FORGOTTEN ROOTS-THE MUSICAL
(A tight spotlight on what appears to be a small shed. There are dead hares hanging from the ceiling of the shed and a large rocking chair in the middle of the room, with a glistening shotgun perched on it. In bursts a hunched figure, mumbling and frantically searching for something. He becomes agitated very quickly and tears a half-decomposed hanging hare from its swinging hook and flings it violently against the wall. He then begins to sob silently, picks the dead animal up gently and embraces it, whispering to it in what appears to be an attempt to ask for forgiveness. He nudges into the rocking chair as he is moving about with the dead hare. He turns to steady it, then finally catches sight of the shotgun. A slow smile breaks across his face and he drops the limp hare. He picks the shotgun up, peering at it closely, as though he is inspecting it for damage it closely to himself. After a few moments, he proceeds to sit on the chair, rocking and caressing the barrel of the gun whilst loudly humming a very distinct tune. This continues for an eerily long time and builds to a crescendo. During the final moment he points the barrel of the gun directly at the audience, stops humming and smiles his large, disconcerting smile. Slow fade to darkness.)
A COLD WELCOME
Lights up on a large, extravagant-looking, country home. After a short time, we hear keys jingling and in strides a well-dressed woman, with impossibly large hair. She frantically gesticulates and her accent fluctuates wildly, making it quite clear that she is not fully comfortable with her native accent and definitely has some form of notions.
Well, here you are, here you are now...uhhhhh-
Daniel, lovely. How lovely. How New York City of you. So, what do you think about the house?
(A slight hint of a Canadian accent.)
Ahh, ah ha! I was trying to place you. There it is. Right there. You’re Canadian.
(Unabashedly offended. Perhaps, a tiny scream.)
No, no, no, no! I am New York city born and bred, not some kind of Canadian in-bred, or border NYC, Canada, hybrid. I’m just bred. I’m New York. I’m so New York bred that I am practically a bagel!!
I would have thought that pizza was more New York bread?
That’s more like a cake.
A pie, if we are going to elaborate, surely?
(Desperately trying to change subject, theatrically peers around the room)
I love the place!
(Strides forward and twirls)
It is-MAGNIFICANT-isn’t it?
Ya, I just know Elizabeth if going to LOVE it too.
(Poorly concealed disappointment)
You ... you’re married?
(Roaming from room to room, exploring)
Happily, with a ten year old.
(Notices JEANINE’s expression which appears to be worry)
I know, maybe it seems to be a little big for just the three of us-
Oh NO! No!! It’s ideal. If anything, too small.
It’s just... You’re a Doctor with a wife and a ten year old daughter?
Son. A ten year old son.
(Sighs with relief)
Ah. Ah, a ten year old son. Fine, great. It’s just, for a second there, you reminded me of another family I used to know. It was a bit... odd. Anyway, here is a copy of the twelve month lease.
Excellent, thank you for being so unbelievably accommodating. I wish we had landlords like you in the city. I mean, I never even knew it was possible to rent a place like this. I thought that we would be trapped in some bed-sit for the year with my transfer. This place looks like it deserves a mortgage that would take a lifetime to pay off!
Yes. No, you certainly won’t be in death-
DEBT! Debt...you won’t be in debt after this place. Affordable, huge, away from the madness of the city and if you take a peek out that little window you will get to see the centerpiece, if I may, of the whole shebang...
(Gestures for DANIEL to look outside. He follows suit and gasps at what he sees)
Only Creeky Willow’s most gorgeous apple tree. It’s been here for year and years. It was there even before the house was built. And, be sure to avail of the apples when they do come around. They are the juiciest things this close to Canada.
WOW. I bet you that tree holds some stories in it’s roots.
(Turns to JEANINE, smiling)
I really don’t know what to say. It’s perfect. Just perfect.
Well, no worries. It suits us both perfectly. We are all perfectly suited.
(Brandishes a piece of paper)
If you sign right here, get your wife to sign it also and I will give you the second set of keys tomorrow.
(Hands DANIEL a folder and a set of keys)
See you guys back here around noon tomorrow!
(Lights go down on DANIEL peering around the room contentedly.)
(A group of movers burst into the kitchen, boxes filling up the space in what appears to be a well choreographed movement. The movers are extremely loud, with strong Bronx accents)
Ay-ay-ay, HARRY. Put the FRA-GILES on the COUNT-A-TOPS. The count-AAA-tops godammit. Though, I’m kinda supwized they even have tables here in hicks-ville.
Ya, right, I thought these cun-tree bumpkins would be con-tempted to eat off the floor. The animalllls!!
(The movers all break out in raucous laughter)
Yaaaaaa, they so bakwud, probably the only automatic cars they have are permanently set in reverse!!
(All laugh again)
YA, they so behind that they probly don’t even have cable.
(Laughter immediately stops. Stunned silence.)
Ya, so? Who da fuck has cable anymore Gary, my Grandma’s ashes? Jeeze, you idiot, everybody’s got hulu these days and they ain’t squandering their earnings on no fucking cable. Gawd, go put the toilet stuffs in the hallllllllll before I take a big SHHHHIITTT-
(In walks a well-dressed, beautiful woman in her mid-thirties. She looks politely from mover to mover until they quieten down and get back to work. DANIEL enters shortly after , holding hands with ELLIOT, a young boy who is fixated with his kindle and pays no heed to his surroundings. ELIZABETH begins singing THE MOVING BOXES SONG. It is about memories, mementos, and sentimental value versus monetary value and the movers choreograph and move boxes around, which provides later humor in how the boxes become all mixed up. Enter DANIEL AND ELLIOT who provide their own version of what moving boxes means to them and the significance of what’s inside the boxes. Some boxes contain what they thought they would, some contain surprises, some contain disappointments and some boxes would have been better off left closed.)
Elliot, give the book a break for a sec, you’ll make your eyes sore... why don’t you go check out all of the rooms upstairs. Quick before your Mother picks her room-go choose yours!
(ELLIOT looks up the minute his name is mentioned and listens intently to his father. He nods once his father is finished, wipes his kindle with a handkerchief and leaves with purpose. His strong eye contact, awkward, obedient behavior and delayed coordination suggest towards an intellectual variation of some kind. As soon as ELLIOT leaves, DANIEL walks over to his wife, ELIZABETH. She is quietly unpacking a box of dishes and placing them neatly in the kitchen cupboards. He wraps his arms around her.)
What do you think honey? Isn’t it gorgeous?
(Turns to face DANIEL. There is a huge, though obviously strained smile on her face)
Ya, it’s great. It’s just great!
(Notices that something is slightly off about her)
Even if it doesn’t feel quite right, right now, believe me, it’s what we both need.
Oh really? We both need to move to the middle of NOWHERE at the drop of a hat for an entire year to suit YOUR transfer.
We both need a change of scene. We both need a break, we were both exhausted in the city-
NO. No, I. I! I was exhausted Daniel. I was going crazy, Daniel. Just say it, I went crazy in the city. I just don’t know why you think that the country is some kind of quarantine against insanity.
You didn’t go crazy. And I don’t like that word, please quit saying it. It’s just so tacky. You were tired, I was tired, we both just express ourselves differently. THIS will give BOTH of us the rest we need to get back to the very best versions of ourselves once and for all.
Okay, fine, whatever you want to call it.
(violently grips an empty box)
They should have labelled these damn boxes. You never know what the hell you are going to find inside them-
(Opens box and lets out a shrill scream)
Christ Elizabeth, what’s wrong?
(Holds her hand to her chest, calming herself. The other quivering hand reaches into the box)
What in the name of all that is good in this life is this CREATURE??
(She lifts what appears to be a leather mask out of the box and turns it so that it’s facing towards DANIEL)
(Bursts into laughter)
OH MY GOODNESS. I’m so sorry. I should have told you about that. I have one box full of little trinkets that I bought when travelling ... you probably haven’t ever even seen most of them because I always kept them in my office at home. That’s a little tribal mask that I bought in Papua New Guinea.
Yeah...mmmhmm...maybe you should have told me about the creepy dead face you were going to have amongst my precious delph.
(She holds the mask closer to herself, inspecting it.)
Actually, the creepiest thing about it is the fact that it doesn’t even look dead. It looks like a human just resting, ready to pounce at any second.
(A loud shrill scream is heard upstairs.)
(They both hurry to retrieve their son, but his screaming is heard approaching as he runs down the stairs and into the kitchen)
MUM, you said they wouldn’t touch it. You said they wouldn’t touch it!
(He is absolutely hysterical)
Christ, Elliot, what’s wrong? Touch what? What are you talking about?
My books. Only volume one is in the box you gave me. Volume one barely scratches the Civil War, those men took my books!!
Don’t be silly, my dear. Your books are safe and sound somewhere in the boxes. Now, I’m really sorry because I know you like everything organized but apparently the sewer rats that your father has decided to pay thousands of dollars to help us move have decided that tribal masks, history books and kitchen knives aren’t dissimilar enough to pack separately. I think we should take bets on where the toilet brush is next! Probably mixed in with our frozen foods.
Oh calm down Elizabeth. It will do you good to have to take stock of what you actually have and what may be important to you once and for all. Anyways, I want to show Elliot the coolest part of the whole deal. It’s in the garden, so we’ll leave you to it for now!!
(Sweeps Elliot up in a weak piggyback affair and heads out towards the apple tree, leaving ELIZABETH peering dejectedly at the mask for answers)
So...I guess, it’s just you and me.
(Smiles at mask)
What was I thinking? You’re not even the slightest bit scary. You’re actually kind of friendly looking. Like a cheery Mona Lisa.
(Turns mask over in her hands and smirks)
Made in Taiwan, eh? Papua New Guinea, my behind. Even if you were evil, I reckon the worst thing that you could give me would be food poisoning.
Daniel is such a sucker tourist. I guess you really never know what you’ll find.
(Notices box moving upstage)
(Blinks in absolute disbelief as the box shudders once more)
There is no way that this...
(Box very clearly starts creeping across the kitchen floor towards the door, accompanied by a faint scratching sound. ELIZABETH tentatively approaches it, terrified. As she almost reaches the box, it shoots a meter away, now she is very frightened and hyperventilating)
Oh my God...
(A reprise of THE MOVING BOXES SONG plays but this time it is a much creepier version of the original song. DANIEL re-enters and the pair begin to sing ‘GLASS HALF FULL, YES, BUT IT’S HALF BROKEN’. Several of their glasses are broken during this song.)
After this, ELIZABETH reaches out and snatches the box, holding it steady. She closes her eyes for one terrifying moment, clearly building up momentum to do what she is about to do. Suddenly, she swoops the box away to reveal a cat. She lets out a loud sigh of relief)
SIMON! Oh, thank God it’s you. How the heck did you get out of your cage?? My goodness, you scared me to death! These are supposed to be move-in in boxes not, moving boxes, my goodness.
(Picks him up to cuddle him. Gasps)
Sheesh, you are ice cold. I have to have a word with those movers, they don’t know what the heck they are doing. I don’t know where anything is and I’m not looking for basics.
(She swoops out with purpose. Slow spotlight down to another box in the center of the room. As the spotlight tightens, the box shudders and begins to move. Sudden blackout.)
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
(The set rotates to reveal an office, with a partially revealed hospital corridor. Patients mill pass from time to time in the background. The backdrop consists of IV drips, hospital partitions, hospital beds, to make the change of location evident)
Thanks for taking the time to show me around Mike. I know that you weren’t obligated to do so but it’s really going to help me to get settled in.
Are you kidding me man? I mean, OF COURSE, I’ll do everything that I can to help you for Chrissake, you are doing me the BIGGEST favor on earth covering for me. I have been waiting a lifetime and finally I get to do Doctors Without Borders because of you. Seriously, dude, ask me anything. I have all of the time in the world for you.
I mean, my experience to date has been completely based in a hospital setting. This is the first time I have been in a practice so small that caters for a relatively large population.
I guess that’s kind of what you should expect because we are so far upstate. We have a team of two Doctors and one Nurse practitioner but, unlike the city, we don’t get people coming in with the slightest problem so the flow is about the same as an out of town hospital. People need to be bleeding-pretty profusely-before they will get checked out here, generally.
I think that it’s incredible for a hospital this old to have sustained itself for so long without expanding.
Actually, the opposite occurred.
The place downsized massively about fifty years ago.
Are you for real? That seems completely counterproductive. Why on Earth would a hospital downsize itself?
Aw man. It’s a long story. It’s kind of this untold horror story. When I got here and they first told me, I was terrified for like a year because I kept thinking of all of these awful things they had done here-
Wait, Mike, hold on. What are you talking about? What awful things happened?
Okay, don’t freak out about this. I did initially but the hospital is a changed place now. There used to be a psyche ward attached to this place, it was about three times the size of what it is now. They used to send all of New York’s most despondent, saddest, criminally insane folks right up here to sort them out. But the sorting out, or methods of sorting out-APPARENTLY were awful, torturous and completely immoral.
Are you fucking serious? APPARENTLY? What the heck do you mean apparently? How can something be apparently immoral. It’s immoral or it isn’t.
Well, fifty years ago things were different. I mean, think about it. In every aspect of life. Things happened then that were never questioned you know. Maybe, too easily.Well, I guess, it kind of shook me up. The thought of working in this place where awful things happened so I did some research back in the day, to try to get more clued in and do you know what I found?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was so weird.
What do you mean?
Well, they told me the reasons for why the psyche ward was shut down. Malpractice. Lobotomies. Electroconvulsive shock therapy. taken to a level way beyond therapy Torture, basically. And the ages of the patients was disturbing. Averaging 12. A whole bunch of unwanted orphans. But I couldn’t get one name. And there was absolutely no death toll. Nothing written about it whatsosver. Almost like it never really happened.
Well, torture is a strong word.
Well, what my supervisor said to me at the time still kind of haunts me today. So, I told him about my research and how there was no history of complaints or death toll at all, so how could the hospital have been shut down. And his eyes kind of, like, glazed over because, he worked there for some of the psyche years and he said to me, “ Yes, nobody died but some of those people probably wish they had. There are worse things, darker places for the mind to be forced to travel to than death. And some of those little babies were forced to go there...and we did nothing to stop it.”
Jesus. And does that guy still work here?
No, he developed early onset Alzeimhers very shortly after I started working here and had to be dismissed. I guess all of the people who worked here are old, dead or have no memory left by now. That’s a weird town rumor that you will have to ignore.
What is it?
A weirdly large portion of the people who used to work at the psyche ward developed brain problems themselves. WIth memory especially. Alzeimhers, dementia, dissociation etc...I don’t know. Some people think that they were being punished for allowing these awful treatments to take place. When they couldn’t possibly have known any better. Small town gossip, you know how it is.
No. No-I don’t know actually. But I guess, I am going to have to find out, amn’t I?
(Deliberately ignoring the apprehension evident in DANIEL’S tone)
You sure are buddy!
(Slaps him on the back)
Okay, come on, on your feet. Let’s have a look around a bit.
No need to worry about any of that now. Now, it’s the best place in the world. We help people. We bring them back to their best state. Even better than before. Our practice makes perfect.
(’OUR PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT’ song)
SCENE: PATIENTS ARE A VIRTUE
Okay, so here’s your list of regulars. Today we’ll meet a few. Starting with Mrs. Dawn Lavelle, one of the hospital’s oldest patients.
She has been having major issues with everyday functioning for the past year. It’s unconfirmed, but we suspect that she has some kind of progressive dementia.
(They walk into a different hospital room, to reveal a frail old woman.)
Hi Dawn, how are you feeling this morning?
Great. I’m feeling just great.
This is the man I was telling you about Dawn.
The new Doctor. Mr. Daly. Your new practitioner. Remember I told you I had to go away for a while?
You’re going away? (Suddenly upset) NO, no. Don’t leave me Doctor Mike.
Don’t worry about it Dawn. Remember I told you, it’s only for a year and Dr. Daniel will take great care of you until then.
No!! No, who is Dr. Daniel?
(MIKE turns to DANIEL and gestures with hands as though to suggest this is what he had been referring to)
Doctor Daniel is right here with us Dawn, look, isn’t he lovely?
(DANIEL reaches out to shake her hand but she violently slaps it away)
Don’t you dare touch me, you filthy scumrat. I don’t even know you!!
Ah, yes, apologies. I should have told you.
Dawn prefers not to be touched, she endured a marriage full of domestic abuse for many years and though she has been out of it for a good twenty, she still hates anybody touching her or approaching her without very solid permission.
(Turns back to Dawn, with a broad smile on his face)
Okay Dawn, thanks a million. We’ll be back to you in no time at all.
(The two men continue down the corridor and pause outside the next door)
Valerie is a professionally trained writer. She specialized in Advanced Writing at Trinity College, Dublin and achieved a 1.1. She has had work produced/presented with Tribeca Performing Arts Centre, The Galway Fringe Festival, The Dionysian Literary Journal, The Venus Adonis Festival, DU Shakespeare Festival and DU Players. She recently completed writing Series One of NOTIONS.