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Memorial High School Theatre

UIL One-Act Play...ORTW
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OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS

By: Joe DiPietro

 

Memorial High School UIL One-Act Play

 

ACT I

 

NICK. (To audience.) It was always hot in my grandparents’ house.  And I’m not talking “I should’ve worn short sleeves” hot.  No, it was more like “it’s August in Ethiopia” hot.  Growing up, I remember sitting in their living room, sweating, and trying to figure out my relation to these people who had reached an age I could barely comprehend.  My grandparents firmly believed in the three “f’s” of life: family, faith and food.  So every Sunday for twenty-nine years, I bore the heat and religiously showed up for dinner.  (Lights up on the living room.  Frank seated in his usual chair.)

 

FRANK.          (To audience.) The very day I turned fourteen, my father put me on a boat.  In my pocket, he stuffed two hundred lira and the address of a cousin in a place called Hoboken, New Jersey.  The only advice my father gave me – “Tengo familglia.”  If you just said that in English, it would be “I support a family.”  But in Italian, it means more, much more – “I am a man, I am doing well for my woman and my children, I have a reason for being alive.”  I arrived to learn my cousin had left for a faraway land called Brooklyn.  (Aida enters.)

 

AIDA.  (To audience.)  I was the middle sister of seven girls, and Frank was the first man –no, the first person – to ever notice me.  He was making a dollar a day as a carpenter’s apprentice, and I thought that was a fortune.  He promised that if I married him, he’d become a fine carpenter and he’d build for me an entire house.  And he did.  He became a wonderful carpenter, and he built, for me, this beautiful home.

 

NICK. (To audience.)  My grandmother Aida never made it through grammar school, never even learned how to drive a car, but lock her in a kitchen with a tomato, pasta dough and garlic, and the woman was Einstein.  (Aida exits.)  By my twenty-ninth birthday, my parents had moved to Florida, and my sister to San Diego.  I stayed near my grandparents.  Each Sunday, I rode a bus in from the city.  But one Thursday, something happened to me—something important—and what I had to tell them couldn’t wait.  (Nick enters the living room.)  Hey, Gramps.  Hi, Nanny!

 

FRANK.          Nick, your grandmother is going to tell you to do something for her.  Refuse!  (Aida enters, giving Nick a hug.)

 

AIDA. Nicholas!  You have to do something for me.  (Frank motions “no”.) First, you hungry?

.NICK. No Nan, I just ate and I can’t stay long.  Like I said on the phone, I just have to make this announcement.

FRANK.          He has no time to do you any favors.

AIDA.  What did you have for dinner?

NICK. Chinese food.

AIDA.  Chinese?  You’re telling me that’s food?

NICK.             Nan –

AIDA.  Thirty years ago, I had dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  To this day, I have no idea what I ate.  I’ll make you food!

NICK. Nan, I’m full!

AIDA.  Fine, I’ll make you a sandwich.  You look hungry!

NICK. Nan!  How? Tell me exactly how do I look hungry?!

AIDA.  What do you want on it?  How about provolone and ham?

NICK. I don’t care!

AIDA.  I’ll make a provolone and ham sandwich, you tell your grandfather he can’t drive no more.

NICK. What?!                                     FRANK.          Don’t listen to her!

AIDA.  Two days ago in the Grand Union parking lot, he puts the car in reverse and goes forward—

FRANK.          I thought it was reverse, I put it in second—

AIDA.  Right into a Japanese car.  Thank God no one was killed.

FRANK.          I barely dented the fender.

AIDA.  Two weeks ago at the 7-Eleven, he means to step on the brake, he steps on the gas pedal –

FRANK.          We go very fast for about two feet –

AIDA.  Right into a Japanese car.  Thank God no one was killed.

NICK. Gramps, we’ve talked about this.  You shouldn’t be driving anymore.

FRANK.          You?  You’re telling me what to do?  I used to change your diapers!

NICK. You’ve told me, I appreciate it.

AIDA.  He never changed your diapers.

NICK. It’s too dangerous with you behind the wheel.

AIDA.  I get in the car, I scream the entire way.

FRANK.          She’s a real pleasure to drive with.

NICK. Nan, why don’t you make the sandwich?  I’ll talk to him.  And could you turn on the air conditioner.  It’s sweltering in here.

FRANK.          That’s crazy!  It’s only June!

NICK. But it’s hot!

FRANK.          The air conditioner doesn’t go on until the Fourth of July!

AIDA.  I’ll open a window.  You listen to your grandson!  (Aida opens a window, barely a crack, and exits.)

NICK. Gramps, you know something terrible could happen.

FRANK.          I only go close by – that’s all.

NICK. And you still get into accidents.

FRANK.          You saying I’m too old to drive?

NICK. Your reflexes are just getting a little slow…(Aida enters.)

AIDA.  I’m out of provolone.  Cheddar or Muenster?

NICK. Whatever, Nan!

AIDA.  I want to make it the way you like it.

NICK. I don’t even want it!

AIDA.  Don’t talk fresh.  Cheddar or Muenster?

NICK. Cheddar.

AIDA.  You sure?

NICK. Absolutely.

AIDA.  But I got such nice Muenster –

NICK. Muenster!  I want Muenster!

AIDA.  I thought so.  (Aida exits.)

NICK. Look – Gramps – I just don’t want to get a phone call saying you hurt yourself – or Nan – or someone else.

 

(Nick holds out his hands.  Frank looks at him for a moment, then reluctantly gives him his car keys.)

 

NICK. Thank you.

FRANK.          I got another set hidden in my tools.

NICK. Just promise you’ll only drive in an emergency – all right?

FRANK.          Yeah, yeah… (Emma and Nunzio enter, on the porch.)

NUNZIO.        (To audience.)  I was the first in my family to get a good job with a union.  And the way I got the job, see, was I told them I was Irish.  I had to!  ‘Cause those days, the most famous Italians in America were the Pope, and Sacco and Vanzetti!  And did they look at us and think Pope?  No!  Sacco and Vanzetti!

NICK.  (To audience.)  My father’s folks, Nunzio and Emma, lived two doors down, and every Sunday, they’d also visit and share dinner.  Both children of hard-working immigrants, they married at seventeen and had two sons – my dad, and his brother Nick, who was killed in Korea.

EMMA. (To audience.) The day I married Nunz, my mother told me something amazing.  Just because you’re his wife, it doesn’t mean you’re not as important as him.  Speak up!  Say how you feel!  Don’t become one of those women who gets lost behind their family.” Ha!

NUNZIO.        So my name was Ian Sean O’Malley O’Brien O’Sullivan – and they gave me the job!

EMMA.           We struggled and made our way ‘cause we were a family!  Tengo famiglia!

NUNZIO and EMMA.            Tengo Famiglia!!

NICK. (To audience.)  They were the loudest people I ever met.  (Nunzio and Emma enter the living room.)

NUNZIO.        Hey Nicky!

EMMA.           Yoo hoo!

NICK. Hi, Nanny.  Hi, Gramps.  I’m glad you came.  I have something to tell you.

NUNZIO.        Wait Nicky, first I wanna take a picture.

NICK. Of what?

NUNZIO.        Of you.

NICK. Why?

NUNZIO.        I got two pictures left on this roll.  Stand by your grandmother and smile.

NICK. Gramps, I got this announcement…

NUNZIO.        It’s one picture –

NICK. All right, all right…

EMMA.           (Going for his hair.)  Fix your hair nice first.

NICK. Nan, stop!  All right, Gramps – shoot.

NUNZIO.        But you don’t look happy.

NICK. I’m not happy!

NUNZIO.        Why would I take a picture if you don’t look happy!  (Nick forces on a smile as Nunzio snaps away.)

FRANK.          Nunz, make me a copy, I’ll pay ya for it.

NUNZIO.        Okay, I got one more.

NICK. Enough with the pictures.  (Calling toward kitchen.) Nan, could you get back in here, please!

EMMA.  Nicky, that present you bought for us.  The one we don’t know how to use –

NICK. The answering machine?

EMMA.           The other one.  The CPU –

NICK. VCR –

EMMA.           Right.  We need the receipt.

NICK. It broke?

NUNZIO.        No, we just hate it.

EMMA.           We don’t hate it!  It’s just too expensive, we can’t enjoy it.

NICK. I bought it for you.

EMMA.           Give us the receipt, we’ll give you back the money.

NICK. I don’t want the money!

NUNZIO.        It’s too much to spend on us for a BCP!

NICK. It’s your sixtieth anniversary present!

EMMA.           Fine, we’ll keep ten dollars!

NICK. Look, we’ll talk more about this later.  I’ve got something much more important to…

NUNZIO.        Guess where your grandmother wants to drag me – again!

EMMA.           I’m sorry if I like to go places and do things.  I’m a do-er!

NUNZIO.        Atlantic City!  With the senior citizens from St. Anne’s!

NICK. Can we talk about…

NUNZIO.        You sit in traffic for four hours with a busload of 80-year-old Catholics all carrying these giant bags of quarters!

EMMA.           You get a free, air-conditioned bus ride and they give you thirty dollars free in chips.

NICK. Look, I have this announcement…

NUNZIO.        Last time we went: cashed in my thirty dollar chips, found a five buck buffet, ate all day and came home with a twenty-five dollar profit!

EMMA.           I’ve told him, that money was not for him to keep.  Sunday, you put it in the poor box –

NUNZIO.        I’m not putting it in the poor box, we’re poor!  I’m giving it to Nicky!

EMMA.           We are not poor!

NICK. Why are you giving me twenty-five dollars?

NUNZIO.        I don’t know!  She won’t let me keep it!  (Aida enters with the sandwich.)

AIDA.  I forgot if you said cheddar or Muenster so I put on both.  Nicholas ate Chinese food tonight.

NUNZIO.        That’s like eating cancer.

FRANK.          He also said I can’t drive no more.

EMMA.           Good.  The world just got safer.

NICK. All right, I’ll give you the receipt for the VCR, we’ll talk more about the driving, I’ll eat the sandwich.  Can everyone take a seat, please?  I’d like to say what I have to say now.

EMMA.           He’s getting married!

FRANK.          How can he get married?  He doesn’t even have a girlfriend!

NICK. I’m not getting married!

FRANK.          Why not?

NICK. Can we save that argument for the holidays, when we always have it!  What I have to say is about something entirely…

EMMA.           What about Donna?

NICK. I will not discuss Donna!  That subject is closed!  I broke up with her two years ago!

NUNZIO.        I thought she broke up with you.

FRANK.          She did.  He was dragging his feet.

NICK. Can we move on, please?  (The phone rings.)

AIDA.  I’ll get it!

NICK. No, Nan!  Just let the answering machine get it.

FRANK.          No, Nick, that machine broke.

NICK. I just go it for you.  How’d it break?

FRANK.          I threw it out.  Every time we pressed a button, someone was yelling at us.

NICK. That was people leaving messages!

EMMA.           I want to see you married before I’m dead.

NICK. Tell me when you feel you’re going, I’ll see who I can dig up, Now…

AIDA.  Nicholas, it’s your parents!   (Into the phone.)  Nicholas ate Chinese food tonight.

FRANK.          Nick, why your parents moved to Florida—

EMMA.           They spend the first fifty-six years of their lives nice and close to their parents—

NUNZIO.        --who raised them!

EMMA.           Then, boom!  Your father gets a little sinus condition, so they retire early and move to Fort Lauderdale—

FRANK.          --to live with a bunch of old people who love humidity!

AIDA.  Frank, come say hello.

NUNZIO.        You’re a good boy, staying near your family—

AIDA.  It’s long distance, talk fast.  (Giving Frank the phone.)

FRANK.          (Into phone.)  Hi, your son told me I can’t drive no more.  Come visit soon, we’ll sit in my car and pretend it’s moving.

EMMA.           Then your sister gets married and moves to San Diego—

AIDA.  (Aida hangs up phone and returns.)  Nicholas, your mother said call her after you tell us.  She wants to know if we take it well.

NICK. We’ll all find that out, if everyone can just please sit now.

AIDA.  Aren’t you going to sit?

NICK. No, I want to do this standing up.

EMMA.           It’s like he’s going to make a speech.

NUNZIO.        If he wants to make a speech, let him make a speech.

NICK. Can I just please say this now?!

AIDA.  Before you start – who’s hungry?  (Aida crosses to the dining room.)

NICK. This is a one-sentence announcement.  You don’t have to cater it!

AIDA.  I got a new crumb cake.

NUNZIO.        With the big crumbs?

AIDA. From the A & P.

FRANK.          I’m in!

EMMA.           I just want a sliver, but a healthy sliver.

NUNZIO.        I want a really big piece!

AIDA.  Don’t announce anything yet.

NICK. Nan!

EMMA.           Oh Nicky, I got you a mass card.

NICK. Aren’t those for sick people?

EMMA.           Mass at St. Anne’s will be said for you –

NICK. Why?

EMMA.           --in hope you meet a girl to marry.

FRANK.          Hey, go to the mass, maybe you’ll met her there.

AIDA.  Okay, here we are—

FRANK.          I feel a draft.

EMMA.           What’s open?

NICK. It’s a hundred and ten degrees in here!

NUNZIO.        We’re old, we’re chilly.

AIDA.  I forgot all about it!

NICK. Does everyone have their crumb cake?  Is anyone disturbed by any unbearable drafts? (Nunzio snaps a flash picture of Nick.)

NUNZIO.        Okay, all done.

FRANK.          Make me a copy, Nunz; I’ll pay you for it.

NICK. Can I please say this now?

NUNZIO.        What’s he getting so upset about?

EMMA.           He was always anxious.  Remember how he used to chew on his rattle.

NICK. Can we not tell the rattle story right now?

EMMA.           We’re just trying to understand you better.

NICK. I don’t even know why I bother going to therapy!

NUNZIO.        Oh my!

NICK. It’s no big deal.  All my friends are in therapy—it’s just someone to talk to—

EMMA.           What kind of friends do you have?

NUNZIO.        Can’t you just talk to us?

NICK. How?  I can’t even get this announcement out!

AIDA.  Tell us your problems, Nicholas.  We’re all listening.

NICK. Okay!

FRANK.          All right!

EMMA.           Everyone quiet!

NUNZIO.        Okay!

AIDA.  Okay!

FRANK.          All right!

EMMA.           Okay!

NUNZIO.        We’re ready!

AIDA.  Okay!

FRANK.          All right!

EMMA.           Say it loud!

NICK. Okay!  Let me start with this—I got offered a promotion at work.

EMMA.           Congratulations!

AIDA.  Wonderful!

NUNZIO.        A better management position.

EMMA.           Tell – tell!

NICK. I don’t think you’d understand.  I mean, you don’t really understand what it is I do now—

NUNZIO.        Just because we wouldn’t understand it, it doesn’t mean we don’t want to hear about it.

NICK. As I explained before, I work in marketing, which is kind of like advertising.  I plan overall strategy for ads and other types of media.  Well, with my new position, I’ll be in charge of developing, coordinating and implementing all of those strategies in a top twenty market!  (A beat, as they look at him.)

NUNZIO.        Well, we’re proud of ya!

AIDA.                                      EMMA.                                   FRANK.

Very nice                                  What a job!                              Molto bene!

NICK. The thing about the job is I, have to move.

AIDA.  You can move in with us!

FRANK.          No rent, four meals a day!

NICK. No, no, the job is in – Seattle.  (A beat.)

FRANK.          Where is Seattle?

AIDA.  Rose Ranilli has a beach house there.  Exit 94 on the Parkway.

FRANK.          No, her house is further down, by the Foodtown.

NUNZIO.        I know where Seattle is – Washington.  Not the close Washington.  The faraway Washington by California.  All the way by California.

AIDA.  Nicholas, is this true?

NICK. It’s in Washington State, yes.  (A beat.)  Look, I just got the offer this morning—my heads still swimming.  But it’s a promotion.  And now would be the time.  I’m young—unattached.  So there’s nothing really to keep me here.  (A beat.)

AIDA.  What about us?

NICK. Well I mean, yeah, except you.

NUNZIO.        Nicky --?

FRANK.          So you’re leaving?

NICK. Moving, yes.

FRANK.          Right.  Leaving.

NICK. My parents thought it a terrific opportunity.  Look, I know this might come as a bit of a shock—

FRANK.          Shock?!  No!  First your parents move, then your sister moves and has my great-grandson—My great—grandson!  He’s three years old and I’ve seen him exactly twice.  Twice!  I’ve lived long enough to have a great-grandson and he has no idea who I am –why I’m important to him.

AIDA.  You’re just going to go?

NICK. It just came up today; I just wanted to tell you first.

NUNZIO.        But your family’s here, Nick—

NICK. It’s late; I got to catch the next bus back.  I got an eight A.M. meeting.

AIDA.  We’ll see you Sunday.

EMMA.           If we’re still alive.

NICK. We’ll talk more about it then, okay?  (He begins to exit, then stops.)  It’s a wonderful opportunity—(He exits.)

NUNZIO.        Seattle.

EMMA.           He won’t go.

NUNZIO.        You heard him.

EMMA.           He said he had no reason to stay.

NUNZIO.        So?

EMMA.           So – we give him a reason.  (A Spot on Nunzio.)

 

NUNZIO.  (To audience.)  I should tell him – I should tell him that the doctors did their tests and it has spread.  No one knows yet—not even Emma.  I’ll tell her—soon.  But I should tell him.  Then maybe he’d stay.  (A spot on Nick, D.)

 

NICK. (To audience.)   Most companies have this unwritten rule.  If you say “no” to a promotion, another one might not come along.  And, as any young man can tell you, the lure of a new life is as seductive as any lover.  The following Sunday, I returned for our weekly dinner, at which I expected them to be laying the guilt on something fierce.  But they didn’t.  They did something worse.  (Lights up on the living room.  Nick enters.)  Hello.

FRANK.          Hiya, Nick!

NUNZIO.        Hi, Nicky.

NICK. Hi, Gramps.  How you feeling about my promotion?

FRANK.          Oh, we’re very proud.  (Aida enters from the kitchen.)

AIDA.              Nicholas!  You hungry?

NICK. Nan, about Seattle—

AIDA.  We’ll be eating soon, why don’t you comb your hair a little nicer?

EMMA.           (Offstage.)  You hoo, Nicky!

NICK. What’s going on?

NUNZIO.        Hey Nicky, how old are you?

NICK. What?  Twenty-nine.

FRANK.          Twenty-nine and no family.

EMMA.           (Offstage.)  How does your hair look today?

NICK. I combed it into an afro!  All right, what is up with you people!

FRANK.          We’re not people, we’re your family.

NICK. Look, something’s going on, everyone’s being too quiet and … (The doorbell rings.  Emma rushes in from the kitchen and answers it.)

EMMA.           I’ll get it!

AIDA.  Why, who could that be?

EMMA.           Why it’s Caitlin O’Hare, the unmarried niece of my canasta partner, Margaret O’Hare.

NICK.  Oh my …

AIDA.  Caitlin, come in—why don’t you stay for dinner!

CAITLIN.        Hi, Emma.  Hi—wow, if I knew there were so many of you, I would’ve brought two bottles of wine—

EMMA.           Isn’t Caitlin so thoughtful, Nicky?  I want you to meet my beautiful grandson, Nicholas.

NICK.  Caitlin—hi.  It’s Nick.

CAITLIN.        Great to meet you.

AIDA.  And I’m his other nanny.

CAITLIN.        Hello.

NUNZIO.        I’m Nunzio.

FRANK.          I’m Frank.

CAITLIN.        Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you.

NUNZIO.        You seem like a girl any young man would be lucky to have as his wife.

AIDA.  Caitlin, you’re just in time for supper, everything came beautiful__

NICK. I just need to have a moment alone with Caitlin first—(Grandparents react happily.)

AIDA.  It’s working, it’s working! (Nick takes Caitlin aside.)

NICK. Look, did my grandmother happen to mention I’d be here?

CAITLIN.        She didn’t.

NICK. Okay, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a setup.  Feel free to run like the wind—

CAITLIN.        Relax.  It’s no big deal.  Besides, the dinner smells fantastic.

NICK. That’s their secret.  They suck you in with the food.

CAITLIN.        Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to stay.

NICK. You sure? “Cause it’s not too late to escape.

CAITLIN.        We’ll just have a relaxing Sunday dinner.

NICK. Even at my most generous moments, I would not describe these people as relaxing.  (Emma crosses to Nick and Caitlin.)

AIDA.  Okay, time to eat!

EMMA.           Shall we say grace?

NUNZIO.        Since when do we say grace?

EMMA.           We have company!

AIDA.  Frank, say grace.

FRANK.          Really?  Well all right, I’m gonna say grace.

EMMA.           Everyone quiet!

NUNZIO.        Okay!

AIDA.  Okay!

FRANK.          All right!

EMMA.           Okay!

NUNZIO.        We’re ready!

AIDA.  Okay!

FRANK.          All right!

EMMA.           Say it loud!

NUNZIO.        Okay!

AIDA.  Okay!

NICK. Say “grace,” Gramps!

FRANK.          All right.  Bless us, oh Lord, for these thy gifts, that we are about to receive.  And bless our lovely dinner guest and our lonely grandson and may they find eternal happiness together.

GRANDPARENTS.    AMEN.                        NICK. Gramps!

FRANK.          It’s a prayer; I could say whatever I want!

NUNZIO.        So Caitlin, you like to drink.

CAITLIN.        How do you mean?

NUNZIO.        Well, you’re Irish—

NICK. Gramps!

NUNZIO.        The Irish like to drink.  That’s a secret?

NICK. Gramps, apologize now!

CAITLIN.        Actually, I don’t mind having a pint now and then.

NUNZIO.        You see?  Life is to be lived!

FRANK.          So Caitlin, tell me—do you drive?

NICK. Gramps—

CAITLIN.        Sure.  Don’t you?

FRANK.          Funny you should ask—

NICK. He had to stop.  He’s been getting into accidents lately.

FRANK.          I’ve killed hundreds of people. (Aida enters.)

AIDA.  Here we are!  I made some lovely veal.

CAITLIN.        Oh Aida, no thank you.  I’ll just have the vegetables.

AIDA.  No, have some veal. 

CAITLIN.        I’m a vegetarian.  (A beat.  Grandparents stop and stare at her.)

NUNZIO.        She’s a what?

EMMA.           Vegetarian.

FRANK.          What’s that?

EMMA.           Animal doctor.

NUNZIO.        She fixes animals so she don’t eat them.  Makes sense.

CAITLIN.        No, no, “vegetarian”—I don’t eat meant.  I’m a nurse.

NUNZIO.        She’s an animal nurse?

FRANK.          What do animals need nurses for?

NICK. (To Caitlin.)  Trust me on this—don’t try to correct them, just ride it out.

AIDA.  Whatever you do, it sounds very nice.  Have some veal.

CAITLIN.        Oh I really can’t, thank you.  I should’ve told Emma before I came.

AIDA.  No need to apologize.  Just have some veal.

NICK. (Switching plates with Caitlin.)   Nan, the veal issue is closed!  She doesn’t eat veal!

CAITLIN.        The vegetables really look so delicious.  Just an extra forkful of those would be wonderful.

NUNZIO.        The squash is beautiful from my garden.

CAITLIN.        Looks fabulous.

NUNZIO.        You could serve it to the Pope.

AIDA.  The Pope would eat the veal, too.

FRANK.          So Caitlin, tell me, how come a pretty girl like you doesn’t have a boyfriend?

NICK. Caitlin, please don’t answer that—

CAITLIN.        It’s okay, Nick, I don’t mind.  I like to think that it’s just that I haven’t met the right guy lately.

NICK. Caitlin, I would just like to take a moment to apologize…

FRANK.          What?  We said nothing bad!  Nunz, did we say anything bad?

NUNZIO.        No, we’ve been delightful.

NICK. Delightful?!

EMMA.           Now don’t mind Nicky, Caitlin, he jut gets a little excited sometimes.

CAITLIN.        That’s okay.  I like passionate people.

EMMA.           What a nice way of saying that.

NUNZIO.        See, we ain’t loud, we’re passionate.

FRANK.          So Nick, say something attractive to Caitlin.

NICK. Gramps, please.

EMMA.           Nicky has a wonderful job, Caitlin.

NUNZIO.        We have no idea what he does, but it’s fantastic.

NICK. I’m a marketing executive.

CAITLIN.        Do you enjoy it?

NICK. Yeah, actually I do.

FRANK.          But it’s no animal nurse.

EMMA.           Frank, shush!  Let the kids talk.

FRANK.          Sorry.  Go ahead you two, pretend like we’re not here.

NICK. Oh, like that’s possible?!

FRANK.          Now he’s talking fresh.

NICK. I am not talking fresh.

NUNZIO.        He’s talking fresh.

NICK. Gramps, quiet—

NUNZIO.        I can’t be quiet, I’m passionate!

FRANK.          Caitlin, we’re so glad you came!

EMMA.           You’ll have to come again soon.  How about next Sunday?!

NUNZIO.        We eat together every Sunday.  We’re a family!

CAITLIN.        I have to say, it’s actually rather amazing sitting here with all of you, because well, I look at Nick and I think how many grown adults actually get to have dinner with all four of their grandparents?

EMMA.           He’s a lucky boy.

NICK. It’s like hitting the lottery.

EMMA.           So Caitlin, do you go to therapy like Nicky?

NICK. Nan!

EMMA.           I thought you weren’t ashamed?

FRANK.          Actually, we’re a little ashamed.

CAITLIN.        Actually, I do go.  I like it.

AIDA.  But you seem so normal.

CAITLIN.        It’s an act.

NUNZIO.        Nicky says all his friends are in therapy.

NICK. All right, are there any other personal revelations about me anyone else would like to bring up!  Bed-wetting memories?  Anecdotes about drooling or…?

CAITLIN.        Nick, there’s no reason to …

FRANK.          Should we tell the rattle story?

EMMA.           Nicky was a nervous baby and used to chew on his rattle.

NICK. Isn’t that a great story?

NUNZIO.        He also got caught in the ninth grade smoking dope.

EMMA.           Hey!  Keep quiet!

NUNZIO.        What?  I thought we were telling stories.

NICK.  I just want to say that this is working terrifically.  From now on, I’m taking you 

four on all my dates!

CAITLIN.        Oh, I’d bet you’d all be great fun on dates.

NICK. Could someone please pass the salt.  And a weapon!

EMMA.           (To audience.)  And so dinner went on.  A beautiful meal.  And all through this, I looked at my grandson and the lovely girl sitting next to him, and I thought yes, oh yes, he had found his reason to stay.

CAITLIN.        Everything was delicious.  Thank you.

FRANK:          Caitlin, we like you.  We hope to see you again soon.

CAITLIN.        I really had a great time.  You’re all so sweet.

NUNZIO.        We’re old.  We’re adorable.

CAITLIN.        Good night everybody.

AIDA.                          EMMA.                       FRANK.                      NUNZIO.

It was lovely                 Bye!                             Come back                  Bye now!

Having you!                  Bye Bye!                      Anytime,                       Bye-bye!

Come back soon!                                             Sweetheart

 

NICK. First and foremost, I am so sorry.

CAITLIN.        Don’t apologize for anything, I—

NICK. Look, I feel I owe you something.  Something expensive.  So how about you let me take you to dinner this week.  We can go to a nice vegetarian restaurant and no one will ask if you’re in therapy.  And let me just say, I am really, really normal away from my family.  I’m actually intelligent and somewhat charming.

CAITLIN.        I have a confession to make.  I knew you’d be here today.  That’s the real reason I came.  I’ve just been, feeling a little lonely and I figured—since I liked your grandmother so much, maybe she’s got a grandson who—well, -- you spent the whole evening yelling at them.

NICK. It’s just the way we speak to each other.  I take it you and your grandmother didn’t speak so…

CAITLIN.        No, we used to – talk.

NICK. Talk?  I’ll have to try that with them sometime.  So, how about dinner?

CAITLIN.        I’m sorry, I mean – you seem like an okay guy but, I’m sorry.

 

(Caitlin leaves and Nick goes back into the house.)

 

GRANDPARENTS.    Well?!

NICK. You know—you—you people are unbelievable!

NUNZIO.        Again with the “you people”?

EMMA.           She turned him down.

NICK. You invited her over without tell me.  Which you had no right to…

AIDA.  Nicholas, don’t get upset.  I’ll get a fruit bowl.

NICK. No! No food now!  Everyone sit and listen to me!  Did any of you take into consideration how I would feel?  Did any of you take into consideration how your sneaky little plan—which didn’t work, by the way!  -- was infringing on my life?  And exactly what kind of plan was that?  You expected us to meet and fall in love and spend the rest of our lives together!

EMMA.           Yes!

NICK. Well it doesn’t happen that way!

NUNZIO.        It happened to us!

NICK. That was a hundred and fifty years ago!  Today we do things different.  We have careers and ambitions and we only fall in love with people who we choose, who we pick, when we’re good and ready!

EMMA.           Well that’s the problem right there!

NICK. You people, you just did what you wanted because you want me to live my life your way.  Well you know what; maybe I don’t want to get married.

FRANK.          That’s crazy!

NICK. Maybe I like my life the way I’ve made it!

NUNZIO.        What?

NICK. Ya know, now I understand why Melissa and my parents really moved!  ‘Cause they wanted to live without constant interference!  And judgment!  And criticism!  I was feeling guilty about going to Seattle---thinking maybe I shouldn’t take the job ‘cause I’d be leaving you!  But now, no guilt!  I’m home free!

EMMA.           Nicky!

NICK. In one month I’m gonna get on that plane and fly to a new life!  And live the way I want to live!  And date the women I want to date.  And I’m gonna go to therapy if I want, and I’m gonna eat all the Chinese food I want!  ‘Cause guess what—I am an adult!  There is a fully functioning, grown-up man standing before you who is perfectly capable of taking care of himself—taking care of him—

AIDA.  Nicholas!

EMMA.           Nicky!

NICK. --can’t breath—

NUNZIO.        Call an ambulance!

 

BLACKOUT

 

Two days later.  Frank, downstage.

 

FRANK.          So I drove Nick to the hospital and I didn’t hit anybody or anything.  And this was under great strain and stress, ‘cause I thought my grandson was having a heart attack.  As it turns out, he did have a panic attack.  The doctors said he had to be in bed for a few days and get rid of everything in his life that was making him upset.  So, we figured the only think to do was to have him stay with us.

AIDA.  Nicholas, what else can I get you to eat?

NICK. Nan, you’ve been feeding me nonstop for two days now.  Please open a window—it’s really hot in here.

AIDA.  I don’t want you to feel a draft.

NICK. It’s like a sauna; I keep expecting naked fat men in towels to walk by.

AIDA.  I’ll get you a thinner blanket.  Oh, and they other Nanny and Grandpa are coming.  Before they get here: Seattle--

NICK. What?

AIDA.  Remember what you said when you got sick, that your parents left because they didn’t want to be around us—Nicholas, they didn’t leave because they didn’t want to be around us.  They saw themselves getting old, they saw their lives being spent in one place, and they got afraid of becoming too much like us.

NICK. No, that’s not right.  They just wanted to live in sunshine, to—

AIDA.  People don’t move away from their families because of weather, they go afraid.  And maybe you are too

NICK. Nan, no.

AIDA.  Okay, maybe I’m all wrong.  But I’m not.

EMMA.           Yoo-hoo!  Nicky! How you feeling!

NUNZIO.        Hi ya, Nicky!  You’re looking good!

NICK. I’m feeling fine.

EMMA.           Nicky, you gave us such a fright.

NICK. I know, Nan—

EMMA.           So I got you a mass card.  St. Anne’s, a week from Tuesday.

NICK. They’re gonna have to name this church after me soon.

NUNZIO.        Don’t do that to us again.  We’re old, we’re the ones supposed to get sick, not you.

AIDA.  Nicholas was getting hot.

FRANK.          It’s perfect in here.

NICK. I just want to say – I said some things about leaving and not wanting you to interfere…

EMMA.           Nicky, you were sick then.

NUNZIO.        No one listened to a word you said.

EMMA.           Besides Nicky, I got the perfect way for you to relax—come with us on a vacation.  Next month, we’re taking another one of those Mario Perillo tours!

NUNZIO.        Again with the Perillo tour!

EMMA.           What?

NUNZIO.        You get on the bus, you get off the bus, you take a picture, you get on the bus, get off the bus, take a picture, on the bus, off the bus, take a picture…it was exhausting!

NICK. Nan, I’m supposed to be in Seattle.

EMMA.           Maybe he’ll meet a nice girl on the tour!

NUNZIO.        The girls are all eighty years old!

FRANK.          You rest here a few more weeks, nice and quiet, then you think about the trip and Seattle some more.

NUNZIO.        So what should we do tonight?

EMMA.           Just nothing that gets Nicky too excited.

FRANK.          Let’s play that game you gave us we don’t understand—what’s it called?

NICK. Trivial Pursuit.

FRANK.          That’s it.  You have to answer things.

EMMA.           You feel up to playing a game like that, Nicky?

NUNZIO.        No, he’ll drop dead from the excitement.

EMMA.           Shush!

NICK. Look, I’m fine.  You wanna play?  Let’s play.

EMMA.           Guess who I saw at the deli counter this morning?  Caitlin O’Hare!

NUNZIO.        Terrific.  Last time you brought her here, you almost killed the boy.

EMMA.           She’s still very nice.

NICK. Can we just play, please?

AIDA.  Whatever you want?

FRANK.          Okay, you roll the dice and play the game for us.  We’ll just come up with the answers.  (Nick rolls the dice and moves the pieces.)

NICK. Okay, you’re on green.

FRANK.          All right, green.

EMMA.           Everyone quiet!

NUNZIO.        Okay!

AIDA.  Okay!

FRANK.          All right!

EMMA.           Okay!

NUNZIO.        We’re ready!

AIDA.  Okay—

NICK. Read the question, Gramps!  Science and nature.

FRANK.          All right, green question.  All right.  (Reading.) “What is the process by which plants form – carbohydrates?—when they are exposed to light?”

NUNZIO.        What the hell kind of question is that?

FRANK.          That’s what it says.

NUNZIO.        Too hard, give us another.

FRANK.          Okay, “Who starred with … “

NICK. Wait, wait, wait!  That’s the whole point!  If you can’t answer the question, you lose your turn.

NUNZIO.        But what the hell kind of question was that?!

NICK. It was a science question!

NUNZIO.        It was about a plant!

FRANK.          Look, it’s the first question, they’re not thinking hard yet.  We’ll give them another just for now.

NICK. Good point.  I forgot the “not thinking hard yet” factor.

FRANK.  Okay, here’s a nice one.  “Who starred with Grace Kelly in High Noon?

EMMA.           Uh—that actor.

NUNZIO.        The one with the ears.

AIDA.  I always liked him.

FRANK.          That’s right.  Go again.

NICK. Wait, stop!  That’s the answer on the card?  The one with the ears!

FRANK.          No, but I know who they mean!

NICK. But they have to tell you who they mean!  That’s the game!  That’s why it’s fun!  That’s the whole point of… (Emma and Aida re-cover Nick with the blanket.)

 

 

EMMA.                                               AIDA.

Nicky, calm down,                               Breathe, breathe, breathe—

Calm down, don’t

Have another attack.

 

EMMA.           Okay, we’ll think of who the guy with the ears is.  Okay?

AIDA.  Didn’t Humphrey Bogart have ears?

NUNZIO.        Uh—he dated Lana Turner.

EMMA.           Right.  Jimmy Stewart!

NUNZIO.        No!  Jimmy Stewart was married to the woman with the hair.

EMMA.           No, that wacky guy with the nose was married to the woman with the hair.

NUNZIO.        No, that was the other woman with the hair.  Jimmy Stewart was married to the woman with the hair with the face.

EMMA.           Didn’t the woman with the face marry that guy with the face?

NUNZIO.        No, that was the guy with the feet.

EMMA.           Then who dated Lana Turner?

NUNZIO.        That gangster she killed—uh, somebody, somebody.

EMMA.           No, her daughter killed the gangster with the butcher knife.

NUNZIO.        Yes, the daughter with the butcher knife!

EMMA.           That’s right!

NUNZIO.        Yes!

AIDA.  Very nice.

EMMA.           That’s right!  (A long beat.)

NUNZIO.        What was the question again?  (Nick reacts.)

EMMA.           I remember the question—“High Noon.”

NUNZIO.        Yes, the guy with the ears – what’s his name – Gone with the Wind—

EMMA.           --Clark Gable!

NUNZIO.        Clark Gable!

FRANK.          Very good, Clark Gable.

AIDA.  Very Nice.

NUNZIO.        (To Nick.)  Happy?

NICK. No, Clark Gable was not in High Noon!

FRANK.          Get out of here, he was!

NICK. Did you read the back of the card?

FRANK.          (Reading the card.)  Gary Cooper.  (Grandparents look at each other.)

GRANDPARENTS.                Nooooooooo!

FRANK.          Clark Gable and Lana Turner.  Go again.  (A spot on Aida.)

AIDA.  (To audience.) When Nicholas was in the hospital, I wished there was something wrong with him—not something terrible, but something wrong enough so he had to stay, so he couldn’t leave us, so I could take care of him.  You want to help them.  Like you did when they were little.  It doesn’t matter how old they get.

FRANK.          (Reading a question.)  Okay, “What author was appointed U.S. ambassador to Spain in 1842?”

AIDA.  Oh, my.

EMMA.           Give us another.

NUNZIO.        No wait, wait, I know this!

EMMA.           You do not!

NUNZIO.        Yes!  When you and that Mario Perillo dragged me to Spain, they had this little statue about this guy.  I know this!

EMMA.           What’s the answer?

NUNZIO.        Okay, who’s your girlfriend who married that fellow who steals cars?

NICK. What?

EMMA.           You mean Irene?

NUNZIO.        Right, now what’s Irene’s sister’s name?  The one who drinks.

EMMA.           Irma.

NUNZIO.        Okay.  Irma, she was with some guy and the guy had no teeth.

EMMA.           Uh—something something.

NUNZIO.        Yes, it was Jewish!

EMMA.           Sid Caesar!

NUNZIO.        No!

EMMA.           Milton Berle!

NUNZIO.        No!

FRANK.          Shecky Green!

NICK. Gramps, you know the answer!

FRANK.          I’m caught up in the excitement!

AIDA.  Is Merv Griffin Jewish?

NUNZIO.        Wait, that’s close.  Merv—Merving—Irving!  That’s it!

NICK. So?!

NUNZIO.        The ambassador—Washington Irving.

FRANK.          That’s right!

NICK. That was amazing!

EMMA.           Hey, Nicky!  You’re laughing!

NICK. Yeah?

EMMA.           When we were your age we laughed all the time.  We didn’t have much but we were always laughing.  We always had fun.  You take things too hard.

NUNZIO.        Leave the boy alone!

EMMA.           No.  We’ve all been quiet, saying nothing, ‘cause we don’t want to upset him.

NUNZIO.        She’s gonna give him another attack.

EMMA.           Shush!  Nicky, I think you expect too much.

FRANK.          Listen to your Grandmother.

EMMA.           We were told a good life is when you find a husband and have kids and you put food on the table and send your kids to school and you don’t die doing it—that’s a good life.  Then we went ahead and told our kids that they can have so much more.  And maybe that’s the way it should be.  And you already have much more than we ever had and we are so proud.  So did we make a better life for you?  It’s not a worse life.  But better?  Just different, maybe.

AIDA.  Enough with the game.  Who’s hungry?

FRANK.          I need some Danish.

NUNZIO.        Wait.  I want to tell a story.

AIDA.  Okay, let me just get the Danish—

NUNZIO.        No this story is so good, you don’t even need food.

FRANK.          There’s no such thing.

EMMA.           What story you talking about?

NUNZIO.        The story of how I won you.

EMMA.           They’ve heard it!

FRANK.          But he always changes it!  Tell us, Nunz.

NUNZIO.        Nicky, you want to hear it?

NICK. As long as it won’t get me too excited.

NUNZIO.        All right.  Your grandmother lived in this fourth floor walk-up and every night I’d climb over the fence, sneak into her backyard, and serenade her.

EMMA.           This is not true.

NUNZIO.        Would you let me tell my story?!

EMMA.           Story is right.  I never met him!  His father dragged him to my house, my father talked to him, his father talked to me, then both fathers told us we were getting married!

NUNZIO.        It happened sixty years ago!  Can’t I just tell it the way I like it?!  All right, the first time I saw her was on a street corner—it was a beautiful day and she was waiting for a bus.

EMMA.           I was the most gorgeous, eligible, popular girl in the entire neighborhood.

NUNZIO.        What?

EMMA.           If you’re telling the story the way you want, I’m telling the story the way I want.

NUNZIO.        All right.  So once I laid my eyes on your grandmother—I had never seen anything so amazing.  She was so beautiful; you could drink her from a glass.

EMMA.           I was wrong.  Every word of this is true.

NUNZIO.        I couldn’t speak to her—I just watched her get on the bus.  But then I waited there, all day, till another bus returned her to that spot.  And when she strolled home, I followed her and stood right underneath her window.  I did this every night for a month.  I sang her this one song: (Sings.)  “Yes sir, that’s my baby—No sir, I don’t mean maybe.  Yes, sir, that’s my baby now.” 

NICK. Whenever I see an old, old black and white movie, I can’t help but think that that’s what things were like in my grandparents day—that they lived these very black and while lives, and they were all very serious, very earnest, rather joyless.  But sometimes they gave me a glimpse of what they were really like—and suddenly their past would be splashed with color.

AIDA.  Who’s hungry?

NUNZIO.        (To Emma.)  How ‘bout you and me going home now?

EMMA.           Nicky, you mind if we leave you early?

NICK. No, go—

EMMA.           This is the reason I want you married, Nicky.  This is the reason.

NUNZIO.        Aida, Frank, see you tomorrow—

AIDA.  Well, I should clean up—

NICK. It’s funny—I can’t remember when I’ve seen you all like that.

FRANK.          “Cause you’re never here, Nick.

NICK. What’re you talking about?  I’m here every Sunday.

FRANK.          Yeah, every Sunday—like a habit—like going to church.  You’re never here, Nick.  (A beat.)

NICK. Hey Gramps, how about another story?

FRANK.          I can’t tell stories like Nuns—

NICK. Tell me what it was like to leave your family.

FRANK.          Why do you want to know that, Nick?

NICK. Why did he make you leave?

FRANK.          You know the problem with old stories, Nick?  You tell them and you realize that people don’t change; people do the same things over and over again.  When I was a little boy, every Christmas morning, on the cobblestones in town, there would appear this—this sea of vendors—their carts covered with toys—a rainbow of toys.  And my father would carry me in his arms and point to some tiny, dark toy, while I’d point to the biggest and most colorful, but my father would shake his head “no” and we’d move on.  And I’d point to another, and we’d move on.  And we’d do that again and again until we had gone to each cart.  And then he’d buy me some little gray toy I barely wanted, and I’d start crying.  I always resented him for that—hated him for that.  And when I was fourteen, my father put me on a boat to America and said “that’s where you’re gonna live.”  Eight years from the day he sent me away, I returned to my hometown so my mother and sisters could meet my new family.  It was during the holidays, and on Christmas morning, I took your mother in my arms and carried her outside and there they were—all the vendors, with all their beautiful toys.  Any one she’d point at, I bought for her.  And when we came back in, our arms full with this rainbow of toys, my mother took one look and said:  “That’s what your father wished he could do!  But we barely had enough to buy food on Christmas.  That’s why he had to send you away.  So you could make for yourself a life he could never give you.”  I always thought my father wouldn’t give me anything.  Turns out—he was giving me all he had.  (A beat.)  You’re going away—aren’t you, Nicholas?  (A beat.  Crossfade to Nunzio, D.)

NUNZIO.        There’s a moment when I wake up each morning and I don’t remember I’m sick.  It lasts only a few seconds, but it’s like a little gift I get at the start of each day.  That night, I told my Emma.  The first time I cried about it, was when she began to cry.  I made her promise not to tell anyone—that’s for me to do.  It would be so selfish of me to tell him.  So selfish.  But when you get to be my age, you realize what matters is family.  What matters is family.  And what’s in Seattle?  Just some job—(Lights up on Nick, resting on the couch.  Caitlin appears on the doorstep and rings the bell.  Nick answers the door.  He stands there for a moment, stunned.)

CAITLIN.        Hi there, Nick.

NICK. Hi.

CAITLIN.        How are you feeling?

NICK. Me?  Uh, fine, fine.

CAITLIN.        Uh, could I come…?

NICK. Oh yeah, yeah!  Come in!

CAITLIN.        I hope I’m not intruding, Nick, but I bumped into Emma the other day—and she said that after I left, you collapsed.

NICK. Yeah—that’s true.  Boy, that’s difficult to explain.

CAITLIN.        She said you had a panic attack because I rejected you.  I’m sorry, Nick.  I hope it really wasn’t because of me.

AIDA.  Caitlin!

CAITLIN.        Aida, hello.

AIDA.  What a wonderful surprise!  You look hungry.

NICK. She has this remarkable sense—

AIDA.  Let me fix you something…

CAITLIN.        Oh, no, no, thank you.  I just came by to see how Nick was doing.

AIDA.  Oh, he’s much better.  He just gets nervous.

NICK. I used to chew on my rattle.

AIDA.  I’ll just fix you a little something…

CAITLIN.        No really, Ai—

AIDA.  (Exiting.)  No trouble, no trouble…

NICK. You have three minutes before she comes back with a fully dressed twelve-pound butterball turkey.

CAITLIN.        I am sorry about the other day, Nick.  You didn’t deserve what I said. 

NICK. (To audience.)  I don’t know what it was—maybe the way the light was hitting her face or the way she was standing or maybe it was because a woman who had rejected me came back to apologize.  I don’t know.  But at that moment, she struck me as the most intelligent and beautiful woman on the planet, and I wanted her to like me so much.  And for a second I had a horrible thought: Could my grandmother actually be right?  Do I not really want to move?  Could all I need to be happy is the right woman?

CAITLIN.        So Emma said you might move to Seattle soon.  She said you have a job offer—

NICK. A promotion, actually.  A terrific one.

CAITLIN.        Great.  You know anyone there?

NICK. No.  Just the promotion.

CAITLIN.        Well, then—(A beat.)

NICK. Yeah—(A beat.)

CAITLIN.        Well, I’m glad you’re okay, Nick.  I have to go, I’m on shift in a half an hour and I can’t be late.  There are sick animals who need nursing, so—

NICK. Caitlin—

CAITLIN.        Yes?

NICK. I’d still like to – I know you already said “no” but—I’d still like to take you out.  You know, a real date.  No relatives.

CAITLIN.        But—you’re leaving?  For Seattle?

NICK. I’ve been thinking about not going.  I maybe should stay—I don’t know.

CAITLIN.        Well, what happens if we go out, and we find out we like each other, and you decide to move?

NICK. I – I don’t know.  I, um…(A beat.)

CAITLIN.        I really have to go, Nick.  The date offer was nice, but, I don’t know.  I’d just sit there the whole time hoping I didn’t like you.  That’s just too weird.  Okay, take care of yourself.  (Caitlin begins to exit.)

NICK. (Sings.)  “Yes sir, that’s my baby—“(Caitlin stops.  A beat.)  “No sir, I don’t mean maybe.  Yes sir, that’s my baby now.”

CAITLIN.        Excuse me?

NICK. If that song worked, it’s golden.

CAITLIN.        Wow.  All right.  If you decide not to go to Seattle—call me, and a date with not relatives, you’re on.  But if you decide to go—then go.  Start over.  Sometimes you just have to be a little selfish.  (She kisses him on the cheek.)  You know something—just now, when I didn’t immediately agree to go out with you—that was probably one of the most mature things I’ve ever done.  (She exits.  Aida enters carrying a huge antipasto.)

AIDA.  Here we are!  (A spot on Emma, D.)

EMMA.           (To audience.)  Nunzio and I have been together for fifty-five years.  Close your eyes and imagine that—fifty-five years.  That’s what Nicky doesn’t understand—by trying to plan out his life so much, by staying away from marriage—he missed that.  He’ll never know what that’s like—how love can deepen to places you’ve never imagined.  Fifty-five years.  (Lights up on the living room.  Emma and Aida set the table as Nunzio reads the paper and Frank ….)

AIDA.  Nunz, how about another pillow?

NUNZIO.        No, I’m fine—

AIDA.  No, let me get you another…

NUNZIO.        Stop, I’m fine—(Nick enters.)

NICK. Hello.

NUNZIO.                                            EMMA.

There you are, Nicky!                           Oh.

We’re starving!

 

AIDA.  Nicholas, why you so late?

EMMA.           We thought you had an attack on the bus!

FRANK.          Good think I was here to entertain the crowd for ya, Nick.

NICK. Sorry, I had a special session with my psychia—uh, head doctor this morning.  We had a lot to talk about.

EMMA.           Did you talk about your panic attack?

NICK. Yeah—

NUNZIO.        And what’d he tell you?

NICK. To calm down.

FRANK.          And for that, you paid him money?

AIDA.  Enough!  Dinner’s waiting, everything came beautiful.  (Grandparents cross to the dining room.)

NICK. Uh, before we eat, I have something to say.

NUNZIO.        Talk and eat!  You’re late.  Mangiamo!

NICK. It’s important.  It’s about Seattle.  (Grandparents stop and turn toward Nick.  They return to the living room and sit.)

NUNZIO.        Go ahead, Nicky.

NICK. Okay, first I want to say, last week, when I spent those days here—that was a real special time for me.  It just seemed like we talked a little more than we ever had.  Like maybe we connected a little better.  I’m not sure…

AIDA.  It was beautiful to have you here, Nicholas.

NICK. And I’m getting older, and so are you, and I’d really like us to spend more time together like that.

EMMA.           Nicky!  You’re staying!

NICK. I’d really like us to spend more time together like that in the next few weeks.  I am taking the promotion.  I leave in a month.  (A beat.)

EMMA.           Nicky—

NICK. It won’t be so bad, you know.  It’s not a terrible plane ride.  You can all come visit all you want.  The promotion – it’s too good, I’ve worked so hard for it.  It could be the start of something so exciting for… (He stops.)  I – I just would appreciate if you could all understand.  (A beat.)

AIDA.  No, I don’t understand, Nicholas.  I don’t—

NICK. Nan—

AIDA.  How can you, Nicholas?  We’re here, Nicholas.  Everything is here.  How can you just leave your family like that?  Why does everyone get so afraid?  How can you, Nicholas?  Aren’t we worth staying for?  How can you leave?  How can you just leave?  (Aida runs off into the kitchen.)

NICK. Nan!  Gramps, you know the last thing I’d ever want to do is hurt Nan or you or…

FRANK.          What do you want me to say now, Nick?  Stay, please don’t leave us!  Go, you have my blessing!  I can’t say any of that.  I can’t!

NICK. Gramps, please…

FRANK.          Because no matter what I say, what anyone says, you’re going to leave us.  Everybody goes!  I wish I could be more like my father.  I wish I could just stand on the shore and watch you sail away and know it’s for the best.  But I’m sorry, Nick, I can’t!  I worked all my life so my family…my family…I’m not good with saying things, Nick.  I just don’t want you to go.  (A beat.)  Nunz?  (Nunz looks up at Frank, then turns his head away.)  Your grandmothers made for us a beautiful meal.  Mangiamo.  (Frank exits into the kitchen.  A beat.)

EMMA.           Nicky, your grandfather has something he has to tell you—

NUNZIO.        Emma!

EMMA.           He has to tell you this, Nicky—

NICK. What, Gramps, what is it?  Is something…(Nunzio motions for Nick to o to the porch.  Nunzio and Emma exchange a look, then Nunzio follows Nick out.)  What is it, Gramps?  Is something wrong?

NUNZIO.        Nicky, what I have to tell you—I have to…(A beat.)  Remember when I told you I’ve been thinking about your Uncle Nicky lately.

NICK. Yeah.

NUNZIO.        Well, I been thinking about him ‘cause—well I been thinking about when we had to say good-bye.  All I can see is this young, perfect man, waving good-bye in his uniform.  And I knew how dangerous Korea was, oh I knew that.  Still I just stood there and waved back, but inside, inside I was wishing so hard that there was something I could say or do, anything, anything at all, that would make him stay.  But there was nothing.  Now you’re leaving.  (A beat.)  Nicky, let me ask you something first.  And tell me the truth.

NICK. I will.

NUNZIO.        Right before you had your attack that day, when you were yelling, you said something—it had to do with you wanting to find out what you were about or something—

NICK. I was upset then, Gramps, I didn’t mean what I was saying—

NUNZIO.        No Nicky, one thing I’ve learned, when people get upset, that’s when they mean what they say.  What did you mean by that?  (A beat.)  Tell me, Nicholas.

NICK. I’m not sure, Gramps.  I guess—I’ve grown up here, my whole live has been spent here, with you.  And it’s wonderful.  It’s all so wonderful and I’m so grateful.  Bu I just don’t need it anymore.  I’m sorry if that sounds awful but—I just don’t.  I need to make my life something of my own doing.  There’s an opportunity for me in Seattle—a chance to give myself more.  I’m sorry if that sounds selfish or ungrateful…

NUNZIO.        Se Seattle, then.  This is not just about a job—it’s something you feel you have to do.  To make your life.  To be happy.

NICK. Yes.  I’m sorry, I…

NUNZIO.        And you know this.   You know this as much as you know anything

NICK. Yes, Gramps, absolutely.  I’m sor—

NUNZIO.        Okay, then.  Okay, then.  (Nunzio begins to cross back to the living room.)

NICK. Gramps—what you had to tell me?

NUNZIO.        No.  Nothing.

NICK. But you said…

NUNZIO.        What I had to say, Nicholas, what I had to tell you—I will always be there with you.  (A beat.)  So you bee good!  (Nunzio smiles at Nick for a moment, then enters the living room.  He looks at Emma, and shakes his head “no.”)

EMMA.           No, we have to tell him, we—

NUNZIO.        He has to go, sweetheart.  He has to go.

EMMA.           But---Nicky!

NICK. Nan?  (She looks at Nick, then at Nunzio, then back at Nick.  A beat.)

EMMA.           Dinner came beautiful.  Mangiamo.

NICK. Nan, is there something--?  (A beat.)

EMMA.           Nicky—I really thought you had a chance with Caitlin.  I really did.  (Emma extends her had to Nunzio, and he grasps it, and kisses it.  They exit into the dining room.  A spot on Nick.)

NICK. (To audience.)  With all the hassles that changing both jobs and cities bring, I had little time to spend with them those final few weeks.  And that last Sunday seemed to arrive so quickly.  I wish I knew what the formula was—How much do you owe those who car for you?  How can you repay someone for their devotion?  Can it ever be enough?  (Lights up.  Dinner has just been eaten.  Emma and Aida clear the remaining plates off the table.  Nunzio and Nick enter the living room.  Nick’s carry-on luggage rests near the door.)

NUNZIO.        Nicky, I hope you noticed—in your honor, your grandfather put on the air conditioner today.

NICK. I thought I could breathe.

AIDA.  Was a beautiful meal, wasn’t it, Nicholas?

NICK. Stunning, Nan.

EMMA.           We made all your favorites.  You’re not gonna get a meal like that in Seattle, Nicky.

NICK. I know that, Nan.  I’m sorry.

EMMA.           Nicky, honey—no, you’re not sorry.

NICK. No Nan, I am, I am—

EMMA.           Maybe you feel bad for us, because you love us, but you’re not sorry.  You have a wonderful life ahead of you in Seattle—why waste time being sorry?  If I was sorry for every sad thing that happened in my life, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed anymore.  One thing I know for sure, Nicky, you can’t keep the people you love most around forever.  You can pray and you can scream and you can cry—but you can’t keep them forever.

AIDA.  So Nicholas, did your grandfather tell you?

NICK. What?

AIDA.  He’s selling the car!

NICK. No, he didn’t mention…

AIDA.  He tried driving the other night and he dented the back fender—thank God no one was killed!  (Aida exits into the kitchen.)

EMMA.           Oh and Nicky, before you forget, I got you another mass card.

NICK.             I wouldn’t have left town without one, Nan—(Frank enters and crosses to his chair.)  Gramps—Nan just told me you’re selling the car.

FRANK.          I’m bored with driving.

NICK. That’s terrific, Gramps.  I would’ve been worried about you.

FRANK.          Don’t.  Don’t you ever worry about me.

NICK. Well—the taxi should be here any minute.  (Aida enters, carrying a large pan.)

AIDA.  Nicholas, for the plane trip, I made you a lasagna.

NICK. Nan, I can’t take a lasagna on the plane.

AIDA.  Fine, I’ll mail it to you.

NICK. You’re gonna put a lasagna in the mail?

EMMA.           I just mailed your sister twelve pounds of fettuccine alfredo.

NICK. All right, all right – (Car horn beeps.)  Well, that’s me.  (Nick gives Aida, then Emma, then Nunzio, a hug.)  So—I’ll see you all soon—real soon—so no “good-byes”—okay?  No “good-byes”.

NUNZIO.        Good-bye, Nick.

NICK. Gramps.

NUNZIO.        I forgot the rules!  (Nick takes a step toward Frank.  Frank keeps his distance.)

FRANK.          Tengo famiglia, Nicola.  Tengo famiglia.  You know what that means?  (Nick nods “yes”.  Car horn blows again.  Frank hugs him, hard and quick.) Go.  (Nick begins to exit.)

AIDA.  Call us when your plane lands!

EMMA.           But don’t spend any money!

NUNZIO.        Just let the phone ring twice!

NICK. You’re all really something, you know that?  (A beat.  Nick turns towards them.) I hope you all know—I have to do this.  I have to…(Nick exits.)

AIDA.  I love you, Nicholas!  (We hear the car pull away.  They watch it go for a moment, then sit.  A long beat.)  Who’s hungry?

FRANK.          He’s gone.  How can you think of food now?  (A beat.) Maybe just some provolone.  (Aida exits.)  Everybody goes.  (A spot on Nick.)

NICK. (To audience.)  I caught my flight, and six hours later I was in Seattle, my new home.  And two days later, a fifteen-pound lasagna arrived for me in the mail.  My new job?  Loved it.  And within a month, I started dating Theresa, who I immediately knew was pretty special.  Two months later, I flew back to my grandparents – to attend the funeral of my grandfather, Nunzio.  He died from cancer.  My grandmother told me they had known about it before I moved, but they thought it wasn’t right to burden me with it.  Burden me?  How could they not have said anything?  Anything at all?  If anyone of them did—no question—I would’ve stayed.

AIDA.  (To audience.)  A couple of years after Nicholas left, my Frank passed on.  Emma and I shared dinner together every day for nearly a year after that, until she, too, suffered a severe stroke.  God rest them.  I still cook two meals a day for myself, and I make something a little special on Sunday.  And I still see my Nicholas.  Because of his job, he flies to New York often, and he always pays his grandmother a visit.  (Nick enters the living room.)

NICK. Nan, it’s me!

AIDA.  Nicholas!

NICK. How are ya, Nan!

AIDA.  Oh, you look hungry.  Let me put the ravioli in the water.

NICK. I can only stay a few minutes; I have to catch this flight—

AIDA.  The water’s boiling, it’ll just take a

NICK. Let’s just sit and talk—I have something to tell you.

AIDA.  The ravioli looks beautiful.

NICK. Nan, I’m moving.

AIDA.  Back home?

NICK. To Portland.  I got a wonderful promotion.

AIDA.  Theresa’s going with you?

NICK. No, she’s got to stay in Seattle for now.  We’ll fly back and forth on weekends.  It’s a commuter relationship.  It’s very modern, very annoying.  Nan, I had this idea—move with me to Portland.

AIDA.  Nicholas?

NICK. Your whole life you’ve lived here, Nan.  Taking care of Grandpa.  Come to Portland.  You won’t have to take care of anybody.  There’s no one here for you anymore.

AIDA.  Nicholas, do you know where I always wanted to go for years and years?  Atlantic City.  You grandfather would have not part of such a fancy place.  One day, I left him a plate in the icebox and I went.  And you know what?  I didn’t like it.  The whole time I was there, I was wishing I was backing home, taking care of your grandfather.  I had to, he needed me.  How many people can get to be my age and can say that—there was someone who needed them that much.  I can’t go.  Not from here.  Your grandfather built this house for me.  How can I go?  Stay for dinner.  Please.

NICK. Okay.  (Aida exits into the kitchen.)  Not long after, I achieved what my grandparents considered the greatest accomplishment known to man: I married.  Tengo famiglia.  And now, when Theresa and I sit home in Portland, awaiting the birth of our first child, my mind often wanders back to those few final days spent with my grandparents.  What is most clear to me, is that my grandparents worked every day of their lives to ensure that their family would be more educated and successful than them.  They didn’t foresee that they would elevate me to a life so far removed from their own that they could never quite comprehend who I had become or how I would continue their legacy.  Still, they let me go—they go me to laugh—and to this day, I get great food in the mail.

AIDA.  Everything came beautiful—didn’t it, Nicholas?

 

End of Play.