A Play in One Act
by David Radavich


Ron Janes


A barren place.  Sometime in the future.

(A promontory in the American West is marked by a derelict, abandoned shell of a building, with a rusted "No Trespassing" sign out front.  RACHEL, a young lady of perhaps 14 or 15, skips on with a picnic basket, followed by JEFF, her father, carrying a blanket.  He is early middle-aged, handsome, less adventure-some.)

RACHEL:  Come on!
JEFF:  How did you ever find this place?

RACHEL:  I saw it from the valley.  Isn't it great?
JEFF:  The sign says "No Trespassing."
RACHEL:  Not over there.  Here.  We're not trespassing.  Besides, who's gonna find out?  Don't you love the view?
JEFF:  Breathtaking.  (Pause.)  I'm out of breath.
RACHEL:  Oh, Dad.  I hate your puns.
JEFF:  No, you don't.  After you're away from me, you'll start feeling nostalgic and say to yourself, "and most of all, I miss his stupid jokes."
RACHEL:  I'm not going away.  Come on.  Lay down the blanket.
JEFF:  You have to face facts, Rachel.  We won't be able to see each other as much in the future. 
(Unpacking items):  I want to get a new family.
JEFF:  You're stuck with your family all your life.  Like it or not.
RACHEL:  You and Dale.  Make a new family like I always wanted.
JEFF:  Me and Dale?
RACHEL:  Sure.  Why not?
JEFF:  You can't just go around making up new families.  What would your mother say?
RACHEL:  She'd hate it.  But I'm old enough to decide for myself.
JEFF:  I don't know.
RACHEL:  Hell, yeah.  How's your appetite?
JEFF:  Famished.
RACHEL:  Good.  Perfect day for an outing.  Where's Dale?
JEFF:  Must be still at the car.
RACHEL (Yelling):  Dale!  Hurry up.  We're waiting on the drinks.
JEFF:  He's not too fond of this picnic idea.
JEFF:  Thinks it's dangerous—not good for a growing kid.
RACHEL:  I'm not a kid; I'm an adult.
JEFF:  You're progeny—far as we're concerned.
RACHEL:  Oh, Dad.
JEFF:  And still growing.  I should never have let you talk me into this.
RACHEL:  You always use those stupid words.
JEFF:  Builds your vocabulary.
RACHEL:  Yeah, sure.
JEFF:  Seriously.  Don't be too hard on him.  He's still getting to know you.
RACHEL:  I won't.
JEFF:  He's not used to teenagers.  Nobody is.
RACHEL:  Give me a break.
JEFF:  You're only with us for two weeks, and I want it to go well.
JEFF:  What?
RACHEL:  I can't be there.
JEFF:  Where?  (No answer.)  You have to.
JEFF:  She doesn't hate you.  Only me.
RACHEL:  We don't get along!
JEFF:  You have to try.  Work at it.  Like anything else you want.
RACHEL:  Fifty weeks a year?
JEFF:  Custody laws.  There's nothing I can do.
RACHEL:  You didn't even fight.
JEFF:  I did.  You think I had a chance?
JEFF:  I couldn't put Dale through that.  Or you.
RACHEL:  Yeah.
JEFF:  You can come visit.
RACHEL:  I can't go back!
JEFF:  Look, we'll talk about this later, okay?
RACHEL:  You don't believe me.
JEFF:  I believe you.  I'm—I don't want you to get false hopes.  Let's make our time together meaningful.  Long as we can.
RACHEL (Glumly):  Yeah.
JEFF:  I'm lucky to have you now.
RACHEL:  I know.
JEFF:  I have to play by the rules.  (Pause.)  But hey, we're losing our picnic.
RACHEL:  What's keeping him?  Hey, Dale!

            (RACHEL runs off.)

JEFF (Putting out more items):  Oooh.  That looks good.

(RACHEL bounces in followed by DALE.  He's somewhat older than JEFF, and more nervous.)

RACHEL:  He was sitting in the car.
JEFF:  Rachel.
RACHEL:  I'll be sweet as an angel.
DALE (Setting down drinks):  This is the stupidest place for a picnic I've ever seen.
RACHEL:  The only place left in the entire world that isn't full of pesticides and toxic waste.
DALE:  Are you sure?
RACHEL:  I researched it.  See?  No warning signs.

DALE:  It says "No Trespassing."
RACHEL:  That just means it's somebody's property.
JEFF:  Dale's right.  Dioxins are bound to be lurking somewhere.  Not a safe place for man nor beast.
RACHEL:  Don't be such a pooper.  It's only a couple hours.
DALE:  We'd have done better to stay home, where the air's at least filtered.
RACHEL:  You don't have this kind of view.  Look.  Mountains all along the horizon.
JEFF:  Somebody told me once that raising a teenager is like having a disease.  You just have to suffer and sweat till the fever breaks, and then it passes.  If you're lucky, a human being emerges at the other end.
RACHEL:  Very funny.
DALE:  There could be fire-eating ants.
RACHEL:  You mean fire ants.  That's why we have the blanket.  You won't get bitten.
DALE:  Or scorpions.
RACHEL:  Where did you find this guy?
JEFF:  I'm not sure.  (Smiling.)  Under a rock?
DALE:  Leave me alone.
RACHEL:  It'll be fun, you'll see.  The last picnic on the face of the earth.
JEFF:  You don't know that.
DALE (Muttering):  My last picnic.
JEFF:  There're still some crazy people left.
RACHEL:  Pretty soon everyone'll be eating out of containers.
DALE (Holding up an item):  Plastic all right?
:  Boxes and bottles and tubes.  Won't eat any real food, that grows in the ground.
DALE:  It's too barren.
RACHEL:  Exactly.  Nobody'll even know how to eat.
JEFF:  I never noticed you craving nutrition.
RACHEL:  Sometimes I do.
JEFF:  I'm sure they'll figure it out.  I don't see people not wanting to eat.
RACHEL:  Sure, but out of straws and little cups.
DALE (Examining the provender):  Where did you get all this?
RACHEL:  I made it.  And I stole from your refrigerator.
DALE:  Wow.  (To JEFF.)  Sandwich?
JEFF:  You bet.  Oh, yum.  Cucumber and cream cheese.
RACHEL:  Cucumbers are cool in the summer.  They help you perspire.
JEFF:  Where did you learn that?
RACHEL (Proudly):  Read it somewhere.
DALE:  They cost a fortune anymore.
RACHEL:  The last one I could find at the grocery store.
DALE (Handing out cans of soda):  Here you go.
JEFF:  Thanks, love.
DALE:  Don't call me that.
JEFF:  Why not?  It's true.
DALE:  Not around her.
RACHEL:  Doesn't bother me.  I'm cool.
DALE:  I'm not used to it.
RACHEL:  You people are so uptight about these things.  Get a perspective.
JEFF:  Rachel.
RACHEL:  I s'pose you can't really help it.
DALE:  What?
RACHEL:  Your ancient upbringing and all.
JEFF:  And you are the latest in sophistication, am I right?
RACHEL:  I watch Galaxies of Desire.  What can I say?
JEFF (To DALE):  What can we say?
DALE (Sullen):  I don't know.
JEFF:  Don't be like that.
DALE:  You told me it wouldn't be an issue.
JEFF:  It's not.
RACHEL (Diversionary):  Hey, everybody!  I think we should offer a toast.
JEFF:  A toast.
RACHEL:  Like they do on TV.  To us.
DALE:  Us?
RACHEL:  A new family.
DALE:  Now wait a minute
JEFF:  Just humor her, okay?  She's going through a rough patch.
DALE:  I didn't agree to anything.
RACHEL:  You'll like me once you get to know me.
DALE:  What's going on here?
JEFF:  Sit down, Dale.  We can talk more about this later.
DALE:  I'm not marrying your whole goddamn family, with its petty quarrels and squabbles and hatreds.  I told you that.
RACHEL:  We're not squabbling.
JEFF:  Calm down.  It's just a picnic.
RACHEL:  I made you some brownies.  Dad said it's your favorite.
DALE (Pause):  Sorry.  I guess I'm just touchy today.
JEFF:  I understand.
RACHEL:  Really, the world's changing.  Single-parent families, gay couples, group homes: the family isn't the same.  You have to adapt to reality.
DALE:  Where does she get all that?
JEFF:  Beats me.
RACHEL:  You have to make your own family these days.  Whoever's around.  Create your own kind of commitment.
DALE:  Jesus.
RACHEL:  It's true.  I read it in a magazine.

JEFF:  I bet you did.
DALE:  I've lost my appetite.
RACHEL:  No, really.  You're on the cutting edge.  You and Dad.
JEFF:  Rachel, would you shut up?  I asked you to be good.
RACHEL:  I am.  Talkin' about adult stuff, like you wanted.
JEFF:  Why don't you give us a fairy tale, something cheerful.
DALE:  Think I'll take a walk.
JEFF:  Dale
RACHEL (Chasing after him): No, come on.  Let's explore the ruins.  It used to be an old folks' home.
DALE:  It says "No Trespassing."
RACHEL:  Maybe we could find some bones.
DALE:  That's morbid.
RACHEL:  I like scary stuff.
DALE:  I bet.

(They exit upstage.  JEFF sighs, tries to collect his thoughts.  After a pause, he begins collecting some of  the left-overs.  Suddenly, CAROL enters from opposite with RON JANES.  Both are dressed in business attire.)

CAROL:  There they are.
JANES:  I'm not sure this is a good idea.
CAROL:  We need evidence.  (Crossing, to JEFF.)  Where is she?
JEFF:  Carol!  What are you doing out here?
CAROL:  What do you think?
JEFF:  You flew clear across country for a picnic?
CAROL:  Don't be silly.
JEFF:  Who's this guy?  Your latest flame?
JANES (Awkwardly):  I'm Ron Janes.  Free-lance investigator.
JEFF:  Investigator.  So we're into spying now?
CAROL:  I want to make sure my daughter is being properly cared for.
JEFF:  Don't worry.  She's taking a walk with Dale.  Over there.
CAROL:  Oh, my god.
JANES:  What?
CAROL:  You let her go out there?
JEFF:  Why?
CAROL:  I'm sure they dump garbage and whatever else they want to get rid of.  Any kind of abandoned building.
JEFF:  It didn't look polluted.  So remote.
CAROL:  You can be so stupid sometimes.  (To JANES.)  Come on.
JEFF:  Wait.  Where do you think you're going?
CAROL:  Leave me alone.
JEFF:  This is my time.  Within my legal rights.
JANES (To CAROL):  You're messing this up.
CAROL:  Who pays your bills, huh?  Tell me that.
JEFF:  I'll have her at your doorstep in two weeks.  Completely by the book.
CAROL:  Wish I could believe that.

            (RACHEL enters followed by DALE.)

CAROL:  Oh, my baby.
DALE:  Looks like a powwow.
RACHEL:  What are you doing here?
CAROL:  Where's your face-mask?
RACHEL:  Don't need it up here.  We're having a picnic.  And we got to explore the surroundings.
DALE (To JEFF):  Including some mysterious drums.
JEFF:  Drums?
CAROL:  Why do you let her do these things?!
JEFF:  Wasn't my idea.
RACHEL:  It's really fun.  Dale's a cool guy, under the surface.
DALE:  Oh, god.
CAROL:  You know it's not healthy.
JANES (Sotto voce):  Who's he?
CAROL:  My husband's lover.
DALE:  Look, why don't you get out of here?  You've seen enough; you've had your little circus for today, and you can go home.
JEFF:  Dale.

CAROL:  Not without my little girl.
RACHEL:  Mom, I want to be here.
JANES:  It's not strictly legal.  You know that.
CAROL:  I don't care.
DALE:  Why is the American family such a mess?
CAROL:  Because of people like you.  Corrupting our children.
JEFF:  Oh, please.  You've used that line a little too often.
RACHEL:  Nobody believes that, Mom.
CAROL:  Since when?  It's true.
JEFF:  You just don't want to face facts.
JANES:  We'd better go.
CAROL:  Let go of me.  Rachel, I don't want you out here.
RACHEL:  Why not?
CAROL: It's not safe.  Who's knows what kind of people have been here. RACHEL:  You're here.

CAROL:  Only to find you.  Where you shouldn't be.
JEFF (To DALE):  She was spying on us.
DALE:  Spying?
JEFF:  How else do they even know where we are?  He's an investigator.
DALE:  Are you serious?
JANES (Hand forward):  Ron Janes.
RACHEL:  I don't believe this.

CAROL:  I have to look out for you.  I'm responsible.
JEFF:  So am I.
RACHEL:  Go away.
CAROL:  What did you say?
RACHEL:  I said, go away.  You're ruining our picnic.
CAROL:  Don't talk to me like that.
JEFF:  She's right.  I've lost my appetite.
DALE:  Would you like a cucumber sandwich?  Rachel made them.
CAROL:  I am your mother.
JANES:  Come on.  You're upset.
CAROL:  Damn right I'm upset.  After all I did for you.
RACHEL:  Oh, brother.
CAROL:  Don't turn away from me!
JEFF:  Hey!  You can do what you want on your own time, but this is my time.  I won't have you bullying her.  It's me you hate, not her.
CAROL (Turning away):  I—don't hate you.
JEFF:  You must hate somebody.  I've never seen you like this.
CAROL (To RACHEL):  You really think I'm wrong?
RACHEL:  Yes.  I do.
DALE:  You can't go crowding into other people's lives and expect them to like it. CAROL:  Keep out of this.
DALE:  I'm not the one interfering.
RACHEL:  Mom, I have a right to see my own dad.  Anytime I want.
CAROL:  You don't know the facts.  You're too young.  It's clear they misled you.
JANES:  Come on.
JEFF:  I didn't mislead anybody.  I tried to be honest and fair to every side.
JANES (Urging CAROL out):  We can talk about this more in the car.
CAROL:  Don't try to shift the blame.
JANES:  You're wasting your time here.  And my time, too. 

            (Exits with CAROL.)

DALE (Yelling after):  She got it from TV.  And magazines.  Good ol' popular culture.
RACHEL:  I hate it when she gets like that.
JEFF:  Yeah.
DALE:  So much for a nice picnic in a remote, ant-infested area.
JEFF:  Like Rachel said, I'm sure it will be our last.
RACHEL:  Why can't people let things be?
JEFF:  There's too much at stake.
RACHEL:  What?
JEFF:  You, kiddo.  Our pride and joy.
DALE:  Whew.  I feel wrung out.

RACHEL:  What about me?  A volleyball passed from side to side.
JEFF:  Welcome to life, hon.  Where you get tossed to and fro every day. RACHEL:  I'm not ready.
JEFF:  Glad you finally admitted that.
DALE:  I wonder what this place used to be like, before civilization.
RACHEL:  You mean, under the Indians?
DALE:  Something like that.
RACHEL:  Peaceful.  Living with nature.

DALE:  Dressed up in war bonnets and scalping people.
RACHEL:  Hey, that's just propaganda put out by the Western media.
JEFF:  You have been watching TV.
RACHEL:  Our ideas about Native Americans are totally distorted.
JEFF:  I'm sure they are.
DALE:  But that's long gone.  A few centuries ago.
RACHEL:  Sometimes I wish I were a bird, so I could soar over a cliff.
DALE:  Me too.
RACHEL:  Seriously?
DALE:  So I could swoop down on people I don't like.

RACHEL:  Oh, Dale.  (Socking him.)
DALE:  Ow!
RACHEL:  That didn't hurt.

DALE:  Leash your daughter.
JEFF (Still thoughtful):  Can I get anybody anything?
Yeah, a face-lift.
RACHEL:  You're not that old.
JEFF:  He's joking.
RACHEL:  I could use another coke.
JEFF:  Bad for your teeth.
DALE:  I could use a drink.
RACHEL:  I'm thirsty!
DALE:  Uh-oh.
JEFF: What?
DALE: Here she comes again. Can't get enough of us.
JANES (From off-stage): Carol! Come back.

(CAROL enters in a huff. Everyone acts nonchalant.)

CAROL: And don't pretend you're a real family.
DALE: Who's pretending?
RACHEL: Mom, you're losing it.
CAROL: I don't want to hear. (Pause.) I'm not being unreasonable.
JEFF: Is that all?
CAROL: No. (To RACHEL.) When am I going to see you?
JEFF: First thing on the fifteenth. At your doorstep. Now, go home and put your feet up, stick an ice-pack on your head.
RACHEL: Not necessarily.
CAROL:  I don't trust you.

DALE:  We're really monsters in disguise.  We just look like human beings. JEFF:  Dale.
CAROL:  They'll try to mislead you.
JEFF:  Will you can that line?!  I'm sick of it.  She'll be there.  Go away.
RACHEL (Quietly):  Mom.
CAROL:  What?
RACHEL:  I don't what to go back.
CAROL:  Where?
RACHEL:  With you.  Not for a while.
CAROL:  You put her up to this.
JEFF:  I did not!
DALE:  Where are you planning to stay?
JEFF:  Shhh.  (Under-breath.)  We'll talk about this later.
CAROL:  Good question.  Have you thought about that?
RACHEL:  I can't think right now.  Everyone's pressuring me.
JEFF:  Leave her alone.          

CAROL:  You turned her against me!
JEFF:  She's old enough to decide for herself.
CAROL:  She doesn't know her own mind.
RACHEL:  I do so!  You weren't going to even let me come here.
DALE:  She's got her head screwed on pretty straight.
RACHEL:  Thank you.
CAROL:  You signed the papers in court!
JEFF:  I sure did.
RACHEL:  Mom, you can't force me to do what I don't want.  I'm not a doll.
CAROL:  You don't know what's in your best interest.
RACHEL:  I know better than you.
DALE:  Whoo.
CAROL:  What are you saying?
RACHEL:  I'm glad you and Dad got divorced.
CAROL:  And it's all my fault.  Is that what you think?
RACHEL:  Mom, I saw you two fight.  It's not healthy.  Long before Dale came along.
CAROL:  I don't understand what I did to turn you against me.
RACHEL:  You're pushing too hard.  Let me be.
CAROL:  You're not as old as you think you are.
JEFF:  That's my line.
CAROL:  Not mature yet in your judgment.
RACHEL:  I have to struggle in my own way.
CAROL:  Jesus.  This is a nightmare.  I never should have come.
JEFF:  Say that again. 

DALE (Pause):  These brownies are real tasty.
JEFF:  Dale.
DALE:  Sorry.
CAROL:  I guess I'd better go.

RACHEL:  I'll call you.
CAROL:  When?
RACHEL:  I don't know.  Sometime.
JEFF:  We'll work something out.
CAROL:  Don't try to influence her.
JEFF:  Are you kidding?  Her head's as thick as lead—like yours.
DALE:  In my experience, teenagers know everything.
RACHEL:  Aren't you cute?
CAROL:  Rachel?
CAROL:  Don't hate me.
RACHEL:  I won't.  I'm—catching my breath.
CAROL:  You know where to reach me.

            (Pause, then exits.)

DALE:  Whew.  Heavy stuff.
JEFF:  Now you know what you missed without kids.
DALE:  Tell me about it.  I couldn't face having offspring: they'd turn out like me.
RACHEL:  I guess I was wrong.
JEFF:  Why?
RACHEL:  I should have talked with her about it before.
JEFF:  Why didn't you?
RACHEL:  I was scared.  I didn't think she would be rational.
DALE:  Good thinking.
JEFF:  Can't you be serious?!
DALE:  Sorry, it grates on my constitution.
JEFF:  Try to be helpful for once.
DALE:  Have you thought about where you're going to put all her stuff?
JEFF:  I don't know yet.  The spare bedroom, maybe.
DALE:  My computer's in there.
JEFF:  You can move it.
DALE:  You ought to at least consult me.  Not just assume I'd like having an extra person around.
RACHEL:  I don't want to be a problem.
JEFF:  You're not a problem.
DALE:  We have to discuss these things.  All the sudden I'm a family man?
JEFF:  Not for that long.
DALE:  At least give me nine months.
RACHEL:  God.  It all seems so chaotic.
JEFF:  What?
RACHEL:  People.  How they live together.  Or don't live together.  How they get along.
DALE:  It's pretty confusing.
RACHEL:  I don't understand.
JEFF:  Maybe we're not supposed to.
DALE:  I gave up trying.  Bad for the digestion.
RACHEL (Pause):  You know, I kinda like it out here.  99% of the world doesn't give this place a second thought.  Everybody's wasteland.
DALE:  Some nice homes in the valley.
RACHEL:  They never come up here.  Just look at it through a haze.
JEFF:  Except lovers.  And schoolgirls.
DALE:  And snakes.
RACHEL:  Who knows how much longer that building will even be standing.
JEFF:  Since when did you become a philosopher?
RACHEL:  I just wonder sometimes.  So many people without homes, and these buildings all empty.  It doesn't make sense.
JEFF:  No, it doesn't.
DALE:  Human greed.
RACHEL:  How much longer you think we'll be around?
JEFF:  Who?
RACHEL:  Human beings.
JEFF:  I don't know.  Not too much longer, I shouldn't think.
DALE:  We'll either poison or kill each other.
JEFF:  Huddled together in caves.
DALE:  All that will be left is our débris.
RACHEL:  You guys are depressing!

JEFF:  You brought it up.
DALE:  The future of mankind is not a cheerful subject.
RACHEL:  Come on.
JEFF:  What?
RACHEL:  Let's go look over the ridge.
JEFF:  Why?
RACHEL:  To see what we can see.  I'm tired discussing.
DALE:  Wait!  You're going out there, you're putting on your face-mask, young lady.
JEFF:  He's right.  Gotta play it safe.
RACHEL:  Oh, god.  I can see it now.  The wave of the future.
DALE:  Damn right.  Long as I'm in the picture.
JEFF:  Here you go.

           (They put on the face-masks.)

DALE:  I'll clean up.
RACHEL:  Come on.

            (RACHEL leads JEFF upstage, into the distance.)

DALE:  Don't stay out too long!

            (Pause; then he begins to collect their belongings.)


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