CHARLIE enters the living room. He looks around. Enter JODIE.
JODIE: Charlie, you’ll never believe the surprise!
CHARLIE: Me? You didn’t think I’d really be here for this?
JODIE: Not you. A bigger surprise!
JODIE: There are people coming.
CHARLIE: People. Who?
JODIE: I’ve invited over a hundred people. Guests!
CHARLIE: A hundred? Tonight?
CHARLIE: Have you got food for a hundred people? Are you paying for this yourself?
JODIE: A cover dish surprise. A grand 50th anniversary. The dinner I’m making is just a front. A decoy for the real party. They’re coming at five o’clock.
CHARLIE: If Ma and Dad are here, and the party’s here – how can it be a surprise?
JODIE: At their age, it’s hard to take them somewhere for a big, shocking surprise. They never go out much.
CHARLIE: So it’s a surprise they already know about.
JODIE: They’ll know after the first people arrive. After that, there will be a new surprise every time somebody comes in. A hundred surprises. Look, you’ll never believe the guest list.
She shows him the list.
See, Calvin’s coming. The Hillendales. The Stamps. The Stokes. The Longs. The Flowers. Ma’s college friends. Dad’s cousins. Look at this: all the old store employees. Can you believe that? It’s going to be incredible.
CHARLIE: Wow. Some of these people go way back. Are you sure they’re coming?
JODIE: Why wouldn’t they?
CHARLIE: Are all these people still alive? Are the Stamps still living? They were pretty old when I was a kid.
JODIE: I think they are. If they’re not, I guess they won’t be here.
CHARLIE: Mr. Stamps, he’s probably…he’s probably a hundred by now. When’s the last time you saw him?
JODIE: I don’t know. If he can’t make it, others will.
CHARLIE: Where did you send his invitation?
JODIE: I used Mom’s address book. You know, the one she used for your Bar Mitzvah? I found it in a drawer and put it back where I got it. She never even knew it was missing.
CHARLIE: Of course she didn’t. She probably hasn’t looked at it in years.
He studies the list.
CHARLIE: The Flowers’ moved to Florida, didn’t they? Years ago.
JODIE: I’m don’t know. I’m sure most of these people are still around.
CHARLIE: Is it RSVP?
JODIE: No. Ma and Dad would have seen the replies. I also didn’t put a return address on the envelopes, in case any came back and they checked the mail before I did. I took every precaution to keep it a surprise. But it doesn’t matter who comes. It’s cover dish.
Beat. Overly excited.
Isn’t it amazing?
It sure is.
JODIE: You don’t like it?
CHARLIE: Sure I do.
He looks at his watch.
They should start showing up pretty soon.
JODIE: This will be something Ma and Dad will never forget. Do you see? This will be a filter they can look through for the rest of their lives, to enhance all their memories, so that when the old times flood back, they’ll be richer. They will celebrate all the great things they’ve done. It’s like taking the dirty rearview mirror of their lives and cleaning it — so they can see where they’ve been.
CHARLIE lets the tone of his voice drop, addressing his sister seriously.
CHARLIE: Jodie, the two of us – we haven’t talked for a long time.
CHARLIE: How are they doing?
CHARLIE: Ma and Dad.
JODIE: Why would you care?
CHARLIE: They’re my parents.
JODIE: When you stay away for twenty years, you’re not really theirs anymore.
CHARLIE: They’re still my parents, the only ones I have.
JODIE: Biologically. I think of you now as a cousin. A second cousin.
CHARLIE: I’m not your cousin.
JODIE: Maybe even once removed.
CHARLIE: Let’s not get into all that now, Jodie. You’ve seen them through a lot of years I missed. Are they okay?
JODIE: They’re fine.
She returns to her own inner world.
You wouldn’t believe what I went through to get out those invitations. It took weeks of work.
CHARLIE: That’s really…something.
JODIE: It will be incredible.
I’m sure it will be.
JODIE: I also have entertainment. I made a video from the photo albums. I asked all the guests to prepare a little story about Ma and Dad. It’s going to be an amazing night.
CHARLIE: Jodie, are you okay?
JODIE: I’m fine. Putting together a night like this puts me in touch with my power as a human being.
CHARLIE: Your power?
JODIE: Yes, my power! Look what I’ve created! You’re here. A party is about to begin!
CHARLIE: Is your illness it still the same?
JODIE: That’s been under control for years! I don’t even think about it anymore.
CHARLIE: That’s great. There have been some advances, some new treatments – huh?
JODIE: I don’t keep up with the new stuff. I take the pills and go on.
CHARLIE: You look fine. Any…news in your life?
JODIE: News? This party is all I’ve thought about for weeks!
CHARLIE: Nothing else? I mean, are Ma and Dad all you think about?
JODIE: Of course not. I tutor kids in reading, at Stather Elementary. I’ve got some very nice children. All of them are making steady progress. This one little cutie calls me Miss Jodie Phony Baloney. Isn’t that adorable?
CHARLIE: Dating anyone?
JODIE: Dating? No, I’m too old for that. And with Ma and Dad retired, I don’t have time for it.
CHARLIE: You’re not that old, Jodie. Seems like you’d have more time for yourself.
JODIE: Oh, no. I help Ma with the yard. Ma and I walk together every morning. I help her with Dad. He can be a handful.
CHARLIE: Did you ever have any boyfriends? Close calls?
JODIE: Why are you asking me this?
CHARLIE: I’m curious. It’s been so long.
JODIE: Why? What’s your scheme?
CHARLIE: Nothing. I just want to know about your life, just to learn about my family.
JODIE: I almost had a romance.
JODIE: Why are you so interested in this?
CHARLIE: I just missed a lot, Jodie. Tell me. Who was it?
JODIE: You’ll laugh at me.
CHARLIE: No I won’t.
JODIE: I haven’t told this to people.
CHARLIE: Not Ma?
JODIE: Especially not Ma.
CHARLIE: It’s no big deal, Jodie.
JODIE: I guess about fifteen years ago, there was a boy who worked at the store. We talked a lot. Made excuses to, you know, work together. He followed me around. Really, I think he was crazy about me. He stared at me all the time. One night, we went for a drink.
CHARLIE: Where’d you go?
JODIE: Roger’s. You’ve probably never heard of it.
CHARLIE: No, I remember that place.
JODIE: It’s closed now.
CHARLIE: Who was the guy?
JODIE: I told you: he worked in the store. We went for a walk, and he held my hand. I still remember the feel of it, squeezing mine. I’m sure mine felt cold to him. I’m sure it did. He started to kiss me. I wouldn’t let him. I told him he was making a mistake, that he didn’t want to get too close to me. I told him the truth: that I was a little crazy, that others had made this mistake before, that I got sick sometimes, that I was too unstable. I told him he would be very unhappy if he got close to me. It was the truth. He would have ended up either hating me, or having to take care of me. He was disappointed.
CHARLIE: Sometimes people like to take care of each other.
JODIE: No, most people don’t. He was nice. You know, something like that, so long ago – you’d think the memory would fade away…
He didn’t need me in his life.
God, I better check on that roast! It’s a decoy roast, really. The main meal will be all the food the guests bring!
She exits. Charlie looks around at his childhood home, and then exits. Blackout.