Dust and Doodads
(The curtain rises on the disheveled daughter sitting in bed mumbling to herself. The mother enters carrying a purse and approaches her.)
MOTHER: Are you going crazy in my house again?
(The mother sets her purse on the foot of the bed.)
DAUGHTER: Just trying to sort out some facts.
MOTHER: We’ve got to get you cleaned up for your father’s party. The guests will be uncomfortable to see you in your pajamas.
DAUGHTER: Uncomfortable. Maybe if I take them off it will leave them anguished.
MOTHER: Don’t talk about your body.
(The mother leans over and smells her daughter.)
MOTHER: Are you wearing that hideous perfume?
DAUGHTER: Thank you for letting me know how horrible I smell.
MOTHER: I would throw out your whole stash.
DAUGHTER: I’ll leave it behind me.
MOTHER: But you don’t get out of bed.
DAUGHTER: I mean literally behind me, tucked under this pillow.
MOTHER: Is that where you spend your life?
DAUGHTER: Everything I need is right here in this bed.
MOTHER: Now that’s not party talk, dearie.
DAUGHTER: If I’m going to go in my kitchen, I’ll go in my kitchen while the bastards are drinking. The last thing I’m worried about is being an eyesore.
MOTHER: Never mind that! You’re not wearing any make-up! I wouldn’t let you even stroll in front of the T.V.
DAUGHTER: There’s a gash in my face anyway. It’s just that no one can see it.
MOTHER: I see it. You’ve got to close it up. It’s far too dangerous.
DAUGHTER: You’ll only see it for the moment. It will soon go away.
MOTHER: It’s disgusting. It makes me feel I’ve neglected you.
DAUGHTER: It’s healing, it’s healing, it’s healing.
MOTHER: My little girl’s afraid.
MOTHER: Your cheeks are so pale. That can come from fear. Doll, just let me give you some make up.
MOTHER: Why not?
DAUGHTER: I don’t like the way it looks on you.
MOTHER: (points to herself) This, my dear, is the total woman. I could throw trash on my face and I would glow.
DAUGHTER: The total woman. All these years and I’ve never asked.
MOTHER: (forcing the words out) Brat. . .I use the best to show off these. . . these cheeks!
DAUGHTER: You think you know somebody until you find out their cosmetic secrets.
MOTHER: You should be prettying up your face right now instead of arguing with your mother.
DAUGHTER: For what? The drunks come in for Dad’s birthday party every year.
And for the record, I don’t dress up unless there’s someone waiting.
MOTHER: I can’t promise that.
DAUGHTER: I wasn’t implying.
MOTHER: All the men will know there’s a woman hiding in her bedroom.
DAUGHTER: How? I’ll keep the door locked. I’ll keep my whispers low.
MOTHER: I’ll tell them. And you’ll deserve it, so shy to everyone else but your own Mother.
DAUGHTER: I won’t get embarrassed. I refuse to.
MOTHER: And the big hefty men will applaud you in your absence, Mommy’s little girl.
DAUGHTER: Those oddballs from Dad’s job? I won’t let them near me.
MOTHER: I’ll make sure one doesn’t peek in to say good night.
DAUGHTER: I would hate to have to nail this door shut.
MOTHER: I do cry a lot for my little girl. I want you to be happy but I don’t know
how. Is there something in this tiny room you aren’t showing me? A river in the closet? An island beneath that bed? Tell me, sweetheart, and then for today we can say at least good riddance.
DAUGHTER: It’s all of that. It’s all here.
MOTHER: What a child! She believes what she reasons must be so.
DAUGHTER: Can’t you smell the grass, Mama? Taste the pollen in the air? Feel the sweet breeze by the ocean? I could never hide it. How could I hide it from you, Mama?
MOTHER: (obviously upset) Oh dear. (composes herself) Yes, I see it.
DAUGHTER: And what did that take you but a moment’s thought? Now I think I’m ready for Daddy. That we’ve got that settled.
MOTHER: (having second thoughts) I think I’ve got the date confused. . . it’s tomorrow, tomorrow’s the party, never mind what I said.
DAUGHTER: Even if I wear the make-up, it won’t make it daddy’s birthday? Even if I twirl out of this room in your favorite dress?
MOTHER: It won’t be your father’s birthday for a long long time.
DAUGHTER: And I was so hoping to impress everyone at the party. I guess I’ll sleep in after all.
MOTHER: Maybe if you came out of your room for a moment to get a drink of water? It will do you good. You can wear that flowery dress.
DAUGHTER: The one I’ve been waiting to wear! If I drink my water!
MOTHER: I thought you’d be excited.
DAUGHTER: Sure I am. It’s good water.
MOTHER: The finest.
DAUGHTER: And it’s a good dress.
MOTHER: The best you have.
DAUGHTER:All the boys will love it.
MOTHER: I won’t let them pick on you.
DAUGHTER: How gracious. And yourself? That smeared lipstick?
MOTHER: A true lady never overdoes it.
DAUGHTER: A true lady never needs it.
MOTHER: Actually, a true lady overdoes what she needs.
DAUGHTER: Am I a lady, Mama?
MOTHER: You have all the warning signals of a full-blown woman.
DAUGHTER: I know about woman. Am I a lady?
MOTHER: Decide that which way here for yourself. Are you?
DAUGHTER: A lady. . .what an interesting proposition. I’m just not sure. I might be, or I might not, I might be, or I might not. . . oh there I go, acting like a kid again. But it could be so fun to choose! Let the boys decide today as I drink my water in my beautiful flowery dress sashaying in front of the television with my own catwalk. (pause) Only for a moment of course. . . as quickly as water goes down me.
MOTHER: So you don’t need that river in your closet? That island underneath your bed? That sweet ocean breeze?
DAUGHTER: Do you need me to need them?
MOTHER: I want you to be happy.
DAUGHTER: (gathers herself) Do you actually think I believe these things? I don’t. I imagine. The way I imagine this bed friendly company. It shouldn’t hurt you. Why does it hurt you? I’ve found my companion.
MOTHER: I’ll strip your bed down until he is gone.
DAUGHTER: Is that how you treat your daughter’s heart?
MOTHER: Mattress and all.
DAUGHTER: You’re not on my side if you want to destroy it.
MOTHER: I’ll set your whole room on fire. Really get rid of the ghosts. You’d be out for many drinks of water after that.
DAUGHTER: I want you out of my room. You’re insulting it. All of this talk.
MOTHER: I didn’t know a room could get insulted, but just in case it can, let it take it.
DAUGHTER: No. It’s out of hand. It demands you leave.
MOTHER: No. Let it suffer.
DAUGHTER: It really doesn’t want to take any action you know.
MOTHER: What the hell do you mean?
DAUGHTER: It doesn’t want to kill you. Not if it can help it.
MOTHER: This is what you’ve done to yourself? This is your young legacy?
DAUGHTER: It’s really not up to me.
MOTHER: It’s not up to either of us. You’re going into the hospital again. Forget the party. . . party. . . if your Father ever knew!
DAUGHTER: Why don’t you stick your head under my bed and see what happens? See if you want to come back.
MOTHER: Is this you when you imagine?
DAUGHTER: Some things I’m sure of.
MOTHER: It’s because you're sick. And me throwing you headfirst into a crowd. . .
DAUGHTER: I think you’re sick for not trying.
MOTHER: I know what’s under your bed. Dust and doodads.
DAUGHTER: (ominously) Things have changed since last time you looked.
MOTHER: I’m so scared.
DAUGHTER: Don’t be. The room is pleased. It just takes one offer.
MOTHER: I’m not scared about that. . . I’m scared for you.
DAUGHTER: If you let it be, I will be peaceful.
MOTHER: I want you dressed.
DAUGHTER: What’s the matter Mama did I say a bad word?
MOTHER: You’re startling me. And you will each time you say it.
DAUGHTER: (deliberately trying to irritate) Peaceful. . . peaceful. . . peeecefulll. . .
MOTHER: Don’t do this to your Mother.
DAUGHTER: Perfectly adjusted.
MOTHER: Stop it.
DAUGHTER: The. . . dare I say, total woman?
MOTHER: (shaken) I’m gong to go under the bed. I’ll go under. If I come back will you stop it? Please?
DAUGHTER: Just be careful. It can be overwhelming.
(The mother bends down to look under the bed when a knock is heard on the door. Father enters.)
FATHER: Oh that’s that island underneath the bed. I’ve seen it.
MOTHER: Seen it? There’s nothing there.
FATHER: Yes there is. Go ahead. Look. Go ahead.
(The mother crawls further beneath the bed.)
MOTHER: Dust and doodads.
FATHER: (to mother) What are you afraid of? Loneliness can’t be a nice trip?
(The mother stands, brushes herself off.)
MOTHER: This is what you’ll have for our daughter?
DAUGHTER: Nice trip nothing. Tonight it’s supposed to rain on the coast.
MOTHER: (to father) You have her giving weather reports.
FATHER: I didn’t know it was going to rain.
DAUGHTER: I have an ear to the beach when I fall asleep at night.
MOTHER: What beach?
FATHER: Our daughter’s beach. The rainy beach.
DAUGHTER: Now I’m ready for the storm.
MOTHER: (to father) Is this how you celebrate your birthday? By pretending with her? (to daughter) I want it to be real for you. But I can’t. . .
DAUGHTER: I’ll show you.
(The daughter hangs her head over the bed and looks under it.)
FATHER: (to mother) Give it a real hard look. I’ll close my eyes and wish you the best.
(The mother crawls under the bed.)
MOTHER: There’s nothing, dear. Nothing at all.
DAUGHTER: Don’t you see it, Mama?
MOTHER: It’s a picture. . . an unsigned postcard. . .
(The mother crawls out from under the bed and stands holding a postcard. The daughter sits back up in bed.)
FATHER: And that’s all there is.
DAUGHTER: It’s the picture of someplace far away.
MOTHER: And all of this. I should tear it to shreds.
DAUGHTER: (disappointed) Mama. . . it’s just a little bit of magic.
FATHER: (to mother) I get these island scenes from the drugstore across the street. It’s been nothing but a constant vacation for our precious little girl.
DAUGHTER: I can feel the picture underneath me when I sleep.
(Irate, the mother takes a wallet out of her purse.)
MOTHER: I have a whole wallet full of pictures from all kinds of different places.
DAUGHTER: If you stare long enough at a picture. . .(double thinks what she wants to say). . .
well, you know what I mean. Anything can happen.
MOTHER: I can’t believe this has been going on behind my back. I’ll have
that drugstore closed down. Selling merchandise for a sick woman.
DAUGHTER: Why am I sick? Because I can go to these places inside my head?
What if you went there by foot? Would you be anymore happy? Of course not. Someone send me a postcard and I’ll just rub out the name. That is that.
MOTHER: (to father) And you? You
believe this kind of behavior is healthy?
FATHER: Idiot. . . you mentioned the word. Of course it’s not healthy. None of us are. You’re a grown woman and you just dug your way underneath your daughter’s bed.
MOTHER: I was talked into. . .
FATHER: Never mind. You did it. You wanted to believe and now you can.
DAUGHTER: Now do you see why I can’t join the party…why I’m content to be alone?
MOTHER: It’s not the end of this. I’m getting you help.
DAUGHTER: (terrified) Daddy. . . the hospital?
FATHER: I don’t think there’s a cure for loneliness.
MOTHER: (puts her hands to her head) Maddening. . . I want to shut this out. . .
DAUGHTER: It seems my dear Mother has finally lost it.
FATHER: There are guests filing in expecting a party and just look what we’ve become.
DAUGHTER: I would like to be excused.
MOTHER: You want to leave?
DAUGHTER: Isn’t that what you want?
MOTHER: After all this? To hop out of bed like it’s nothing?
FATHER: Our daughter is welcome to get up and dance if she pleases.
DAUGHTER: Dance. . . I never get a picture of two people dancing.
MOTHER: You want to dance my sick, sick girl? Find a mirror and move your arms and legs.
DAUGHTER: A mirror. . . maybe that’s what I’m missing. After all, you can see me, but I can’t see me. I think I’ll get one of those, you know, for good housekeeping.
FATHER: You look like you’re ready for an entrance.
MOTHER: She can’t go. . . they’ll make fun of her. They’ll call her crazy.
DAUGHTER: Sometimes crazy’s all a person has.
FATHER: Give me your hand. I’ll take you in.
DAUGHTER: I’m only going into another room.
MOTHER: Another room? A different world. I can’t let it happen.
DAUGHTER: And you’ve so wanted me to wear that flowery dress.
MOTHER: That was when you were getting a drink of water.
DAUGHTER: A girl can wear her dress for any occasion. (pause) Mama, may I powder my face? I know there are things you can use if you’re too plain of a girl.
MOTHER: Whose been calling you plain, dear?
DAUGHTER: It’s just an idea of mine.
MOTHER: Sometimes ideas are right and sometimes they are wrong.
DAUGHTER: The whole city! Not one ugly face. I stare through that window jealous of the crowd.
FATHER: I want you to meet a boy that goes to school with your sister. He’s out in
the party right now. He’s wondered for a long time why you never come out of your room. And he plays make-believe just like you. . . a twelve-year-old with an imaginary friend. Maybe his fantasies aren’t as sophisticated as yours, but maybe in good time they will be.
MOTHER: (tense lipped) Do you really think she should be meeting this boy given her condition?
FATHER: And we should leave the room.
MOTHER: You’re going to leave her alone with someone crazy?
FATHER: He’s just a boy. A boy with a vivid imagination.
(The father exits.)
MOTHER: (to daughter) I want you to call me. Call me if things don’t go well.
(The boy enters with the father.)
BOY: What’s wrong with her?
MOTHER: See, he’s insulting.
BOY: No, I mean, there’s nothing wrong. It’s just a girl lying in her bed.
DAUGHTER: My hero.
MOTHER: Careful what you call him it might stick.
BOY: (to daughter) Thank you.
MOTHER: (to boy) Don’t thank her it might stick.
FATHER: What a couple!
MOTHER: Don’t, don’t, don’t! It might stick!
FATHER: Let’s leave these two alone while you ponder over your horror.
(The mother and father exit. The mother looks back once before she leaves and sighs in despair.)
(The boy walks around the bed.)
BOY: You know you really have to get out of bed.
DAUGHTER: And who are you?
BOY: I’m the kid next door.
DAUGHTER: And now you’re in my room.
BOY: I guess I am. (pause) Any resentments? After all you could say I’m an intruder.
DAUGHTER: Intruder? The first guest I have and look what he calls it. (pause)
We can’t be friends. With all our problems that would be too strange.
BOY: Why not? We share the same problem which isn’t even a problem since there’s nothing wrong with pretending.
MOTHER: If you listen to my mother. . .
(The boy grabs the daughter's hands and holds them.)
BOY: I don’t listen to mine.
DAUGHTER: Tell me something about your friend.
BOY: I can’t.
DAUGHTER: Why not?
BOY: Right now, talking to you, he doesn’t exist.
DAUGHTER: And I can’t remember one postcard. Where have they gone?
BOY: Everything you have been holding on to has been replaced by something real.
DAUGHTER: I don’t think I can manage real. I never could.
BOY:Do it slowly. Lift your body up muscle by muscle.
DAUGHTER: You mean off this bed?
BOY: Right off. . .but slowly.
DAUGHTER: It’s been three years.
BOY: Three years of bracing for this moment.
DAUGHTER: I am cold.
BOY: You’re bound to feel something after three years.
DAUGHTER: But my feet are warm. And I feel a tingle.
BOY: Now stand up! Stand!
(The daughter stands, wobbles, then corrects her balance.)
DAUGHTER: My head misses my pillow.
BOY: They’ve been laid on long enough. It’s time to say goodbye.
DAUGHTER: How will I sleep? And when? And for how long?
BOY: Don’t give those questions a second thought. You're finally free.
DAUGHTER: Now what do I do that I’m standing? What’s left for me?
BOY: There are a million things.
DAUGHTER: My body feels tired.
BOY: For the both of us. But you must escape.
DAUGHTER: I have no one waiting for me in this world. No one bothered to care.
BOY: Why don’t you visit one of those places in your pictures?
DAUGHTER: I do. . . everyday. . .
BOY: I mean for real.
DAUGHTER: I couldn’t. . .
BOY: Why not?
DAUGHTER: I’m used to this room.
BOY: I’m sure there are other rooms in the Bahamas that look just like yours.
DAUGHTER: The beach. I’d be on the beach.
(Her mother and father enter. They are shocked to see her standing.)
MOTHER: What are you doing?
We called up the hospital. They’ll be here in a few minutes.
DAUGHTER: Daddy, how could you let her!
FATHER: Be careful, dear. Do you need to sit down?
I’m afraid I ruined you with postcards.
DAUGHTER: But I’m going to the beach! This time I really am.
MOTHER : You can’t even swim.
DAUGHTER: Mother. . .
MOTHER: When the doctors come you just explain everything that’s wrong.
DAUGHTER: I can’t walk this earth with strong enough legs!
MOTHER: I’ll make sure they have you step into the ambulance. That should be good enough practice.
BOY: Call the ambulance off. I’ve already explained what she needs.
FATHER: You have no say here. Go back in the crowd.
BOY: I have more in common with her here than anyone.
DAUGHTER: (to boy) Ride in the ambulance with me? Tell me about the beach?
Until they knock me out with those drugs, keep my ears alert?
MOTHER: (to boy) You can’t get in. There’s only room enough here for her Mother...and her Father, maybe.
FATHER: I blame it on myself. . .
MOTHER: Stop it. Everyone knows it’s the girl’s fault.
DAUGHTER: The girl. . .the girl… if I didn’t know any better I would think that was a term of endearment.
FATHER: An ambulance! I see it through the window.
MOTHER: (suddenly) I’ll call it off if you tell this boy go.
BOY: I’ll go. Call it off.
DAUGHTER: No. He’s with me now. He’s my new companion.
MOTHER: Is he replacing
DAUGHTER: Forget it.
MOTHER: All those perfume bottles and pillows finally gone?
DAUGHTER: It’s something separate. . . everything has changed.
MOTHER : They’re coming upstairs by now. Will the boy go?
BOY: Why do you really want me gone? Are you too vain to admit your daughter’s been found?
MOTHER: (to father) Go downstairs and stall them. I want to have it out with this child alone.
(The father exits.)
MOTHER: Now. . . you see this is my daughter.
BOY: Yes I do.
DAUGHTER: I do too.
MOTHER: And she’s my oldest daughter. My first born.
BOY: I remember.
MOTHER: And we don’t want to be giving anyone false promises.
MOTHER: You are still a boy.
BOY: A boy who can handle your little girl’s dream.
MOTHER: This girl gets everything from school to food in her bed. She rarely even makes a cameo.
BOY: In the Bahamas she’ll be more than a postcard. She’ll be picture perfect.
MOTHER: Is that where you’re taking her? At age twelve?
BOY: With many other people and my father to chaperone.
MOTHER: Who are these people?
BOY: You might say admirers of your daughter.
MOTHER: But they don’t know her?
BOY: They figure if the mother’s a good woman the daughter can’t fall that far from the tree.
MOTHER: They think I’m a good woman?
DAUGHTER: The best. We were never enemies.
(The father enters.)
FATHER : The ambulance just took down some information and left.
MOTHER: It’s better they go. We wouldn’t want to cause a spectacle.
DAUGHTER: Daddy. . . I’m going on a trip.
DADDY: To where, sweetheart?
DAUGHTER: To an island very far away.
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