by Matthew M. Lug

Cast of Characters:

Thomas Robertson- An old man on his deathbed

Jenny Robertson - Thomas's granddaughter

Young Thomas - A younger version of Thomas

Louise - Thomas's wife

Various People

(THOMAS is in a hospital bed toward the back of the stage. JENNY enters and sits down in a chair next to the bed)

JENNY: Hi grampa. You're looking well today.

THOMAS: (Wearily) Jenny? Is that you? Like hell I'm looking well, I feel horrible.

JENNY: Aw grampa, you're not that bad. They're taking real good care of you here.

THOMAS: So what brings you all the way over here next to the very image of death itself?

JENNY: There's something I've been wondering about lately, and nobody else seems to be able to help me.

THOMAS: Oh? What is it? I doubt I can help you much, but I can try.

JENNY: How did you and grandma meet?

THOMAS: (Wearily again) Can't you ask your grandmother? I'm really not feeling well right now.

JENNY: (Calmly) But grandpa, grandma died three years ago. If you'd rather not talk about it...

THOMAS: What? Oh, right, I forget every once in a while, memory's not what it used to be. I don't mind talking about it, your grandmother meant a lot to me.

(Several people start walking across the front of the stage as the light dims over THOMAS and JENNY. YOUNG THOMAS enters, carrying some books, and stands in the middle of the stage, looking at LOUISE, who is talking with some friends a short distance away.)

THOMAS: It all started in one of those years long ago, back in college. I used to see her here and there, but I didn't even know her name. She was always with people, talking, laughing, and then gone. I could never talk to her, the opportunity was never there. I wanted to, but I just ended up standing there, thinking "that Louise sure is beautiful..."

(YOUNG THOMAS mouths the quote as THOMAS says it.)

JENNY: I thought you didn't know her name.

THOMAS: That's right, memory you know, it isn't always working for me. Anyway, I would just stand there until something knocked me back into reality.

(Someone walks up behind YOUNG THOMAS and hits him in the back of the head, causing him to drop his books. YOUNG THOMAS collects his books, and everyone in the front of the stage exits as the lighting switches back to the rear section.)

JENNY: But you did talk to her, right? You talked to her and she fell in love with you and you lived happily ever after.

THOMAS: Not exactly. I never could work up the nerve to just walk right up and talk to her, I just didn't know what to do. That all changed one day though, when I overheard her talking about a class we were both in.

(Lighting switches to the front with LOUISE talking to a friend as YOUNG THOMAS enters.)

LOUISE: (Frustrated) I just don't understand what Professor Jones is talking about. First he's writing some equation, then he's somewhere else, and then he's back where he started without doing anything, only he says that he did something important. It just doesn't make sense.

(YOUNG THOMAS hears LOUISE as he walks by, and stops near her.)

YOUNG THOMAS: You're in that class too?

LOUISE: What, Professor Jones's introduction to calculus hell class?

YOUNG THOMAS: Yeah. Having trouble with it?

LOUISE: Am I ever. He never explains anything he does, he seems to just expect all of us to be on his level the whole time.

YOUNG THOMAS: I know what you mean. I felt the same way at first, but eventually it started to make sense. I think you just have to figure out how he thinks.

LOUISE: You mean you actually understand that nonsense he throws at us every lecture? I'm Louise by the way.

YOUNG THOMAS: Thomas. (Shakes her hand) I've picked up a little, but I think the textbook helped the most.

LOUISE: Nice to meet you Thomas. I tried looking at that book, but I'm not even sure what language it's written in. I can follow the examples, and what's going on, but I just can't figure out why they're doing anything.

YOUNG THOMAS: If you'd like I could try to help you with it.

LOUISE: Are you sure it wouldn't be too much trouble? I wouldn't want to bother you with a lost cause.

YOUNG THOMAS: It's no trouble at all, and if you only need help with the why behind it then you're most of the way there already.

LOUISE: Well, thanks, that would be great. How about next Thursday?

YOUNG THOMAS: That's fine with me.

(LOUISE scribbles something on a piece of paper and hands it to YOUNG THOMAS.)

LOUISE: Here's my number, give me a call Thursday morning and we can figure out when to get together.


LOUISE: (While walking away) Bye, and thanks.

(YOUNG THOMAS remains standing in place as the lighting switches back to the rear.)

THOMAS: I couldn't believe that I finally spoke to her. She seemed even more wonderful once I knew her name, and I couldn't wait to see her again.

JENNY: What happened next?

THOMAS: We set up a time to meet in the library, like we had planned to.

(Lighting switches to the front, where LOUISE is sitting at a table, with an open book in front of her. YOUNG THOMAS enters in a hurry.)

YOUNG THOMAS: Sorry I'm late, my roommate wouldn't stop bothering me.

LOUISE: I know what that's like, they can really get on your nerves sometimes.

YOUNG THOMAS: Only sometimes? You must have really lucked out then, mine is a pain twenty-four hours a day.

(LOUISE laughs slightly.)

LOUISE: Oh, it can't be that bad, he must be asleep sometime.

YOUNG THOMAS: Yeah, and snoring away. (LOUISE giggles.) So, where do you want to start?

(Lighting switches to rear as YOUNG THOMAS and LOUISE work at the table.)

THOMAS: We must have spent hours going through that book together. She really did know what she was doing, maybe even more than me, but there were just a few key concepts that she was missing. I felt a little bit silly when she started explaining things to me. After all, I was supposed to be helping her. We had fun though, and neither of us cared who knew more about what.

(YOUNG THOMAS and LOUISE exit the front of the stage.)

JENNY: So that was it? You just swept her off her feet and rode off into the sunset?

THOMAS: No, something just wasn't there. We talked, and laughed, but that was it.

(As THOMAS continues, people begin walking across the front of the stage in the dim light, and YOUNG THOMAS and LOUISE approach each other from opposite sides. They appear to say hi and continue on their way. This repeats with different people present each time, and YOUNG THOMAS and LOUISE occasionally stop to chat for a moment.)

THOMAS: We would say hello in passing, and sometimes talk for a while, but we didn't really spend much time together. Even though I knew her, I still didn't know her that well.

JENNY: But you two got along great, why didn't you just go further?

THOMAS: I just couldn't, I didn't want to ruin what we had. Even though I didn't see her that often, she was still very important to me.

JENNY: That can't be it then.

THOMAS: Oh, it wasn't, there was so much more left to come. I remember a day, not too long before graduation, when we were talking, and she invited me to a party some of her friends were having the night before graduation. I was surprised, mainly because we hadn't seen each other much before that. We were both really busy afterwards, and I didn't see her again until the night of the party.

(Lighting switches to the front, where people are gathered in a party setting. LOUISE is standing over on one side, and YOUNG THOMAS enters from the opposite side. YOUNG THOMAS looks around for a little while, and walks toward LOUISE when he sees her.)

(LOUISE perks up when she sees YOUNG THOMAS.)

LOUISE: Thomas! You made it.

YOUNG THOMAS: Yeah. Why are you standing here all by yourself?

LOUISE: I don't know, I just can't seem to enjoy myself. I mean, it's almost over, and pretty soon we'll all be going our separate ways. In high school at least people didn't get to know each other as much, because of the focus on trends, and popularity, and ever-present parental control, but it was different here. Here we could be ourselves, and let people know who we really are. We've all been through so much together, and now we're just leaving like nothing ever happened. I'm going to New York City to work for an architectural firm, and you're going... Where are you going?

YOUNG THOMAS: Syracuse, for graduate school.

LOUISE: You really want more of this? I would have thought four years would be enough for anyone.

YOUNG THOMAS: That's what I used to think, but the more I went through, the less I wanted to leave. It just felt right, you know?

(By now YOUNG THOMAS and LOUISE are looking straight at each other.)

LOUISE: (Softly) Yeah, I know what that's like.

(Suddenly someone pulls LOUISE away to dance, and YOUNG THOMAS is left standing alone. He stays for a few moments, and then exits as the lights dim and switch to the rear.)

THOMAS: The next day we graduated. I saw her during the ceremony, from a distance. I lost sight of her after it was over, and we went our separate ways.

JENNY: (Confused) Why didn't you do anything? You could have told her how you felt, or something. She was right there, how could you let her go?

THOMAS: I just couldn't do anything, I don't know why. We were leaving, and I didn't see any reason to make her feel guilty for what might have been if things were different. She had her whole life ahead of her, and I didn't want to take any of that away. She deserved that much, and more.

JENNY: What happened next? Did you chase after her once you saw the error of your ways? Did you suffer through every day she wasn't with you?

THOMAS: No, I went on with my life. I got my Master's in mathematics, but by then it didn't feel right anymore. I wound up teaching math in a high school in a small town just south of Albany. That's where she came back into my life, years after we parted.

(Lighting switches to the front, where YOUNG THOMAS is standing in front of several students, holding a ruler and pointing offstage. LOUISE and two other people enter without YOUNG THOMAS noticing them. They walk around pointing at various spots offstage.)

YOUNG THOMAS: And that's how you can find the height of a tree just by knowing how far away it is from you.

STUDENT: Mr. Robertson, how do you know how far away it is?

YOUNG THOMAS: You have to measure the distance, with a tape measure or a ruler, or by pacing it off, or however you can think to do it.

(YOUNG THOMAS then sees LOUISE nearby, and stares at her until a loud bell, signifying the end of class, brings his attention back to his class. The students begin to leave as YOUNG THOMAS shouts after him.)

YOUNG THOMAS: (To departing students) Don't forget, do problems 1, 5, 7, and 11 as homework for tomorrow.

(LOUISE hears YOUNG THOMAS and slowly walks toward him.)

LOUISE: (Cautiously) Thomas? Is that you?

YOUNG THOMAS: Louise? How long has it been?

LOUISE: Too long. Whatever happened to your beloved university life?

YOUNG THOMAS: (Shrugging) It just didn't agree with me. I guess I just got tired of dealing with people whose views of the world were so set in and unwilling to change. I needed to go somewhere I could make a difference. What about you? Are you still a big shot architect in New York City?

LOUISE: (Laughing) I was never a big shot, and things didn't exactly go according to plan. A VP ran off to Paris with all the firm's money and the president's wife. After that everyone was scrambling to jump ship before it was too late. The only job I could find on such short notice was designing public buildings for the state government in Albany. Government buildings, libraries, schools... Are you really so short on space here that you have to teach classes outside?

YOUNG THOMAS: No, I just like getting out of the classroom once in a while, to show the kids that there's more to life than what's in a textbook.

LOUISE: That's great, you must really enjoy what you're doing.

(Lighting switches to rear for the last time.)

THOMAS: That's when I realized that I might not get another chance. I knew then that I never wanted to be apart from her again. I told her everything, and she felt the same way. From then on we were always together, until... until...

(Thomas shakes a little, settles down, and closes his eyes, lying perfectly still.)

JENNY: Grampa? (Shouting) Grampa!

(JENNY walks away as the lights dim. A spotlight shines on the bed as THOMAS begins to move again. LOUISE enters and approaches the bed.)

THOMAS: Louise? Is that you? Can it be?

(LOUISE takes THOMAS's hands and helps him out of the bed. They stand facing each other, holding hands.)

LOUISE: Did you really think, that after all we've been through I would let you get away from me that easily?

(Lights dim as THOMAS and LOUISE stand facing each other.)


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