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Last Call: A Short Play

CHARACTERS
Eleanor, an elderly woman
Colleen, her daughter, somewhere in her fifties 

SETTING
A hospital room.
The present.

 

 

AT RISE:   An old woman sits up in bed, attached to an IV drip and several monitors. On a chair beside her bed sits a middle-aged woman, her daughter, looking forlorn and a little lost.

COLLEEN
How are you doing there, Mom.  Are you comfortable?

ELEANOR
Comfortable?

COLLEEN
Oh, I know, it’s hard to get comfortable in a hospital bed. I just mean . . . is there anything I can do . . . to make you feel better?

ELEANOR
You see that pillow behind my head?

COLLEEN
Which one?

ELEANOR
Any one.  Smother me.

COLLEEN
Mom!

ELEANOR
Well, you asked.  Anyway, how would you know?

COLLEEN
Know what?

ELEANOR
What it’s like to be in a hospital bed?  The last time you were in one was when I had you, and that doesn’t count.

COLLEEN
Count for what?

ELEANOR
I mean . . . You know what I mean.  You don’t, you couldn’t possibly remember that.

COLLEEN
I wish I could.

ELEANOR
Don’t be silly.  This is not a time to be silly, Colleen. I’m dying, you know.  In case you haven’t noticed.

COLLEEN
Mom!  Nobody said you were going to die.

ELEANOR
I’m 88 years old, baby.  And I’ve seen the way they all look at me here, the nurses especially.  Poor old thing, she won’t last much longer.  That’s the look they give me--when they think I’m not paying attention.

COLLEEN
Well, what do they know?  I’m sure you’ll be home in no time.

ELEANOR
If you keep telling yourself that, you might even start to believe it.  But why pretend, Colleen?  The truth will out.

COLLEEN
The Merchant of Venice.

ELEANOR
The who of what?

COLLEEN
Shakespeare.  Shakespeare said that.  In “The Merchant of Venice.”  Well, Launcelot did.

ELEANOR
You always were the . . . reader in the family.  The imaginative one.  I never had . . . time for all that nonsense.

COLLEEN
“It’s a wise father that knows his own child.”

ELEANOR
What?  What are you saying?  What does your . . . What are you trying to--

COLLEEN
It’s the next line, or the one before.  I can’t remember.  It just came back to me.  When you said that about . . . the truth.  It just came back for some reason.  I was Portia, remember?  Back in high school?

ELEANOR
You were what?  Colleen, this is all very confusing for an old lady.  Maybe you should let me rest.

COLLEEN
No!  I mean, I don’t want to leave you . . . alone. I . . .

ELEANOR
Well, talk to me about something sensible then.
(Pause.)

I thought Launcelot was one of King Arthur’s knights of . . . What was it?

COLLEEN
The round table.  This is a different one.  Shylock’s servant.

ELEANOR
Like in Paris that time.

COLLEEN
Paris?

ELEANOR
All that blather about the shape of the table.

COLLEEN
Are you OK, Mom?  You’re not making any sense.

ELEANOR
Vietnam?  The peace talks?  They spent a year or more negotiating the shape of the stupid table.  And all the while people were dying.

COLLEEN
Uh, OK.  How did we end up talking about Vietnam?

ELEANOR
Then again, people are always dying, aren’t they.  It’s just easier not to pay attention when it isn’t you.

A LONG SILENCE during which ELEANOR looks off into the distance and COLLEEN casts her eyes around the room, settling her gaze at last on the telephone on the bedside table.

COLLEEN
When’s the last time you talked to Dad?

ELEANOR
Who?

COLLEEN
Your husband?  Have you talked to him lately?

ELEANOR
How would I, with him too frail to come and visit?

COLLEEN
You mean, you haven’t talked on the phone since you were admitted?  But that’s more than a week ago!

ELEANOR
What is there to talk about?

COLLEEN
Do you want me to call him?

ELEANOR
What for?

COLLEEN
So you can talk.  You should talk to each other.  You haven’t heard his . . . He hasn’t been able to ask you . . . You should talk.

ELEANOR
I really don’t--

COLLEEN
I’m going to call him for you right now.

COLLEEN rises and retrieves the telephone, then punches in the number.

ELEANOR
What do you imagine we have--

COLLEEN
It’s ringing.

ELEANOR looks away.

COLLEEN (CONT’D)
Still ringing.  Maybe he’s--Hold on.
(Pause.)
Dad.  Dad, is that you?  It’s Colleen.  Can you hear me?
Colleen, your daughter.
(Pause)
No, Mom’s OK.  No, no news.  Oh, when you heard my voice. Sorry.  I hadn’t thought of that.  No.  Nothing’s changed. No, I just, I . . . it just occurred to me you hadn’t talked to each other since she went in.  To the hospital.  And the phone was just sitting right here next to the bed so I thought.  No, I’m here with her.  In the hospital.  That’s right.  OK, hold on, Mom wants to talk to you.

COLLEEN carries the phone to the bed, puts down base, holds out the receiver.

ELEANOR turns and stares at her.

COLLEEN shakes the receiver gently but imploringly at her mother.

At last ELEANOR takes it from her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2008   John Menaghan

707 Palms Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

310-338-3043

menaghan@yahoo.com