I wrote this play over four years ago, and I have not looked at it since. I made it for a very specific circumstance, and once that circumstance had passed, I let it go—forgot about it, nearly entirely. And then, because of THE IRON NODER CHALLENGE 7, I remembered it again. Such are the strange blessings of strange challenges, in strange places to which one can find oneself returning after a long, long time. Back when I wrote this piece, I was deeply involved in advocating for “locally grown new plays” (You can read more about that concept here.) I challenged some fellow Seattle playwrights, along with myself, to write something short for specific actors in mind. We enlisted a group of actors, put their names in a hat and drew them at random. I drew two local players named Gin Hammond and Rik Deskin. I interviewed them to garner aspects of their personal biographies for use in the play. There was one additional quirk of the challenge. Each playwright gave another participating playwright a list of ten words to choose from, all of which had to be included in the play. (I’m not going to tell you which words I was given. I want you to guess and message me.) Reading over it now, after four years, and polishing it up just a little bit, I like this play. A lot. Certainly much more than I did back then. The challenges of writing for specific actors, plus the list of words to include, forced me to tell a story I otherwise would have never imagined. I would love to see this piece staged fully. But then, I would love to see ALL of my plays staged fully. Alas, that’s not always possible. And that’s just one in a long list of reasons why, over a year ago, I retired from the theatre.
Then a man’s face appears in the glow of an iPad
held about foot and a half from his face in his left hand. With his right hand Cotton masturbates to
what he’s watching on his PDA.)
insistent, earnest murmur): What? …
Touch you there? Oh, I don’t know….. No…. You shouldn’t…. No, don’t take my hand like that and put it…
there because. . . . . .
(A trap door opens in the floor behind the
sofa on which Cotton sits, spilling a little bit more light into the room from below.)
Oh…. Oh, you’re so excited. You’re sopping--
(Kir pops her head through the trap door.)
COTTON (tossing the PDA away and covering himself with a
nearby blanket or towel): Ah! Hello?
Cotton. It’s just Kir.
hi. Hey. I was uh…
KIR (fully up the ladder now): Smells like funk in here.
COTTON: You probably
KIR: I do?
COTTON: Well, fug
means the close damp atmosphere of a room that that has had people in it for a
while without full ventilation. Funk
means that something smells off, ripe.
KIR: Right. Then it smells like fugging funk in here.
COTTON: Okay. I’ll be sure to buy a fan next time I’m out.
KIR: Next time you’re
(Kir draws open all the curtains in the
Cotton is painfully sun dazzled, literally
hissing at the glare of sunshine now pouring into the room.
Kir notices Cotton’s boner, and then
immediately pretends not to notice Cotton’s boner.)
KIR: Sorry for my
outfit. I just got done my class.
class. Was it pilates?
KIR: No. Yoga. Bikram.
KIR: You’ve heard of Bikram
COTTON: No I haven’t.
KIR: Hot yoga. I tried pilates once, but I just found the
people who were good at it-- you know, really into it?-- to be, I don’t know,
COTTON: I see. And that’s not you.
KIR: No. You think?
COTTON: No. You’re a—definitely, much more hot yoga in my
KIR: Oh. Well, I--
I was just walking past the carriage house when I realized that I hadn’t
been up to see you since the earthquake.
COTTON: The what?
earthquake. We had an earthquake a week
and a half ago? 6.7 on the Richter
COTTON: Well, you
know, I don’t really do the news or anything.
KIR: No. I know but. . . 6.7. That’s sort of a doozy. Several aftershocks. Pretty much everyone I know felt it.
COTTON: Must’ve slept
through it. I have a water bed you know.
KIR: No, I
didn’t. You have a waterbed?
COTTON: Back over in
the corner there.
KIR: Over the
COTTON: What? The car?
Yeah, I guess so.
KIR: It’s not a
car. It’s a roadster. It’s a Bugatti roadster. Dad bought the Bugatti in 1971 for three
hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars.
It’s only appreciated like five-fold since then. We’re insured for earthquake but I’m pretty
sure we’re not insured for waterbed.
COTTON: Take it out
of my back allowance.
KIR: That’s between
you and Dad-- was between you and
COTTON: Yeah, well,
you don’t believe I’m his son anyway, so. . . .
KIR: I gave you a
place to stay, didn’t I? I’m up here
checking on your well being after the earthquake, aren’t I?
COTTON: A week and a
COTTON: Look. I don’t care.
I appreciate you letting me stay here and get some work done. When it doesn’t work out anymore, I’ll be
cool with that too and move on.
KIR: How is the
COTTON: It goes.
KIR: Okay. (She
goes to a canvas with a sheet draped over it.) What’s this?
COTTON: That’s uh…
KIR: Can I see it?
COTTON: I’d probably
rather you didn’t.
KIR: How unfinished
COTTON: I’m not sure.
KIR: Is it started?
KIR: I can’t see it?
COTTON: Look, if you
wanna check my homework, feel free.
KIR: Oh come on. It’s nothing like that. I’m really just curious. I’ve only ever seen one of your paintings
once at that gallery in Kent.
KIR (as she’ takes the
sheet off the canvas): And I must
confess that that piece wasn’t much my cup of –
(Upon seeing the painting she cannot help
but gape to fully take it in, surprised and a bit overwhelmed by it.)
COTTON: Not your cup
KIR: This is…
KIR: Really cool.
KIR: Amazing. I--
Sort of magic, isn’t it?
COTTON: Is it?
KIR: Yeah, well. I’m must admit I’m impressed. Good job. It—
COTTON: It’s not
KIR: It’s not?
COTTON: Does it look
KIR: I—I wouldn’t
know how to finish it?
COTTON: Do you paint?
KIR: No, you know I
didn’t inherit any of his talent.
COTTON: Then why
would you expect to know how to finish it?
KIR: I just— an
expression is all.
COTTON (Looking at it,
frustrated, a bit astounded himself):
I might give up on it.
COTTON: Wouldn’t you?
COTTON: You just said
you wouldn’t have any idea how to finish it.
KIR: But if I did, I
would. Or I wouldn’t finish it. But I
wouldn’t give up on it. Does it need
KIR: Right. So… Listen, I came up here with a purpose
KIR: Are you being
COTTON: Well I have
never known you not to have a purpose.
KIR: Is that a good
thing or bad thing.
COTTON: Just is. That’s fine.
KIR: Okay. Jarod’s worried that the garage sustained
KIR: From the
COTTON: Oh, the
earthquake. The one that didn’t even
wake me up.
KIR: So we keep the
Bugatti here and if there’s structural damage to the garage and we don’t
address it then the insurance company might not pay if anything were to happen
KIR: So we have to
have the entire structure inspected. And
really, maybe move the Bugatti until we make repairs.
KIR: And really,
maybe even tear the whole thing down if there damage is bad enough.
COTTON: The damage
that you don’t even know exists.
KIR: Well, Jarod
thinks he can see cracks.
COTTON: Oh, I’ll bet
KIR: What does that
COTTON: I mean I bet
Jarod can see cracks.
KIR: Jarod likes you.
KIR: He’s never said
anything but the most complimentary things about you.
COTTON: What about
KIR: Of course I like
you. I let you live here, didn’t I?
COTTON: I am indebted
to your largesse. But no, I meant does
Jarod like you?
COTTON: Pretty simple
KIR: I am not trying
to kick you out. If anything, I’m trying
to assure your safety.
COTTON: Ah safety.
KIR: I am happy to
pay for you to stay in a hotel while we’re inspecting the carriage house. And, if after inspection, we decide to take
it down, and build something safer for the Bugattti, well then we can talk
about that circumstance as it comes.
perfect. It’s all perfect. Really there’s nothing that’s not perfect.
perfect. My painting’s perfect. You’re perfect.
KIR: I’m just trying
to talk to you here.
COTTON: I mean
it. You’re perfect.
KIR: Thank you, that’s
COTTON: It’s not
KIR: I think it’s
KIR: In any case, it’s
COTTON: And that
painting. It’s you.
KIR: It’s an orange.
KIR: Satsuma. Whatever.
whatever. Just satsuma. Satsuma.
KIR: Satsuma. Perfect.
COTTON: Plenty of men
would be happy to give you a baby.
COTTON: Pretty simple
KIR: My god, how
dare—what are you--?
COTTON: You shouldn’t
let someone like Jarod leverage you just because you think he would be a good
father. He wouldn’t.
KIR: How would you
know what a good father is? You claim
you never had one.
true. But I am one.
COTTON: I’m a father.
KIR: You are?
COTTON: Of four. I’m a grandfather too, actually.
COTTON: Life doesn’t
always wait around until you’re ready.
Kir literally cannot form words as she sorts through all this.)
COTTON: I really do
hope you get what you want.
KIR: How could you
possibly know what I want?
COTTON: You wear it
on your face. You walk around with it in
your body. I can paint an orange--
thank you, and illustrate your wanting.
KIR: Well, I suppose
that makes you very talented. Far more
talented than I. You can peer down from
your funky fugging bat-shit solopsitic perch and see my wanting and use it for
your picture. Dad would be so proud.
COTTON: Now who’s
KIR: Not me. I honestly think he would be proud of
that. Whether you were related to him or
not. He always liked other weirdo
artists. I was always far too
conventional for him.
COTTON: I’m just
saying you should find someone. Some who
affects you. Reaches to your core. And you should fuck his brains out. Get yourself pregnant on him. You don’t need Jarod and his manipulations.
KIR: Maybe you’re
(She takes off her sweatshirt, revealing a just
the top of her leotard underneath. She
sits, close to Cotton.)
KIR: I’ll be
honest. He does want you out before he’s
willing to consider a baby.
KIR: Yeah, but he
knows what I want, so . . . that’s something right.
COTTON: Everyone who
knows you knows what you want, Kir.
KIR: Like you.
KIR: Four kids.
KIR: And a grand kid?
KIR: You must be very
. . . fecund.
COTTON: If I’m right
in knowing what that word means, then I guess I’d have to admit that’s true.
KIR: What’s to stop
you from giving me what I want?
KIR: What’s stopping
COTTON: I’m your
KIR: Half-brother. And I’ve never really believed it anyway, so
I have no objections on that count. I
wouldn’t be looking for anything more than a one time… donation. I doesn’t even have to be fun. Though I have no objections on that count
either, should it turn out to be. . .
COTTON: What you’re
proposing is… is impossible. Right? I mean, even if we weren’t related, I—I
couldn’t just--- I have very strong
feelings about child-rearing.
KIR: Clearly. So lay down some ground rules, daddy.
COTTON: Come on.
KIR: I’m serious.
COTTON: Well, for
one, I’m pretty against circumcision.
KIR: Well, that’s very
good to know.
COTTON: I— you’re
KIR: Do I seem
COTTON: Um…How? When are you…?
KIR: What’s wrong
with right now?
COTTON: I don’t know.
KIR: So you’ll do it?
COTTON: Shouldn’t we
think about it?
KIR: No, we
shouldn’t. Will you do it?
KIR: Say you’ll do
COTTON: Aaaah. Okay.
sure. Okay. Alright.
KIR: I knew it! You don’t think you’re my brother any more
than Jarod thinks you’re my brother.
I’ve been a complete and utter patsy this entire time. My GOD!
COTTON: What? No!
KIR: You think you’re
my brother and yet you’re willing to give me a baby? What kind of creep are you?
KIR: Get out.
COTTON: You want me
to move out?
KIR: I want to you LEAVE! As in right now. We’ll have someone send you all your crap.
COTTON: What about
(She looks at the painting. Looks back at him.)
KIR: What do you want
me to say?
COTTON: I have no
(Lights fade on them taking each other in
and the painting too.
End of play.)