Anne Hamilton/Hamilton Dramaturgy


THE FAMILY BUSINESS, A New Monologue
July 8, 2011, 4:15 pm
Filed under: New Work by Anne | Tags: , ,

THE FAMILY BUSINESS

By Anne Hamilton

© July 8, 2011

Character:  CHUCK WOOD

Place:  His Dining Room Table in rural Minnesota.

Time:  The Present.

(Chuck sits at the table with a glass of milk and a piece of pie in front of him.)

I don’t know. When I started, you know…

It just seemed the right thing to do. It’s what we…do in my family.

I didn’t start by… No, no, you don’t do that.

It started with, you know, pebbles, in the woods. We’d go out to my grandfather’s farm and take a ride with him on his tractor. And then my brother and I would stay down in the meadow and cool our feet in the stream. There was a really cold stream, a “crick” we call it, and it felt so good and cold on a hot summer day.

We were there one day by ourselves, granddad had taken the tractor back to the barn, and my brother said to me, “Hey, you want to do it?”

“Do what?” I replied, my legs dangling in the water.

“Do it. You know, what we do.”

Fear began to overtake me. “No,” I replied, “Not…”

“Yeah,” he said with a mischievous grin on his face. I had never seen him look like that before. But that was the day he had decided we would do it. He would teach me…the family business.

“We can’t…” I said.

“Yeah, we can.  And we will,” he replied.

I swallowed hard.

“Right now?”

“Yeah, right now.” He pointed to a small stone. I’ll never forget it, it was gray, with white spots.

“Pick it up.”

“I can’t.”

“Sissy!” he yelled. “If you’re going to be one of us, you have to learn to do it right!”

My short life flashed before my eyes. My mother’s eyes, warm and loving. My father’s smile, his teeth flashing in that wide open grin. My granddad, walking straight despite his years. And my grandma, making a pie, dusting flour from her hands.

Would I, could I, live up to their expectations?

In a flash, I decided to do it.

I nodded, bent down, and picked up the stone.

“Now aim it this way, and try to make it skip a couple of times,” my brother instructed.

It was good, no, it was right, to have him here with me.

I took good aim, drew my arm back, and…oh, it was no use. I couldn’t go through with it. I wasn’t ready to grow up yet, I wanted to be a kid. Forever. Then I didn’t have to learn this nasty family business, to spend my life/

/“Do it!” my brother insisted. “Grow up. Go ahead.”

And seeing that I couldn’t run past him, or get to the other side of the crick, I did it. It happened so fast I almost didn’t know what happened until I heard the plink of the stone in the water.

The smooth surface rippled with a spreading circle. I knew that the stone was gently falling to the bottom where it would rest for a very long time.

Now that it was over, I felt a knot in my stomach that I hadn’t felt before.

I had done it. I had…chucked something.

(He pauses with his head down, considering deeply what to say next.)

From then on, I chucked bigger and bigger things. An apple at the barn. A baseball into the woods. (Quietly) A Frisbee at a passing car.

My parents responded with a mixture of anxiety and pride. I never knew which one I was going to get. “Nice aim,” my mother said.

“You’re going to pay for that window you broke,” growled my father. “A little to the left, son,” he said the next time the horseshoe missed the pole.

I didn’t care. I was learning, I was chucking, and nothing was going to stop me. I took up the discus at school, competed at all the track meets. I threw the javelin and won state records. I lifted weights and worked on my arms. I could bench press most of my weight and then I turned sixteen and my father said to me, “Son, it’s time”.

My brother had a sharp intake of breath.

My mother’s head jerked almost imperceptibly, but I caught it.

I nodded.

He took me out to the fields behind the house, where he led me through the path. We came to a clearing and I saw a fallen tree. Its guts were spilled out, with rotten bark everywhere. There was a branch. Not a very long branch, but a heavy one.

He pointed. “That’s your one, right there”. And then he pointed to a group of tall weeds in the distance. “Put her right there, son, you can do it”.

And I stepped up to that branch and heaved it up. Pulled my strength together. (He laughs nervously) And I did it. I chucked it. I chucked that wood as far as I could.

Like my father before me, and his father before him. I chucked it. I…chucked…wood.

Yeah, and it was great. I felt good.

(Beat)

I’m glad I learned. Didn’t know if I wanted to do it, but yeah, it felt right. Felt good. I’m glad I did it.

Dad smiled that snarly grin and bit me on the arm. I…wasn’t used to such affection. But I guess he just got carried away with himself. With pride. I…made him feel good, I guess, knowing he has someone – two sons, really – to pass things on to.

We walked home. Didn’t say a word. And Mom was waiting with a hot pie. Blackberry. She glanced into my eyes as she put the plate in front of me. “I gave you extra crust. The kind you like, with the fork marks on it”. She straightened up. “Good job, Chuck,” she said. “Looks like we named you correctly”.

And she smiled.

I bit into the berries, sweet juices and all, sure that I had done a good thing that day.

(He smiles. He reaches down and takes a piece of pie onto his fork. He eats it, chewing slowly.)

(Lights down.)

END OF PLAY.

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