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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

(ACT THREE) CHARLES WAS ECCENTRIC ON THE SUBJECT OF PAJAMAS

Rob:  Next time we go to Lakeside Lodge, I’m paying. When you pay half, I don’t feel I’m as manly as I’d like to be.
Julie:  You’ve got to get rid of this manly nonsense, Rob.  Like your refusal to wear a bathrobe because it doesn’t look manly.   You think you have to live up to this image. . .
Rob:  (Agitated.) Not at all!  Absolutely not!  You’re wrong!    (Calming down.)  It’s nice to see you, though, Julie.
Julie:  In spite of everything?
Rob:  It really is.  (Rob and Julie, holding hands, exit stage right.)
Reminiscing Julie:  So Rob had his idiosyncrasy about bathrobes, but Charles was every bit as eccentric on the subject of pajamas.   There was that memorable weekend when we set out for the Great Escape Inn.  Charles stopped the car at the end of the driveway and asked me a question.  Reminiscing Julie sits.  Charles and Julie appear stage right.
Charles:  Now, are you sure you’ve remembered everything?  Toothbrushes?  Toothpaste?  Cameras?
Julie:  Pajamas?
Charles (sounding slightly panicked):  Pajamas?  (pause) Oh, I’m sure I packed them.”
Reminiscing Julie:  I had never known a man who was so helpless without his pajamas.  Not that I was an expert on men in pajamas or men not in pajamas, but common sense told me a fellow ought to be able to survive a pajama-less night without injury to the psyche.  If Marilyn Munroe could slumber in nothing but Chanel No. 5, why couldn’t my husband make do with a dab of Old Spice?  Reminiscing Julie sits.
Charles (Rummaging through bureau drawers):  What did you do with my pajamas?
Julie:  I didn’t do anything with them.  I don’t remember seeing them when I unpacked.
Charles:  You must have seen them.  Now stop and think, what did you do with them—did you hang them in the closet or put them in the drawer?
Julie:  Are you sure you packed them?
Charles:  Of course I packed them!  They must be somewhere!  (He turns suitcase upside down and shakes it.)
Julie:  Why don’t you just wear your shorts?
Charles (whimpering):  But my legs would be bare!  I get goose pimples!
Julie:  I’m not asking you to be presented at court, all you have to do is get into bed.  It’s   simple.  Wear your shorts and pretend they’re pajamas.
Charles (not listening and raking through Julie’s clothes, neatly folded away in her drawer):  What are these?  (He holds up a red undergarment and dangles it in front of him.)
Julie (eyeing him warily):  Those are my tights.
Charles:  They were your tights.  As of this moment they’re my pajamas.
Julie (clapping her hand over her mouth):  Oh, no!
Reminiscing Julie stands. (With his back to the audience, Charles takes off footwear, strips to his shorts, and struggles into the tights while R J speaks to the audience):  Pleased with his ingenuity, Charles began working himself into my tights.  He reminded me of a movie I’d seen of a snake shedding its skin, only the process was reversed. (Pause, as Reminiscing Julie watches Charles’s struggles.)  He tugged.. .  and he pulled. . . . and he twisted . . .  and he stretched . . . until he finally got the thing above his knees. (Another pause.  Reminiscing Julie, along with Younger Julie, tries to smother her giggles.)   He continued to squirm . . . And to wriggle . . . and yank . . until at last he accumulated enough material to cover his navel.  I lost my fight to keep a straight face. (Laughing, Reminiscing Julie sits.)
Julie (gasping with mirth):  You’d be a sensation in a fire drill!
Charles:  (Wearing the tights, looks in drawer and pulls out a pair of colorful swimming trunks.) Now I will put these on.  (More hysterics from Julie, as Charles pulls trunks over red tights.)
Julie:  (doubled up with laughter): You look like a cross between a demented Romeo and a giant two-legged red spider.  It’s a shame to waste this.  I do hope we’ll have a fire drill! (Charles and Julie are startled when they hear a loud voice from stage right.)
Announcement over loudspeaker (made off stage by Rob):  ATTENTION GREAT ESCAPE GUESTS!  A FIRE HAS STARTED IN THE KITCHEN!  EXIT IMMEDIATELY AND BE CAREFUL  (pause) WHAT YOU WISH FOR!
(Charles grabs his clothes and the suitcase and exits hastily with Julie, stage right.
Reminiscing Julie:  Before Charles and I separated, we had many an argument about how late was too late to stay at a party.  I thought one o’clock at the latest, he thought three o’clock at the earliest. Rob wasn’t a party animal, thank heavens, but we did have other issues. Reminiscing Julie sits.
(Rob enters from stage right, where Julie is waiting for him.)
Julie:  I’ve been standing here with a rolling pin. 
Rob:  Really.  Am I that late? 
Julie:  TWO HOURS!
 (Turns away and plunks herself down on sofa. Speaks with mock ire.) I know what it is.  Now that I’m finally getting a divorce, my Romeo is sure of me!  No more coming through the front door with, “When am I going to see you again?”   Now the man wanders in at nine o’clock.  
Rob:  I didn't wander in.  I came in wanting to kiss you. (Sits beside Julie and kisses her.)
Julie: I’ve been thinking about us, Rob.  How did we ever get to the point where we were both ready to call the whole thing off?
Rob:   I know it.  Do you have any idea what I felt like Saturday night when the phone rang and rang and you didn’t answer?
Julie:  I unplugged it because I didn’t want to hear it not ring.
Rob:   After our fight, I started picking up my cigarettes in the bushes.  Then I said to hell with this.  She might be looking out the window.  I’m not going to be out here groveling. 
Julie:  (Looking gratified.) I knew that was exactly the way you’d feel.  I didn’t know they were going to go flying out of the package when I threw it, but I was pleased they did. Just be thankful it wasn’t your camera.  
Rob:  Thank God it wasn’t my camera.
Julie:  Want to hear my latest news?                                                              
Rob:  If it’s about Charles, not particularly.
Julie:  (Stands up and starts pacing.) Only indirectly.  I got sold on a lawyer named Nathan Klein.  When I had lunch with Eliza yesterday, she told me what a great lawyer he was.
Rob:  How did Eliza know what a great lawyer he was?
Julie:  Dan Chadwick recommended him to her when she got her divorce.  Anyway, I went to Nathan’s office to talk to him about the divorce.  The first thing he said was he heard I had a lover.  
Rob:  (looking pained.) Oh no, did he have to call me that?    
Julie:  Would you rather be called a bounder?  An adulterer?
Rob:  I’d rather be called Rob. 
Julie:  Nathan said, "From now on, you must be very discreet.”  (Scornfully.) That’s such a farce.   A husband can have lovers by the dozen, but his wife is supposed to be like Caesar's, or at least very discreet.  He said I mustn’t do anything to give Charles ammunition.
Rob:  What does he mean by ammunition?
Julie:  Evidence that I’m committing adultery.  He said Charles might even decide to break in with photographers.  If he caught us in flagrante delicto, I’d have no case. 
Rob:  What the hell is what you just said?
Julie:  It’s Latin for being caught in the act.  It’s so unfair, but according to the law, I’m not allowed to do what he’s been doing for years.   I’m not really worried, though.  Charles would never stoop to such sordid tactics.  Come with me and I’ll show you how delicto things can get.
(Julie and Rob exit stage left. There is about a 30 second pause. Then Rob exclaims “Hey! What’s going on!” They re-enter from stage left.)
Rob:  What the heck was that??!!
Julie:  What a scare that was!  I knew the bloomin’ socket in my desk lamp had a screw loose, but I never expected it to light up at such an inopportune time.        
Rob:  Oh, it was inopportune, all right. I thought, my God, we’re being raided!  Her lawyer was right.
Julie: Nope, just a little electrical problem. (Caresses Rob’s bare arms.)  I love your soft arms.
Rob:  (Pained.)  Soft arms?  Jesus, will you please give me something I can use? (Looks at audience.) She loves my soft arms. How can I tell that to the guys at the office?    
Julie:  (Pressing her face against Rob’s arms.)  They smell delicious, too.
Rob:  (Looking at audience.)  My arms smell delicious?  If I told the guys that they’d die laughing.
Julie:  Rob, I’ve been having this crazy idea.  I think I might really do it.  Put an ad in the Personals Column of Want Ad for Charles. 
Rob:  What kind of ad?
Julie:  I’ll say something like. . . uh. . . .(Pause.) My friend is attractive, lonely, looking for companionship, eventually marriage.  I’ll describe Charles and what he’s got to offer, describe the sort of woman he’d be interested in, and say write to me, post office box such and such, and then see what would happen.  How does that idea strike you?   Crazy, huh?
Rob:  It’s so crazy, only you could dream it up. 
(Rob and Julie exits stage right.
Reminiscing Julie: The Personals ad didn’t produce any likely candidates, but I don’t give up easily when I set my mind to something.  I was determined to help Charles find a special someone of his own, so I conjured up a new plan.  Why not put an ad in the real estate section of the local paper, offering Charles’s garage apartment at a very low rent in exchange for a house sitter and plant waterer when he was away—and part-time companionship when he wasn’t. It was one of my better brainstorms, although I had some difficulty with the Daily Gazette’s representative.  (Reminiscing Julie looks at paper in her hand.) I wanted the ad to read: Fantastic Opportunity—Semi-retired bachelor with beautiful waterfront home offers adjoining apartment with separate entrance.” 
     Right off the bat I was informed I couldn’t use the word “bachelor.”  I changed it to executive and continued dictating. (Reminiscing Julie reads.)  “Incredibly low rent in exchange for light housekeeping one day a week and assistance with occasional formal dinner parties.  If you are a cultured woman 45-55, trim and attractive, write the Daily Gazette, Box such-and-such.” The ad taker doubted that I could use the word “woman,” and I certainly couldn’t specify that she be trim and attractive.  That would sound too much like one of those Personals ads and could get the Gazette into trouble.
     I stuck to my guns on gender.  “My boss isn’t looking for a Japanese houseboy,” I pointed out.  After a conference with higher-ups, my adversary allowed “woman” and “cultured” to stay in the ad.  Reminiscing Julie sits.
(Julie reenters from stage right, with letters in her hand, followed by Charles.)
Julie: Look at all these responses to my ad.
Charles:  No, I’m not going to look at them.  No more blind dates. Nobody I meet has any appeal for me. I’m through with hurting people. 
Julie:  I knew you’d feel that way, so I called two of them myself and said I was your sister-in-law. I interviewed the third one in person.
Charles:  Listen, Julie, if you really want to help me, you’ll quit this match-making nonsense and come back to me.
Julie (sings):  “Matchmaker, matchmaker…” Come on, Charles, I’ve heard that song before, and so have you.  It can work, you know.
Charles:  Okay, okay. What was the in-person one like? Not that I’m really interested.  I’m just curious.
Julie:  She had her bulldog, Bronco, on a leash.  She hoped my brother-in-law liked dogs because she wouldn’t consider dating anyone who didn’t.  He was slobbering on my carpet and straining in my direction.
Charles:  I’d do the same thing and try not to slobber.  And what did the leash-holder look like?
Julie:  Quite a lot like Bronco, but to be fair, she didn’t drool.  I told her my brother-in-law was allergic to dog dander.
Charles:  I’m allergic to matchmakers of any kind.  It makes me break out in hives.  How about the two on the phone?  Just curious, you understand.
Julie:  They didn’t sound promising either.  One said she was raising twin grandsons and never went anywhere without them.  She assured me they were very well behaved and loved dining out.  I could hear them trying to kill each other in the background.  The third candidate said she’d love to meet you for a drink.  She hoped you weren’t a party pooper because once she got going, she could drink all night. 
Charles (sitting up straighter and feigning sudden interest):  Hmmm.  Did she enclose a picture with her letter?
Julie:  She did.  I told her you’d unexpectedly gone to Australia for a year.  She was a busty blonde in a bikini.
Charles:  What do you mean, was?
Julie:  I accidentally dropped her picture in the disposal.  Her letter, too.
Charles (laughing): What a shame!  Okay, Julie, that’s it, three strikes and you’re out.  Promise me you’ll resign from this ridiculous matchmaking business. 
Julie:  I agree.  It was a total waste of time. 
 (Charles exits, stage right.  Rob enters stage right with.)
Rob:   I kept thinking about you when I was cleaning the garage today. Every time I moved a board, there you were.
Julie:  You make me sound like a cockroach.
Rob:  There wasn’t the slightest resemblance.
Julie:   Thank you so much. (pause) I was thinking about you, too, and I had this idea.
Rob:  Uh-oh.  Your ideas always involve someone doing something they don’t want to. Someone like me, for instance.
Julie: Nathan called Charles and laid down the law.  He said Charles could absolutely ruin Claire’s divorce case.  If her husband were able to pin anything on her, she wouldn’t get a dime. So, I thought, how about if we all go over to the Island together?  Charles thought that was a terrific idea!
Rob:  (Begs to differ) That's a terrible idea.
Julie:  I thought it would help cement the relationship between them and help them to—
Rob:  We’d be helping to cement Claire’s relationship with Charles?   
Julie:  Charles said they absolutely cannot be anywhere together unless there are chaperones.  We’d be the chaperones, see? We’ll have our own little cottage and our own car, and go our own way . . .
Rob:  If we’re going to have our own car and our own cottage and go our own way, what’s the point to it?
Julie:  Then if word should get back to Claire’s husband that Charles and Claire were over at Donna’s Island, they could say, “But Charles’s first wife and her friend were there as chaperones.”
Rob:  (Incredulous.) Get oudda here!  What are you thinking?  There isn’t going to be any chaperoning.
Julie:  By the time George—that’s her husband—heard any rumors, it would be too late for him to fly any detectives over to peek in any windows or anything like that.
Rob:  So there’s just no purpose to saying that we’re chaperones.
Julie:   I could testify in court, if need be, that we were chaperones. 
Rob:  Why do you have to testify in court so Charles and his friend can get together?
Julie:  I don’t think I’d have to, but if they went over there alone, and her husband found out about it. . . .
.Rob:  He’d have to prove they were there.
Julie:  Maybe he could. 
Rob:  By flying detectives over there?  That’s pretty far-fetched.
Julie:  You better talk to Nathan, and you’ll understand it better.
Rob:  I’d better talk to Nathan? Claire’s lawyer?  
Julie:  Yes, he’ll explain it to you
Rob:  If Charles flew detectives over there, but they found out you and I were with Charles and Claire, then everything would be okay.  You believe that, Julie?
Julie:  Yes, because we’d be chaperones.  We could testify that they were with us all the time and that Claire and I slept in one cottage and (pause) you and Charles slept in the other.  (giggle)
Rob:  You’re soft.  First you have me in a plane he’s flying until it runs out of gas.  And now this.  I should think you would giggle. (beat) Can we stop talking about Charles? I feel as if he practically lives with us. Can we forget him for five minutes?
(Rob exits stage right) (Charles enters stage right)
Charles:  I had a dream about you last night. We were still married, but we were having a terrible fight.  I'd done something very, very wrong.  I'd been carrying on with another woman and boy, were you mad when you found out about it.  What kind of annoyed me was the fact that I'd been having this torrid affair and I couldn't remember any of the details— "
Julie:  I’m not liking this dream so far.
Charles:  — but it was obvious that you were right, I was guilty as sin.  And I didn't know what you were going to do about it—
Julie:  I do!
Charles:  —there wasn't any talk of divorce or any nice, clean‑cut, Get the hell out, we're through.  All I knew was you were trying to make my life as miserable as possible and were succeeding all too well.
Julie: It sounds as if you deserved it.
Charles:  Next thing I knew, I'd landed in Germany somehow or other, and I found myself walking past a burlesque house.  “I'll fix her,” I said to myself, so I walked up to this old hag who was standing outside and asked her how much it cost to go in.   She said, “Twenty-five cents, fifty cents, and a dollar.” I said I’d take the 25-cent ticket and she acted as if I was the world's worst cheapskate. She wheedled and cajoled and gave me this big sales talk about how lousy the 25-cent seats were and how much better I could see with a higher‑priced ticket.  Finally I agreed to pay 75 cents, and then what do you think happened?" 
Julie:  You got the crabs, I hope.
Charles:  No, I left the crab at home. (Julie takes a mock swing at Charles))  What happened was that I woke up.   That really fries me because it's so unfair!  After going through all the agony of fighting with you and not being able to remember anything about the fun I'd supposedly had, I go all the way to Germany, spend 75 cents, and don't even get to see the show from a 25-cent seat!"
Julie:  What a shame!  What a missed opportunity!  Way over there where I couldn't check up on you.
Charles:  Oh, yes you could!  That was another thing in the back of my mind.  I knew I'd never get away with it, one way or another you'd know.
Julie:  That’s a very unfriendly dream.  I’m going to call Dan and ask him if that’s one more grounds for divorce. 
Charles:  I suppose you remember what day next Saturday is?
Julie:  Of course I do.  I was at a party, sitting on the ping-pong table, and you asked me to dance.
Charles:  Forty years ago!  It’s such a special occasion, how about letting me take you out to dinner to celebrate.
Julie:  What about your new girlfriend?
Charles:  Felicity is a good kid. Amazingly tolerant.  She won’t object.  Julie Baby, I know you don’t approve of my newest girlfriend, and I can tell you exactly what you can do to keep me from marrying her.
Julie:   Is this Proposition number 22 B?
Charles:  It’s a genuine 18-carat marriage proposal.  You marry me.
Julie (shocked): But what about Rob, Charles?  You wouldn’t steal his girl away, would you?
Charles: Penis erectus non conscientious est.  (Grinning at audience.) Translation:  All’s fair in love and war.
Julie:  Pretty funny, but I’m not the same woman you used to know.  I don’t need to have a man in my life to be fulfilled.
Charles:   Balderdash.  No hot-blooded woman like you is going to slam the door on penis erectus.
Julie:  Ouch!
(Charles exits stage right.)
Reminiscing Julie:  Rob also persisted in his courtship, but the longer we knew each other the more we squabbled. We had a lot of arguments about our opposite views on everything, including the Persian Gulf War. 
Julie:  I’m so upset about the President sending American troops off to the Middle East that I can’t even stand to watch the news.
Rob:  You have to recognize that sometimes American help is needed.  The Iraqis invaded Kuwait. They had no right to do so. Somebody has to stop them.  You’d realize that if you weren’t such a bleeding-heart liberal.
Julie:  And you’re a bloody hawk!  Eisenhower wasn’t a hawk.  Remember how he warned us not to cater to the military industrial complex?  It’s as if we had this huge monster on a leash, demanding to be fed regularly.
Rob:  Is that a shot at me?
Julie:  Of course not.  All you ask is your cup of coffee and your cigarette.  But every time we, the great US of A—quote unquote— “help” people, thousands of innocent people die, their homes are destroyed, it’s a tragedy for everybody.
Rob:  The trouble with you is that you read too much and believe everything you read.
Julie:  I don’t, I don’t. At least I read. And I think it was a terrible thing that we ever got into this mess. 
Rob:  No, no, it was a terrible thing when we had to get into it. 
Julie: I don’t think we had to.
Rob:  Well, I think we did!
Julie:   This has been going on for years and years and years.  If we just stayed out of it, there wouldn’t have been a fraction of the bloodshed. The trouble with you is you believe everything you read in high school. If you’d finished your senior year, you might have learned that Americans are not always the heroes.
Rob:   I wish you hadn’t said that.
Julie: Well, I needed to.
Rob: No, you didn’t.  I knew that would be used against me someday.  Why did you do that?  Do you think I would have been so much more if I hadn’t dropped out to get a job?
Julie: I was just saying that the kind of history they feed you in junior high school and early high school is a whitewash.  It’s unsophisticated, the sort of history the Russians get.  Everything we do is A-okay. 
Rob:  I hate to think that if I’d gone to college I’d have ended up as cynical as you are.
Julie: I call it realistic—this beautiful country of ours wasn’t always so beautiful. 
Rob: This country isn’t as bad as you think.
Julie:   Maybe not, but this country can never admit to making a mistake.
Rob:  Oh, Julie, there’s no reaching you.  You always have a comeback.
Julie: Well, we just shouldn’t talk politics.
Rob: Sometimes I think we shouldn’t talk at all.
(Rob exits stage right.)
[Charles and Rob approach from stage right, coming from different directions.]
Charles to Rob: What are you doing here?
Rob: What are you doing here? Julie called and invited me.
Charles: Well, she called and invited me too.
Rob: Uh-oh.
Julie:   Hi guys. There is something I have to tell you both.  The fact is, I dearly love you both, but you’d better brace yourselves. (pause)  I’ve fallen in love with someone else.
(Charles and Rob, stunned, look at each other, then speak simultaneously)WhatWho!?
Julie: Does it matter who? You know I love both of you like…brothers, and we can still all be friends. And neither of you will have to feel jealous of the other.
Rob: You can’t be serious. When have you had time to start a new relationship?
You are always with one or the other of us. Aren’t you?
Julie: Actually, it’s someone I’ve known for a long time and gradually developed a strong affection for.
Charles: It can’t be Dan Chadwick. He would never do that to me.
Julie: No, it’s not Dan.
Rob:  Oh no!  Don’t tell me it’s the darn plumber!
Julie:  No, it isn’t the plumber.
Charles and Rob: Then whoWho?
Julie:  Eliza Davis.   
(The two men expostulate simultaneously): Eliza Davis!?!! Eliza Davis!?!!
Charles:  No way, Jose!
Rob:  You’re pulling our legs, Julie!
Julie: We’ll be spending our winters in the Palm Beach condo she got in her divorce settlement.  We’d love to have you visit us. 
(Charles and Rob look at each other.) 
Charles to Rob: This is unreal.  Would you go visit them??
Rob:  Visit Julie and Eliza? Together? Like together together? That’s way out of my league.
Charles:  Well, I think I might just give it a try and see what happens.
Rob:  If you’re going, I’m going.
Charles (to Rob):  Let’s plan on it.  How’d you like to have a couple of flying lesson?
Rob:  Yikes!  All I’d want to learn is how to land the thing in case you croak, Charlie.
Julie:  Wait and see, you’ll get hooked just the way I did.
Charles (to Rob):  We’ve both been hooked for too long.   (Puts his hand on Rob’s shoulder.)  Rob, old buddy, this situation calls for a discussion and a drink or ten.  How about it? {Charles and Rob link arms and dance toward exit stage right, singing.) Isn’t it rich?  Aren’t we a pair? 

THE END   

Footnote:  This play is a work of fiction, sort of.  Any resemblance  you notice to actual people  is kind of coincidental.  Portions of this play’s dialogue have been adapted from Beyer-Malley’s memoir, Take My Ex-Husband, Please—But Not Too Far, Little Brown, 1991.

© 2010, Barbara Malley.
A PLEA. . .
     The letter below from Baker's Plays offers Kathie and me a chance to have our play accepted if it is performed professionally. Is there anyone out there who would be interested in staging a professional performance?  If so, please let me know via my email address bbmalley@comcast.net. We would be grateful if an experienced group could help us fulfill Baker's Plays’ requirement for considering our play and would waive the copyright temporarily, if that were needed.

Proposition from Baker’s Plays:



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