Monologues for Women
(free for students & auditions)
Elaine Tries To Tell What
5 monologues From the play "Inquest"
By G. L. Horton
copyright © 2000
Elaine, whose son Timmy was drowned when she skidded off a highway
and into the river, goes over the details of the accident, trying
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
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
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
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.