Fiction 2018 / Spring 2018 / Volume 48

Dinner at Ray’s—Bridget Atkinson Moore

Characters:

RAY: Stay at home father

VERONICA: Working mother with postpartum depression

PATRICIA: Overworked, caring mother

JACKSON: Bachelor party man

 

(An immaculate dining room with a long table and six matching chairs perfectly placed around it. The room is well decorated and all of the paintings, potted plants and knick-knacks on the shelves are perfectly level. The table is bare except for a stuffed sea otter that is randomly somewhere on the table, it sticks out like a sore thumb. RAY enters with plates and silverware and is pleasantly surprised to see the stuffed animal.)

RAY. What are you doing here?

(He takes a second to look around before shrugging. He starts placing the plates and silverware, moving the sea otter around as needed until everything is set. The sea otter is now the centerpiece in the middle of the table.)

RAY. Not my best dining arrangement, but I like it.

    (VERONICA enters)

VERONICA. Emily just called, she won’t be making it tonight. That means we should switch Jackson and Nathaniel so that way Michael doesn’t have to sit next to Jackson.

RAY. Michael is still coming?

VERONICA. He’s driving Martha.

RAY. Martha called, she’s going to “Go get so drunk she forgets about Victor.”

VERONICA. So that leaves… four guests?

RAY. Michael, Jackson, Nathaniel, Patricia. If Michael decides to come anyways.

VERONICA. I guess we don’t have to set up more chairs then.

(VERONICA sits down in a huff, then notices the sea otter)

VERONICA. Why is Sam’s toy on the table?

RAY. I don’t know, she must have left it here.

VERONICA. Well… Get it off.

 

RAY. Why? I think it’s a fun little detail.

VERONICA. It’s silly, and we wanted a nice grown up party free from our jobs as parents.

RAY. I just thought it would add some smiles to people.

(Silence as VERONICA stares over at RAY then off into space. Slowly she shakes her head.)

VERONICA. It’s too silly. There’s the flowers in our bedroom, they’re not wilted yet.

RAY. Well if you want to go up there and get them then be my guest. I quite like it, Sam is here in spirit.

VERONICA. Oh please.

RAY. Why can’t you ever have some fun with your daughter?

VERONICA. What do you mean? I always play with her when I get home from work.

RAY. Meanwhile I’m-

VERONICA. If you want to get a job and stop being a stay at home dad then do it. We have enough money to afford sending Sam to daycare. Then maybe we wouldn’t have to put that terrible child gate up on the second floor.

    (VERONICA looks sharply at the sea otter)

VERONICA. When was she allowed downstairs?

RAY. When my mother came to take her for the rest of the night.

VERONICA.(Angry:)You know I don’t want her wandering around down here.

RAY. Well if you had allowed me to childproof down here then we wouldn’t have to keep her-

VERONICA. It’s only temporary, once she’s old enough to behave herself then she can go wherever she wants.

RAY

    (Angry as well)

You are quarantining our child and treating her more like a guest than as our daughter and I’m about ready to just let her start living with my moth-

VERONICA

   (Voice rising)

I have spent too long making this place the perfect house for us and I will not have our little child ruin that for us.-

(The doorbell rings, silencing them both as they look offstage. There is an uncomfortable moment of silence.)

RAY. That must be them.

(VERONICA rushes up and exits to the door. RAY adjusts the sea otter so it is sitting up straight on the table before exiting as well. The sound of happy greetings comes from the door before VERONICA and PATRICIA enter.)

VERONICA. I’m just happy you could make it, we deserve some nights away from the kids.

PATRICIA. I’m just hoping the babysitter is good, our regular wasn’t available tonight.

VERONICA. Don’t worry about them, tonight is the night where we return to the time of our youth.

(VERONICA takes the otter and puts it carefully upright on a shelf)

PATRICIA. That’s so sweet you started letting her play downstairs.

VERONICA. We don’t, Ray just slipped up earlier. I have a much better idea for a centerpiece in the living room.

(The two exit back towards the door, RAY and JACKSON enter from the kitchen carrying a bowl of salad and a bread and cheese platter)

JACKSON. Michael loves blowing off things, he probably found some party downtown or a strip club he isn’t banned from.

RAY. He still parties? Christ man he needs to settle down someday.

JACKSON. You’re telling me. He makes me look tame in comparison.

RAY. Found any girl yourself yet?

(Ray looks around and sees the otter on the shelf, puts it back as the centerpiece)

JACKSON. Nothing worth talking about, there was this guy though, we hit it off pretty well…

(They continue to talk as they move back to the kitchen. VERONICA AND PATRICIA reenter talking, VERONICA is holding a vase with flowers)

PATRICIA. …he was so proud he was able to get it on video. I thought it was the most precious thing.

VERONICA.

    (Replacing otter for vase and putting otter on the shelf)

That sounds nice. At the office we started this fun thing where we can put compliments and suggestions anonymously in people’s boxes to help brighten their day.

PATRICIA. That sounds so sweet.

VERONICA. I made a few the other day, I’ll show you. Jacob recently had…

(VERONICA and PATRICIA leave, RAY and JACKSON enter from the kitchen carrying extra plates to set down)

RAY. …congratulations buddy. I’m over the moon for you.

JACKSON. Thanks, I was worried how you would act. We have another date Monday.

    (Ray gets the otter and replaces it with the vase)

RAY. Take this, let’s put it somewhere in the back room for now.

JACKSON. Why?

RAY. The wife doesn’t want Sam’s toy as a centerpiece but I thought it would be fun.

JACKSON. It’s silly for sure, but then again she does call me ‘Silly Uncle Jack’ for a reason. Wish she was here tonight so I could sneak her some chocolates.

RAY.(Smiling:) No wonder Ronny doesn’t like it when you come over.

JACKSON. So why are you guys fighting over a stuffed animal?

RAY. I’ve been getting this feeling lately that she doesn’t like Sam.

JACKSON. Doesn’t like her own daughter?

RAY. Look around. She’s keeping all evidence of our child upstairs, the downstairs is forbidden for Sam and she never goes upstairs unless it’s to sleep.

JACKSON. It’s acting up again?

RAY. I thought she was over it, but I think she’s trying to cope by scrubbing the kid from her life.

JACKSON. Knowing Veronica, she must think she’s doing the best thing in the world.

RAY. At first I thought it would just be a phase until we childproofed the place, but now I’m starting to think that she’s trying to convince me that we never had a child.

JACKSON. What do you think you will do?

RAY. I found something out, I don’t know when she was planning to tell me about it. I already have something planned out…

(RAY and JACKSON go to the kitchen. VERONICA and PATRICIA enter)

VERONICA. …I’m honestly surprised it lasted that long, I would have bet four months.

PATRICIA. People tend to find ways to compromise, it’s how love works.

(VERONICA tenses when she sees the otter. She violently grabs it and chucks it towards the door, offstage. She regains her composure and laughs awkwardly at PATRICIA)

VERONICA. Sorry, I’m just sick of seeing that thing.

PATRICIA. Veronica, why are you getting so upset over one stuffed animal?

VERONICA. Because Ray disobeyed my one rule and is using that thing to rub it in my face.

PATRICIA. He isn’t like that, honestly Veronica if you just childproofed the place it would be fine. She’s getting to the age where she won’t seriously hurt herself as long as you guys are watching.

VERONICA. Don’t you see? I’ve already made it childproof.

PATRICIA.(Shocked:) Oh Veronica…

    (JACKSON enters)

JACKSON. Alright ladies time to sit down. Ray is getting the ‘pièce de deliciousness’.

(JACKSON helps VERONICA and PATRICIA in chairs before he sits down himself. RAY enters with a crock pot and places it. Then he pulls from his back the stuffed sea otter and places it in the center before sitting down. VERONICA makes a move to jump up but PATRICIA stops her)

PATRICIA. We can’t get up once the meal has started.

VERONICA. Fine.

    (Pause)

So I have some exciting news.

JACKSON. Did you get a promotion?

VERONICA. I found a daycare we could send Sam to for the entire day.

PATRICIA. I don’t think I’d ever want to do that, my kids are learning just fine at home.

JACKSON. Plus if they’re gone for the whole day how will they get to know their parents. You can’t be serious Veronica.

VERONICA. If we send her there then we can clean up the upstairs, take down the gate and consolidate all her toys. She’ll get all of her energy out there so she won’t need to be running around at home.

PATRICIA. But that’s what children do. Even if they go to daycare they want to play with their parents.

JACKSON. Veronica you should be getting help if you’re having more problems, not taking them out by trying to shunt your daughter to daycare.

VERONICA. You have no idea what my problems are Jack, you’re too busy being drunk to be a real caretaker for a kid.

JACKSON. I love Sam.

PATRICIA. Ray, don’t you think Veronica is going a little too far?

    (RAY has been watching with a hard expression)

RAY. She is.

VERONICA. You won’t even side with your own wife?

RAY. I will side with her when she isn’t ostracizing our daughter.

VERONICA. I am not trying-

RAY. You don’t really care about Sam, you’re trying to get her out of our lives.

VERONICA. I’m doing what is best for everyone.

RAY. You haven’t even been upstairs since you got home.

VERONICA. Because it’s littered with her toys.

RAY. If you had then you would have seen all her toys are gone.

    (Silence)

VERONICA. What?

RAY. They’re all over at my mother’s now.

(VERONICA almost laughs but catches herself and smiles in victory)

VERONICA. Perhaps that’s how we can compromise then.

RAY. You also would have seen my packed bags.

VERONICA.(Deflating:) What?

RAY. I’m leaving Ronny, until you can find some help.

VERONICA. Sam… is more important than me?

RAY. She’s our daughter, we both should be there for her.

(RAY stands up and calmly walks to the center of the table, he picks up the stuffed sea otter and leaves towards the door. VERONICA is in shock, tearing up. JACKSON motions for PATRICIA and they both quietly head for the door. The sound of the front door opening and closing is heard)

VERONICA. Why…

(She takes up a knife and looks at it, before performing a well-rehearsed slash and stab motion. She drops the knife and begins sobbing. The sound of footsteps and baggage coming down some stairs, then the front door opens and closes. Lights fade)

 

(END)

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