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Good Night: A Short Play

Characters
Sean, a very old man 
Celia, a young nurse

Setting
The old man's bedroom. Late one evening.

 

 

AT RISE:
A bedroom containing a single bed, a dresser, a small but overflowing bookshelf, end table with a pitcher full of water, and an empty glass.

SEAN lies propped up in bed, reading Remembrance of Things Past.  After a moment he lays the book on his chest, sighs, and sinks a little lower.

CELIA enters, carrying a tray with a pot of tea, mismatched cup and saucer, sugar bowl, creamer, plate of cookies.

CELIA
(Cheerily)
Tired of reading?  I don’t blame you.  Too much of that is no good for you.  It’s too bad you don’t have a TV.  You could watch some funny show and cheer yourself up a little.

SEAN
(Smiles)
Just seeing you enter the room is enough to cheer me up.

CELIA
(Puts tray on dresser)
Yeah, right.

SEAN
No, I mean it.  You’re . . . a vision of loveliness.

CELIA
Stop that now.  Next thing I know you’ll be proposing.

SEAN
Not a chance.  But . . .
(Holds up side of bedclothes.)
. . . if you’d like to crawl under the covers.

CELIA
(Laughs)
Aren’t you terrible!  A man your age.

SEAN
I am.  It’s true.  Don’t you just love it?

CELIA
It isn‘t Sean I should be calling you but the Dirty Old Man.

SEAN
Celia, there is nothing dirty about good clean fun between consenting adults.

CELIA
And when did I give my consent?

SEAN
Oh, not yet, not yet.  But there’s still time.  I’ll break down your resistance.

(Coughs; Hoarsely.)

You know you want me.

CELIA
Well, they told me at the agency you were a handful, but I had no idea.  Anyway, it would probably kill you.

SEAN
What a lovely way to die.

CELIA
You’re incorrigible.

SEAN
I know.  Isn’t it wonderful?

CELIA takes the book off his chest and places it on the dresser.

CELIA
Come on now, till I raise you up enough to drink your tea.
She lifts him gently into something closer to a sitting posture.

SEAN
What kind is it?

CELIA
Chamomile.  It will help you sleep.

SEAN
Who has time to sleep?  I’ve got a lot to do before I die.

CELIA
Really?  What would that be exactly?

She slides the tray into place.

SEAN
Well, seducing you is at the top of the list, of course.

CELIA
(Laughs heartily.)
You know, if you could just overcome your shyness you’d be alright.

SEAN
I used to be a very shy little boy.

CELIA
Hard to imagine you as a boy.

SEAN
Where was his boyhood now? Where was the soul that had hung back from her destiny, to brood alone upon the shame of her wounds . . . ? Or where was he?

CELIA
Who wrote that?

SEAN
James Joyce.  Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

CELIA
You’ve got quite the memory, haven’t you.  For an old man.

SEAN
A girl stood before him in midstream, alone and still, gazing out to sea. She seemed like one whom magic had changed into the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird.

CELIA
Who’s that then?

SEAN
You.  A strange and beautiful seabird.

CELIA
Strange, am I?  Well, I fit right in around here then.

SEAN
I knew you’d see it eventually!  We were meant for each other.

CELIA
So you keep telling me.  And if you weren’t so ancient I’d be worried for my virtue.

SEAN
(Cackles.)
Ah, you should be.  You should.

CELIA
Well, in the meantime you’ll have to settle for a cookie. 
And by the way, what I meant was, who wrote that last bit.

SEAN
The same.  She was his muse.  She made him see his destiny was to be a great artist.

CELIA
And what was your destiny, if you don’t mind my asking?

SEAN
To pine for you for all eternity.

CELIA
Well, at least you’ve made a realistic assessment of your chances.

SEAN
Beautiful and witty.  My ideal.

CELIA
Oh, if you really got to know me you’d find me all too real.

SEAN
Then that must never be allowed to happen!

CELIA
Well, you never know.  You might like me even with my imperfections.

SEAN
Did you make these cookies?

CELIA
I did not.  I bought them--for, like, our first night together.  I can’t cook.  See, you’re getting to know me better already.

SEAN
Store bought?  Then I shall refuse to eat them.  Also because of my diabetes.

CELIA
Oh, Jesus, I forgot about the diabetes.  See, you have me all distracted with your flirting and quoting and everything.

SEAN
(With false drama)
She’s trying to kill me!  And take all my money!  Help!

CELIA
(Laughs.)
Shush or the neighbors will hear you.  Then where will we be?

SEAN
You’ll be in jail, and I’ll be safe from your machinations.

CELIA
My what?  Anyway, you’ll never be safer than you are with me.

SEAN
Now, there is a truly frightening thought.

CELIA
It won’t happen again.  The cookies, I mean.  I promise.

SEAN
Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

CELIA
I’m not so sure about that.

SEAN
Nietszche was, and he wound up in an asylum, eating his feces.

CELIA
Well, see, you could be a lot worse off than you are.

SEAN
And so much better if I could win your love.

CELIA
(Laughs.)
What am I going to do with you?

SEAN
Have you not been paying attention?

CELIA
Oh come on, and ruin your chance to pine for me forever?  And wouldn’t that mean I’d be altering your destiny?

SEAN
If it’s really my destiny you can’t change it.

CELIA
But is it my destiny, do you think?

SEAN
What do you think?

CELIA
Oh God, don’t ask me.  I’m not used to all these big questions.  I’m not even used to thinking this much.  I mean, when you specialize in elder care.. .. Well, let’s just say not all my patients are as lively as you.  Mentally, I mean.  You make me think.

SEAN
You make me feel . . . that I’ve wasted my life . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2011 John Menaghan

707 Palms Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

menaghan@yahoo.com