It's a Saturday, mid-morning, and Simona is alone at the mortuary. She shuffles around the office, turning on lights. She's holding newspapers and the mail in a pile in her arms. She drops everything on the desk and begins to flip through the mail. She finds a letter addressed to her and opens it. It reads:
Dear Simona, Thank you so much for taking care of my family, and for all your help and support during such a difficult time. There are no words to express the pain we felt when we lost our sister, but your kindness and compassion made planning her service much easier. Your attention to detail was greatly appreciated. We wish you well. Sincerely, Janet Fox
SIMONA How nice. (There's a knock at the door. Simona slips the note into her pocket and answers the door. JEFF SCOTT, a disheveled man wearing wrinkled clothes and uncombed, longish hair stands in the doorway.)
SIMONA Good morning. Come in. (Rubs hands together nervously.) Can I help you, sir?
JEFF Yeah. My dad’s here.
SIMONA (Polite, but questioning.) And who is your dad?
JEFF George Scott.
SIMONA (Slight surprise .) Oh. Ok.
(Extends hand.) I'm Simona Salco. I met with your sisters.
(Laughs nervously.) Um, there is going to be a service later, in about four hours. Pastor James will be here…
JEFF Oh, yeah, yeah… I think I heard something about that. (Pause.) Is it ok if I just see him now?
SIMONA Of course! I was just gonna say that, well, there's a service today, and you might want to come, but, um... Your father's in the chapel. Follow me?
JEFF (Follows Simona, then abruptly stops.) Do you mind if we… I need to take this kinda slow.
SIMONA Oh, ok…
JEFF I'm not freaking out or anything… It's just that I haven't seen my dad in like, 12 years. Does he look really... dead?
SIMONA (Pauses, smiles gently.) You want to sit down for a minute? Maybe have a glass of water?
JEFF Yeah, please. (Takes deep breath and exhales loudly, paces nervously.)
SIMONA (Returns with a glass of water.) Have a seat.
(Gestures to bench outside chapel doors. Hands Jeff the cup of water.) So you haven't seen your dad in 12 years? That's a long time.
JEFF Yeah, man, time flies.
SIMONA Do you live around here?
JEFF Uh, no. Not really.
(Neither speak for a moment, then Jeff breaks the silence.) I’m not even sure why I’m here. We were never too close, you know, me and my dad.
SIMONA Oh, really?
JEFF Yeah. He always liked my sisters way more.
SIMONA (Trying to think of something to say.) Did the two of you have anything in common?
JEFF (Stands, turns back to Simona.) You know, not really. I was way into music, and he wanted me to be into something else. Anything else.
SIMONA That’s tough.
JEFF (Bitter.) Hell yeah it was.
(Pause.) And now he’s dead. I just, damn… I don’t know how I feel, you know? Since I heard he died, I’ve been having all these crazy flashbacks. SIMONA What kind of flashbacks?
JEFF (Pauses, thinking.) I keep thinking about all the bad stuff. I know people usually think about all the good stuff, right?
SIMONA Maybe the good memories will come later.
JEFF Yeah. There aren’t too many though. Today when I was driving over here I was singin’ along to something on the radio and I started thinkin’ about the night he busted up all my albums. I almost turned around.
SIMONA Oh my gosh. What happened?
He was always trying to rough me up, make me a man. I used to save all my money to buy albums and he always hated that. He always seemed so angry… at everything. So one night, he got all pissed off at me, I don't even remember why… some bullshit probably. He was yellin’ about how I needed to do this and I needed to do that, and then he just reached into my crate where I kept all my Neil Diamond albums. I had a special crate just for Neil... and he just started breaking ‘em. One by one, he was looking me right in the eye the whole time. I felt like I was dreaming, man. Like, how could you DO that? They’re my albums and I loved them! And he just kept going. Snap, snap, snap, right over his knee.
(Laughs.) I keep tryin’ to talk myself outta goin’ in there, huh?
SIMONA (Pained expression.) How old were you?
JEFF Oh, about seven. I just remember sitting on the floor in my pajamas... my records all busted up. It was like the end of the world.
(Pause, matter-of-fact.) And that's when I knew he was the enemy. Seven years old, and I knew I had to get away from him. I was out of the house at 16.
SIMONA (Trying to lighten up the conversation.) Are you still into music?
JEFF Oh, yeah. I’m in a band. We tour around. Last year we were in Canada. Ever hear of the Fanatics?
SIMONA Oh my god, you're in the Fanatics!?
JEFF Yeah... Founding member.
SIMONA (Gushing) Oh my god, that is so cool! I love the Fanatics!
(Remembers where she is, calms down a bit.) Um... Wow...
JEFF Yeah, we'll be on tour in a few months... Maybe you can check us out...
SIMONA Oh I totally will!
JEFF So my sisters didn’t say anything about me?
SIMONA Maybe they did, and maybe it went through one ear, you know. I get so swamped sometimes.
JEFF (Interrupts.) Let me guess. I didn't even make the obituary.
(Simona looks down at her lap, stays quiet.)
JEFF Man, you got a tough job, listening to people's sob stories and family problems all day long. What do you do at the end of the day, you know, to forget all this crap?
SIMONA (Deadpan.) I drink.
JEFF (Amused, laughs.) Yeah? What do you drink?
SIMONA Cosmopolitans when I'm out... Cabernet when I'm home.
JEFF Hey, well good for you. I’d need a lot more than that! Like maybe a couple shots and a joint or something.
SIMONA I’m just kidding. We’re just talking, right, I mean... I like to talk. I don’t always know what to say, though... I mean, I still have both my parents, and I get along with them pretty well, so I don't really know how you feel. But you know, I’ve heard some pretty amazing things working here, like, out of body stuff, and sometimes I wonder if there really aren’t any goodbyes. Maybe we all see each other again…
JEFF (Pause, then serious.) I don’t know if I wanna meet up with my old man again. I think once is plenty.
SIMONA Well, then go on in and say goodbye.
(Stands.) I’ll give you some privacy, ok? But I’m just down the hall if you need anything.
(Jeff hands Simona the glass and then awkwardly grabs her, hugging her. Simona is startled at first, and stiffens a bit. He releases her quickly.)
JEFF I’ll let myself out. Thanks for talking, and well, thanks. See ya. Actually, scratch that. I hope I don’t see you anytime soon.
SIMONA It was nice to meet you, Jeff.
JEFF Yeah. Bye.
(Exits to chapel.)
SIMONA (Simona watches him go in, then straightens up the room. She leaves briefly and returns with her journal. She writes, her words amplified through the theater.)
Families coming together. Families coming apart. Mr. Scott had a son, and his sisters never said a word about them. They've completely forgotten him… I guess things aren't always as they seem. I remember filling out the obit form with Mr. Scott’s daughters, and talking to them about their family. Not one mention of Jeff. There wasn't even a debate like, "should we include him in the obit even if he hasn't been around for 12 years?" Nothing. Who knows, Jeff may have alienated himself, but you still mention the guy! Families are so strange sometimes.
(Pauses, looks up, then goes back to writing.)
When I was trimming Mr. Scott’s nails the other day, I remember looking up into his dead face and thinking he had a kind expression. I thought of his pretty, well-adjusted, well- heeled daughters and thought, “He must have been a nice dad.” Now I know that… (Shuffle of feet can be heard offstage. Joe enters.)
JOE Mornin’, kid.
JOE (Monotone, disinterested.) Got you a fritter and some fresh milk. You got someone in the chapel?
SIMONA Yeah, Scott’s son.
JOE He’s early.
SIMONA Yeah. (Simona gears up to explain the Scott family drama, but then decides not to.)
Long story. What else we got goin’ on today?
JOE (Sighs.) We got a visitation in the main chapel for that kid all shot to hell in Iraq. That oughta be a fuckin' zoo.
SIMONA What time does that start?
JOE We got an hour ‘till the family shows up.
SIMONA Ok, well, I guess we should start moving things around?
JOE (Sighs.) Yeah, let's get him in the chapel.
(Joe and Simona begin walking slowly toward the chapel.)
SIMONA Hey, remember the Fox family? The ones I helped a few months back that asked me to do their sister’s hair all special?
JOE Yeah. Why?
They sent me a really nice thank you. JOE (Snorts.) Yeah? That’ll stop once you get a gut full of this hell hole.
SIMONA (Laughs.) Jesus, Joe! (Teasing, sweet voice, throws her arm around his neck.) Are you cranky today? Thank you for bringing me a donut…J