Rosie’s Hands

     handspicHer hands. For decades, those hands have produced oil paintings that cause strangers to stop, stare and sigh. Hands that ignore age and disease and transfer stories to canvas. Fingers that refuse limitation and caress paintbrushes to create beauty. Hands that have cradled babies at dawn, embraced bibles in church, gripped armchairs in injection centers and nursed relatives in care facilities and I am both mesmerized and enchanted as I watch her paint free today of obligation or sadness or pain. My eye travels to the canvas and I study the picture. The son she lost during the Depression stares back with eyes that no longer weep or fear and as I transfer my gaze back to her, I see a mother who, for an instant, has again touched her boy, heard him giggle, felt him inside. Her eyes smile with the warmth of fresh-baked bread hot out of the oven. Her expression purrs like a cat lying in the sun.

     Hair peeps from her scalp and if we use our imagination, we can all pretend each strand poking up is new growth. We can pretend the wrinkles are canals where wisdom lies; that sallowness is a color and gravity has not drained her for over 84 years. Age has stolen her youth, cost her her health, but does not leave her wanting. She knows the disease will dictate that she put down her paintbrush for the last time and she stares at her hands, ignoring the tremors and the transparency, because she knows…

     soon her hands will be holding those of the boy in her painting forever.

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The Hunt

tunnelgirl

When I need an escape, I find refuge in thrift store shopping, imagining the people as animals foraging with the same goal in mind:  to find that unique item to return to their nest, a slice of magic that will calm their prowl. The customers flit around me some traveling in packs while others are lone wolves on the hunt. Some are injured trying to find a slice of solace that will feed their soul while others simply prance about laughing in the sunshine of a good bargain.  The young mama bear searching to clothe her offspring who plays hide and seek beneath the hanging garments, grateful for the diversion and the innocence that her cub enjoys. But there’s no mistaking the primal protection in her darting eyes which signal the others that she has a history of being very aware of any predators in her midst.

The white haired, stooped older mammals, like wise owls, gather around the books and lose themselves in the warm bask of a good story.  Other animals remind me of what happens when left in the wild too long.  The ripple effect of bad decisions, sometimes forced bad decisions, play across their face, crawl up their spines and lay heavy on their stooped shoulders; their empty eyes lost in a forest of numbing apathy and useless regret.  There are others still, rejuvenated, primping, strutting as they enhance their plumage barking, chattering, cooing while others plod through this forest, worn and tired, simply trying, practically and matter-of-factly, to gather the necessities for the cold winter ahead.

I relish in the anonymity that my “nature” place provides.  I go unnoticed among the herd as I pick through the sticks that line my own nest and draw comfort in being surrounded by others who unknowingly carry inside them a tiny piece that looks a lot like me

*sigh*

monotony

Sometimes it is the humdrum of life that just might save us all. We fight against it; we mock it; we dread waking up to one more day of everyday chores that boil down to “Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.” But this is what I have come to appreciate about the sameness of it all. It is something to focus on when you’re waiting for the phone call or the proposal that doesn’t come. It is the distraction that keeps us stepping forward as we wait for the test results on an abnormal pap, a job interview or a desperate yet necessary email sent. It is the focus that propels us through watching our children toddle off, bright lunchbox in hand, to the independence of kindergarten to the more lump swallowing moment when they step out onto the diving board and fly off to college.

These little tasks that go unnoticed, unappreciated and sometimes unnecessary wrap us up in a warm, comforting blanket of monotony and slip us into a comfortable rut we will bemoan and wiggle out of during a vacation or a carefree night when the second or third drink stirs in us that free spirit but when the dust settles, we will glide easily back into “shampoo, rinse, repeat” mode. It is often what keeps us breathing.

Thoughts on Dancing

Dancing is freedom, no other way to put it. Once the music starts and begins to settle inside, the spinning, the rhythm, the primal beat feels like flying as if the air around me is mine alone seemingly lighter, lifting, void of gravity. I love the slam into the ground the forceful pop of a ribcage thrust, the sensual rotation of the hips as if drawing circles in mid-air. There are pockets of time when the music demands and celebrates hard moves allowing any anger to pitch itself outward and bounce off the walls and there are other times when the music is soft and a gentle longing pours from the body and out through each fingertip before it floats up and away. Then there are those moments, those delicious moments, when the music swells from inside and beams laughter and sunshine and joy and spreads itself around the room infecting everyone. Dancing is freedom, indeed.

WHAT STARTED OUT AS FRIENDSHIP (a one-act play)

WHAT STARTED OUT AS FRIENDSHIP

a play in one act by Patti Santucci

There’s just something about a gentlemen caller

 phone

WHAT STARTED OUT AS FRIENDSHIP character list

DEIDRA: 33 year old female nurse/artist, married to Chris.

CALLER: adult male, age unknown

CHRIS: 37 year old husband, married to Diedra

BECKY: female child around five years old

POLICE OFFICER: strong male voice

Synopsis

A wife befriends an anonymous caller because she has become bored with her marriage.

WHAT STARTED OUT AS FRIENDSHIP

SCENE 1

(Deidre leans against her kitchen counter while talking on the phone)

DEIDRE

I know we shouldn’t be talking every day but I really enjoy hearing your voice. I think yesterday and today have been the longest we’ve talked. I drone on about my artwork and you act interested.

CALLER

It’s not an act. I am interested.

DEIDRE

Do you think we will ever meet? Just a cup of coffee or something? You pique my curiousity, you know. (hesitates): You make me feel alive, important. It’s been a long time since….

CALLER

(interrupts): And that’s a shame. You are a fascinating woman, Diedre. I’ll bet your patients look forward to seeing you everyday – you are their sunshine in the rain.

DEIDRE

I am just a pass through for most of my patients. We got a guy in yesterday, just a baby, maybe all of seventeen. Jumped off a bridge with a bunch of his friends. Word is he won’t ever walk again. He’ll be with me for a while. The surgeon is optimistic that he may be able to move his thumbs soon and eventually the hope is he’ll have limited mobility in his arms in a couple months. It was just so, so sad. To make matters worse his mom’s a single mother. I generally don’t get too involved but I just wrapped my arms around her – mother to mother you know?

CALLER

You’re a good woman Deidre. Chris is lucky to have you. I’ll bet you are an excellent mother. Have you gotten any bites on the masks you painted? The ones you said you have hanging at that upscale restaurant in El Dorado Hills?

DEIDRE

Wow. You have a good memory. I don’t even remember telling you about that.

(She smiles.)

Good listener. Great mind. (smiles and touches her hair coyly)

CALLER

You make the listening easy.

DEIDRE

(with panic) Crap! Chris is home. I gotta go.

(Deidre hangs up the phone)

 

WHAT STARTED OUT AS FRIENDSHIP

SCENE 2

 (Chris walks through the door. Diedre turns away from the phone.)

CHRIS

You’re looking mighty guilty. Who was on the phone?

DEIDRE

Nobody.

CHRIS

It was him again right? Yea, I know some guy’s been calling you. Who is it? Not that I care, I mean if he wants to listen to you prattle on, then God help him. We’ve been married nine years now and I know I’ve heard every single one of your brain numbing stories.

DEIDRE

I doubt that. I mean that would insinuate, at some point, you actually listened to anything I had to say in the first place.

CHRIS

(making a grand gesture with his arms): And she’s off! Pulling into the lead: Whining About Everything.

DEIDRE

Oh, Chris. The horse analogy is so close. Look in the mirror and you’ll see an ass.

(The phone rings)

CHRIS

Must be your boyfriend.

(Deidre picks up on the third ring as Chris and Deidre stare at each other)

DEIDRE

Hello.

CALLER

Sorry to call. I know you said Chris is home. Just pretend I’m one of your girlfriends. I just had to call back. I forgot to tell you something.

DEIDRE

Oh hi JoAnna! How are you?

CALLER

I forgot to tell you that I think I’m falling in love with you.

DIEDRE

Come again?

CHRIS

(angry): It’s him again isn’t it? Son of a bitch!

(He storms off stage and returns with the other phone. Chris holds the phone to his ear. He glares at Deidre daring her to speak)

CALLER

I said, I think I’m falling in love with you.

CHRIS

Diedre, who is this jerk? You do know she’s married, asshole? Let me introduce myself: I’m her husband.

CALLER

I know who you are. (beat)  (calmly): You know, if I were her husband, I’d make sure she didn’t have any reason to find comfort in conversations with a stranger. Do you even see her? I mean really see her? Did you know she’s been up at 3 am crying about her failing marriage? (beat) Yea, I didn’t think so. Now who’s the asshole?

(Chris makes eye contact with Diedre. She drops her gaze and stares at the floor)

You think she hasn’t figured out that you’re not really working late…that you just drive around so you won’t have to come home. Do you think she doesn’t know you stop at O’Malley’s Pub and mope on a barstool, drown your pathetic sorrows in a vodka tonic?

(Diedre stares at Chris through watery eyes)

CHRIS

Are you following me? Who is this?

CALLER

I know things, asswipe. You should know things too. You should know the new technique she tried on the art masks she sells at Brea’s Boutique are a hit and she’s sold seven of them since last Friday. You should know that she sends a secret prayer to God every day around 3:00 in the afternoon for her father. Do you even remember that was the time of his death? Do you remember anything? Do you remember you once had a sense of humor? Do you know she still has one?

CHRIS

Look asshole, all of that is none of your business. (turns to Diedre) What have you been telling this guy? WHO IS THIS GUY? (slams his fist on the counter.)

CALLER

I’m someone who listens. I’m someone who appreciates Diedre. I’m someone who knows she likes hot mustard and smoked swiss on her ham sandwich and always orders extra pickles. I’m someone who knows she only wears her blue nightgown when she’s sad and she dances to “Brick House” when she’s feeling sexy. I’m someone who knows how big her heart is –how she always sings to her patients.

DIEDRE

How….how do you know I sing to my patients?  And how do you know about…

CALLER

(interrupts): You told me. Remember? You said just today that you sang lullabies to that kid who jumped off the bridge.

DIEDRE

I didn’t say that. The only people who know I sing to my patients are some of my co-workers. And how do you know what I dance to or that I wear a blue nightgown? Are you watching me? (voice shaking): Who are you?

CALLER

You know who I am Diedre. I only watch you because I love you. (beat) I love you Diedre! I can tell you love me too. Our conversations, so easy….the lilt in your voice begging me to find you. For weeks, I have walked the railroad tracks by my house thinking of you. I sit staring out my front window and watch the kids cross my street on their way to the waterpark and I can feel your desire to have children with me. We’d make great parents Diedre.

SCENE 3

 CALLER

(Diedre, terrified, slides down against the kitchen counter and sits on the floor. Chris approaches Diedre. We can hear Caller shouting  to someone else.)

Becky, come here Becky. Say hello to your future mommy.

C’mon Becky. Just say hello. Don’t be afraid. Trust me honey. You’ll love her.

(awkward silence)

(enraged now): BECKY, GODDAMMIT, DO AS YOUR’E TOLD!

BECKY

(a child’s crying voice comes on the line)

Hello? (beat) I’m so scared, please help me…

(loud slap is heard followed by a ruckus that sounds like furniture being flung as Caller goes into a rage)

CALLER

That’s enough Becky! One thing! That’s all you had to do! One thing! One goddamn thing! See what you made me do? You’re ruining everything!

BECKY

(heard in the background) I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ll clean it up. I’m sorry.

CALLER

(completely calm) That’s my girl. Sorry about that Diedre. Kids, you know? Where was I? Oh that’s right. I love you Diedre! I love you so much that I keep things around my house that remind me of you. I keep the cup from the double shot latte you had last Tuesday to put my pens in. I even painted the color of my house to match your eyes.

DIEDRE

(looking up at Chris): Chris, I don’t know this guy! (angrily into the phone): Who are you? How do you know so much about me? Don’t call here anymore.

CALLER

What? C’mon, Diedre. Is it Becky? Don’t worry. She’s fine. Every kid acts up sometimes. She’s actually very well behaved. You’ll love her. Really. I can hardly wait for you to meet her.

DIEDRE

I’m hanging up. Don’t ever call here again or I will call the police.

(Diedre hangs up the phone. Chris stays on the line and listens to the caller)

CALLER

(panicked and crying): Wait! Diedre! You can’t do this. Oh my God. Oh my God. (yelling): Becky! you stupid little bitch……

(A commotion is heard, followed by what sounds like footsteps running away. Becky’s childlike scream fades getting farther away from the phone. Heavy breathing comes back on the line.)

CHRIS

(yelling): Stop! What are you doing? Look, tell me where you are. We can talk about this.

CALLER

(deadpan) You never listen Chris. That’s the problem. Then again, maybe you’re right and your wife is a bitch.

(The phone goes dead. Chris and Diedre face each other. She is crying)

DIEDRE

I’m so sorry. He was just some guy who started calling. At first he said he was a salesman for Verizon, tried to sell me a new plan. He was charming and funny and before I knew it, we were talking. Just talking Chris. He’d call and I ….it all seemed so innocent.

CHRIS

Diedre, I think we should call the police. This guy is crazy. God knows what he’ll do to his daughter. (beat) If that is his daughter.

SCENE 4

(The phone rings again. Diedre rises,

grabs a scott towel off the counter

and wipes her nose and then answers

the call)

DIEDRE

(angry now): Hello!

CALLER

(says quickly): Don’t hang up Diedre. I’m sorry. I just thought we had something, you know? I shouldn’t have rushed you. Chris just took me off guard. He’s just such an angry guy. I worry about you.

DIEDRE

Look, you don’t know anything about my husband. He’s a good man. I shouldn’t have been talking to you at all. Don’t call here anymore.

CALLER

(no longer pleading): I want you to listen hard to this Diedre.

(A clicking sound echoes.)

Do you know what that sound is Diedre? Go look in your nightstand if you want. It won’t be there. (Pause) Really, it’s a nice gun. I can cradle the frame against the heel of my hand. The recoils a bit timid but I like that, reminds me of you. Have you ever shot this gun Diedre?

               (Diedre motions for Chris to pick up the other phone holding her index finger across her lips asking Chris to remain quiet)

DIEDRE

How did you get my gun? When…?

CALLER

(interrupts): You really should lock your back door when you jog the neighborhood Diedre. There are all kinds of creeps out there. I have the gun now. I will always protect you.

(Chris frantically grabs a piece of paper and pen and writes “KEEP HIM TALKING. I’M CALLING 911”. Chris disconnects the land line

and reaches into his back pocket for his cell.)

CHRIS

(speaking quietly into his cell phone): There’s this guy that’s been stalking my wife. He’s on the phone with her now and he stole our gun. He has our gun! He also has a little girl at his house. She talked to my wife on the phone. (beat) No, I don’t know where he lives. (beat) Oh, wait a minute. He said something about living near a waterpark and seeing railroad tracks from his front window. Please hurry, he has a little girl. Oh God.(long beat) I don’t know. I don’t know. (slowly) Oh… My…. God.  His house! His house is sky blue, like a light blue. He said that his house matches my wife’s eyes.

CALLER

Who is Chris talking to? Is someone else there?

(Diedre motions for Chris to go into the next room to finish the call. Chris walks off stage)

SCENE 5

(Diedre is in the kitchen on the phone. Chris is offstage)

DIEDRE

(with voice cracking):  No, no one else is here.

CALLER

Well, I hope he doesn’t try calling anybody else. I’d hate for anything to happen to Becky here.

(Chris walks back onstage to check on Diedre. The pistol goes off, followed by a child’s scream.)

DIEDRE

(visibly shaken): He just shot the gun! OH GOD! I think he shot Becky!

CHRIS

 (into his cell  phone): He just fired the gun! I think he shot the little girl! Please do something!

(Chris grabs the phone from Diedre and starts punching numbers into the keypad. He hands the phone back to Diedre and walks away out of earshot.)

(speaking into his cell): The caller ID is 555-7381.

                                                                                    (Chris turns back to Diedre)

(whispers): Keep him talking.

DIEDRE

I dropped the phone. Look, I’m sorry. I just got nervous because Chris was here, you know? I want you to keep calling. I enjoy our conversations, you know that. (Pause) Where’s Becky? I’d love to talk her again.

CALLER

She hiding right now. She can be such a jumpy kid. I give her everything but she’s a crier. (chuckles)

DIEDRE

Yeah, I know what you mean. You know, (Pause) I think I might be falling in love with you too. (face scrunches with disgust) I keep this little heart shaped soap on my counter because it reminds me of you.

                                                                                    (Chris gives her a thumbs up)

CALLER

Really? I knew it! I knew it!! I keep all kinds of things that remind me of you.

(Diedre quickly grabs the pen and paper)

(excited):  I’ve got a collection of nursing pins that I keep on a scarf that I drape over my nightshade. I look at it every night before I go to bed. And the masks that you’ve been painting? I bought seven of them. I’ve hung them above my garage door, all seven, so they are the first thing I see when I come home. And remember when you told me about that dream you had? The one where you fell down that well? The next day I bought the cutest little well and put it in my front yard.  I even bought Becky a blue nightgown. I’m so glad you feel the same way. I can’t wait to show you everything.

(Deidre scribbles down what he says and hands it to Chris)

CHRIS

(hurrying off stage, whispers into cell): He lives in a blue house with a well in the front yard. There are seven decorative masks above his garage door. He’s got to be living in the Montgomery Development. It’s the only housing complex that I know of near the water park. He’s by a railroad. He can see the railroad tracks from his front window!

CALLER

(eerily calm): What did you do Diedre? Why do I hear sirens?

SCENE 6

(A pounding is heard through the phone. Diedre is shaking as she holds the phone)

POLICE OFFICER

This is the police. Open Up!

CALLER

FUCK!  You bitch! You’ve ruined everything. You lied to me! (pauses and continues in a dejected, whining voice) You don’t love me. You never loved me!

(More pounding on the door.)

This is all your fault Diedre. All your fault.

(The gun goes off and it sounds like the phone has been dropped on the floor. Muffled sounds, a big crash, many footsteps. Diedre drops the phone and then picks it back up almost dropping it again.)

POLICE OFFICER

Hello? Who is this?

DIEDRE

It’s Diedre Mulligan. My husband called 911. What happened? (frantic): Find the little girl. Find the little girl!! Her name is Becky.

POLICE OFFICER

I’m going to need you to calm down maam. The suspect has shot himself. The premises have been vacant for months. The officers have searched the entire house and we have not found a little girl. Two of the officers are searching the perimeter outside. Our dispatcher has indicated you have been talking with the suspect for some time? Is that correct?

DIEDRE

Yes. I know. It was stupid.

POLICE OFFICER

Maam you are very lucky.  He had previously been convicted of rape and had recently escaped from The Napa Valley State Hospital for the criminally insane. I suspect there is no little girl. He had schizophrenia and a multiple personality disorder. He was very dangerous man.

DIEDRE

(gasps): I heard about this guy. My sister works across the street from that Napa hospital. Their whole office was in lockdown when he escaped. He killed the custodian. The guard he beat is still in the hospital. They don’t think he’ll ever come out of his coma. Oh God.

POLICE OFFICER

You and your husband are going to need to come down to the station for questioning. The dispatcher is terminating the call with your husband as we speak. It’s all over Mrs. Mulligan.

(Diedre hangs up the phone as Chris walks back into the kitchen. Both are stunned. They embrace.)

DIEDRE

He’s dead.

CHRIS

(wincing): And the girl?

DIEDRE

The police think there never was a little girl. He had schizophrenia and multiple personalities. Chris, he was a convicted rapist! (crying): I’m so sorry. (sobbing harder): I don’t know what I was thinking.

CHRIS

No, I’m the one who’s sorry. (putting his arms around her): That creep was right. If I had been paying attention, you wouldn’t have struck up a conversation with some stranger.

(The phone rings. Chris picks up the phone, looks out at the audience and places it right back on its cradle.)

CURTAIN