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I wrote this play over four years ago, and I have not looked at it since. I made it for a very specific circumstance, and once that circumstance had passed, I let it go—forgot about it, nearly entirely. And then, because of THE IRON NODER CHALLENGE 7, I remembered it again. Such are the strange blessings of strange challenges, in strange places to which one can find oneself returning after a long, long time. Back when I wrote this piece, I was deeply involved in advocating for “locally grown new plays” (You can read more about that concept here.) I challenged some fellow Seattle playwrights, along with myself, to write something short for specific actors in mind. We enlisted a group of actors, put their names in a hat and drew them at random. I drew two local players named Gin Hammond and Rik Deskin. I interviewed them to garner aspects of their personal biographies for use in the play. There was one additional quirk of the challenge. Each playwright gave another participating playwright a list of ten words to choose from, all of which had to be included in the play. (I’m not going to tell you which words I was given. I want you to guess and message me.) Reading over it now, after four years, and polishing it up just a little bit, I like this play. A lot. Certainly much more than I did back then. The challenges of writing for specific actors, plus the list of words to include, forced me to tell a story I otherwise would have never imagined. I would love to see this piece staged fully. But then, I would love to see ALL of my plays staged fully. Alas, that’s not always possible. And that’s just one in a long list of reasons why, over a year ago, I retired from the theatre.

 

(Darkness.

Then a man’s face appears in the glow of an iPad held about foot and a half from his face in his left hand.  With his right hand Cotton masturbates to what he’s watching on his PDA.)

 

COTTON (low, insistent, earnest murmur):  What? … Touch you there?  Oh, I don’t know…..  No…. You shouldn’t….  No, don’t take my hand like that and put it… there because. . .  . . .

 

(A trap door opens in the floor behind the sofa on which Cotton sits, spilling a little bit more light into the room from below.)

 

Oh….  Oh, you’re so excited.  You’re sopping--

 

(Kir pops her head through the trap door.)

 

KIR:  Cotton?

 

COTTON (tossing the PDA away and covering himself with a nearby blanket or towel): Ah!  Hello?

 

KIR:  Hey, Cotton.  It’s just Kir.

 

COTTON:  Yeah, hi.  Hey.   I was uh…

 

KIR (fully up the ladder now):  Smells like funk in here.

 

COTTON:  You probably mean fug.

 

KIR:  I do?

 

COTTON:  Well, fug means the close damp atmosphere of a room that that has had people in it for a while without full ventilation.  Funk means that something smells off, ripe.

 

KIR:  Right.  Then it smells like fugging funk in here.

 

COTTON:  Okay.  I’ll be sure to buy a fan next time I’m out.

 

KIR:  Next time you’re out?

 

(Kir draws open all the curtains in the room.

Cotton is painfully sun dazzled, literally hissing at the glare of sunshine now pouring into the room.

Kir notices Cotton’s boner, and then immediately pretends not to notice Cotton’s boner.)

 

KIR:  Sorry for my outfit.  I just got done my class.

 

COTTON:  Pilates?

 

KIR:  What?

 

COTTON:  The class.  Was it pilates?

 

KIR:  No.  Yoga.  Bikram.

 

COTTON:  Hunh?

 

KIR:  You’ve heard of Bikram yoga.

 

COTTON:  No I haven’t. 

 

KIR:  Hot yoga.  I tried pilates once, but I just found the people who were good at it-- you know, really into it?-- to be, I don’t know, corseted somehow.

 

COTTON:  I see.  And that’s not you.

 

KIR:  No.  You think?

 

COTTON:  No.  You’re a—definitely, much more hot yoga in my eyes.

 

KIR:  Oh.  Well, I--  I was just walking past the carriage house when I realized that I hadn’t been up to see you since the earthquake.

 

COTTON:  The what?

 

KIR:  The earthquake.  We had an earthquake a week and a half ago?  6.7 on the Richter scale.

 

COTTON:  Well, you know, I don’t really do the news or anything.

 

KIR:  No.  I know but. . . 6.7.  That’s sort of a doozy.  Several aftershocks.  Pretty much everyone I know felt it. 

 

COTTON:  Must’ve slept through it.  I have a water bed you know.

 

KIR:  No, I didn’t.  You have a waterbed?

 

COTTON:  Yeah.

 

KIR:  Where?

 

COTTON:  Back over in the corner there.

 

KIR:  Over the Bugatti?!

 

COTTON:  What?  The car?  Yeah, I guess so.

 

KIR:  It’s not a car.  It’s a roadster.  It’s a Bugatti roadster.  Dad bought the Bugatti in 1971 for three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars.  It’s only appreciated like five-fold since then.  We’re insured for earthquake but I’m pretty sure we’re not insured for waterbed.

 

COTTON:  Take it out of my back allowance.

 

KIR:  That’s between you and Dad-- was between you and dad.

 

COTTON:  Yeah, well, you don’t believe I’m his son anyway, so. . . .

 

KIR:  I gave you a place to stay, didn’t I?  I’m up here checking on your well being after the earthquake, aren’t I?

 

COTTON:  A week and a half ago?

 

KIR:  Cotton. 

 

COTTON:  Look.  I don’t care.  I appreciate you letting me stay here and get some work done.  When it doesn’t work out anymore, I’ll be cool with that too and move on.

 

KIR:  How is the painting coming?

 

COTTON:  It comes. 

 

KIR:  Yeah?

 

COTTON:  It goes.

 

KIR:  Okay.  (She goes to a canvas with a sheet draped over it.)  What’s this?

 

COTTON:  That’s uh… unfinished.

 

KIR:  Can I see it?

 

COTTON:  I’d probably rather you didn’t.

 

KIR:  How unfinished is it?

 

COTTON:  I’m not sure.

 

KIR:  Is it started?

 

COTTON:  You’re hilarious.

 

KIR:  I can’t see it?

 

COTTON:  Look, if you wanna check my homework, feel free.

 

KIR:  Oh come on.  It’s nothing like that.  I’m really just curious.  I’ve only ever seen one of your paintings once at that gallery in Kent.

 

COTTON:  Yeah.

 

KIR (as she’ takes the sheet off the canvas):  And I must confess that that piece wasn’t much my cup of –

 

(Upon seeing the painting she cannot help but gape to fully take it in, surprised and a bit overwhelmed by it.)

 

COTTON:  What?

 

KIR:  What?

 

COTTON:  Not your cup of what?

 

KIR:  This is…

 

COTTON:  What?

 

KIR:  Really cool.

 

COTTON:  Cool?

 

KIR:  Amazing.  I--  Sort of magic, isn’t it?

 

COTTON:  Is it?

 

KIR:  Yeah, well.  I’m must admit I’m impressed.  Good job.  It—

 

COTTON:  It’s not finished.

 

KIR:  It’s not? 

 

COTTON:  Does it look like it?

 

KIR:  I—I wouldn’t know how to finish it?

 

COTTON:  Do you paint?

 

KIR:  No, you know I didn’t inherit any of his talent.

 

COTTON:  Then why would you expect to know how to finish it?

 

KIR:  I just— an expression is all.

 

COTTON (Looking at it, frustrated, a bit astounded himself):  I might give up on it.

 

KIR:  Really?

 

COTTON:  Wouldn’t you?

 

KIR:  No.

 

COTTON:  You just said you wouldn’t have any idea how to finish it.

 

KIR:  But if I did, I would. Or I wouldn’t finish it.  But I wouldn’t give up on it.  Does it need finishing?

 

COTTON:  Does anything?

 

KIR:  Right.  So… Listen, I came up here with a purpose actually.

 

COTTON:  Really?

 

KIR:  Are you being sarcastic?

 

COTTON:  Well I have never known you not to have a purpose.

 

KIR:  Is that a good thing or bad thing.

 

COTTON:  Just is.  That’s fine.

 

KIR:  Okay.  Jarod’s worried that the garage sustained structural damage.

 

COTTON:  How?

 

KIR:  From the earthquake.

 

COTTON:  Oh, the earthquake.  The one that didn’t even wake me up.

 

KIR:  Yes.

 

COTTON:  So?

 

KIR:  So we keep the Bugatti here and if there’s structural damage to the garage and we don’t address it then the insurance company might not pay if anything were to happen to it.

 

COTTON:  Ah.

 

KIR:  So we have to have the entire structure inspected.  And really, maybe move the Bugatti until we make repairs.

 

COTTON:  Repairs.

 

KIR:  And really, maybe even tear the whole thing down if there damage is bad enough.

 

COTTON:  The damage that you don’t even know exists. 

 

KIR:  Well, Jarod thinks he can see cracks.

 

COTTON:  Oh, I’ll bet he does.

 

KIR:  What does that mean?

 

COTTON:  I mean I bet Jarod can see cracks.

 

KIR:  Jarod likes you.

 

COTTON:  Okay.

 

KIR:  He’s never said anything but the most complimentary things about you.

 

COTTON:  What about you?

 

KIR:  Of course I like you.  I let you live here, didn’t I?

 

COTTON:  I am indebted to your largesse.  But no, I meant does Jarod like you?

 

KIR:  What? 

 

COTTON:  Pretty simple question.

 

KIR:  I am not trying to kick you out.  If anything, I’m trying to assure your safety.

 

COTTON:  Ah safety.

 

KIR:  I am happy to pay for you to stay in a hotel while we’re inspecting the carriage house.  And, if after inspection, we decide to take it down, and build something safer for the Bugattti, well then we can talk about that circumstance as it comes.

 

COTTON:  Perfect.

 

KIR:  Sarcasm.

 

COTTON:  No perfect.  It’s all perfect.  Really there’s nothing that’s not perfect.

 

KIR:  Cotton.

 

COTTON:  I’m perfect.  My painting’s perfect.  You’re perfect.

 

KIR:  I’m just trying to talk to you here.

 

COTTON:  I mean it.  You’re perfect.

 

KIR:  Thank you, that’s sweet but—

 

COTTON:  It’s not sweet.

 

KIR:  I think it’s sweet.

 

COTTON:  Semi-sweet, maybe. 

 

KIR:  In any case, it’s not true. 

 

COTTON:  And that painting.  It’s you.

 

KIR:  It’s an orange.

 

COTTON:  Satsuma.

 

KIR:  Satsuma.  Whatever.

 

COTTON:  No whatever.  Just satsuma.  Satsuma.

 

KIR:  Satsuma.  Perfect.

 

COTTON:  Plenty of men would be happy to give you a baby.

 

KIR:  What?

 

COTTON:  Pretty simple statement.

 

KIR:  My god, how dare—what are you--?

 

COTTON:  You shouldn’t let someone like Jarod leverage you just because you think he would be a good father.  He wouldn’t.

 

KIR:  How would you know what a good father is?  You claim you never had one.

 

COTTON:  That’s true.  But I am one.

 

KIR:  What?

 

COTTON:  I’m a father.

 

KIR:  You are?

 

COTTON:  Of four.  I’m a grandfather too, actually.

 

KIR:  What?

 

COTTON:  Life doesn’t always wait around until you’re ready. 

 

(Long pause.  Kir literally cannot form words as she sorts through all this.)

 

COTTON:  Hello?

 

KIR:  Hello.

 

COTTON:  I really do hope you get what you want.

 

KIR:  How could you possibly know what I want?

 

COTTON:  You wear it on your face.  You walk around with it in your body.  I can paint an orange--

 

KIR:  Satsuma.

 

COTTON:  Satsuma, thank you, and illustrate your wanting.

 

KIR:  Well, I suppose that makes you very talented.  Far more talented than I.  You can peer down from your funky fugging bat-shit solopsitic perch and see my wanting and use it for your picture.  Dad would be so proud.

 

COTTON:  Now who’s sarcastic?

 

KIR:  Not me.  I honestly think he would be proud of that.  Whether you were related to him or not.  He always liked other weirdo artists.  I was always far too conventional for him.

 

COTTON:  I’m just saying you should find someone.  Some who affects you.  Reaches to your core.  And you should fuck his brains out.  Get yourself pregnant on him.  You don’t need Jarod and his manipulations.

 

KIR:  Maybe you’re right.

 

(She takes off her sweatshirt, revealing a just the top of her leotard underneath.  She sits, close to Cotton.)

 

KIR:  I’ll be honest.  He does want you out before he’s willing to consider a baby.

 

COTTON:  Blackmail.

 

KIR:  Yeah, but he knows what I want, so . . . that’s something right.

 

COTTON:  Everyone who knows you knows what you want, Kir.

 

KIR:  Like you.

 

COTTON:  Sure.

 

KIR:  Four kids.

 

COTTON:  Yeah.

 

KIR:  And a grand kid?

 

COTTON:  Yup.

 

KIR:  You must be very . . . fecund.

 

COTTON:  If I’m right in knowing what that word means, then I guess I’d have to admit that’s true.

 

KIR:  What’s to stop you from giving me what I want?

 

COTTON:  Uh…

 

KIR:  What’s stopping you?

 

COTTON:  I’m your brother.

 

KIR:  Half-brother.  And I’ve never really believed it anyway, so I have no objections on that count.  I wouldn’t be looking for anything more than a one time… donation.  I doesn’t even have to be fun.  Though I have no objections on that count either, should it turn out to be. . .

 

COTTON:  Kir.

 

KIR:  Fun.

 

COTTON:  What you’re proposing is… is impossible.  Right?  I mean, even if we weren’t related, I—I couldn’t just---  I have very strong feelings about child-rearing.

 

KIR:  Clearly.  So lay down some ground rules, daddy.

 

COTTON:  Come on.

 

KIR:  I’m serious.

 

COTTON:  Well, for one, I’m pretty against circumcision.

 

KIR:  Well, that’s very good to know.

 

COTTON:  I— you’re serious?

 

KIR:  Do I seem unserious?

 

COTTON:  Um…How?  When are you…?

 

KIR:  What’s wrong with right now?

 

COTTON:  I don’t know.

 

KIR:  So you’ll do it?

 

COTTON:  Shouldn’t we think about it?

 

KIR:  No, we shouldn’t.  Will you do it?

 

COTTON:  I—

 

KIR:  Say you’ll do it.

 

COTTON:  Aaaah.  Okay.

 

KIR:  Okay?

 

COTTON:  I-- sure.  Okay.  Alright.  Okay.

 

KIR:  I knew it!  You don’t think you’re my brother any more than Jarod thinks you’re my brother.  I’ve been a complete and utter patsy this entire time.  My GOD!

 

COTTON:  What?  No!

 

KIR:  You think you’re my brother and yet you’re willing to give me a baby?  What kind of creep are you?

 

COTTON:  Generous?

 

KIR:  Get out.

 

COTTON:  You want me to move out?

 

KIR:  I want to you LEAVE!  As in right now.  We’ll have someone send you all your crap.

 

COTTON:  What about the painting?

 

(She looks at the painting.  Looks back at him.)

 

KIR:  What do you want me to say?

 

COTTON:  I have no idea.

 

(Lights fade on them taking each other in and the painting too.

End of play.)