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In the Ductwork

Copyright 2003, by Samuel M. Post.
Note: If you’d like to produce this play, on stage or in a class — please email me and ask permission. It will be granted, but I’d really like to know about it.

Characters
BETH..the wife
ERIC…the husband
CAROL…Beth’s mother

Time….present
Setting…home

SCENE 1

BETH stands, frozen, listening. We hear a thump. ERIC enters.

BETH: What was that?

ERIC: What?

BETH: What!

ERIC: Yeah, what?

BETH: That noise!

ERIC: I didn’t hear a noise.

BETH: How could you not hear it?

ERIC: What noise?

BETH: You didn’t hear that?

ERIC: I was outside.

BETH: It’s a weird noise.

There’s a tapping.

There. Be still.

a thump

Did you hear it that time?

ERIC: Of course I heard that.

BETH: What was it?

ERIC: I don’t know.

BETH: There’s something in the wall.

He goes to the wall and pounds it, hard. No response.

ERIC: Could be a squirrel.

BETH: Could be a rat.

ERIC: I don’t think so.

BETH: You don’t know.

ERIC: Well, it could be a rat.

BETH: God!

ERIC: Calm down. I don’t think it’s a rat.

BETH: Having a breakdown.
I can’t stand this!

ERIC: You know, we’re not on this planet alone. There are creatures in this world besides humans.

BETH: My mother’s coming here tomorrow, and there’s a rat in the wall.

ERIC: She’ll know what to do about it.

BETH: Why would she know?

ERIC: Your mother knows about a lot of things.

BETH: She doesn’t know what to do about this! You should know what to do about it, and you should do it – before she gets here. She’s coming here for a visit, not to get rats out of our wall.

ERIC: I’m pretty sure it’s not a rat.

BETH: How can you be sure?

He pounds the wall. Nothing happens.

ERIC: It doesn’t move. I think we’d hear it scurry.

BETH: hopefully
A squirrel would scurry.

ERIC: Squirrels scurry more than rats.

BETH: We need an exterminator. Squirrels carry rabies!

ERIC: So do rats.

sound of a thump

BETH: Over there. It’s in the vent.

She points. ERIC moves slowly to the corner, gets on his hands and knees, and looks in the vent.

ERIC: I think I can see it. Get me a flashlight.

She scurries to bring him the flashlight. He shines it into the vent.

Look at that.

BETH: What?

ERIC: Look.

BETH: I don’t want to look. What is it?

ERIC: That’s a possum. Look.

BETH: No.

ERIC: It’s looking right at me. Right straight at me. It’s really breathing hard. I saw that thing run across the street the other night. What a tail!

BETH: Can you kill it?

ERIC: I don’t want to kill it. But I’ll try to get it to leave.

He exits and returns with a chopstick.

BETH: Can you get rid of it with a chopstick?

ERIC: I’m going to try.

He pokes it.

Damn. They really do play possum.

BETH: Can you get it to leave?

ERIC: Not now. It’s playing possum. Look at this.

BETH: No!

lights fade

SCENE 2

The next day. CAROL, BETH’S mother, sits, reading a book. BETH, with the flashlight, is on her hands and knees, studying the possum.

CAROL: It’s not hurting anybody. Why don’t you just leave it alone?

BETH: Sometimes it moves around.

CAROL: It’s not moving now.

BETH: That’s because it’s playing possum.

CAROL: It’s not playing possum. It is a possum.

BETH: If I quit bothering it, it’ll act alive and run around in the ductwork.

CAROL: Maybe it’ll run outside.

BETH: Mom, it lives in there!

CAROL: It’ll leave when it’s hungry. It has to eat.

BETH: No it doesn’t. It might hibernate there for the winter.

CAROL: Do they hibernate?

BETH: I don’t know. They could. They’re mammals.

CAROL: I’m a mammal. I don’t hibernate.

BETH: I don’t know if they hibernate. I’m just saying it’s possible. It’s warm in there.

CAROL: Then it’ll leave in the spring.

BETH: I’m gonna get it outa’ there.

She exits and returns with a baseball bat.

CAROL: Beth, no. Let Eric handle this.

BETH: He won’t do anything. He called animal control and they said if we came down to the police station they’d give us a trap.

CAROL: Then trap it.

BETH: Then what?

CAROL: Then you could take it somewhere.

BETH: And carry it around? In a trap?

She looks again.

Mom, look at this. It’s showing me its teeth. It’s mocking me. Mom, look. It’s smiling at me.

She slams it with the baseball bat, puts the bat down, and looks again.

Now it’s playing possum again.

CAROL: It is a possum. Doesn’t have to play.

BETH: Quit saying that!

CAROL: It’s the equivalent of someone accusing you of playing human.

BETH: Would you shut up and come look at this?

CAROL: I don’t care to see it.

BETH: Mom! Look!

CAROL: I trust you.

lights fade

SCENE 3

Three days later. CAROL, using the flashlight, stares into the vent. ERIC sits, flipping channels with the remote.

CAROL: Have you noticed its hands?

ERIC: It doesn’t have hands.

CAROL: Oh yes it does. Take a look.

ERIC: I’ve seen it. They’re feet.

CAROL: They look just like hands. They’re cute.

ERIC: Can we forget about it? It left for two days. I’m sure it’ll leave again.

Enter BETH.

CAROL: It came back because it likes it here. Have you kept the lids on the garbage?

ERIC: It doesn’t care about garbage.

BETH: It likes hanging out in the ductwork.

CAROL: If it has babies in there, you’ll be sorry.

BETH: It’s the insulation. It’s warm and cozy.

CAROL hears a noise.

CAROL: Did you hear that?

BETH: I didn’t hear anything.

CAROL: It sneezed.

ERIC: I didn’t hear it.

BETH: to CAROL
You think it’s got a cold?

CAROL: Sounds like it.

BETH goes to the vent. The two of them study the possum. They hear another noise.

BETH: I heard it that time. It has a cold.

CAROL: Could be an allergy.

They hear another noise.

ERIC: That was a cough.

CAROL: It’s not a deep cough.

BETH: Wheezy.

CAROL: to ERIC, accusingly
Have you changed that filter?

ERIC: Last week.

BETH: Could be bronchitis.

CAROL: I’m thinking it’s a cold.

BETH: Probably from the change in temperature. Coming in and out of the house.

ERIC: I’m not gonna worry about it.

BETH: How can you be that way?

ERIC: It’s a possum!

BETH: A possum is living creature.

ERIC: They live outside. In nature. Who cares if they get a cold?

CAROL: When somebody’s sick, I can’t help but to worry.

ERIC: Maybe it’s playing sick. They play dead.

CAROL: You’ll be sorry if it dies in there.

BETH: Mom, don’t pay attention to him. He has no feelings for people who are less fortunate than he is.

ERIC: It’s not gonna die. They’ve been around since the dinosaurs. They’re tough.

BETH: He is so callous. I wonder if we should call a doctor.

ERIC: A doctor? A few days ago, you wanted me to call an exterminator.

BETH: That’s before I got to know it.

ERIC: You don’t know it.

CAROL: speaking to the possum
Baby, are you okay? Do you need a little Robitussin?

BETH: to ERIC
Go get the Robitussin.

ERIC: Please. If you ignore it, it’ll leave. It’s probably got a home and a family somewhere.

BETH: It doesn’t have a family. Possums are wanderers.

ERIC: Then it’ll wander to somewhere else.

BETH: I don’t think it’ll make it.

ERIC: Who cares?

BETH: I do.

CAROL: So do I. Get the medicine. Do you have a little funnel?

ERIC: No.

BETH: Yes we do. Second drawer next to the sink. Hurry up.

He exits. To CAROL

Bronchitis could turn to pneumonia. Especially in those little lungs.

CAROL: That’s what I’m thinking.

End of play

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