Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Family Reunion (06/05/08)
TITLE: Please--Read Cousin George's Story
By Jan Ackerson
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Upstage, semi-transparent screens show two backlit rooms, with silhouetted people silently moving about.
A bright light appears from stage left.
Mother: Oh good, here she comes! (Everyone looks toward the light. Mira emerges, somewhat dazed.) Mira! How lovely to see you! We’ve been waiting for you, you know.
Mira rushes to Mother, and they embrace.
Mira: Mom? This isn’t…heaven, is it? I mean, it’s great to see you, but I was expecting…you know, to meet Jesus, my own mansion…this looks like our old living room.
Mother: (laughs) Oh no, this isn’t heaven. The real you is there right now, I’m sure.
Mira: The real me? Then who am I? And…(she looks at the others. Some of them grin and wave)…isn’t that Dad? And Aunt Penny? Oh, there’s Brad! And Sadie!
Several family members hug Mira. Brad leads her by the hand to a sofa. Everyone settles down, and Mira looks questioningly at Mother.
Mother: Well, well. How to explain…Oh, I know! There’s something writers often hear: “Your characters will live forever in the words you write.” You’ve heard that, right?
Mira: (beginning to understand) Yes…
Mother: Well, here we are! All together in this lovely room—just waiting for people to read us.
Mira: So you’re…the family I wrote about? All those stories?
Mother: Yes, dear. Look over there—Sadie’s sixteen, but…hmmm, where did they go? Sadie?
Three girls of different ages all wiggle their fingers. Another one peeks out from behind a chair.
Mother: See? All Sadie. You were always writing about Sadie. (She adjusts her glasses) Mira, dear, now that you’re here, our family is complete again. You won’t be writing any more, of course.
Mira: But what do you—we—do?
Mother: Oh, not much, but it’s very pleasant here. We mostly just wait for readers. And it was always fun to greet new arrivals. (She looks around the room) Look, Aunt Penny’s being read right now. Remember that story you wrote about her? It was so funny!
A spotlight illuminates Aunt Penny, who puts down her knitting and fluffs her white hair. After several seconds, the light dims. Penny resumes her knitting.
Mira: That was cool…what’s that like, Aunt Penny?
Penny: Oh, it’s lovely. It tingles every time they laugh. But sweetie, I really wish you’d fixed that typo. It’s a little bit embarrassing…
Mira: (thoughtfully) Mom, some of my stories were pretty sad. Does it feel bad, when the readers cry?
Just as Mother starts to reply, Brad and Mira are illuminated by spotlights, as is the baby in the bassinet. When the lights fade, Mira takes a deep breath.
Mira: (lifts the baby and holds her close) I see…that was a sad story (she holds out the baby and studies her face, smiling) but we feel the love, every time a reader appreciates the story.
Mother: Yes, dear. Now that you’ve been here a little bit, look around. What else do you see?
Mira surveys the stage. She spots a dim corner, where an indistinct figure occupies a small chair.
Mira: Is that Cousin George? I can hardly see him…
Mother: Yes, the poor thing. No one reads that story any more, and he’s fading right away. That wasn’t really your best work, dear. Now keep looking…
Mira walks around the stage, stopping occasionally for a hug. At one point, she stoops to nuzzle a small orange cat. While she walks, occasional family members are spotlighted, in solos, twos, and threes. Finally she notices the screens with the silhouetted people moving behind.
Mira: Who are they? Wait, I think I know…families of other writers?
Mother: No…think, dear.
Mira: Then they must be…other characters I wrote? Made-up characters?
Mother: (beaming) Yes! And I’m just sure they’d love to greet you, whenever you’re ready. Spend some time with Brad and Sadie first. All the Sadies. But soon, dear, won’t you?
Rapid images flash across the screens: animals, fantastical creatures, uniformed men, women in garden hats—all manner of people from every era. Mira watches, then sinks into her seat.
Mira: Y’know, I’m not ready to meet them yet…I did some unusual writing. Maybe I’ll just rest here with you all for a bit…
A spotlight illuminates Mira. She closes her eyes and holds Brad’s hand as the curtain slowly falls.
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