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End of the Line: A Short Play by Francis DiClemente

End of the Line: A Short Play by Francis DiClemente

Drama, Vol. 8.2, June 2014

CHARACTERS:
BUTCH, a nursing home resident in his eighties.
CLYDE, Butch’s friend and also a nursing home resident. He is in his late eighties and is confined to a wheelchair.
DIANE, a nursing supervisor in her early fifties.

TIME: Christmas Day, the present.

PLACE: The exterior of a nursing home, with a park bench near the entrance and some small trees planted on the adjacent lawn.

CLYDE sits outside in his wheelchair, and he wears a winter coat. He’s holding a lit cigarette, hiding it near the wheel of his chair so no one can see it. Every now and then, he pulls it up to his mouth and sneaks a puff. BUTCH walks outside. He also has a winter jacket on.

BUTCH
Hey, Clyde. Merry Christmas.

CLYDE
Not you too. Goddammit, if another person tells me Merry Christmas I’m gonna punch them in the face.

BUTCH
Sorry.

CLYDE
Oh, that’s all right. Sit down.

(BUTCH sits down on the bench. He then notices the cigarette burning near the wheel of CLYDE’s chair.)

BUTCH
Where’d you get that?

CLYDE
My grandson. He visited yesterday and used my bathroom.

BUTCH
So what, that doesn’t explain anything. How’d you get the cigarettes?

CLYDE
I could smell the smoke on him. When he went in the pisser, I searched his jacket and found the pack. You want one?

BUTCH
Yeah, sure.

(CLYDE digs the pack out of his coat pocket. He pulls out a cigarette, lights it, and hands it to BUTCH. BUTCH places it in his mouth and takes a few puffs.)

BUTCH
I got something too.

(BUTCH pulls out a silver flask from the front pocket of his pants.)

CLYDE
How the fuck did you get that?

BUTCH
Joe, the night orderly. He’s putting his daughter through college. We have a deal. I slide him a little money and he hooks me up.

CLYDE
You bastard.

BUTCH
(laughing)
It’s a good arrangement. Here, try it.

(BUTCH hands the flask to CLYDE. CLYDE takes a swig and then coughs.)

CLYDE
(giving the flask back)
Jesus, what is that?

BUTCH
Just some whiskey.

CLYDE
It’s strong.

BUTCH
Sure is, and I need it to be. Joe only gives me a little bit at a time. He’s worried about getting in trouble.

(BUTCH puts the flask in his pocket, while CLYDE takes a puff of his cigarette. Then, using one of his thumbs, CLYDE points behind him, toward the nursing home.)

CLYDE
So what are they doin’ in there now?

BUTCH
They’re playing music, opening presents, eating cookies. Same old shit.

CLYDE
Bunch of imbeciles. What do they have to be so happy about anyway? Half of them can’t tell you their name.

BUTCH
Poor bastards. It sucks getting old, huh?

CLYDE
Yeah, the Golden Years—what a bunch of bullshit that is. Count me the fuck out.

BUTCH
If I had known what old age was gonna be like, I think I would’ve drank more, gambled more, and maybe even slept around more. Yeah, and I would’ve eaten more bacon…and red meat.

CLYDE
Me too.

BUTCH
What part?

CLYDE
Huh?

BUTCH
What part would you have done too? Drinking, gambling, women, what?

CLYDE
Oh, all of it.

(BUTCH nods his head. The two men sit quietly, puffing on their cigarettes.)

BUTCH
Actually, in truth, I can’t say I would have done things much differently. I tried to be a good husband and father. I guess that’s all that counts anyway.

CLYDE
Right. Plus we didn’t know any better. We were stupid.

BUTCH
I guess we’re lucky our minds still work. That’s something to be thankful for.

CLYDE
Not me. I’m not thankful for anything. I’m old enough now, I can be as miserable as I want and no one can say a fuckin’ thing.

(BUTCH laughs)

BUTCH
Well, nothing matters now anyway. Don’t you feel that…that all we’re doing now is waiting…you know, for the end?

CLYDE
I could care less. Screw it, let it happen. And the sooner the better.

BUTCH
What do you think it’ll be like?

CLYDE
What, dying?

BUTCH
Yeah.

CLYDE
Oh, I don’t know. It’ll probably feel like any other day here.

BUTCH
So you don’t think there’s anything else after?

CLYDE
Nah, I don’t buy that bullshit. Once you’re gone, you’re gone. That’s it. Lights out.

BUTCH
I guess I’m not sure. I wanna believe there’s something waiting for us, you know, on the other side. Otherwise, what have you got?

CLYDE
Nothing…but I think that’s all there is anyway.

BUTCH
I’m just not sure. I stopped going to church a long time ago, but I still believe in God. Part of me hopes there’s something more. But I really don’t know.

CLYDE
No one does.

BUTCH
It can’t hurt to hope, I say. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong and I won’t know any difference.

CLYDE
That’s true.

(BUTCH passes the flask to CLYDE, who takes a swig and hands the flask back. BUTCH puts it back in his pocket. CLYDE lights another cigarette and puts it in his mouth.)

CLYDE
You want another one?

BUTCH
Yeah, what the hell. It’s Christmas, we’ll go all the way.

(CLYDE lights another cigarette and gives it to BUTCH. They sit there quietly, smoking and staring ahead. DIANE walks outside, dressed in her nurse’s outfit and a fleece jacket. BUTCH and CLYDE try to hide their cigarettes, dangling them low. CLYDE stuffs the pack inside his jacket pocket.)

DIANE
(now standing in front of them)
So this is where you guys are hiding. Don’t you know you’re supposed to be inside?

(DIANE stands erect, sniffs the air, and looks around. She realizes it’s cigarette smoke. She looks down and sees the cigarettes in the men’s hands.)

DIANE
What are you doing with those? Put them out right now. You know better. What do you wanna do, get me fired?

CLYDE
Ah, what difference does it make? I’ll be dead soon.

DIANE
It makes a lot of difference to me. You know you can’t smoke. And I’m responsible for you. Now put them out, and hand over the pack.

(BUTCH and CLYDE throw their cigarettes on the sidewalk)

CLYDE
We finished the pack.

DIANE
I don’t believe you.

BUTCH
We did.

DIANE
I still don’t believe you. One of you has it, and I’ll find it eventually. You have to go to sleep sometime.

CLYDE
Oh, all right.

(CLYDE grabs the pack and hands it to DIANE)

CLYDE
You used to be fun, Diane.

BUTCH
Yeah, not anymore.

DIANE
Right, right, I know. But then I got stuck supervising you two pains.

(CLYDE nods his head)

BUTCH
Mm hmm.

DIANE
(edging closer to the bench)
All right then, slide over Butch, make some room.

(BUTCH slides over on the bench and DIANE sits down next to him)

DIANE
Now what’s the problem? Why aren’t you inside opening presents with the rest of ’em? We have gifts for you both.

CLYDE
Fuck that. I’m not interested.

DIANE
Please don’t use that language, Clyde.

CLYDE
Sorry. I just don’t feel like celebrating Christmas and all that ho, ho, ho bull—all that stuff.

DIANE
All right, I understand. But come inside anyway; I don’t want you guys getting sick… It’s freezing out here.

BUTCH
But the air’s a helluva lot cleaner.

CLYDE
Yeah, it doesn’t smell like piss and shit, like in there.

BUTCH
And Lysol spray.

CLYDE
That too.

(DIANE tries not to laugh but can’t help herself. She shakes her head.)

DIANE
You two are a trip.

BUTCH
We have to have some fun.

CLYDE
Yeah.

DIANE
OK, I get it. Now come on. Come inside, open your presents, have some hot chocolate and cookies. And then you can go to one of your rooms and gab all you want. Sound fair?

CLYDE
No, not really… But we don’t have much choice, I guess.

DIANE
No. I’m afraid not.

(DIANE stands up and goes around to the back of CLYDE’s wheelchair. She releases the brake.)

CLYDE
I can do it myself.

DIANE
I know you can. I just want to.

(DIANE starts to push CLYDE’s wheelchair on the sidewalk toward the entrance of the nursing home. BUTCH gets up and walks behind them. DIANE pushes the button to open the automatic doors, and all three go inside. The doors close behind them.)

END

 

Inquiries concerning performance rights should be addressed to the playwright at ffdhold@yahoo.com.

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