Off

Affects of Post Traumatic Slave Disorder

Off

OFF

by

Andre N. Jones

CHARACTERS

DODSON CARR A pilot. A drunk. Conflicted by guilt and his inner demons.

HEARD BUT NOT SEEN

MYRA CARR Dodson's wife. An accomplished artist.

DESMOND JOHNSON Millionaire brother of Pastor Johnson.

CADET 1 Military school classmate

CADET 2 Military school classmate

CADET 3 Military school classmate

SERGEANT HAYES Military school Drill Sergeant

DR. LANE Psychiatrist

PASTOR JOHNSON Dodson's surrogate father

NEWS ANCHOR News reporter

VOICE various/ medical doctor/friend

BOY young Dodson

KARL Childhood rival

PORTER Train porter

SETTING

A bare stage

TIME

Now

ACT I

Scene 1 present

Scene 2 present

Scene 3 present

Scene 4 present

Scene 5 present

SCENE 1

(We hear the roar of the jets of a plane and the voice of the pilot.)

DODSON

I can't hold it! I'm losin it. We're goin down!

(The roar gets louder. A loud booming sound. A single pool of light comes up on a man, Dodson, seated. He holds a bottle.)

DODSON(sings)

The Bravest man...

(Takes a drink)

In the universe...

(Takes another drink)

Is the one...

(Begins to cry)

Who has forgiven first...

(Pause)

I wasn't supposed to be there. I-I-I-I just went in to get my- you know how you feel naked without your phone?

(Takes a drink)

It was four in the m-m-morning... Figured I get in. Go to my locker. Get my phone. Call Nikki...

(He chuckles. Takes another drink. Sings.)

I knew a girl named Nikki/

I guess you could call her a sex fiend/

I met her in a hotel lobby massssquerading in a...

(Pause. Tries to remember the words. Shakes his head)

I d-don't know. I'm not perfect. I'm a man... You know? Imagine being married and not being able to-

(Hangs his head. Swishes the bottle around. places it on the ground firmly. Crosses to a jacket sprawled out on the stage. Reaches into the pocket. Pulls out his wallet. Pulls out a picture.)

This- this is my Myra. Beautiful right? It's been three years si- Don't judge me! M-M-M-Myra was on her early morning jog. She had let me sleep in- cause it was my day off you know? I-I-I don't know what it was- I just woke up. I-i-i-it was six thirty in the morning. She normally got back around six fifteen...

(He smiles.)

I guess I shot up cause sh-sh-she usually would get back and shower- and get back in the bed wearing next to nothing... I-I-I miss that. I mean she coulda wore anything- I'm talking about the warmth- the- the- the fresh sent- the- the- the comfort- yeah that's what is was...

(He stares off into space)

Every day off... Well I went into the kitchen- I-I-I don't know why. I can't cook. I burn toast on the lowest setting... And was barely awake you know? I mean uber groggy- like looking in the fridge right over the egg carton talkin about where are the eggs- yeah, I was messed up- and I turned on the TV! I-I-I never do that in the morning- but what caught my eye was the news cameras were showing my block- I-I-I mean, right down the stre-

(He looks at his watch)

Where is she?

(We hear a news report)

NEWS ANCHOR(V.O.)

-Apparently a car jumped a curb...

(Knocks on the door)

DODSON

Just a minute!

(More knocks)

NEWS ANCHOR

-Spinning out of control...

(More knocks)

DODSON

I'm coming I said!

(A voice from off)

VOICE

DODSOOOOOOOOOON!

DODSON

Where is-

NEWS ANCHOR

-Hit a pole killing the driver instantly...

VOICE

Dodson come quick!

(Dodson exits. News report continues.)

DODSON

(Beat)

(From off)

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

NEWS ANCHOR

-Sources say a woman jogging through the park is pinned between the pole and the car. She is breathing faintly. Paramedics at the scene have no idea how she is alive. Fireman are frantically cutting through the frame of the vehicle... This just in- the woman is speaking... She repeats one word... Dodson?

(Blackout. In black we hear a helicopter. Then beeps and a breathing machine.)

SCENE 2

(In black the beeps continue, almost like a metronome for Dodson's melody.)

DODSON

M-M-M-Myra was an artist. Her specialty was collage. She'd meticulously cut paper from magazines, news papers...

(He chuckles.)

Popsicle wrappers... And sh-sh-sh-she'd somehow paste it all together like puzzle pieces- but it had layers- so that the colors from underneath would b-b-b-bleed through to the top... That's what she would say. But the pieces looked like photographs when she got done... Th-th-th-then you'd walk up close to it and you could see that she had pasted things really close together... I-i-i-it would take her eight months to a year to finish one piece... That's what she called them. B-b-b-but I just called them paintings. Brush strokes made of paper... Sh-sh-sh-she did a nude once- two figures- a male and a female. The male was patterned after me. I posed for it once on my day off...

(Lights shift down. We hear a voice over dialogue.)

MYRA(V.O.)

Hee hee hee ha ha! Honey relax.

DODSON(V.O.)

I've never done this before.

MYRA(V.O.)

Don't be nervous.

DODSON(V.O.)

Easy for you to say. Your fully clothed.

MYRA(V.O.)

You're beautiful.

DODSON(V.O.)

Not as beautiful as you.

MYRA(V.O.)

Would make you feel more comfortable if I-

(We hear a zipper unzipping and cloth dropping. Lights shift up. Dodson smiles. Sings.)

DODSON

A smile/

As bright/

As the sun's golden rays/

Eyes that pierce your soul/

With their innocent gaze/

Her radiance a glow/

And her presence does match/

Her spirit sparks reflection/

Like the flickering flame of a match/

She supports me with the strength/

Of her loving arms/

And my heart/

Will to her always belong/

Because she's beautiful/

She's beautiful you see/

Her love's unusual/

It makes me feel so free/

Beautiful beautiful/

Beau- ti- ful and I can see.../

(He hugs himself. Looks off in the distance. Face goes blank. Beeps fade.)

Who'd a thought a k-k-k-kid from the slums- who never knew his parents- never became a ward of the state- who'd a thought that kid w-w-w-would get so lucky.

(Lights shift.)

I was a demon... No I ain't have a foul m-m-m-mouth. But imagine feelin worthless 24/7... Stealin everything you needed... To eat- to have clothes- shoes... Rotatin from sleepin at the bus terminal to the train station, and hospital emergency room lobbys every week- or just walkin the streets at night- all night. Now imagine that, that is your reality and you're six years old...

(Lights shift. A boy's voice is heard. He talks to himself. Dodson moves his mouth as the boy's voice speaks.)

BOY(V.O.)

Can't trust nobody! G-g-g-gotta keep movin. Anybody axe any questions? Run.

(Glass breaks. An alarm sounds. We hear footsteps running and heavy breathing. Dodson is physically running in place. As the sound of the alarm fades, the footsteps slow until all that's left is the breathing. We hear the crackle of a candy wrapper and the moan of the boy enjoying eating. Lights shift back.)

DODSON

What? It was a Snickers... E-e-e-every time I walked passed Mr. Walt's TV repair shop I'd see the commercials- and they'd make 'em look so goooood- with the gooey carmel strechin across the scr-scr-scr-screen- roasted peanuts and m-m-m-milk choca- It was temptation in the highest form and I hadn't eaten in three days... So I enjoyed it. Every single b-b-b-bite! I was off in a fantasy land of taste...

(Lights slowly shift down. He puts his hand up to shield his eyes. Dodson's face becomes a mask of horror. He shakes. Beat. Beat. Beat.)

G-g-g-get away from me. Get away from me! Wh-Wh-Wh-Who are you?

PASTOR JOHNSON(V.O.)

On de con-trar-y. Da ques-tion is who are you?

(The voice echoes.)

DODSON

You ever have a situation where e-e-e-everything about it seemed dangerous but you feel a sort a calm? L-l-l-like your brain and body are fighting for dominance? Yeah, yeah I felt that right then- and I Know- I know I t-t-t-told myself to run, but I couldn't. Guilt cemented my feet in place- and the only th-th-th-thing that kept my bladder from releasin was there wasn't nothin there. Shhhhhhhhucks, most of the Jamaicans I knew were hard- a-a-a-and here I am in a alley with one lookin down at me...

PASTOR JOHNSON(V.O.)

Be cuu-el lit-tle one. Eaa-sy.

DODSON

He was a pastor. Pastor Dwight Johnson. Th-th-th-the strangest cat I knew. Told me he started patrollin the streets, cause God told him h-h-h-his children needed someone to watch over them in the hood. That's how he found me. H-h-h-he was dressed in plain clothes- and he ain't have no Bible in his hands- and he ain't know I had shank- and J-J-J-Jesus wasn't savin this sinner tonight...

PASTOR JOHNSON(V.O.)

Brudah why doo I al-waiys see youu ouwt at nieght? Huh?

DODSON

I'm thinkin keep talkin. Come on. G-G-G-Get a little closer. The shepherd gonna need someone to watch over him in a minute. Get out your dancin shoes cause Jesus gonna tango tonight... And this guy- o-o-o-outta nowhere, drops to his knees. Eyes closed and bowed head- mouth was movin but he said nothin- and I l-l-l-lookin at this. He really threw me off- c-c-c-cause now I'm thinkin "Are you kiddin me?" Y-y-y-you're gonna come down to my level- unarmed- I'm scared outta my mind- a-a-a-and I got a knife?...

(Indicates to his head.)

Off...

(He stands in a defensive posture. He cocks his head to the side. pulls a knife from his back pocket. He looks at the knife and appears to decide to use it. We hear church chimes in the melody of "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power." Dodson pauses. As the song plays, he drops the knife. Song fades.)

I don't know what it was about that song- i-i-i-it penetrated something deep down- and I h-h-h-heard a voice embedded in the tones... I had never heard the song before- not that I knew of... But th-th-th-that night I sang- and the words just flowed out of me... Like they had been locked up in storage and someone discovered them after b-b-b-breakin the lock off-

(We hear the Pastor's voice.)

PASTOR JOHNSON(V.O.)

Come bruddah. God has so much in store for youu.

(Dodson sits. Beat.)

DODSON

Th-th-th-that was the first time in my memory that anyone cared for me. Spent s-s-s-seven years of my life growin up in the Pastor's care... First time I went to the d-d-d-doctor and the dentist. First time I showered everyday. F-f-f-first time I went to school... I hated it... Th-th-th-the kids always pickin on the new kid on the block...

(Beat.)

The only good thing about school was I was introduced to my man H.I.P.

(Spontaneous Breakbeat drops.)

Yeah... Hypnotic intoned prose... Better known as Hip-hop. Pastor Johnson raised me but H.I.P. Was my ultimate instructor...

Hey, yo, breath control/

Spitin verbs in the wind/

Come in contact with my verse/

The eighth deadly sin/

Like war/

People screamin yo, what for/

Overthrow the power whore/

Verse bombs shock and awe/

Boom bip/

Bash words while emcees fall/

Rhyme infantry can't get to or over the wall/

Slip slide in the mud duck hide army crawl/

Dot dot diddy dot dot dash s.o.s/

Try and guess/

I grip the microphone hear what I express/

Yes/

Live and in color... first son shinin bright/

The rough neck chicken's gonna win the cock fight/

Hyp-not-ic intoned prose expression/

Ca-thar-tic verse cures aggression/

Straight off the dome/

Rhyme is my home/

Built at the speed of thought/

Beat's my life/

Afro-naut hair thick and taut/

Spit walls reinforced metaphor brick wrought/

Magic in melodic lines with what I taught/

To prove misfits might mastermind mix brainious/

Tips of lips dip hips while ears take sips spontaneous/

(Fade breakbeat. He smiles.)

L-l-l-learnin to read and do arithmetic was like dental surgery. But writin was a release. I-I-I-I mean, you had to pay attention to words- how many definitions were there of 'em? How were you bendin them to your will? A-a-a-and ultimately how were you composin them against a opponent? I'd spend hours in the dictionary- and then I found a thesaurus... Woo! S-s-s-synonyms, antonyms, homonyms all lined up for me to devour like- like a b-b-b-bag of skittles...

(Beat.)

One day I was bein p-p-p-picked with right? Cause although Pastor Johnson was a good dude, he was still livin off of what $20,000.00 a year? So, I'd get my clothes from thrift shops, you know somebody's used garanimals sets, toughskins an pro-keds. That was if I was lucky. Most of the time, on my feet, I wore Boomdockers. Y-y-y-yup, that's what they called 'em back then. I was two decades early on Timberlands... O-o-o-other kids was wearin Izod polo shirts, Jordashe or Sassoon jeans and Nike or Addidas sneakers- which only made me stick out like the tongues of everybody teasin me...

(We hear the sound of children teasing. Dodson yells out.)

I challenge any one of ya'll to a rhyme battle! Any takers?

(Silence. He speaks to us.)

See Hip-hop was new. B-b-b-but it was the coolest thing. Emcees- I mean true emcees that could flow- had lyrics, timing and punchlines- were like superheroes. Besides, I-I-I-I wasn't physically fightin. Already went that route... A few times. I-i-i-in fact, if I had gotten suspended this ti-

(Pastor Johnson speaks.)

VOICE(V.O.)

Bruddah why? Why bruddah? Why doo youu throw awaiy yur liefe soe eas-iley? I'm af-raid that if yur not gonna chainge I maiy haf tu send youu tu DHS huh? Straigh-ten youu ouwt, huh?

(Dodson hangs his head.)

Look at me.

(He raises his head.)

The best waiy tu win a fieght is tu not have one. The best waiy tu not have one is tu walk awaiy...

(Dodson looks at us.)

DODSON

W-w-w-walk away. I been walkin the streets my whole life- and most of that walkin was cause of fear. I mean, th-th-th-the good Pastor usually had the answers but this time- this time I was gonna stand. I was gonna stand and let my vocabulary fight for me... I waited and one dude stepped up. Karl. Karl Hamilton. N-n-n-now Karl had the whole school in the palm of his hand. He was athletic, good looking, charming but his rhyme skills were corny. H-h-h-he got a pass cause, well you know... We were thirteen. I decided I didn't just need to beat him. I needed to embarrass him...

KARL(V.O.)

Tryna battle me's like climbin Mt. Everest/

You can't even see the top/

Before you're laid to rest/

I'm the best of the best/

Suggesting you're competition/

Surely you must jest/

Clothes outta date/

Can't pass the litmus test/

Son of a Preacher man/

Meet self made man/

Bow down I'm your idol/

Karl my title/

Your rep I'll never save/

Fallen to Hamilton the epitaph on your grave/

(Crowd oohs. Dodson holds his index finger in front of his lips. The crowd quiets. )

DODSON

Hey yo, rhyme for rhyme/

Dime for dime/

Choice cuts/

What's the beef?/

T-bone or prime?/

My voice rings on the wind/

Like a chime/

Razor sharp formations of the alpha-bet/

I have to get/

Accurate and on point time after time/

The Prince of warriors speaks/

With the voice of many/

Love to tell a vision/

But I never won a Emmy/

Lint lined pockets/

But wisdom is good and plenty/

Still kick the lyrical/

High drama spiritual/

Deep dark political/

Abstract and literal/

Commentary/

I'll make it very/

Simple to digest/

Pen pressed/

To manifest/

Truth you will confess/

Your sins...

(Silence. Beat. A collective gasp from the crowd. Then laughter. We hear Karl's voice over the crowd.)

KARL

It's not funny! Shut up. Shut up! SHUT UP!!!

(Laughter echoes and fades out.)

DODSON

Yeah, I went off. I mean, I was just tryna show off my skill. Then at midnight...

(Lights shift down. A phone rings. Dodson's face changes to a mask of fear. We hear a congregation singing "In the Cross." The congregation voices fade out after the chorus. Dodson sings the verse solo.)

Jesus keep me near the cross/

There's a precious fountain/

Free to all/

A healing stream/

Flows from calvary's mountain/

It was a small ceremony. K-k-k-karl had apparently been abandoned at birth too. Mom was mentally ill. Pops believed to have been a heroine addict- whereabouts unknown. O-o-o-only difference between us was a doting grandmother- who spoiled him... Wanted him to have the best of e-e-e-everything- but she never thought about how the outward image could be shattered. Still no one c-c-c-coulda known he would consider cuttin his wind... Off.

(We sounds of the leader board at a train station. P.A. Announcer. General foot traffic and background conversation.)

ANNOUNCER(V.O.)

The 3:15 Acela train from New York to Washington D.C. Is arriving on track nine. Please have tickets ready for inspection... Thank you for taking Amtrak.

PORTER(V.O.)

All aboard.

DODSON

So much for DHS. Th-th-th-this was worse. Fork Union Military School. Great. Now instead of prayin we didn't get jacked on the streets, I-I-I-I was prayin not to die from cafeteria food, calisthenics and ranking officers' bad breath... A far cry from Snickers for dinner.

(We hear companies marching and cadences. Dodson marches. Cadences fade. He salutes.)

I-i-i-in the army of the LORD I learned to love people. That sometimes life doesn't spell things out- and measurin a man ain't a-a-a-about where he ended up. It's about distance travelled. Essentially we don't have the l-l-l-liberty or authority to write someone off. The military institutes a v-v-v-very different discipline...

(He starts doing push ups.)

Here it's about precision. Execution. B-b-b-be perfect at your task.

(He stops and spins into a sitting position. )

Ya see Carr, practissse doesssn't make perfect. Practissse makesss permanent. What you practissse, you will permanently do. Perfect makesss perfect...

(He does several sit ups and laughs then continues speaking.)

I don't know why he drew out h-h-h-his s's like that. I guess he thought it made him intimidating. I-i-i-it was just funny to me.

(Finishes his sit ups. lays back and grunts.)

It was s-s-s-simplistic thought process. Had some merit, but the assumption is that everyone wants to execute. L-l-l-like no one has flaws. It also didn't take into a-a-a-account the individual learning curves for everybody. It was basic, crude duplication.

(He stands up.)

But Sergeant Hayes wasn't to blame. H-h-h-he was only givin what had been given to him. He had been the perfect military man. H-h-h-he tried to make the same outta me- but after bein on my own on the streets I knew too much about myself as an individual...

SERGEANT HAYES(V.O.)

When I point to you, I want you to tell me who you are. Starting over here.

CADET 1(V.O.)

Sir, Cadet Anson Peterson, Sir, Medic.

CADET 2(V.O.)

Sir, Cadet Brett Williams, Sir, Aviation mechanic.

CADET 3 (V.O.)

Sir, Cadet Roland Farnesworthy, Sir Communications

DODSON(V.O.)

Dodson Carr, I'm a human being. Pleasure to meet you... Sir.

(Snickers.)

SERGEANT HAYES(V.O.)

Silence! Cadet Peterson!

CADET 1

Yes sir?

SERGEANT HAYES(V.O.)

Lead thisss company in drillsss.

CADET 1

Yes sir!

(We hear the company marching.)

SERGEANT HAYES(V.O.)

Carr!

DODSON

Yes Serg?

SERGEANT HAYES (V.O.)

You ssstay here. I want thisss dormroom cleaned from top to bottom- and when you're finished with that, clean the latrine. Do I make myssself clear?

(Silence. Dodson's lips tremble.)

DODSON

Sir, yes sir!

(He salutes. Beat. He turns to us.)

Can you i-i-i-imagine working for twenty five years- followin every order and never movin past the rank of Sergeant? I guess your sense of humor gets eroded after a w-w-w-while. I mean, emotions have to be kept in air tight- a-a-a-and you're just a human... Doing. Basic, c-c-c-crude, duplication. Like following steps in a algebraic equation. Y-y-y-you simplify and hope that in doing so you strip away anything that can complicate solvin the problem.

(He chuckles.)

The problem... Th-th-th-the problem is robots can do, and do, and do until their gears and circuits are worn. But e-e-e-even they need maintenance. But we're talkin about a m-m-m-man trainin countless kids- watchin them leave the academy- and some of them very kids he t-t-t-trained come back and hold rank over him. Plus, most of those kids ain't never b-b-b-been in combat- but you fought in Vietnam. Now imagine you been on meds since you b-b-b-back in the states. And that m-m-m-medicine is to control neurological condition you lied about on the school teaching application. Now imagine that the Major a-a-a-above you was on the selection committee- knows your secret and h-h-h-happens to be related to the Pastor that sent this kid- who just disrespected you in front of a c-c-c-company of other kids. How much would it take to set you... Off?

(Semi-automatic weapon's fire. Blackout.)

SCENE 3

(Lights up. Dodson stares off into the audience blank faced. Beat. Beat.)

DODSON

S-s-s-sergeant Hayes let loose at the graduation exercises. Five cadets and three parents bought it before he got taken down... Sad. He was y-y-y-yelling "The Gook's got a bomb!" "The Gooks's got a bomb!" We could see he was n-n-n-not all there- and he wasn't gonna stop. Nope. They had to stop him. It was later released publicly th-th-th-that he had stopped takin his meds about a week before. I mean, there were rumors a-a-a-about him bein unfocused before You know just a little off but no one w-w-w-want to believe we could have seen this comin... They offered us counseling. A-a-a-and it helped- helps but trauma- it follows you. Haunts you. Like- yeah like the character Sam in ghost? You start wonderin about o-o-o-other dimensional, paranormal stuff you know? I mean, it's a normal thing... To wonder. To consider that there might be other p-p-p-possibilities beyond this...

(He crosses to a lounge chair.)

So I see this psychiatrist and she is- I mean, bang! Pow! And I m-m-m-mean, her calves bulge like- she- sh-sh-sh-she was a dime! I'd be lyin if I said I didn't look forward to sessions with her. Couldn't tell you the f-f-f-first thing we talked about. I think she was a hypnotist n-n-n-not a psychiatrist- She had this voice- like- yeah like i-i-i-imagine a woman with a speakin voice like how Sade when she sings...

(We hear the intro for "Is it a Crime" play. Lights shift dim and blue.)

SADE(V.O.)

This may come/

This may come as some surprise/

But I miss you/

I can see through/

All of your lies/

But still I miss you...

(The song fades.)

DODSON

Now mind you, you're eighteen- and the most experience y-y-y-you have with a woman is tryna make sure homeless women are safe on patrol with Pastor. O-o-o-or havin a crush on the church secretary. And now you're layin on this comfortable c-c-c-couch and you hear this low, raspy but soothing voice askin you questions...

DR. LANE(V.O.)

Hello.

DODSON

You look over and you're like, good God almighty! But you can't say that right? So you t-t-t-try to keep your cool. Check your lips for slobber. And you s-s-s-say "Um h-h-h-hi." "I'm Codson Darr- I mean, Darr Codson- no I m-m-m-mean Dodson Carr."

(He smacks himself in the head.)

DR. LANE(V.O.)

Hello Dodson. Would you like some water? It might help you to relax.

DODSON

And I'm gone. Off... Seein visions of us holdin hands. P-p-p-pickin apples- Sharin a plate of pasta like Lady and the Tramp. A-a-a-and I don't know why- I mean, I don't even like apples. And sharin pasta like that's like d-d-d-drinkin from the same glass with two straws. I mean like eeewe! But I'm off doing that stuff- for forty five minutes. Just bliss and then...

(We hear a an alarm clock bell go off.)

DR. LANE(V.O.)

Well, that's enough for today.

DODSON

And I watched her sashay right outta the room. If I-I-I-I had been Superman, I'd have used my heat vision to burn the door off the hinges.

(He kisses his fingers as a chef would after tasting a great spoonful of something delicious.)

Just nothing wrong with her at all... Well, I go to her for three more weeks. Al-al-al-alright I requested it. But come on. Beauty like that you don't see everyday. And the rhythm of her voice is like- like- yeah like sex on tape- but I was there live... And with my ability to rhyme, I knew I could hook her...

(He speaks to her.)

I-I-I-I wrote this after our session last week. I'm tryna express everything that's got me- you know...

(Beat. He stares lost.)

Oh I'm sorry. Here goes.

(He picks up a book. Reads.)

A beautiful pearl shone bright in the afternoon sky/ The air was fresh/

Like a naughty girl/

Spying on her parents after midnight/

An embraceable day/

Like...

(He Looks up a speaks to us. )

And I don't know w-w-w-what happened. I just started singin.

Embrace me/

My sweet embraceable you/

Embrace me you irreplaceable you/

Just one look at you/

The high grows tipsy in me/

You and you alone/

Bring out the yipsy in me/

I-i-i-it wasn't planned. I swear! But she smiles. And she rubs her legs together slowly- a-a-a-and she says-

DR. LANE(V.O.)

Go on.

(He shrugs his shoulders.)

DODSON

I love all the many charms about you/

Above all I want my arms around you/

Don't be a naughty baby/

Come to Papa/

Come to Papa do/

My sweet embraceable you/

(Silence.)

DR. LANE(V.O.)

I see-

DODSON

She says.

DR. LANE

Would you excuse me for a moment?

(Beat. Dodson nervously taps his fingers together.)

DODSON

Sure... I-I-I-I mean, it's your office... emhumph...

(He speaks to us.)

She sashays out the room... And I'm sittin there...

(He looks toward the door. Then back at us.)

For a while... And the silence is so loud I-I-I-I can hear the clock hands ticking... And I start seein him- Sergeant Hayes with that wild look in his eyes. I swallow real hard- a-a-a-and I suddenly can't breathe. And I hear this noise.

(We hear a toilet flush. Dodson curls up in a ball. We hear the creak of a door opening. Dodson rolls off of the lounge chair onto his knees with his hands up Hyperventilating.)

Yeah.. I was off...

(Blackout.)

SCENE 4

(In black we hear emergency sirens. Lights up. Dodson sits on the edge of the lounge chair.)

DODSON

So I'm on the way to the hospital z-z-z-zooted outta my mind. Lost out on the possibility- I d-d-d-didn't really have a chance. And that little episode actually helped me out... I was considered a medical risk to serve in the armed forces. And w-w-w-while I'm at the hospital the world just goes crazy.

(We hear a news report.)

NEWS ANCHOR(V.O.)

President George Bush has authorized air strikes in Iraq. Alleging that King Sadaam Hussein is a cruel dictator and threat to the world due to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait- with an unknown cache of weapons. Including but not limited to semi automatic guns, powerful land mines and nuclear warheads. All USA military units are on high alert. In other news...

DODSON

Wow! Talk about your close calls. I h-h-h-had just signed up with Selective Service three months before. N-n-n-now we're goin to war. I didn't have to care. I was in the hospital... Loopy. I r-r-r-remember, at one point I was entertainin myself countin the rails on my hospital bed. A-a-a-and when that wasn't good enough, I would play with the bed functions. Up. And dowwwwwwwn. Up. And dowwwwwn. It's was fun... It's f-f-f-fun now actually...

VOICE(V.O.

Well Mr. Carr, we've done a complete evaluation cat scan and you'll be glad to know we ruled out blunt force trauma.

(Dodson looks at us. Hands on his face. A mocking expression. Speech slightly slurred.)

DODSON

Nooooooo Doc. Rweally? Ha-ha. Ha-ha. Ha-haaaaaaa!

VOICE(V.O.)

Yes well, we believe you suffered from PTSD.

DODSON

PC laced with the P? Now Doc, I ain't never took no Hallucthinogenic drugsth... Excthept for whatever you got me on...

VOICE(V.O.)

I supposed I should come back when you're more lucid.

DODSON

I sthupposthe you should. Hee hee heeeeeeee!

(We hear the door creak open and then close.)

I'm surprised I remembered that much. A-a-a-anyway, they send me home after three weeks. And I ain't have no money. But Pastor well he f-f-f-felt bad cause he put me in that situation. So he called his brother- A wealthy businessman... Traded stocks and everything. Now imagine you show up a-a-a-at this huge mansion. And minute you get there you go to introduce yourself. And this man's sitting at a d-d-d-desk- smokin a pipe- and he just starts writin out a check. A five hundred thousand dollar check...

DESMOND(V.O.)

They tell me youu neeid a little braik.

(We hear paper tearing.)

Don't spend it in one plaice. And whatever youu du, maike sure youu get a return on your in-vesstment...

(Beat.)

DODSON

I never saw him again. But I-I-I-I took his advice. I took one hundred grand and invested it. Th-th-th-then I went travelin. Got into art and started a little collection... You know, just kicked it for a few months. Then I invested in myself. I h-h-h-had scored high enough on my ACT. Was in the top 5th percentile nationwide. And the Major- Major Rollins was tellin me I had the makings of gr-gr-gr-great pilot. Quick in mind- athletic and my aviation section of the military battery was near perfect. I applied to the National Aviation Academy d-d-d-down in Clearwater... And I got in. Got there two weeks b-b-b-before I was supposed to start class... Decided I'd ch-ch-ch-check out a exhibit at the Dunedin Historical Museum... I was lookin at some paintin...

MYRA(O.S.)

A man that likes cubism. Interesting.

(He turns toward the voice.)

DODSON

I'm not even sure what cubism is. I just appreciate- woah...

(He turns to us.)

I thought Dr. Lane was beautiful but this woman was st-t-t-t-stunning.

MYRA(O.S.)

Cubism was Piccasso's way of showing three dimensions on a two dimensional plane at the same time. Like painting in cross sections or cubes.

DODSON

I see... Mrs...

MYRA(O.S.)

Miss... Taylor- Myra Taylor.

DODSON

Dodson, I say to her. Dodson Carr. Wow! Th-th-th-the conversation started just like that. I didn't have to get fly with verses o-o-o-or try to manipulate her into sleepin with me. None of that... Well, time marched on and sh-sh-sh-she taught me about sculpture, paintin, drawin and collage...

MYRA(O.S.)

An artist is a scientist who expresses themselves creatively-

DODSON

She'd say to me.

(He shakes his head smiling.)

She was somethin. W-w-w-we started datin while I was in aviation school. During my senior year she g-g-g-got the opportunity to have her own exhibit. Problem was n-n-n-no one wanted to let her use their space. By now m-m-m-my money was long. So I purchased a space- a e-e-e-empty warehouse really. Had enough space for a office and a studio...

MYRA(O.S.)

Oh, Dodson I love it! It's perfect.

DODSON

An artist needs to have their own space.

(He turns to us.)

I-I-I-I felt strongly about that. She needed to be free to create. I-i-i-it was kind of like flying. Open. Free. The command of w-w-w-what happens is in your hands and you intuitively navigate the elements like an artist navigates th-th-th-the canvas, clay or whatever they're working on. So, e-e-e-everything is set. And the opening reception was comin up. My graduation a'int for a f-f-f-few weeks. But I get this job offer...

MYRA(O.S.)

You can't take the job after you graduate?

DODSON

Anything's possible... I guess.

MYRA(O.S.)

You don't need the money.

DODSON

I-i-i-it a'int about the mon-

MYRA(O.S.)

Well then what is it about Dodson? You're talkin about moving to Philadelphia- on the day of my first solo exhibit-

DODSON

I want to fly!

MYRA(O.S.)

And I want you to, but why right now?

(He turns to us. )

DODSON

Now imagine that a-a-a-at that moment you have to tell her you're gonna be g-g-g-gone... For a week and a half...

(Beat.)

I flew out the next day. Sh-sh-sh-she was heartbroken. Made our relationship difficult... Me bein off like that. W-w-w-when I got back, I found out that the exhibit went well. She sold fifteen of twenty five pieces...

(He smiles but the smile quickly disappears.)

But some young vandals b-b-b-broke into the warehouse. Smashed up the other ten. Sh-sh-sh-she wasn't there. She was... Off on an errand somewhere.

(He pulls a ring out of his breast pocket.)

Not the b-b-b-best time to- you know... We eventually did get m-m-m-married and moved here... Took her three years to get back t-t-t-to doin her work... And that nude sh-sh-sh-she was workin on was her first piece when she started workin again... And that was h-h-h-how we started our ritual on my days off. Doesn't matter now... s-s-s-since she's been in the hospital...

(He puts the ring back and pulls out a piece of paper. He stares at it. Balls it up and throws it over his shoulder. He smiles.)

I never wanted Nikki's number. I just took it to be polite... To tell the truth, she turned me off...

(Blackout.)

SCENE 5

(Dodson stands with his hand on his head staring stage right.)

DODSON

So, I'm t-t-tryna leave. I got my phone. And I'm about to leave. Mindin my business and Cliff, this other pilot comes st-st-stumblin into the locker room. I-i-it wasn't unusual to tell the truth. Cliff was the most experienced of all of us- He had flown missions in the gulf war- and he never flew without bein a little buzzed- of course that wasn't known by the company brass... Wasn't known by any of the other pilots either. Nope. H-h-he only told me... Great. Let's put another weight on your already stressed shoulders.

(He chuckles)

He was scared of heights.

(He laughs harder)

That's why he h-h-had to have a drink or two. So he could take the edge o-o-off his inhibitions. Gettin high to get high... The man flew over Baghdad- dropping bombs on targets- evading enemy aircraft at times and in hot pursuit the next- all with a flask of mad dog 20-20 in his vest?

(He shakes his head and chuckles.)

Well, he stumbles in. But he d-d-d-don't look good. I don't mean drunk. I mean sickly... He was wipin st-st-st-stuff outta his eyes. Face was all puffy- and his sk-sk-sk-skin was pale and clammy... Not to mention the embarrassing sounds that were coming from him... Smelled horrible. So, he a-a-a-asks me if i can take this flight for him. It's a short trip. He says. Just u-u-u-up to Buffalo and back. Naw. I said. I'm... I'm off... And I felt bad you know? Cause th-th-th-the guy's turnin into a squid right in front of me... B-b-b-but you gotta see the way I did. I just worked three straight weeks with no break. Tryna be a team player you know?

(Scratches his head.)

I-I-I-I don't know... I mean, each one of the guys did more than their share filling in for me... But the airline? Not so much... I m-m-m-mean my wife, she had the um-

(nervously pats his thigh)

Th-th-th- the um-

(Rolls his wrist to himself.)

You know... And at first they were like; "Sure, take your time." "Of course." "You don't need to think about anything work related right now."

(Chuckles.)

I-i-i-it's funny how people and corporations have a meter on how long you should feel things...

(Shakes his head.)

I s-s-s-sat by Myra's bed for three days.

(Frowns.)

Didn't e-e-e-eat nothin. Just sat there... quiet. Prayin, w-w-w-whisperin to her.

(Stares out as tears well up.)

"Wake up." "P-P-P-Please wake up." "You have to fight for me..." Then I get this phone call...

(We hear a phone ring. Dodson pulls out his cell. Answers it.)

Hello?

(We hear a voice over.)

VOICE

Hey Dodson, you ready to come back to work?

(Dodson looks at the phone. Puts it back to his ear. Fakes like he is the voicemail.)

DODSON

Awe you thought you caught me, but naw I'm not available to speak right now. However, if you kindly leave a message after the beep, I'll be sure to to get back to you... Beep.

VOICE (V.O.)

We had to lay four of our pilots off- budget cuts due to increased expenditures on fuel... a long story. Anyway we saved your job. But to justify saving it, you have to be back to work tomorrow...

(Dodson presses the end button. Puts the phone back in his pocket. He puts both hands on the back of his head. Crosses the stage.)

DODSON

So, I go in...

VOICE (O.S.)

It's a twenty two point nine percent cut in pay. Pension's cut by twenty five percent... Sick leave is unpaid after two days... And you have to pay thirty five percent in co-pay on medical expenses for your spouse or anyone other than yourself in the household...

DODSON

But how am I- W-W-W-What am I supposed to do?

(Dodson turns to the audience.)

I-I-I-Imagine that... Time marches on. I only feel at peace when I'm flying... Y-Y-Y-You know it's something about the sky. Serene... And your mind can wander... off..

(He stands there staring in the distance.)

I see her face... Myra's. A-A-A-And I go back to when I'm sleepin in and she comes in. Takes her shower. G-G-G-Gets in the bed. I feel the warmth of her body pressed against my back. F-F-F-Feel her arms enfold me- and her breath softly grazin my shoulder blades- and I- I'm in sanctuary.

(Beat. He sings.)

You are my friend/

I never knew it til then/

My friend...

(Realizes he was daydreaming.)

Love... D-D-D-Days rush by like bullet trains... I'm flying all the time- I mean, I visit Myra on my days off- which ends up not being often- cause with the cut in pay I need to s-s-s-save the money necessary to pay the difference on the medical expenses- C-C-C-Cause in three months all I had saved before was gone...

(We hear a voice over.)

VOICE

Mister Carr, I think you should consider letting her go.

DODSON

Take her-

VOICE

-Off the machines. Yes.

DODSON

Off?

VOICE

Off...

(Dodson is dumbfounded.)

DODSON

. . .

VOICE (O.S.)

Mr. Carr... Dodson, it's been three years... She's not improving. You haven't been around- and her father-

(He turns to us.)

DODSON

H-H-H-Her father doesn't even know her! Just started comin around three years ago- Her father. Man left before Myra's mother went into labor. C-C-C-Came outta the woodwork when he saw on the news that she had gotten a fifty thousand dollar fellowship f-f-f-for painting. The first day he came to the hospital- the very first day! He come talkin about "So, what you gonna do with the fellowship money?" Pssssssssch! Probably owe somebody...

(He balls his fist. Shakes it in mid air. Sighs. The doctor's voice interrupts his thoughts.)

VOICE (O.S.)

Mr. Carr... Mr. Carr... She's having complications. Her kidneys are shutting down- She keeps taking her feeding tube out- and she's not responsive to any voices... I'm afraid it's time to-

DODSON

Take her... o-o-o-off. If she's dying anyway why should I expedite it? I-I-I-I slept in. I slept in! Do you understand? I-I-I-I couldn't-

VOICE

Mr. Carr I- I know what you must be f-

DODSON

What? What must I be feeling? Since you know so much...

(He curls into a ball. Beat. Beat. Beat.)

I c-c-c-couldn't do it.

(Shakes his head.)

I-I-I-it would've set me off. I mean, I-I-I-I would've felt like a murderer... So, that was three weeks ago. Twenty one days straight. N-n-n-not one day off. And Cliff is... I called an ambulance. I put my phone in my duffle bag. W-w-w-went back to my locker and put on my uniform... I had planned to see Myra- I usually went at six thirty in the m-m-m-morning on any day I had off.

(Smiles uncomfortably.)

I-I-I-I tell myself I'm working for her. Oddly enough my flight departs at six thirty. I'll see her face... I'll find some peace while sh-sh-sh-she just sleeps in. I won't get to come home and shower. I-I-I-I won't be able to slip into the bed behind her- wrap my arms around her and just breathe with her...

(He pats his thigh nervously. We hear a plane taxi on a runway.)

N-n-n-now imagine you're preparing for ascension...

(His phone rings. He thinks about answering but reasons it away.)

You take off. B-b-b-but you know somethin's not right. You get to climbing and as you climb, the blue sky slowly turns dark and uninviting. You reason it away. Y-y-y-you think it's all in your head. And I-I-I-I mean, your timing is o-o-o-off... There's a storm brewin and you're missin little things. Y-y-y-you know the slight variations and adjustments th-th-th-that make the difference between s-s-s-success and... failure. Nothin m-m-m-major in your mind. You're just slightly o-o-o-off.

(We hear a radio voice .)

VOICE (v.O.)

Air traffic control to Alfa Alfa four two six niner niner... Caution: Wake turbulence ahead!

(Thunder. A flash of lightning. Static on the line.)

D---- n---- pro-eed d--ect. R--eat, -o --t p----ed -i--ct. W--ch --r t--ff-c!

(The line goes dead.)

DODSON

Air traffic control, this is Alfa Alfa four two six niner niner. Can you repe- Dead... I tried to sqwak the transponder. Nothin...

(Lightning flash.)

DODSON

Th-th-th-the storm de-magnetized my instrument panel- but I knew I had plenty of fuel. I-I-I-I just needed to get above the ceiling- the clouds and- A-A-A-As soon as I thought that my mind wandered.... off.

(We hear the sound of jets in the distance coming closer. Lightning flash.)

I-I-I-I saw her face in the flash and I froze. She was angry. Then I see another plane descend out of the clouds just above me... The other pilot and I lock eyes. B-b-b-both of us bankin hard to avoid each other. I-I-I-I gotta do this right...

(We hear a screeching and a loud thud.)

Our w-w-w-wings clipped. I looked out and I could see his plane was intact. B-b-b-but to my left I could see I was smokin... Fuselage rutter knocked off... S-s-s-so I'm essentially flyin with one wing. Gotta t-t-t-try to turn around- but I gotta g-g-g-get above the storm first. S-s-s-see if I can get the radio and my instruments back. I p-p-p-pull back as hard as I can and-

(We hear static in the radio. The engine stalls as it drops. Lights dim.)

DODSON (V.O.)

A-a-a-air Traffic control? Anybody? I can't hold it! I'm losin it. We're goin down!

(The roar gets louder. A loud booming sound. Blackout. Emergency worker voices. Sirens mix into breathing machine and beeping sounds. People crying. A single pool of light. Dodson sits on a head stone with his head bowed. Next to him is a headstone that reads: Myra.)

E-e-e-eighty people made it. Th-th-th-thirty families were saved. They say I landed the b-b-b-belly of the plane on a hill just a half mile fr-fr-fr-from where I took off. F-f-f-found me in the captain's cabin six hundred yards away. Now both me and Myra can rest... permanently... off.

(Blackout.)

THE END

selfcarepanic attacksptsdfamilyhumanitytherapydepressioncopinganxietytrauma
Andre N Jones
Andre N Jones
Read next: Never In the Cover of Night