………………. my hat ……………….

Sam's hat

Blog Categories

Blog Archives

Silent Visit

Characters
Dinah – Matt’s mother, in her thirties
Matt – age 9
Zack – a man in his forties
Dr. Joanna Sloan
Dr. Voyomer
Police Officer
Father – about forty

ACT 1

SCENE 1
(Autumn. The ’90’s. The
middle class home of DINAH, a
social worker, and her nine
year old son, MATT.
The two of them share a pizza.
MATT pulls the pieces of
pepperoni off and eats them
first. Then he pulls cheese
off the top and eats that,
leaving the dough and crust on
his plate.)

DINAH
What are you doing?

MATT
Eating pizza.

DINAH
Just the cheese?

MATT
And pepperoni. That’s how I always eat it.

DINAH
Not even a bite of dough?

MATT
I don’t like it.

DINAH
(angry)
Well, if you don’t start eating the dough and the crust, I’ll
stop buying the pizza. You throw away as much food as you
eat.

MATT
I don’t care.

DINAH
There are children in North Korea who are starving.

MATT
I still don’t care.

DINAH
There are people Ð right here Ð within two blocks of here Ð
classmates of yours Ð who would love a pizza.

MATT
So what?

DINAH
There are people who can’t afford pizza.

MATT
Who cares?

DINAH
There are families who wouldn’t dream of wasting a piece of
pizza.

MATT
Big deal.

DINAH
Families…
(pause)
…with brothers and sisters Ð and the kids would fight over
the last piece.

MATT
Well, I don’t have any brothers or sisters. I always get the
last piece.

DINAH
There are Russians who would give anything…

MATT
I don’t care about them either!

DINAH
Matt…I want you to think a little deeper.

MATT
Huh?

DINAH
You should appreciate the abundance of whole pizza. It’s
your obligation. Don’t squander it. Appreciate our
prosperity. Not everybody is lucky enough to be an only
child.

MATT
You’re mostly talking to yourself. Whatever it is you’re
trying to tell me…just get it over with and say it.

DINAH
You have too much.

MATT
We don’t have much.

DINAH
We have plenty.

MATT
I don’t think so. I don’t think we have much at all. Daddy
always went to the grocery store and got extra cheese. Then
he had the oven already hot when he brought it in and he
sprinkled the extra cheese all over the top and put in the
pizza so it came out better. Sometimes he got extra
mushrooms. It was better! Much better!

DINAH
He put extra cheese on it one time. One, single time.

MATT
He did it lots of times. Two hundred, at least.

DINAH
No, he didn’t. But you’ve thought about it so much Ð you’ve
replayed having pizza with your Daddy so many times in your
memory that you’ve multiplied the experience and now it seems
like two hundred times.

MATT
I like extra cheese.

DINAH
I could have just brought home a hunk of cheese and a pack of
pepperoni, you know. Why pay for something you’re not going
to eat?

MATT
You tried that. It didn’t taste the same. Just get extra
cheese. That’s simple enough. Extra cheese. Then microwave
it in a coffee mug until it completely melts and pour it all
over the top of the pizza. Daddy did that, too Ð and it
works.

DINAH
I’m not Daddy.

MATT
I know.
(Beat. DINAH becomes uneasy
as she anticipates MATT’S
inevitable question.)
Why did God kill Daddy?

DINAH
(snippy)
God did not kill Daddy. He was in an accident.

MATT
God made the accident.

DINAH
No. That’s not it.

MATT
Why didn’t God stop the accident?

DINAH
Quit saying that!

MATT
Then answer me!

DINAH
I told you. That accident was a random physical event in
time and space.

MATT
A what?

DINAH
A neutral, normal occurrence in objective history.

MATT
Huh?

DINAH
It happened. It’s over. Nothing can be done about it. But
you and I are still alive. That’s what concerns me. You.
Me. People. There’s no such thing as God.

MATT
You don’t think so?

DINAH
No. And neither do you.

MATT
Because we’re atheists, right?

DINAH
Yes we are.

MATT
Our guidance counselor told me that if I don’t believe in
God, then Daddy will be in hell.

DINAH
Talking with a guidance counselor is good. I, myself,
counsel people all the time. I believe in counselling. But
she shouldn’t discuss religion with you. It’s unethical.

MATT
She is not.

DINAH
You don’t know what it means to be unethical.

MATT
I just don’t think the guidance counselor is one.

DINAH
It’s not right. It’s wrong, according to…

MATT
God?

DINAH
Ethics! She’s not supposed to comfort you that way, with
unrealistic notions of God. Not in that setting.

MATT
Sitting?

DINAH
Setting!

MATT
She lets me stand up.

DINAH
Never mind. That guidance counselor of yours surely
shouldn’t tell you that your beliefs could land your daddy in
hell. That’s too much responsibility for a child. She is a
government employee.

MATT
She is not. She’s a guidance counselor.

DINAH
What’s her name, anyway?

MATT
Mrs. Rankum.

DINAH
Mrs. Rankum ought to be disciplined for that.

MATT
I’m the one who brought it up. I want Daddy to be in heaven.

DINAH
There’s no such thing as heaven. It’s like the Land of Oz.
Mother Goose.

MATT
We believe that?

DINAH
We don’t believe in heaven, but we do believe in
responsibility. Thus, if there were a heaven, your Daddy
would have had to get himself there; your belief wouldn’t
help him.

MATT
Then where is Daddy?

DINAH
He’s dead.

MATT
But he’s got to be somewhere.

DINAH
Not really. Well, technically, the ashes from his body are
in the urn.
(She pulls the urn down from a
shelf and holds it.)

MATT
Where’s his soul? My guidance counselor said his soul is
still alive. Where’s it?

DINAH
We don’t believe in the existence of the soul.

MATT
I don’t even know what a soul is.

DINAH
A part of every person that keeps on living. But we don’t
believe in it.

MATT
I believe in it.

DINAH
No you don’t.

MATT
The hell I don’t.

DINAH
Don’t talk that way.

MATT
You do it.

DINAH
No I don’t.

MATT
There is a soul.

DINAH
Ah! Show me one. Show me one soul.

MATT
I can’t. I don’t know anything about God. You never took me
to Sunday school. You won’t even let me watch the preachers
on TV.

DINAH
They’re lunatics!

MATT
I don’t know the stuff the other kids know.

DINAH
And that’s the way it should be.

MATT
God says there is a soul, Mamma! And Daddy had one, and it’s
in heaven now.

DINAH
When did God tell you that?

MATT
God didn’t tell me.

DINAH
Who’d he tell?

MATT
Other people.

DINAH
Has he ever said anything to you?

MATT
No.

DINAH
Then how do you know those other people didn’t make it up?

MATT
Why would somebody make up God?

DINAH
So they can then make up a place for him to live Ð heaven.
So they have something to say to little boys when their
daddies are killed in automobile accidents. So those little
boys can think their daddies have souls that live on. So
people can try to make those little boys feel better.
(Matt stands up on the kitchen
table.)
What’re you doing?

MATT
I’m going to step on the pizza.

DINAH
No you’re not.

MATT
Yes I am.

DINAH
That pizza costs money. That represents my labor.

MATT
I’m stepping in it.

DINAH
Get down. Right now.
(Matt lifts his foot.)
A person’s labor represents a person’s…essence! If you
step on that pizza, you’re stepping on me. Don’t you dare!
(He looks at her, his foot
hovering above the pie.)
I mean it. Right now.
(beat)
Don’t let that foot get any closer.
(He lowers his foot.)
Young man, you’re going to pay dearly for this.
(Beat.)
This is your last chance. Either get down off that table or
I’ll get you down.
(He steps in it. She pulls
him off and pops him. He
cries.)

SCENE 2
(Another day. Alone, MATT
makes a sandwich. DINAH
enters. She sees the sandwich
and reacts.)

DINAH
What is that?

MATT
A sandwich.

DINAH
You’re making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Now? At
five thirty? Right when I get home and you know I’m going to
fix dinner?

MATT
I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?

DINAH
Meatloaf. The way you like it best. Not spicy.

MATT
French fries or mash potatoes?

DINAH
Mash potatoes.

MATT
I’ll eat that too. Make it.

DINAH
What you need is some knowledge of the world. You need to
know that there are people in this world who don’t have
everything they want. People who would love to have the
things you have.

MATT
Nobody would want what I have. Just make the meatloaf.

DINAH
You’re wrong! You don’t appreciate what you have.

MATT
I sure don’t.

DINAH
How could a person as positive as I am, a person who believes
in doing good things for people, a person in a helping
profession Ð a natural born giver, which is what I am Ð raise
a child as negative as you are?
(MATT shakes his head and
grunts.)

MATT
Uuuuuu.
(DINAH moves closer and speaks
louder. MATT turns away
slightly, but he listens. He
has no choice.)

DINAH
You remember that last time I spent the night down at the
homeless shelter?

MATT
Yeah.

DINAH
I met this man down there Ð Zack Davis. He’s got a college
degree. He’s got a job. But his house burned down and his
family left him. He’s got nothing but the clothes on his
back.

MATT
Why doesn’t he get another house?

DINAH
He doesn’t have the money for one. I gave him some of your
Daddy’s clothes to help him out.
(MATT runs to the doorway of
his father’s room. He stops
at the door and looks inside.)

MATT
I want Daddy’s clothes.

DINAH
They’re too big for you.

MATT
I still want them.

DINAH
Styles change. You’ll never wear them.

MATT
But they’re Daddy’s. You can’t give them away. How did you
get them out of his room? You said you weren’t going in
there.
(furious)
Did you go in there?

DINAH
No. I didn’t go in.

MATT
Then how did you get his clothes out? You went in there!

DINAH
Your Aunt Nan went in and brought them out.

MATT
Are we going to stay out of his room forever?

DINAH
For awhile.

MATT
Momma, please. Leave Daddy’s stuff.

DINAH
I won’t take out anymore. Your Daddy would have wanted me to
help a man like Zack, a man who doesn’t have the things your
Daddy had Ð a family and a home.
(MATT leans into his father’s
room, without stepping into
it, and then turns back to his
mother.)

MATT
It feels like Daddy’s still here, a little. As long as we
don’t move his stuff around.
(She touches him: perhaps a
hand on his shoulder, or a
hug.)

DINAH
From now on, I’ll leave his stuff alone.

MATT
I will too.

DINAH
You know, Matt. I do things that will keep your father here,
in memory. Like today, I spoke to a high school class about
safe driving.

MATT
That doesn’t help me remember him.

DINAH
I make contributions to humanistic charities in your father’s
memory. I try to keep your daddy alive.

MATT
Well, he isn’t.

DINAH
I talk about what a good person he was. I let the good works
he did in his life inspire me to do good work in mine.

MATT
I’d rather have his clothes, Mamma. Please. Don’t give his
clothes all away. I want to get in them one day and wear
them myself. It’ll be like getting in his skin. You say
Daddy’s alive; well, then he wants me to do that.

DINAH
I won’t give away the clothes.

SCENE 3
(Another day. MATT watches
TV. DINAH, moody, enters.)

DINAH
You watch way too much TV. Is there anything you do besides
go to school and watch TV?

MATT
No.
(She lectures, but he doesn’t
listen.)

DINAH
Look at you. You’re listless. You’re pathetic. You never
get exercise. You don’t run…sweat…breath hard. Why
aren’t you outside playing ball with the other boys?

MATT
I’d rather watch TV. Nobody likes to play ball.

DINAH
There are kids your age in the driveway across the street!
Playing basketball!
(She looks out the window.)
I can see them from here.

MATT
Oh, them. They’re a bunch of freaks.

DINAH
Matt! No name calling. You know how I feel about that.

MATT
Yeah.

DINAH
Generalizations like that cut you off from the world. They
make life cold.

MATT
You’re kind of a freak too.
(She picks up the plate that
is beside him and inspects
it.)

DINAH
What were you eating?

MATT
Peanut butter sandwich.

DINAH
Eating and watching TV?

MATT
Yep.

DINAH
Do you think that’s healthy?

MATT
I don’t care.

DINAH
I’m disgusted with you!

MATT
I don’t care about that either.
(She flicks off the TV.)

DINAH
Go outside!

MATT
And do what?

DINAH
Play!

MATT
Play what?

DINAH
Anything.

MATT
There’s nothing to play out there.

DINAH
You can play ball. You’ve got a football. You’ve got a
baseball. You’ve even got a tennis racket.

MATT
Those aren’t fun. If we had a computer I’d play that.

DINAH
That’s why we don’t have a computer. I want you outside. Go
climb a tree!

MATT
Last time I climbed a tree, you told me to get off it.

DINAH
That tree is too small for you. You’ll break the limbs.

MATT
That’s the only tree we’ve got that’s good for climbing.

DINAH
If that’s the only thing you want to do outside, is climb
that one tree that you’re going to break Ð then go ahead and
climb it.

MATT
I don’t want to.

DINAH
Listen. Zack Davis is coming over here.

MATT
Who is he?

DINAH
The guy from the homeless shelter. I told you about him.
The clothes Ð remember?

MATT
So he’ll be wearing Daddy’s clothes?

DINAH
He could be. They’re his clothes now. He doesn’t have any
others.

MATT
I don’t want him to come here. Are you gonna marry him?

DINAH
No! Is that what you’re afraid of?

MATT
Yeah, a little. That and other things.

DINAH
He’s coming here for dinner.

MATT
What’re we having?

DINAH
Chicken.

MATT
Fried?

DINAH
No.

MATT
Why not!

DINAH
Because of the fat.

MATT
Who cares?

DINAH
I do.

MATT
It tastes better.

DINAH
I will broil that chicken.

MATT
Please don’t broil it!

DINAH
If you complain again, I’ll boil it.

MATT
I might not eat it.

DINAH
That’s fine.

MATT
Broiled chicken and Zack Davis. Shit.

DINAH
Young man, don’t you talk that way.

MATT
Okay. Broiled chicken and Zack Davis. Shoot.

DINAH
Zack Davis is a man, Matt, who’s had some bad luck and needs
some help.

MATT
He took Daddy’s clothes. I don’t want to help him.

DINAH
By inviting him here, we get to do a good deed.

MATT
I don’t want to do a good deed.

DINAH
You need to do a few.

MATT
I don’t feel like it.

DINAH
Whenever you feel bad, the best way to feel better is to give
something to someone else.

MATT
I don’t feel like that either.

DINAH
You and I have not been feeling so good, so I thought it
might be good for both of us to give something.

MATT
Can’t we give him something without him coming over here to
get it?

DINAH
That’s the point. Coming here is our gift. We’re giving of
ourselves. Our love. Our home. He doesn’t have one of his
own.

MATT
I wish he’d get one.

JAMIE
So do I. I want to help him with that.

MATT
What’s he going to do when he’s here?

DINAH
Maybe watch TV. Maybe you two can throw football or
something. And we’ll give him a great big meal. He’s just a
normal person like anybody else. Only difference is, he
doesn’t have a home.

MATT
I hate him.

DINAH
That’s no way to be!

MATT
But I do.

DINAH
You don’t know him at all.

MATT
Why does he want to come here and eat? Just ’cause he’s got
no home? Can’t he go somewhere else?

DINAH
Matt, you’re going to treat him nice. You’re going to treat
him especially nice. Zack Davis is handicapped.

MATT
Huh? Zack Davis is handicapped?

DINAH
Yes, so you’re going to be nice to him.

MATT
Zack Davis is handicapped, eh? I didn’t know that. What
kind of handicap?

DINAH
He can’t talk.

MATT
Why not?

DINAH
His jaw won’t move.

MATT
Why won’t it move?

DINAH
I don’t know.

MATT
I’ll ask him.

DINAH
You will do no such thing.

MATT
If I’m supposed to be his friend, and play ball with him, and
let him come here for dinner Ð then I want to know why his
jaw won’t move.

DINAH
You will show respect.

MATT
Yeah.
(beat)
Can he hear?

DINAH
Yes. He can hear.

MATT
So I can talk to him.

DINAH
Oh, he has excellent listening skills.

MATT
He just can’t talk back to me.

DINAH
Right.

MATT
So I can say anything I want to Zack Davis, and he can’t ever
answer.

DINAH
Yeah.
(Pause. MATT relaxes, and he
might even smile.)

MATT
I might like Zack Davis after all.

SCENE 4
(DINAH, MATT, and ZACK sit
around the dining room table,
eating.)

DINAH
Zack, I’ve done a lot of thinking about your jaw. It hasn’t
been that way for too terribly long, has it?
(ZACK shakes his head.)
Less than five years?
(ZACK nods.)
Less than three years?
(He nods again.)
Less than two years?
(He shakes his head.)
Between two and three years.
(He nods.)
Two and a half long years. I’m sure that affected your
marriage Ð not being able to talk at all.
(ZACK nods.)
That’s the reason it ended. Isn’t it?
(ZACK nods.)
Was your marriage stressed after you lost your house in the
fire?
(He nods.)
You couldn’t scream “fire!” like you needed to. And you
couldn’t talk to 911.
(He nods in agreement.)
It’s tragic.

MATT
What’d you do Ð just call 911 and beat the phone against a
table or something?
(ZACK pantomimes;
he holds an imaginary
telephone and frantically
snaps his fingers into the
receiver.)

DINAH
And when all of it is said and done…after the insurance
settlement, the broken family, the divorce, the nights spent
in a homeless shelter…have you ever seen a jaw specialist?
(ZACK responds by sadly
shaking his head.)
Have you ever even seen a good doctor about steps you might
take to get your speech back?
(He shakes his head.)
Our health care system is so convoluted.
(He nods.)
Just like our educational system, and our government. Most
companies. Any system.
(He nods.)
It’s the size of our bureaucracy and the tone it creates.
Are you a democrat or a republican?
(ZACK’s gesture indicates that
he is neither.)
I took the liberty of discussing your situation with a few
doctors, and I’ve made you an appointment with one of the top
jaw specialists on the East Coast. An expert.

MATT
A jaw expert?

DINAH
A physician. A doctor of the jaw.

MATT
A jaw doctor? All he cares about are jaws?

DINAH
He’s a she, and that’s it. She just sees jaws.

MATT
So she’s a doctor, but if you hurt your foot and show it to
her, she wouldn’t even look at it.

DINAH
She might. But she’d send you to a different doctor. She
doesn’t really look at feet. If it’s not a jaw, she’s not
that interested.

MATT
Is her name Dr. Jaw?

DINAH
Her name is Dr. Joanna Sloan.
(Beat. To ZACK)
Zack. We’re going to help you. We’re going to help you talk
again. No matter how long it takes. No matter what surgery
is required. No matter how painful it is, we’re going to be
patient and understanding, and we’re going to be here for you
Ð listening. We’re going to see you become whole again.
(ZACK appears to be puzzled.)
Zack?
(still puzzled)
Zack, do you understand what I’m saying to you?
(ZACK nods and grins.)

SCENE 5
(In the doctor’s office, DR.
SLOAN has one hand on each of
ZACK’S jawbones, and she’s
looking down his throat.)

SLOAN
It’s more than the jaw, really. You could talk a little if
it were just the jaw. Your tongue acts like it’s frozen.
Can you eat?
(ZACK nods.)
Can you make sounds? I know you can’t talk, but you must be
able to make some sort of sound.
(ZACK makes a sound like a sick
terrier.)
Usually I can tell pretty quickly if I need to restrict the
motion of the joint, replace the joint, fuse the joint,
inject something into the joint, remove the joint, or break
and set the joint Ð but in this case, nothing really jumps
out at me. It looks to me like you could talk.

DINAH
He can’t say a word, can you Zack?

SLOAN
You know, Dinah, jaws are undervalued in our society. No one
gives them a thought unless they don’t work.

DINAH
Typical.

SLOAN
We use them all the time. And Ð they’re more interesting
than people think. Zack here has a fascinating jaw, and it’s
one I’d like to see a lot more of.

DINAH
He’s open to experimental treatments.

SLOAN
I hope you don’t take this the wrong way. I understand how
this could sound a bit like exploitation, given his tragic
loss of speech Ð but I find Zack’s jaw a challenge. I would
like to continue to see Zack until he talks again. Of
course, there is one thing I think we ought to rule out.

DINAH
What’s that?

SLOAN
The Lord.

DINAH
Huh?

SLOAN
Dinah, my father was a truck driver. He had no use for the
Lord and, to be honest, he was not a nice man. I used to be
afraid of him. Then, one day, he found himself in the middle
of a tent revival.

DINAH
What does this have to do with Zack’s jaw?

SLOAN
Let me tell you. I don’t know how my father got to that
revival Ð probably wandering around drunk and got lost. But
he heard things at that meeting that opened up his heart,
made him stop drinking, and changed his capacity to provide
for his family and love other human beings. I wouldn’t be
here right now Ð as a doctor of the jaw Ð if my father had
not gone to that revival meeting. And you wouldn’t be here.
One thing connects to another. I think Zack was meant to be
here with me today.
I think Zack should go to a meeting and just see. Just see,
if there might be a cure in it for him. After all, he’s not
in pain. He just needs…capacity.

DINAH
I’ve never heard such foolishness from a doctor. Have you
forgotten who you are?

SLOAN
Of course I haven’t.

DINAH
You’re supposed to be a scientist!

SLOAN
Of course. But that doesn’t give me the power to dethrone
the Almighty Ð despite the questionable activities of some of
my colleagues.

DINAH
You’re a religious fanatic cloaked as a doctor.

SLOAN
I’m a doctor who believes patients share the responsibility.

DINAH
Let’s go, Zack. There are other jaw specialists.

SCENE 6
(ZACK and MATT play catch with
a football.)

ZACK
Kid, your mother is a nice lady, but she can be a real pain
in the ass sometimes Ð you know that?

MATT
Is that why you tell her you can’t talk?

ZACK
Nah. I tell everybody that.

MATT
I could tell people you can talk.

ZACK
You could, but you’d be better off if you didn’t.

MATT
What would you do to me, Zack?

ZACK
First of all, nobody will believe you. Second, I might kill
you.

MATT
Why do you want people to think you can’t talk?

ZACK
It makes life easier. I used to be a teacher.

MATT
A talking teacher?

ZACK
Sure. But my voice got so tired every day. One day I lost
it. I opened my mouth and nothing came out. That was the
day I made my glorious discovery. Since that day, my life
has held…well Ð a lot less stress. So, I’ve pretended,
ever since, that my voice never came back.

MATT
You couldn’t be a teacher if you couldn’t talk.

ZACK
Ah, that was the point. But I also had this little jewel
called tenure.

MATT
Huh?

ZACK
Job security.

MATT
What kind of jewel is that? Do you wear it around your neck?

ZACK
It means I had choices: I could not work at all and collect
disability, or I could take a job as an administrator and get
a raise. Naturally, I took the administrative position.

MATT
They don’t have to talk?

ZACK
Nah. I ran the Xerox in the school system’s auxiliary office
center. That machine was a monster. Not just anybody has
the intelligence to learn how to use it. I couldn’t talk,
but I was the expert when it came to running that damn copy
machine.

MATT
You had a job making copies?

ZACK
Making copies. Kid, sometimes I turned out over ten thousand
copies a day. Of course, the machine did all the work. I
just read magazines and refilled the paper.

MATT
With a job like that, you shouldn’t have to live in a
homeless shelter.

ZACK
It’s my wife’s fault. She caught me talking in my sleep! I
don’t even know what I said! But since I had let the house
burn down rather than talk, that pissed her off like you
would not believe.

MATT
I say stuff all the time that pisses off my mom.

ZACK
You’re mom’s not right in the head.

MATT
I know.

ZACK
But my wife Ð that woman was poison Ð she kicked me out of
that apartment we had moved into. Then she called my boss.
My own wife ratted me out.

MATT
Because of what you said in your sleep?

ZACK
Because I could talk!

MATT
That’s not fair.

ZACK
Well, you know Ð that’s how I had gotten the administrative
position. So when they found out I could talk Ð they fired
me quick after that. They wanted to fire me anyway because,
well, it’s inconvenient having a guy around who can’t talk.
Sad but true: there’s a bit of prejudice against non-talking
people. I like being mute, but it makes people feel antsy.
So here I am.

MATT
Then they know you can talk.

ZACK
Kid, nobody can prove anything. Nobody heard me talk. I’ll
deny it from here on out.
By my way of thinking, if I have a choice between humiliation
with pity, and humiliation with embarrassment, I’ll take the
humiliation and the pity. You can do something with pity.
Embarrassment is a pain in the ass.

MATT
I don’t understand you, but I know you’re a liar.

ZACK
It doesn’t matter. Who isn’t? Most people think I’m telling
the truth. Or rather, they think I’m not lying, because I’m
not saying anything. Try it. You’ll find out that you can
change the truth pretty easily. The truth of the situation
is this: you choose the truth.

MATT
It would be hard to lie about not being able to talk.

ZACK
You’d be surprised. Accuse a mute guy of lying and most
people laugh at you. You know I talk. Tell somebody.

MATT
Who?

ZACK
Anybody. He’ll think you’re a liar. My ex-wife knows. I
stay away from her and don’t ask her for anything. It’s her
word against mine, and hers sounds a lot sillier. So Ð
sometimes I can talk. Sometimes I can’t. Who’s to say both
aren’t true? The boss I got now isn’t sure Ð but he doesn’t
really care.

MATT
I thought you got fired for being able to talk?

ZACK
Got another job.

MATT
Doing what?

ZACK
Rackin’ balls down at the pool hall. No talking; just
rackin’. What difference does it make, kid? Your momma
thinks I can’t talk; she’s giving me clothes and food, and
maybe a place to live Ð for free. Maybe I am a liar and a
bum, Kid Ð but pity works, as long as you’ve got the
intelligence to keep all of your victims finely tuned.
(They go inside and stand in
front of the door to MATT’S
father’s room.
ZACK goes in and comes out
with a sports coat on.)
Hey, Kid, this jacket is all right.

MATT
That’s my daddy’s jacket!

ZACK
It’ll be mine as soon as I ask your momma for it.

MATT
She said she’s not giving away anymore of Daddy’s clothes.

ZACK
Kid, your Daddy’s dead. He doesn’t need a jacket like this
where he is.

MATT
Where is he?

ZACK
Where is he?

MATT
Yeah. Is he in heaven?

ZACK
Well, I didn’t know him. But if he’s like your mamma, he’d
be in hell. That’s where she’s going. And the way she’s
raising you Ð with all that atheist, communist, humanist,
secular, do-gooder shit Ð you’ll be going there too.

MATT
My Daddy won’t go to hell. He was good…good! Ð in lots of
ways.

ZACK
Kid, it’s not like going to jail, where a hundred different
things will get you there. It’s basically a cut and dried
proposition. You just fire one question at a man’s heart and
either he answers yes or he answers no.
(Beat.)
Did your daddy fear the Lord?

MATT
Yes! Yes! I know he did.

ZACK
Then you better start fearing too. Otherwise Ð say he’s with
the good Lord and you follow in your mother’s footsteps and
end up in hell Ð you could never see your daddy again.
(Pause.)

MATT
Tell me what to do. Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.

ZACK
Well, for one thing, you need to stop concerning yourself
with material objects. Like this jacket. Your daddy’s
spirit is with God. This is a piece of cloth. For you to
get so worked up about physical things means the devil’s got
you by the balls. He’s got you worshipping him and you don’t
even know it.
(beat)
Second thing: you don’t know how to pray.

MATT
Teach me, Zack. Teach me how to pray. Please.

ZACK
I will, but you’re not ready yet.

MATT
How do I get ready?

ZACK
You prepare to pray by carefully observing nature.

MATT
Where is it?

ZACK
Outside! Just go outside and observe it. Take notice. Look
at the flowers. Watch how the stems of grass come out of the
soil. Listen to the birds and watch how they talk to each
other. Just take in some of God’s work. That’s the first
step.

MATT
Okay.

ZACK
You don’t play outside much, do you?

MATT
Not really.

ZACK
Most boys your age like it outside. Hell, my clothes are
dirtier than yours.

MATT
Because you spend more time observing nature?

ZACK
Exactly. I’m a keen observer of nature. So go! Get
outside. Hey, get some fresh air, too, while you’re out
there. Take some deep breaths. You’ll be prepared to pray
in no time.
(MATT exits. ZACK goes into
MATT’S father’s room. He
searches the drawers and
pockets a few valuable items.
MATT returns, lies down on the
couch, and begins watching TV.
ZACK returns to the living
room.)

ZACK
Hey, what’d I tell you about sitting on your ass and watching
TV?

MATT
You said to go outside and observe nature.

ZACK
Then get the hell out there and observe it.

MATT
After this show.

ZACK
The hell! Now!

MATT
I watch this every day.

ZACK
Son, didn’t we discuss this whole thing?

MATT
Yeah.

ZACK
You need to observe nature, even touch it, in order to
prepare your spirit for prayer. Pretty soon, you’ll feel
God’s presence. And since your daddy’s in heaven with Him Ð
you’ll be able to talk to Him. It’ll be just like your daddy
is here in this room with you.

MATT
Will I see him?

ZACK
Sure you will.

MATT
Will he be all fuzzy or clear?

ZACK
Depends on how hard you pray. Anyhow, I told your mamma I’d
get you out of the house. I’m here to help you, and I don’t
want to kick your ass in order to do it, but I will if I have
to.

MATT
How’d you tell that to my momma if you pretend to her you
can’t talk?

ZACK
Your Momma and I communicate just fine.

MATT
There’s nothing to do outside. I just don’t see God when I
observe nature. Don’t some people read the Bible? Couldn’t
I try that?

ZACK
They’re a bunch of hypocrites. I tell you what works for me.
Look at water. Water is a powerful force.

MATT
Water is boring.

ZACK
No, water if everything. It creates life, absorbs life,
inhabits life, destroys it, covers it, rots it, and heals it.
If you get real still and stare at it for a long time, you’ll
see God, and you might see your father.
(pause)
You know where any water is?

MATT
There’s a pond down at the bottom of the street. It’s small,
but it’s…pure water.

ZACK
That’ll do. Here where we live, we have to make more of an
effort to be near to God. Ever notice how people who live
near the ocean are more spiritual?

MATT
No.

ZACK
Take my word for it. They are. And it’s because they see
the water every day. They smell it and breathe it. It’s
like having God rushing through your veins all the time.

MATT
I’ll try it.
(MATT begins to exit.)

ZACK
Gimme that remote.
(MATT gives him the remote and
exits. ZACK takes MATT’S
place on the couch.
A moment later, DINAH enters Ð
carrying groceries.)

DINAH
Zack, you’re still here. Would you like to stay for dinner
again?
(He nods.)
I’ve got a bottle of wine. Do you drink wine?
(He nods. She glances
around.)
Where’s Matt?
(He motions with his thumb,
almost like a hitchhiker.)
Outside?
(He nods.)
Wonderful! Fresh air. Maybe he won’t be so pale anymore. I
knew you’d be a good influence on him.
(With his hand, he indicates
that everything is a-okay.
She brings him a glass of
wine.
ZACK slouches in the couch,
watching TV, He flips channels
with the remote. Enter MATT.)

MATT
Hi Mom.

DINAH
Zack’s here.

MATT
I know.

DINAH
Maybe you two would like to play catch while I fix dinner.

MATT
Nah.

DINAH
It would be great for you.
(MATT looks at ZACK. Zack is
revolted by the idea, but he
grudgingly gets up from the
couch. MATT locates a
football. The two of them
step outside and toss it back
and forth.)

MATT
I saw him!

ZACK
(drowsy)
Huh?

MATT
I saw him!

ZACK
Saw who?

MATT
Daddy! In the water.

ZACK
See Ð there you go. I told you, huh?

MATT
He was trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t hear him.

ZACK
Hey, stick with me, Kid. You’ll be talking with him, playing
ball with him. Going to the movies. Did you try jumping in
the lake?

MATT
It’s too steep, and I can’t swim. I don’t think I could get
out.

ZACK
You can’t swim…can your daddy swim?

MATT
Sure.

ZACK
Maybe he can help you.

MATT
I didn’t see him that clear.

ZACK
He kind of comes and goes?

MATT
Yeah.

ZACK
That’s normal for a guy in heaven. I’m sure he’ll catch you
if you jump in, but make sure you see him clear as a picture
when you do it.

SCENE 7
(ZACK, making himself at home,
lies on the couch watching TV.
He smokes. Enter MATT.)

MATT
Hey, how’d you get in here?

ZACK
Your momma gave me my own key.

MATT
You’re not supposed to smoke in here.

ZACK
It’s not your house, it’s your momma’s.

MATT
She’s the one who doesn’t let people smoke in here.

ZACK
Then don’t tell her I smoked in here. And let her tell me
not to.

MATT
I think I’ve observed enough nature to start praying now.

ZACK
How in the hell can you think that?

MATT
I’ve been sitting by the lake everyday, staring at my daddy
in the water.

ZACK
Cross-legged?

MATT
Do you have to sit cross legged?

ZACK
It’s a good way to sit.

MATT
My daddy never sat cross legged.

ZACK
Not your daddy. You!

MATT
I never sit that way.

ZACK
How do you sit Ð when you’re seeing your daddy in the water?

MATT
Usually I’m lying there on my stomach.

ZACK
That won’t work. There are ways to sit when a person prays.
You’re just lying there.

MATT
So how do you sit?

ZACK
You can sit cross-legged. You can kneel in a couple of
different ways. You can bow. You can stoop. But you can’t
just lie on your stomach.

MATT
Well, I’m observing nature, anyway. I think I’m ready.

ZACK
How can you be ready if you can’t even get your body in the
right position?

MATT
I saw Daddy.

ZACK
Son, your imagination has run wild. There’s a lot more to
nature than looking into water. What about birds? What
birds have you seen out there?

MATT
I don’t know.

ZACK
Any flowers?

MATT
Didn’t look at the flowers.

ZACK
Trees?

MATT
I mostly look at the water.

ZACK
That’s part of it, but not all of it Ð and it’s the quickest
way to get to hell. Thinking you’ve prepared yourself to
commune with a higher being when you haven’t. I ought to
kick your ass.

MATT
I’m just trying to do what you told me.

ZACK
Listen. Go out there and find me something from nature and
bring it back to me. And I mean it better be the right
thing.

MATT
What kind of thing?

ZACK
Have patience. Look around and wait for the object to find
you.

MATT
How do I know if it’s right.

ZACK
You listen to the inner voice of your soul, dumb shit.

MATT
How can an object find me?

ZACK
That’s what I want you to learn. It will, if you let it.

MATT
I don’t know how to let it.

ZACK
When it happens, you won’t have a question. Take your time,
and trust me.
(MATT just looks back at ZACK.
His face reflects his
bewilderment.)
Son, there’s a harmony to life. You don’t understand it in
the least. I’m not sure if it’s possible for me to teach it
to you Ð or for anybody to teach it to anybody else Ð but I’m
going to do my damnedest to try.
(Exit MATT.)

SCENE 8
(MATT enters, proudly holding
a piece of bark.)

ZACK
See, now I told you you’d know. You’re developing more
intuition now Ð a deeper spiritual sense. Now get me some
lemonade.

MATT
We don’t have any lemonade.

ZACK
Then make some.

MATT
I don’t know how to make it.

ZACK
You just squeeze lemons and add sugar and water.

MATT
I can’t do that.

ZACK
Then make me a glass of iced tea.

MATT
I can’t make that either.

ZACK
(angry)
What are you? Helpless!

MATT
No.

ZACK
You gotta know how to make something or you’d die of thirst.
(Beat.)
Don’t tell me a little shit like you drinks water.
(Stunned, MATT is afraid to
respond.)
Well, do you? Do you drink water?
(Beat)
Do you?

MATT
No.

ZACK
Then what do you drink, when you get thirsty?

MATT
I can fix a Coke.

ZACK
Okay. I could handle some Coke.
(MATT fixes the Coke and ZACK
removes a birdhouse from a
paper bag. He proudly
displays the birdhouse on the
table. He folds the bag and
puts it in his pocket. When
MATT returns with the Coke,
ZACK gives him the birdhouse.)
Here. You’re momma’s gonna walk in here in a second. I want
you to show her this birdhouse and tell her you made it.

MATT
Did you make it?

ZACK
I bought it. Tell your momma I showed you how and you’ve
spent all your spare time for the past week working on it.
It’s a surprise, and it’s for her.

MATT
Thou shalt not lie.
(ZACK puts his hand on ZACK’s
shoulder.)

ZACK
Thou shalt. Unless thou wants a bruise and a mouthful of
thou’s own blood to choke on.
(Enter DINAH.)

DINAH
Hi.

MATT
Mom, look.

DINAH
Hey, where’d you get it?

MATT
It’s a birdhouse.

DINAH
I see.

MATT
I made it for you.

DINAH
You made that?
(ZACK smiles proudly.)

MATT
Zack showed me how.

DINAH
(gushing)
Matt, this is nice! Such fine work. For me!

MATT
It wasn’t so hard.

DINAH
(to ZACK)
Matt’s father wasn’t a real…crafty…person. Thank you,
Zack.
(He nods.)
Do you have time to do some shopping? You need some
toiletries, and some clothes of your own.
(He shrugs.)
Tomorrow I’m taking you to another doctor.

SCENE 9
(DINAH, ZACK and DR. VOYOMER,
a psychiatrist, sit in an
office.)

DR. VOYOMER
Does he know how to sign?
(ZACK shakes his head.)

DR. VOYOMER
He doesn’t look terribly distressed. Just mute.

DINAH
I intend to nurse him back to voice.

DR. VOYOMER
Would you please wait outside?

DINAH
Dr. Voyomer, I’m giving Zack a home.

DR. VOYOMER
Then he’s no longer homeless. But he’s still voiceless.
Outside, please.

DINAH
Doctor, I’m a social worker. Zack’s voice was taken away
from him by a society that throws away individuals. In order
for him to get it back, an individual must rise above the
general order of that society and commit to making a
difference. I will be that individual.

DR. VOYOMER
Good for you. Please go out.

DINAH
I’m emotionally and ethically invested in Zack’s recovery.

DR. VOYOMER
Me too. Go out.
(DINAH exits.)
So, Mr. Davis Ð or may I call you Zack?
(He nods.)
Zack, have you ever seen a psychiatrist before?
(He shakes his head.)
As you know, Dr. Ecco referred you to me.
(DR.
VOYOMER studies the report.)
He ordered a complete physical and conducted a pretty
thorough ENT exam. Looks like you’re in pretty good health,
physically.
There’s always neurology, one floor up. But I think it’s
wise to stop in at psychiatry first.
Of course, I generally gather information from patients based
on what they say. You present a unique set of challenges.
For one thing, I generally work in conjunction with a number
of psychotherapists. I diagnose and do med-checks. The
therapist…listens.
Suppose we just start with a few “yes and no” questions.
Do you sleep okay at night?
(He nods.)
How’s your sex drive?
(He nods.)
I trust you like women.
(He nods.)
Meaning, you are a heterosexual.
(He nods.)
Are you in any pain at all?
(He shakes his head.)
No chronic, low-level pain Ð a dullness in the head?
(He shakes his head.)
No intermittent aches, or throbbing?
(He shakes his head.)
Do you ever catch yourself weeping?
(He shakes his head.)
Hear any voices?
(He shakes his head.)
Any ringing in the ears, or strange echoes?
(He shakes his head.)
Do you wash your hands a lot?
(He shakes his head.)
Any headaches?
Do you ever feel euphoric Ð very, very happy?
Ever tried suicide?
Thought about it?
Murder?
Compulsive stealing, or lying?
Can you read and write?
(He nods. Beat.)
I see. Zack, I’m going to ask you to come back again and
take a few simple multiple choice tests. Won’t take long.
Would you do that for me?

SCENE 10
(DINAH, MATT, and ZACK at
home.)

DINAH
So, make yourself at home, Zack. You’ve got a room, some new
clothes. Help yourself to whatever food you like. You live
here. You’re a part of the family.
(DINAH exits.)

ZACK
Son, you may be praying a lot, and you may have contacted
your daddy in heaven Ð but you’re not praying enough. Your
momma’s going to hell.

MATT
She is not!

ZACK
She doesn’t believe in God. She puts too much faith in
people. There’s no better way to end up in hell than that.
As a matter of fact, she’s already there.

MATT
She won’t go to hell. She’s good.

ZACK
No she isn’t.

MATT
She gave you a home.

ZACK
Not for my sake. She did that for herself. She gives a
homeless, handicapped man like me a place to live and then
she gets to think she’s turned into a saint.

MATT
She hasn’t turned into anything.

ZACK
It feeds her superiority complex and her fake humanistic
atheism Ð makes her think it’s okay. That’s the worst thing
of all about your mother: the way she needs to feel like
she’s better than everybody else. I tell you, the devil is
in control of that woman.

MATT
He is not.

ZACK
He is. But you’re too young to understand.

MATT
She doesn’t believe in the devil.

ZACK
Makes her that much easier. I will say one thing about her.

MATT
What?

ZACK
She’s cute.

MATT
No she’s not.

ZACK
I know your daddy was crazy about her.

MATT
Shut up.

ZACK
She is cute.

MATT
Stop it.
(MATT turns away, hurt,
avoiding ZACK. ZACK stands
behind the boy and whispers.)

ZACK
Cute, cute, cute.

SCENE 11
(ZACK stands at the doorway.
MATT watches.)

DINAH
(to ZACK)
You’re leaving? Now?
(ZACK nods.)
Where are you going?
(He points, vaguely, out the
door.)
Zack, you’ll be back for dinner, won’t you?
(He nods again.)
I’ll have it ready at six. If you’re not back, we’ll wait.
(ZACK nods and exits.)

MATT
Momma, don’t let him live here anymore. Please.

DINAH
Your problem is, you think about yourself all the time.
Think about somebody else.

MATT
I’m thinking about you. And me.

DINAH
That’s why I want him to live here. So that you can see the
benefit in thinking about somebody besides yourself.

MATT
I think about you. I do.

DINAH
I want you to go beyond just us. If you don’t get outside
yourself, you’ll never be satisfied. I’m afraid you’re
heading in that direction.

MATT
I’m not in a direction, Momma. But Zack is Ð a bad
direction.

DINAH
Don’t be silly.

MATT
I’m not silly. I hate him!

DINAH
You don’t hate him. You just don’t want to share.

MATT
I do share, but Zack tells me to pray at the side of the lake
and I’ll see Daddy.

DINAH
Stop lying, Matt.

MATT
I’m not lying. He could talk if he wanted to.

DINAH
You’re lying, and you’re being selfish.

MATT
I’m not selfish, either! He could sing if he wanted to. But
he wouldn’t get to live here for free.

DINAH
Stop it.

MATT
And he wouldn’t get free food.

DINAH
See? You are selfish.

MATT
And get people to feel sorry for him.

DINAH
People should feel sorry for him.

MATT
Feel sorry for a liar?

DINAH
You’re the one who’s lying.

MATT
He’s the one who’s lying, and that’s why he doesn’t talk. So
he can have one big lie instead of lots of little ones.

DINAH
Cruelty is worse. Go to your room.

MATT
I won’t go. I’ve heard Zack talk.

DINAH
You have not. Go to you’re room.

MATT
Not unless you say you’ll make Zack leave.

DINAH
Go!

MATT
Momma, please don’t let him live here. I think he could hurt
us.

DINAH
Selfish! How many times do I have to tell you? Go to your
room!

MATT
Momma, he’s a bad man.

DINAH
He is a handicapped man, and you are a bad, self-centered
little boy who has no sympathy for a person who is disabled
and won’t go to his room when he’s told!

curtain

ACT 2

SCENE 1
(Lights up on MATT. ZACK
enters. He sits down and
starts eating a hamburger and
French fries. He listens to a
walkman and points at it.)

ZACK
Hey, see this?

MATT
Yeah, where’d you get it?

ZACK
At a store. I’ve been needing one.

MATT
Yeah, those are good.

ZACK
I got an extra. You need one?

MATT
Well…

ZACK
I got it for you.

MATT
Okay. I’ll take it.
(ZACK gives MATT a walkman.)

ZACK
Hey, I got you a burger and fries, too Ð if you’re hungry.
You want ’em?

MATT
Yeah!
(ZACK gives MATT a hamburger.)

ZACK
I thought you might like something with a little taste to it.

MATT
Yeah!

ZACK
Your mother never lets you eat good food like this, does she?

MATT
Sometimes, but not much. She says it’s unhealthy.

ZACK
Your mother’s a real tight ass when it comes to good food.

MATT
I guess so.

ZACK
When it comes to any kind of pleasure. Your mamma’s no fun.

MATT
She wants me to have fun.

ZACK
Not really.

MATT
She wants me to go outside all the time.

ZACK
That’s to make herself feel like she’s being good. Your
mother is more interested in thinking she’s doing the right
thing than she is in doing the right thing.

MATT
Huh?

ZACK
Forget it. She’s nuts. You’re father got you the stuff you
wanted, didn’t he?

MATT
Sometimes.

ZACK
He got you more than stuff than your momma did, right?

MATT
Yeah.

ZACK
Listen Ð you like music?

MATT
Not especially.

ZACK
You’re missing out. There’s a void in your life.

MATT
Huh?

ZACK
How’d you like to play a guitar?

MATT
Sure.

ZACK
Okay. But first, you need a guitar.

MATT
I don’t have one.

ZACK
I’ll get you one.

MATT
You? You’re gonna buy me a guitar?

ZACK
No need to buy one. Come with me. I’ll show you how you can
have the things you want in life.
(This bit of action depicts
the getaway from a robbery:
They exit, then return,
running across the stage.
They stop, listen, and run.
Offstage, a woman screams.
Again, they run across the
stage. MATT carries a guitar.
The woman screams.)

SCENE 2
(The house. Enter MATT and
ZACK.)

MATT
Did you see the look on that woman’s face?

ZACK
The look on the woman’s face? Damn boy! While you were
paying attention to the look on her face, you nearly got us
caught.

MATT
She was so scared.

ZACK
I know she was scared! I was scared too! That was no reason
for you to change your mind about which guitar you wanted.

MATT
When she screamed, it was such a big noise.

ZACK
Damn right it was a big noise.

MATT
It made me stop and think: did I need such a big guitar?

ZACK
You ignorant little peckerhead.

MATT
So I looked for a smaller one.

ZACK
While you selected your merchandise, I had a shouter on my
hands. I had a shouter in my hands!

MATT
I knew this would be my one chance for a guitar, so I wanted
to pick the right one.

ZACK
You know what would have happened to me if somebody had
walked in and seen me holding that old woman that way?
(ZACK grabs MATT and
demonstrates the way he held
her. He puts his hand over
MATT’S mouth and pulls his
hands behind his back.)
Here I am, holding her like this Ð you know what would have
happened if somebody had seen that?
(He takes his hand off MATT’s
mouth so he can answer.)

MATT
I didn’t see that.
(Again, he puts his hand over
MATT’s mouth.)

ZACK
No, I guess not. You were still looking at the guitars. But
you know what would happen if a customer had come in there?
If there had been a witness?
(He lets MATT answer.)

MATT
A what?

ZACK
A witness. If somebody had seen me. You know what would
happen?
(He lets MATT answer.)

MATT
What?
(ZACK releases the boy.)

ZACK
Jail, son! And lots of it!

MATT
Nobody saw it but me.
(ZACK studies the child.)
I mostly saw the look on her face. I didn’t see what you did
to her.

ZACK
Hell, I’m not worried about you anyway. You wouldn’t have
the guts to testify against me Ð and if you did, nobody would
believe you. Anyway, what the hell. Now you’ve got the
guitar. Play it some.
(MATT plays the guitar Ð
badly. ZACK listens.)

ZACK
That’s bad. You know what you need?

MATT
Lessons?

ZACK
Nah. You need some music to listen to. Some John Denver, or
Glenn Campbell. Maybe even Bob Dylan. Somebody to emulate.

MATT
I can listen to the radio.

ZACK
I’ll get you some music, and a stereo system to play it on.

MATT
You gonna steal it?

ZACK
I thought I would.

MATT
You steal a lot.

ZACK
Seems like more and more.

MATT
Why do you like it?

ZACK
Love it. Always have. Buying doesn’t appeal to me.
Something you steal is much better than something you buy.

MATT
Even if it’s the exact same thing?

ZACK
It’s not the same thing. That’s what advertisers know. The
shopping experience is what drives the economy. We don’t
really need most of the actual stuff. We love the seduction.

MATT
What’s that?

ZACK
Seduction? That’s…getting people to love you, whether they
do or not. Like…look at it this way: it’s not what you
get that counts, but how you got it. Stealing, generally,
doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It’s thrilling.
Thrilling! You’ll see. Burglary Ð even robbery Ð you have
to experience the pleasure before you understand it. Just
relax. Take it easy. Enjoy the guitar. Leave your music
collection to me.
(Exit ZACK. MATT plays the
guitar.)

SCENE 3
(MATT sleeps with the guitar
on his lap. Enter DINAH.)

DINAH
Zack? Where is he?

MATT
Gone.

DINAH
For how long?

MATT
He didn’t say. He can’t talk.

DINAH
Did he write it down?

MATT
No.

DINAH
He didn’t point at his watch?

MATT
Huh uh.

DINAH
He gave no indication at all regarding what time he’d be
home?

MATT
No.

DINAH
Where did he go?

MATT
I don’t know!

DINAH
I hate to eat dinner without Zack, but…

MATT
Let’s eat. We can save Zack some. Let’s eat.

DINAH
Where’d you get that guitar?

MATT
Zack gave it to me.

DINAH
What for?

MATT
Just to be nice, I guess.

DINAH
Where’d he get it?

MATT
I guess he…had it…or he bought it…I don’t know. I
think he already had it.

DINAH
It’s looks new.

MATT
Then I think he bought it.

DINAH
He wouldn’t have the money for that.

MATT
Maybe he got it at the homeless shelter. I don’t know.

DINAH
He gave it to you?

MATT
That’s what he says.

DINAH
You’ll give it back.

MATT
Why?

DINAH
It’s too expensive. He can’t afford to give you that.

MATT
He probably got it cheap.

DINAH
I’ll ask him.

MATT
Lemme keep it, Momma. I think I can play this thing.

DINAH
We’ll see. Let’s eat.
(They begin dinner. Knock on
the door. Enter POLICE
OFFICER.)

OFFICER
Ma’am, I got a dumb mute down at the police sta…

DINAH
Zack!

OFFICER
Yes ma’am. Zack Davis.

DINAH
Did something happen to him? Did somebody hurt him?

OFFICER
No, he’s…

DINAH
What’s the matter?

OFFICER
Well, an unfortunate thing…

DINAH
Where is he?

OFFICER
He’s in jail and he needs a lawyer. He wrote down your
address and he just points at it.

DINAH
He can’t talk.

OFFICER
Of course he can’t. And he’s got the right to remain silent.

DINAH
His jaw’s frozen!

OFFICER
I know it is. That’s why I thought I’d come over here and
straighten this thing out.

DINAH
What’s he arrested for?

OFFICER
Burglary.

DINAH
I think that’s a mistake.

OFFICER
Does he live here?

DINAH
Yes.

OFFICER
Then you’re the one making the mistake. Don’t you know he’s
got a record five miles long?

DINAH
No, I don’t know that. And I don’t believe that.

OFFICER
He does.

DINAH
Even if he does…if he has…I’m sure it was from before….
He probably stole a few things out of desperation when he was
homeless. Now that he’s living here his needs are being met.
There’s no reason for him to steal.

OFFICER
He was caught tonight.

DINAH
There is a mistake. You’re predisposed to accuse him because
of his past. You’re jumping to conclusions without evidence.

OFFICER
No ma’am. This robbery is on video tape. If you care about
the man Ð and I don’t see why you should Ð you ought to find
him a good lawyer.

DINAH
I know some lawyers.

OFFICER
Then find him one. Somebody who can get a decent bond.

DINAH
Bond.

OFFICER
Put together a strong case.

DINAH
Case.

OFFICER
And plead for mercy.

DINAH
Mercy.

OFFICER
We’ve had a half dozen burglaries in the past two weeks that
we’re lookin’ at Zack Davis for. But the good news is, he
can’t say anything self-incriminating because…because he
can’t say anything.

DINAH
I think you’ve made a mistake.

OFFICER
Anything’s possible. But it doesn’t change what happened and
where he is.

DINAH
Zack Davis needs a helping hand.

OFFICER
In my opinion…

DINAH
He needs a little support.

OFFICER
What I think…

DINAH
A lot of nurturing. A lot of counseling.

OFFICER
I think he needs some hard time.

DINAH
He probably needs some surgery Ð so he can get his voice
back.

OFFICER
I’m glad he can’t talk.

DINAH
I’m trying to help that man his life on track.

OFFICER
Well, if you want to get him out of jail, you need to be at
the courthouse in the morning with a lawyer. It’s up to the
judge, but I’d say you’re going to need several grand.

SCENE 4
(DINAH and ZACK walk by the
lake. DINAH loops her arm
around ZACK’s arm and holds
his elbow with her other
hand.)

DINAH
Zack, I don’t know what happened in that store. I still
can’t believe it. You’ve been so good with Matt. I know
you’re a good person.
(Beat. ZACK could get on his
knees and beg forgiveness.)
I forgive you.
(ZACK is gratefull.)
I’ll bet you’ve got a million stories of injustice to tell Ð
if just you could talk. Rehabilitation begins with
forgiveness. You need rehabilitation for your criminal
tendencies, and rehab for your voice. I want to help you.
(He nods.)
Only twenty percent of communication is verbal.
(He nods.)
You and I communicate pretty well. I hear your voice. You
stole those CD’s so that you could share something about
yourself with me. You tested my loyalty, tested my
unconditional positive regard. Zack, Zack. I will be loyal
to you. We’re going to take good care of you. We certainly
are.

SCENE 5
(ZACK sits back, relaxed,
drinking a beer and smoking a
cigarette. MATT is alert and
receptive.)

ZACK
Son, lemme tell you something. You’ve learned how to connect
with your ol’ man Ð how to see him and talk to him Ð right?

MATT
Yep.

ZACK
Through prayin’.

MATT
Yep.

ZACK
And the water is the key to it. Am I right?

MATT
It helps.

ZACK
You sit cross-legged and meditate by the water, and pray Ð
and after doin’ that shit for awhile you can see him. Right?

MATT
I sure can.

ZACK
But wouldn’t you rather be with him? I mean, just like
you’re in the same room Ð hear him? Touch him?

MATT
Yeah, I’d like to hear Daddy’s voice.

ZACK
What kind of stuff did you two talk about?

MATT
We always talked about the weather.

ZACK
I’m not talking about the weather. Everybody talks about the
weather. I’m talking about real stuff. Father son stuff.

MATT
We had some pretty good talks about the weather.

ZACK
The weather.

MATT
In the winter, we talked about snow. When it might start.
How much we might get. How long it might last. If it would
be good for snowballs or sledding. What we would do when it
starts, and after it stops.

ZACK
Every time it snows you kids act like it’s the first time in
history it ever happened.

MATT
In the summer we talked about how hot it was and whether we’d
get a storm to cool us off. We’d guess whether rain would
make it cool or sticky. If it did rain, we’d find out which.

ZACK
Yeah yeah yeah.

MATT
In the spring Daddy told me to watch close because just when
it gets most pretty means it’s almost gone.

ZACK
Now he’s right about that.

MATT
And in the fall, well Ð we didn’t talk about the weather so
much Ð but he let me help him rake.

ZACK
If you want to talk with him again, if you want to be with
him, you know what you’re gonna have to do.

MATT
Pray harder?

ZACK
(forcefully)
You’re going to have to jump in the water.

MATT
I told you I can’t swim.

ZACK
You’re Daddy never taught you how to swim?

MATT
Not completely.

ZACK
Well, goddamn Ð what was wrong with him?

MATT
He was goin’ to!

ZACK
Well, he was the kind of Daddy who would hold you in his arms
in deep water Ð right? And keep you from drowning?

MATT
Sure he was.

ZACK
Guess what?

MATT
What?

ZACK
He still is. If you jump in that water, he’ll put his arms
around you and keep you safe.

MATT
I don’t know. I think it’s too deep. What if he’s not there
when I jump?

ZACK
I didn’t say to just go over to the lake and jump in like a
stupid fool Ð did I?

MATT
No.

ZACK
You go over there Ð and you pray. You have to pray hard,
though. I mean, exceptionally hard. When you see your
Daddy, you jump in. Then you get to be with him. He’ll hold
you in his arms, make sure you’re safe, just like he always
did.

MATT
Well, I might try it.

ZACK
I’m not saying you should try it right away. Don’t try it
now. It’s something you should strive for, kid.
Keep prayin’ by the water. Go deeper, and deeper Ð and when
you’re ready, you’ll know.

SCENE 6
(ZACK looks out the window.
DINAH gazes at ZACK. ZACK
motions her to the window.
She comes and looks out.
She’s pleased.)

DINAH
Matt’s playing basketball…with other kids.
(She looks at ZACK. He
smiles.)
I think you’ve been good for him. I’d love it if you could
get your voice back and talk to him. He used to talk to his
father, all the time. We could hardly shut him up. In fact,
we didn’t listen to most of what he said.
(ZACK puts his arm around
DINAH. She pulls away and
turns back to the window.)
We joked about how he said whatever came out of his mouth,
without thinking. We made fun of him. Then, after the
accident, he went inside himself. He had nothing to say. I
missed all the jabbering. Missed it terribly.
(She watches MATT through the
window.)
He’s got more energy.
(He takes her shoulders and
turns her toward him. She
turns and looks out the window
again.)
I know some coping mechanisms that Matt doesn’t. Before you
came here, Matt was depressed. I’m a mental health
professional, but I didn’t notice it in my own child.
(She turns, and they embrace
as the lights fade.)

SCENE 7
(ZACK and DR. VOYOMER sit in
the office.)

DR. VOYOMER
Zack, you have a high IQ and no voice. It’s like having a
safe full of money and no key.
(ZACK nods.)
Let’s try something. Close your eyes.
(ZACK writes on the board,
“Close your mouth.”)
Did you like those pills I gave you?
(He nods.)
There are more where those came from.
(ZACK writes, “stick them up
your ass.)
This could help you talk again. Wouldn’t you like that?
(ZACK closes his eyes.)
Imagine yourself deeply involved in a conversation with the
most important person in your life. There is something you
want to tell this person. Something you’ve held in your
heart for years. It’s hard, and stuck, and now you have the
chance to finally get rid of it. You open your mouth, and
the words flow like water from a spigot.
(Pause)
Now, just say those words.
(He makes a sound.)
You’re a real son of a bitch, aren’t you?
(ZACK writes, “You tell me.”)
I just did, mute face.
(ZACK writes, “Takes one to
know one.”
No it doesn’t.

SCENE 8
(MATT sits, cross-legged,
speaking to the water.)

MATT
Daddy, Zack’s a liar.
(Enter Matt’s FATHER.)

FATHER
You’re right, Matt.

MATT
But Momma won’t believe me.

FATHER
She can’t help it.

MATT
There’s nothing I can do to make him go away, Daddy.

FATHER
Don’t worry.

MATT
Yesterday, we went into this store. I thought I did pretty
good, but you wouldn’t believe the stuff he got. He told me
to go ask the guy at the counter for a bag of ice, and while
that guy got the ice, Zack filled his pockets up! Then he
bought some cigarettes and after he paid for them asked for a
refund so he could get a different brand. When the guy had
to do all that, I filled my pockets full of candy. I tell
you, Daddy, I know the difference between right and wrong.

FATHER
Sure you do.

MATT
I think I believe in God.

FATHER
That’s okay.

MATT
Momma says I don’t.

FATHER
She’s a thinker.

MATT
It’s easier to go along with Zack than argue. He’s nice to
me if I go along with him.

FATHER
Son, growing up is a mixture of pleasure and pain.

MATT
It feels good out here. Not too hot. Not too cold.

FATHER
Fall is my favorite season.

MATT
It’s too cool to swim.

FATHER
You can’t swim.

MATT
I know.

FATHER
Won’t be long before it snows.

MATT
I hope so!

FATHER
Oh, I think you’ll get some this year.

MATT
In heaven, can you get weather reports in advance?

FATHER
Maybe, but I wouldn’t want to take advantage of the
situation. I just think you’ll get some snow.

MATT
I don’t know what I’ll do in it.

FATHER
You’ll do the same stuff you always do. Sled. Snowman.
Snowballs.

MATT
With who?

FATHER
You’ll find somebody, if you put your mind to it.

MATT
I hope Zack won’t still be here.
(MATT’S FATHER begins to
exit.)
Daddy, where are you going?
(Still leaving.)
Daddy, you’re fading.
(He exits.)
Daddy? Daddy?

SCENE 9
(MATT and DINAH at home.
Enter ZACK. DINAH occupies
herself in the kitchen. ZACK
pulls MATT aside and whispers
to him.)

ZACK
Kid, your Momma and I need to be alone. I want you to go
down to the store and steal me a six pack.

MATT
What kind do you need?

ZACK
Anything you can reach. Go for the expensive stuff if you
can. Imports. Don’t bring it in the house like you did last
time. That was stupid. You could have gotten caught.

MATT
I know.

ZACK
Put it in the garage, where I showed you.

MATT
Zack, what if I do get caught?

ZACK
I told you. No big deal. If the judge is a man, he’ll be
nice to your momma. If it’s a woman, she’ll think you’re a
little darling. For most kids, juvenile court is nothing but
a slap on the wrist. For you, it’ll be like a kiss on the
cheek.

MATT
Momma will be mad at me.

ZACK
Piss on your momma. I told you she’s going to hell, didn’t
I? Didn’t I tell you that?

MATT
Yeah.

ZACK
So what do you care what she thinks?

MATT
She’ll still be mad.

ZACK
Here I am tying to get you to wise up, and you’re getting
more and more stupid every minute. Go get me the beer.
(MATT exits. ZACK goes to
DINAH. He signals, with hand
gestures, that MATT is gone.)

DINAH
You got him to go outside?
(ZACK nods. She smiles and
gleefully whirls into his
arms. After a moment of
passion, she pulls him toward
the room that contains her
husband’s clothes.)
Here. We’ll use this room.
(Blackout.)

SCENE 10
(Quietly, ZACK leaves. He
could finish dressing on his
way out. Enter MATT.)

MATT
Your beer is in the garage.

ZACK
Good. Bring me one.
(He sits down and waits. MATT
exits and returns in a moment
with a beer. He throws the
bottle at ZACK, but his throw
misses. ZACK grabs MATT and
speaks calmly.)
Funny thing about evil, son. You never know what kind of
sound it’s going to make.
(ZACK whacks him to the floor
and exits.
MATT lies still for a moment.
Then he rises slowly and
leaves.)

SCENE 11
(DINAH putters around the
house by herself, and there’s
a knock at the door. Enter
POLICE OFFICER with MATT.)

OFFICER
Ma’am, now we’ve got your boy. Caught down at the Pop ‘N
Pick. Looks to me like we’ve got a little ring going on in
this house.

DINAH
Matt would never steal anything.

OFFICER
Sorry, Ma’am, but he would, and he did. I tell you what
we’re gonna do, though. We’re gonna give you the benefit of
the doubt, just take a look in the boy’s room, and see how
deep he is in this.

DINAH
He’s not in anything.

OFFICER
There have a been a lot of thefts around here, and I’m ready
for the mystery to go away any day now. Here’s a warrant.
Here’s your boy. Now suppose you just be nice about this and
let me take a look in the boy’s room.

DINAH
There’s nothing in his room.

OFFICER
How about if I just see.

DINAH
He’s not a thief!

OFFICER
Ma’am. Suppose we stay calm. You can’t start to solve a
problem until you find out what it is.

DINAH
Or what it is not.

OFFICER
Where’s the boy’s room?

DINAH
It’s over there.
(The POLICE OFFICER exits and
quickly returns.)

OFFICER
Okay. We’ll have somebody over here in a minute to collect
evidence. He’s got a nice assortment in there. A nice
collection. Looks like Zack Davis taught your boy real well.

DINAH
Zack Davis! That’s what happened. Zack stole those things.
It wasn’t Matt. It was Zack.

OFFICER
We’ll make that determination.

DINAH
Matt could not have done it.

OFFICER
Ma’am. He did do it. Sit down and be quiet.

DINAH
This is my home.

OFFICER
Sit down, or you’ll have to leave while we finish searching
it.

DINAH
Leave my home?

OFFICER
Or sit down and be quiet.
(DINAH turns to MATT)

DINAH
You knew Zack was stealing those things?

MATT
He didn’t steal them. I did.

DINAH
That couldn’t be. You’re a wonderful child. We have a good
home. You didn’t steal. You couldn’t do that.

MATT
I stole it all. Zack taught me how.

DINAH
Zack didn’t do that, did he?
(MATT nods. DINAH almost wilts
as she surrenders to the
weight of the truth. She
moves toward her son and tries
to hug him; he withdraws.)
I’m sorry. Things will be better now.

MATT
I’ve been praying at the lake, and I can see Daddy in the
water. Zack says when he’s clear enough I can jump in the
water and be with Daddy. He’ll hold me.

DINAH
Forget what Zack said.

MATT
Zack taught me about heaven and how to get there.

DINAH
Forget all of that. He taught you nonsense.

MATT
It’s not nonsense.

DINAH
You don’t have to listen to Zack anymore.

MATT
Zack is going to heaven because he steals from sinners. He
told me he even kills some sinners. He says you’re going to
hell because you think you’re better than God.

DINAH
I’m sorry he was here, Matt. I’m so sorry.

MATT
You love him more than you loved me.

DINAH
No! That could never happen.

MATT
I’m going outside.

DINAH
No.

MATT
You like it when I go outside.

OFFICER
Stay where you are, son, or you’ll be sorry.

MATT
I’m going.

DINAH
Stay with me.

MATT
No.
(She tries to hug him; he
pulls away and bolts. The
POLICE OFFICER starts after
him, but he’s gone too
quickly.)

OFFICER
Ma’am, suppose we just complete the investigation, recover
the stolen items, and let the juvenile officer get in touch
with you about your son.

SCENE 12
(MATT sits, cross-legged, by
the water. He speaks with his
FATHER.)

MATT
Daddy, I can see you pretty clear. I think it’s time for me
to jump in.

FATHER
You can’t swim, Matt.

MATT
You’ll catch me, and hold me in your arms.

FATHER
I’m just a ghost, Matt, if that. Ghosts can’t catch little
boys.

MATT
Zack says you’re in heaven.

FATHER
I am, maybe.

MATT
Zack says I can be with you if I jump in.

FATHER
Zack’s wrong.

MATT
Daddy, you look like you’re really there.
(Exit FATHER. Enter ZACK.
Zack takes MATT’S FATHER’S
place and impersonates him.)

ZACK
Well sure. I am really here, Matt. Jump in.

MATT
So now we can be together.

ZACK
Sure we can.

MATT
I haven’t been doing so well on my own.

ZACK
I know. Now everything is going to be fine. Just jump in.
I’ve got big strong arms and I’ll make sure nothing happens
to you.

MATT
Here I come, Daddy.

ZACK
Come on, Matt.
(MATT jumps into ZACK’S arms.
He catches the boy. After a
moment, FATHER enters. He
stops. ZACK and FATHER stare
at each other. Back at the
house. The POLICE OFFICER
exits. Alone, DINAH weeps.
Suddenly, she lifts her head.
As she realizes what has
happened, she feels the
growing surge of terror.

DINAH
The lake! Not the lake!
(She exits, running. DINAH
arrives at the lake, seeing
that her fear was well
founded. ZACK holds the
lifeless boy in his arms.
DINAH Ð stunned and silent Ð
takes the boy from ZACK.
FATHER takes the boy from
DINAH. FATHER, carrying MATT,
exits. ZACK exits. DINAH is
almost frozen. After a
moment, she exits.)

ACT 3
(DINAH sits alone, at the
kitchen table, eating Chinese
food.
MATT enters. He wears an
article of clothing that is
far too big for him Ð
something from his father’s
wardrobe.
MATT watches his mother eat.
At first, she doesn’t notice
him, or can’t see him.
She works on an egg roll in a
peculiar fashion. She uses
chopsticks to pull out, and
eat, the cabbage Ð leaving the
shell intact.)
Eventually, MATT sits down and
joins her for the meal.)

MATT
Hey, Momma. Why do you eat your egg roll that way?

DINAH
It’s the way I always eat it. Always have.

MATT
There are millions of starving people in this world; they
would love an egg roll like that. The whole egg roll.

DINAH
I have cholesterol to think about.

MATT
You’re leaving off the best part.

DINAH
It’s too greasy.

MATT
You might as well just boil a cabbage and chop it.

DINAH
There’s more inside an egg roll than cabbage.

MATT
What?

DINAH
I don’t know.

MATT
Want me to tell you?

DINAH
No.

MATT
And your won ton soup. You didn’t eat the won tons.

DINAH
I don’t normally eat noodles.

MATT
They are the best part.

DINAH
People say the same thing about matza ball soup. I’ll eat
the soup, without the matza balls. And chili. Half the
time, I leave the beans in the bowl.

MATT
Momma, what’s the matter with you?

DINAH
Nothing.

MATT
You take these great foods and make them bad. And create
waste? What’s wrong?

DINAH
What do you know about food?

MATT
Momma, where’s Matt?
(Using chopsticks, she eats,
without looking up.)

DINAH
With Daddy.

MATT
Where’s that?

DINAH
In heaven.

MATT
Because God put him there?

DINAH
I’ll go along with that.

MATT
Suppose I told you God does not exist.
(No response.)

MATT
Suppose I told you there’s no such thing as heaven or hell.

DINAH
Shut up!

MATT
Just suppose.

DINAH
No!

MATT
Just suppose I told you there’s no such thing as God, or
heaven, or hell. You used to believe that. Suppose I told
you you were right? Momma Ð where’s your intellect when you
need it?

DINAH
I don’t know. I might not be able to handle that. Shut up!

MATT
Suppose I told you you were wrong, but Matt ended up in hell?

DINAH
Shut up!

MATT
Matt did do some, uh, bad things.

DINAH
No!

MATT
Yes he did.

DINAH
He did not!

MATT
Okay, okay. I’m sorry, Momma. Just some food for thought.
Calm down.

DINAH
Are you stopping now, Matt? Are you going to stop?

MATT
Yeah, I’ve stopped.
(She breathes a sigh of relief
and passes him a dish.)

DINAH
Have some more of this.
(He adds food to his plate.)

MATT
I wish I could balance things, tell you all kinds of things
to make you not hurt so much, Momma. Maybe someday. But
this is the best I can do right now.

DINAH
This is fine. Just have my meals with me. Have my meals
with me, Matt. That will be fine. Just join me for dinner.
Every night. Please.

MATT
Oh, I will.
(Enter ZACK, at the lake. He
is now the shabby, pitiful,
brain-damaged, voiceless man
he had formerly pretended to
be.
DINAH can’t hear MATT and ZACK
interact.)

MATT
How are things at the shelter? Not so great, huh? Guys
snoring at night? Keeping you awake? And you can’t tell
them to shut up, can you? You’re on edge, all the time.
Your nerves will never be the same again. So you just lie
there in the homeless shelter, mute, fuming like a torch Ð
when you’d like to cuss ’em out. What a bitch. Of course,
when those guys keep you awake, you could kill ’em Ð but that
would be even noisier. And then you’d be in a real prison.
(MATT returns to his mother.)

MATT
Momma, you notice how quite it’s been?

DINAH
Yeah, it has been, hasn’t it, Matt?

MATT
Quiet feels good.

DINAH
Sure it does.

MATT
I like a silent visit.

DINAH
Me too.

curtain

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>