Read an Excerpt
A Short-Play Cycle
By Neil LaBute
Faber and Faber, Inc. Copyright © 2005 Neil LaBute
All rights reserved.
A YOUNG WOMAN sitting in the front seat of a car.An OLDER WOMAN seated next to her, driving.
YOUNG WOMAN ... it's all the same, you know? How it looks out there, along the highway. It is. That's funny. I mean, not funny-ha-ha but the other kind of funny. What would you call that? Funny-strange, I guess. Or odd. Funny-odd. It's just ... I mean, I didn't expect that. That stuff would seem so ... familiar. It is funny. To me, at least. (Beat.) So ... how's Dad? Good, probably. I'll bet he's good. Dad is always good. He's a good dad. I'm surprised he didn't come, that he left all this up to you. That's kind of unlike him. Unusual, anyway. That he'd do that. Oh, wait ... he's out of town, isn't he? Didn't you say something about that on the phone, can't remember now. I think you did. Said he wouldn't be able to make it — not that he called me, told me himself, that would be very, you know, "un-dad-like" of him, but — I guess I do recall that now. He's not home. Where'd he go again ... Milwaukee? Is this a Milwaukee week? Yeah, guess it must be. Huh. I just don't get that, not at all ... why he insists on driving himself up every other weekend, going up there to see Grandma and Grandpa. They don't care if he does, don't even really want him to, I can tell, times I've been up there with him. They sit there, on that floral couch of theirs, and just stare at you. Through you, really, that would actually be a more accurate description of it. Them staring through you. Maybe it's her cataracts or whatever, or that blood-thinning medicine he's on, but it's like you're there, they can sense someone's in the room, but they can't completely make them out. I mean, specifically. (Beat.) Or ... they're just not very nice people. That could be it, too. They could just be crabby, old, mean people who don't give a shit about anybody, and just because they look frail and cute and all that stuff doesn't mean a thing. Because we age, right, we get older and all that, but it doesn't change who we are. Does it? No way. It doesn't ... I mean, just because some guy, some Ku Klux Klan guy grows too aged to put a rope around some black kid's neck, that don't mean he doesn't want to. True? That's what I think, anyway. Just 'cause we can't doesn't mean we wouldn't like to ...
The OLDER WOMAN glances over at her daughter. The YOUNG WOMAN flashes her a serene smile.
YOUNG WOMAN Obviously I had a little time on my hands up there to think about stuff ... (smiles) Yep. Lots of time. It was an interesting place, a lot different than the last one. Really pretty cool, which I've been meaning to thank you both for, honestly. I even made up a little note-hand-painted and everything in my art class — that thanked you and Dad for getting me set up in such a nice facility. Never sent it, though. Sorry. Meant to, but, you know ... didn't. But it was awesome. Their "campus." And the boys were cute, so you two really did a bang-up job. Thanks, Mom. (Beat.) I thought they had a good program, too, you know, maybe a little heavy on the "higher power" stuff, perhaps a bit too much of that nonsense, but overall, very good. Good staff, tasty food, I even liked the name. Twin Oaks. Quite pretty. Like a little bed and breakfast place or something, nestled there in a picturesque setting ... although none of us, when we were walking around the grounds or on hikes and stuff ... we didn't see any oaks. Not a one. (Beat.) Oh, you know what was funny, this one night? You'll like this — there was a movie on, in the rec room, this old black-and-white movie on the TV — and you know me, right? I usually run the other way when you and Dad are watching that crap, Gone With the Wind or whatever, I'm outta there — but I plop down for a second, just for a minute or so, to sneak a little popcorn, I've really got the munchies from all the restrictions they have me on and everything. Like no cigarettes — you didn't tell me that when you guys shipped me off there. Left that one out, didn't you? Whatever — anyway, this show is on, and as it's happening, we all notice, really quickly, that the movie's taking place at this roadside café called the same thing: Twin Oaks. Isn't that weird? Yeah. It all happens — well, mostly all — in and around this café-slash-home where this married lady and some drifter guy kill her husband. Basically for love. I mean, they end up taking his establishment and everything, getting his money, but mostly it's just for love. Isn't that cool? Mom? That we were watching it — my "peers" and I — at Twin Oaks and the story's meant to be going on at Twin Oaks. Although, obviously, a different Twin Oaks. (Beat.) Well, we all thought it was pretty funny ... and after, we shared a smoke before bed. A marijuana smoke. I know that's probably hard for you to hear and everything, but I'm supposed to be more honest now. That's part of my sobriety thingie — to be candid.
The OLDER WOMAN looks over at the YOUNG WOMAN. Silence.
YOUNG WOMAN Yep. And anyhow, that was all before ... before I got things together. I mean, in a place like that — you can get anything you want, or to do, you can do just about whatever you'd like, if you want it bad enough. And that night, I did. But I'm better now. Totally all better. Right? You believe that, don't you ... Mom? I know Dad does. He told me, last family session he came to, he told me that. Looks me right in the eye, which for him is ... (points to her forehead) ... right about here. But he looks at me, and he smiles — maybe even tearing up a little bit — and he says, he says in that one quiet voice of his, "Honey, I believe you. I do." Which was just so cool. I mean, like, moving almost. I was almost moved by that. I was. And now here I am ... out and clean and feeling pretty great. So.
The YOUNG WOMAN stops for a moment, considering.
YOUNG WOMAN I just think ... I dunno. I think maybe it could be really easy to fit back in at home, in a way. I know the twins are off at school now and all, so that'll be different, but, you know, I just imagine that it could be an easy fit for me to get myself into the groove. To register down at the community college next semester and maybe get a job even, my old job back, or that sort of deal ... I could do that. Absolutely. I know that's what you're hoping, Dad told me last week, he said that you guys are really "pulling for me." He used that term, which just about kills me ... "We're pulling for ya, sweetie." Which is not even something he ever says, that's Grandpa's phrase, and he knows I hate it, because it doesn't mean anything, not really, it has no meaning, but I guess the fact that he was there, still in his suit from work, and drove up to attend the meeting says something, so it's fine. It's okay that he uses it, but I just can't really buy into it. Not completely. Because, like, what're you guys saying by saying that? Huh? Seriously, Mom, what? (Beat.) See, you don't even know, do you? Nope. Not really ...
They drive on in silence for a moment. The YOUNG WOMAN looks out her side window.
YOUNG WOMAN ... No, I think the only way to prove to you guys that your money was well spent is to be honest, like they said. Do my best to become a more truthful person, to say what I feel. To mean what I say. Yeah. At least with one person ... that's one of their ideas, that you start it small and be completely on the level, always, with one person. So, you know, no matter what else you do, you are always gonna be true to that chosen individual. They stand by it, the counselors up there, say that it's the best way to get yourself back on the road. And I picked you. Mom. Isn't that neat? Out of everybody, I picked you.
The OLDER WOMAN glances at the YOUNG WOMAN, then back at the road.
YOUNG WOMAN And so, that's why, well, I just need to be open with you here ... here in the car where you can't run into the next room or slam the door in my face or throw yourself down on the bed and start crying, this is the place to be honest. Right? I think so ... (Beat.) I'm gonna do everything in my power to use again. I know I am, I can feel it. I've done the time there, up there at Twin Oaks, and listened to all the lectures and sat through the groups and whatnot, and I'm telling you ... I can't wait to get my hands on some shit. Whatever kind of shit anybody'll give me. That's what I want. And I'll do whatever that person asks, or whatever it costs for it. I will. (Beat.) I know that's not what you wanna hear, Mom, I'm sure that makes you sick and hate me and that kind of thing, but I did learn that at ol' Twin Oaks. To be honest. They impressed it upon us, most strongly, and I walked away believing it. I mean, I told them all that other stuff, too, all the crap they wanted to hear about me getting better and the like, but I do sort of believe this honesty thing. Just sitting here, as we were driving, it came over me. This desire to be truthful. So there it is. The truth. I know I'm gonna relapse. Can't wait to, really, so if that means you wanna turn around and drive me back, then I guess so be it ...
The OLDER WOMAN doesn't turn from watching the road, nor does she turn the car around. She just keeps driving.
YOUNG WOMAN ... figured that's what you'd do. Just get home, right? That's what people always think is best. Get home. "Everything'll be okay, if I can just make it back to the house." Good one, Mom. Do it, keep on driving — or "trucking," as they used to say when you were young, "Keep on trucking" — tell Dad, call those emergency numbers when we get back to our place. That'll fix it. You bet. I gotta tell you, though, due to this whole "honesty gig" that I'm doing here — that I'll probably lie my ass off to everybody else if you tell 'em about our little chat. I will ... I'll say we got into a fight, that you're making things up, you know, my "greatest hits." I mean, let's be honest — who's gonna believe you, anyway? You who calls Dad at work, pulls him out of a staff meeting when the pool guys don't show up. Or ... when that one post office dude, the delivery man, was trying to break in? 'Member that one? He made the mistake of opening the screen door and you had the police over in, like, ten seconds! Yeah, I think I'll take my chances ... so, you decide. It's up to you ... Mom.
They drive on in silence. The YOUNG WOMAN lights up a smoke.
YOUNG WOMAN I wish I knew what movie that was, that we were watching ... I'd love to see what the beginning was like. Or the name of it, at least. I'm sure you guys would like it, you and Dad. (Beat.) After ... when we finished smoking, all of us — there was maybe like six, altogether — we went back in and caught the end of it. The counselors were just wandering around, doing their charts and making sure people took their showers and all that, and the six of us kicked back and watched the last part. They got caught, of course. That man and the lady. They eventually turned on each other, and then somehow it was okay, in court, I mean — which we all cheered at, when somebody gets off in court — and then they got in a car wreck. Yeah, so the cops think that he did it, this guy, on purpose. For the money. So he ends up going to prison and getting executed for something he didn't do. Which is so, you know ... funny. Not funny-ha-ha, but the other one. Strange. Or ironic. It was funny-ironic, that's what it was. We thought so, anyway. (smiles) You should've seen us there ... stoned like we were and sitting around, watching this thing and laughing our asses off. We were, Mom ... just laughing and laughing and laughing. Even when they sent us off to bed ... up there in the dark, in the other bedrooms, I could still hear some of the other people going at it. Just giggling away, all by ourselves. We found it all so damn funny ...
The YOUNG WOMAN goes back to looking out the side window. The OLDER WOMAN continues to drive.CHAPTER 2
A GUY and a GIRL seated inside a parked car.
GUY ... what?
GUY No, honestly ... what's up?
GIRL I just ... (shrugs) That's all I wanna know.
GUY What? That I'm ... I'm ...
GIRL That you're not just blowing me off here.
GUY I'm ... hey, I'm not. No.
GIRL So, it's not about that, right? You're telling me flat out "no."
GUY Yeah. I mean, no, I'm not.
GUY I'm, you know, I'm not doing that.
GIRL Doing what?
GUY Obviously ...
GIRL No ...
GUY ... blowing you off.
GIRL You're not.
GUY No. Not at all.
GIRL Okay, good. Thank you.
GUY Sure ... I mean, you know ...
GIRL Just 'cause that's why people come out here. Usually. Up here.
GUY They do?
GIRL Yeah. Well, either that or to make out ... those two things, most times.
GUY Cool ... (waits) That's, like, kinda interesting. I didn't know that.
GIRL Well, that's the case. So ...
She looks over, expectantly. Waits.
GIRL Do you wanna ...?
GUY Oh. Umm ... sure, yes. Uh-huh. Let's make out some.
They do. For a few minutes. They've done this before.
GUY That's nice.
GIRL Yeah. I like the way you kiss. You kiss well.
GUY Thanks. You too.
GIRL Good, 'cause you never know ...
GUY No, you don't.
GIRL I mean, unless somebody tells you or whatever.
GUY That's true.
GIRL Me, I always thought that ...
GUY No, seriously ... what?
GIRL I just ... I dunno. I figured that my lips were maybe too thin.
GIRL Yeah. Like, when I look at 'em or whatever ... they seem sorta thin. On the thin side, anyways.
GUY Hmmm. I never thought that.
GUY Nope. They're ... good. I think you have a good mouth. Lips.
GIRL You wanna kiss some more?
And they do again. More and more. Nothing fancy, but they are definitely going at it.
GIRL 'S that enough?
GUY Ahh, yeah. That's good.
GIRL Felt okay?
GUY Really okay ... more than.
GIRL Yeah? How much more?
He smiles and holds up his hands, indicating.
GUY This much ...
GIRL That's a lot.
GUY Well, that's how much it was. It was this much more than good.
GUY Hey, I never said great ...
GIRL Shut up! (punches him) You're kinda funny ...
GUY Not really. Not so much.
GIRL Stupid funny. That's what you are.
GUY Yep. (smiles) It's pretty up here, you know? Very nice spot. Tranquil.
GUY But with the lights from town out there ... points) ... so you still know where you are.
GIRL Yes. Unless you're breaking up with somebody.
GUY What's that mean?
GIRL Nothing. I'm just saying ... it'd be different if a person was up here for a reason like that. Then it wouldn't seem so cozy ...
GUY No, s'pose not.
GIRL It'd kinda suck then.
GUY Yeah. That would.
GIRL Not just here, though ... that'd suck any place it happened.
GUY Mmmm-hmmm. That's probably why they say that ...
GUY You know, from the song.
GIRL No ... what're you ...?
GUY "Breaking up is hard to do." That one?
GIRL Oh, right. Yeah. (Beat.) Is that the name of it, or is it just a line?
GUY Dunno. I think that's the name of the thing ... pretty sure.
GUY But, I mean, it's also a line from it, too. One of the lyrics ... (He sings.) "They say that ... breaking up is ... hard to do, now I know, I ..."
GIRL I, umm, I know how it goes. I've heard it.
GUY Sorry. Sure.
GIRL Okay. (Beat.) So, which one do you think they mean it's harder for?
GUY Ahhh ...
GIRL The breaker or the ... you know ... the one getting broken?
GUY "Breakee." I think that's what they actually call it. The "breakee."
Excerpted from Autobahn by Neil LaBute. Copyright © 2005 Neil LaBute. Excerpted by permission of Faber and Faber, Inc..
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