Friday, November 28, 2014

Doris, Goddess of Fish: a short play

Characters: Connie, Suze, Beatrice, Dave, Drew, Madison, Conga Dancers 1-4

A group of six people sit on chairs facing the audience.

Connie: Hi, I’m Connie and I’m an alcoholic.

Suze, Beatrice, Dave, Drew, Madison: Hi Connie!

Connie: Today’s reading about Doris the Goddess of Fish reminded me of a bartender I used to know. Beautiful hair…

Madison: I knew Doris!

Beatrice: No cross talk, please.

(Madison squirms in his chair)

Connie: I’d come up to her bar as if to an altar, and ask for the elixir of life. She’d pour something golden and sparkling into my glass, or maybe deep red, like the wine-dark sea…and I’d drink. (Connie takes a big, sensual breath, stretching her arms over her head and luxuriating in the memory). Such a feeling! Why, it’d go right through me! Warming up my limbs…unclenching my heart…making me feel strong, and sexy, and smart...

(Silence)

Connie: And I’d drink…wanting more of that. (Looks around.) Anybody would.

(Silence)

Connie: And I’d drink, and I’d drink, and I’d just never stop. I guess that’s why I’m here tonight. It’s not that I don’t like drinking. It’s that I like it too much.

(mumbling in semi-unison)
Suze: Thank you, Connie.
Beatrice: Thanks.
Dave: Thanks for sharing.
Drew: Thanks a lot.
Madison: (nods)

Suze: I’m Suze and I’m an alcoholic

Connie, Beatrice, Dave, Drew, Madison: Hi Suze!

Suze: Today’s reading reminded me of my best friend’s mom in high school. Her name was Doreen. How we loved her! She’d throw these parties, open up her liquor cabinet. She had this infectious laugh…I remember one time when I was so drunk I couldn’t stand up, and my mother called over for me to come on home. So Doreen and her nephew John—a very handsome young man that I had a big crush on--got me into the shower, to sober me up. The water soaked through my shirt, and my breasts were showing through the fabric… (stops to take a deep breath)

And he got his hand up on my rib cage, under my breast--just under, so I could feel the weight of it laying along his thumb…

Beatrice, Dave, Drew, Madison: (shifting in chairs)

Connie: And I’d drink…

Beatrice: (to Connie) Please don’t interrupt someone else’s share.

Suze: Doreen and her nephew were laughing! And the water was pelting down. But I felt dirty.

(Silence)

Suze: And it didn’t work, either—the shower. It didn’t sober me up. They just moved me over to the toilet when I started puking. Then they peeled off my wet shirt--that always happens…And Doreen called my mom to tell her I was spending the night.

(The meeting is interrupted by a conga line of four people. #3 carries a music player blaring loud music with a strong drum beat. #4 stumbles a little. All are dancing and partying, holding drinks up high. Laughing. Having fun. They dance through the meeting, making whooping noises.)

Conga 1: (stopping and looking around, perplexed) Is this the party? (the music switches off; the rest of the line continues to dance in place)

Beatrice: No, dear. It’s not.

Conga 1: (laughs) This isn’t 400 Rampart Street? Doris’s 21st birthday party?

Beatrice: Nope. This is 300 Rampart. 400 is down the street.

Conga 1: Oopsie! So sorry! We’re just looking for Doris!

(#3 turns up the music. Laughing, and whooping, Conga line starts dancing off)

Connie: (calling after them) Looks like fun!

Conga 1: Hop on!

Connie: (shaking head) I better not.

(Conga line dances out the door.)

Dave: Are you done, Suze?

Suze: Yes.

Dave: Hi, everybody. My name’s Dave, and I’m an alcoholic.

Connie, Suze, Beatrice, Drew, Madison: Hi Dave!

Dave: I’m new to AA, and I haven’t really got with the program yet. I don’t have a sponsor, and I’m not working the steps. But I decided I wanted to stop drinking a few weeks ago, so I started coming to meetings, and it’s been a big help. I guess what’s working for me is I’m developing a relationship with God in these meetings, and that’s something I haven’t been able to do anywhere else, at any organized religion. But now I’m talking to my higher power—and trying to turn my life over to God, as I understand Her. And that’s not very well.

Connie: (chuckles)

Dave: By nature, I’m really more of an atheist. And to tell the truth, I think of God as my imaginary friend.

(companionable laughter)

Dave: But now, when I’m in trouble, I ask God to help me. And I’m in trouble a lot.

(more laughter)

Dave: I’ve been feeling a lot less lonely lately. And I haven't been getting in as much trouble. So I’m grateful to have found you people. Thanks for letting me share.

(variations of the following)
Connie: Thanks, Dave.
Suze: Thanks.
Beatrice: Thank you.
Drew: Thanks a lot.

Drew: My name’s Drew and I’m an alcoholic.

Connie, Suze, Beatrice, Dave, Madison: Hi Drew!

Drew: I have an announcement. I said last week that I’d do the coffee commitment. Madison said he couldn’t do it anymore, so I stepped up and said that I’d do it, but then I showed up early this week to make the coffee and Madison had already made it, so I’m going to have to give up the commitment. I’m sorry. I said I’d do it, but I just can’t. I love you guys.

(mumbling)
Suze: Thanks, Drew.
Dave: Thank you.
Madison: Thanks.

Connie: (rolls her eyes and looks at the person next to her)

Madison: My name’s Madison and I’m an alcoholic.

Connie, Suze, Beatrice, Dave: Hi Madison!

Drew: I’m really sorry about the coffee.

Connie: (guffaws)

Beatrice: (frowns and shakes her head at Connie, putting a finger over her lips)

Madison: There was always drinking at my house. My dad drank every day. My uncle died of it. I remember going over to my wife’s house for dinner, when she was still just my girlfriend, and thinking, ‘Wow! Her parents aren’t drinking with dinner.’ I was really impressed by that.

(some random nodding)

(Conga line returns with only three people. #4 is missing. Music is blaring and others are dancing.)

Conga 1: I’m so sorry to interrupt you again, but we lost our friend Barry. We thought maybe he dropped off here.

Beatrice: Haven’t seen him.

Conga 1: Okay. Well, if he shows up, just send him down the street to Doris’ party, would you?

Beatrice: Will do.

(Conga line dances out elaborately, swinging their hips and raising their glasses high. Conga #1 winks at Connie and motions for her to join them. Connie shakes her head, but smiles.)

Madison: I remember going into my father’s bedroom, the day my uncle died, and finding my dad crying in there. I never saw him cry before or after that one time. He really loved his brother, I guess. And he told me that day that Uncle John was just too sensitive. That’s why he had to drink. That life had done him wrong, somehow. And I formed this idea that drinking was noble, and romantic…a tragedy of mythic proportions. I thought of drinking as some kind of artistic activity.

Connie: You got that right!

Suze, Beatrice: (look at Connie askance)

Madison: But my cousin Danny, about my age, 15 at the time, he was the one to find his dad. Uncle John had been holed up in some fleabag apartment. He’d lost everything by then: his job, his wife, his children, his house, all his money in the bank. He hadn’t answered the phone for two days, so Danny went over there and got the manager to let him in. He must of known beforehand what he was going to find. But you don’t like to believe it, at that age. At any age… You’re still gonna hope things are gonna be okay…

(Attentive silence. Everyone is focused on Madison.)

But they weren’t okay. Danny found his dad stone cold dead on his burnt-orange carpet in his yellow underpants. That’s how I picture it, anyway. His empty bottles of Jack Daniels strewn around the room, sparkling from the little bit of sunlight that dribbled in through the windows.

Uncle John was thin as a rail by then. Like a worn out piece of gray cord. His face looked kind of knawed on, and mean as the devil. Scare the life out of you, just looking at that face, like any second he might reach out and grab you around the neck and choke the life out of you. All us kids kept a wide berth.

And cousin Danny, he never got over that shock. Died one night walking out on the freeway. Cops said it was a suicide. But I don’t think it was. Just a stupid accident. Just too damn drunk to notice where he was.

Connie: And I’d drink…

Beatrice: (to Connie) Please stop saying that.

Connie: Who me? (Connie takes a flask out of her pocket and pours something clear into her coffee cup while staring steadily at Beatrice.)

Beatrice: (looks at Connie bug-eyed)

(Others raise their eyebrows and look around at each other dumbfounded, unsure what to do.)

Madison: I guess I’m finished, anyway.

(several voices, scattered, quietly): Thanks, Madison.

Drew: I just want to say again that I’m sorry about the coffee.

Connie: (guffaws loudly) Nobody cares about the damn coffee!

Drew: I think they DO care about the coffee! I think maybe you ought to care about the coffee a little more than you do!

Beatrice: I think that’s all the time we have for today.

Connie: What? Look at the clock! We’ve still got 20 minutes to go!

Beatrice: Has everyone had an opportunity to share?

Connie: How about you, Queenie? You haven’t said anything.

Beatrice: No one has to share here. Just like no one has to come to these meetings if they don’t want to (gives Connie a meaningful look).

Connie: Oh I want to be here. (Takes a drink of her spiked coffee.) I’m lovin’ this!

Beatrice: You are?

Connie: Yep.

Beatrice: Really lovin’ your recovery?

Connie: You bet.

Beatrice: Maybe I do have something to say after all.

Connie: I can’t wait to hear it.

Beatrice: I’m Bernice and I’m an alcoholic.

Connie, Suze, Dave, Drew, Madison: Hi Bernice!

Beatrice: I saw a movie recently, called Under the Skin. Anybody see that? With Scarlett Johansson? She drives around the streets of Scotland, seducing these men. But what she’s really doing is harvesting them for food for her alien planet. There’s this great scene where she’s walking away from the camera, taking her clothes off. And the men all follow her, with their big erections. She is so beautiful! How can they resist? But while she walks on top of the black water, they sink down into it, and get trapped.

That’s all.

Connie: What? You call that a share? What’s that got to do with you?

(Conga line of 3 returns noisily, dancing, stumbling slightly. The music is louder than it was before. When they talk, they slur a little.)

Conga 1: (shouting above the music) Doris sent me down to invite you all to the party! It’s really happening!

Connie: (stands) The hell with this bullshit. I’m coming with you! (moves to the back of the conga line and starts dancing emphatically; turns to wave to Bernice as they dance toward the door)

Suze: (looks around at the others sheepishly, then joins the end of the conga line) Don’t judge me!

Drew: (Joins the line behind Suze, placing his hands lasciviously on her hips and making lewd gestures with his pelvis while smiling at the audience. The conga line dances out. The room is quiet. Only 3 people are left.)

Beatrice: (looks around) Well, I guess that ends the meeting. Anyone want to go for another coffee?

Dave: I’ll come

Madison: Me, too.

(There is some noise at the back door. All three turn to look. The missing conga dancer stumbles through, drops to his knees, crawls towards them, then collapses on the floor in front of them, snoring loudly.)

Beatrice: What the…? Hey you! (nudges him with her foot) Wake up!

(loud snoring)

Beatrice: (looks around with exasperation at the others; shakes his shoulder) Wake up already! You can’t sleep here.

Conga #4: (slurring his words) Is this the AA meeting?

Beatrice: This was the AA meeting. It’s over now. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.

Conga #4: Did you know that Bill Wilson asked for a drink on his deathbed?

Beatrice: (rolls her eyes at the other two AA members) Look, Hon. I’d love to talk philosophy with you sometime. But not right now. We’re locking up.

Conga #4: Your fucking founding father! His dying wish! And they wouldn’t give it to him! The bastards! (his head drops loudly on the floor and the snoring resumes)

Beatrice: Shit. What are we going to do with this guy, now?

Madison: I guess we could drop him off at Doris’s party.

Beatrice: Do you think you can lift him?

(Dave grabs the man beneath one armpit and Madison grabs beneath the other. They try unsuccessfully to get him on his feet)

Conga #4: His dying wish! The bastards!

Beatrice: Never mind, Guys. Just put him down. I’ll come back after coffee with the janitor. Maybe he’ll have sobered up some by then.

Dave: All right.

Madison: If you're sure it's okay.

Beatrice: It's fine. (The three walk towards the door together. She turns back to survey the room before she dims the light and closes the front door.)

Conga 1: (enters from the back door, trailing a scarf. She walks over to the man on the floor and starts twirling the scarf over his body and around his head seductively, coaxing him up.) There you are, Barry. I found you! What are you doing here all alone? Come on back to the party with us.

Conga 4: Doris?

Conga 1: Doris is looking for you. She wants you back at the party.

Conga 4: (struggles to get to his knees) Tell Doris I’m coming.

Conga 1: Okay, Barry. We’ll tell her together. Upsy Daisy, now. Follow me. (puts her scarf around his neck; leads him along towards the door)

Conga 4: Wouldn’t give him a drink!

Conga 1: No worries. We got you covered. There’s plenty for everyone. (Conga music rises softly as they weave out the door.)


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Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Find more of my writing on my Amazon Author Page

The cover art is a collage of photos found on the Internet including the underwater dancer by Kurt Arrigo.

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