Monologues for Women
(free for students & auditions)

Elaine Tries To Tell What Happened
5 monologues From the play "Inquest"

By G. L. Horton
copyright © 2000 Geralyn Horton

Elaine, whose son Timmy was drowned when she skidded off a highway and into the river, goes over the details of the accident, trying to understand--

ELAINE: I've been bad again. Bad mother, bad wife. You see this?

(ELAINE's left hand is wrapped in an ace bandage. The fingers are fitted with a device of splints and rubber bands, designed to put tension on them. ELAINE unwraps the hand, and begins massage.)

It's not healing. Because I can't-- I don't want to-- I feel that I-- Oh, God! why am I doing this? I washed my face and combed my hair. I don't want to beg you for pity. They tell me it's a matter of concentration. Positive thinking. "Close your eyes, but keep looking at your hand. See it. See how delicately it's made, notice the different shape of each finger, specific to its own function. How clean and precise it is. Feel the life flowing into it, down your arm from your heart." "Feel the warmth, the energy, feel how it is growing strong, growing well. Now see your hand picking up a flowerpot, a heavy clay flowerpot full of red tulips, then putting it down and moving your fingers up to caress those tulips, moving up the stems, the leaves, caressing the bright red petals with great precision--" But I can't! (opens eyes) When I close my eyes I see her, the dead woman. The woman who drowned with her children. I can't relax, I've got to push it back or cover it with something. Unless I push it back, that's what I see. Over and over. I can slow it down, so that every detail is clear. The horoscope-- in the paper that morning. It was a warning, but I forgot all about it until it happened, and then I could see it printed in front of me, so clear. And the chipped pink polish on that woman's fingernails-- The mother. The one who is wearing my pink scarf and saying my words. But I'm outside, watching. Watching, again and again. That's what Frank can't stand. He thinks that if we force ourselves to go on and never look back, if we wall it off with work or whiskey or whatever, some time soon we'll be in a new place, where this didn't happen. But then what happens to Timmy? Did he never exist? Or is he in hell? Locked into this one tormenting piece of time, and not being able to get past it, to the love that's on the other side. What if it's like that for Timmy? That whole last week I was a monster. A raging, hateful monster. And Timmy was bad right back at me, we scarcely said a civil word the whole week, not a hug--! So suppose that wherever he is now, like me he's locked into that?

That last week, or that last hour or those last three minutes, three minutes that go on forever of yelling and crashing and falling and choking and cold? That's hell. I've sent him to hell. But we're alone. We're both alone. That's the hell part.

The sins of the parents, visited on the sons, even unto the forth generation. No, I don't believe it, not in the sense that-- but it's real to me. Hell is. It seems to make more sense than that Tim should just randomly be dead, and me still alive.

The day of the accident was the day after Jennifer's birthday. I had bought them both raincoats, red raincoats, at an after-Christmas sale. But I hadn't given them to them, I'd put them away until it got warm enough to wear them. I'd bought them a size too big, for the children to grow into. It rained all that week, the week of the twelfth, rain mixed with snow, and the next week was the start of April vacation, with more rain predicted. Jennifer had been home with the flu, and the minute Tim came in they'd start to fight. I couldn't stand it, they were driving me crazy! I had a cold too, it had settled in my sinus. I'd wake up with a headache, like an icepick between my eyes, and I kept taking aspirin and decongestants. In the afternoon, if it didn't go away, I'd start the hot toddies. I'd used up most of my sick days, between my cold and Jen's, and I was due to take my vacation but I knew it would be awful, the worst, cooped up in the house with two cranky kids, nothing to do, nowhere to go, using up the only free time I'd have until August--! God, I can't believe that I was thinking that, that I looked at my kids as if they were  my misery, felt sorry for myself because I had them with me!

Anyway, the birthday was a disaster. None of Jen's friends came over, we canceled that part, and she didn't feel well enough to enjoy her cake and ice cream. She blamed me--she said it wasn't the right kind, but it was! The same brand I always make for her, her favorite! But it didn't taste right, she said. How could it, when she's sick? I wrapped the raincoat up as a present, and it went over O.K., not her idea of a great present, but she got the  video she wanted, so she didn't complain. But the next day, when I gave Timmy his, that caused a hell of a fight. Jennifer said it hadn't been a real present, because Timmy got one too and it wasn't his birthday. Then Timmy said it was a boy's raincoat, a fireman's raincoat, and girls shouldn't have them, and Jen said red was a girl's color and boys should have yellow or black, and I found some pictures and had just about talked them into agreeing that red was OK for both of them when Frank came home and sided with Tim. He said I shouldn't get them matching things, a boy wasn't supposed to look like a little girl, and Jenny started to cry and her nose was running and I yelled at Frank to stop making things worse, he had no idea what kids wore these days anyway, and then I grabbed Tim's raincoat and dumped it in a box and  told the kids to get in the car: we'd go down to Jordan's right this minute and exchange it. Frank said, go out in this, sick like you all are? And I said, do you want them? Do you want to babysit two howling whining brats who haven't given me a moment's peace in weeks? I was so angry, so angry! That whole ride, I was seething. I couldn't see, I couldn't think, I never stopped to realize--

The rain was slapping against the side of the car so hard that it felt as if somebody was shaking it. Jennifer was still sniffling, and I think she was scared. But Timmy, Timmy was excited. He was bouncing up and down on the back seat, shouting, "Jenny is a sissy! Jenny is a sissy!" I wanted to slap him ! I yelled "shut up!", and I even took a kind of swipe backwards at him over the seat. All I got was edge of his jacket, and he was laughing as we hit the curve and started to skid. There was a car coming. Headlights straight at us. But on the other side was the river, --I knew that even as I fought the wheel--, the rail and then the water, but that seemed better than head-on, even as we hit and crashed on through. I think the children were all right, then. It was so quiet, as we hung there, it couldn't have been more than a minute, but it seemed a long time, and I thought I could hear them both breathing, little choking gasps, and then we slid on down.

There's a part here I don't remember. I do remember looking at the water inside; it was already wet where I unbuckled our seat belts, Jen's and mine. I didn't feel pain, I didn't notice my hand was injured: just that it was so clumsy. I couldn't do anything, it took so long! I kept saying things, soothing things, "we'll get out, Momma will get us out, we'll be all right, honey " and somehow I got the handle down and I got Jen out and shoved her up and toward where I knew was shore. But Timmy was in the back! I couldn't reach him without losing her. I promised him, I said I'd get him, I gave my word, I said I wouldn't live without him, my darling. He didn't answer, I don't know if he could hear, or even if he was alive, but I promised, and I went back, I meant to stay with him if I couldn't get him !-- But they pulled me out. They wouldn't listen and let me go, they kept saying they'd do it, but I knew--

That was when I noticed I wasn't in my body. I watched them pull me out, and I thought it was strange that there was no pain. Drowning is supposed to hurt, but there was only a kind of rush and pressure and coldness and flashing light, and then I was looking at this poor dead woman, this poor wet body that had killed her children in a stupid accident, and then died. It was a sad story, but it seemed to have the right end. My mother's dead. My father..? I haven't heard from him in months. I suppose he doesn't know what to say to me. My husband wishes I'd died. And I don't blame him. Except sometimes when I think he wishes we were all dead, Jennifer too. I see such hate, sometimes! But he doesn't say it.

He says he wants me to get well. They all do. They say, "this hand, here. It's been punished enough. It did all it could."

I should say to it,  "Poor little hand. I forgive you. I'm going to make you all well. Poor little hand." I'm to see myself well, in a safe free place. A landscape, or my bedroom when I was a child, or Merlin's cave. Warm and bright. None of this gloom, none of this rain.

ELAINE: I was going to strip the wallpaper. Frank's been after me to re-do Timmy's room, and I finally felt I had the strength to face it. So I got together the equipment, wet down a strip and started to slit it down with a mat knife-- You know, one of those razor-things in the holder you use to cut rugs and wallpaper-- anyway, I was slicing down when I heard Timmy yell out "Mom!"  Right by my ear! As loud and clear as if he was standing there. You don't believe me. I've thought I've  heard him before, in the next room, or getting up at night. But that was faint, that was an instance where maybe I mistook one sound for another. But this was different. This was Tim, and he was yelling at me, telling me to stop! That's how I did it, the shock, the blade went right across my wrist. I put on a little peroxide, wrapped it up. I didn't think that much about the cut, I was sort of dazed about the Timmy business. Until right before Frank was to get home. And then I suddenly realized what it might look like to him! I'd cut my wrist! He mustn't know. How can I hide the bandage? It'll show when I get dressed, but that doesn't matter. We're not sleeping together. Tuck it up. Under the sleeve. Mustn't show, mustn't say a word about what hearing Tim. Not a word. He already thinks I'm imagining things! The other night I came downstairs because I heard noises, and I found the TV on, with a video in the VCR. It was "Gremlins", Tim's favorite. But in the morning, when I asked Frank if he'd put it on, he looked at me as if I were losing my mind.

ELAINE:Yesterday I was cleaning upstairs when I heard the door slam and something slap down on the hall table, just the way Timmy used to dump his books and things when he came in from school. And I forgot, just for a second, that he was dead. I yelled, "Tim, take your stuff to your room!" and he yelled back, "O.K., Mom!" and I smiled, and then I realized that he couldn't have, that I was hearing things, but it was so clear and real that I felt an unreasoning hope in my heart, maybe all the rest was what wasn't real, a bad dream, and now at last I'm awake. I went down the stairs, afraid and yet--

And there, on the hall table, was Timmy's baseball glove. It wasn't there earlier. It couldn't have been! I keep it upstairs-- in my sewing basket. I know that's strange, but I like to have it near me. It's worn from the shape of  his hand and it smells like him and when I touch it I can almost feel his presence. Even if I had walked in my sleep and carried it down myself, Frank would have brought it up at breakfast, he makes such a fuss whenever I -- I was so happy! Tim was alive! He'd just been hiding, playing this trick on us! Or else Frank hid him away, took him away from me the way he's taken Jennifer, but Tim's got free, he's come back to me! I started to laugh-- and then I got scared. I knew that if Tim left that glove on the table, it wasn't his body that did it. His body was in the coffin. Frank's mother saw it. She wouldn't lie to me. She was at the funeral. She told me what Tim was wearing. She told me he looked at peace. But he's not at peace. He's here. Oh my darling boy, my baby-Tim. What is it? Where does it hurt? Tell Momma, so she can make it better. Oh, tell me- why?

ELAINE: The letter came through last week. Thursday, I think it was.

Don't look so astonished, you must know how it happens! The exercises I do for my hand, that's what opened the channel, and let Tim come through! Empty my mind, you'd approve of that. Clear out the past, those ugly pictures-- and I did, and I felt Tim was here, behind my chair, right next to me. He wanted to talk to me, he wanted me to write it down: with my right hand! I could never write with my other hand, the teachers tried to force me in school, but all I could do was scribble until Tim took over! Abracadabra, I just relaxed and let go, and there he was.

He was never much for letters, but on the other hand he was never shy the way some boys are. Kisses and hugs-- His letters from camp were signed that way, too. All he wants is to reassure me. He doesn't hate me, and he isn't nothing. He's waiting there, and someday we'll be together.

Now my dreams are --fine. I like them, I want to keep them. Even the old one, the one of the-- accident. It's the same, but it's all different now. All the noise and fear have dropped away. The car skims over the road like flying, the guardrail splits as we touch it, noiseless, the sides roll back before us like opening gates, and the car rises up and floats very very slowly through the air, and down, and the river parts to let us slip in. So gently, so smoothly, the car turns in the brown water with no more weight than a leaf and floats out to sea. The children are laughing softly, it's like the lake in summer, like a raft, or more like a cloud. We kick free of it, the three of us, and dive like dolphins. You see-- the dream's the same, but everything is changed. So I don't dread it any more. It's welcome. It gives Tim back to me. If it weren't for the dream, and the letters-- The library is strange. Nobody there knows about me. Nobody there ever saw Timmy, they don't know he ever lived. I don't feel the burden of what happened there, and I suppose that's good, that feeling, that lack of weight, that-- virginity. But it's not right! A world where Timmy never was! I don't want to live there.

ELAINE: hello, honey! Is that you?......

No, I don't want to speak to Grandma. I called you...

Mommy misses you, too, Sweetheart. We belong together darling, it isn't right that we should be kept apart...

I know. The sooner the better, don't you think? Anyway, honey, that's sort of why I called. Your Dad has given me permission to drive again, so I'm going to come over and bring you your present....

Yes, right now, an after-your-birthday present, I'm bringing it right over...

Don't you argue with me! I'm your mother, remember? You put on your jeans and a warm sweater and watch for me out the front door, I'll pick you up and take you for a drive. ...

Yes of course I know, it's been raining for days! I remember how to drive....

I love you too, sweetheart. I love you both very much.


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