I’ve gotten in some very kind emails asking about my childhood. So I thought I’d share the below. It’s … well, what it is.
My Childhood: The Play
Act One: Before The Divorce
(The curtain rises on the SHORE dining room. The year is 1963: the time of the culture jam between “I like Ike” and “I like major hallucinogens.’” It’s dinner time. Sitting at the dining table are DAD SHORE, wearing a business suit; his almost mesmerizingly handsome eight-year-old son, JOHN; and JOHN’S eleven-year-old sister, BUTTHEAD. MOM SHORE — dark hair, beautiful, the very picture of a 50′s housewife — comes in from the kitchen and takes her seat.)
MOM: So, honey, how was your day at work today?
JOHN (making a joke; his mother, of course, was talking to her husband): Oh, pretty good. You know. Reading. Writing. Rithmetic. Recess. Same old grind. Thanks for asking. (Both of his parents stare at JOHN in the way they might an exceedingly boring television program.)
MOM (to DAD): So, anyway, hon, did everything go all right today?
DAD: What? Whattaya’ want from me? Yes. Everything went fine, okay? Perfect. Wonderful. Couldn’t be better. Now do you mind if I eat my dinner in peace? Besides, I can’t talk; I’ve gotta save my strength to cut through this pork chop.
BUTTHEAD: Here! Look what I do! (With both hands she grabs the piece of meat off her plate and begins furiously gnawing on it.)
MOM (after silently staring at BUTTHEAD a few moments): I had a pretty good day today. I . . .
DAD: Get your elbow off the table, son. You’ll never go to college and get a good job if you don’t learn not to eat like an animal. Jesus.
JOHN: Unless I major in zoology. Then I could probably get a degree just for eating like an animal. Now, eating like an amphibian would really be something. Have you ever seen those frog tongues? How’d ya’ like to have one of those? Wouldn’t it be a drag to be a frog, and, like, forget how to curl up your twenty-foot long tongue so that you can store it in your head like all the other frogs? Like you just forgot how to wind the thing up? So then you’re just sitting there, surrounded by all this tongue, and then, when you see a fly go by, you have to hurry real quick and try to gather your tongue up in a ball, so you can throw it at the fly. Except you really don’t have any hands, since you’re a frog and all, so you –
DAD: Will you shut up! I swear, it’s like trying to eat next to Sid Caesar. Except Sid Caesar’s actually funny.
JOHN: Well, sure. With a name like Sid Caesar, how could he not be funny? Think how funny I’d be if you’d named me Hugh Hercules. Or Throckmorton Thor. Even Vince Viking would have been funny.
DAD: Shut up. Do you hear me? Not one more word out of your mouth.
JOHN (chuckling to himself): Barney Batman.
DAD: That’s it. You’re grounded.
BUTTHEAD: Yeah! You’re grounded!
JOHN: What? What are you grounding me for? Barney Batman is funny! I thought you wanted funny!
DAD: What is the matter with you? Do you not hear me? Am I not speaking English. Shut! Up! Do not say one more goddamned word!
MOM: Now, dear. Remember what the doctor said about your heart.
DAD: Livin’ with this goddamned kid, I’ll be lucky if I live till I’m fifty.
BUTTHEAD: Yeah. You’ll be lucky if you live till you’re twenty-five.
JOHN: He’s thirty-seven now, you moron.
MOM: Now, now, children. No arguing at the table. Let’s just all sit down here and have a nice, quiet dinner, shall we? Your father works hard every day, and we should all just . . . (She rolls her eyes skywards.) What’s that? Yes? Yes? (Long pause.) Come in, Mars. Yes, my leaders. This is Rhapsa One, Keeper of the Earthen Flame. I hear you. (She closes her eyes. When she opens them, she speaks as if in a trance.) Oh, children of mine. Oh, my husband. I have the most splendid news. The Overseers from the basin of the Helix Sea on Mars have just informed me that I am soon to begin the Purification of the Final Incarnation. Oh, how I have yearned for this day, when I would be declared worthy of taking the seventh step to full cosmic deliverance. Finally, blessed Nirvana will be mine. Oh, my beloveds, isn’t it miraculous?
(Her family stares fixedly at her.)
JOHN: Yeah, mom. That’s really great.
DAD: Well, that’s it. I’m gone. I got a kid who can’t shut up, and a wife who talks to Martians. I’m outta here. (He leaves the room, returning almost instantly with two suitcases.) Good-bye, kids. I’ll call or something as soon as I get a phone in my new place. Try not to end up in jail.
BUTTHEAD: But what about me, Daddy? How can you leave me?
DAD (kissing her): I love you most of all, Butthead. I’m really going to miss you. I am. (Waving.) Good-bye.
(Both children dash from their seats to wrap their arms tightly about their father.)
CHILDREN: Don’t go! Don’t go! Please don’t go, Daddy! Don’t leave us alone with her! She’s insane!
DAD: Let go of me. I’m sure she’ll be much more normal when I’m gone. (He breaks away.) Good-bye. I love you both. We’ll go to the zoo on Sundays! Won’t that be fun!
(DAD exits; we hear the front door of the house slam shut. JOHN and BUTTHEAD slide helplessly to the floor. They slowly draw closer together, until they sit huddled in each others arms.)
MOM (Eyes close, head tilted skyward): Hello? Yes? Yes, masters, I hear you. May the light fill you, oh inspired ones. Speak to me. As ever, I am yours to do with as you wish. ”
(Fade to black.)
(If you liked this at all, there’s a chance you won’t entirely hate The Bird and the Glass.)