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Death by Sausage
Playwright: Genevieve Yates
Act 1: Cemetery
Act 2: Linda’s home (lounge and dining room)
Setting: Modern day Australia.
Act one: Camp chair x1 (centre stage)
Act two: Two adjoining rooms (kitchen and lounge room) with basic furniture (including couch with throw cushions).
Act one: picnic basket, extra camp chairs x 2, mobile phone, compact mirror, handbag (Rachel) sausages and bread roll, “stick on” tattoos.
Act two: mobile phone (for Jim), mini sausages and small bread rolls, other food items e.g. sushi, wine glasses, bottle of red wine
Act one: 3 females – 2 daughters (Rachel 32, Linda 35) and mother 57
Act two: As above plus a male (Jim 49.)
This play contains adult themes and occasional course language.
Suggested Opening Music: Excerpt from Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive”
(Lights up to reveal Mum sitting on camp chair talking to “grave
(point at centre front of stage))
Mum: I think she deliberately overcharged me, just because I gave her some advice about how to pack the groceries. She put the bread in with the canned pineapple! Doesn’t anyone teach these young girls that heavy, round cans should never be placed in with delicate items? They roll around and cause untold damage to things like bread. So I gave her a few grocery packing hints but she didn’t seem very appreciative. I came home, only to discover that I’d been charged for 26 tins of sandwich tuna. I only had 25! An accident? I think not. I blame myself really. I usually watch the screen so carefully as the items are scanned, you know me, but I was distracted by her bag packing deficiencies. She must have slipped it past me. It would never have happened if you were there too. We made a great team – you on bagging and me on scanning. (pause) So when I discovered the error, I jumped right back in the car and drove back to the supermarket… only took me 27 minutes. Pretty good, don’t you think? The traffic lights were in my favour. Unfortunately, the girl at the service counter wasn’t. I showed her the 25 cans of tuna and the receipt which stated I had been charged for 26 and she had the gall to suggest that perhaps one of them had been placed in another one of my shopping bags and overlooked, or even worse, that I had taken one out… deliberately!! I’ve never been so insulted in my entire life! To insinuate that I was a liar and a thief! What happened to “the customer is always right!”? She also asked me what I was going to do with so many cans of tuna. What kind of a stupid question is that? They were on a good special, reduced from $1.49 to 99c. Don’t these young people know anything about stocking up on non perishable bargains? I eventually got my 99c back AND made a formal complaint to the manager but it did make me late coming here. I’m sorry about that. I know how you can’t abide tardiness. Anyway, it was so exhausting that I… Linda! Rachel! I didn’t expect to see you two here. What a lovely surprise!
(Linda and Rachel come in carrying basket and camp chairs x2 during the final part of this monologue and are then spotted by Mum)
Linda: Hi Mum.
Rachel: Hi Mum. We were just passing by and so we thought we’d drop in.
Mum: Passing by? The road’s a dead end.
Linda: (sotto voce) How appropriate.
Rachel: OK, we weren’t exactly passing but we knew we’d find you here on a Sunday afternoon and we wanted to see you… and Dad. (to grave) Hi Dad!
Linda: (sotto voce) Hope you’re not expecting a reply…
(Linda and Rachel start setting up chairs)
Mum: How lovely! The whole family together again. (to Linda) Aren’t you going to say hello to your father?
Linda: I don’t think he can hear me.
Mum: You never know dear.
Linda: I can be fairly sure. Not only has he got six feet of dirt on top of him, he’s in a very solid and expensive mahogany casket. Oh, and after 5 years, I’m pretty sure his ears will have well and truly decomposed by now.
Mum: Linda! Don’t say things like that.
Linda: Sorry, Mum. (to grave) Sorry, Dad.
Mum: (to Rachel) You’re looking tired and pale. Are you sick?
Rachel: I’m fine, thanks Mum. (brightly) We brought food. Thought we might have a little picnic.
Linda: Even put in a drink for Dad – in case he was thirsty.
(Rachel glares at Linda)
Mum: No need for sarcasm, young lady.
Linda: I’m not being sarcastic, I’m being satirical.
Mum: (to Rachel) That’s very kind of you dear. What did you bring?
Rachel: Your favourite… sausage in a bread roll
(Rachel pulls bread roll with sausage out of the basket and passes it to Mum then takes one for herself)
Mum: Oooh lovely. (to Linda) Are you having one too?
Linda: Nah, I don’t like hot dogs.
Mum: How many times do I have to tell you – it is not a hot dog. Firstly…
(Rachel and Linda speak the following lines in a sing song fashion, rolling their eyes – they have heard them said many times previously)
Linda, Rachel and Mum: …it is a dish served cold.
Linda, Rachel and Mum: …hot dogs have frankfurts.
Mum: Horrible fake meat… and thirdly, we have been having good ol’Aussie sausages in bread for generations, a long time before the Americans invented hot dogs.
Linda: Said with such patriotic authority!! You crack me up, Mum. You’re a Pom!
Mum: I may have been born in the Mother Country but I’ve been here for 38 years AND have got my citizenship. I’m as Australian as Russell Crowe.
Rachel: He’s fromNew Zealand.
Mum: Nicole Kidman then.
Rachel: Born inHawaii.
Mum and Linda: (together) Really?
Mum: Well there you go then, that proves my point nicely. We are a nation of immigrants and I’m a proud Aussie.
Linda: You’re right Mum. Sorry Mum.
Mum: Apology accepted.
Rachel: So, Mum, we both wanted to talk to you… about some important things.
Mum: I knew it! It was too much to hope that my daughters would come out here to spend some time with their father and me without some hidden agenda.
Rachel: There’s no hidden agenda Mum.
Mum: Hurrmph… So what’s on the unhidden agenda then?
(Rachel gestures for Linda to speak)
Linda: Well, you know how you are always nagging me to find a partner and settle down?
Mum: I don’t nag you dear, I just get concerned because you are 35 and still single. I don’t want you to end up a lonely old maid. I just want you to find happiness, like your sister.
Linda: Oh yes, my perfect sister with her perfect husband! What a laugh! She’s just…
Rachel: (cutting off Linda) She’s just, or should I say, I’m just, delighted to hear that Linda has found happiness too.
Mum: You have Linda? How marvellous! When did you start dating?
Linda: We’ve been seeing each other for 8 years.
Mum: (looking confused) 8 years?
Linda: And living together for 7.
Mum: But you’ve been living with your flatmate, Ruth, for years.
Linda: Yes, 7 years. Ruth is more than my flatmate, Mum, she’s my lover.
Mum: Your lover? You’re telling me that Ruth’s your “life partner”?
Linda: Yeah. I know this comes as a shock.
Mum: A shock? No dear, I’ve known for years that you were “that way inclined”. I wasn’t sure about Ruth though.
Linda: (visibly distressed) You’ve known for years?
Mum: Oh yes, your Dad and I used to discuss it quite frequently.
Linda: (more distressed) Dad knew too?
Mum: We didn’t understand it and we hoped it was a phase you would grow out of, but we accepted your choice. (to grave) You were right, Bill. Ruth is Linda’s partner. They are a “lesbian” couple. (to Rachel) My money was on Ruth being straight or curiously bi, and breaking my little girl’s heart when she ran off to get married.
Rachel: (looking confused) Ruth’s getting married?
Linda: Of course not, Rach. It’s bi-curious Mum, and no, Ruth isn’t – straight or bi-curious. We are very much in love and totally committed to each other.
Mum: So Ruth’s a “lipstick lesbian” then while you are more of a “butch dyke” type?
Linda: Lipstick lesbian, butch dyke?! I can’t believe these terms are coming out of your mouth! Where on earth are you getting your information from?
Mum: The Internet. I’ve been doing some research www.mychildisgay.com. It has a great forum too. I’ve been chatting on line with other parents.
Linda: Lord help me.
Mum: Now don’t you go taking the Lord’s name in vain, young lady.
Linda: Sorry. I’m not butch, by the way.
Mum: But you hardly ever wear lipstick so you can’t be a lipstick lesbian.
Linda: It’s more complicated than that. You can’t just put people in boxes.
Mum: You’ll have to explain it all to me sometime. I’d like to know.
Linda: Sure… I guess. (pause) I just don’t get your reaction. I thought you’d be angry or at least deeply disappointed.
Mum: What’s to get? I’m a very tolerant and accepting person, Linda. I’m actually feeling happy – my two daughters are in loving partnerships.
Rachel: About that. I have some news too.
Mum: (triumphantly) I knew it. You’re pregnant! Finally! That’s why you’re looking so drained. I’m delighted! (to grave) Did you hear that Bill? We’re going to be grandparents at last! How marvellous!
(Mum leans back contentedly and takes a big bite of her sausage in bread roll)
Rachel: I’m not pregnant Mum. I’ve left Brent. We’re getting divorced.
Mum: (seemingly talking with her mouth full) You’re what?!! Over my dead body. No child of mine will get divorced! You’ve made a commitment, you have to work things… (inhales and starts choking)
Linda: Nice try Mum. Cut the dramatics.
Rachel: She’s such a drama queen!
Linda: Pretending to choke… now that’s a new one.
Rachel: I don’t think it’s an act, Lind.
Linda: (taking a closer look). You’re right. She really is choking. (panicking) What do we do?
Rachel: Didn’t you do that first aid course last year?
Linda: Yeah, but I skipped the section on choking. We only needed 75% to pass. Figured it wasn’t that important.
Rachel: You figured wrongly. Isn’t there some kind of a Hindleburg procedure you do?
(Linda shrugs. Rachel clumsily tries to perform a Heimlich manoeuvre. Mum stops gasping for air)
Rachel: I think it worked.
Linda: No you idiot. She’s stopped breathing!
Rachel: Don’t call me an idiot. You know I don’t like it. What do we do now?
Linda: You call the ambulance, I’ll start CPR.
(Linda rolls starts doing chest compressions (incorrectly) while singing the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” – too slowly)
Rachel: (on phone) Ambulance please…. Yes, I need help, my mother, has died…. Bernadette Jackson…. No, that’s my mother’s name, I’m Rachel McAllister. We’re at Riverside cemetery…. No, this is not a joke, she is not dead and buried, she’s dead and alive. I mean, she has just died, no, she is dying, I mean she’s stopped breathing. My sister is trained in first aid. She’s trying to bring her back to life…. Yes, doing CRP…. yes that’s what I meant, CPR…. It was a sausage that did it…. Pardon? I can’t hear you over my sister’s singing (mouth over phone, to Linda) for God’s sake shut up…. (in phone) No it’s not the least bit funny. She was eating a sausage in a bread roll and choked.… no, not a hot dog. Hot dogs have frankfurts and they.… oh never mind. Can you get an ambulance here right away? We are near the west gate entry. Thanks…. Yes we will keep doing the CRP…. Yes CPR. You know what I meant. (hangs up phone)
Rachel: What the hell are you singing for? Stayin’ Alive!! Talk about poor taste.
Linda: (stops CPR to chat) No, it’s what they told us to do in my first aid course. You see, the tempo of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” is exactly 100 beats per minute – the same speed as the chest compressions in CPR. So you sing the song and get the right rate of chest compressions!
Rachel: But you were singing it way too slowly!!
Linda: I always thought the Bee Gees rushed it. I prefer a more sedate, acoustic version.
Rachel: That rather defeats the purpose.
Linda: I guess.
Rachel: So why have you stopped?
Linda: I’m tired, and I don’t think it was working. Thought I’d quit while I wasn’t ahead. Does she look dead to you?
(Linda feels for Mum’s pulse, presses her hand across Mum’s forehead then lifts up Mum’s arm and drops it– no response from Mum. Rachel gets a compact mirror and holds it briefly over Mum’s mouth and nose to see if condensation appears from Mum’s breath)
Rachel: Yeah, dead all right.
Linda: She can’t say we didn’t try.
Linda: I can’t believe she’s dead.
Rachel: Killed by a sausage.
Linda: There are more people inQueensland killed by sausages than by sharks.
Linda: More people die from choking on sausages than are killed by sharks. I remember the first aid instructor telling us that.
Rachel: Well that’s great! You’ve forgotten the actual first aid but you remember the irrelevant trivia.
Linda: It’s actually pretty relevant, considering Mum is going to be another one chalked up to the killer sausages.
Rachel: At least she doesn’t have to go far.
Linda: Go far?
Rachel: You have to admit it is pretty convenient to die in a cemetery, particularly right in front of your pre-arranged plot. Die here (point to ground), get buried there (points to ground just left of centre front stage).
Linda: Except that they will have to take her to the morgue to do an autopsy, then she’ll go the funeral parlour, have a funeral and then eventually get back here.
Rachel: Good point.
(thoughtful silence. Linda and Rachel move back to the picnic chairs.)
Rachel: You didn’t follow the game plan. You were supposed to shock her with some devastating revelation, fictitious if necessary, so that when it came to my news, it would pale into insignificance. She would be so disappointed in YOU, there would no parental disapproval left for ME.
Linda: Like the tattoo and earring plan.
Rachel: Exactly, but that plan went to plan. It worked perfectly. This one however… What a disaster, Mum wasn’t distracted at all.
Linda: And she ended up dead.
Rachel: That too.
Linda: I thought telling her that me and Ruth were lesbians would have been plenty devastating enough.
Rachel: Not me and Ruth, Ruth and I.
Linda: What?! You and Ruth! YOU like girls too?
Rachel: Don’t be silly. I was talking about your syntax, not my sexual preferences. You said “me and Ruth”. That is grammatically incorrect. It is “I” not “me” in that sentence.
Linda: My God, you’ve turned into Mum. She used to correct the grammar and spellings in every email I wrote her.
“Love Mum. PS. ‘Commitment’ is spelt C-O-M-M-I-T-M-E-N-T. Double M, one T. PPS. (Rachel mouths this as Linda speaks) You should never start a sentence with ‘and’.”
Rachel: You too? She does that to me as well.
Linda: Did, not does. (looks at body) Past tense. AND you think MY grammar is bad!
Rachel: Have you no heart? The advice about starting sentences with “And” didn’t seem to sink in either. You are lacking both grammatical correctness and sensitivity. Anyway, back to you and Ruth.
Linda: How come you can say “you and Ruth” but I can’t say “me and Ruth”.
Rachel: (sighs) You can. In the right context. It depends on the rest of the sentence.
Linda: Bloody English language. So about Ruth and I…
Rachel: No, it’s “Ruth and me” in this case.
Linda: This is totally stupid. I give up. Who cares anyway?
Rachel: Alright then. You and Ruth. We’ve all known for years. Nothing new there. I thought you were going to say that are planning to have a baby with your lesbian lover – now THAT would be something that would have stirred up serious maternal disapproval.
Linda: No doubt! She’s a funny one. Utterly desperate to have a grandchild, but only if it comes attached to heterosexual married parents. She needn’t worry her bigoted little head about it though. Unlike you, I have no desire for a rug rat.
Rachel: You could have pretended.
Linda: No way Sis.
Rachel: And why did you get her offside from the get go with all that talk about Dad’s decomposing ears?
Linda: I was just trying to soften her up for the blows that were to follow. Like tenderizing meat before you cook it.
Rachel: Softening? Tenderising? Riling her up more like it. Increasing her anxiety levels, diminishing her swallowing reflexes.
Linda: Now hang on, you can’t put this one on me. I was the one helping you out… yet again. Ten years ago, I got a tattoo just so that you wouldn’t get in trouble for piercing your ears.
Rachel: Talk about distorting the truth! You didn’t get a tattoo for me – you had already got it done… weeks earlier.
Linda: That may have been true, but I didn’t have to tell Mum. You asked me to tell her about the tattoo so she wouldn’t get upset about your pierced ears, and being such a devoted sister, I did, and took all the heat… for you.
Rachel: So you were planning to keep the tattoo a secret forever were you?
Linda: Probably. I would have just kept it covered when Mum and Dad were around.
Rachel: (pointing to Linda’s tattoo) It’s on your ankle and we were about to go on a family holiday to the beach… the trip that gave a new meaning to the term “long weekend”. You don’t think your wearing shoes and long socks in the surf would’ve arisen some suspicion?
Linda: That’s not the point!
Rachel: What IS the point?
Linda: The point is that I did you a favour then and now here I am again, helping out my little sister. And what do I get for it? Ridicule and criticism.
Rachel: Ridicule and criticism – give me a break! Why Mum was so anti ear piercing I never could work out. “I won’t have you putting holes in your body. If God had intended you to wear ear rings he would have created you with holes in your lobes.” She’s such a prude. I TOTALLY understand her feelings about tattoos though – they’re revolting. Why anyone would graffiti the body like that is beyond me.
Linda: (wry smile) Mum’s not the only prude in the family. Little Miss Goodie Two Shoes has fallen off her self righteous perch now, though, hasn’t she? Leaving golden boy, Brent. So what’s the scoop?
Rachel: We’ve grown apart.
Linda: Grown apart? You can do better than that. It’s the most well worn piss-weak excuse available. Relationships don’t just happen, you don’t naturally grow in the same direction… you have to work hard to keep aligned. Like two saplings sharing a garden stake. You need to bind the young trees to the stake and nurture them, readjusting the ties regularly to keep them upright and strong.
Rachel: For God’s sake, spare me the horticultural anologies.
Linda: Anologies!! It’s analogies you idiot. And you are trying to correct MY grammar!
Rachel: I never thought I’d say this but you sound just like Mum, (looks towards body) may she rest in peace. And what would you know about having to work hard to keep aligned – you’re a lesbian!
Linda: So?! You don’t think that just because we are both women that it all comes naturally and easily to us, do you? We have to work just as hard at our relationships as you heteros. Try having menstrual cycles in sync – simultaneous PMT is no fun.
Linda: So who is he?
Rachel: (mock shock) Who’s who?
Linda: Your Brent replacement.
Rachel: Replacement? There’s no replacement. Why would you think that?
Linda: Because I know you, Sis. You need the security, the attention, the admiration. You haven’t been single for more than three days since you were fifteen!
Rachel: Well maybe I’ve changed. Maybe I just want to be single for a while. Find myself.
Linda: And maybe not. Come on Rachel, spill it. You want to talk about it. I can see it in your eyes.
Rachel: It wasn’t supposed to happen. I wasn’t looking for it. But the minute Jamie and I started talking, a spark was lit. This spark soon exploded into a ball of fire. He’s the man I didn’t think I could even hope for. He not only understands how I see the world but he shares my views completely… religious, political, ethical, financial – you name it, we share it.
Linda: Doesn’t that make things pretty boring?
Rachel: Not at all. It is affirming, invigorating. I’ve found a kindred spirit. We have the same interests and hobbies. And there’s no more fighting over the remote as we enjoy the same music, movies and TV shows. We even like the same food and drink! It’s incredible.
Linda: Incredible is one word for it. I reckon liking exactly the same things would be awful.
Rachel: Quite the opposite. It’s a huge turn on. Take music for example. When I told him that Elgar’s cello concerto was my favourite piece of classical music it had the same effect that “I’m not wearing any underwear” has on other men. We then put the CD on and…
Linda: Please stop right there. I get the rather disturbing picture.
Rachel: So how about you give me an example of how liking the same things would be a bad thing?
Linda: BBQ chicken.
Linda: Every Sunday, Ruth and I, or is it Ruth and me, oh I don’t know… anyway, we buy a hot BBQ chicken from Woolies when we do our weekly shop. Ruth is a leg girl and I like breasts (cheeky grin), so we divide the bird up accordingly. We eat the left half on Sunday and the right half on Monday. The dogs get whatever’s left over, and we’re all happy. Now, if we both only liked breasts, we’d end up having to eat parts we didn’t enjoy – or having overfed dogs.
Rachel: Or you could forego the BBQ chicken and buy a tray of chicken breasts from the meat department. What a stupid example!
Linda: I could think of plenty of others if you gave me a little time.
Rachel: Don’t bother. You won’t convince me.
Linda: So there are no down sides at all to this relationship with your clone?
Rachel: Well there was the guilt. Lots of guilt. And initial indecision on how to proceed. Much as I was woken from slumber by Jamie, I still loved Brent and didn’t want to hurt him. I convinced myself that if I slept with Jamie, just once, I’d be able to get him out of my system and go back to being happy with Brent.
(Mum gasps audibly at hearing this)
Rachel: After all, it seems to work for men. Did you hear that?
Linda: Hear what?
Rachel: Mum just made a sound.
Linda: It was probably just a death rattle thingy.
Rachel: A death rattle thingy?
Linda: Yeah, I remember hearing about how people can make sounds after death. Something to do with the lungs deflating and the air passing through the voice box.
Rachel: Another gem from your first aid course? It seems to have taught you more about dying than saving.
Linda: Nah, I think I learned about it on CSI, or maybe it was Law and Order. But back to what you were saying about sleeping with Jamie while you were still married to Brent.
Rachel: Not sleeping with Jamie, THINKING about sleeping with Jamie.
Linda: You mean you didn’t sleep with him.
Rachel: No I did, but I hadn’t got up to telling you about that bit yet.
Linda: How does anyone put up with you? So let’s get this straight. You were THINKING about sleeping with Jamie BEFORE you left Brent? You then acted on these thoughts. You, little Miss Moral High ground embarked on an illicit extra marital affair. You got a replacement before the old one broke. You traded in for a better model.
Rachel: Don’t be so crass. It was not like that. I fell in love and it forced me to act in a way that was outside my moral comfort zone. It caused me no end of angst, believe me.
Linda: You weren’t “forced” Rachel, you CHOSE to behave that way.
Rachel: I thought you of all people would understand.
Linda: Me of all people? I’ve never been even the slightest bit unfaithful!!
Rachel: I wasn’t suggesting that you had. I thought you’d understand because you’re a lesbian.
Linda: (tersely) I don’t see the connection.
Rachel: Gay people are used to operating outside societal norms and aren’t supposed to judge others who don’t measure up to social expectations. We’ve both chosen to flaunt convention.
Linda: (more tersely) Your choosing to having an affair and my being gay are entirely different things. An affair involves a betrayal of trust, lying and hurt. It’s not something I can condone and my opinion has nothing to do with social expectations.
Rachel: OK, OK, I’m sorry. If it helps your opinion of me at all, as soon as I realised that Jamie and I were meant to be; that sleeping with him made me want him more not less, I told Brent and we separated. It was only a matter of a few weeks of deception.
Linda: That’s something I suppose. So tell me a bit about this Jamie fellow. Age, marital status, occupation?
Rachel: (proudly) He’s an entrepreneur. Owns and manages several successful businesses which invest in building projects, the stock market, business loans. Mergers, takeovers, acquisitions… those sort of things. He does a lot of international travel for work, first class of course, but always finds time to send me a text or email when he’s away. I’m always on his mind.
Linda: How interesting… a high flying, corporate mover and shaker who happens to share exactly the same opinions, hobbies and tastes as a kindergarten teacher who has never travelled outside Australia.
Rachel: I know! Unbelievable, isn’t it?
Linda: (flatly) Totally.
Rachel: He’s been divorced for years and has two adult kids who…
Linda: Back up a sec. Adult kids? Divorced for years? How old is this dude?
Rachel: He’s a little older than me but he’s very well preserved for his age. After all they say you’re only as old as you feel.
Linda: Or the woman you feel!
Rachel: Love conquers all!
Linda: Yeah, except in tennis. So putting aside his emotional age, how does he rate chronologically?
Rachel: He’s 49.
Linda: 49?! You’re 32. That’s a 17 year gap!
Rachel: Age is irrelevant. We have the same thoughts, feelings and motivations.
Linda: A man’s thoughts, feelings and motivations originate from his groin, Rachel. They’re simple creatures. They’ll tell you whatever they think you want to know to get you into bed.
Rachel: How the hell would you know?
Linda: A young woman can do an awful lot for an older man.
Rachel: It’s not like that. He’s not some geriatric old fart who I have to look after.
Linda: Not now, sure. But what happens in twenty years time? Just look at Mum and Dad. Dad was fifteen years older than Mum…
Linda: Fifteen, sixteen, whatever. For the first twenty years of their marriage he bossed her around using his age as a weapon: “I’m older and wiser therefore I know what’s best for us”, and the last ten years he bossed her around using his age as a defence: “I’m old and frail and you need to take care of me”. She ended up with an invalid who sucked the life out of her. She was 57 going on 75 – talked, dressed and acted like a woman twenty years her senior. Do YOU want that life?
(After slowly “awakening” during the above lines of Linda’s, Mum stands up, brushes herself off and starts talking.)
Mum: I can lie here and listen to a lot but I will not have you badmouth your father.
(Rachel and Linda jump in fright and squeal,, severely shocked.)
Linda: So how much did you hear?
Mum: Everything. I’m not deaf.
Rachel: Why on earth?
Mum: How else am I going to hear about what was really going on? You girls are never straight with me and I, for one, am sick of it.
Linda: So bloody typical!
Rachel: I’d better cancel the ambulance.
Linda: Good idea.
Mum: I’m starving, are there any more sausages in bread left? (rummages in basket, finds food and starts eating.)
Rachel: (on phone) Hi, this is Rachel McAllister. I rang about fifteen minutes ago to report that my Mum, Bernadette Jackson, had been killed by a sausage in the cemetery and ordered an ambulance. Well, she’s fine and alive so we don’t need it anymore… Three days?… Risen from the dead? What you are on about?… No I agree it’s not a joke… No I know it’s a serious matter to make prank calls. We honestly thought she had choked to death… Now hang on, I should be the one berating you. Why is the ambulance not here yet? If she’d really been dying, fifteen minutes is far too long to wait… Let’s leave it at that then. Goodbye.”
Mum: I have a few comments to make on your discussion.
Linda: (sotto voce) Big surprise.
Rachel: (to Linda) Shh.
Mum: Firstly, I’m very disappointed that you feel compelled to concoct elaborate schemes to tell me about what has been going on in your lives.
Rachel: It’s really not like that. We…
Mum: Let me finish. I may hold particular views on certain topics,
Linda: That’s putting it mildly.
Mum: but I love you both and will continue to do so regardless, even if I don’t agree with some of the things you do. I want you to feel that you can confide in me about anything. Having said that, what on earth were you thinking Rachel? Leaving the wonderful Brent whom I love like a son-in-law,
Rachel: He is your son-in-law.
Mum: for some fancynancy old businessman who gets turned on by Elgar. He hardly sounds like good father material. Have you completely taken leave of your senses? To make matters worse, you started carrying on with this home wrecking man behind poor Brent’s back in an illicit, sordid affair. I feel sick just talking about the matter, it upsets me so much.
(Mum sways a little and looks unsteady and upset, angling for her daughters to run to her side and support /comfort her. They remain still and silent. Mum realises she is not going to get the reassurance and so recovers her senses and continues talking)
Mum: Linda is right in saying that being married to a much older man has its hardships and I can’t say I recommend it on principle but I do not want your pity. Your father was not always the easiest man to live with, I’ll grant you that, but we had a long and happy marriage. We loved each other dearly and he was a good father and provider.
Linda: I know Mum. Sorry Mum.
Mum: (Looks at her watch) Is that the time? Righto girls, thanks for coming along today. It was nice to chat. Now, if you don’t mind, I need a little time alone to talk to your father.
(Girls look bewildered but pack up their basket and chairs and wander off stage)
Rachel: Bye Mum.
Linda: See ya Mum.
Mum: Yes, yes, goodbye girls. (talking to grave) Well, sweetheart, it has been an illuminating afternoon to say the least. An outed lesbian and a childless philandering soon-to-be divorcée. Both of them a waste of reproductive space. Hardly offspring that I can boast about at bridge club. (sigh)
And they were so blasé about my supposed death… it nearly killed me. Pretending to die was far more stressful to me than my presumed actual death was to them. I was so distressed by their lack of distress that I feared I would have a heart attack and actually end up dead!
So where did we go wrong with Rachel and Linda? We were model parents and provided them with a proper and moral upbringing and yet they still came unstuck. Just like we did. (pause) But how could we possibly have lectured them about drugs when they were teens, if they knew we spent much of the 70s stoned? How could we’ve instilled decent family values if they knew that Linda is a product of a drunken encounter with a stranger at a party? That I don’t remember a thing about her biological father? That you left your first wife for me, your secretary, when I was 4 months pregnant? And most damaging of all would be if they found out about this. (pulls skirt down a few inches to reveal a tattoo) My tattoo. Linda would be covered with tattoos from head to foot by now and I wouldn’t be able to utter a single word of disapproval! No, best to let sleeping dogs lie, and be able to dole out generous portions of self righteous indignation whenever I see fit. It’s a mother’s right… nay, her duty. (pause)
Well, I’d better be off now, dear. I have 25 cans of tuna to unpack before the church auxiliary meeting this evening. I’ll be back next week, on time, incompetent supermarket check out assistants notwithstanding. Toodle pip. Take care of yourself, love. (Mum blows Bill a kiss and then leaves)
Suggested Closing Music: Excerpt from Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive”
END OF ACT ONE
(Rachel and Linda sitting/ standing in the kitchen preparing lunch)
Rachel: So no Ruth today?
Linda: No, she’s inSydney at her brother’s wedding.
Rachel: So why aren’t you there too? Hosting a casual lunch with your sister and mother is hardly a good enough reason to miss the wedding of your partner’s sibling.
Linda: I invited you for lunch BECAUSE I wasn’t going to the wedding. Two weeks ago, my invitation was withdrawn. I’d even bought a dress.
Rachel: I don’t believe it, YOU! In a DRESS?
Linda: Well, sort of a dress.
Rachel: Does it have material which passes in between your legs? (gestures)
Linda: Umm… yes.
Rachel: It’s not a dress then.
Linda: That’s not the point. The point is that Ruth chickened out. Again. She opened the door of the closet just a fraction, got scared and slammed it shut. She promised me that she was finally going to tell her parents the truth at this wedding, so that after 8 years we’d be able to hold our heads high and go to a family gathering as the couple we are. Instead, she invited David Korman to be her plus one, a Jewish doctor from a good family. A Jewish mother’s wet dream.
Rachel: Are you worried? Ruth and David…are they, you know, actually dating?
Linda: Of course not. David’s as gay as she is but they’ve found each other mutually useful as decoys for their respective, conservative, “Jews aren’t gay” parents. And it doesn’t stop there. She isn’t out at work either. Reckons it’ll hurt her prospects for career advancement.
Rachel: That’s not unreasonable. People can be very judgemental.
Linda: What century are you living in? We have an Asian, openly gay female front bencher in Federal parliament now. That’s an advanced career.
Rachel: An example of the perfect minority token… ticks off three boxes in the one person. The Labor party can sit back smugly and proclaim, “Look how inclusive of diversity we are”.
Linda: She’s no token member. She smart, tough, hardworking… most deserving of her position. And she’s sexy.
Rachel: Sexy? If that was a criterion for success in Federal politics, there’d be a very different group of politicians in Canberra (pause) and Question Time would be a lot more watchable.
Linda: I didn’t use to mind so much. After all, I hadn’t told my parents I was gay either.
Rachel: Even though they already knew.
Linda: As it turned out. Since that day in the cemetery last year, when it all came tumbling out, keeping our relationship a secret from anyone has increasingly bothered me. I reckon her family and workmates know, just like Mum did. It’s a total farce.
Rachel: So what can you do about it?
Linda: To be honest, I’m almost at the point of calling it quits. I want to be with someone who’s proud to be with me. A woman who will stand up to the world and say “This is my girlfriend. Like it or lump it.”
Rachel: Oh sis, I’m so sorry. I had no idea it had gone so far.
Linda: Why would you have? It’s not as if we catch up often. It must be nearly four months since we had a good heart to heart.
Rachel: It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that we’re both so busy and have different interests and friends…
Linda: Don’t stress, Rach. It’s cool. We may live in the same city but we inhabit different worlds. You know I’m here if you need me.
Rachel: Likewise. (They hug briefly and awkwardly) So Mum’s got a boyfriend, eh?
Linda: So I hear (sounds disapproving). In fact, she’s bringing him along to show him off today.
Rachel: (delighted) Ooh goody, I can’t wait.
Linda: Goody? Christ, it’s like conversing with an Enid Blyton character. “Oh Goody, how smashing! Mother is bringing her special friend to tea. We must make some treacle tarts and have a jolly good time”.
Rachel: Lay off Linda. I’m just happy for Mum. Finding love in her twilight years. Who’d have thought it could happen to old people?
Linda: I think it’s disgusting. She’s acting like a lovesick teenager. Poor Dad.
Rachel: Dad’s been dead six years. I think he’ll cope with his jealousy. (pause) Have you met this new man of Mum’s?
Linda: Sort of.
Rachel: What do you mean “sort of”? Is this like your “sort of” dress?
Linda: I happened to see them at the markets last Sunday but I don’t think they saw me.
Rachel: Didn’t you say hello?
Linda: I was too busy trying to swallow the vomit that had worked its way up my throat after seeing how they were carrying on in public.
Rachel: Don’t be vulgar.
Linda: What’s vulgar is the way they were draped all over each other – giggling, fondling and even kissing each other in the middle of the markets. Totally gross.
Rachel: Come on Lind. It sounds sweet.
Linda: You weren’t there to see it. Did I tell you that he is much younger than Mum? I guess mid to late forties by the looks of him – that’s an age difference of a DECADE! It’s disgusting.
Rachel: Good on Mum, the little cougar! Who’d have thought she had it in her? Now come on, you were the one who criticized her for marrying a much older man. You can’t have it both ways.
Linda: I can and I will. Why doesn’t she pick someone age appropriate? Not too old, not too young, just right.
Rachel: She’s falling in love, not choosing a breakfast cereal. Hey, do you reckon they’re, you know, doing it?
Linda: What, having sex? Voluntarily? To someone she’s not married to? No way. Mum didn’t even do it with Dad unless she had to for the sake of marital harmony -on the first Saturday of each month with a bonus for his birthday. Which stopped when Dad could no longer get it up. …
Rachel: I overheard her say on the phone to Aunt Janet one day “Bill’s impotence is the best thing that’s ever happened in our marriage. We can finally put that messy and unpleasant business behind us. A cuddle is now just a cuddle. The one advantage of marrying an older man.” Poor Mum. To think she never knew how good sex could be. Having such a constrained and mundane life.
Linda: I’m not losing any sleep over it. She chose to be so uptight and self righteous. So how are things going with your older man? Can he still get it up or is he now requiring some pharmacological assistance?
(Rachel bursts into tears.)
Linda: Whoa… I was just having a laugh.
Rachel: (through her sobs) I promised myself I wouldn’t do this.
Linda: Do what?
Rachel: Cry… in front of you… I was going to be so strong, so matter of fact, so “It’s no big deal, I don’t care at all”…. But it is… I do….Oh Linda! (more sobbing)
Linda: It’s not a great big deal that he needs a great deal to get big (smiles at her own joke). I’ve been told that lots of guys on the wrong side of 45 need a bit of Viagra to, you know… perform. It’s no reflection on you.
Rachel: I know that. I’m not upset over the Cialis.
Rachel: Like Viagra but lasts longer. Three days.
Linda: Three days with a hard on? No way! I didn’t think it was possible! (pause, thinking) It would rule out sleeping on his stomach… and it would make it harder to piss with accuracy. Men are such poor aims at the best of times!
Rachel: No, you don’t have an erection for three days straight, the tablet just makes it easier to get one. But that’s not why I’m crying. Jamie broke up with me.
(Staging suggestion… Rachel grabs a box of tissues and starts wiping her eyes/ blowing her nose, using tissues liberally. She drops them on the floor as she goes and Linda trails around after her, picking them up. Linda often seems more concerned about the use and discarding of tissues than she does about Rachel’s words. Rachel’s tissue use escalates as her story unfolds and she sobs dramatically throughout.)
Linda: When did that happen? Things were going so well.
Rachel: Three weeks, four days and (checks watch) two hours ago…. but the cracks had been showing for months. I was just too proud to admit it. You know how I told you that we had all of the same views and interests?
Linda: Let me guess, he agreed with everything you said, making you think you were kindred spirits, so that he could get into your pants?
Rachel: Well I wouldn’t have put it quite like that, but yes. I confronted him about it when I found an Elton John CD in his car. He had told me he HATED Elton John’s music as much as I did. At first he tried to excuse it saying that it was an unwanted birthday gift but then admitted that he was a fan. It all came crashing down after that, like a house of cards. The worst thing was that he seemed quite unrepentant, that it was totally normal and acceptable to blatantly lie to a prospective partner when trying to “seal the deal”. He called it “putting your best foot forward”. I pointed out that the “best foot” that he displayed was not actually his! He’d created a persona that didn’t exist. I’d fallen in love with a myth.
Linda: I’m sorry Rachel. He did seem too good to be true.
Rachel: You tried to warn me. Lots of people did but I was lost in the fairytale of early love. I now realise how lucky I was to have been married to Brent. A more caring, honest and decent man you’d be hard pressed to find. I miss him desperately.
Linda: Would he take you back?
Rachel: No. I’ve well and truly burned my bridges there. He’s moved on. Found himself a new partner. Our divorce is due to be finalised next month and then he plans to marry her. The sad thing is that he’s not bitter about our break up at all. Says that he’s grateful to me. That he’s never been happier. (sobs increase to a wail)
Linda: Well look on the bright side. You’re young and vibrant, you own your own home, you have your health…
Rachel: No, I don’t. Jamie’s ruined me. Totally. (deep breath). I invested in one of his “schemes”. Guaranteed to double my money in a year. All my savings plus a second mortgage on my house. All gone. Markets were “unpredictable”, apparently. “Most unfortunate”, I was told. “High returns = high risk, didn’t I realise this?” It WAS in the fine print, of course. “You should never invest what you can’t afford to lose. Everyone knows this.” Do they?
Linda: Oh Rach, I’m so sorry.
Rachel: I’ve been struggling to make repayments on the house since Brent left and I bought him out of his half. I love my little house so much. It may not be fancy but it’s mine and I couldn’t bear to lose it. Jamie sounded so certain of the scheme’s success and convinced me it was the answer to all of my financial woes. Like a gullible fool, I threw caution to the wind, jumped on the gallant steed behind my Prince Charming and rode off into the sunset. I swallowed his story, hook, line and sinker, only to have it yanked back, ripping up my insides. His gallant steed bucked me off, kicked me repeatedly with his hooves, then galloped off, with Prince Not-so-charming’s laughter echoing in the breeze.
Linda: That sucks. I never believed in the happy ever after fairytale endings. Prince Charmings always seemed to be complete knobs.
Rachel: Well this one was sure was. I did my sums and worked out that if I got a second job and saved really hard I still might be able to finance both mortgages and keep my house.
Linda: That’s great Rachel.
Rachel: I started working in an after hours child care centre and picked up some tutoring work but couldn’t manage the extra hours. I was getting so tired and started feeling sick. At first I thought I was just overdoing it, but then…
Linda: Oh my God, you’re not!
Rachel: I am. Eleven weeks tomorrow.
Linda: But how? I thought you couldn’t!
Rachel: That’s the most ironic thing about this whole mess. For six years, Brent and I tried almost everything to get pregnant. We had practically every test known to man and no reason could be found, yet it never happened for us. Even the two cycles of IVF didn’t work. Jamie and I used condoms religiously but like most religious practices it was imperfect in its execution. Once the condom broke and another time we didn’t use one. I was a little concerned about the risk of catching something, luckily everything was OK on that count, but the chance of pregnancy didn’t even cross my mind.
Linda: Ironic all right. Jamie can’t get it up without Viagra but..
Linda: Cialis, whatever. Even when you’re in the middle of a crisis you can’t stop correcting me, can you? You’re so annoying.
Rachel: You’re right, I’m sorry. What were you going to say?
Linda: It doesn’t matter. It was just an attempt at humour.
Rachel: No tell me, I need a laugh.
Linda: OK. So I was saying that the irony was that Jamie couldn’t get it up without… CIALIS…but he could get an infertile woman “up the duff” in a flash. He must have some pretty vigorous and resilient little swimmers.
(Rachel sobs loudly)
Linda: No laughter? It must have lost its humorous appeal with the Viagra vs Cialis interruption. Comedy is all in the timing. Or maybe it wasn’t particularly funny to begin with.
(Rachel sobs even more loudly)
Linda: Moving right along then. Are you going to keep it?
Rachel: Of course!! I’ve ached for a baby for so many years. This is my one chance to be a mother. I can’t possibly give that up because the circumstances aren’t ideal. I’m seeing this pregnancy as a miracle, a wonderful legacy from a disastrous relationship.
Linda: Does Jamie know?
Rachel: I sent him an email three weeks ago.
Linda: An email?
Rachel: I didn’t know what else to do. He wasn’t returning my calls and I couldn’t just turn up on his doorstop.
Linda: Couldn’t handle the humiliation?
(Rachel’s distress and tissue use escalate to a climax during the following lines. She even pulls tissues out of the box and tosses them onto the floor dramatically without using them to wipe her face (see below), as if to emphasise what she is saying.)
Rachel: Well, that, but I also don’t want to see his face again. (tosses an unused tissue) Ever. (tosses an unused tissue) He hurt me more than I ever thought possible. He took more than he arrived with… not only my money (tosses an unused tissue) but my self respect (tosses an unused tissue) my self esteem, (tosses an unused tissue) my dignity (tosses an unused tissue) and my emotional fixtures (tosses an unused tissue). He left my heart as stripped (tosses an unused tissue) and bare (tosses an unused tissue) as my bank account. (wails)
Linda: Oh Rach. Men are horrible… and tissues don’t grow on trees (wrestles tissue box away from Rachel as she pulls out a handful of tissues and stuffs them into her pockets/ sleeves/ cleavage) So what did he say about the pregnancy news?
Rachel: He hasn’t replied to my email.
(Knock on door)
Linda: Shit! That must be Mum and her little boyfriend. Look, slip out onto the back veranda for a while and try to get your personality back. I’ll greet the lovebirds.
(Rachel exits, Linda goes to living room and opens front door. Mum and Jim enter, arm in arm. Mum is wearing a horrendous figure-hugging outfit – trying to look young and stylish but failing dismally. “Mutton dressed as lamb”. She is wearing earrings.)
Linda: (looks Mum up and down with a mix of disgust and amusement) Hi Mum. Nice outfit (sarcastically).
Mum: Thanks love (looks genuinely pleased. She is proud of her “new look”)
Linda: It wasn’t a… never mind. (turns to Jim) This must be your…
Jim: Jim, I’m Jim. Nice to meet you…
Jim: And you’re the younger one?
Jim: Sorry Linda. Bernie has been very coy when it comes to her daughters.
Linda: (to Mum) Bernie?
Jim: She thought it would better if I got to know you myself rather than my developing preconceived ideas about you. I have to confess it did make me feel a little nervous, like there was something she was hiding. You look fairly normal though.
Linda: Fairly normal? Gee thanks.
Jim: I didn’t mean it like that. It was…umm…
Mum: (interrupting to change the topic) Are Rachel and Ruth here?
Linda: Rach is outside, she’ll be in soon. Ruth couldn’t make it.
Jim: Three delightful daughters? I thought you just had the two.
Mum: Rachel’s mine. Ruth is Linda’s… friend. Her flatmate.
Linda: My lover.
Mum: Linda, please!
Linda: I’m sick of tiptoeing around it Mum. (to Jim) Jim, I am a bona fide, gold star, never been with a man, lesbian. I’m sorry if I’ve offended your sensibilities but facts are facts.
Jim: No, it’s fine. I’ve no personal objection to lesbians. (to Mum) I assume that’s why you’ve been so secretive about your daughters. Is the other one “that way inclined” too?
Mum: Oh no, she’s normal thank God.
Linda: Thanks a lot Mum!
Jim: You shouldn’t be ashamed of her.
Mum: I’m not!
Linda: As long as I don’t parade my sexuality in public.
Mum: I just worry for you. Not everyone is as understanding and tolerant of your “choice” as I am.
Linda: It’s not a choice. I don’t wake up and say to myself, should I choose cock or pussy today? I’m sexually turned on by females. End of story.
Mum: Why are you so confrontational… so explicit today? (to Jim) She’s not normally like this. She’s always been quite restrained and socially appropriate with guests.
Linda: Socially appropriate? Fuck that! (Mum gasps at the language) I’m sick to death of restraining myself… for you, for Ruth, for anyone. Take me as I am or leave me be. (There is an emotional edge to Linda’s voice and she blinks back tears. She is genuinely upset.)
(Awkward silence. Mum is shocked and embarrassed at Linda’s outburst. Jim is feeling awkward. Linda is still upset)
Jim: So the weather’s been pleasant recently hasn’t it?
Jim: It’s a pretty warm one today. In fact I’ll think I’ll go and put up the windscreen sun visor in the car. Want to keep the dashboard in good nick.
(No response. Jim exits through front door, grateful to get away. Mum marches over to Linda)
Mum: How could you be so rude to Jim? Within two minutes of meeting him you are ear bashing him with militant gay talk and using obscenities. What must he think of our family? I’ve never been so embarrassed in all my life.
Linda: (contrite) I’m sorry Mum. I suppose I did go a bit overboard. It was not really fair to you and Jim. I’m just a bit touchy about the subject at the moment.
Mum: Luckily, Jim is a very tolerant and forgiving man. I’d like you to apologise to him and then let’s put all of this lesbian talk behind us. OK?
Linda: Yes Mum. I’m sorry. Hey, how come you let Jim call you Bernie? You’ve always HATED anyone shortening your name.
(Rachel enters through kitchen. Obviously still a bit upset but she presents a cheery front.)
Mum: I don’t mind it. (sees Rachel) Rachel my dear. How lovely to see you.
Rachel: Hi Mum. Sorry I’m late. (looks Mum up and down with amusement at her clothes) Did I hear correctly? Your new boyfriend calls you Bernie?!
Mum: I don’t like him referred to as my “boyfriend”. It makes us sound like we’re teenagers.
Linda: (sotto voce) You act like teenagers. It’s revolting.
Mum: And yes, he likes to call me Bernie. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Rachel: But you used to go mental if someone called you Bernie. Completely ignore them, hang up the phone, whatever it took.
Linda: Remember the phone calls…(gestures as if talking on the phone) “Hello, can I speak to Bernie Jackson please?”
Rachel: “I’m sorry, no one of that name lives here” Clunk. (gestures hanging up phone)
Mum: I admit I wasn’t very fond of that particular shortening in the distant past but I’ve softened in my old age.
Linda: (sotto voce) Gone soft in the head… and the waist!
Rachel: (to Linda) Linda! Be nice. (to Mum) That’s great Mum. It’s not good to be too rigid. It can be seen as…Oh my God! Are you wearing earrings?
Linda: She is! I can’t believe I didn’t notice.
Mum: (defensively) Jim bought me them for my birthday.
(Linda and Rachel approach Mum and inspect her ears)
Linda: They’re not clip ons. You got your ears pierced!
Mum: So what if I did?
Linda: Next you’ll be getting a tattoo!
Rachel: The fuss you made when I got mine done. “It’s unnatural”, “defacing your body for pure vanity”
Linda: Don’t forget, “If God had intended you to wear earrings; he would have created you with holes in your earlobes”. That one was my favourite.
Mum: (to Linda) Yes, well, you were very young at the time.
Rachel: I was 22.
Mum: Times have changed. I have changed.
Linda: Not enough.
Linda: You’re still a prude when it comes to my sexuality. You’re still worried that my being gay will reflect badly on you.
Mum: That’s not true. Anyway, I thought we’d finished with all of that.
Linda: I can never be “finished with all of that.” You’d like me to put my sexuality in a box and tuck it under the bed when visitors come around, wouldn’t you?
Mum: What I would like is for you not to drag it into every conversation and force it down other people’s throats.
Linda: It’s who I am Mum. I can’t exclude that part from social interactions and stay true to myself. Not anymore.
Mum: Of course you can. You don’t see me constantly banging on about my heterosexuality do you?
Linda: Maybe not overtly but the way you drape yourself all over that “boyfriend” of yours is advertisement enough. What would Dad think?
Mum: How dare you!?!
Rachel: Stop it, both of you. Please, not today. So where is this friend of yours Mum? I’ve been looking forward to meeting him. Jim, isn’t it?
Mum: He’s just popped out to the car.
(Knock on door.)
Mum: Here he is now.
(Mum goes and ushers Jim in. She puts her arm around him in a proprietary manner)
Mum: Come and meet Rachel.
(Rachel and Jim stare at each other in shock. Jim disentangles himself from Mum’s arms)
Rachel: (mumbles) Hello, “JIM”. Nice to meet you.
(Mum and Linda oblivious to awkwardness between Rachel and Jim)
Mum: (to Jim) Linda has something to say to you.
Linda: I’m sorry for my behaviour earlier. I didn’t mean to make you feel awkward. I stand by what I said but I won’t try to express my opinions again today out of consideration for my mother’s over sensitive and judgemental personality.
Mum: Linda! That’s not an appropriate apology.
Jim: (not really listening.) Sure, that’s fine. No problem.
Rachel: (to Mum) Has anyone offered you a drink?
Mum: No. The hostess has been stuck up on her soapbox. I’ll have a glass of red wine please.
Linda: Alcohol? At lunchtime? I never thought I’d see the day. (to Jim) And you?
Jim: (distracted, unable to look Rachel in the eye) Red wine for me too please.
Linda: Sounds good, I’ll be in that. Thanks Rach.
Rachel: You’re coming to help me.
(Rachel grabs Linda’s sleeve and propels her into the kitchen. Action shifts to the kitchen. Jim and Mum stay in the lounge room. Mime conversation of some sort. Jim is distracted, fiddling with a throw cushion. Mum tries to put her arm around him but he brushes it off. Linda and Rachel’s conversation is conducted in stage whispers)
Rachel: It’s him.
Rachel: Jim! I don’t believe it. (hyperventilating) I think I’m going to faint.
Linda: You’ve lost me. What’s wrong with Jim? Apart from having poor taste in women that is.
Rachel: He’s Jamie. (to herself, very distressed) Jim is short for James. James changes to Jamie. But why would he go by a different nickname? It doesn’t make sense. And Mum? MUM!
Linda: You’re scaring me, Rachel. What are you on about?
Rachel: Jamie, the older man who recently dumped me, is Jim. Mum is dating the father of my unborn child!
Linda: Holy shit! And here’s Mum thinking the biggest scandal of the day is me being upfront and honest about my sexuality.
Rachel: Can you shut up about being a lesbian for one minute? Mum is right, recently you’ve been espousing gay rights nearly every time you open your mouth and it’s unnecessary. We understand. We get it. Move on. It’s not all about you. In fact, right now it’s all about me. Well, and Mum. And by the way, it’s “my” being upfront, not “me” being upfront. Your syntax is still shocking.
Linda: Unbelievable! No wonder you and Mum ended up with the same bloke. You’re just like each other.
(Rachel bursts into tears)
Linda: I’m sorry, Rach. I didn’t mean it. I’m here for you, really.
Rachel: (between sobs) What are we going to do?
(Linda starts pouring drinks)
Linda: We’re going to feed and water our guests and conduct a civilised conversation.
Rachel: Just like that? I don’t think I can.
Linda: You can. I’ll be there. If he doesn’t crack and confess, we’ll get Mum alone and tell her what’s going on. She may have changed but there’s NO way she’ll condone Jim’s behaviour. NO way! It’ll be OK, sis. (sounding slightly doubtful)
Rachel: You promise?
Linda: I promise. (trying to be reassuring but sounding doubtful) We’ll get through this together. Remember, blood is thicker than water.
Rachel: So is custard. That’s a stupid saying.
Linda: Now’s not the time to criticize, Rach.
Rachel: You’re right, I’m sorry.
Linda: C’mon. Let’s go and face the music!
(Linda and Rachel take drinks and tray of food into the living room. Jim talks with false cheeriness – voice and body have an anxious edge. Linda is quite cold towards Jim. Rachel is quiet and avoids eye contact with Jim)
Jim: Hot dogs. How quaint!
Linda: They’re not hot dogs. They’re cold sausages in bread rolls.
Jim: (shrugs) Same difference.
Linda: Actually, no, they’re quite different dishes. Hot dogs are made with frankfurts which are…
Mum: It’s not important, Linda. Would you pass me a hot dog please Jim?
(Jim hands her one on a plate. Rachel and Linda look incredulously each other and at Mum)
Jim: I haven’t seen hot dogs served at a social function for God knows how many years. Didn’t think adults ate them anymore. Everyone’s concerned about cholesterol, preservatives and such nowadays. (to Linda) You’re not having one?
Linda: Sausages really aren’t my thing. On the other hand, cold sausage in a bread roll is Mum’s favourite dish.
Jim: Really, Bernie? Do you KNOW what goes into making that so-called meat? The sweepings from the abattoir floor stuffed into sheep’s intestines, that’s what.
(Mum puts her sausage and roll down on her plate and looks at it with distaste)
Jim: I have to agree with what Oscar Wilde famously said “Sausages and women. If you want to enjoy the experience, never watch the preparation of either.” (laughs)
Linda: Interesting. So you like your women pre-prepared do you? Plucked, shaven, perfumed and made up? Like dolls?
Mum: Linda please!
Jim: Steady on. It was a silly quote. Just a joke.
Linda: What DO you look for in a partner, Jim? I take it age isn’t important. Much younger, much older? After all, Mum has a few years on you. That’s a bit unusual. Can’t find someone of your own age?
Mum: There’s only an eight year gap. My husband was sixteen years older than me.
Jim: Linda IS right in saying that it’s more socially acceptable for the man to be older.
(Mum starts to protest)
Jim: Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s a reasonable thing. After all, you ladies are the ones that outlive us men. It makes sense for the more mature lady, such as a widow like yourself, to choose a younger mate.
Mum: (splutters) A more mature lady?
(Linda elbows Rachel in glee at this)
Jim: Just as it makes sense for men to get young nubile birds on their arms if they can.
Mum: A young nubile bird!?! Are you saying you’d rather be with a much younger woman!?!
Linda: (sotto voce) Been there, tried that.
Jim: (soothingly) No, no, not at all. Not me. I was generalising. You’re right Linda, age is not important to me. It’s the person inside who counts. The connection of souls.
Linda: Whatever. So how long have you two been sharing your souls?
Mum: (proudly) Ten months next week.
Rachel: Ten months!
Jim: (nervous laughter) Oh I’m sure it hasn’t been that long. It just FEELS like we have known each other forever.
Mum: Yes, it has been. We had our first date on September 21st last year. We took it very slowly to begin with. It was a big thing for me to start a new relationship. After all, I haven’t been intimate with anyone except your father for a very long time.
Linda: I hope you’re not inferring what I think you are.
Rachel: I feel sick.
Mum: Now come on girls, we’re all adults here. Much as I loved your father, he was not particularly talented in the bedroom. Jim, on the other hand, has introduced me to a world of pleasure that I didn’t think existed. He…
Rachel: (yells) Stop. Please stop. I can’t listen to this.
Mum: Rachel, I’m surprised at you. I would expect such immaturity from your sister but…
Linda: You can understand her surprise Mum, considering you have always been so adamant that sex should ONLY be undertaken between a man and a woman joined by God in holy matrimony. I know you’ve changed your mind about earrings, nicknames and hot dogs, but this is your faith you’re talking about.
Mum: Well, yes, I know that I’ve said that. I still believe it. Wholeheartedly. I know I have sinned again…
Mum: …but my transgression is between me and God. He’s the one that can judge me and from whom I need to ask forgiveness, not you and Rachel. However, I take your point. (To Jim) We need to tell them.
Linda: (warily) Tell us what?
Jim: I don’t think it’s the right time, Bernie.
Mum: On the contrary, it’s exactly the right time. I can’t have my daughters think that I’ve completely abandoned my morals. Girls, I have some happy news. Jim and I are engaged to be married.
Rachel: You’re what!?!
Linda: God help us!
Rachel: (to Jim) You’re marrying my Mum?
Mum: Who else would he be marrying?
Jim: I for one could do with another drink.
Linda: Sounds good. Anyone else for a top up?
Mum: I’m fine thanks.
Rachel: Why don’t you go and help Linda with the drinks Mum? I’ll stay and chat to your fiancé.
Linda: (whispers to Rachel) Are you sure Rach?
Linda: Come on Mum. Let me show you what Ruth’s been doing in the garden.
(Mum and Linda go through the kitchen and then offstage. Jim looks very nervous)
Rachel: So, Jamie, fancy seeing you here.
Jim: Rachel, sweetheart, it’s not what it looks like.
Rachel: Don’t sweetheart me you bastard. Not what it looks like? You’re having sex with my mother. No, worse. You were sleeping with my mother at the same time you were sleeping with me. You get ME pregnant and you ask my MOTHER to marry you. How is that SUPPOSED to look?
Jim: I didn’t know. Honestly, I had no idea or I would have never gone near your mother.
Rachel: No, you would have found yourself another sucker to warm your bed and be your wife instead.
Jim: I have a lot of love to give. The flame of desire can ignite new candles without extinguishing the others.
Rachel: Yeah right. I can’t believe I used to fall for such crap. And what’s with this Jim thing? Are you a Jamie or a Jim?
Jim: Well, both. Depends on who I’m with. Jamie makes me feel young and hip while Jim has a more mature feel.
Rachel: You pathetic old man.
Jim: Are you going to tell Bernie?
Rachel: Well that all depends. Are you going to give back the money you stole from me?
Jim: I didn’t steal a penny. It was a legitimate investment.
Rachel: OK, am I going to receive a return on my “investment”?
Jim: (sighs with exaggerated patience) I’ve explained this before. The money does not exist anymore. You took a gamble and you lost. End of story.
Rachel: I took a gamble? ME? (pause) And child support?
Jim: Yes, well about that. I’ve been meaning to reply to your email but I’ve been very busy and…
Rachel: I’ve just realised that you’ll be both the father and the step-grandfather. You’re marrying your child’s grandmother. That’s just sick… and probably illegal!
Jim: Are you SURE the child’s mine? I don’t mean to be insensitive but I’m going to have to insist on paternity testing before I pay any child support.
Rachel: I don’t believe this! Of course it’s yours. I wasn’t igniting multiple candles with my flame!
Jim: Well, technically, you cheated on your husband when we first got together, so you can understand why I have my doubts.
Rachel: You bastard.
Jim: I also have a case for entrapment. After all, you told me that you couldn’t get pregnant which lulled me into a false sense of security. All the while, you were probably trying to get pregnant so that you extort money off me.
Rachel: I hate you!
Jim: I’m sorry, Rachel, but I’m a realist and a businessman. I have to protect what’s mine. It’s not personal.
Rachel: My having your child isn’t personal?
Jim: Do you really think it’s the best thing for the kid to grow up in a single parent home? Especially when its mother shows such animosity towards who she, rightly or wrongly, believes is its father? Have you considered the other option?
Rachel: You want me to have an abortion?
Jim: How does this sound? I’ll pay for a termination and throw in a little extra for your pain and suffering, without admitting any liability of course, and in exchange we can keep all of this unpleasant business between you and me. Neither of us wants to upset your mother I’m sure.
Rachel: Go to hell! I’m telling her all about it.
Jim: Fine. Go ahead. Destroy your mother’s happiness.
Rachel: Don’t think I won’t. She’s destroyed a lot of my happiness over the years with her “I know what’s best for you.” Well this time I’m the one who knows what’s best for her and that’s getting as far away from you as possible.
Jim: Suit yourself. I wasn’t really going to marry her anyway. The silly old cow wouldn’t go to bed with me until I proposed.
(Linda and Mum enter)
Jim: Bernie, sweetheart, I’ve just remembered that I have a teleconference withTokyo. I have to get going now I’m afraid.
Mum: You didn’t say anything about it before.
Jim: It completely slipped my mind. I’m so sorry. Well, it was nice to meet you girls. Toodle pip.
(Jim exits in a rush, leaving his phone behind – he had taken it out of his pocket when he first sat down)
Linda: Toodle pip? I’ve now met the only other living person who uses that annoying expression in actual conversation.
Mum: He picked it up off me and now uses it all the time. Isn’t that just adorable?
Mum: I know you’re uncomfortable about your Mum having a love life, girls…
Rachel: That’s not it Mum. There’s more to it than…
Mum: … but Jim is the man of my dreams. (dreamy look) Someone I didn’t think I could hope to meet.
Linda: (wry grin) Déjà vu. I’ve heard that line before.
Mum: (ignoring Linda) He’s almost too good to be true.
Linda: Forget the “almost”.
Mum: (ignoring Linda and addressing comments to Rachel) He’s a high flying international businessman you know. Very successful. And so generous with his time and expertise. He’s going to invest Bill’s life insurance payout and my little nest egg. It will make me a tidy sum. Not that it matters when we get married but I quite fancy myself becoming a financially independent modern woman. I signed the papers last week.
(Mum pulls papers out of her handbag. Rachel and Linda pour over them in dismay)
Linda: Oh no you didn’t.
Rachel: These are legally binding. You can’t get out of it.
Mum: Why would I want to get out of it? I’ve never been happier. Finally, everything is coming together for me.
(Mum picks up her sausage and bread roll and starts eating)
Mum: This is delicious. Where did buy these sausages Linda? They are truly succulent. I’m going to have to bring Jim around to my way of thinking on these beauties.
Rachel: You have bigger problems than sausages.
Linda: Mum, we’ve got something important to say. I’m not sure how to tell you this but…
Rachel: (hurriedly) Jim is Jamie, my ex-boyfriend, the one I left Brent for.
(Mum starts choking)
Rachel: You can forget it, Mum. We’re not going to fall for that one twice.
Linda: It’s not the boy that cried wolf, it’s the girl that cried sausage.
(Mum staggers around the room choking then collapses. Girls ignore her)
Rachel: The boy that cried wolf, now there’s a blast from the past.
Linda: One of Mum’s favourite moralising tales. She terrified the life out me with it when I was in grade one and tried to get out of school by faking a headache. She vividly related the boy that cried wolf story and had me convinced that I was going to die of a horrible illness one day because no one would believe me when I said I was sick. It worked. I never chucked a sickie again. She still didn’t believe our complaints though, even when we were really unwell. Remember your undiagnosed broken arm?
Rachel: When she yelled at me for being a sook and embarrassing her in public, not knowing that I smashed both bones in my forearm? How could I forget? And how about your appendix? “You will not come out of your room until it’s clean and tidy young lady”
Linda: “But I feel sick Mum. My tummy hurts.”
Rachel: “Cleaning your room will help keep your mind off it”.
Linda: Two hours later I came out “Please can I stop Mummy? My tummy hurts so bad. I think I’m going to throw up.”
Rachel: “I’m not going to tell you again, Linda. Back to your room until it’s clean.”
Linda: It took three hours and a burst appendix before she finally listened!
Rachel: Her “I breed ‘em tough” campaign went a bit far at times.
Linda: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “I’m only doing this because I love you”. What rot. (nudges Mum with her foot) Are you listening to this Mum? Enjoying a taste of your own medicine?
Rachel: Are you sure she is faking it Linda? She looks pretty out of it.
Linda: Only one way to find out. (leans down to Mum) Rachel is pregnant
(no response. Linda is grinning somewhat maliciously)
Rachel: And your toy boy fiancé is the father of the baby. You’re marrying your grandchild’s father.
(no response. Linda’s face falls)
(Linda checks her vital signs clumsily)
Linda: Shit. She’s really dead this time.
(Knock on door)
Jim: Hello? Anyone there?
Rachel: (panicking) What do we do?
Linda: Firstly, go and phone the ambulance. I’ll handle Jimmy boy. I have an idea.
Rachel: An idea? What do you mean an idea?
Linda: Just follow my lead.
(Rachel exits through the kitchen. Linda lets Jim in the door).
Jim: I left my phone here. (sees Mum on the floor) Oh my God. What’s happened to her?
(Jim rushes to Mum’s side)
Jim: Bernie, Bernie my love. Wake up, Bernie, wake up.
(Jim checks Bernie’s vital signs. Linda stands watching, looking nervous.)
Jim: (upset) She’s…she’s…dead!!
Linda: (nervously) Dead? Yes we know. Terrible shame.
Jim: Terrible shame? Your mother’s life has just been snuffed out and all you can say is “terrible shame”? What’s wrong with you?
(Rachel comes back into lounge room. Linda speaks nervously, making her story up as she goes along))
Linda: What’s wrong with YOU is the more pertinent question. After all YOU were the one who lost your temper with Mum. Rachel and I heard you arguing when we were in the kitchen, didn’t we Rach?
Rachel: (unsure) Yes?
Linda: And when we heard a scuffle we came out to investigate, only to see you suffocating our poor helpless mother with that cushion (points to throw cushion on the couch that Jim was fiddling with earlier).
Linda: I’m sure they will find your DNA all over it and fibres from it in Mum’s airways.
Jim: You suffocated her with a cushion?
Linda: Not us, you. And then you fled the scene, only to return later to threaten us if we told the police what really happened and to try to enlist our help to dispose of the body.
Rachel: But we had already called the police. I just got off the phone with them actually. They should be turning up any minute.
Jim: This whole thing is preposterous. You’ll never get away with it.
Linda: Who are they going to believe – two sweet, innocent sisters who adored their mother and who have never even had a speeding ticket between them or …
Rachel: Someone who has been to jail for fraud.
Linda: He has?
Rachel: Twice! And there was the matter of the assault charge.
Linda: Really? Fabulous.
Jim: That was years ago and the charge was dismissed. Just a big misunderstanding.
Linda: (sounding more confident now) Doesn’t look so good for you though, Jimmy boy, does it?
Jim: But what was my motive? After all she was my fiancé. I loved her.
Rachel: He told me he had no intentions of actually marrying her.
Jim: All I had to do was break off the engagement, not end her life.
Linda: Money. It’s always about money with men like you.
Jim: (triumphantly) This is where your little theory falls apart, you stupid carpet munching cow. I know something you don’t. Bernie had just signed over a large chunk of her savings to my company. The contract is watertight.
Linda: Unless she dies before the settlement date. Then it becomes null and void.
Jim: Precisely. So why would I KILL her? Her death means I’m LOSING income.
Rachel: And losing a fiancé.
Jim: Well, yes, that too I suppose. This theory of yours sounds like more of a motive for YOU to kill her, not ME. Killing her is the only way you can stop me getting my hands on the money.
Linda: Assuming we knew about the investment and the terms of the contract which of course we didn’t.
(Rachel opens her mouth to object. Linda shoots her a meaningful look and she shuts it)
Linda: She did, however, tell us about changing her will, leaving you almost everything.
Jim: (looking excited) She did? This is news to me. Wow, that’s great!
Linda: Well she didn’t but she told you she did.
Linda: (pretending to talk to a policeman) You see, officer, my sister here, Rachel…
Rachel: That’s me
Linda: …got knocked up, cheated out of her savings and then dumped by this low life, James…
Rachel: (points to Jim) That’s him.
Linda: As luck would have it, his next target was our elderly mother…
Rachel: (points to Mum’s body) That’s her.
Linda: …who not only agreed to marry him and invest more than half her savings in his dodgy business but planned to change her will, leaving him most of her estate.
Rachel: And he was sleeping with us both at the same time.
Linda: I think we can leave out that detail. We’re not auditioning for the Jerry Springer show. Let’s keep a smidgeon of decency in this debacle.
Rachel: Sorry Linda.
Linda: Now this is the crucial part. Our mother told James that she’d changed her will already but in fact had not done so, for reasons we will never know. She must have been very glad she delayed however, after hearing today about the way her fiancé had treated her daughter. She told us that she was going to confront him about it so we walked outside to give them privacy and…
Jim: I thought you said you were in the kitchen.
Linda: (momentarily thrown off) … we came back into the kitchen after a time, only to hear raised voices and then a thud…
Jim: OK, OK, I get the picture. What do you want?
Linda: I don’t want anything for myself but I believe you owe my sister.
Rachel: I want my savings back.
Jim: I’ve told you, it’s gone.
Linda: So is your liberty unless you pay up.
Jim: Alright, I’ll reimburse your investment.
Rachel: And I want child support. $50000 a year until the child is 18.
Jim: No way! That’s extortion!
Linda: Exactly. Are you only just working this out? (to Rachel) He’s a bit slow.
Jim: $20000 a year.
Jim: $30000 and not a cent more.
Linda: A pleasure doing business with you. Now, if every “invested” dollar is not deposited to Rachel’s bank account within 24 hours, together with the first three years of child support payments, expect the police to turn up on your doorstep.
Jim: I can’t possibly get that amount…
Linda: 24 hours. You’ve been warned.
Jim: (Sigh) OK. 24 hours.
Linda: Toodle pip! We’ll see you, or rather, your money, soon! And remember, there is no statute of limitations on murder.
(Jim exits, looking beaten, taking his phone)
Rachel: You were incredible! I can’t believe you thought up that story so quickly. You even had me believing that he smothered her, even though I saw her choke to death with my own eyes. But one thing confused me. Wouldn’t the autopsy show that the cushion had nothing to do with it?
Linda: Of course. But we were never going to tell the police that she was smothered. We were always going to tell them the truth. They’ll do an autopsy, see the great lump of sausage caught in her windpipe and rule it “death by sausage”. She’ll join the ranks of unlucky Queenslanders whose lives are tragically cut short by killer sausages.
Rachel: How will that get Jim in trouble?
Linda: It won’t. But he doesn’t know what really happened. He thinks we smothered her and are planning to pin it on him.
Rachel: Very clever. We got him scared alright! And agreeing to pay child support! Wow!
Linda: Don’t get too excited. He’ll probably disappear or declare bankruptcy or both.
Rachel: Even so, I owe you one sis.
Linda: Actually you owe me three. First I got a tattoo for you. Second I came out to Mum for you, which seems to have wrecked my relationship, and this is the third.
Rachel: (sarcastically) How can I ever repay you?
Linda: No repayment’s necessary. Just be as good a mother to that child of yours as Mum was to us. She may have been a pain in the arse at times but she brought up us pretty damn well.
Rachel: And she’s given me an unbeatable boy that cried wolf example to scare her grandchild with.
Linda: “The girl that cried sausage”. It’s very fitting to immortalise Mum in a cautionary tale. I think she would’ve loved the idea.
Rachel: Thanks Mum. It WAS for our own good but perhaps not for yours.
(Linda raises a glass)
Linda: Here’s to you Mum! Self sacrificing to the end!