grow up around here that is. Went to Jefferson. Class of 2011.
My first trip to Florida was to Tampa. Nineteen-sixty-six. My father was lecturing there.
You’d like my dad. I’ll have to introduce you.
Thomas was class of eleven! Kennedy though. Did you know him? Good cross country runner. Varsity all four years!
Hmm. Yeah. I bet we met.
I thought you said your name was Alan Scott?
Hey! I pooped!
Good news! No enema. No. Adam Kassem.
Isn’t Alan Scott The Flash?
What?! No! That’s Barry Allen! Alan Scott is the Green Lantern.
Why? Do you like super heroes? Tom’s big sister is married to a man who loves superheroes.
Nice boy. Married up. Just like me.
I think I’m done but I’ll need some help. Sorry.
Don’t be sorry, Willy. That’s why I’m here. (Enters bathroom) To help. Here, let me heat up the bidet. (Beat) Wipe you down. (Beat) And all set. (Running water. Willy exits bathroom with walker. Adam follows)
Dunedin? That’s in Ireland, too! I visited Dunedin when Jean worked for Transitions.
That’s not a sex-change company, they make eyeglass lenses that get dark in sunlight.
And we did the Dunedin triathlon when we visited our boy Tom. He lives in New Port Richey, that’s nearby.
Jean still races. Do you still race?
Yes. Quite a bit, but I’ll have to cut back after this season. My wife is expecting.
Oh, how wonderful.
Kay-Dee and Kevin have a son. Sean. They live in Des Moines. Or there about.
You’d have to ask Jean the address.
I get discombobulated with addresses.
Kay-Dee, her name’s really Kathleen Diane after two of my cousins, Jean went through a country phase, God help us all. Kay-Dee graduated in oh-nine. From Kennedy. Are you familiar with Cedar Rapids?
(Willy sits in seat by table that holds Jean’s laptop.)
Yes, sir. I graduated from Jefferson. Same year as your son Tom?
Did you!? How nice. So you know Tom? He’s down in Florida right now. Has a girlfriend. Lorraine. Very sweet. Are you married?
I am. My wife’s Amy. We’re going to have a baby.
Pretty sure she’s the one having the baby, Adam. Don’t they teach you anything in nursing school anymore? (Big double eyebrow raise. He’s kidding)
Any names picked out? I assume you’ve eliminated both Cain and Able?
For sure: No Cain, no Able. Amir if it’s a boy and Aisha if it’s a girl.
Aisha? How lovely.
Wasn’t she Muhammad’s child bride?
(Hesitant) Are you a Muslim?
Me? No. I’m not anything. Just old.
I’ve been to the Mother Mosque and feasted at Eid al-Fitr.
You practice Islam?
(Bobbling his head) Depends on who you ask.
You know they did not consummate their marriage until she reached puberty?
No offense intended, Alan.
I know who Aisha was but who’s Amir?
A family name. My great, great grandfather. He came over from Turkey just before World War One.
Ah! The genocide.
Was he involved?
(Angry but professional) Certainly not. (Calmer) He married a Christian woman. As did I.
(Oblivious to his offense) Me too.
My wife’s name is Jean. Have you seen her?
(Very empathetic) Yes, Willy. She said she’d be right back.
She’s a hottie, isn’t she?
When is your baby due?
October. October tenth.
I’m working here until then, to earn extra money while we have the time. I work full time at the University of Iowa Hospital.
October! What a great month.
My son Tom was born in October of 1993. Do you know my son Tom?
I don’t think so, but I’ve heard of him. Didn’t he excel at cross country? Varsity all four years, right? We competed against one another. I went to Jefferson. Graduated the same year. I seem to recall reading or hearing about you son.
He’s a great kid. Lives down in Florida.
Hey! Do you know when I met my wife?
No. I don’t think so. When?
June sixth! In Oxford. The one in Mississippi, not England.
Know what she told me when I introduced myself? “Jean Tierney, no relation.” Isn’t that great! “No relation.”
Not that she couldn’t be related. Gene Tierney was engaged to Aga Khan. If they’d had a daughter she’d probably have looked a lot like Jean.
That Gene Tierney was a hottie! Just like mine.
And do you know when we got married? May fifth! Pretty neat trick, huh?
(Suspicious) You married Jean before you met her? How did you do that?
What? No! Different year! You’re discombobulated, boy.
You know Jean? She’s a hottie, isn’t she?
We met six-six-eighty in Oxford and we got married five-five-eighty-four in New York.
That’s where she’s from.
Brewster? Same place as That Girl?
Well that should make remembering your anniversary easy.
Wait! So, happy anniversary! You just celebrated, what, thirty-five years then, right? Good for you guys.
Did we? I guess so.
Anyway, it gets even better!
Do you know when Jean’s birthday is? Nine-nine-sixty!
And mine’s four-four-sixty-one? How’s that for kismet?
Maktab’ Allah! How fortunate for you.
But wait! There’s more!
Jean and I have a daughter, Kay-Dee? Named after two of my cousins, Diane and Kathleen.
Know when her birthday is? One-one-ninety-one!
Isn’t that great!
You almost make me believe in numerology.
“They call me Jzero.” (Adam is perplexed) No? Cat Stevens? Numbers? I have it on vinyl.
Just don’t get me started on astrology! Talk about confirmation bias.
We have a son too! Name’s Tom. About your age. Know when he was born?
October tenth, 1993!
No! But close! Do you know him?
October first, 1993. Just transpose the zero and one in the date, so a mirror image.
Get it? Here, let me show you. (Willy writes on an 8 by 11″ piece of paper with a fat marker)
See, if you take the ten and one but write a zero in front of the one it works great! (Willy shows Adam the paper with huge writing that says “10 10” and next to it “10 01”)
(Carrying manila folder, Speaks as she reenters room) Sorry that took so long. I got a phone call. Willy! You’re up! Good morning, my love!
(Beaming at the sight of Jean) Jean! Holy cow! (Struggles to his feet and spreads arms wide)
Where you been, sweetheart? I missed you!
Guess what? I pooped!
Can we go home?
Oh! My manners. Sorry.
Jean, this is Alan Scott. He knows Thomas. They used to race together. Cross country, not triathlons.
Alan, my wife Jean.
Jean Rose? Formerly Jean Tierney of New York? Why, of course I know who you are. (Offers his hand)
I see my reputation has preceded me. Did I miss hear? It’s Adam Scott, isn’t it? Not Alan? (Adam smiles and nods emphatically as they shake hands)
Well, yes. I must not have enunciated. It’s enough to get anyone discombobulated.
Ha! Discombobulated! What a great word. It is Adam, isn’t it? Sorry.
No problem whatsoever, Willy. And it’s Kassem, but that’s fine. Willy? MS Tierney? Is there anything you need? I need to finish my rounds.
Thanks for wiping my behind for me.
I’ll tell Tom I met you.
Good luck with Aisha, or Amir as the case may be.
And best of luck to you. To both of you. I’ll see you around, Willy. Baby’s not due for five whole months yet. Thanks for talking with me.
Think nothing of it.
Come see me if you need any advice, especially with babies. I love babies.
(Leaving) I will, bye.
You ready to go home?
No. Not yet. I’ll stay with you. This is your home now, WR.
My home? Where will you be?
I need you, sweetie. I need you bad.
I miss you when you’re not around.
I’ll be around. I miss you too. Every day. All of the time.
Hey, hey! No crying. What do I always say?
“You married a strong woman hoping we could be equals.”
That’s right. “I married a strong woman hoping we could be equals. Little did I know I could never live up to the task.”
I love you so much.
And I love you.
Want to go for a walk?
Yeah. But I got a poem for you. Wrote it last night. I woke up looking for you and when I realized you weren’t here I wrote it. Wanna hear it?
Okay. I call this one, “End of Day.”
Sun sinks low at end of day,
streaks of mauve in sky of gray,
I take pause then slink away,
heavyhearted, sad hombre.
All alone inside my head
miss our nights of love shared bed,
without her soul’s mostly dead:
Weak old man, soft heart, strength’s fled.
Once upon was in my prime,
I’ve groan weak while she’s sublime.
Turn away for sees me cryin’,
can’t meet eyes for tears in mine.
Pledged to her my heart and soul,
chose a mate who’s unequaled.
She’s still strong, while I’ve grown old.
Know in her pan I’m fools-gold.
Don’t know how I’ve sunk so low,
gone from man to mere shadow.
Wants me back, can’t find way home.
Deserves more is all I know.
More like a pet than life mate.
How long ‘fore she suffocates?
Without her to naught abate.
My weakness all enervates.
End of day or early morn
turned to burden, her forsworn.
Fear any day I’ll be lorn.
Now just burden too long borne.
Now just burden too long borne.
Let’s go for a walk. Stuffy in here.
(Lights down on a euphoric Willy and distraught Jean)