Mom’s Fondest Dreams (A play in one act)

by

11/04/2018

Neighborhood: Williamsburg

SETTING: 

The time is the present. The location is a small, trendy Williamsburg retail establishment located a tasteful distance off Bedford Avenue, just across from P.S. 84. The legend on the door reads simply “leif” (for the benighted or initiates, the title appears to be a multi-valanced mixture of archaism [adv. OE gladly], urban slang [v. experience intensely], and Scandinavian name-reference, though no Nordic-style merchandise immediately presents itself within the shop]).

Were the audience able to read such, the business cards stacked on the main counter augment and amplify the title with the message, “A Curated Lifestyle Shop.”

The decor is muted whites and gleaming, softly-milled plywood shelves, coupled with glass cases, all impeccably dusted. Goods displayed include pillows, fabrics, and small personal products, their sparseness designed to produce in the user/viewer a sense of luxurious well-being. 

The time of day is late afternoon, and the sun’s decline highlights the expensiveness of the store’s contents. Behind the counter stands a well-groomed woman of indeterminate age, smiling pleasantly while gently touching a stylish, handheld tablet, both she and the screen related somehow to the process of making any encounters with potential clients as seamless and pleasant as possible.  The overall view of the audience is typical fourth-wall from a corner near the back of the shop so that the door, the counter, and the merchandise are simultaneously seen.

CHARACTERS: 

  1. Woman (unnamed): Tending the establishment.
  1. Carolyn: A gently aging, exquisitely groomed woman with beautifully coiffed and subtly highlighted hair which is clearly admired and envied by all. She speaks in a perpetual trill (designated with the script by quadruple exclamation marks; note: these same marks, though in lesser degree, are also used to suggest the continuously exaggerated tones of other characters. Actors playing these parts should bear note). She is also addressed as “Grandma” by some of the other characters.  
  1. Jeff: The apparent husband of Carolyn, dressed inexplicably in head-to-toe, unmatched camo and stumbling frequently over objects seen and unseen. He shifts in demeanor, suddenly and unpredictably, from being an authoritarian martinet to a puckish, childlike waif. He is sometimes referred to as “Grandpa.”
  1. Milo: A handsome, strapping lad of approximately ten, dark Grecian coils of hair topping a relatively recent soccer-cut, sidewalled coiffure.  He appears both self-assured and self-satisfied at all points.
  1. Jasper: Milo’s brother, two years younger, of similar appearance yet slim and engaging with bright eyes, a ready smile, and a Groucho Marx way of manipulating his eyebrows.  He appears open to and ready for anything that comes his way.
  1. Two Customers, both women in casual but nicely appointed clothing (unnamed).

(The play opens with a small tinkling noise denoting that the door has opened, which indeed it has, via an aggressive shove by Jeff, who ENTERS STAGE LEFT carrying [for some reason] a soccer ball in a plastic supermarket bag. He trips over the almost-nonexistent threshold but quickly recovers his balance to nervously and impatiently hold the door while Milo, Jasper and Carolyn ENTER as well. The two boys both bear a slight sheen of sweat, the source of which should be evident – at least to an intelligent audience – by the presence of the soccer ball. 

Seeing Carolyn, the Woman glances up with a welcoming smile, this momentarily tempered by what might be construed as a slight grimace of misgiving as she spots the two boys shambling behind. There are no other customers present.)

Jeff (Voice slightly rising to the edge of a semi-hysterical pitch): Hey, guys, Milo, what’d I tell you?  Backpacks off, put ‘em down – right here – by the door. (The two boys slowly and reluctantly comply.)

Carolyn (poised before one of the sparsely adorned shelves): Boys, boys, come look at the perfumes!!!! Aren’t these wonderful?!!!! Milo, Jasper, over here!!!! (The two, Milo slightly more responsively, reluctantly tear their attention from the bright baubles arrayed on a central display case, Jasper, seemingly disappointed, replacing a red, crystalline object into a stylishly-spare ceramic bowl. Jeff stalks silently over, eyes peeled for any signs of misbehavior or destructive impulsivity.  He pretends to look at a nearby pillow yet surreptitiously glances out of the side of his eyes at the surroundings. He could easily be mistaken for shoplifter.)

Milo: What, Grandma? I want to go to the bodega. You promised.

Carolyn: Now you remember, first we do this, don’t we?!!!! What’s Sunday and what do we need to get for whom?!!!!

Milo (A slight downturn at the corners of his mouth at the prospect of a vaguely unpleasant yet unforgivably necessary task.): Mother’s Day, Grandma. Perfume, Grandma. Mom, Grandma.

Carolyn (Gently presents them with an exquisitely small and simply packaged spray bottle of perfume labeled “Crazy Enough.”): Yes!!!! Perfume!!!! Look, isn’t it wonderful?!!!!

Jasper (Sidling up next to Milo, excitement and curiosity on his face.): Oh, lemme push the button, Grandma! I wanna smell it first! (He attempts to thrust himself in front of Milo, who quickly elbows him aside in seemingly practiced fashion.)

Woman: Oh, yes, we have wonderful perfumes, perfectly priced!! (Her face betrays a look of entitlement, as if what she has left off the end of her statement are words to the effect of, “For people of a certain means, of course.”)

Carolyn: Now, boys, one at a time!!!! Milo, you first; here, spray it on the strip, then smell it!!!! (Milo and Jasper, despite Carolyn’s instructions, fall to shouldering each other, attempting to be first to get hold of the delicate bottle. Jeff glares disapprovingly from across the shop and replaces a lush, gray-and-white, knitted pillow he has been fingering.)  

Milo  emerges from the fray with the “Crazy Enough” in his hands, and butt-bumps Jasper to the side, eliciting a small but definite squeal of disapproval: Hands off. I’m choosing. (He proceeds to ignore the white strip handed to him by Carolyn and sprays copious amounts of the scent onto his open palm.): Oh. Stinks.

Carolyn: Milo, it does not!!!!  You know your mom would just love that, don’t you?!!!!

Jasper (Shoving his way in and snatching the bottle, in the process spraying it all over his own curly hair.): This is great! Let’s get this one, Grandma! I’ll give it to her, not Milo!

(Quickly replaces it on the shelf and grabs a nearby bottle featuring the legend “Lone Wolf.”): Wait, what’s this one?  It’s probably better. (Liberally spraying it on himself and into the air in general.) Oh, it is! This one, this one!

Woman (Rounding the counter and attempting to control what appears to her to be a situation rapidly escalating into total chaos.): Oh, don’t you just love that one!!?

Jeff (Looms behind, glowering with self-appointed authority. Mumbles something out of the side of his mouth, as if meant for the ears of a person not actually present [which, of course, in actuality is the audience itself] a phrase not completely discernible.):  . . . like a French whore . . . (He picks up “Crazy Enough” and glances at the bottom. Pauses slightly while an incredulous look gradually crosses his face.): One. Hundred. Twenty. Five. Dollars. For perfume?

Carolyn (Ignoring Jeff): Boys, boys, please, please use the spray-sticks; don’t just spray it all over!!!! (She attempts to hand them said spray-sticks without much discernible success, while they jostle each other attempting to gain control of yet a third bottle of perfume.): Now, we can’t get Mom her present unless we work together; don’t you want to get the perfume for her?!!!!

Milo: Not now. You said we could go the bodega.

Jeff: If you get the present, Milo. If you get the present. Remember? Otherwise straight home.

Carolyn (Becoming slightly desperate at Milo’s apparent disinterest and, at the same time, trying to control Jasper as he gropes the new bottle, marked “Lone Wolf.”): Well, how about this instead, Milo?!!!!  (She reaches down and picks up an expensive-looking, hand-dyed, indigo pillow from a shelf near Milo’s feet and proffers it.)

Milo (A look of long-suffering resignation crosses his face, as if he were suddenly tired of dealing with beings of lesser intelligence and anxious to be on his way somewhere far more important.): We already got lotta pillows. Mom don’t need it. (He tosses it carelessly back onto the pile.)

Woman (Another faint tinkle signals TWO CUSTOMERS entering the shop. The salesperson, looking discerningly relieved, pastes an exaggerated smile on her face.): Hellooooo!! How arrrre youuuu?!! Can I show you something?!! Anything?!! 

Jasper (Has abandoned the small perfume section and moved his attention to other small, impeccably-packaged products): Grandma, Grandma! What’s this, more perfume?!

Carolyn (Smiles and deftly lifts the jar from his hands.): Oh, no, Jasper, this for the bath!!!! (She stares closely at the label, pronouncing each word deliberately.): Chamomile. Coconut. Milk. Bath. Boys, this might be nice!!!!

Milo (Shouldering Jasper aside and snatching the bottle.): Lemme see. (short pause.): Yeah, Mom likes baths. (This followed by a spontaneous guffaw from one of the other customers.)

Jasper (Grabbing yet another small, exquisite, white jar from the shelf): And how ‘bout this one?! Is it bath stuff too?! 

Woman (Sidling up in a slightly guarded manner, hands safety netted for the inevitability of the precious jars’ being dropped): Oh, no, dear; that one is a candle!! (Removes it from Jasper’s reluctant hands and gently twists the lid.)

Milo (Pulls the now-open jar from the Woman’s hands and jerks it up – indeed, almost into – his nostrils.): Mmm, smells good. Get this too.

Jasper (Visibly upset at being upstaged by his brother.): Wait, lemme smell too! (Deftly snatches the jar from Milo and plunges his face into it.): Oh, smells great! Mom likes candles! Right Milo!? 

Milo (The matter, to his mind, decided, spins on his heel and plucks a gleaming blue crystal from the adjacent shelf, mumbling): Bodega!

Woman (Her expression betraying the realization that she needs to close the sale quickly and spend what the audience should be able to detect as “quality time” [and the audience should be able to discern the fact that the Woman actually thinks in such passe terms] with the oh-so-much-more-affluent other customers.): Wonderful, let’s just step over here and get these wrapped for you!! (Slides behind the immaculate glass counter and begins assembling elegant, white tissue.)

Jeff (Ambles over, frowning dubiously, picks up one of the jars and looks at it): Hmmmmm. (Sets it down as the boys crowd the counter on each side of him.)

Woman (Pauses to think, then reaches out and picks another small, oblong package from the nearby wall-rack. She calls out loudly to Carolyn, who is still appraising other merchandise.): And how about a perfect addition, a lavender bath mask?!!

Carolyn (Stepping over and taking the now-unboxed item from the Woman’s hand.): Oh, isn’t this cute, boys?!!!! Wouldn’t Mom just love it?!!!!

Milo: (Grabs the rich, silvery mask.): Won’t work. Can’t look at Facebook on her phone. 

Carolyn (A bigger smile than usual breaks across her face): Mom looks at the cell phone while she’s taking a bath?!!!! (A loud, spontaneous chortle from the second customer.) 

Jasper (Elbowing his way in, eyebrows in full Groucho): . . . and she drinks her wine! (Uncontrolled mirth from both customers, now nearly falling down in total abandon.)

Jeff (Fingering a small box on the sales counter, then holding it out to Jasper.): Well, Jaz, how’s Mom gonna light her candle?

Jasper (Snatching the box): Gimme, Grandpa. Ohhhh, pink matches, yes! (Thrusts the box into the pile of tissue.)

Woman: (Completes wrapping the items, inserting them into a radiant white, twine-handled bag): Well, your mother must have a wonderful life!! (Even more hooting from the customers.)

Carolyn: Boys, you did such a great job!!!! Mom’s going to soooo happy!!!!

Milo (Turning to follow Carolyn and Jasper out the door as Jeff completes the transaction by signing the small, gleaming screen with his index finger.): Bodega.

Jeff (Stoops to heft the abandoned backpacks and stumbles again on the threshold. Hearing a derisive laugh from one of the customers, he turns and casts a wry glance that direction.): Just think if we’d’ve taken them to Brooklyn Fox?

[Exeunt. Curtain]

 

**

Jeff Loeb (“Fairleigh Glibb IV”) is a writer who has lived in New York continuously since 2013 (and sporadically before that, dating to 1972).

In prior lives, he enjoyed long careers as, in roughly this order, US Marine, bartender, construction worker, waiter, truck driver, furniture mover, college teacher, radio reporter (WBAI – D.C. Bureau), assistant city manager, cable television company manager, photography studio owner, farmer/rancher, academic writer, and high-school teacher.

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§ One Response to “Mom’s Fondest Dreams (A play in one act)”

  • Siabhan May-Washington says:

    This piece is one of the most delightful, amusing things I’ve read in ages! I was immediately hooked at the onset with the ecclectic descriptions of the characters. There is such wittiness and suspense from start to finish during this simple shopping excursion. The writer’s lexicon is so spot-on and gorgeous, certainly the kind of writing one grieves to see it reach an end. All I can say is Jeff Loeb is like a living Hemingway/Twain/Faulkneresque type of talent we need to read more of!

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