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Tiny Play #3/100 (Depends On Your Definition Of Breakfast -or- I Only Steal Relatively Awful Things)

January 22, 2010

SETTING: A hospital room furnished with one bed and no chair.

AT RISE: NADINE is lying in the bed, asleep.  There are bandages on her wrists.  She groans, and the feeling and sound of her voice escaping her throat jolts her awake.  She looks at her bandages as if to say ‘WTF?’   CALE enters, awkwardly.  Xe stands some distance away, then inches closer.  NADINE rolls her eyes at xem.  CALE takes a few larger steps, now standing at the bedside.)

NADINE: Good morning starshine.

CALE: Nadine…

Xe tentatively touches the bar of the bed.

I’m really terrible at being here.

NADINE: Whereas I’m just thrilled about it.

CALE: I’m not talking like, ‘do I like it do I hate it here’.  I just mean I’m like completely terrible at it.  It’s like I don’t understand how to um.  Like I think there are rules for like how you move or talk in this place, but I can’t figure out what they are.  Like me not getting it is even part of the rules maybe it feels like.  I don’t know.  It’s like being in a church.  With no priest, just everybody else apparently knows how things go down, but I don’t.

NADINE: Well, you didn’t have to bring me here, Cale.

CALE: Yes I did.

NADINE: I didn’t want you to.

CALE: I know.


I don’t know how I even did it.  I was just freaking out too much to even implement any of my usual freakout unhelpful decision shenanigans.  Or not too much.  I think my freakouts work on a spin the bottle principle.

NADINE: Round and round and round xe goes, where xe stops…

CALE: Turns out to be pretty much the by-the-book rational person’s response this time.


Omygod I’m so glad you’re alive.

NADINE: Oh shit, no, Cale, don’t…

CALE: It’s very emotionally confusing, actually.  Or not even emotionally.  I mean like, my brain.  The physical sensation of it, like the weight inside my skull, when I walk into this building the feeling is like it’s it’s it’s cold wet cotton balls.  Pounds and pounds of them.  All night long, out in the waiting room.  Like someone jamming them in through my ears and my nose…

NADINE: Gross.

CALE: I thought maybe I was going to drown.  Or just…I thought it would like kill me.  And you would wake up and they would come out to the waiting room to say ‘everything is going to be all right’ and they’d have to turn right around and tell you I drowned in my own soggy cotton ball brain.

NADINE: That would be ironic.

CALE: Yes.  But now, um, now you’re here and like awake and everything is going to be all right, but also I’ve still got the cotton balls they’re um like they’re still there only now that little woodchuck person who is the middle of my brain my real brain like what’s left of it is making a fire so there’s this bright hot spot about this big and it smells just like matches.  I can actually smell it.  Do you smell it too?

NADINE: No.  I just smell hospital.

CALE: That’s good.  I was getting worried because I smell the matches pretty strong now and the cotton drying out and burning up from the inside and the usual wet woodchuck musk and I was thinking they might smell it down the hall and think I was some kind of pyro terrorist nut and kick me out of here like out of the hospital.  Without you which would be terrible.  I guess they would put me in prison.  For all that stuff going on in my head.

NADINE: They wouldn’t put you in prison for smelling funny.

CALE: I need you so much.  I need you to say stuff like that.  I was so scared you would be dead and I was just going to walk around with my ears ringing for the rest of my life and never understand anything in the world ever again.

NADINE: Will you sit down or something?

CALE: There isn’t a chair.  I thought there would be a chair, but there isn’t one.

NADINE: Maybe there’s a kid in the next room who OD’d or some tragic thing and he has two parents and there’s only one chair per bed so they had to take mine.

CALE: I hope he’s okay.

NADINE: Just come sit on the bed.

CALE: I’m allowed to do that?

NADINE: Yeah.  Come on.

CALE: Are you sure?

NADINE: It’s my special day and I want you to sit.  Okay?

CALE sits on the foot of the bed.  Xe touches NADINE’s knee through the blanket.

CALE: It was going to be so horrible and scary.  Weren’t you scared of what it would be like?

NADINE: For you?

CALE: For you.  I was scared about that.  Like what if it’s like there are all these pipes like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory only no Marshmallow Room, just pipes to all kinds of eternities and what if you got stuck somewhere you wouldn’t like.  Like what if it would be like being at Wal-Mart or trying to start your car in the morning with one wheel spinning around in a rut full of slush in our car forever.  I kept thinking about all the things you hated, like that or like ugly subdivisions or parties that smell like beer so much you don’t think there are any people there at all.  I couldn’t even remember anything you liked.  It was so scary.

NADINE: Maybe I should have liked more things.

CALE: It’s not your fault.  My head was full of soggy cotton.

Pause.  NADINE holds her head as if it is full of cotton too.

NADINE: I thought I was dead.

CALE: What was it like?

NADINE: I don’t know.  Like being asleep.  Dreaming.

CALE: What are dead dreams like?

NADINE: I don’t know; I didn’t die.

CALE: How do you know?  This could just be more dream.

NADINE: No.  Definitely not.  It’s all heavy.  And not like dream heavy where it acts like it but it doesn’t really weigh anything.

CALE: Yeah.  Sorry.  That was a stupid thing to say.  See?  I’m terrible at this.  All night I was out there thinking ‘I should leave; I should leave; I can’t be here; I can’t do this.’  But the night nurse kept swinging by to check on me between his rounds or whatever they do at night.  He brought me a juice box, a cookie, a magazine, and I couldn’t — I couldn’t pick up my hands to drink or eat or read; the synapses connecting my armbones to my brainbone were all flooded and squishy, so the stuff is just sitting on my lap so it kind of becomes the reason I can’t make a run for the door, but he’d come around and say things like ‘don’t worry honey, just sit tight; she’s going to be all right, and I’ll make sure that you get in to see her as soon as she’s stable, I promise.’  Like it was personal, but not person-to-person personal.  He must’ve thought we were some sweet little domestic partnership U-Haul-type lesbian couple he’s gotta stick up for.  Duty of solidarity.

NADINE: Or he thought you were a cute closet boy and he wanted to position himself as the one you’d turn to for comfort when you found out your clueless fuckup girlfriend finally expired or vegetated herself for life or something.

CALE: He was wearing a gold um band, like a ring, like a wedding….Definitely seemed like one of those young marriage gays.  Monogamy all the way.

NADINE: That doesn’t mean anything.  Nothing means anything in the middle of the night.

CALE: Well, he isn’t my type anyways.  It would be like trying to romance the waiting room.  All confusion over standard protocol, anti-septic glare up my nostrils, probably get some kind of chemical burn in my lungs if I really inhaled.  Start breathing up fire.  Clearly against the rules.  Get the worst sore throat of all time.  And he’s too scrawny.

NADINE: I’m parched.  Do you still have that juice?

CALE: Oh.  Yeah.

CALE reaches into xyr satchel, brings up juice box, cookie, magazine.  The first goes directly into NADINE’s hand, the other two are lined up on the blanket between them for future reference.  NADINE cracks the box’s seal with the straw and sucks juice through it.  CALE watches her intently.

NADINE: Please, please don’t ask me why I did it.

CALE: I wasn’t going to ask that.

NADINE: Well, good.

CALE: It’s one of the things I understand.


Everybody understands that, don’t they?

NADINE: Maybe.

CALE: Well, not everybody.

NADINE: Do you have to be so truthful all the time?

CALE: Well I just mean, for example, the night nurse; I don’t think he would get….I mean he sees so much in the course of a…whatever.  Do you think they still call it night, when it’s when they’re always awake?

NADINE: So much what?  Death?

CALE: Mm.  Not that so much as like, blood?  I don’t think I’d be able to seriously consider it any more if I saw that kind of inside stuff all day long.  All night.

NADINE: If you really understood what keeps people alive.

CALE: Yeah.  Like when you see it in a movie you always secretly know it’s corn syrup or some kind of fake thing.  But there can be a good movie with fake blood that seems more real than your real life.  And it’s usually the fakest kind of thing, really.  Like a biopic where somebody’s sixty-odd years happen in a couple of hours, and none of it is  boring and whenever they have to end up doing something terrible it’s just for it to be a plot point for some important thing that really happened.

NADINE: Right.

CALE: But if most of the blood you saw was real blood coming out of real human people in real time.  And you saw different ones every day and you had to help fix them and there were systems for it, like lists of vitals to know every body by.  I just think you’d know something, right?

NADINE: Yeah.  Maybe.  Probably.


In my dream where I thought I was dead, I was still with you.

CALE: Was I dead too?

NADINE: No.  You were alive and I was dead.  We did all our usual things.  Only I laughed at everything.  Like everybody in the whole wide world and every building or machine they made was just an enormous litter of kittens with yarn balls and empty cereal boxes.  I mean they looked like people, and they only did people things.  Just the whole thing felt so cute and fluffy and innocuous; I had to giggle.  Even if one of those things happened, like the tires spinning around and around and not letting us go anywhere.  Nothing was ever a crisis, just varying degrees of amusing.  It was kind of stupid, but I wouldn’t have expected it, so it had to be for real, right?  I think I actually said that to you.  In the dream.  When you didn’t understand what was so funny.  Not that you were mad or anything.  Nobody bothered to get mad at me, because they knew I was dead.

CALE: I think in my dreams nobody ever speaks above a whisper.

NADINE: Really?

CALE: I’m not all the way sure.  But I think so.  Or like, if somebody in my dream does start hollering or something, I go, “Shhhhhuut uuup you’ll wake Nadine.”

NADINE laughs.

NADINE: That explains it.

CALE: What?

NADINE: I heard you say that.  Night before last.  You said it out loud and then I thought you were awake but you weren’t.  Woke me up, anyways.  So.  Sixty-odd points for irony.

CALE cracks an embarrassed smile.  There is a long, loud, icky cough from someone unseen who must be nearby.  CALE points to the curtain between this bed and the other bed in this room.

CALE: There’s somebody over there?

NADINE: I guess so.


Beat.  NADINE recognizes a particular strain of short-term regret in CALE’s expression.

NADINE: Well they’re obviously awake now.  And it’s not like we’re having a dance off in here.

CALE: Right; I mean it’s not that, it’s just like

NADINE: Like…?

CALE:  Like this time when I was fifteen and I cut class and I went to the mall because I just wanted to be basically invisible but with other people all around and eating french fries.  And I sat down in the food court and this really pretty straight couple sat at the table next to me even though there were empty tables all around, and first I thought they were just going to eat french fries too, and then all of a sudden they started to break up.  Really loudly, with lots of tears and sweaty accusations.  I mean it all happened in Chinese so it wasn’t like I got any specifics, but you could tell that it was bad, that it must have been bad for a really long time and nobody’d said anything up ’til now, and it was going to go on for a million years, forever, until they were dust shouting and dripping snotty noses at dust, and I just sat there thinking, ‘oh shit of all the godawful places to be when something for real happens.’

NADINE: But this is where you go when something real happens.  I mean obviously it’s where you go; it’s where you brought me; it’s where I came to.

CALE: I know.  I’m sorry.  I mean I’m confused and grateful and we’re here and you’re mad at me and I don’t know what to do here and I don’t even think this is a place that wants me to be alive.  But you’re alive so I’m not — I’m not sorry I brought us here.  But I’m everything else about it, I promise.  Do you ever stop being mad?

NADINE: I’m not mad.  I’m just…heavy.

CALE: Me too.

NADINE: Stand up?

CALE stands.  NADINE, with considerable effort, pulls the blanket aside and shifts over as far as she can to one side.  The magazine and cookie might tumble to the floor, now or in a little bit.

NADINE: Come in.

CALE hesitates.  When xe finally crawls in, it is a bit of a scuffle.  NADINE laughs softly as she gives instructions.

Watch the IV.

The blanket covers both of their heads like a fort, CALE’s feet sticking out one side.

No shoes!

CALE kicks off xyr footwear and is absorbed entirely into the blanket.  They are a unified lump of not unhappy human heaviness.  NADINE affects a terrible British accent.

Eliza, where the devil is my juicebox?


If you are interested in using this script, in whole or in part, for any reason, please a) credit me (Emmet Forsythe) as the author, and b) let me know about it, including links to any video or audio recordings you may make.

Contact emilythesecond (at) gmail (dot) com if you wanna tell me somethin’ too special for comments.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. aidan permalink
    January 23, 2010 1:19 am

    you make nice use of the letter x, m’lady.

    love it.

    • ohmynoti permalink*
      January 24, 2010 8:38 am

      well, xe/xem/xyr is hardly my invention, but i’m going to thank you for this comment anyways because it’s nice to know you’re reading.

  2. ELISHA permalink
    January 25, 2010 7:32 pm

    “They wouldn’t put you in prison for smelling funny.”

    &also; i like the chinese break up. that’s fantastic. did that really happen to you? it sort of sounds like something that really happened to you.

    you’re too good for words.

    • ohmynoti permalink*
      January 25, 2010 8:07 pm


      re: chinese breakup: it sort of is something that really happened to me! it was pretty weird because actually, i think the couple had been sitting there longer than i had, + i just hadn’t registered them because the girl was kind of melded with the tabletop she was sobbing into, + her boyfriend was trying really, really hard to disappear. eventually, sobs got noticeable + turned into shouting. it wasn’t english, although it probably wasn’t chinese either. it was long ago + i was trying not to pay too much attention.

      • January 26, 2010 2:21 am

        So, on that note – things we put in stories that actually happened to us. I’m going to use Douglas Adams as an example here, because, if you read The Salmon of Doubt, all of a sudden these little tidbits in his books (notably the Dirk Gently series, but The Hitchhiker Trilogy also) suddenly are things that actually happened to him, only without like bug-eyed aliens, right. This was kind of the inception for a previous project of mine: I would take boring moments from my life and sci-fi them up, as it were, so like if the drain in the shower was clogged then in the writing that night it would be the exhaust port for the drive core was jammed and the ship was going to explode. (Ultimately said project took a completely different direction, though.)

        So, erm….okay, well, wherever I was going with this has been lost to the night but how ’bout this: Writerly thoughts on direct inclusion of events that happen to us in our writing? (wait, okay, that actually sounds like a different question – thoughts on what happens to us in our writing, also interesting, but not what I meant.)

        (I apologise for the ramblyness)

      • ohmynoti permalink*
        January 26, 2010 6:45 am

        Daniel MacIvor talks about this in this interview:

        I think he might be arguing that theatre can make things feel less autobiographical than other forms. Which is interesting, because I think in a lot of cases playwrights seem uncommonly willing to discuss the life-events that inspire their work*…but then, generally speaking, they end up giving over control of the story to directors + actors + whatnot, so does that make it easier to say “this started as this, but it’s out of my control now,” or something along those lines?

        *Like, I feel like playwrights as a species are less likely to roll our eyes when asked “where did you get that idea?” than people who write books or poems or whatever. Which is maybe one of the fundamental reasons I (sort of) feel like I belong in the theatre: I like tracing ideas back to their source. I mean sure, there’s always some weird bit that defies explanation, and that’s magic (or might as well be), but it’s not less magical just because you can name the ingredients that conjured it.

      • ohmynoti permalink*
        January 26, 2010 6:56 am

        hm, that came off kind of bitchy. i think i’m trying to suggest that there’s something about the nature of writing plays that might keep your initial inspiration closer to recollection? orrrrrrr possibly i’m full of shit. i durno.

  3. Xander permalink
    January 26, 2010 10:24 pm

    When I was a kid I used to put on Sunglasses and pretend to be invisible lol. It totally works!

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