Posted in poetry, WAKING JAY'S MUSE: (Poetry & Prose)

THE SINS OF THE GRANDFATHER (a play in free verse)

LAST PART OF SCENE 1

                     ((     BETTY
If you don’t mind, I’ll just have you pry me from the prison of this rock and if I succeed in straightening out these ancient legs and convince my egg-shell knees to bear my weight …
(ROBBIE moves, smiling, to the front of her and holds out his hands.)
… then I’ll let you be my crutch for the final hundred yards. When you’re eighteen—but you know this! —the step is truer, the lungs fuller, the trail leveler even when with forsaken, wounded pride you follow alone, mumbling and grumbling behind.

ROBBIE
As you did then?

BETTY
As I did then
(She lets him guide her toward the trail, gingerly over the soggy leaves and needles, her elbow as fragile as a bird in the nest of his palm. He glimpses the glances she tries, in the muted light, to hide.)
Let us agree the sins of the grandfather are now visiting the grandson. ))

ACT I

                                                                                 Scene 2

ROBBIE
 (quickly protesting)
But I don’t mind.

BETTY
(On incline of the trail, she lays a cool-soft palm upon his arm, and with a voice strained with the fatigue of the climb, tries to sound oblique and casual.)
How was it Robert mentioned me to you?

ROBBIE
It was after I read the poem.

BETTY
 (Hesitantly)
He gave it to you to read?

ROBBIE
He published it on a writer’s website he subscribed to. I read dozens of his other things. This one seemed somehow truer.

BETTY
How truer?

ROBBIE
More honest.

BETTY
(She stops him near the graying crest. Turning him toward her, she holds his shoulders in her hands and studies his face.)
Tell me this, please: I need to know before we are there … Did Robert tell you what he did after reading me his poem?

ROBBIE
After the poem?

BETTY
His cause for flinging that wadded ball of words over the edge?

ROBBIE
No.

BETTY
(After A long silence, she releases her grip on his shoulders.)
But he did ask you to find me?

ROBBIE
Yes.

BETTY
Allow this foolish old woman one question more. Is your grandmother still alive?

ROBBIE
Perhaps. We may never know. Grandpa’s wife, you mean? Yes, yes, she left him when Dad was only ten. Grandpa raised my Dad and Aunt Betty by himself.

BETTY
He named his daughter Betty? But then it’s common enough a name. And your Dad’s?

ROBBIE
His name? Robert as well. Robert—a junior.

BETTY
Ah. Robert.
(Brief pause)
Young man, as you let me lean my weight against you these last few yards, can you suffer one more question?

ROBBIE
Of course, I can.
(Coming to the steepest part of the path widening to the crest—compacted and slick underfoot—ROBBIE angles his arm down her back and clasps her elbow in his palm.)
We’re too near our goal to risk a nasty fall.
(Becomes silent waiting for the framing of her promised question)

BETTY
Why …?  I can’t help but wonder why …

ROBBIE
Why what?

BETTY
Why didn’t he …?
(Shaking her head)
Is he ill?

ROBBIE
Grandpa? I’m sorry, I—

BETTY
He always fancied himself as impervious. Invulnerable. A touch of fool immortality in his blood. Why—

ROBBIE
I thought you knew. But then how could you have?

BETTY
I knew? Oh …

ROBBIE
(His arm across her back feels the instant of her insight; the loose flesh firefly shivered into it and were it not for this last incline’s strain on them, he’d have thought the simultaneous sagging of her knees to be from the same unsolicited messenger.)
Here, I’ve got my footing. We’ll not fall. Lean against me these last few feet. Here …
(he boosts her up to the level ground and pulls himself up after her.)

BETTY
(Even while doubling over, wheezing and coughing, she seems to rush to say:)
Of course, I knew. Ha! You mean he made you fulfill a promise he was unwilling to perform this side of the grave?

ROBBIE
He always loved you.

BETTY
(Turning away briefly, then back)
If we are to look out upon the muse who breathed into his poem, go with me along this leveler ground-clinging fog that strangely hugs one’s ankles, hovering there and no higher.

(CURTAIN)
(END OF SCENE 2)

Author:

My Twitter account identifies me as “a writer, a salesman, an optimist, a dreamer,” and adds: “may the four always cohabit and produce wondrous progeny.” Each of the first two identifies a blood-and-bone human being, living in the real world who works very hard at being honest and caring—but, who is still evolving in these areas. The last two (“optimist” and “dreamer”) are foundational qualities in my life. They keep a fire crackling under me that hopefully fuels the writer … and also the salesman, whose hat each of us is hard-wired to wear. Sandwiched somewhere between writing and selling, I attended college and even tried my hand at selling high school kids on why they should love learning and reading and writing. That was a brief stint. Whether teaching failed me or I it, I don’t know. You’d have to ask the kids—though many might be doddering by now, and some dead. Still, experientially, it is a part of me. I am married, living with my dog, Sirius, in Bakersfield, California, and separately from my wife.

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