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Chronic Sorrow - A One-Act Monologue
Elizabeth Maua Taylor
SCENE: THE LIVINGROOM
It's a modest room with an old sofa and lounge chair, TV/video center, phone stand, bookshelves. On closer inspection we see a child's environment. The floor is littered with assorted toys, large foam blocks, picture books. The bookshelves contain many more children's picture books and toys. A baby swing and a folded playpen are nearby. A diaper bag, diapers, baby bottles, and other paraphernalia are on the sofa. A baby blanket is draped over the sofa arm. A purse and a set of keys are at the edge of the coffee table.
THE MOTHER enters stage right carrying her three-year-old son. She places him in the midst of the foam blocks. She appears frazzled and looks at her watch. She starts to hurriedly pack the diaper bag.
THE MOTHER: (sighs) Good Lord, I'll be late again. I hate being late for this! I can never find a parking spot, and traffic is horrible right about now. How they can hold classes so far away and in such a rundown place, I'll never understand. It's bad enough to drive an hour for the class, but to have it in an old rundown strip mall with no parking defies logic.
(beat) I suppose they're saving rent money this way.
She pauses for a moment.
THE MOTHER: Still. The classes are very good and Carlie is an exceptional teacher. I'm so glad I found it. It didn't sit well with the social worker, though. He got real snippy and wouldn't allow for funding at first when I went ahead without his approval. Lately, I had to do a lot of that. He's on a power trip at your expense, dictating unsuitable programs, denying you the better ones because they cost a little more! He acts as if I should kiss the ground he walks on!
She stops to look at her son, who is attempting to stack the foam blocks. She sits down on the sofa and smiles but appears lonely and weary.
THE MOTHER: You sure changed my life, Mike. I thought your twin sisters were life-changing enough, but they were a piece of cake. I now have to fight for everything. Even for a such a mundane, simple thing as a preschool class for you. Things that were automatic, that I took for granted, are all of a sudden not available for you. I couldn't believe how the doors to the basic facets of everyday life had been slammed in your face! And the hoops I have to go through to open those doors! It's something I've never had to contend with before. And I hate the confrontational attitude I now have to assume. None of the "normal" preschools in town would even take the time to consider you. I get so mad every time I think about it!
She stands and exaggerates her voice and movements to mimic an administrator.
THE MOTHER: (in a whiney tone) "I'm sorry but we've never had a child with Down Syndrome before and we feel that your son just won't fit in."
She sits back down.
THE MOTHER: Won't fit in. Sheesh! You would have "fit in" just fine. Why not? You're doing everything a three-year-old does. Yeah, you're still not potty-trained, but a lot of three-year-olds aren't potty-trained, either! But you're healthy and can feed yourself and move around on your own. Heck, you entertain yourself! Your sisters still look to me to come up with things for them to do!
(beat) Today is paint day. I better bring your extra overalls.
She hurriedly stands, brushing her keys off the coffee table without her notice, and exits stage right. Then she immediately reappears with a bundle of clothes. Her son, in the meanwhile, walks to the sofa, knocking the baby blanket off the sofa. The blanket covers the keys.
THE MOTHER: Oh, honey, where are your shoes? Leave your shoes on, okay, Mike?
She exits again stage right, and reappears with the shoes. She puts them on her son. Then she places him back in the midst of the blocks. She continues packing.
THE MOTHER: I get no help. None. I wish your dad would help. But no, he's no help! He says we'll both be there for you, but then he left everything up to me. One moment he says we'll fight to get what you need, the next moment I'm doing all the fighting. He didn't even help me with the insurance company.
I had to be the one to make the calls to get them to pay the maternity hospital! It was awful, begging them to please pay. And I had to do that for two years! The last time I called them, the receptionist didn't even have the decency to put me on hold before she became malicious and referred me to her boss as the heinous bitch. I sure read him the riot act about THAT! I hope she got fired!
(beat) Me, a heinous bitch. Imagine that. Me, a mouseburger who would faint at the thought of standing up for myself. Me, who was never any good at confrontations and who avoided it like the proverbial plague. From wimp to heinous bitch! (laughs) There should be a middle ground here somewhere.
(beat) And then the stupid comments from people! Seemingly intelligent people but who are so ignorant and off-the-wall about you! Accusing me of all sorts of things! Implying that I must have taken drugs while I was pregnant. Saying that I must have done something wrong to deserve this. That I'm being punished for some past sin. That only "weird people" have "weird kids."
(beat) And then, there are those well-meaning people who say that children like you will bring a certain richness into my life. What do THEY know?! What do they know about the constant pain in my heart?
What do they know about my sudden fear of dying and leaving you alone? What do they know about staying up all night wondering what your life will be like ten or twenty years from now? About the loss of my hopes and dreams for you when I found out? How my faith in God had been turned upside down, and how I would shake my fists with a great big sloshful of unbridled rage at Him for what He did to you?
What do they know about my search to find answers, my embarrassment at people's stares, the hurt I feel for you when even your own sisters don't want to be seen with you?
(beat) People staring. I don't know what upsets me more. People yapping, or people gawking.
She notices her son pushing the foam blocks on the floor in train fashion.
THE MOTHER: (suddenly delighted) Oh Mike! You did it. WOW! You made a choo-choo train! That's wonderful! Come here, I want my kiss. Come on. Come here. Kiss kiss.
He gets up and gives her a big hug and kiss. She sweeps him up.
THE MOTHER: Ummmmm! You're such a good boy! My Mikey! I'm sooo-o proud of you! Wait 'til we show Carlie! (phone rings) Oh, God! Of all the...
She puts him down and answers the phone.
THE MOTHER: Hello? (dismayed) Mom, I can't talk right now. I have to take Mike to his class. (beat) Yes, he's okay. (beat) He's fine, Mom. (beat) Of course, I take good care of him. And the girls. And Jim. (beat) Mom, I have to go.
(beat) (annoyed) I'm not doing that! I'm not avoiding you! Mom, I really have to leave! I'm late! I can call you later!
(beat) (softly) Mom, Jim is a wonderful husband and father. He works so hard for us. I know he loves me.
I also know how hard all of this has been for him. But he's not going to leave me any time soon, okay?
(beat) It's not Jim's fault. It's no one's fault. The blood tests proved that!
(beat) Yes, Mom, I know we don't have anything like this in our family. Get over it will you? No one's to blame for Mike!
(beat) (screams) OH, FOR PITY'S SAKES, MOM! You're dead wrong about all this! I know of your hatred for Jim, but Mike does NOT vindicate your hatred for him! So stifle it, will you? (slams the phone down).
She's visibly upset. She's trying not to cry, but a tear escapes nonetheless. Then she shakes her head as if to clear her thoughts. She gathers the diaper bag and her purse. She reaches for her keys, but they're not on the coffee table. She pauses a moment to think, then looks in her purse. She digs into her purse.
She unceremoniously dumps out the contents of her purse. No keys. Now completely exasperated, she ransacks the diaper bag. Nope. She now frantically looks all over the livingroom - the video center, bookshelves, sofa, etc. She pauses. Snapping her fingers, she runs exit stage right. After two beats she slowly re-enters stage right, tired. Then she suddenly has an inspiration.
THE MOTHER: (kneeling in front of her son) Mike, did you take my keys? Keys, Mike? We're running so late. I want my keys. Can you show them to me? (looking though the toys) Mike, can you show Mommy where you put the keys? Keys, Mike?
Her son stops playing and smiles at her.
THE MOTHER: Keys, Mike. I want my keys. Keys.
He gets up and gives her a big hug and kiss. She looks at him, puzzled for a moment. Then it dawns on her. Her face changes. She smiles, then laughs, sweeps him in her arms, and cuddles him.
THE MOTHER: Kiss, kiss, kiss!
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