Consequences

Joan Strauss
 

Margaret and Betsy are childhood friends now married and in their late thirties. They live in New York, the Upper East Side and Chelsea. Time is the present.

Characters:
MARGARET EVANS
JEFF EVANS
BETSY MCMAHON
DAN MCMAHON

ACT I, SCENE 1

The Tuesday after Labor Day. The scene is split--Margaret's bedroom, Betsy's kitchen. Margaret rushes to answer the phone on the fourth ring. She is coming out of the shower with only a towel around her.

M: Hello, hello. Speak up. Oh, it's you. I was expecting a call from Jeff. He's flying in from LA. What? I can't hear you. You're whispering. What's wrong? Has Dan been stinking up the house again with his cigars?

B: No. I'm between wash loads. The kids just left for school after a big fight over an iPod.

M. That's it?

B. Maggie, I'm so down. You're the only person I can talk to. Do you know what day this is?

M. Tuesday?

B. It's the first day of school and I feel ancient. My kids are older than we were when we met.

M. Really? We were younger than little Dan?

B. Yup. He's in fifth grade.

M. Already? Doesn't seem possible...but I don't feel old.

B. That's because you don't have kids...oh, I'm sorry. I know that hurts.

M. Forget it. Why the call?

B. I'm bored.

M. The kids will be grown soon and you can start something. You love to knit. Maybe open a knit shop. I like the idea. I'll do it with you.

B. Oh sure. I can believe that. But that's not the problem. (Her voice drops low.) I'm going to die if I don't go to bed with someone besides Dan.

M. Say that again. You sure you aren't repeating a suggestion from the last issue of Cosmo?

B. I can't. This line links to his office.

M. Idiot! Do you really think it's tapped?

B. I guess not...in spite of the Patriot Act.

M. Bets, what's really going on? You've got two kids and a mortgage.

B. Right. Sorry to dump on you when I know you're rushing to work. Forget what I said and oops...I've got to go. I just heard the buzzer on the dryer.

M. Whoa, wait. You can't run for cover after the bomb you just dropped. Let's get together...the four of us...you and Dan and me and Jeff. We'll sort this out.

B. I'll think about it.

M. No thinking. My place Saturday night. Seven o'clock.

Scene 2

Margaret and Jeff's expensively furnished living room. Jeff enters and drops his gym bag. Margaret fixes a drink.

J. Are they here yet?

M. No. You have time to change.

J. Don't have to. I showered at the club.

M. Good game?

J. Just okay. I didn't know the guys but hey, tomorrow I'm playing golf with Marty at his club in Westchester.

M. Damn Jeff. You forgot again. You promised you'd visit my mother with me.

(Jeff walks over to her and pulls her close. He acts contrite.)

J. Mmm you smell good. Do we have time?

M. No. And why do you always want to do it when you know it isn't possible?

(He turns away, not forgiven and rebuffed.)

J. You know I can't stand...

M. Don't even say it.

J. But I really can't stand the guy.

M. You'll live. Suck it up tonight.

J. I know Bets is your best friend since you locked pinkies in the schoolyard but he's another story. Did I complain when you offered to be a birth coach if Dan didn't show up on time? No. I thought that was great. Can't we just go out with her? He's so high on himself he wouldn't notice.

M. You have a point.

J. Ever since his book The White Smile came out, he thinks he can air his opinions about everything. And if you disagree, which I often do, he makes sure to tell me he's a member of Mensa. Dr. Dan.... He’s a dentist not a brain surgeon. Fix me a scotch. When he walks in I'm handing him a double right away. Maybe that will subdue him.

(The doorbell rings. Betsy and Dan enter. The men shake hands. Betsy and Margaret hug. Jeff gives Dan a double scotch. Margaret pours white wine for Betsy and shoves Jeff toward their guests.)

J. How's it going with the book?

D. I'm burned out. The publishers own me. I have to do book signings in every god damn Barnes & Noble in the country. They're trying to get me on Oprah and The View too.

J. You're complaining? You should kiss your agent.

M. Dan, maybe what you need is a vacation. Betsy could use a break from the kids. It would do you both good.

D. Ha! I can't leave the practice for more than a week. I don’t have a trust fund.

J. What makes you think I do?

D. Come on. Exeter then Harvard. Don't tell me Greenwich had community scholars. Or are you living off Maggie's dough?

M. And for an encore are we going to hear how you picked yourself up by your bootstraps?

B. Guys, cool it and pick a place to eat. I'm hungry.

D. Jeff, you choose. And it doesn't have to be fancy. Somewhere local is okay.

M. If I thought we'd be brown-bagging it, I wouldn't have put on my new suit.

(Dan walks over to Margaret and caresses her back pretending to explore the fabric.)

D. You look good. Whose jacket?

M. Armani. You look good too. What's different? Shaved your mustache? No one would guess you just turned forty.

D. I lost twenty pounds. I got tired of being a fatty.

M. But that's what made you so...so tolerable.

D. (Turns away abruptly and signals to Jeff.) Let's get out of here.

M. (Standing alone, she turns to Betsy.) Put down your glass. If we don't hurry to catch up, they'll forget they've left us...and why are you wearing flip-flops? It's past Labor Day.

B. Who cares? I'm what the real world looks like...at least the world south of the Upper East Side.

M. Oh, for Christ's sake, chill.

(She gives Betsy a big hug.)

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