Seven Monologues for Men
(free for students & auditions)

Frank Tries to Tell What Happened
from the play "Inquest"

By G. L. Horton
copyright © 2000 Geralyn Horton

Frank, whose wife and children were drowned when his wife skidded off a highway and into the river, goes over the details of the accident, trying to understand--


You're going to listen, while I go over this one more time. Is that the deal? I've got to decide what I think happened. To her, not me! Not where did I go wrong, how did I fail. There's no point to going around in circles, wailing that if only I'd done something different, been more observant, more sympathetic-- a different person, in other words! In that case, I decide that I can't decide, that I'll never understand. So close it down, forget it. I'm moving to Tulsa. Did you see the For Sale sign outside? I don't think anybody's going to buy this place. Would you? But a lot of people want to see it, out of curiosity. I try to get the real estate agent to keep them out of my way, but of course they want to get a look at me, too. The survivor, in his haunted house. That's why you're here, too, isn't it? I mean, essentially. You're sympathetic, sure. But really, you want to know more than you could read in the papers. Well, so do I. It's my-- death. And I don't understand it. Was it just that she hated me? Did she hate me all along? Nobody would have guessed it. Elaine and I: We looked like a happy couple. I have proof. Documentary evidence!

 (FRANK holds up a photo of himself and Elaine with their arms around each other, young and smiling.)

You say that's ridiculous. How could I have thought I was happy in my marriage if all the time my wife was miserable and hating me, plotting her revenge? I don't believe that, it didn't feel like that. I mean, look at us! If that's not real, then-- But maybe I didn't notice. Maybe I was so self-absorbed--

(FRANK changes the photo to one of the highway.)

This is the place. You probably recognize it from the pictures in the paper. Maybe you noticed it when you drove by, looked at the guardrail and shuddered. Turned away. That's natural, I think. Both the fascination and the revulsion. But when you're trying to understand, every little detail becomes important. Very important. That's why I took these pictures, after the accident. The first accident, when I was naive and thought it was possible to understand. I thought if I could just grasp the facts, make it clear to myself what had happened, then maybe the why of it would make sense, too.

(a second photo of the road)

The road swings out here. The speed limit's 35, but nobody ever goes that. It feels like it's a freeway. But it's not, it's not engineered for the way people accelerate, especially when it's wet, when it's raining. My wife-- She's not the only one who's gone off here, through this guard rail. There was one just a couple of months before.

You can see where the guard rail's been patched. Four, four cars went into the river here in the last six years. Well, no, five, if you count-- Jesus!

All right. This is it, the last time. See if you can  spot what I missed. What I should have known. So, the place. Of course, when I think about it, I don't see it like this, I see it the way it was that night--

(photo of highway at night)

FRANK: O.K., enough for now. Back to us, the couple.

(wedding pictures)

These are from our wedding. Doesn't that look like happiness? Really, she got better looking the first few years we were married. After Jennifer was born was the best, Elaine seemed to have a glow.

(photo of older man )

There's her father. Not a happy man. Not happy. Wouldn't you say? People said Elaine took after him, but physically at least I don't see the resemblance. I don't see it. He was a weak man, a vague man. Right after our wedding he got married again himself, and moved to Florida. Some Christmases he remembers to send us a card, and some he forgets.

(more pictures)

The children, summer vacation, tenth anniversary: the usual album. We look normal, don't we? It's not just me! Elaine had all the help I could get for her. A psychotherapist, doctors, a physical therapist, professionals, and none of them knew. Or they didn't tell me. They didn't even tell me when she stopped going to her therapy. Elaine'd get dressed up,  leave the house. I thought that was where she was going, to her shrink. That's really strange, when you think about it.

Why didn't she just tell me she was done, cured, didn't want to go anymore? She knew I was prejudiced against her shrinks-- I'd said so, made cynical jokes. For a while I honestly thought that the sessions were making her worse-- But I never told her to quit. God knows, she needed something. Every day was --

All right, a typical: A Tuesday in September. It started with one of her nightmares. Elaine-- our daughter Jennifer had had a  nightmare earlier, and I said she could come in and  crawl in bed with us. I knew Jen's too old for that, the last time we let her in our bed was when she was four, and she was too old then; but she's so  frightened, what am I supposed to do? Jennifer was on Elaine's side of the bed, next to her, where she has to be: I don't see how I could let her sleep next to me. But then after we all got to sleep again, Elaine had her nightmare, a real doozy, thrashing around and screaming, and she managed to hit Jennifer a hard one on the side of the head-- in her sleep all this time, and then they were both awake and hysterical. This was-- oh, 5:30, six o'clock. I got Jennifer dressed, and gave her some breakfast, hoping that Elaine would get hold of herself, but-- 7:30 she's still hysterical. I put in a call to her doctor, but of course all I got was the service. I suggested we go to the emergency room, anything, anything to stop that awful noise—

FRANK: Elaine! Elaine, open the door! At least let me know you're listening to me! For God's sake, can't you shut up for a minute, talk to me like a person? Like a person? Your daughter is terrified, she thinks you're going to kill yourself in there or something! For the love of God, can't you dry up long enough to come downstairs and kiss her good-bye? Elaine? Goddammit, Elaine, come out of there! Elaine!

FRANK: Six months, it's six months today. She's not getting better. So what am I going to do?

What's the best thing for her? I don't understand-- females. It's hard for me even to know how to talk to Jenny. We seem to be tiptoeing around all the time-- tiptoeing around. Not getting anywhere, any of us. So, how do I deal with that? I-uh- I slow down. I try to focus on what's ahead, just the next hour, or the next day. I don't dwell on what's past hope. I keep busy, I make lists. Things I have to do. Things that have to be done. New shoes, PTA, orange juice, vitamins-- day at a time things that Elaine always took care of. I'm grateful, really, for that part, because it keeps my mind off. Keeps my mind off. The day after, I  actually was glad that I had to make the arrangements, pick out Tim's coffin and all.

(photo of coffin)

I've got a picture of that, too. Pitiful, isn't it? A kid-size coffin. I snapped it when nobody was looking, furtively. I didn't want anybody to notice I was being morbid.

My mother offered to take care of the funeral business, but I said no, it'd take my mind off. I told her to choose the hymns, though. I said I had no idea what "Tim would have liked". And then she said the strangest thing. She said, the hymns aren't for Tim, Frank, they're for you. For the ones who are left grieving. As if it could make any difference to me what nonsense gets sung! As if she didn't know I don't believe in that stuff! Opium! That's all there is.

Religion, therapy, drugs, alcohol-- all of them just distractions, or numb-ers. You keep plodding on, pointed toward the future, because what else can you do? For Jenny. For Jenny, that's what I tried to get clear! Sure, it was a terrible experience for her, but she could put it behind her by now if she had some help from her mother. But when she's not weeping, or hysterical, Elaine's like a ghost. Half the time, when Jenny asks her for something, her mother doesn't even answer her. How's a little girl supposed to make sense of that? Her mother might as well be still in the hospital.

So what's the solution? My mother's offered to take her. To take Jenny, until-- I think that might be best, myself. But the psychiatrist thinks it's a bad idea. Because-- because I messed up, I suppose? I didn't tell Jenny her brother was dead, not right away. I let her think he was in the hospital too, until she was ready to come home. So now she doesn't trust us out of her sight. We might disappear.

To reassure her, I've thought of sleeping in Tim's room. That way if  Jen's scared she can come in with me without waking her mother up and getting her started.

But then I don't know if that's all right. I mean I'm her Dad, but she's a girl, and I don't want to take a chance on screwing her up in some way, because when she was seven we were in the same bed.

Elaine thinks-- I don't care what Elaine thinks! She's not in any condition!

Her therapist--!? I'll tell you right out, I think that that Dr. Kolodny is the biggest phony that--

I've tried to talk to her about Elaine, but she wouldn't return my calls! Then when I did get her, she wouldn't answer my questions. I'd like to believe that talking to her shrink twice a week is going to get Elaine all dandy and clear the ghosts out of this house. That's what I'd like.

But as far as I can see she comes out of those sessions crazier than when she went in.

Listen! Elaine's stopped crying. She may have fallen asleep. Last week she did, in the bathroom. Curled up on the bathmat, her head jammed up against the sink. I could see her through the keyhole.

FRANK: No! No, I don't feel abandoned. I wish to God I did. You know how I feel? Stuck. Stuck in the tomb, with a walking ghost from marriage past. Mustn't forget the date. Drink a little toast, to our solid year in hell.

listen to this monologueFRANK: No, Elaine, you're not going to call Jennifer! Not in this state! You want to talk to a kid, call Timmy. Use your direct line to heaven.

For him, you've done all the harm you can. But give your little girl a fighting chance. Leave her alone.

Find some other way to keep yourself occupied. Take a nap. Hold a seance. Play solitaire. Play Russian roulette. As for me,  I'm going to take the rest of this bottle and I'm going to go upstairs to cry. Isn't that funny? Me, cry? I bet you'd love to watch, you'd love to keep me company. Misery loves company. But I don't want your company. If I'm going to be crazy I want to be crazy on my own, in my own good time. But when will that time come, Elaine? Did you know that's what I've been waiting for? That all along, all along, I've had this foolish notion that if I could hold myself together for one day, just one day and then another day and then another, that at last the day would come when it would be my turn.You would say, I've done a terrible thing, I've ruined your whole life and even your immortality, and then I've made you listen to me whine about it, but I've done now. You can let go. And that's the day, the precious day, when I was going to begin to grieve. But when is it? When's my turn? When are you going to stop hogging all the tears, and let me mourn? Oh, but I've forgot! Tim's not really dead. He's in that big summer camp in the sky! So, uh, what's he got to say this week? Does he need anything? Not tears, I see that, but something at the commissary, maybe? Should I send spare change, by the ghost post, in case he needs a new halo or anything? Shit! What the Hell, let's go crazy together, and leave Jennifer with nobody solid at all. Poor little bouncing orphan girl, left with ghosts and loonies where her family used to be.

FRANK: Don't what? Don't get drunk? Don't have nightmares? Don't mention that you killed him? You killed him, Elaine. Our little Tim. The only son I'll ever have. He was fished out of the Charles river with his hair full of slime, his skin as yellow as dog piss. So just stay the hell away from me! Stay on the other side of the door! Here! Take the car keys!

Maybe you'll want to go for a drive in the rain.

FRANK:  When the police came I was unconscious. Soused and out, lying face down in my pillow. Which must have muffled the noise of the door. They broke in to find me. An edifying sight. The pillow was soaked with tears and spilt booze and snot and the drool that ran out of my mouth in my drunken stupor. I struggled to get up. I wasn't surprised to see them, looming over me. I was too dense to ask questions, but I already knew what they'd tell me. It was the same, all over again. The cops, the rain, the ride in the squad car. The dragging was going to begin again, and go on and on all night.

So you'll say that proves it! I knew! And yet how could I have known? How could any sane person have dreamed of such a thing, unless we dreamed it together? Unless I sent her? But I didn't! How the hell could I?-- have known what was in her twisted mind? But in that moment, I recognized it. I knew-- that was Elaine! But before? You're going to say, I gave her the keys. But I didn't imagine-- I mean, I couldn't, even after she'd done it, I couldn't. It is literally unimaginable, that fact.

I point my mind at it, and my mind refuses to go there. I rode with the police in their prowl car, the blue lights going around and around. I walked up to the guard rail, to the edge of the river, and my mind spun its wheels. Round and round. I even walked up to the bodies, after hours, after hours of dragging, in the dawn. But I couldn't imagine it, I couldn't believe, until I looked at the faces. My God, Elaine looked smug! I swear! She looked satisfied, replete--  smug. Would she have looked that way if she'd been pleasing me, carrying out my wishes? No! Hell, no! She looked that way in the casket, too-- smug. Until I made them shut it. Who'd want to look? Friends? What kind of friends would come to a freak show? From miles around, to the funeral, or to stand outside the mortuary, or just cruising past the haunted house. Hundreds of nosy strangers, to look at freaks! All with that smug look, that rictus like hers, that bloated smile.

I have to wonder now, if the first time was an accident. What do you think? Did she mean to kill them all, all along? Kill them all, but it took her two whole tries! How much, how much did she hate me? I don't expect you to answer. But at least you have the facts. I'll leave them to you. You decide. I just plan to forget. I'll do whatever it takes. Throw all this out, burn it, sell or rent the house-- or let it fall down. A new job, a different state. Somewhere I won't meet a single soul to remind me. And at some point, some time unimaginable now, but only a finite number of mornings from this one, it'll be gone. I'll wake up to a blank. As if I'd never had two children, or a wife. An empty mind: perfect, dry, and wide enough for an echo. As if they'd never existed. Or as if I'd just been born. It may take years, years and years; but there will be some time when I'm free between here and the grave. I'm glad there's no heaven! Glad I won't go there-- to see those smug cherubim flapping their ludicrous wings.


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