Las Vegas Girl
(The moonlight tower at Eastside Drive and Leland in Austin, TX 78704. Two men stand in the bright, artificial moonlight. Both men wear black. Skip is between twenty and twenty five years in age. Ellis is between thirty-five and forty years in age. Ellis rolls a joint, as Skip drinks from a bottle of wine.)
ELLIS: Where was everybody?
SKIP: She didn’t know nobody.
ELLIS: No one from church?
SKIP: She stopped going a few years back. You and me are the only people she knew.
ELLIS: That’s a shame. She used to be a real friendly girl.
SKIP: She was a friendly girl. But, she was fading toward the end and got mean. She couldn’t fry an egg without help. She would mostly talk about your wedding. She had a chunk of the Berlin Wall the size of a cheeseburger, but had no clue how she got it.
ELLIS: I bought her that piece. From the TV.
SKIP: She kept it in a plastic ziplock bag. She painted the word “Mine” to the bag. She kept asking when you would be coming home from work towards the end.
ELLIS: What did you tell her?
SKIP: About what?
ELLIS: When I was coming home.
SKIP: I told her I didn’t know. I told her you were busy. I didn’t have the heart to tell her you found another woman.
ELLIS: I didn’t find another woman.
SKIP: Then what do you call that girl you ran off with.
ELLIS: Don’t make a scene.
SKIP: I’ll make a scene when I damn well want to make a scene with you.
ELLIS: You think about your mother.
SKIP: Funny. You never did.
SKIP: She tried to shoot herself with a squirrel rifle two years back. Spent two weeks at St. David’s pullin’ fragments out of her temple. Were you aware of that?
ELLIS: Yeah, I heard.
SKIP: Really? Never saw you come by. Never got no card or flowers or little stuffed animals. You do know that is what you are supposed to do when someone gets hurt, right? You send them stuff.
ELLIS: You knew where I was. It wasn’t like I had a chance to visit.
SKIP: I did know where you were. Tampa, was it? With a teenage girl.
ELLIS: Watch your mouth.
SKIP: I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was bothering you.
ELLIS: You ain’t botherin me.
SKIP: Clearly I am.
ELLIS: You are not botherin’ me.
SKIP: How long are you gonna be in town?
ELLIS: What’s it to you? You wanna go to the rodeo?
SKIP: If you’re gonna be sleeping on my sofa…
ELLIS: I am not gonna stay on your sofa. I’m not interested in that.
SKIP: Where you gonna sleep? You don’t have money, do you?
ELLIS: I’m not staying.
SKIP: How are you getting back to Florida?
ELLIS: I’m takin’ a greyhound in a few hours.
SKIP: And that’s it.
ELLIS: Yeah. That’s it.
SKIP: You’re a real piece of work, Dad.
ELLIS: I don’t think I’ve ever heard you call me that before.
SKIP: Dad? How could you? You split before I could walk.
ELLIS: That’s not true. I saw you walk from the refrigerator to the sink when you were a kid. That was in our first apartment when we moved out here. When you were born. Didn’t think I knew that, did you? I remember all sorts of things. In the fall, when the JC Penny’s Christmas catalog would come, your mother would give you a blue ink pen and you’d mark all the toys you wanted. We couldn’t afford any of ‘em, but your mother loved to watch you look at that catalog.
ELLIS: What do you do?
SKIP: What do you mean?
ELLIS: Work. What do you do?
SKIP: I do coat check at a hotel.
ELLIS: Which one?
SKIP: The Hyatt.
ELLIS: Don’t know that one.
SKIP: It was built after your time.
ELLIS: A lot of stuff was built after I left. When your mother was with you, when we were in high school, in Michigan, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She said she wanted to see Siegfried and Roy. She liked tigers. I stole your grandfather’s car, and when we got to Vegas, we decided to stay. I like the fact it never rained in the desert. And your grandfather let us keep the car. It all seemed perfect. You’re mother wanted to be a Las Vegas girl.
SKIP: That’s not how I heard it.
ELLIS: Yeah. I’m sure it’s not. Your mother wanted to get a job as a showgirl, but all she could find was work as a waitress at Denny’s. You got yourself a girl?
ELLIS: Yeah, I bet. What does she do? Dance?
SKIP: She makes drinks at Expose.
ELLIS: She “makes drinks.” You bein’ honest with me?
SKIP: Sure. You still married to that wife of yours?
ELLIS: Sort of. She’s with a shoe salesman now.
SKIP: Why did she leave you?
ELLIS: She didn’t leave me. I let her go.
ELLIS: Your mother still have that bird I bought her?
SKIP: Bird? No that finch died years ago. But she’s had about a dozen since. She liked birds. They’d sing to her and listen to her and she’d put them in a cage so she always knew where they were. There was only one left when she died. I gave that one to a girl at Wal-Mart. She works the photo lab. Are you embarrassed?
ELLIS: About what?
SKIP: Mom’s birds?
SKIP: Because, you should be. An old woman, dying alone. With nothing but shit covered birds around her. It’s humiliating.
ELLIS: Your mother wasn’t that old. Why wasn’t your girl at the funeral?
SKIP: She had to work.
ELLIS: She couldn’t get off?
SKIP: She works paycheck to paycheck.
ELLIS: Your girl ever meet your mother?
SKIP: Why do you care?
ELLIS: I asked you a question.
SKIP: No. She didn’t know Mom.
ELLIS: Why is that? Were you embarrassed by your crazy old mother? All alone with a bunch of shit covered birds?
SKIP: Don’t call Mom crazy.
ELLIS: When we first moved to Austin, we lived just up the road in that old green motel behind the gas station. Your mother and I would walk down here under the fake moon. It killed her when we left Vegas, but she sure did love this fake moon. Maybe we can see your girl after this. Get some tacos. There used to be a place just south of town where you could get oysters, as good as they get out here. We could get some oyster tacos.
SKIP: I really don’t want that, Dad.
ELLIS: Don’t call me that.
SKIP: What should I call you?
ELLIS: Ellis. Call me Ellis.
SKIP: Ellis. When was the first time you knew you didn’t love Mom anymore?
ELLIS: I never stopped lovin’ your mother. She was a fine specimen. She just asked too many questions. “Where you going? Where you been? Who you talkin’ too on the phone?” She used to have the timing worked out between our apartment and my old job. So if I was five minutes late getting home from work, she’d ask trash like “who is she?” There never was no “she.”
SKIP: Yes, there was.
ELLIS: No. Not back then. There was never another girl, until I left.
SKIP: When did you stop caring about me?
ELLIS: What makes you say that, Skip?
SKIP: Because you haven’t looked at me once.
ELLIS: What do you want from me? Huh? Kid? Son. You want money? You want me to tell you I’m sorry about your mommy? I just got tired of listening to your mother. I’m sorry I wasn’t around, but if I had stayed, I would’ve hung myself.
SKIP: All I ever wanted from you was a phone call.
ELLIS: I sent letters. I sent letters on your birthday and Christmas and Easter.
SKIP: Yeah, but all I wanted was a phone call. All I wanted to do was hear you.
ELLIS: You're hearin’ me, ain’t you?
SKIP: Yeah. Ellis. Smoke?
(Ellis gives his son a joint. Skip gives his father the wine. They medicate in unison.)
ELLIS: Why don’t you say somethin’ about your mother?
SKIP: Mom would lay in bed and watch TV in the dark. She used to say it would relax her. She liked cartoons.
ELLIS: I didn’t know that.
SKIP: Yeah. I bet you didn’t. She used to say the birds were her best friends. Cause they would eat anything she cooked for them.
ELLIS: I can believe that. When you were four, and I guess that made your mother and me around twenty, your mother would make Kraft macaroni and cheese damn near every night for dinner cause that was the only thing you’d put in your mouth. And she’d mix in slices of cubed ham and that would be a real special thing for us.
SKIP: Us? I hate you.
ELLIS: You’d always pick out the ham with a spoon. And your mother would give the ham to me. We should buy some flowers for her.
SKIP: Screw you.
SKIP: It’s hot. We should get going. And I’ve got a bus to catch.
ELLIS: No. Not yet. Please.
(The two men stand under the fake moonlight smoking and drinking in unison.)
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