Monday, December 6, 2010

David Greenspan | SON OF AN ENGINEER


SON OF AN ENGINEER
by David Greenspan


The Earth is Destroyed by Missiles

Son of an Engineer makes phenomenal scenic demands. This is how I saw it as I wrote it, episodic, moving unencumbered through the house, room after room, each room discarded one after the other, all of it traveling and neatly disappearing. Then Mars, its single setting displaced for the encounter at the grave site, then restored.

I first performed the play solo. I sat in a chair, played all the parts and recited the stage directions. I changed my voice for each character, and confined my movements to hand gestures and turns of my head, altering my focus to indicate characters speaking to one another. The only sound effect was a recording of the nuns singing in Act Two. Everything moved as I had written it, quickly, neatly, episodically.

But I had written the play to be performed by actors. When I staged Son of an Engineer at HOME for Contemporary Theater and Art, I had neither technical nor financial means to realize the spectacle. Nor had I the interest. Instead, I chose to delete anything that wasn't actually "used." Act One was a bare stage, articulated by an upstage curtain. Props and small set pieces were brought on as needed. There was no house facade—the actor playing Tom stood center and pretended to open the front door. A bar with a radio was rolled on for the living room; the kitchen was a small island of linoleum. The phone booth was a receiver and a circular florescent; the dining room, four chairs and a light fixture; the cellar, a hospital bed and a light bulb; the bedroom, a bed. A miniature rocket ship was the only scenery in the backyard; the actors stepped behind it, and exited the stage before it was "flown" for the blast-off. There was no bathroom window—the actor playing The Killian Boy took his position at the top of the scene, and light changed as he began his conversation with Seymour. A reddish carpet was rolled on during intermission, a tent placed up left, and a larger version of the rocket down right. The curtain opened to reveal the Martian landscape—cut-out mountains. The heavens were Christmas lights behind a black scrim. The minimal scenery was complemented throughout by the sound effects indicated in the text.

It didn't work. I could not realize the unencumbered flow of events, nor the suddenness and absurdity of each consequent episode. Reciting the stage directions had permitted me opportunity to create in words, worlds and environments and then, in words, erase them. It was neat. It was like a radio play without radio, a puppet play without puppets. The restricted visualization I employed in production was inadequate compensation for loss of the stage directions. "Flying" the miniature rocket to the accompanying sound effect of nuclear holocaust was never as potent, shocking, or absurd as my simply saying:

The rocket ship blasts off. The Earth is destroyed by missiles.

Likewise, some visual elements were too potent, too shocking. The nudity (and in particular, the graphic sexual behavior during Act Two) completely overpowered the text. In addition, the actor playing Tom was hampered by the inexpressive mask of the bear costume. Intended acts of agony and epiphany were reduced to mere psychic and physical violence.

Several months after the production at HOME, I again performed the play as a solo. Restoring the stage directions and deleting the visual elements afforded the audience some distance from the acts of horror, and access to the play's pathos. Perhaps directors more skilled than I, or with access to stage machinery (or both), might realize the play in production. I could not. I do hope, however, the play is rewarding to read.

-David Greenspan


SON OF AN ENGINEER

Son of an Engineer, produced by HOME for Contemporary Theatre and Art, premiered at Here Theatre in New York on January 12, 1994, with the following cast:

Chuck Coggins
Karin Levitas
Thomas Pasley
Lisa Welti

Directed by David Greenspan; Sound Design: Edward Kosla; Costume Design: Mary Meyers; Light Design: John Lewis; Set Design: Alan Glovsky; Stage Manager: James Kroll


Characters:
TOM
PHOEBE
THE KILLIAN BOY
DIANE
THE KILLIAN BOY'S MOTHER

Setting:
Act 1, Suburbia.
Act 2, Mars.

Note:
This can be played by four. An actress doubles as DIANE and THE KILLIAN BOY'S MOTHER. See author's note.


ACT ONE

Ding dong. Light illuminates the front door of a nice suburban home. Clean. Flagstone path leads to two flagstone steps up to the door. Through the picture window—drapes drawn—the interior of the house can be, at best, vaguely detected. When the facade travels, the inside will be revealed. Standing at the front door is THE KILLIAN BOY. Early to mid-thirties, handsome, but not pretty, soft, but not fey. He is dressed simply—white tee shirt, pants, sturdy black shoes. He holds a windbreaker in one hand, a backpack droops from one shoulder. The front door opens—TOM is there. TOM is a large bear—like you see in the woods—ursidae carnivora. In one hand he holds his reading glasses and newspaper. Nice dad kind of head of the household pleasant.

TOM
Yes? Can I help you?

THE KILLIAN BOY
Ummm…I don't know. Who are you?

From within the house, a woman's voice—PHOEBE. Pleasant, strained.

PHOEBE
Who is it, Tom?

TOM
Some young man.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Is this the Killian residence?

TOM
It was.

PHOEBE
If he's selling something, just tell him to go away.

THE KILLIAN BOY
[To TOM.] What?

TOM
They've moved on.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I see.

PHOEBE appears at the door beside TOM. She's human, dresses attractively, and wears a pretty apron. Svelte. She holds a cooking fork and a dish towel. Busy day running errands. Been to the beauty parlor. Housewife. Pleasant.

PHOEBE
[To TOM.] What's going on? [To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Hello.

TOM
He's looking for the Killians.

PHOEBE
[To TOM.] Oh. [To THE KILLIAN BOY.] They don't live here anymore.

TOM
Did you know them?

THE KILLIAN BOY
Yeah, I'm their son.

PHOEBE
Oh. [To TOM.] My goodness.

TOM
They didn't mention to you they were moving on?

THE KILLIAN BOY
No, they didn't.

TOM
When did you last speak with them?

THE KILLIAN BOY
About two weeks ago. They didn't leave a number or anything, did they?

TOM
I'm afraid not, son. Phone rings offstage.

PHOEBE
Excuse me.

PHOEBE disappears into the house.

THE KILLIAN BOY
My apartment was broken into the other day.

Offstage, phone is picked up.

PHOEBE
Hello? Hi Jenny, how's he doing?

THE KILLIAN BOY
All my identification was stolen.

PHOEBE
Un huh.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I lost everything.

PHOEBE
Oh good, I'm glad to hear that. I'll tell Tom.

TOM
[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Excuse me. [Calling into the house.] Is that Jenny? How's Frank?

PHOEBE
Wait, Tom.

TOM
Is that Jenny?

PHOEBE

TOM—wait!

THE KILLIAN BOY
[To himself.] I can't believe this. I grew up in this house. This is the house I grew up in.

TOM
A friend of ours was in surgery this afternoon. Good friend. [Pause.] You should have called in advance. You would have known your folks moved on.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I know.

I guess so.

PHOEBE
OK, I'll call you later. What time will you get home. I'll call you then. I'm so happy he's doing well. We're very relieved. We were worried.

TOM
[To himself.] Deep inside you. What do you see? Dark spots.

PHOEBE reappears.

PHOEBE
It was Jenny.

TOM
That's what I thought.


PHOEBE
And he's fine. He's resting comfortably. Jenny's going to stay with him until nine, then she's going to go home. She's tired. I'll call her about ten.

TOM
You should have told her to stop by—we could have saved dinner for her.

PHOEBE
That's what I should have done. I'm going to call her back.

TOM
Can you reach her?

PHOEBE
I'll call the nurse's station. I can get the number.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Well, thanks for your help.

TOM
Where do you go from here?

THE KILLIAN BOY
I don't know.

TOM
Maybe you should come in the house.

Silence. Uh oh.

THE KILLIAN BOY
There's no reason for that.

PHOEBE
I'll call the nurse's station. I can get the number.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Well, thanks for your help.

TOM
Where do you go from here?

THE KILLIAN BOY
I don't know.

TOM
Maybe you should come in the house.

Silence. Uh oh.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I think I better be going.

TOM
You might find it interesting. See how it's changed inside.

PHOEBE

TOM, please, he's gotta find his family.

Tom, please, he's gotta locate his family.

Got to. Besides, Diane's not feeling well. A boy in the house. I don't know.

TOM
Diane's our daughter.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I feel so lost.

PHOEBE
Besides, Diane's not feeling well. A boy in the house. I don't know.

TOM
Diane's our daughter.

THE KILLIAN BOY
No, I'm gonna hit the road.

TOM
Diane's our daughter.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I feel so lost.

TOM
Then come on in.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I couldn't impose like this.

PHOEBE
I'm going to make my phone call. Tom, I think you're being a little...Well...

PHOEBE disappears into the house. Silence. OK.

TOM
You don't have to come in. Don't feel obligated or under any pressure.

You don't have to come in. Don't feel obligated or under any pressure. I just thought—

THE KILLIAN BOY
I better hit the road.

TOM
[To himself.] What then? What rest? Words without thought. When will we rest?

THE KILLIAN BOY
I better hit the road.

TOM
Well, good luck, son. I hope you find your family.

Good luck, son. I hope you locate your family.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I hope so too.

I do too.

I hope so.

I hope so too.

THE KILLIAN BOY hits the road. TOM watches him leave, then closes the door. Light changes, as the house facade travels.

Light illuminates the living room—the bar area. TOM sets his newspaper down on a bar stool, switches on a small radio that rests on the bar, and mixes himself a martini. From the radio, comes a man's voice.

VOICE FROM THE RADIO
Who is Daniel Greenburg? Where is Daniel Greenburg? Whatever happened to Daniel Green-burg? Daniel Greenburg has a lot of nerve. Daniel Greenburg's family was living in Beverly Hills, then moved into Los Angeles, west of Beverly Hills. Maybe they got a bigger house, I'm not sure. A nice house, sure about that. So then—but then Daniel Greenburg continued to go to school in Beverly Hills—even though he was no longer a resident of the city of Beverly Hills. I don't know how these people pull this off—fake an address or something. Perhaps Daniel didn't want to leave all his good friends at Horace Mann Elementary School in Beverly Hills—or perhaps Daniel didn't want to give up the superior education offered at Horace Mann Elementary School in Beverly Hills. Certain folks, now and again, find some way to get their kids into the Beverly Hills school system—even when they don't live in Beverly Hills.

Now I should note that Daniel Greenburg did not—to the best of my knowledge—attend Beverly Hills High School. He had by then terminated the charade and enrolled in either a Los Angeles City high school or some private institution. Either way—as far as I know—Daniel Greenburg did not attend Beverly Hills High School.

But whatever happened to Daniel Greenburg? I don't know how his life turned out. And what about Daniel Biscar? He was a genius. Whatever happened to Daniel Biscar? He was a student at Hillcrest Elementary School in Los Angeles, but his parents pulled him out—maybe to study in some special school for really smart children. Don't know what happened to him, how his life turned out. And what about Daniel Gunther? He went to Beverly Hills High School, I know that. How did his life turn out? And Danny Silver. Danny Silver was so funny—he was the funniest guy in school, just cracked me up. And he was always getting in trouble and sent to Mr. Hazzerott's office. What in god's name happened to him—how did his life turn out? All these people come and go from our lives and then we don't know what happened to them.

And I'm sure those aren't the only Daniels. There are more! And what about the Alans and the Jans and the Michaels and the Sharons. Shit! And the Christophers—Chris—or no—Cliffs—Cliffs! Cliff* Curry. Whatever happened to Cliff Curry and Christopher Mulrooney—Alan Sperling and Alan Abshez? And the Rons! Ron Silverman, Ron what's his face. What happened to these people? What did they make of their lives? All moved on! Haven't heard from or about these people for twenty—some twenty-five years. Maybe some of them are dead.

Daniel Gunther, Jonathon Prince, Josh Goldstein. Oh, my god!

TOM sips his martini. Light changes, as the living room travels.


Light illuminates the kitchen. Black and white linoleum. A counter, center. Modern. One door leads to the dining room. Another door leads to the living room. PHOEBE is in the kitchen—getting plates, silverware and glassware ready to bring into the dining room. She calls to TOM.

PHOEBE
Honey, dinner's ready.

Immediately, TOM enters.

TOM
Did you call Jenny?

PHOEBE
You know, I didn't—I think she wants to be on her own tonight. She'll get home too late if she stops by here.

TOM
[Sniffs.] Smells good.

PHOEBE
Call Diane. I need some help getting dinner on the table.

TOM
I'll help you.

PHOEBE
No, you go and rest. I want Diane to help me.

TOM
I can help you.

PHOEBE
You've been working all day, darling. [Calling.] Diane, come down and help me set the table.

From off left, above and behind, a girl's voice—DIANE.

DIANE
I'm doing my homework.

PHOEBE
You can do your homework after dinner, sweetheart. I need some help.

TOM
[Munching on something.] Come on down, cookie. Help your mother. You can do your homework after dinner.

PHOEBE
She was watching cartoons when I got home.

DIANE
I have a lot to do.

TOM
Come on down, sweetie.

PHOEBE
[Firmly.] Diane, get down here this minute.

TOM
Don't get your mother angry, lambchop.

PHOEBE
Diane, I'm warning you.

TOM
Come on, baby, come down and help your mother; she's been working hard all day to make us a nice dinner.

PHOEBE
I swear, Tom, I'll beat the living shit out of her if she doesn't come down and help me.

TOM
Did you hear that, honey? You better come down.

PHOEBE
Give me your strap, Tom.

TOM
I'll help you. Let me—

PHOEBE
No, Tom, she has to learn. Give me your belt.

TOM
Pussy, come down before your mother goes upstairs and beats you.

PHOEBE
Don't give her options, Tom. This is where the problem begins.

DIANE
I'll be right down.

TOM
There we go.

PHOEBE
I don't care. Give me your strap.

TOM
Oh, come on, relax, honey.

PHOEBE
I swear, Tom, you give me that belt, or I'm going up there with a spatula.

TOM
[More the authoritarian, playfully.] Hey, come on now.

PHOEBE
Don't come on me. I'm here all day like this. You don't know what it's like all day.

TOM
[His teeth clench, his tone changing, begins play-boxing with PHOEBE—psychosis surfacing.] What are you getting excited for?

PHOEBE
I don't know how much more I can take, Tom.

TOM
What are you talking about?

PHOEBE
All you do is humiliate me.

TOM
You're talking crazy.

PHOEBE
No, I'm not.

TOM
What are you getting yourself all worked up for?

PHOEBE
I can't take it anymore.

TOM
[Taking hold of her wrist.] Come on, baby, stop it now.

PHOEBE
Let go of me.

TOM
I want you to stop it.

PHOEBE
Don't do this to me.

TOM
You're acting like an animal.

PHOEBE
Don't call me an animal!

TOM
I'm not calling you an animal. I'm saying you're acting like one.

PHOEBE
Don't do this to me.

TOM
Keep your voice down.

PHOEBE
Don't tell me what to do.

TOM
Hey—

PHOEBE
I'm warning you.

TOM
You want the neighbors to hear this?

PHOEBE
Come on, Tom.

Phone rings offstage.

TOM
See, that's probably Mrs. Benjamin, calling to complain.

PHOEBE
The woman's a Nazi.

TOM
[Pounding his head.] She was in a concentration camp. You want me to tell her that?

PHOEBE
Stop it, Tom.

TOM
The whole neighborhood knows you're an animal.

PHOEBE
I'm gonna kill you.

TOM
See that, like an animal. Let's call up Dick Edelman, and see what he thinks about that.


PHOEBE
Fuck Dick Edelman!

TOM
[Shouting.] Hey, Dick, did you hear that?

PHOEBE
Cut it out, Tom.

DIANE
Will someone answer the phone, I'm trying to do my homework.

TOM
[Threatening, pounding his fist into his hand.] You see that, your daughter's trying to do her homework, baby, and look how you're carrying on.

PHOEBE
Get away from me, you son of a bitch.

TOM
You gonna call me names, I'll slap you.

PHOEBE
You touch me and I'll kill you.

TOM
[Pushing her toward the living room.] Go answer the phone!

PHOEBE
Get away from me.

TOM
Answer the phone, for Christ sake. Get in there.

PHOEBE
Help.

TOM
You see what you're doing to me?

PHOEBE
Don't touch me, you piece of shit.

TOM
You see what you're turning me into?

PHOEBE
I don't know what you're talking about.

TOM
I'm this close to killing you.


PHOEBE
You're hurting me. Help.

Sound of DIANE, running downstairs to answer the phone.

DIANE
[Calling.] I'll get it.

PHOEBE
Diane, your father's trying to hurt me. Come help me before he hurts me.
Sound of phone picked up.

DIANE
Hello?

PHOEBE
Diane, help me.

TOM
[Pounding his fist into his hand.] Shut up!

DIANE
[After a pause.] Dad, it's for you.

TOM

I'm telling you something, baby. [Two fist pounds into his hand.] You know?

TOM exits to living room. Sound of DIANE, running upstairs, back to her room. PHOEBE collapses on the kitchen floor. Light changes, the kitchen remains.


Light illuminates a phone booth. THE KILLIAN BOY enclosed within. He speaks on the phone.

THE KILLIAN BOY
[Rapidly.] I don't know, Seymour, I feel like—I don't know, I feel like—Like—I don't know—like I can't...go on at all, you know. At all—I feel like—Like this—I don't know—I feel like—Like I can't...go on, you know. I feel—I think I feel when this—Feel this terror, terror, Seymour—this real-very—very real terror—you know, I feel like—I don't know, this—I just don't—I don't—I just don't think I—I don't know.

I just know—I know I can't go on like this. I can't—like this—go on, Seymour—not like this—that's all I know. A change? Not like this—there are no words. What? There are no words—to describe. No words. Don't have the words. I can't go on describing without words. Not without words. I can't. Can't without words. Can't without. There's this dread. What? Dread—terrible dread—morning, afternoon, evening—a dread. Terrible. Dread. Terrible. Do you know what I mean? As I speak now.

Wait, Seymour, my dime runs out! As I speak. There's no number, they've scratched it away. I've no more change. What? Seymour, where do I go from here? Wait, where do I go? I'm just repeating, repeating! Where do I go? What's the secret? What? The secret, yes, to a happy life, a good life. My dime runs out! How do I get there from here? How do I get there? I see no sign! Seymour, they interrupt us. Are you with someone? Are you with someone? Are you with someone now? May I call you back? May I call you back?

Hold. He hangs up. Hold. He exits the phone booth. Sound of automobile traffic. He looks both ways. He smiles sheepishly.

Don't do that.

Hold. He re-enters the phone booth, sound of automobile traffic out. Hold. He picks up. Dials zero.

Hello, Operator? I'd like to make a collect call. It's a local number—can I do that? Phoenix 9-6959. Um...The Killian boy. Tom. Thank you.

Through the phone, the sound of the number being dialed, phone ringing, phone picked up. From inside the phone, DIANE'S voice.

DIANE
Hello?

OPERATOR
Good evening, I have a collect call—

PHOEBE
Diane, help me.

OPERATOR
for Tom—

TOM
[Sound of fist pounded into hand.] Shut up!

OPERATOR
from the Killian boy.

DIANE
Dad, it's for you.

TOM
I'm telling you something, baby. [Two fist pounds into the hand.] You know?

Then the sound of a door opening, and someone running up a set of stairs. TOM'S voice.

Hello?

Light changes, PHOEBE speaks from her position on the kitchen floor.

PHOEBE
Hello, Jenny—it's Phoebe, how's Frank? It's Phoebe, how's Frank? Is Frank—how's Frank? How's Frank? Is Frank—how's Frank?

Light changes, as the kitchen and telephone booth travel.


Light illuminates the dining room. A table, nicely set. Four chairs. A door, right, shut—it leads to the kitchen. A door, left, open—it leads to the hall. Seated, enjoying dinner, TOM, PHOEBE, and THE KILLIAN BOY. THE KILLIAN BOY sits with his back to the open door. A fourth place is empty—the setting untouched—DIANE'S.

TOM
Aerospace.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Wow.

TOM
[Chuckling.] Missiles and bombers.

PHOEBE
[Pleasantly.] Who would like more asparagus?

TOM
ICBMs.

THE KILLIAN BOY
But what, specifically?

PHOEBE
[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] More asparagus?

THE KILLIAN BOY
Yes, thank you.

TOM
This is a delicious meal, by the way, baby.

PHOEBE
I'm glad you're enjoying it.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Really delicious. Everything.

PHOEBE
Tom? How 'bout you? More asparagus?

TOM
Uh, sure. Not too much.

PHOEBE
[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Do you like asparagus? Because I just love it.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I used not to like it. Now I do.

PHOEBE
It's my favorite. And there's more of everything, don't be shy. Potatoes. Chicken. What about some more chicken for you?

THE KILLIAN BOY
I'm fine for right now.

PHOEBE
Tom? Chicken? Potatoes? You're doing all right?

TOM
I got plenty right here.

PHOEBE
And we have green salad when you're ready. I'm sorry to interrupt.

TOM
No, I was just saying—

PHOEBE
Tom's work is classified. It's difficult for him to talk about what he does.

TOM
[A bit embarrassed.] Hey, come on, baby, you make it sound important.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Oh, gee, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to—

TOM
It's nothing. I work in weights and measures.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Uh huh.

TOM
Nothing special.

PHOEBE
You know, I'm very glad you called us from the station. I didn't realize the bus stopped running this early. It was smart that you called.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Well, it's very nice of you to have me over.

PHOEBE
I just wish Diane would come down. She's not feeling well.

TOM
She should come down.

PHOEBE
[To TOM.] Oh, she and Gammara had some kind of fight, I don't know.

TOM
Again? She's too young to have a boyfriend.

PHOEBE
Well, I told you that. But you didn't want to interfere.

TOM
I didn't know how serious it was.

PHOEBE
Well, it's not that serious. It's just I think at this age they get kind of intense.
[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Gammara is from Japan. But he's had a very difficult upbringing. His parents are divorced—which I think is very sad—because he's such a sweet boy.

TOM
He a nice kid.

PHOEBE
He's a little violent, though, Tom—which scares me.
[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Anyway, his mother left Japan after the divorce—although she hardly speaks a word of English—which is odd—because the Japanese, in general, speak very good English—they learned after the War—but she has money—I don't think she works. [To TOM.] But Tom, you were talking about aerospace. What you do.

TOM
It's nothing.

PHOEBE
Tom works in weights and measures. At the Douglas plant.

TOM
When you design an aircraft, to insure that its design is aerodynamically sound—

PHOEBE
Boy, do I love asparagus. I could eat it all day.

TOM
[After a brief pause.} The weight and measure of each section of the aircraft...you have to calculate the weight and measure of each section to insure the aircraft is aerodynamically sound. This is determining...in designing...

So for instance in a rocket—my unit will calculate how much, for instance, a fin...we work with the designers—to determine how much, for instance, a fin can weigh...or the length...the kind of metal used in construction... what kind of materials will weigh... their properties... So that in trajectory... in flight... So we determine—

PHOEBE
It's all so sad, isn't it? I mean, I know it's important. But if someone should actually press those buttons some day. Boy oh boy, what a mess! I sure wish there was peace in the world. [To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Don't you?

THE KILLIAN BOY
Oh, yes. I do.

PHOEBE
I pray for peace. I was just a girl during the War—a teenager. And it wasn't—of course we weren't subjected to what was going on in Europe. And all the Jews being slaughtered.

[Calling.] Diane? Are you in your room? I wish you'd come down to supper. We have company tonight. [To THE KILLIAN BOY.] I'm so sorry.

TOM
Maybe I should go upstairs and get her.

PHOEBE
No, Tom. Leave her. I don't know what's wrong. [To THE KILLIAN BOY.] I'm sorry. I wish she'd come down for you. Nothing much we can do. When my father passed away I cried and cried for days. He was such a good man. But now what? What are we left with—after they're gone? Tom had a hard time as a kid too. When your folks split up. Very sad. Tom's mother was a bit unstable. When they divorced she left Tom and his younger brother, Sidney, with their father and moved back to Chicago—started living with her Aunt Rose. Spent the rest of her life in that house. Never left that house. Wouldn't even speak on the phone. Complete recluse. [To TOM.] You talked to her—what—once, twice between the time she left and when she died?

TOM
I talked to her—I don't know—once, maybe twice. Once when I was away at college.

PHOEBE
[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Tom went to school in Iowa. I never met her. She was on medication for years. The pain inflicted on Tom. We got a call one day she had passed away. Tom talked about never having seen her since she left the family—the long years without her—how he misses her to this day-how he's still in mourning. Calls out Mommy in his sleep. Imagine her—and she wasn't an old woman either. But locked herself up in that house with her aunt. Never felt the light of day again. Until she died. And then only briefly. Into the earth. Who's ready for dessert? Or I forgot, we have salad.

They all sense another presence—offstage. It is to THE KILLIAN BOY'S back. TOM and PHOEBE see.

TOM
Hey, angel. You came down.

PHOEBE
Come in, sweetie. We want you to meet the Killian boy. He used to live in this house.

From offstage, DIANE'S voice.

DIANE
[Shyly.] I don't know.

PHOEBE
Oh, come on, sweetie, don't be shy.

TOM
Come on in, princess, there's nothing to be afraid of. Your supper's getting cold.

DIANE
I'm not hungry.

PHOEBE
[Warmly.] Yes you are, honey. You were nagging me all afternoon about how hungry you were.

DIANE
But then I had crackers. Now I'm not hungry anymore.

TOM
Diane, the Killian boy's going to be very disappointed if he doesn't get to see you.

THE KILLIAN BOY
[Not turning.] I really will.

DIANE
I'll come in later.

TOM
There's nothing to be afraid of, kitten. This young man isn't going to hurt you. Come in and introduce yourself.

PHOEBE
Tom, maybe we better leave her alone for a bit. Maybe she'll come in later.

TOM and PHOEBE return to eating. THE KILLIAN BOY turns slowly to the offstage behind him. But as he does, light is extinguished.


Light illuminates the cellar. Stairs ascend. The door at the top of the stairs is open—light floods in. A single illuminated light bulb hangs center. Two small windows, raised high on the back wall, peek out at the surface—grass and daylight visible. PHOEBE stands near the top of the stairs—aproned. She holds a dish and a dish towel. In the cellar, a hospital bed—occupied. The bed is directed upstage, its upper half raised. Thus, only the top back of the patient's head is visible. Long white hair, strands cascading over the sides of the pillows. The patient is hooked up to an I.V. and several monitors that display the life signs. Standing beside the bed is THE KILLIAN BOY.

PHOEBE
[To herself.] Oh, dear. My goodness. And Tom at the office.

THE KILLIAN BOY
[To the patient.] I don't understand. What happened to you? They told me you moved away. Where's Dad? What's going on here?

Phone rings offstage.

PHOEBE
Oh, shoot!

THE KILLIAN BOY realizes PHOEBE is above him. Looks up at her. To THE KILLIAN BOY.

Don't move. I'll be right back.

PHOEBE exits. THE KILLIAN BOY takes hold of the patient's hand.

THE KILLIAN BOY
What's happening here?

Offstage, phone is picked up.

PHOEBE
Hello? Oh, hi, Jenny. No, but can I call you back? Yea, I'm just a little... No, nothing's wrong. I'm just... OK, fine, I'll call you back. I wanna hear about Frank.

Phone is hung up. PHOEBE returns without dish or dish towel.

I'm sorry. I should have told you sooner. We should have. Tom didn't want to upset you. We didn't—want to.

THE KILLIAN BOY
What happened?

PHOEBE
I don't know.

THE KILLIAN BOY
What is she doing here? Where's my father?

PHOEBE
I don't know. He's not here. I'm sure.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Can she hear me? Ma? Ma?

PHOEBE
I don't think she can hear you. She can't speak. Doesn't speak. At least not...

THE KILLIAN BOY
Is she dying?

PHOEBE
I don't know. Yes. It looks that way.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Oh, my god! Why isn't she in the hospital?

PHOEBE
I don't know! I don't know! I don't know anything! Tom—I'm sure Tom can explain everything. When he gets home from work this evening, you'll ask him. There must be an explanation.

THE KILLIAN BOY
She doesn't answer me.

PHOEBE
She's very sick. She wasn't sick when you last saw her?

THE KILLIAN BOY
In perfect health. This sudden change.

PHOEBE
I know. It's so sudden.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Why didn't you tell me my mother was here?

PHOEBE
Tom advised against it. I'm not sure.

Phone rings.

Oh, damn. I'll just let it ring. Why don't you come upstairs, sit in the kitchen with me while I do my ironing? I'll make you a cup of coffee.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I'm going to stay here with my mother.

PHOEBE
Oh, please. Please. Come keep me company.

Backdoor opens upstairs.

DIANE
[Offstage.] Hi, Mom, I'm home.

Phone stops ringing.

PHOEBE
OK, sweetheart.

DIANE
Was that the phone?

PHOEBE
I don't know. Why don't you grab an apple from the fridge. And pour yourself a glass of milk.


DIANE
Do we have any crackers?

PHOEBE
Diane, please, don't start eating crackers. You're going to ruin your appetite.

DIANE
Mom, dinner isn't for hours.

PHOEBE
Diane—

DIANE
Besides, what's the difference if I have an apple and milk, or if I have crackers?

PHOEBE
I hope to god you realize some day, Diane, how much you upset me. I hope some day you realize.

DIANE
Fine, I'll have an apple!

PHOEBE
Eat your goddamn crackers, I don't care.

DIANE
Mom, don't—

PHOEBE
I said, eat crackers—I'm through with you.

DIANE
They're not my crackers, first of all, they're everybody's. You bought them for the house.

PHOEBE
Diane, I don't want to discuss it anymore. You should know, though, that when your father wants a cracker...and he can't find one...because you've finished the box—

DIANE
Oh, shut up! I'm not even listening to you anymore.

Footsteps—DIANE is on her way up to her room.

PHOEBE
That's right, Diane, lock yourself in your room. That's a fine way to deal with things.

Door slams.

DIANE!
[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Please, come upstairs,
leave your mother. She's not going anywhere.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I can't leave her here. We should bring her upstairs.

PHOEBE
Let's wait for Tom. Please, I have ironing to do. Let me make you a cup of coffee. I promise you, things will straighten themselves out—just don't press it, right now. There's a logical explanation for what's going on. I know there is. Even if I can't articulate it. There has to be. Please, be patient with us.

THE KILLIAN BOY looks up at PHOEBE, but continues to hold his MOTHER'S hand. Sound of a large dog, barking, pulling at its chain, fades up. Light is extinguished.


Sound of a large dog, barking, pulling at its chain, continues. Light illuminates TOM and PHOEBE'S bedroom. Large four-poster, center. Left of bed, small table—on table, lamp, alarm clock. Bright, Sunday morning light streams in through window, right and left of bed. Breeze blows curtains into room. Gentle. Right of bed, the bathroom door—ajar. Man's robe hangs on inside of door. Sound of a lawn mower. In bed, TOM and PHOEBE. TOM, right, PHOEBE, left. PHOEBE lies flat on her back. She wears a blue lame robe, visible where the cover ends. TOM is removing his underpants beneath the covers. Otherwise, bare. Drops underpants on floor beside bed—large, red-striped boxers. TOM moves toward PHOEBE.

TOM
[Manly.] Hi.

TOM attempts to put his hand into PHOEBE'S robe. She stops him.

PHOEBE
No, Tom.

Brushes his hand from her. Beneath the cover she pulls up her nightgown, adjusts her robe-makes available her vagina.

Here.

She spits in her hand.

I've got baking to do today, and marketing.

She puts her moistened hand beneath the cover—masturbates TOM. TOM touches her breast. When she feels him erect, she pulls him on top of her.

Come on, Tom.

TOM gets on top of PHOEBE, attempts to put himself inside her. She stops him.

PHOEBE
Wait.

She takes hold of his member, positions him correctly.

Go ahead.

He moves inside. PHOEBE embraces TOM. TOM fucks PHOEBE. Slow.

[After a while.] Hurry, Tom. I need to start baking. I'm meeting Jenny at 11:OO.

TOM raises himself on his hands—push-up style. Fucks more. Cums in PHOEBE. Great growls as he cums—his teeth exposed. When finished., he lies on top of PHOEBE, listens to the dog bark. Time passes.

TOM
[Peaceful.] That damn dog.

Time passes.

PHOEBE
[Gently.] I need to get going, dear.

TOM
OK, baby.

TOM pulls himself out and off of PHOEBE.

[Saluting.] Thank you very much.

PHOEBE gets out of bed, pulls down her nightgown, adjusts her robe. She exits right to bathroom.

PHOEBE
[As she exits.] Take a shower. I'll cook you eggs for breakfast.

TOM is getting out of bed. Huge bear penis—not completely flaccid yet.

[From offstage, chuckling.] That dog is really something.

TOM looks out left window.

TOM
Poor fella—he wants to go in. Why don't they let him in the house?

PHOEBE
[With dark sadness.] Take a shower, Tom.

Sound of shower turned on.

I'm putting the water on for you. [Containing a sob.] Hurry down, dear. I've got marketing to do.

Sound of door closed from other side of bathroom. TOM stays at left window, looks out. Turns, touches his penis.

TOM
What's a matter, boy?

TOM moves to the bed. Sits. PHOEBE'S side. Hold. Holds his penis. Sits, holding his penis. Masturbates. Sits there and masturbates. Curtains blowing, sound of dog barking, sound of lawn mowing, sound of shower as he masturbates.


Light illuminates the backyard. Sliding glass patio doors. A frosted bathroom window above. A fence. Standing center, a red rocket ship, aimed at the stars—its hatch open, a ladder descending to the ground. TOM'S legs stick out from underneath the rocket. He's making some last minute repairs with electrical equipment. Sparks flying. PHOEBE, aproned, slides open the patio doors. Detected vaguely through the frosted bathroom window above, THE KILLIAN BOY.

PHOEBE
Tom, we don't have all day.

[Calling offstage through the sliding door.] Diane, didn't I ask you to get into the ship? We're going to be blasting off any minute—I don't want to have to leave you behind.

From offstage, DIANE'S voice.

DIANE
Mother, would you please stop nagging me.


PHOEBE
I'm not nagging you.

DIANE
Yes, you are.

PHOEBE
No, I'm not. It's just—

Phone rings offstage.

Darn, I bet that's Jenny.

Kitchen timer rings offstage.

Oh, and my bird is done. Tom, have you seen The Killian boy?

TOM
[From underneath the rocket.] I think he's upstairs, shaving.

PHOEBE
Oh, boy, I hope we get out of here on time. They've launched their missiles. This is the end of the world.


PHOEBE exits through the sliding door. The bathroom window flies open, revealing THE KILLIAN BOY, lathered, standing at the sink, shaving. Buck naked but for a wrist watch. In one hand he holds a razor. In the other hand, a phone—the base resting on the floor, the cord extending underneath the bathroom door. He speaks on the phone.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I don't know, Seymour, should I go with them—what choice do I have, the world ends? So, really, there's no choice. Go with them. And my mother—I was planning on bringing her along—what do you think? Better if I could leave her behind. I don't think I can, Seymour, I don't think I can. I have tried. You know I've tried. She nears death.

Seymour, soon I'll leave the Earth. What if I don't see you again? Will you miss me? Will you miss me when I'm gone? You will?! I don't think I'll see you again, Seymour, I don't think I will. I have your number, yes. So I'll go with them. Yes. Like the end of Ulysses. Yes, yes.

He hangs up, finishes shaving.

How old am I? Thirty-six. A man. I'm no longer a boy. I look in the mirror. That's me shaving. A man, full grown. Hair on my body. Been there for years, but now I see it. If I live, I'll grow old. My body will continue to change. Hair will grey or disappear. My flesh will fade. Then I'll die. There'll be nothing. I'll be gone again.

Five knocks on the bathroom door. DIANE'S voice.

DIANE
It's me, hi. My mom is getting panicky. She wants to go.

THE KILLIAN BOY
OK, I'll be right out. Does you father need help with the rocket?

DIANE
I don't know. Do you think I should bring my math book along?

THE KILLIAN BOY
I guess so, sure. Why not?

DIANE
Do you think you could help me with some of my problems?

THE KILLIAN BOY
I'm not that good at math.

DIANE
You are.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Not really, Diane. You should get your father to help you. After all, he's an engineer. He excels in mathematics.

DIANE
I don't like asking my father for help.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Why not?

DIANE
Because he doesn't help me solve the problem. He just does it for me.

Last year I had to write a paper about Columbus and the discovery of America. Dad took one look at the paper and thought it was awful. We sat down together, for him to help me. He ended up writing the paper himself. There was hardly a word of mine in it. The Discovery of America. He wrote it. We got a B minus.

From offstage—as if downstairs, PHOEBE'S voice.

PHOEBE
What are you kids doing up there? The Earth is doomed. Hurry down.

THE KILLIAN BOY
[Calling to PHOEBE.] We're coming. [To DIANE.] Diane, when will you show yourself to me? I keep wandering. In all the time I've been here, I've never once seen you. Only your voice. There's always a wall between us.

DIANE
Open the door.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I can't right now. I'm undressed.

PHOEBE
[Coming up the stairs.] Diane.

THE KILLIAN BOY
You better go downstairs. I'll be right down.

Sound of DIANE heading downstairs. THE KILLIAN BOY begins to dress. Three knocks on the bathroom door, PHOEBE'S voice.

PHOEBE
[Softly.] I didn't mean to call you a kid. I'm sorry.

The bathroom window descends as THE KILLIAN BOY continues to dress. TOM gets out from underneath the rocket ship, wipes his hands with an old grease rag, talks to himself.

TOM
Well, well, well, house guests, heh? And who might you be? Oh, no, no, now don't tell me. Let's see, you're a...you're traveling in disguise. No, that's not right—I...You're a...you're going on a visit. No, I'm wrong—that's rather a... You're a...you're running away!

PHOEBE enters through the sliding door.

PHOEBE
[Catching him.] For god's sake, Tom. Stop that!

TOM
[Caught.] What's a matter?

PHOEBE
What are you doing?

TOM
Nothing.

PHOEBE
Stop fooling around!

TOM
All right, come on now—you surprised me. I think we're ready.

PHOEBE
You still haven't told me where you're taking us, Tom,

TOM
[Pointing into the sky.] Look.

PHOEBE
[Looking up.] Oh, my god, the missiles.

TOM
Look at that. Beautiful, isn't it? The trajectory.

PHOEBE
[Looking offstage through the sliding door.] Oh, Tom, hurry, help him. He's got his mother.

TOM exits through the sliding door.

[To herself, as she looks at the missiles.] Oh, Jenny. [A small gesture—as if plucking something from the air, bringing it to her heart.] Bring it along.

THE KILLIAN BOY and TOM enter, carrying THE KILLIAN BOY'S MOTHER in her hospital bed. She is still hooked up to all the life support machinery.

Easy does it fellas. Tom, watch yourself, don't scrape the walls. Ada spent all day cleaning yesterday. She does such a nice job.

[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Your poor mother. I feel sorry for her. What could have caused this terrible illness? Are you sure you wouldn't rather leave her behind?

THE KILLIAN BOY does not respond.

I guess not.

TOM and THE KILLIAN BOY carry THE KILLIAN BOY'S MOTHER up the ladder and into the rocket ship.

[To herself.] If he were my son... Well, he is my son—in a way. Isn't he? Aren't you? Why am I talking to myself?

PHOEBE exits through the sliding door. TOM and THE KILLIAN BOY emerge from the rocket ship.

TOM
Don't even think about it. She's locked in tight. It would take a great force to dislodge her.

THE KILLIAN BOY
OK.

TOM
What's your mother's name, by the way?

THE KILLIAN BOY
April, I believe. She never told me. But fishing through her drawers, one day, I came on an old snap shot A little girl—standing in a driveway—backed up against an auto—scrawny—hand on hip—pouting, clutching a broken doll—shadow of the photographer upon her. Scrawled in blue ink on the border, "April, 1936."

TOM
Could be the month.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Or her name. I'll never know.

PHOEBE enters with a large covered roasting pan.

PHOEBE
Tom, have you seen Diane?

TOM
What?

PHOEBE
[Calling offstage through the sliding door.] Diane, please, you're driving me crazy. Get in the ship!

From inside the rocket ship, DIANE'S voice.

DIANE
For god's sake, Mother, what do you want?

PHOEBE
What are you doing? Where are you?

DIANE
I'm in the rocket already. For christ sake!

PHOEBE
I swear, Diane. [To TOM.] Tom, why didn't you tell me she was on board?

TOM
I didn't see her get on. What are you getting so excited for, baby?

PHOEBE
Don't start with me, Tom. I'm serious. I'll throw this chicken at you.

TOM
Hey, watch it now.

DIANE
Will you two shut up, so we can get going.

PHOEBE
I'm really ready to drop dead, but let's just get the hell out of here. The missiles are upon us.

PHOEBE begins climbing the ladder. She hands the roasting pan to TOM.

Here, Tom, put the chicken on board.

TOM carries the roasting pan into the rocket ship.

[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Is your mother safely stowed?

THE KILLIAN BOY
Yes.

PHOEBE
[Cautiously.] You know I wish you were leaving her, and not bringing her.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Uh huh.

PHOEBE
[Demurely.] You don't mind, when I speak to people, if I refer to you as my son?

THE KILLIAN BOY
No, it's OK. But I'm not your son.

PHOEBE
I know. I'm sorry. Tom is not Diane's father. I was married once before. I left my first husband. He was very disturbed.

TOM pokes his head out from inside the ship.

TOM
We better get going.

PHOEBE
OK.

PHOEBE boards the rocket ship.

TOM
[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Say good-bye to the world. Next stop, Mars!

THE KILLIAN BOY boards the rocket ship. TOM closes the hatch. Engines ignite. The rocket ship blasts off. The Earth is destroyed by missiles.


ACT TWO

Ding dong. Light illuminates Mars. Barren, dusty terrain. Distant mountains. Cloudy sky. Wind blowing. Right of center, the rocket ship, fallen on its side, cracked open. Its landing legs are extended—either it crashed, and the legs proved useless, or it made a safe landing, but over time has been left to rust and junk. General refuse—solid waste littered about. A small encampment, left—a shabby tent—flaps blowing in the Martian wind. Near the tent, PHOEBE., topless, kneeling by a metal washtub, washing her breasts with a dish towel. She hasn't been to the beauty parlor in months. Wears the same apron over the same skirt. All gone ratty. Same shoes, but the heels have long since broken off.

PHOEBE
Been brought down. Clean my tits. Wash my jugs. The language you use now, Phoebe. If I'm lucky, I won't talk long. Something will happen. A change in fortune. That's it. I'll get out of here. Until then—wash yourself.

From within the tent, a phone rings. PHOEBE lets it ring.

See something else.

TOM enters from behind the rocket ship, right. He is nude, his huge bear penis erect. He is followed by THE KILLIAN BOY. THE KILLIAN BOY is also nude.

Observe this.

TOM
Come on, son.

TOM kneels in the dust. THE KILLIAN BOY kneels before him, prostrating himself, taking TOM'S penis into his mouth.

That's a boy.

THE KILLIAN BOY gives TOM oral sex. TOM'S hand on the back of THE KILLIAN BOY'S head.

TOM
[To himself.] This is what you were waiting for. Wasn't it? All these years. Then let them see it. I don't care.

PHOEBE
I grow accustomed to this. Indeed I do.

TOM
Hell, honey. I've grown accustomed to this. But how am I punished.

TOM takes his hand from the back of THE KILLIAN BOY'S head. Puts both hands on his hips. Music sounds: Benedictine Nuns.

[Expounding, generally.] Surround yourself with youth and you'll never grow old. Chow, chow, chow, chow, chow. There is a force. An energy. Make contact with it.

You begin with a point. This point is a contact. An opening. Allow it to enter you. It will open you.

It is a point of light. This light enters you. It is a goodness.

Open yourself to this goodness. You see, there's nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. This force will purify you.

PHOEBE
Once I was happy. I walked in the sun, felt its warmth on my head. Then disaster struck, and I wasn't prepared.

TOM
You establish a form by imposing a structure. Begin with a point. Establish that point in space, a point of light. Now throw a second point out into space, a second point of light. Connect those two points of light with a line segment. Feel the energy move between those two points of light. Chow, chow, chow, chow, chow, chow, chow.

PHOEBE
Once, long ago, I was happy. I walked in the light of day. Then darkness came, covered me.

TOM
You establish a third point. A third point of light. These points of light are knowledge. [To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Keep moving on me, boy.

THE KILLIAN BOY affirms vocally, as he continues sucking TOM'S penis.

Where was I?

PHOEBE
Things began pleasantly enough, didn't they? Now look what you've done.

TOM
[Remembering.] The third point, yes. Three points of light.

[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] That's good.

PHOEBE
We'd hoped to leave behind us all the suffering and sordidness on Earth. The horrible human race. But look what's happened. A nightmare.

TOM
[Expounding.] Three points. These three points connected divine a triangle. A trinity. Three points of light. Chow, chow, chow.

PHOEBE
I'll never forgive you, Tom—for bringing us here. What you promised me!

TOM
This trinity is illumination. Three points of knowledge. You experience it. It experiences you.

PHOEBE
[Calling.] Diane! Diane, where are you? Your mother's calling you. [To herself.] I hope she hasn't wandered into the mountains.

TOM
Now break form!

TOM puts his hand on the back of THE KILLIAN BOY'S head, pushes THE KILLIAN BOY harder up and down on his penis.

[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Really work it.

PHOEBE
I'm stuck in the mud.

TOM
[Expounding.] You envision a fourth point. Chow!

PHOEBE
Phoebe say shit.

TOM
You slit your triangle. The trinity dissolves. Four points now, unaligned in space. Chow, chow, chow, chow. But ah! You give meaning. You create a new form by imposing structure. From chaos, order. Stay with me!

TOM holds THE KILLIAN BOY by his hair, holds him down on his penis.

Now. You force these four points of light into a new alignment, a new structure.

PHOEBE
This is madness, isn't it?

TOM
[Gesturing.] You draw a line segment from point A to point B. Chow.

PHOEBE
Or maybe everybody lives this way.

TOM
[Gesturing.] Now quick, connect points C and D, another line segment. Chow, chow.

PHOEBE
Or is it like the Christians say, our little lives are but a reckless prelude to some divine afterbirth?

TOM releases THE KILLIAN ROY'S hair, gives him a crack on the back of his head. THE KILLIAN BOY resumes moving up and down on TOM'S penis.

TOM
Now, you're ready. [Gesturing.] Impose line segment CD upon line segment AB at one quarter distance from A on AB. Yes! That's it.

PHOEBE
A revelation, I'm sure.

TOM orgasms into THE KILLIAN BOY'S mouth, holds THE KILLIAN BOY'S head on his penis as he orgasms.

TOM
A cross! You lay down on it. "Oh, father, father..." Some shit like that.

[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Just swallow it, boy.

PHOEBE
Forgive us. To put you through this. It wasn't my idea. The sweet Sabbath wine has turned to vinegar.

TOM
So much for him.

TOM pulls his penis from THE KILLIAN BOY'S mouth, pushes him aside. THE KILLIAN BOY buries his face in the dust, moaning, spitting up TOM'S jism. The spitting up not visible to the audience. TOM squats. The music stops.

Now, let's sit here in the dust and share philosophy. We are players, aren't we? Some rude mechanics.

PHOEBE
This is awful. I won't be a part of this.

[Calling, as she puts on her brassiere.] Diane! Diane, why aren't you listening to me? I hope you haven't wandered into the mountains.

PHOEBE puts on her blouse. The phone stops ringing.

The phone stops ringing. I hope it wasn't Jenny. To keep her waiting like this. Will she forgive me?

PHOEBE exits into the tent.

TOM
[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] Oh, yes, I suffer too. You're not the only one. Self-indulgent little whelp. Think how this affects me. The things I'm forced to do. Phoebe was right. Something she said. I can't remember.

PHOEBE rolls out THE KILLIAN BOY'S mother. As ever, in her hospital bed. She is still attached to her I.V., but not the rest of the equipment.

PHOEBE
I've done the best I could.

TOM
Thank you, dear. You have. Sit with me.

PHOEBE
I've done as directed. Let me go.

[To THE KILLIAN BOY.] It's your mother.

PHOEBE exits into the tent. THE KILLIAN BOY rises, goes to his MOTHER, lays himself across her on the hospital bed, weeps.

TOM
Go to your mother, son. While I sit in the desert and philosophize. Yes, it's growing dark. Night falls. I'll sit up all night and ruminate. The stars to contemplate.

Indeed, it has grown dark. The clouds have rolled by, and night has fallen by PHOEBE'S last exit. The Martian sky is filled with stars. The asteroid belt is visible. And Jupiter—a prominent dot. Most conspicuous are the two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos. The wind still blows.

I marvel at the universe. What a strange place.

And so it is. Light changes, as the set travels.



A mile or so from the encampment—another barren stretch of the planet. It is day—late afternoon. Dim sun. A wind. The two moons are visible—not far from each other in the sky. THE KILLIAN BOY stands, up left, shovel in hand, a protuberance in the ground beside him. He has buried something.

THE KILLIAN BOY
She's gone. How do we survive? No life. Better buried.

DIANE enters from down right. She is robed—like a patriarch—in soft earth colors. Radiant, she appears cleansed. She walks with a long staff. Time passes.

DIANE
Hello.

THE KILLIAN BOY turns.

It's me. I'm back.

THE KILLIAN BOY
[Hardly believing.] Diane. Diane?

DIANE
It's me.

THE KILLIAN BOY
You came back.

DIANE
Down from the mountain.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Yes. You were gone.

DIANE
[Acknowledging the grave.] Your mother.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Yes. She's dead. It took her a long time. But you've returned. Years since you went away. Where did you go?

DIANE
Up, into the mountains.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I waited for you.

DIANE
Did you?

THE KILLIAN BOY
Yes, every evening. I looked in all directions, hoping for some sign. Hoping you'd appear, reappear.

DIANE
My mother told me I'd find you here.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Yes. Did you see your father?

DIANE
Pretty feeble.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Yes, he's been that way. Sits on the ground, mumbles.

[Still hardly believing what he sees.] Diane. I can't believe you've returned. I waited so long. And I'd never seen you. But your voice. Your voice I remember. Though it's changed. It's changed too.

DIANE
I'm older.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Yes. What did you do in the mountains?

DIANE
There are people there. I lived with them.

THE KILLIAN BOY
People? In the mountains?

DIANE
On the mountain, yes.

THE KILLIAN BOY
There are people. My god.

DIANE
Yes. I lived with them. Learned from them.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Did you?

DIANE
Yes.

THE KILLIAN BOY
What did they teach you?

DIANE
I'm going to repair the ship. I know how.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Repair the ship, really? Blast off from this dust heap?

DIANE
I have the knowledge.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Take us off this planet, Diane.

[With longing.] I never saw you before you went away. All that time. Only your voice. How it sounded to me! I could listen to you sing for hours. You sang, remember? For hours, listening to your voice. And now you stand before me. Radiant one. Diane.

My mother... I'll leave her here. When we blast off, I'll leave her here on Mars.

DIANE
That's best.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Where will you take us? The Earth has been destroyed.

DIANE
There are a million worlds. I have the knowledge.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Do you? Your father would be so proud of you. And your mother. Have you told them?

DIANE
Nothing yet. I've come to tell you first because...1 intend to leave them behind.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Oh, no. You what?

DIANE
I'm going to leave them behind.

THE KILLIAN BOY
But—

DIANE
You dragged your mother along with you—how many years now? Until she's finally collapsed. I'm not making the same mistake.

THE KILLIAN BOY
But Diane, your parents are old and feeble. You saw. They couldn't care for themselves.

DIANE
[Gently.] Then let them die. You'll come with me. I have the knowledge, I promise you. Even Seymour advised you to leave your mother behind. I know what's right.

THE KILLIAN BOY turns to his MOTHER'S grave.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I had no marker to lay down. Just this mound of dirt.

DIANE
Better that way, isn't it? Let me go back. You mustn't say a thing to my parents. I've told you. The ship will be ready soon. I'll take you away. Yes?

THE KILLIAN BOY
[After a pause.] All right.

DIANE
I'll see you back there. [Fondly.] I knew what you looked like. All those years. Even when you couldn't see me. I knew what you looked like.

DIANE exits. Time passes.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Good-bye, mother.

THE KILLIAN BOY turns from his MOTHER'S grave. As he does, light changes, and the set travels.


The encampment. Years later. The rocket ship is gone. The place is cleaner, but the same old dust bowl. It is night. Clear sky. All the stars are out—the asteroids, and the two moons. Jupiter—a prominent dot. And Saturn, too—with its rings! PHOEBE sits on a rock before afire, just left of center. A black kettle hangs over the fire. PHOEBE has changed. She is an old woman now—almost a crone—plump and white-haired. She wears a shawl. She is peeling a potato. Up right, THE KILLIAN BOY stands gazing into the heavens.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Quite a night, old mother, isn't it?

PHOEBE
We live under the stars. On a little ball rolling through space.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Yes. All of heaven.

PHOEBE
I'm peeling a potato. For the soup!

THE KILLIAN BOY
Are you making a potato soup?

PHOEBE
Yes. To warm you. My old friend, Jenny, taught me this recipe.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Did she?

PHOEBE
I take it from her. A good potato soup.

PHOEBE chops the potato, puts it into the soup.

THE KILLIAN BOY
We live under the stars. That was years ago that Diane left us.

PHOEBE
[As she stirs the soup.] Poor Jenny Woodman. She had a hard life. Her husband, Frank, was a sick man. He was a young man, but he had a crippling disease. It struck him early in life. In his thirties. And her son-in-law hung himself.

Soon you'll bury me beside Tom and your mother, out in the dirt field.

THE KILLIAN BOY
The whole place is a dirt field, old mother.

PHOEBE
That's true. A good potato soup.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I'll be alone then. My only comfort is that I'll follow you.

PHOEBE
You'll live a while longer.

THE KILLIAN BOY
I've lived a long time.

PHOEBE
Maybe you'll go up into the mountain. Like Diane did.

THE KILLIAN BOY
No, I'm not going to go up into the mountain. I just want to keep this place clean, a bit. The wind blows all the time. There are the stars. I watch the planets wander. Diane is out there some place. She left without us.

PHOEBE
That was such a long time ago. I've almost forgotten her.

THE KILLIAN BOY
Have you really?

PHOEBE
Soon I'll die. It will be good to lie down. Come, the soup is ready. You'll eat.

THE KILLIAN BOY sits beside PHOEBE. She gives him a bowl of soup. They eat the soup.

It's a little watery. I only had one potato.

Quietly, they continue to eat the soup. Light is extinguished.


The final scene. The encampment. Morning. Bright light. Pale blue sky. Light wind. Time passes. From within the tent, the sound of a man waking—a healthy yawn. Some whistling—fragments of a tune. Then quiet. Then more whistling. Sound of water, splashed on the face. The man makes a sound as he splashes himself. THE KILLIAN BOY emerges from the tent, wiping his face with a clean white towel. He is old now—white-haired. He stands a few feet from the tent, looks out in all directions, surveys the horizons. Whistles, You've Changed. Same tune he whistled in the tent. Time passes. Stands there and whistles. The vastness. Then light is extinguished.

Copyright (c) 1995 by David Greenspan. Published as Son of an Engineer (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995). Reprinted by permission of Sun & Moon Press.

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