SMOOTHIES – Short Play

CAST

Jack Hanover, a man in his early 40s with average good looks. He wears dress slacks and a short-sleeved business shirt with necktie.

Doris Ludwig, a pleasant woman in her 60s. She wears a summer blouse and slacks.

Visitor, a woman in her early 40s with vitality and pleasant looks, wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and sneakers.

SETTING

A living room showing simple good taste without sophistication.

TIME

Daytime. The present.

(Jack is outside the partly open door, which Doris has opened.)

JACK

Mrs. Ludwig? Or Ms. Ludwig?

 DORIS

Either will do.

 JACK

(handing her a business card)

 I’m Jack Hanover.

DORIS

(looks at card; stares at him)

 I’m not looking for a sanitary system, Mr. Hanover.

 JACK

(lightly)

 No, I’m not trying to promote our products.

 DORIS

Then . . . ?

 JACK

May I come in for a moment?

 DORIS

No.

 JACK

Right . . . . I was a friend of someone you may be related to . . . ? Patty Ludwig?

 DORIS

Mm?

 JACK

I knew her in college.

 DORIS

Yes?

 JACK

I was hoping to talk with you, or with her.

 DORIS

Okay.

(She puts the card on a table. Opening the door and standing back so

he can enter)

Have a seat.

JACK

Thanks.

DORIS

Want a drink of something? It must be hot on the road.

JACK

(sitting in a chair)

Not with the AC. And I have water in the car.

DORIS

(sitting on the couch)

Okay, so you were asking after Patty?

JACK

I don’t know if she mentioned me. Jack—Jack Hanover.

DORIS

In what context?

JACK

I knew her.

DORIS

Apparently.

JACK

In college. Well, I got a new route this month, and I saw the name of this town on my GPS and I remembered it. I looked up Patty’s name, and I figured there couldn’t be too many people with the last name Ludwig in the same town, and someone would have to know her, this being a small town.

DORIS

You hit it right. Why are you asking about my daughter?

JACK

Oh, I should’ve guessed! Nice to know you.

(Rises, extending hand for a shake, but she doesn’t take it. He sits again.)

I don’t know if she ever mentioned my name? After what happened?

DORIS

Remind me.

JACK

There was a bad . . . . incident. Nothing serious, I mean. A joke, in fact. A stupid joke on my part.

DORIS

Yes, she mentioned you.

JACK

Oh.–I shouldn’t’ve said it, of course. We knew each other from playing tennis. Mixed doubles mostly. Back then I was a big joker. It was my defense for being shy. You know how it is.

DORIS

Sad case, huh? Shy kid?

JACK

Yeah, in a way. So I made jokes. It still gets me in trouble. Last week I was at a client in Detroit—

DORIS

(interrupting)

You were saying . . . ?

JACK

Oh, yeah. College—I was with a bunch of my friends. Guys and some girls, at a bar we used to frequent near the campus. It was noisy, I guess, and we had a few pitchers of beer. Someone mentioned the party we were having at the frat. It was that weekend. At our fraternity.

DORIS

Yes, I know what a frat is.

JACK

That’s when I said what I’ve always regretted. You know. – Did she tell you what I said when she got home?

DORIS

(pleasantly, with the edge somewhat hidden)

 Tell me anyway. I want to hear it from you. From your own joking mouth.

JACK

This girl, Josie, asked if she could bring Patty. To the party. So I said—God, this is tough.

DORIS

(mocking him with encouragement)

Go ahead—You can do it.

JACK

(hanging his head)

So I said, “Why not? I’ll  lay in a supply of Milk Bones and Alpo.”

(Looking up)

The implication being, Patty . . . was a . . .  you know, a dog.

DORIS

Yes, I get it. So did Patty.

JACK

She wasn’t supposed to know about it. It was a joke anyway, but someone told her.

DORIS

I don’t think anyone had to, since everyone at the college heard about it. Amazing how it could spread, even back then without FaceBook and the Internet.

JACK

It was a joke. Okay, a really dumb one. I don’t know why I said it, since I sort of liked her. I didn’t mean it.

DORIS

(calmly)

Did you have to mean it? Even if you didn’t mean it, it was stupid. It was destructive. It was quite evil, don’t you think?

JACK

I felt pretty bad about it. I figured I should apologize.

DORIS

But you didn’t?

JACK

You know how it is. I was a kid.

DORIS

So was Patty.

JACK

Then she was gone anyway. On a Monday someone said she left. She dropped out. I never heard anything after that. I was more comfortable hangin’ out with a different crowd.

DORIS

(subtly, so he misses the irony)

Poor boy.

JACK

Thanks, but it’s Patty who suffered for my asinine joke. That’s why I stopped in today. I wanted to apologize to Patty. I’ve thought of the incident really often.

DORIS

And it took you 20 years?

JACK

I was a dumb kid. You know how it is.

DORIS

(after a pause)

Then you never heard what happened?

JACK

I was halfway across the country. No one on campus knew anything about her. No one that I knew anyway.

DORIS

It was a few years later, so you must have all graduated and dispersed. Patty transferred to the state teachers college near here, tried to work, saw doctors. The trauma had been too much. She held on for a while; we’re strong people.

JACK

That’s awful. Where is she now?

DORIS

One mile out of town. The Hillside Repose cemetery.

JACK

No!

DORIS

(rising)

I was the one who found her. She must have suffered terribly. She had put everything in the blender: yogurt, strawberries, milk, sugar—and Drano. The newspaper called it the Drano Smoothie.

JACK

(getting up)

I’m so sorry.

(He goes to her, ready to hug her.)

DORIS

Keep away! Stop! I don’t want your sympathy!

 JACK

Can I do anything? This is some shock . . . .

 DORIS

(glances at her watch)

You can go! Get out of here!

JACK

Yes. Certainly. I’m so sorry . . . .

(He leaves. She takes a deep breath, sighs, sits. A car is heard driving off in a hurry. She takes up a magazine. Another car drives up at a normal speed and stops. She remembers something and crosses to pick up Jack’s business card where she left it, but the door opens before she can get to it, so she sits. A Visitor enters, carrying a tennis racquet and a small bag of groceries.)

 VISITOR

Someone was driving off. Real fast.

DORIS

A salesman. Did you have a good game?

(VISITOR) PATTY

Not bad. I feel like I’m starting to get my form back.

DORIS

Want me to make something?

PATTY

No, I gotta get the kids soon. Jeanette’s going somewhere at 6.

(Looks at her watch.)

DORIS

There’s ice tea in the fridge.

PATTY

(showing her)

They had beautiful strawberries at Gianella’s. Do you have soymilk? I got yogurt so I can make us smoothies.

(Sees Jack’s business card. Picking it up)

Sanitary equipment? That’s what he was selling?—Jack . . . Hanover?

(Realizing)

Mom—do you know who that was?!!

DORIS

He had the nerve to try to see you.

PATTY

That was so long ago. He was just a jerk.

DORIS

He made you leave college. Some jerk.

PATTY

He did not! Don’t you remember? They were weak in my major, so I was already planning to transfer.—Maybe I should call—he was kind of cute.

DORIS

Was he?

PATTY

I told you about him back then because I thought it was a funny story, and you got a laugh out of it too. I was pretty dumb then, but I didn’t like that school with all its cliques and restrictions.

DORIS

Call Frank. He’s the one you should call. Get back with him for the kids’ sake.

PATTY

A cold day in hell when I’ll do that.—Jack must have matured. So long ago . . . .

DORIS

He didn’t. He hasn’t.

PATTY

No?

DORIS

Not a bit.

PATTY

How do you know?

DORIS

What he asked me.

PATTY

What?

DORIS

Go make the smoothies.

PATTY

(not upset, annoyed in a joking way)

What? Come on, Mom, what did he ask you?

DORIS

That’s why I kicked him out. The jerk said, “Is she still a dog?”

PATTY

(after a pause)

He’s still a creep then! Oh, my God!

(Laughs heartily and tears up the business card.)

Damn! I’ll make the smoothies.

(Heads toward kitchen. Doris is smiling with near-malicious satisfaction.

(Blackout.)

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