Simona says goodbye to Malinda and enjoys a moment of quiet. Rick, the mortuary office manager, still moving quick on his feet, enters the room.
RICK Simona? You finished with Sher?
SIMONA Yes. For now, anyway. We got the funeral pretty well-planned, and yes, she needs to be embalmed, so, can you let Joe know?
RICK Good job, honey. You ready for your next one?
RICK Coroner's case. Suicide. I need you to take them in about 30 minutes. They're on their way. Jill doesn’t want any deaths that happen today waiting for tomorrow.
SIMONA Um, ok. Can I get a cup of coffee?
RICK Sure. I’ll put a pot on. (Rick exits, and Simona, apprehensive, calls after him.)
SIMONA Do you know how they died?
RICK Not sure! Haven’t seen the body! It's a woman, early thirties, suicide… That's all I know!
(Simona looks down at the floor, then walks over to the desk. She furtively opens a small drawer and removes a pen and a journal. She writes:)
SIMONA Genevieve Sher died at home, in bed, after a long, illness. This was not a tragic death, but a tragic dying. She lived a very uncomfortable and painful existence for years - I guess you could say she suffered. In her last days, the hospice nurse instructed her daughter, Malinda, to stop feeding her and just give her little drops of water from a straw. Food would just end up in her lungs because she was too weak to swallow. Now, Malinda is wracked with guilt. For everything - for not feeding her mom when she knew she was hungry. Worse, her mom died when she left the room to get a bite to eat. When she came back after a quick ham sandwich, her mom was dead. She wasn't there for her mom when she took her last breath. This is devastating to her. I told her not to feel guilty, that she had done everything she could. That was so clear to me - that she loved her mom… endlessly. Not everybody can be there for their parents like she was.
(Pauses, looks up, and then returns to writing.)
I would never tell her this, but maybe her mom was waiting for her to leave the room. Maybe she wanted that moment alone. Maybe after six years of being waited on hand and foot by Malinda, and then finally needing to be bathed and changed like an infant, she just wanted to writhe and twitch and take her last, gasping breath… alone. Maybe she thought, "Oh wow. I am finally alone! I can do anything I want for the next two minutes - even die if I damn well please!"
(Pause.) I think that…
(Jill abruptly enters the room.)
(Simona looks up, startled. She slams journal shut and sits on it to hide it.)
JILL Are you finished with Sher?
SIMONA Yeah, she just left. (Trying to appeal to Jill. Stands up, take journal and gathers it up with other papers on the desk.) She got the mahogany. One thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine dollars!
JILL Oh gooooooooood. That’s very good, Simona. Did you... do the personalization like I asked you to?
SIMONA Well, um, no, I didn’t. But she bought the mahogany…
JILL But if you would have done what I told you to do, it could have been an even better arrangement. Can't you see that?
SIMONA (Frustrated, whining) I don't know... I've been looking at the scripts they gave us in training, but you know how arrangements can take on a life of their own!
(Rick, a ball of energy, pushes into the room, says one thing and then exits.)
RICK Coffee’s up!
SIMONA Thank you! I’ll be right there. (To Jill.) I have another family coming in, so, um, I gotta get going ok?
JILL (Blocks Simona’s way.) Simona, you would be wise to see this job as a sales job. Because that is what it is. It's sales with a heart. And if you are going to have a job here, you will need to change the way you work.
SIMONA I’m sorry, it’s just hard to go from, “Hi, I’m so sorry you lost your mom,” to “Now, if I can just show you these personalization options to honor your loved one's precious memory AND serve your needs at this difficult time…”
JILL That's why I sent you to training! To teach you! To train you so you can deliver the message without being salesy!
(Softens) I'm trying to invest in you.
SIMONA (Urgently.) Um, Jill, I really have to pee, and I have a family coming in, like, five minutes. Can we…
JILL Just go!
SIMONA Thanks! (Simona exits, leaving Jill alone and fuming in the arrangement room. She huffs out of the room.)
FADE TO BLACK.
Scene reopens in the arrangement room. Simona is making arrangements for Rosemarie Pipkin. Rosemarie's husband Ron, and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Krause are in the room too. All are very serious, distraught. Mrse. Krause dabs her eyes, and Mr. Krause sits stoic beside her. Ron fidgets and appears... very pissed off.
SIMONA Mr. Pipkin, and Mr. and Mrs. Krause, I just want to say that I'm so, so sorry for your loss. I’ll do everything I can to help you through this.
SIMONA The first thing I am going to need is your signature on the coroner’s release form… We may as well get that out of the way now. Then I can dispatch our staff to bring Rosemarie here from the coroner's office. (She arranges all the papers on clipboard.) She’s still in their care…
RON (Terse) Ok, let’s have it.
(Ron takes the clipboard from Simona with a annoyed pull. The room is silent as he fills out the form... all you can hear is the scratching of his pen, hard on the wooden clipboard. Mr. and Mrs. Krause look at each other. Mr. Krause touches his wife's arm.)
SIMONA Thank you. Ok... next, I need to get some information about Rosemarie. It will only take a few minutes and then we can talk about any services you’d like to plan. Then I have just a few more papers for you to sign, and then we’ll be done for today, ok?
MRS. KRAUSE Thank you, dear. She was 30 years old… (Emotional.)
(Ron stands, walks across the room.)
Ron What information do you need?
SIMONA Name, date of birth...
(Ron speaks loudly, enunciating every word.) Rosemarie. Janeen. Pipkin. Rosemarie is one word. Janeen is J-A-N-E-E-N. Pipkin. P-I-P-K-I-N.
(Simona is taken off guard by the abrupt nature of Ron’s response. She quickly begins writing..)
SIMONA Ok... Let me get that down… And what’s her date of birth?
RON (Indifferent, looks at picture on wall.) April 7, 1983.
SIMONA State of birth?
Mrs. Krause Berkeley, California.
RON (To Mrs. Krause.) You want to do this?
MR. KRAUSE Cheryl, just let Ron answer the questions. SIMONA (Pauses, picking up on tension.) Was she ever in the military?
RON (Scoffs) Hell no.
SIMONA And her street address?
RON Do you want my address or the address of the place where she lived?
SIMONA I'm sorry?
RON Rosemarie and I were separated.
Simona (Slight surprise.) Oh. I see. Well, what is her legal address?
RON 346 Magnolia Lane, Walnut Creek, CA 94598.
SIMONA Is your mailing address the same, Mr. Pipkin?
Ron You know, let’s just stop for a sec, ok? We were separated. Am I still the person who needs to do all this?
SIMONA Were you and Rosemarie legally divorced?
RON Well, I guess we are now!
SIMONA Mr. Pipkin, I’m sorry, but if you were not legally divorced before today then you ARE legally responsible for your wife. You could sign a form that gives the responsibility to someone else, perhaps Rosemarie's parents? If you prefer… (Gestures to parents.)
RON No, whatever.
MR. KRAUSE (With disdain, sadness.) Ron, if you have somewhere else you need to be…
Ron Yeah, I do have somewhere else to be! You know where that is? Getting on with my own fucking life! I have been trying to end this for a whole, fucking year!
MRS. KRAUSE (Shocked and appalled.) Ron! Stop!
MR. KRAUSE (Stands.) Ron, that’s enough!
RON (To Simona, as if pleading for understanding.) She refused to sign the divorce papers! Doesn’t that mean anything!? To anyone? It should! (Points at Mrs. Krause, who tries to speak, silencing her.) And not because she wanted to get help and make it work, but just to PUNISH me! And she is STILL punishing me! Do you know how much it’s going to cost to clean up the mess she left!?
MR. KRAUSE (Steps toward Pipkin, poised to punch him, brushes teams from his cheek.) You son of a bitch! Get out and let us handle this!
SIMONA (Stands, nervous.) Excuse me, Mr. Pipkin…
RON (Ignores Simona, faces Mr. Krause.) No, I won’t stop! Do you know how much damage she did to me? To the house? God, I’m so sick of her screwing with me!
SIMONA (Loudly, firmly, with authority.) Mr. Pipkin! (Group stops and looks at Simona)
Would you PLEASE come with me for a moment?
(Ron stops, takes a breath, and slowly follows Simona out of the room. )
FADE TO BLACK.
Scene re-opens in mortuary office, where Joe is reading the paper, smoking a cigar. Simona enters, dragging a bit, looking tired.
JOE Ya all done with your family, kid?
SIMONA FamiLIES. Yeah. (Rubs her eyes, tired.) Fuck...
JOE (Still reading paper, disinterested.) What the hell’s wrong with you?
SIMONA Just worn out. And it’s not even 12 o’clock! (Falls into one of the chairs, hangs head back, moans.) I hate suicides.
JOE What are they doin’? The suicide?
JOE (Looks up from his paper, enunciates.) What. Is. Your. Family. Doing?
SIMONA Oh. The Pipkins?
SIMONA They were separated, living apart, husband was in the process of divorcing her. Sounds like she wouldn't sign the papers. And then she let herself into his house and killed herself there. Made a great big messy mess. And he is still technically the next of kin - and responsible.
JOE She screwed him good.
SIMONA He was making it really hard on her parents. Awful. I could tell he was somewhat trying to hold it together, kinda gritting his teeth, and then he just… snapped.
JOE Wouldn’t you?
SIMONA I don't know what I would do.
JOE (Annoyed.) Ok, so what the hell are they doing?
SIMONA Her parents are having a graveside service for her. When we were alone in the hall the husband said he woulda just burned her if it were up to him. He paid for everything, though. Actually got on the phone with his credit card company and asked how many air miles he’d get.
SIMONA She hung herself, Joe. With a sheet. I mean, what makes someone tie something around their neck and…
JOE Flat or fitted?
JOE Flat or fitted sheet?
SIMONA (Short, shocked laugh.) I have no idea!
(Jill enters quickly, in a rush and getting ready to leave for the day.)
JILL Everyone busy as bees? Simona, what are the Pipkins doing?
SIMONA Graveside at Royal Oaks. They have a plot.
JILL (As if clarifying.) What casket?
SIMONA Pressed board.
JILL (Disappointed.) Oh. No funeral?
SIMONA Nope, just a graveside.
JILL Ok, moving on. I took a call from a woman earlier, she wants to come in and make arrangements this afternoon for her “companion.” She was talking about a Saturday service.
JILL I set her up with you. She’ll be in at 4:30. Her name is Vicky Maven. Deceased’s name is Richard Fine. (Jill hands Simona the paperwork.) I’d take her, but the kids have back-to-school night tonight. (Smiles, with a little condescension.) I told her she would be in good hands.
SIMONA (Signs.) Sure.
JILL Gotta run!
(Jill leaves in a brisk trot, her heels clicking on the cement floor. Simona looks to see that she is gone, and leans close to Joe and speaks sarcastically, under her breath.)
SIMONA You know she interrupted my arrangement to bring me those stupid personalization brochures? And why the hell did she have to schedule that Maven arrangement so late!? That totally blows my plans.
JOE Just like her ol’ man. Do anything to make one more dollar. Hey, some crack pot called earlier. Says his mother's in the hospital, getting ready to die any minute. Sounds like he has some big getaway planned with the girlfriend and all this mom stuff is gettin’ in the way… Anyway, he asked if he could reserve the chapel for this Saturday.
SIMONA How can we reserve the chapel and plan a service if someone's not dead?
JOE Yeah. I told him that. He got all pissy. Said he’d call back and talk to someone else. Someone more “understanding.” So in case he calls and you answer… we gotta wait ‘til she goes.
SIMONA Now Joe, I really need you to at least try to come from a place of compassion.
JOE Screw you.
SIMONA (Smirks, looks at watch.) I gotta get going. I have an appointment downtown. (Gathers purse.)
JOE (With some interest.) Yeah? For what?
SIMONA (Gestures to upper lip.) I'm getting my lip waxed, if you must know.
JOE (Looks off into space, rocks on his heels, takes a puff off his cigar. Takes his time telling the story.) Me and Willy did a removal once out in the city. Up three flights of stairs… some old guy’s house. (Cringes.) Man, was he nasty! There were ash trays and cigarette butts everywhere… The place stank! He had a cat that was all skinny and mangy. Felt sorry for the poor bastard - the cat, you know. Anyway, this guy died in the bathroom, face down, in his own puke. It had dried up pretty good by the time we got there, and man! Was he ripe. Anyway, when we rolled him over to get him on the cot, I heard this ripping sound. I looked down, and there was his mustache, stuck to the puke on the floor.
SIMONA (Mix of disgust and amusement.) That’s what you think of when I say I'm getting my lip waxed?
JOE (Chuckles, puffs cigar.) Heh… Yeah. ‘Magine that. FADE TO BLACK. END OF ACT ONE.