I form a lot of families over the course of a year. Tis the nature of the theater and film world; for anywhere from a week to several months, a group of people will gather as strangers, become a family of greater/lesser functionality/disfunctionality, and put on a show or make a movie.
Behold my latest family:
My latest collection of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles include the combined forces of the Playwrights Center of San Francisco and Wily West Productions. Laylah Muran, in the bottom right, performs the combined role of theatrical mastermind/overworked Executive Producer, whilst the rest of the gang (not including yours truly) consists of playwrights, directors and sundry personnel.
They have selected my very short one-act play The Duck for a festival of short works in June. Even better news, I have a very good director in Wes Cayabyab (extreme left).
Funny thing is, The Duck is a play about family, inspired by a rather chilling document called NISMART-2 (2nd National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children–and yes, I wrote “Thrownaway”). Two FBI agents want to solve a 24-year-old missing person case, but the woman they interview (at age 7 she survived a murder attempt at the cost of permanent retrograde post-traumatic amnesia) refuses to cooperate. Herewith I present the first half of the play: the rest shall follow tomorrow.
a one-act play by Vonn Scott Bair, copyright 2013, all rights reserved.
- HOPE JUDITH HAUSER: Born circa 1968, any race, ethnicity
- AGENT DEMARCO: FBI, any age, race, gender, ethnicity
- AGENT FREDRICKSEN: FBI, any age, race, gender, ethnicity
- TIME: December 1999.
- SETTING: Exterior of HOPE’S home. Duck-themed decor.
(LIGHTS UP. ENTER DEMARCO and FREDRICKSEN.)
DEMARCO: Guy said, “Just look for the house with lots of ducks.”
(DEMARCO rings the doorbell.)
DEMARCO: Duck theme mail box, duck theme address plaque, knocker, doorbell, custom-designed welcome mat. Lots of ducks.
(ENTER HOPE JUDITH HAUSER from the same direction with shopping bags. She sees the detectives, stops, stands behind them at a distance. No facial expression.)
FREDRICKSEN: Mat’s upside down. Faces the house, not the visitors.
DEMARCO: And that does not represent a typical welcome message.
FREDRICKSEN: “Don’t give up. Don’t let go.” Not normal.
FREDRICKSEN: Message is for her, not us.
DEMARCO: No question. (Pause.) Think about it. Our last case of the year, on the last week of the last year of the millennium, and the first case ever that might have a happy ending.
(FREDRICKSEN knocks again. DEMARCO turns around.)
DEMARCO: Hope Judith Hauser?
HOPE: You’re police, and you come from another state.
FREDRICKSEN: FBI. Agent Fredricksen, Minneapolis office.
DEMARCO: DeMarco, also representing Minneapolis. How did you know?
HOPE: Only the law uses my middle name.
FREDRICKSEN: You must get a lotta visits from our kind.
DEMARCO: And we came for the same reason as the rest. First, we need to verify your, um, state of mind, if that’s the correct-
HOPE: Yes, yes, yes, I remain a retrograde post-traumatic amnesiac, with no memory of my life before I woke up in a hospital 24 years ago on July 20, 1975.
DEMARCO: We have a very unusual assignment. For us. We just need to take a quick DNA swab and we’ll get out of your way.
FREDRICKSEN: You know better’n us how quick these go, and we can do it–right–here–Ms. Hauser?
DEMARCO: Ms. Hauser, you OK?
(Pause. HOPE has remained absolutely still and motionless during this entire time.)
HOPE: I’m–I’m not–no, I’m. (Pause.) Let me start over. I don’t, don’t–really–demonstrate much–emotion-
DEMARCO: We noticed-
HOPE: -so I have to tell people how I feel. I–just–snapped.
FREDRICKSEN: Thank you for sharing-
HOPE: Total mental breakdown. Except it’s more like an epiphany, and I feel almost good. (Pause.) You can’t have my DNA.
DEMARCO: We’re trying to help a family, and you’ve always cooperated with the law in the past, and-
HOPE: No. This time, I do not cooperate. This time, I help me.
FREDRICKSEN: What is so different this time?
HOPE: Bad timing. Real bad for you. I realized–I can say no. I feel free. And it feels so good. Because I met the Ones who Came After Me Once Too Often. I met you.
For twenty-four years, 15, 20 times a year, you come after me. Shut up and listen! I am the only one who counts…
Over 50,000 children go missing every year. There must be hundreds of thousands of families with missing children. They all want them back. The families–come after me. They need me. They need their hope, wishes, dreams–they need me. Families who lost a daughter any age except mine, lost a daughter any year except 1975, lost a daughter with different hair, different skin, they, they, they–come after me.
Because I might be the one…
I am not the one. Not now, not ever.
And thank you ever so much for coming two days before the first anniversary of the night a drunk driver killed my parents in an accident CRASH AND BURN and he wasn’t even scratched but just try to get the smell of burnt flesh out your mind and the drunk with six DUIs SIX on him and a liter of vodka in him was joking about barbeque sauce and thank you for helping me smell the accident right here and right now just two days before and he had drunk a liter of vodka my parents killed for the price of one liter of cheap liquor and go back wherever you came from and tell that family their daughter is lost lost lost lost LOST AND THEY HAVE TO GET REAL AND DEAL WITH IT THEIR DAUGHTER IS LOST AND THEY WILL NEVER GET HER BACK tell all those hundreds of thousands of families to JUST ACCEPT THAT THEY ARE GONE AND THEY ARE NEVER COMING BACK and maybe they don’t want to go back maybe they ran away because their families abused them or neglected them or maybe they were just too plain BORING and life is nothing but DEATH and loss just GET USED TO IT and you came here two days before the first anniversary my parents are gone BURNT and…
There was a time when I enjoyed dashing hopes, when I wanted your kind to visit so I could disappoint another family that would not leave me alone.
Now, I just want you to stay away. Forever.
The worst part is I feel the same hurt as these families. They can’t think about the chance that I might be their missing daughter without reliving the hurt of their loss, and I feel how it hurts when their hope gets crushed yet again–my name is a pitiful JOKE–and maybe I only feel one or two per cent of the sorrow, grief and pain each family feels, but I have felt the sorrow, grief and pain of hundreds of families and I have inflicted sorrow, grief, and pain upon hundreds of families and I can’t take it anymore and I just want you to GO AWAY AND STOP HURTING ME MY FAMILY WILL NEVER BE FOUND AND THESE FAMILIES WILL NEVER FIND THEIR CHILDREN and stop causing all this hurt and YOU and all the rest of YOU JUST GO AWAY!!
He joked about barbeque sauce.
These children are lost, and they will stay lost. Forever.
There is no hope.
(HOPE sits on the welcome mat, ducks her head, curls up into a tight little ball. Long pause.)
HOPE: You have a warrant. Your ilk always does. You’ve never needed it before, but you need it now, so shove it in my face and force me. Just do it and get out of my life.
(FREDRICKSEN starts to reach inside a pocket for the warrant, but DEMARCO stops this with a gesture.)
DEMARCO: We prefer that you choose to help. (Pause.) Hope, we said this was an unusual case for us. We did not say why.
END OF PART I.