A One Act Play
Kiss the Twins for Me
By G. L. Horton
copyright © 2011
SET: The front room of a studio apartment in a shabby multi-unit building -- which need not be represented by a set. The bare room has nothing in it but several large though slightly differing boxes, each bearing the name of one of the 3 siblings. Things from DIANE's box are spread out near it. STEVE is the oldest at 40ish, DIANE is the middle child, and JEFF is their baby brother.
STEVE (at the door with JEFF) What's this all about, Diane?
DIANE See for yourselves.
STEVE My God! It's empty.
JEFF Has she been robbed?
DIANE The place is clean as a whistle!
STEVE Everything Mom had left is gone.
JEFF Except for the boxes.
DIANE Our names are on them. (points) I started looking through mine. Those say Jeffery. And those are for you, Steve.
STEVE What the hell has Mom done?
DIANE I don't know, but I have a really bad feeling about this.
JEFF Mom's gone? She's just gone?
DIANE It looks as if she's not planning to come back.
JEFF Not come back? Not ever?
STEVE Her letter made it clear she's done some damn thing!
JEFF Diane, Mom calls you two or three times a week. How could you not-?
DIANE She stopped calling! I called her a couple of times, but when she-- I thought--. I don't know! There was so much to cope with when Dad died, and having a break from--- I just-- -.
STEVE She couldn't do this without help. Major help. Packers, movers…. The Dunbars?
DIANE It can't have been the Dunbars. They hosted the wake.
JEFF Yeah! Maybe the Dunbars had everybody over to their house after the funeral because if people came here they'd see that Mom was packing--
DIANE Here, they'd see that Mom was poor! She'd have been mortified! I told her one of us would hold the reception, but the Dunbars--
STEVE All those casseroles and cold cuts, all that cooking and cleaning. Maybe they went the extra mile and -- (gestures towards the stripped apartment)
DIANE Mrs. Dunbar called to ask how Mom's doing. She hadn't heard. Not even a "Thank you."
STEVE And that didn't set off an alarm? You must have--
DIANE I wasn't thinking! I didn't want to! If Mom's letter hadn't come, I don't know when I'd have --. (gives Steve letter) I called the Boise cousins after I called you, but none of them has heard from Mom since Dad's funeral.
STEVE God. What have you told your kids?
DIANE Nothing, yet. What have you told yours?
STEVE I guess we're going to have to tell them something. They should be able to deal with it. If this had happened when they were six or eight-
DIANE Bad enough they lost their Grandpa. How do we tell them Grandma has run away?
STEVE If that's what she's done: it's not as bad as what I'm thinking.
JEFF What are you thinking?
STEVE This sounds to me like a suicide note. (referring to letter)
JEFF Jesus! Really? I thought she just said she was staying a while in Boise.
DIANE I read you her letter over the phone! There's nothing about Boise! (Takes letter from STEVE, hands it to JEFF)
JEFF The twins were screaming…. I couldn't hear very well. So she isn't staying--?
DIANE (points to lines in letter) What do you think Mom meant by: "My whole life I've done what other people expected me to do. It wasn't your father's fault: he tried to push me to do the things I really wanted. But there was always something or someone in the way"? Steve? (JEFF is reading)
STEVE What she meant by…?
DIANE The "things she really wanted".
STEVE I haven't a clue. Do you?
DIANE I thought she loved us, and her grandkids, and Dad…
STEVE Well, Dad's dead. And she can't have wanted the bad luck he had these last years. No job, bad health. Having to sell their house….
DIANE I don't think that's it. She's talking about what she wanted to DO, not HAVE.
STEVE It looks as if as long as Dad was in the picture…. Cripes, who doesn't have a secret thing they really want? I wanted to play jazz sax in a Paris bistro. Of course, thanks to brother Jeff, I was cured of that fantasy.
JEFF (looks up from letter) What?
STEVE I said, you showed us what a musician's life is really like, and I'm sort of glad to have been spared the humiliation, myself.
JEFF You're welcome. Though it wasn't so bad at the time. Jean and I---
DIANE Mom, guys! Focus on Mom. She had a dream, and something or someone got in the way. It wasn't Dad, so….?
STEVE One of us. Not you, though, Diane. She says something to you about forgiving HER. What was that? Jeff?
JEFF (looks up from letter) Huh?
STEVE What is it that Mom says about Diane forgiving her?
JEFF (reads) "Diane, try to forgive me for not being the mother you deserve. I would have, if I could."
STEVE God, that's so--- she might have thrown herself off a bridge!
DIANE Steve, please! As of Tuesday, Mom was Ok. Her letter was mailed from Chicago. Though why she'd be in Chicago--?
STEVE She told us before she left that on Sunday she'd be in Boise, interring Dad's ashes.
DIANE So did she go? Could she, and not contact the cousins? On Saturday morning she left a message that she was stopping by Jeff's. To kiss the twins goodbye. Did she, Jeff?
JEFF I don't know. We were all out. The twins had--
STEVE I called Mom Saturday morning. Her line was busy, all three times.
DIANE Yeah, and I tried to call her back, after the message. I think her phone was off.
DIANE None of this makes any sense. Go through your boxes, why don't you. I thought there'd be a letter or something. Some--. I mean, clearly, this was premeditated. But as far as I can see mine's just a box full of-- stuff.
JEFF Maybe she assumed that we'll ---
STEVE We'll what? (silence) I mean she must realize that we'll be--
STEVE "Upset"?!! Try panicked, baffled, frantic, enraged---!
JEFF We don't know anything, really, but that she's-- gone.
STEVE Ok, the boxes! (opens box) Looks like more of the kind of thing she gave us when they gave up the house. Trophies. Team pictures. Some crummy art project, from what grade I have no idea. (shows crude sculpture)
DIANE That's mine! From fifth grade. It's supposed to be the fish Dad caught at Willow Lake. Why'd she mistake it for yours?
STEVE Fishing's a guy thing, I guess. Here's me getting my BS from Northeastern in 2001 (holds framed picture) -- with a copy of my loan application! (Moans) Oh, my--BS is right! That degree had me believing I'd be a millionaire! At the rate I'm paying it off, I'll die still owing.(holds up picture) Steve-O Junior at five, playing catch with me. Zero clues so far.
DIANE What's in your box, Jeff?
JEFF No degree, of course. Awards and recital programs. Brenda and Glenda at their christening. Here's their first birthday party, 2 months ago.
DIANE Now, this is something strange. It's an ad for ballet classes I cut out of the paper when I was about 8. I danced around the house and pestered Mom into making tutus for my Barbie. But when I started begging them to let me take the class, she said, "I know what your dream means to you, dear, but we don't have the money. It hurts your father when you keep asking." I never mentioned ballet class again, yet here's the ad, after all these years….
JEFF (points to a line in the letter) Mom writes "All kinds of people seem to think they know what I should do, now that your father is gone…" Does that sound like somebody helped her?
STEVE None of that letter sounds like the Mom I know.
DIANE I don't know what to believe. All my ideas….. (long silence as she inspects box)
JEFF She seemed fine at the funeral.
STEVE Yeah. I was really relieved. Weren't you? One less thing to worry about. Why didn't it occur to me: Mom and Dad lose their jobs and savings; Dad has a heart attack while driving; and it turns out he's set up a "Do Not Resuscitate" order -- and Mom's fine?!? Would you be fine with that?
JEFF You mean Dad not wanting to be in Intensive Care, or hooked up to machines? I sort of feel that way myself-- or I would if I were Dad's age.
STEVE Dad was only 62! They married and had me right out of high school. Dad's Dad died at 90. His uncle is 83. Would Wendy be fine with it, if you died at 60?
JEFF Wendy's family's Catholic. I wouldn't discus it, just set it up with the doctor, like Dad -
STEVE What comes out after a sudden death is usually something dirty. A lover, or debts. Or something criminal--
JEFF A guy I knew, his father died and a couple of toughs showed up, wanting their crime money. It was in the house, in a safe.
STEVE You think Dad was a crook? And Mom's run away because the Mob is after her?
JEFF No, no! Of course not. Although that Murphy guy who talked them into investing? It wouldn't surprise me if he was---
STEVE All Dad said about his money troubles was that he hoped I didn't expect to inherit much.
DIANE Dad told me not to worry: they'd never become a burden! (shock)
JEFF A lot of people are going to miss him. He was a really good guy.
STEVE If his friends were going to miss him, then they'd miss him already! Who came around after they had to move to this crappy apartment? Who offered to help?
JEFF They were probably afraid of being asked for money. (returns to looking through box)
STEVE If they knew Dad, they'd have known that would never happen!
DIANE Obviously, we didn't really care all that much, either. A supposedly loving family! So now Mom's gone, too! What are we going to do?
STEVE Hire a private eye?
JEFF All these keepsakes we thought meant so much to her just -- just thrown back at us. Valentines I made. My concert posters. Clippings...
DIANE She saved my Barbie, in a tutu. I was sure I threw her away, along with that dream. So how did Ballet Barbie get here?
STEVE Hey! Here's an envelope. A letter! (opens envelope) No, it's just a-- check. For $20,000!
JEFF $20,000-- to you? Why to you? Either something to each of us, or an explanation-- (Dumps his boxes. No letter. Diane, too, spreads out the things in her boxes, but doesn't find a note or check)
STEVE The check's made out to the bank. It's a payment on my student loan…
JEFF Jesus. I know Dad did things like-- When he heard that Wendy was carrying twins? He put a $1000 check in my hand, and drove away without a word.
STEVE Dad did that? You never told me. (to Diane) Did he tell you?
DIANE (shakes her head no) Where could the money have come from?
JEFF The sale of their house, I suppose.
DIANE That went to pay bills. I suppose they could have scraped together a thousand, but twenty--? Did Dad have insurance…?
STEVE Why didn't you tell us about the check?
JEFF I was afraid you'd say I ought to give it back.
DIANE A thousand's nothing to what Mom and Dad gave our kids.
JEFF That's what I thought! And now, on top of all that, twenty thousand to Steve?
STEVE Mom paid your rent for years! Everything they gave me was for the kids. Diane's got--
JEFF What about my kids? Wendy said since my Mom just lives for the chance to spoil her grandchildren, if we stay here we'd be able to raise them with-- Jesus! Mom doesn't give a shit any more, does she? Or she'd still be here. (Jeff starts to cry)
STEVE (comforts Jeff) Jeff, don't. A person can't-- I'm sure Mom loves us all, like she says in her letter, and I-- and I-- I'll try to make the money thing even with you, but-- I'm afraid it's worse. (They look at him) If Mom gave away the money she needs to live on, she's probably-- "Kiss the twins for me"? That's a suicide note.
JEFF What? (DIANE picks up a stack of photos from among her box things, photos in which she has discovered something strange)
DIANE Steve! There's something else… All these photos. Mom's not in them.
STEVE Of course she is. The one I took of Steve-O's graduation, she's next to him, holding his diploma.
DIANE She was. But in this print, she's gone. Not in any of these others, either.
JEFF Are you sure? Let me see. (searches through DIANE's pictures)
STEVE ".. try to forgive me for not being the mother you deserve."
DIANE But she ends with "Kiss the twins for me. " It's them she's thinking of.
STEVE I think we should call the police.
DIANE We don't know what she wants from us! We don't know anything. What do we tell her grandchildren?
STEVE Show them Mom's letter, and tell them-- tell them how we feel. If Mom had done that, or if we'd asked her--. Kids in high school are old enough for the truth! Mom may come back. Or she may be marrying an old flame and invite us all to visit her in Boca Raton. I could be wrong! Just because my gut tells me she's-- gone….. doesn't mean......
JEFF And the twins? What should I tell them?
STEVE Wait till they're old enough to ask! There are good things to tell, aren't there? Memories?
DIANE We'll kiss them for her. We'll say "That's a kiss from Grandma" We'll give them as much as we can. Is that all right, Jeff?
JEFF Love? I don't know. I thought I did. (kicks box) But now I just don't know.
(DIANE looks at STEVE, who silently indicates "you'd better be the one to comfort Jeff: not me." DIANE goes to JEFF, puts a tentative hand on his back. JEFF leans in to his sister's embrace, accepting comfort.)