A one act play.
Pete (short for Peta) Johnson – Female, early 50’s, dark hair, slim, aging well.
Henry Johnson – Farmer, Male, late 50’s, graying, stocky, muscular.
Billy Johnson – Male, 17-years-old, tall, muscular, all American boy next-door type.
Judge – a mutt dog of undetermined age.
Time: Present day
Entire play takes place in a farmhouse kitchen, with sink, stove and fridge off stage, stage left. A heavy kitchen table and three chairs sit center stage. The room is homey, with obviously homemade curtains on the window behind the handcrafted table, and a matching cloth on the table. There is a bowl of apples in the middle of the table. The entry door is stage right.
Scene I opens with Pete puttering around the kitchen, setting the table for a meal. She goes offstage-left presumably cooking, making kitchen noises, i.e. rattling dishes, pots and such, getting plates and utensils, etc. She hums softly to herself. Judge is asleep on the floor in front of the door, stage right.
Henry enters through the door. Judge gets up, half-heartedly wags his tail. Henry reaches down to scratch his head distractedly. Henry has an expression of concern on his face.
HENRY: Hi Pete. What’s cooking?
PETE: (walks over to Henry and kisses him) Supper of course. How is Jenny?
HENRY: (sighs as he sits heavily at the right end of the table) She’s strugglin’. I
had a feel inside her but nothin’ is happenin’ just yet. I’ve called the vet and he’s on his way after he grabs a bite. I caught him on his cell just as he pulled into the driveway. Where’s Billy?
PETE: (places a steaming mug on the table in front of him.) He’s not home from school yet. (She sits down with her own mug across from him at the table.)
HENRY: It’s nearly 6 o’clock, where is he?
PETE: He had practice, maybe it went over.
The door flies open with considerable force and Billy enters. Judge jumps up, excited that his master is home. Billy bends down, greets Judge, ruffles the dog’s fur and then throws himself into the chair at his father’s right side, facing the audience.
BILLY: Hey Pop, hey Mom. Guess what?
HENRY: Bill, the vet is on his way. I’ll need your help with Jenny.
BILLY: OK. What’s wrong with her? (He takes an apple from the bowl on the table. He throws it up in the air and catches it.)
HENRY: You know she’s calving. We checked her this morning before you went to school! (Raising his voice exasperatedly)
PETE: Bill, supper’s ready, put that apple back! Why were you so late this evening?
HENRY: We’ll have to eat in a hurry and get out to the barn. Mac should be here by then.
Pete puts a large bowl of stew and a bowl of noodles on the table. She exits stage left and returns with a basket of dinner rolls and a butter dish. She exits again, brings back a pitcher of milk and a bowl of salad and sets it down.
HENRY: I think Jenny may have twins in there and…
BILLY: (interrupting) Don’t you want to hear my news? (He helps himself to noodles)
Pete sits at the left end of the table.
PETE: Billy where are your manners? We’ll say grace first.
Billy stops and puts the noodles back in the center of the table, with only a few on his plate. They join hands and bow their heads.
HENRY: Lord, we thank you for this meal, and all of our blessings. And Lord, if you could keep your watchful eye on Jenny, we would appreciate it. Thank you.
Billy grabs for the noodle bowl again. After helping himself he passes it to Pete, then the stew, and rolls etc. Pete passes to Henry and Henry puts it back in the middle of the table. The conversation continues around this action.
PETE: I want to hear your news but I’m more interested in finding out why you were so late. (Trying to sound stern, but smiling)
BILLY: Mama, that is my news. (His face becomes animated) I was late because I was talking to a rep from Harrington College!
HENRY: (still thinking about the cow) I hope he doesn’t have to cut her open.
BILLY: (looking annoyed) Pop are you even listening? They want to offer me a full scholarship to Harrington if I agree to quarterback for their football team!
PETE: (picks up her fork, then puts it down again on her plate) Billy, don’t talk to your father like that. He’s worried about Jenny.
BILLY: Oh great, the cow is more important than me. I thought my news would be a little more important than a stupid cow!
HENRY: (Seeming to come out of his reverie. Angry now) Now you listen here, young man! That cow provides us with milk and calves to sell at market. She puts money in this house to put clothes on your back and a roof over your head! You wouldn’t even be on the football team if it weren’t for this farm that pays the bills. All of our so-called stupid cows serve a purpose. That’s more than I can say for you lately! You have to be badgered just to do your chores. How long do you think you’ll last in college without someone to remind you to wash behind your ears? When I was your age…
BILLY: (Sarcastically) Yeah, yeah I know. You walked to school barefoot, uphill both ways, and you were glad to come home and work your fingers to the bone.
PETE: (Admonishes) Billy! (In a softer voice) Henry, this is important to Billy.
HENRY: (Still worked up, voice raised, standing up) Yeah well this farm is important to this family and this family has to come first. Billy you were supposed to start learning the operation of the farm after high school so you could take over! What happened to that plan? Some fancy football guy comes along and turns your head away from your responsibilities?
BILLY: (Also stands) But Pop listen. He said I could be Heisman material! He said I’m the best high school quarterback he has ever seen! Coach said there were other colleges interested in me too, and that I didn’t have to take the first one to make an offer.
HENRY: Just how am I supposed to afford to send you to college without your help here on the farm? How am I supposed to do it without you?
BILLY: Pop, they are offering a full scholarship – that means all my expenses will be paid. All I have to do is get a part time job to pay for my food. Plus I could become a veterinarian like I wanted to, and then come back here and take care of all of our livestock and help Doc MacDoogle too. Then when he gets too old, I can take over his practice. It’s only a few years Pop. Besides if I take Harrington’s offer, I can commute to school every day and I will be here on weekends and breaks and during the summers. (Pleadingly) C’mon Pop, you gotta at least consider it. I want a life of my own too. I want to play football!
PETE: (Raising her voice) Now both of you, sit down. We’ll talk about this later. It’s bad for the digestion to argue while you eat.
Lights dim to dark.
* * * * *
Scene II opens in the kitchen, obviously the next day, Tuesday. Henry enters stage right, Pete puts a steaming mug on the table, he bends to scratch the head of the dog, who wags his tail. He sits at his place at the table and Pete sits also, with a matching mug in front of her.
PETE: (Smiling) So how is the new little family doing?
HENRY: (Smiling broadly) The three of them are fine. Those two boys are just as pretty as a picture. They’ll fetch a fine price in six months. And Jenny is the perfect Mama. She watches them like a hawk, washin’ and nudgin’ them. She knows that soon they won’t need her as much so she’s takin’ advantage of it while she can. (He sips his coffee.)
PETE: (She gets a knowing expression on her face) Hmmm. Gosh, that sounds so familiar. Why do I feel a sense of déjà vu? (Slapping the table) I know! It’s sounds just like us and Billy! (Smiling softly, in a soft voice) Yup, we been washin’ and nudgin’ him for a while now, knowing that soon, one day, he wouldn’t need us as much, and we would have to let go. What do you think, sound familiar?
HENRY: (Gruffly) Aww Pete, what are you sayin’? You want me to let the boy go and play football?
PETE: Yes, dear. I want you to let the boy go and play football, or drive a dump truck, or anything else he wants to do with his life. We have to let him go sometime, we may as well do it with a smile. Besides, I know how much you love him, and it would kill you if you thought you made that boy unhappy. Besides, you know your son. If you told him he couldn’t go to Harrington, he wouldn’t go. And he would make the best of it too. We raised him right Henry. He would suck it up and act like he wasn’t disappointed at all, all the while, he would be hurt and crying inside. Do you really want to live with that?
HENRY: (Frowning) When I was his age I didn’t have any choices. (His face clears and he chuckles) That’s probably exactly why I should let him choose, shouldn’t I?
PETE: You are so smart Henry Johnson! I knew you would figure out what to do eventually. I love you.
HENRY: I love you too. And for the record, you’re just too smart for your own good!
PETE: Well, I have to go and fold clothes. Supper will be ready in about half an hour.
Pete exits stage left. Billy enters stage right. Judge jumps up to greet him, and he ruffles his fur as before.
BILLY: Hey, Pop. How ya doin’? (He throws himself into his chair)
HENRY: Hey, son. How was school? Did you have practice today?
BILLY: School was good. I got an A on my chemistry test. Pop, we have practice every day. We’ll be playing Ridgeland High this Friday. You comin’ to the game?
HENRY: Wouldn’t miss it.
BILLY: (Leaning forward, laying his arms on the table) Pop, I’m sorry I yelled at you last night. I didn’t really mean to be disrespectful, I just got carried away.
HENRY: Son, I owe you an apology too. I didn’t really mean to disrespect your hopes and dreams. I have come to realize, (smiling) with a little help from someone who will remain nameless, (clears his throat, serious again) that your Mama and I have almost finished our job of raising you up. Soon it will be time for us to take the job of just watchin’ the results of that raisin’. You’re a good boy, son. Smart, and a great athlete. If you feel you need to go to play football and get your education, then I have no choice in all good conscience but to let you pursue that dream. No one ever let me pursue my dreams. Did you know I used to want to be a Major League Baseball Pitcher when I was a kid?
BILLY: You did? I never knew.
HENRY: Oh yeah. My Pop gave me the same speech I was spoutin’ last night. I thought it sounded familiar. I have finally become my father. Good God!
BILLY: (smiling) Pop, if I turn out to be just like you, it won’t be so bad.
Henry looks at Billy for a moment, smiles, wipes at his eyes. Pete enters stage left. She notices a palpable calm as she looks at the man and boy seated at the table.
PETE: (smiling but sternly) You boys better get washed up for dinner. You still got chores to do afterwards, Billy. You too, Henry. Supper will be on the table when you come down.
Lights dim to dark.