A PLAY IN ONE ACT

BY

ROBERT WALLACE PAOLINELLI

C COPYRIGHT 1994 SAN FRANCISCO

Time: The present

Place: The day room of a retirement home for old, frail men

Characters: Fred

Jake

A voice on the P.A. SYSTEM. Only the voice is heard: never seen.

Fred: What day is this?

Jake: (He looks up from a book he's reading). Hmm. Now let me think. Ah, it must be Thursday.

Fred. Thursday? How can that be, when it was only Sunday, yesterday.

Jake. Well, if yesterday was Sunday, then today must be Monday--but I say it's Thursday because every Wednesday I go for my knee therapy--so that's how come today has got to be Thursday. But if you say yesterday was Sunday, then why in the hell are you asking me what day this is? Are you going senile on us, Fred?

Fred. Senile? Who, me? Why just you wait one minute, Jake. I may be old, but I've got all my marbles. (He taps his head with his fingers) and I tell you today has got to be Monday because on Sunday we always have those kids from the music school come here to give concerts and I've got a good recollection of their playing that oboe and all.

Jake. Nope. I had my knee therapy on Wednesday and look, (he gets up,lifts his leg and bends his knee) I can always lift it better the day after therapy. So there, (he says triumphantly, as he flexes his knee a couple more time, then sits back down) that's proof positive that I had my therapy yesterday and that makes today Thursday.

Fred. Look who the senile one is. Ha! You can't even remember the last time you peed.

Jake. Now see here Fred; no need to instigate things. I know what it means to be forgetful. I understand; don't take it so hard.

Fred. Hard? What do you mean?

Jake. Exactly that: It happens, Fred. It does. Folks our age just seem to lose things, memories and how and when we've done things.

Fred. Yep. I couldn't agree with you more--'cause you've just described yourself. You're as good at figuring out things as a broke-down calculator.

Jake. Don't you be going around insulting me. I'm not your dog. Mind what you say. I still got me a hot temper if I need one. So watch out. That's all. Today is Thursday and if you think it's Monday then you go right ahead and let it be whatever day you want it . Go ahead, be a fool.

Fred. You wait a minute, there, buddy.(He says indignantly and fidgets in his chair. A sudden look of grimaced surprise comes over his face. Jake notes this sudden change and smiles.)

Jake. I hope you've got your underpads on.

Fred. Shut up. Nobody asked you for anything.

Voice. A bingo game will start in twenty minutes in the front parlor.

Fred. I think I'll go play bingo. (He exits stage R).

Jake (With his elbow on the table, he leans his chin in his left hand. He's frowning and moving his lips. Gradually his voice becomes louder and he says): I know it's Thursday. Why its just got to be. That Fred doesn't know one day from the next. He's lost it--I just know he has. Well, if he's so damn clear about it being Sunday yesterday he had no call to ask me what day it is. That's proof he's lost his marbles. They say the mind is the first thing that goes--then everything else goes and nothing stops old age. it just keeps coming and coming and nobody can do anything to change that. Oh, some folks think staying fit and acting like teenagers will somehow stave off old age. What a bunch of fools. I see them in the exercise room doing senior citizen aerobics and playing tennis and square dancing till they get red-faced and plop down all out of breath and sweating--just like old folks do and they pretend they're only a little winded. Yep, old Jake is convinced it's the day after Sunday and yet my knee feels like a well-oiled hinge. I ought to know, I been with this knee all my life--I ought to know when it's at its best--and it's always at its best after therapy. Yes, indeed, I ought to know. Poor Fred, he got so riled up he lost his water. I guess I'm still lucky...

Voice. A bead stringing will take place in the arts and crafts room at one thirty. Come, string along with the gang at arts and crafts.

Jake. Arts and crafts, stringing beads, playing bingo. What a lot of crap! Bingo bores me to tears. Five dollar jackpots. Why hell, I used to spend five dollars for a cup of coffee and a pastry. Five bucks is nothing to me. What kind of jackpot is that? Why not a hundred or a hundred an fifty or...(enter Fred. He is wearing a different pair of pants. In his hand is a newspaper. He is waving it and smiling).

Fred. Here's the proof. Take a look for yourself. (He puts the paper close to Jake's nose. Jake pushes it away).

Jake. Why in the hell did you do that? I'm not blind. Here, give me that paper.

Fred. Look at the date--go ahead, look. (He says this smugly as he crosses his arms. Jake looks at the paper and frowns. He hits the paper with the back of his hand and gives it back to fred).

Jake. That newspaper is six months old, and anyway, it says it's Friday. Didn't you see that? (Fred has an incredulous look on his face and grabs the paper out of Jake's hand).

Fred. Well how was I supposed to know it wasn't today's paper?

Jake. By reading it, that's how. Don't tell me you've forgotten how to read. That bad, huh?

Fred. Just what do you mean: That bad?

Jake. What's wrong with you? Don't you think before you act? I think you need to speak with the social worker, Fred. Do you want me to ask her to see you?

Fred. What for? There's nothing wrong with me; it's you that needs someone to talk to. Mind your own business.

Jake. But you don't even know what day it is. Doesn't that tell you something?

Fred. No. but it tells me you're trying to make a fool out of me, trying to make me think I've gone senile, when all the time it's you. I know today is Monday and that's that--you senile old fool!

Jake. There you go calling me names again. But say what you will--today is Thursday--and that's that.

Voice. Joe Burns won the bingo jackpot today. Come and join us next Tuesday for our next session. There will be a field trip to...(voice gradually fades, the lights dim, the curtain comes down

The End

Ability of reaching this exaltation