Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Love Letters to Nicholas McElroy


Love Letters to Nicholas McElroy

(A radio sits center stage.)

ANNOUNCER
September 13, 1918. Today, German U-Boats sank the American battleship The Jacksonian. No survivors have been found. All believed to be lost at sea. Please observe a moment of silence. 

(1918. MANDY, a sweet girl of 17, sits on a porch swing reading a much-creased letter. JACOB, a disillusioned boy of 17, enters.)

JACOB
Hey. 

MANDY
Hey! 

JACOB
My mother made some muffins. She told me to give them to you to give to your mother. 

MANDY
Oh! The blueberry!
JACOB
You were expecting them.
MANDY
I passed by your house on the way to the market - I was buying eggs so I could bake some double-fudge brownies - and your mother said she had some extra blueberry muffins, and would we like some? And I said why not and she said she would send you over later with four dozen!

JACOB
Three and a half.
MANDY
Jacob…

JACOB
It's four dozen muffins. No family can eat four dozen muffins.
MANDY
You—

JACOB
And I asked first, I swear! They’re my favorite kind and she wouldn’t let me have any. I told her, Mother, these are my favorite kind. And she said no, they’re for Mandy’s family. And I told her, Mother, these are my favorite kind. And she said, no, they’re for Mandy’s family. And I told her, Mother, you’re giving them four dozen. No family can eat four dozen muffins. They won’t miss just one. And she said no, they’re for Mandy’s family—

MANDY
(laughing)
It’s okay Silly.
Sit down! I want to show you something.

JACOB
What?


MANDY
Nick wrote to me.

JACOB
Oh, and how is the American war hero? Lots of action on the front lines?

MANDY
They just deployed him. On the battleship Jacksonian. 

JACOB
Indian killer. Real American. 


MANDY
Oh you’re silly. Jackson is a grade-A American hero. Anyhow, what I’m trying to say is, he hasn’t seen any actual combat yet. 

JACOB
Wow. He’s a real man.

MANDY
I don’t see you there.

JACOB
Not eighteen. And not dumb.
So what does Nicholas say?

MANDY
The military food is awful. Miles and miles of canned meat. But he pretends he’s eating one of my world famous double chocolate fudge brownies and it makes it all better. 

JACOB
Shouldn’t that make it worse?

MANDY
Oh hush. 
He sends his greetings to you too. One of his comrades had a bag of jelly beans, and the comrade ate all them except the green ones. Just like you. 


JACOB
Well isn’t that a coincidence?

MANDY
Oh yes.

JACOB
And how is GI the Great dealing with missing his Sugarbee?

MANDY
He looks up at the stars. 

JACOB
What?

MANDY
He says that he knows that somewhere across the globe, I’m looking up too, and it’s comforting to know that we’re looking at the exact same thing at the exact same time.

JACOB
Except you’re in different time zones.
(She glares again)
I suppose that’s romantic.

MANDY
Jacob, I know you don’t like Nick, but would you please keep your sarcasm to a minimum? For me. Your best friend.

JACOB
He’s all right. Good looking. Ish. Smart. Ish. Funny. Ish. Dumb, excuse me, idealistic enough to go fight some war—

MANDY
It’s our duty as free Americans to make the world—

JACOB
World safe for democracy. Make the world safe for American pocketbooks, more like.

MANDY
Don’t you let anyone hear you say that! Someone might report you to the government for espionage. Loose lips lose lives!

JACOB
Sure.
Do you miss him?

MANDY
More and more every day.

JACOB
You see to be holding up fairly well.

MANDY
I worry about him. He’s so sensitive… and we had the whole, future, and everything… but there will be plenty of time for that when he comes home. He’ll come home a decorated war hero with more medals than I’ll have time to polish, and we’ll get married in a big wedding on Hampton Hill and live in the blue house on the corner of Cricket Drive and Holland Street with the white picket fence and the pink rose bushes and have three kids and a dog and I’ll run a little bakery on the corner of Grant and Kingston while he’s down fighting for the innocent in the town courthouse and it will be happy ever after.

JACOB
That sounds great, but do you have a backup plan?

MANDY
I’d settle for the peach house on Orson Lane.

JACOB
No for if… say dear Nicholas falls in love with the European countryside and chooses not to return to Nowheresville USA.

MANDY
He won’t.

JACOB
What if he meets some gorgeous French girl with a fragile hold of the English language who can only say yes and he forgets all about you.

MANDY
He won’t!

JACOB
Or what if he—

He indicates head cut off.

MANDY
Jacob! God will smite you for such words.

JACOB
He might.

MANDY
God forgive you.

JACOB
You ought to have a back-up plan.

MANDY
I don’t have a back-up plan; I don’t need a backup plan.

JACOB
Mandy, you plan out your entire wardrobe three weeks in advance. I’m sure you’ve developed some type of fallback plan in case things fall through with Nicky-poo.

MANDY
Things won’t fall through.

JACOB
Stop being a silly teenage girl for once. You’re much more practical than that.

MANDY
If I can’t be with Nick, I’ll… I’ll… I can’t think like that.

JACOB
I’m sorry.

MANDY
I accept.

JACOB
Am I anywhere in your backup plan?
I’m kidding, I’m kidding.

MANDY
Jacob, stop being silly.

JACOB
Silly Jacob, as always.

MANDY
As always.
Ooh, I wanted to show you this new cross stitch I started…

JACOB
Don’t you ever get lonely?

MANDY
Of course. All the time. I miss him.
I thought we weren’t talking about this anymore. We’re talking about my cross stitch

JACOB
I think you need to talk about it.

MANDY
Well, it’s his duty. And I’m proud of him.
            (JACOB guffaws)
I thought this was a serious conversation!

JACOB
I’m sorry, that’s just so patriotic; I can practically taste the apple pie.

MANDY
You know you’re registering the second you come of age.

JACOB
Right.

MANDY
Right.

JACOB
So you’ve never wished that he’d stayed home?

MANDY
He needed to go.

JACOB
I suppose that every able young man ought to pick up his bootstraps and go out and make the world safe—

MANDY
I don’t give a hoot about democracy. He wanted to go and I want him to be happy.
All the boys he graduated with, all the boys in all the cities, they’re all going off to Europe. Droves and droves. Imagine, to be left behind while your friends are off on another continent getting medals and victories just because some girl made you stay. Isn’t that a dismal thought? Plus, he deserves his bit of glory, his bit of history. And I get to be a war hero’s wife. It’s a win-win situation. I just hope it all turns out… I know it will turn out well.

JACOB
If I had a great girl like you, that’d be enough to keep me home.

MANDY
Please just stop.

JACOB
What?

MANDY
Stop… being sweet on me.

JACOB
I don’t understand.

MANDY
It’s hard enough having Nick in another country, and then having you around, all the time…

JACOB
What did I do?

MANDY
I love having you around, don’t get me wrong, I just—

JACOB
I don’t understand.

MANDY
I don’t want to spend too much time with you.

JACOB
Why not?

MANDY
Because, I do want to spend too much time with you.

JACOB
What?

MANDY
You’re being very obvious with this… flirting, this… and it…

JACOB
Is it working?

MANDY
Please leave.

JACOB
(a smile creeps on)
So it is working.

MANDY
Leave.

JACOB
You’re attracted to me.

MANDY
I am not!
I am merely taking preventative measures—

JACOB
Because you’re worried something will happen.

MANDY
Something we’ll regret.

JACOB
Something could happen with us.

MANDY
No.

JACOB
Something could.

MANDY
No!

JACOB
It could be so great!—

MANDY
Just you watch out—when my—when Nick gets home—when I tell him—you better watch out!

JACOB
Will he use his German blasting skills on me?

MANDY
He will kick your ass.

JACOB
Will he?

MANDY
The second he steps off that ship, he will. He’ll defend my honor. He’ll put out your dreams, he’ll protect me, he always has, always!

JACOB
Do you really think that the Nick who comes back will be the Nick that left? Jesus Mandy, he’s going off to war, not an afternoon picnic. This isn’t some day trip where all the boys go off and play game and come back unscathed. Boys come back with limbs missing; they come back riddled with bullet holes and shaking from shell shock, dripping with disease and depression and hatred and—

MANDY
They come home with medals and honor!

JACOB
They come back in boxes! They come back to be put six feet under or in copper urns or in dead memories. And sometimes, their remains don’t even come back at all. They fall, unnamed and unloved six inches from the trenches and their happy comrades use their bloodied bodies as shields.
I’m sorry to break it to you like that, but it’s the truth. And I hate to see you wasting your life away when you’ve got someone right here who can love you just as much as – more than Nick ever would. Who won’t leave you because the bandwagon makes due course for the western front. Who just wants you to be happy. To smile. You have a beautiful smile Mandy.

MANDY
I want him. Here. Right now.

JACOB
Goddammit.

MANDY
I’m sorry Jacob. I just don’t love you. Like that.

JACOB
Why not?

MANDY
Jacob leave.

JACOB
I want to know what I’m doing wrong!

MANDY
Everything! Leave!
Please.

JACOB turns to leave, then stops. He turns back and kisses her. She pushes him away and sits, turned away from him. He exits. She picks up a muffin and takes a bite. She enjoys it for a second, but then throws it to the ground, disgusted. She takes out a paper and pen.

MANDY
Dear Nick. That was a very sweet letter. I read it religiously. I’ll bake a batch of brownies tonight, just for you. I’ll send a few with this letter, but they’ll probably be rather dry and molded by the time they get to you. But I hope they’ll remind of what and who you left behind. Who you’re fighting for. 
As for my friend Jacob, it was very sweet of you to remember his thing with jelly beans. I regret to inform you that we are no longer friends so he probably won’t care. Thank you though. I can always count on you to be conscientious and loyal.
Please come back. Please come back to me. Screw the Germans; I miss you. I need you. I need you here. With me. I love you. Stay safe. And look up at the stars. I will.

RADIO
Thank you. Our hearts are with those valiant soldiers lost far too early. And we extend our sympathy to their family and friends, who must bear the levity of this tragedy.

MANDY
Love, Mandy.

~~~

First Performance:
Java Drama XIV
Directed by Joey Guthman
Starring Michelle Cahn and Colin Stanley


~~~

Happy birthday Michelle!


PS: Joey is also loved. But his birthday's not until October. 

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