Two Sisters Writing and Publishing

Winning Writers' Stories

"The Measure of Love" by J. Ray Paradiso

Place: Chicago

Setting: Luxury apartment’s den in downtown high rise

Time: The present

Cast of Characters

HUSBAND 73-year-old man

WIFE VALERIE, 66 years old

DYMPHNA 51-year-old care provider

ACT ONE

Scene 1

LIGHTS UP. HUSBAND and WIFE watching TV on the couch in their apartment’s den 

WIFE

(crying)

Why am I being punished?

HUSBAND

(hugging, wiping WIFE’s tears)

You’re not being punished, baby.

WIFE

(crying)

Don’t let them take me away.

HUSBAND

(hugging WIFE)

No way, baby. I’m your body guard, and will always be.

WIFE

Promise?

HUSBAND

I promise. You’re my true love forever.

WIFE

What time is it?

HUSBAND

It’s 10 to six, baby. She’ll be here in 10 minutes.

WIFE

May I have a mint?

(HUSBAND, smiling, rushes offstage/onstage with mint and puts it in WIFE’S hand)

HUSBAND

Here, baby.

WIFE

Thank you. I’m cold.

HUSBAND

I’ll get your blanky.

(HUSBAND, smiling, rushes offstage/onstage with small blanket and covers WIFE)

WIFE

I don’t want to wear these pants.

HUSBAND

What do you want to wear?

WIFE

Something else.

(HUSBAND takes off WIFE’S pants)

HUSBAND

Ok?

WIFE

I should wear something.

HUSBAND

What do you want to wear?

WIFE

I should wear some pants!

(HUSBAND puts WIFE’S pants back on)

HUSBAND

I’m kinda tired, baby. Let’s rest for a while. Ok?

WIFE

Ok.

HUSBAND

(determined)

You know, we went to Walgreens for supplies and Potash for food. Then, to 4th Church for your exercise class and Mindfulness Meditation and…

WIFE

I don’t like that instructor!

HUSBAND

(determined)

Then, to Ditka’s for lunch and back to 4th Church for Art History and…

WIFE

When are we going to Ditka’s?

HUSBAND

(determined)

Can we please rest for just a few minutes?

WIFE

I want…

HUSBAND

(determined)

And tomorrow, I’m taking you to the dentist, 4th Church for exercise, M Burger for lunch and  your sleep therapist at Northwestern and…So, can we please rest for just a few minutes?

WIFE

Ok.

HUSBAND

Thank you, my love.

(pause)

WIFE

May I have some tea?

HUSBAND

Sure, Valski, I’ll be right back.

(HUSBAND, smiling, rushes offstage/onstage with cup of hot tea and hands it to WIFE)

HUSBAND

Here’s your tea, baby, with honey, and one for me, too. Tea for two with honey, honey.

WIFE

It’s too hot.

HUSBAND

I’ll get an ice cube.

(HUSBAND, slowly walks offstage/onstage with ice cube and puts it in tea cup)

WIFE

There’s mustard on my hand.

HUSBAND

I don’t see it, baby. Where is it?

WIFE

Here.

HUSBAND

I don’t see it, Wosker. I’ll get a towel. Wait for me?

(HUSBAND slowly walks offstage/onstage with towel and wipes WIFE’S hand)

WIFE

Will you comb my hair?

(HUSBAND slowly walks offstage/onstage with comb and combs WIFE’S hair)

HUSBAND

May I borrow your hair?

WIFE

No.

HUSBAND

Just for a day, please?

WIFE

Ok, but I don’t want to wear these socks.

(HUSBAND takes off WIFE’S socks)

WIFE

You’re a hard worker, baby.

HUSBAND

Just trying, true love. My skill set is expanding: hair stylist, chief cook, bottle washer, cosmetician, valet….

WIFE

(laughing)

HUSBAND

Why are you laughing?

WIFE

You know.

HUSBAND

I don’t know.

WIFE

Cuz you’re laughable!

HUSBAND

You’re my true love, sweet muse and body guard, baby.

WIFE

I don’t feel pretty.

HUSBAND

You’re beautiful, true love.

WIFE

Will you reapply my makeup?

HUSBAND

Have you been good?

WIFE

Absolutely!

HUSBAND

Forget about it!

WIFE

What?

HUSBAND

Have you been good?

WIFE

No, I’ve been naughty!

HUSBAND

How naughty?

WIFE

Totally naughty!!

HUSBAND

My girl! My one and only!

(HUSBAND trudges with WIFE offstage/onstage to the den)

WIFE

Will you put some perfume on me?

(HUSBAND trudges offstage/onstage with WIFE to den)

HUSBAND

I need some aromatherapy.

WIFE

Ok.

(HUSBAND smells WIFE’S hair)

WIFE

I want to wear my pink hoodie.

(HUSBAND trudges offstage/onstage with hoodie and puts it on WIFE)

I have to pish.

(HUSBAND trudges with WIFE offstage/onstage to den)

WIFE

I want to wear my pink hoodie.

HUSBAND

You’re wearing it, baby.

WIFE

My nail is chipped.

HUSBAND

You got a manicure just a few days ago.

WIFE

Will you please fix it?

HUSBAND

Ok, baby.

(HUSBAND trudges offstage/onstage with nail polish and applies it to WIFE’S fingernail)

WIFE

(crying)

You do everything for me. I don’t know what I’d do without you.

HUSBAND

Please don’t cry, baby. You’re my one and only, Wosker.

WIFE

I have to pish.

HUSBAND

You just went, baby.

WIFE

I have to go again.

HUSBAND

(begins to sing)

Come with me my love to the sea, the sea of love.

I want to tell you how much I love you…

(HUSBAND trudges with WIFE offstage/onstage to the den)

WIFE

I’m hot.

(HUSBAND removes blanket)

HUSBAND

Ok?

WIFE

I think I have to use the washroom.

HUSBAND

I feel kinda dizzy, true love. Can we watch TV for a while?

WIFE

Of course.

(pause)

WIFE

Did you forget I have to pish?

HUSBAND

Shall we call the girls?

WIFE

That would be nice.

(HUSBAND takes cell from his pocket, calls their older daughter and leaves a message)

HUSBAND

Hi, Yvette. It’s Dad. All’s good here. Will you please call, when you get a chance? Love you.

(HUSBAND calls their younger daughter and leaves a message)

HUSBAND

Hi, Rose. It’s Dad. All’s good here. Will you please call, when you get a chance? Love you.

WIFE

I want a mint.

HUSBAND

Wanna see a pic of your new granddaughter?

WIFE

Sure!

(HUSBAND shows pic on his cell to WIFE)

WIFE

Precious! So beautiful!

HUSBAND

Another?

WIFE

Absolutely!

(HUSBAND shows another pic on his cell to WIFE)

WIFE

Precious! So cute!

(crying)

I’m so sad.

HUSBAND

Why are you sad, sweet muse?

WIFE

I won’t see you!

HUSBAND

 I’m not leaving you, baby. I’ll be here all night.

WIFE

I know.

HUSBAND

I’ll just be resting until 6 tomorrow morning.

WIFE

I know.

HUSBAND

You know, I need to rest, so I’ll be fresh during the day to bathe and dress you; and put on your makeup; and shop for food and supplies; and cook and wash the dishes; and take you to your doctors; and manage your med; and do the laundry; and deal with the care agencies and care providers and long term care insurance company; and make appointments; and pay bills; and…

WIFE

(crying)

I’m so sorry. You work so hard for me.

HUSBAND

I have to poop and moan and groan. Promise not to tell anybody?

WIFE

(laughing)

Sure.

HUSBAND

Will you please wait here, and not leave the room? Will you please wait….

WIFE

I heard you!

(HUSBAND trudges offstage, WIFE wanders offstage and HUSBAND trudges onstage)

HUSBAND

Val, where are you? You promised not to leave the room, baby.

WIFE

(wanders onstage)

I didn’t.

HUSBAND

I have a headache, honey. Gonna get a Tylenol. Wait for me? Promise?

WIFE

Ok, I promise.

(HUSBAND trudges offstage/onstage to den)

HUSBAND

Wanna snuggle?

WIFE

I love when we snuggle.

HUSBAND

So do I. You’re my one and only!

WIFE

After we snuggle, will you comb my hair?

HUSBAND

Sure, baby.

(HUSBAND and WIFE snuggle)

(pause)

WIFE

I need to pish.

HUSBAND

May I pish with you?

WIFE

(laughing)

Sure.

(HUSBAND sings “I’m in the Mood for Love” melody and trudges with WIFE offstage)

HUSBAND

I’m in the mood to pish.

Pishing with you is thrilling.

Just say the word. I’m willing.

I’m in the mood to pish.

Am I a silly goose, or what?

WIFE

You are a silly goose.

(HUSBAND sighs and trudges with WIFE onstage to den)

WIFE

I’m hungry.

HUSBAND

You just ate enough to feed the 8th Army, true love.

WIFE

(laughing)

Ok.

HUSBAND

I feel kinda dizzy. Can we rest for just a few minutes?

WIFE

Ok.

(pause)

(HUSBAND’S cell phone RINGS)

HUSBAND

Hello? Yes, will you please send her up? Thank you.

WIFE

Who is it?

HUSBAND

The service is here.

WIFE

Who is it tonight?

HUSBAND

It’s Dymphna. She’s a saint. You like her.

WIFE

I don’t like her!

HUSBAND

You don’t like her?

WIFE

She dresses like a leprechaun and smells like Easter Sunday!

HUSBAND

Where’s your sense of humor?

WIFE

And, her name, her name is as pointless as zero plus zero!

HUSBAND

Whoa up, Wosker! I’ll Google it.

(Googles/reads Dymphna reference on his cell)

Saint Dymphna was born in Ireland sometime in the seventh century to a pagan father and devout Christian mother. She is also often shown holding a lamp, while some holy cards feature her wearing green and white, holding a book and white lilies. She is the patroness of those suffering neur-o-…

WIFE

So?

HUSBAND

So, we gotta cut ‘em some slack, Valski.

WIFE

I know.

HUSBAND

I mean, we’re running outta options, you know? We’ve already gone through about 12 different care providers and…

WIFE

I know.

HUSBAND

I mean, you chew ‘em up, and spit ‘em out like Plug tobacco.

WIFE

(laughing)

Ok.

(crying)

I don’t want you to leave me.

HUSBAND

I’m not leaving you, baby. I’ll be here all night.

WIFE

I know.

HUSBAND

I’ll be resting.

WIFE

I know.

(HUSBAND’S cell RINGS)

Your cell’s ringing.

HUSBAND

It’s probably just Walgreens reminding me your med is ready for pick up.

WIFE

Will you please answer it?

HUSBAND

If it’s important, they’ll leave a voice mail message.

WIFE

Will you please answer it?

HUSBAND

I’ll check my voice mail.

(listening to voice mail)

WIFE

Who was it?

HUSBAND

Just Fenwick High School.

WIFE

Are you on its hit list for a donation?

HUSBAND

Not this time. The message is kinda…

WIFE

Kinda?

HUSBAND

Here. I’ll play it for you.

(plays voice mail)

"You are rewarded not according to your work or your time but according to the measure of your love. Saint Catherine of Siena, O.P.”

WIFE

Why did they send that message to you?

HUSBAND

I don’t know. Maybe she was an importante Dominican, and her Fenwick goombah are celebrating her feast day. But I do know is this. My third grade teacher told my Gram that I loved to be loved, and before we were married, you told me you’d get r-e-a-l-l-y mad at me, but you’d always love me.

WIFE

I know you’re a hard worker, baby, and I love you so much.

HUSBAND

I love you more.

WIFE

I love you more!

HUSBAND

I’ll love you forever!

WIFE

I’ll love you to…infinity!

(KNOCK on their apartment’s front door)

HUSBAND

Dymphna’s here, Valski. I’ll let her in. Will you please wait here for me?

WIFE

Ok.

(HUSBAND trudges offstage, WIFE follows him, and they return onstage with DYMPHNA)

DYMPHNA

How are you, Valerie? Did you miss me? What did you do today?

WIFE

I’m good. How are you?

DYMPHNA

I’m fine. Thank you. Want to get undressed?

HUSBAND

I’m gonna put my jammers on, baby. I’ll be back soon, and promise to visit you often during the night and leave you love notes, if you’re asleep. Ok?

WIFE

(crying)

Your notes are sweet and loving, but do you have to go?

HUSBAND

I’ll be back soon, true love.

WIFE

Hurry back!

HUSBAND

Who’s my true love, sweet muse and body guard?

WIFE

I am.

HUSBAND

Who are you?

WIFE

I’m Valski Volski Wosker Doski.

HUSBAND

How do you know that?

WIFE

Because it’s written!

HUSBAND

Where’s it written?

WIFE

In the Book of Love.

HUSBAND

Who’s my true love, sweet muse and body guard?

WIFE

I am!

HUSBAND

Who are you?

WIFE

I’m Valski Volski Wosker Doski!!

HUSBAND

How do you know that?

WIFE

Because it’s written!!

HUSBAND

Where’s it written?

WIFE

In the Book of Measures!!

HUSBAND

Who’s my true love, sweet muse and body guard?

WIFE

I am!!!

HUSBAND

How do you know that?

WIFE

Because it’s written!!!

HUSBAND

Where’s it written?

WIFE

In the Book of Rewards!!!

HUSBAND

(pondering)

You are rewarded not according to your work or your time but…

WIFE

What time is it?

HUSBAND

It’s 6 o’clock, my love.

(DYMPHNA caringly walks VALERIE offstage. HUSBAND trudges offstage in the opposite direction, runs smiling onstage and lovingly takes measured steps toward DYMPHNA and WIFE)

LIGHTS FADE.


BIO: Chicago's J. Ray Paradiso is a recovering academic in the process of refreshing himself as an EXperiMENTAL writer and photographer. His photographs and stories have appeared in dozens of publications both in print and online including Chicago Quarterly Review, Storgy and Typishly. Equipped with graduate degrees in both Business Administration and Philosophy, he labors to fill temporal-spatial, psycho-social holes and, on good days, to enjoy the flow.  All of his work is dedicated to his true love, sweet muse and body guard: Suzi Skoski Wosker Doski. Check out J. Ray’s work here.

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