Carla Hoke Miller
The scene opens in late autumn as Esther, Rudy’s wife, sits on the back steps to their yard in Fairlawn, New Jersey with the door to the kitchen open behind her. She’s dressed in blue jeans, a shirt and gold slippers,her grey hair worn in a thick braid. Alone, she looks out into the night, her eyes watery and swollen, her hands tucked under her as she stretches her legs out straight and then lets them drop, over and over again. The only sound is the whooshing of the suede soles of her slippers as she slides them across the concrete beneath her feet.Esther Oh Rudy, where are you! Why aren’t you back here with me? Imagine us on vacation together in Hawaii! You of all people know how much I’ve wanted to go there ever since I was a kid. Sleeping in a little grass hut on the beach, sipping fancy drinks out of a coconut, and me, cooking a fish you just caught over an outdoor fire!
Look Rudy! See? A magnificent volcano right there in front of the tool shed,
hot lava pushing out of its fiery mouth, spilling out like crazy--sparking, scorching, burning up the crab grass all around. What if we ran as fast as we could to get away, or what if we just stood there and let the lava wash over us and turn to ash, walking around like some kind of mummies, scaring people and laughing? Sometimes I think that would not be a bad way to go, as long as I didn’t feel it burning me. The lava like a blanket falling over me, covering me, hiding me for centuries.
You know, I just thought about what you told me about the scientists, that they had found the color of the Universe to be aquamarine only to find out later that the true color of the Universe is beige. Now that….
[Hearing something from inside the house, Esther turns and calls out]
I’m out here, honey!
Lorraine [Walks through the dark kitchen to the back yard]
Mom? What’s up with you? It’s kind of cold out here, don’t you think?
Esther [Looking up at her]
Oh no, no dear. I‘m toasty sitting in front of this magnificent volcano! You’re back from your class awfully soon. Come sit.
Lorraine [Sits down, folding her arms close across her chest in the cold air]
Ahhhhh!! the majestic volcano! It’s out here in the yard again, is it? I see you have on your lei this evening, could it be those are real orchids? Has the volcano erupted yet, do we need to get out the hot dogs?
Esther Do you want a hot dog, dear?
Lorraine Well, now that you mention it- sure! Matt’s coming over soon, want me to have him pick some up?
Esther Oh honey, I must have tons of hot dogs somewhere in the freezer…
Lorraine Mom! It would take me longer to find them somewhere in there than it would to slaughter the animal and make them myself!
Esther Lorraine that’s not true!
[She pauses to think]
[Lorraine gets up, walks into the kitchen and turns on the light above the sink. She picks up the telephone receiver, balancing it on her shoulder as she dials the phone on the wall]
Lorraine Matt? Hi! Good. Listen, could you stop at the Giant on your way over and pick up some hot dogs? Thanks, and oh, get some buns. Are you leaving soon? No, that’s it, see you soon.
Esther [Turns toward Lorraine as she starts to come back outside]
Honey, please turn the kitchen light back off. There, that’s much better!
[Esther gently pulls Lorraine’s hair back from her face as she sits back down next to her on the steps. They look out into the dark night in silence, the only light a faint glow from the hallway to the kitchen behind them and a lamp on the outside shed]
[Suddenly, Esther cries out]
I keep hearing your Father coming through the door! I keep seeing his shadow rounding the corner at a clip!
Lorraine Oh Mom! Did you think I was Dad coming home?
Esther No. I don’t know. Maybe.
You haven’t heard from him by any chance, have you sweetie?
Lorraine Not a peep. I would tell you if I did!
[Grabbing her hand]
Don’t worry, Ma! He’s walked everywhere he’s had to go his whole life!
Esther I know, I know, but not all the way from Louisiana! We are living parallel lives here, for God’s sake! I think it’s high time I did more on my side, don’t you?
Lorraine Maybe… I guess he’ll be gone for quite some time, huh? But then again, he may even have made it to Tennessee by now. I wonder how much change he’s collected so far. Do you really think he’s going to make all that money back?
Esther Of course he will! Why would this time be any different? He’s so lucky--it’s unbelievable!
[They laugh] Esther Tennessee! My God! But seriously, it is the nighttime that I worry about the most.
Lorraine I know. Hey! I think the mighty volcano went out---let’s just use the grill for our Luau.
Esther And I don’t see him coming home anytime soon, either.
[Esther reaches into a bag sitting under her step and pulls out a tallboy]
Lorraine No way Mom! Since when did your start drinking beer?!
Esther Ever since the whiskey ran out!
I know it sounds crazy, but you and I both know how much your Dad loves beer, so I can’t help thinking that if I keep popping them open, he’ll come home sooner. What is so difficult now is that I don’t even know where he is! All I know is that speaking the language of disappointment has broken your Father’s heart.
Lorraine Oh Mom, you’re shivering! Here, why don’t we go in now?
Esther Oh no baby, I’m fine. It’s lovely out here under the warm Hawaiian sky.