THE OBITUARY SHOW
Mother (thin, tired)
Freya Conrad (saucy, full of passion, easily irritated, and good at YELLING)
(Television set on stage is showing The Obituary Show, Clifford Conrad’s weekly, hour-long cable access program. Mother is sitting with her back to the audience, watching her son’s program.)
CLIFFORD: (reading from papers) Miriam Janson of Tulsa, Oklahoma, age 58, died last Thursday in hospital after a long battle with lung cancer. She will be remembered for her restaurant Tony’s Taco House she opened with her late husband when they were in their early twenties. When asked if they will maintain the family business, Mrs. Janson’s children said they are selling it to real estate speculators interested in building condominiums. (looks up at camera) My well wishes to low income families soon to be displaced in Tulsa as a result of Mrs. Janson’s greedy children.
(reading from papers) Bernard Richards of Chicago, Illinois, age 62, died last Friday at home surrounded by family and friends after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. His wife Natalie, and their four children are asking for donations to the Cancer Institute of Chicago in place of flowers. (looks up at camera) It’s interesting how many of the women who die alone in hospitals, while the men are at home, surrounded by loved ones.
(reading from papers) Cecily Anderson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, age 34, died last Friday in hospital from pneumonia and other AIDS-related complications.
(he looks up at camera) It is imperative we embolden ourselves with the knowledge of our limited access to days. We are all going to die. We should be suspicious of every movement around us at all times. But instead of tuning our awareness we allow the murderous rapture to continue: pesticides, gamma rays, viruses, wars, carcinogen-laced snack cakes, THE LIST IS ENDLESS! Sometimes the world is so stressful, just watching the way people destroy one another for a little bit of money, or land, or power. Some days I feel hopeful that it will come to an end, this greed. I think IT’S GOT TO END! IT HAS TO! But what if it doesn’t? What if it just continues? What if there is a way this murderous world can manage to keep itself a functional killer? I’ve been hoping for it to stop for so long that I’ve grown used to being hopeful. And when I realize I’m living on that hope it suddenly dies, and the panic of SEEING your face takes hold of me! I want to have hope for us again, but I can’t see how to get that back, and then I wonder WHY I would even want it back! Hope was my comfort, but it’s not a worthy comfort. In the end what is a worthy comfort? That’s a good question for us, don’t you think—
CAMERAMAN: (heard but not seen) ALL RIGHT SUNSHINE! WRAP IT UP!
CLIFFORD: (caught off guard, flustered, clears his voice) I have just been informed that our hour has come to an end. Until next week, this is Clifford Conrad, bringing you the obituaries you want to hear on Philadelphia’s cable access television. Good luck, and be careful out there. (without looking down he presses the play button on the cassette player sitting to the right of him. It is organ music. He then folds his hands and continues looking into the camera.)
(Mother shuffles to the television to click it off. She is dressed in a long, loose bed dress and slippers. She is a tired, thin woman. She then shuffles to the curtain to her bedroom. Once she is out of sight the stage lights go out.)
(There is a pause of darkness)
(When the stage lights come on again they are brighter. Freya enters the stage from another curtain. She is yawning and stretching. She stands in front of a body-length mirror.)
FREYA: (touching her hair and breasts) MMMM MY GOD! I look like a bucket of FUCK! GRRRRR!
MOTHER: (calling from her room) FREYA!? Is that you? Are you up?
FREYA: (continues looking in mirror) YES!
MOTHER: (from her room) How was work?
FREYA: (continues looking in mirror) I was fired.
MOTHER: (from her room) FIRED!? FREYA, WHY!?
FREYA: (continues looking in mirror) Oh, because I offered a man a bag when I saw that he was shoplifting.
MOTHER: (from her room) FREYA!
FREYA: (continues looking in mirror) I don’t care Mother! I hated that job anyway! Stupid job!
MOTHER: (from her room) BUT YOU KNEW HE WAS SHOPLIFTING!?
FREYA: (walks away from mirror) OF COURSE I KNEW! They charge too fucking much for the shit they sell, and they weren’t paying me what I was worth, so why not? FUCK THEM! That guy was just trying to even things out a bit, so I said, “Here’s a bag Mister, FILL IT UP!”
MOTHER: (from her room) I don’t know what to say!
FREYA: (walks to food table) Then don’t say anything MOTHER! As though it would make any difference what you say! Are you going to have breakfast? (begins pouring something, moving things around on table, opening peanut butter jar, opening bread)
MOTHER: (from her room) Oh, yes. Just give me a minute dear. Did you watch your brother’s tv show last night?
FREYA: (instantly annoyed and pauses from her movement at the food table) NO! You ask me every week! You know GOD DAMNED WELL I’m not interested in watching him read the obituary column!
MOTHER: (from her room) But Freya! Clifford reads newspapers from all over the country! He spends all week reading newspapers to prepare for his show!
FREYA: (hands on her hips and facing Mother’s direction) For FUCK SAKE Mother I don’t care how many newspapers he reads! Why do we ALWAYS have to argue about this!? And trust me when I say that you are THE ONLY person watching his show! (turns back to food table) What a gloomy pair the two of you make! Would you just come out here and have breakfast!
MOTHER: (pulling curtain aside, walking slowly. She is suddenly very fat) Oh, oh boy, here I am!
FREYA: MOTHER!? NOT AGAIN! YOU PROMISED ME YOU WERE NOT GOING TO ALLOW HIM TO DO THIS AGAIN!
MOTHER: (holding out a hand for Freya to help) Help me to the sofa dear.
(Freya helps Mother waddle toward sofa)
FREYA: MOTHER!? WHY DO YOU LET HIM DO THIS!? IT’S SICK! HE’S A GROWN MAN! YOU SHOULDN’T LET HIM BACK INSIDE YOU!
(Mother gets seated on the sofa, panting, catching her breath, holding her enormous stomach)
FREYA: WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU!? WHY DO YOU ALWAYS LET HIM DO THIS!?
MOTHER: (still catching her breath as she speaks) It’s not ALWAYS Freya, only once a year or so.
FREYA: ONLY ONCE A YEAR OR SO!? You’re not a marsupial! And even if you were you wouldn’t let him jump back inside you once he’s grown! HE’S 32 YEARS OLD! (Freya bends down to Mother’s crotch) COME OUT OF THERE CLIFFORD YOU MORBID BASTARD!
MOTHER: (puts her hands over her crotch) Stop yelling at me down there like that!
FREYA: (throws her hands up) WELL THAT’S THE ONLY DOORWAY THROUGH WHICH TO YELL AT HIM AT THIS POINT NOW ISN’T IT!? WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO!?
MOTHER: You don’t need to yell! You’re always yelling!
FREYA: (yells at Mother’s crotch again) WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU CLIFFORD!? YOU SIMPLE MINDED FREAK!
MOTHER: He’s not simple minded! He’s very intelligent! His intelligence is too much for him sometimes, that’s all!
FREYA: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!? DO YOU EVER LISTEN TO THE SHIT YOU SAY!?
MOTHER: What do you mean about what I say!? I was saying your brother’s intelligent, and he is, he’s very intelligent!
FREYA: Yeah, he looks like a real fucking genius at the moment!
MOTHER: He taught himself three foreign languages.
FREYA: OH PLEASE! So he says!
FREYA: Have you ever heard him speak these languages?
MOTHER: Why would he speak them to me if I won’t understand them? (she raises a hand to make her next words more meaningful) He LIVED in Australia for a year don’t forget!
FREYA: THEY SPEAK ENGLISH IN AUSTRALIA MOTHER! And what does that have to do with him crawling inside you (pointing at Mother) AND YOU allowing him to do it!?
MOTHER: He needs to get away from the world once in a while. He’s not like you, the world makes him very stressed!
FREYA: SO BUY HIM A BUS TICKET TO THE POCONOS! Let him relax while canoeing or walking in the woods! WHY DO I EVEN HAVE TO EXPLAIN THIS TO YOU!?
MOTHER: Please don’t be sarcastic, I hate when you get sarcastic.
FREYA: Oh yes, I suppose this is an occasion for normal chit-chat! Nothing wrong HERE, nothing UNREASONABLE occurring at the moment! Maybe you would like to spread your legs by the radio so we can play Clifford SOME SOOTHING MUSIC he can nap and dream by!
MOTHER: Freya stop it!
FREYA: STOP IT!? YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT HOW I’M ACTING AFTER YOU ALLOW MY GROWN BROTHER TO CRAWL BACK INSIDE YOU IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!? YOU’VE GOT NERVE!
MOTHER: Nothing I ever did was good enough for you!
FREYA: (hands on hips.) WHAT!? Wait-wait-wait-wait-wait! (points at mother) Don’t you DARE try to turn this into some kind of Mother-daughter conflict between US!
MOTHER: Well we never see eye-to-eye you and I.
FREYA: MOTHER! I’m not the problem here! I’m not the one who crawled in through your TWAT last night (poking Mother’s belly) and is camped out inside you right now! (bends to Mother’s crotch) COME OUT OF THERE YOU SELFISH MISREABLE JERK!
MOTHER: STOP IT! STOP IT! Freya, have some compassion, please, have a little compassion! Your brother isn’t as strong as you are.
FREYA: WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!? DO YOU REALIZE HOW COMPLETELY FUCKED UP THIS IS!? HOW DOES HE EVEN GET IN THERE ANYWAY!? AND HOW DO YOU DO IT!? IT’S BIZARRE, DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW FUCKING BIZARRE YOU TWO ARE!?
MOTHER: Freya please stop shouting.
FREYA: I hate how selfish he is. And I hate how you allow it.
MOTHER: You just don’t understand—
FREYA: (interrupts and mocks Mother) ---OH I DON’T UNDERSTAND!
MOTHER: (repeats her interrupted line with emphasis) You don’t understand how difficult life is for him. He lost his job the other day, and not because he didn’t care like you don’t care about your jobs, but because his coworkers think he’s peculiar.
FREYA: Well of course he’s peculiar! He has a weekly TV show where he reads obituaries for an hour! THAT CONSTITUES AS PECULIAR!
MOTHER: I suppose he is peculiar. We all are peculiar here though.
FREYA: Yes, Mother, the whole family is odd. Listen, he can find another job, it’s no big deal! (leans to Mother’s crotch) YOU CAN GET ANOTHER JOB CLIFFORD IT’S NO BIG DEAL FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!
MOTHER: Yes, he’s finally been applying for work at the county morgue, and also with the Yost Family Funeral Home.
FREYA: WHAT!? Mother, NO! He cannot work with the dead!
MOTHER: Why on earth not!?
FREYA: You know PERFECTLY WELL WHY NOT!
MOTHER: No I don’t, why not?
FREYA: DON’T YOU GO CLAIMING AMNESIA OR SOME SUCH SHIT! I KNOW YOU REMEMBER! When we were kids and your sister Darlene died we went to her house for the wake and Uncle Jimmy caught Clifford alone by her coffin messing around with her pussy!
MOTHER: FREYA! He was just a LITTLE BOY THEN!
FREYA: He was THIRTEEN! And he was sticking his fingers---
MOTHER: (interrupts) –ENOUGH! Stop it!
FREYA: Fine, I’ll stop it, but I’m telling you right now it’s a terrible mistake having him work with the dead. Someone will catch him diddling around with someone’s dead cousin or sister and that will be the end of Clifford Conrad!
MOTHER: END OF HIM! For goodness sakes what do you mean!?
FREYA: PRISON! I don’t know! But he certainly won’t be able to climb back inside you anymore when he’s feeling BLUE, not after THAT! (bends to Mother’s crotch) COME OUT OF THERE BEFORE I REACH IN THERE AND YANK YOU OUT!
MOTHER: (pushes her away) YOU’LL DO NO SUCH THING! Make me a peanut butter sandwich!
FREYA: (she quickly, angrily makes a peanut butter sandwich at the food table) PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH! (stops and points knife at Mother) HEY! LISTEN TO ME! I’m not waiting on you while he’s on vacation in there! DO YOU HEAR ME!?
MOTHER: I just asked for a sandwich Freya! After a day or so I get used to it.
FREYA: (brings sandwich over on a little plate and slams it on table next to Mother) HERE! (turns and walks to her room) I NEED TO GET MY OWN FUCKING APARTMENT BEFORE I LOSE MY FUCKING MIND! JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS FAMILY!?
MOTHER: (she takes the sandwich and eats a bite of it. She continues holding it in her hands. She starts to feel Clifford moving, she moves her belly to simulate this) OOOO! Oh my. (she brings herself forward in her seat so Clifford’s hands can come out easier. His hands should come out palm side up.) Oh! OOOO! My goodness Clifford! Okay, I know, I know, you’re hungry! (she hands him the sandwich) It’s your favorite. Chunky style. (his hands go back inside slowly, and she moans, her moans sounding like moans of pleasure) OOH! OH MY!