A collection of essays, outdoor adventure stories, ruminations, wordplay, parental angst, and blatant omphaloskepsis, generated in all seasons and for many reasons at 64.8 degrees north latitude

Sunday, May 8, 2022

". . . these mortals be."

This is my first Mother’s Day since Mom died in February.  

That sounds like the start for something maudlin, but it isn’t; Mom didn’t even like Mother’s Day.  Or, to be more specific, she said the second Sunday in May was a silly Hallmark holiday, manufactured by sellers of cards and flowers.

Do I agree? What does it mean, exactly, to celebrate mothers? 

This feels like an especially pressing question these days.  But even if we assume that the form of motherhood we’re celebrating is voluntary, rather than the product some kind of Handmaid’s Tale dystopia that would have utterly horrified my mother… I still have questions.

Are we setting up motherhood as an ideal of womanhood? 

I’ll assume no, because… ick.  Do I even need to explain, on behalf of those women who cannot or choose not to be mothers, why this is vile?  Do I need to mention all the kids lovingly raised by single dads, two dads, grandparents, or other types of families?  Moving on…

Are we celebrating a purified and perfect ideal of motherhood – ever-patient, ever-kind, ever-baking-apple-pies? 

Again, ugh.  Mythicizing mothers makes it hard to be one, and hard to mourn one. It leaves all of us actual human living breathing imperfect mothers with feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and boxed-in-stereotyped frustration.  This is… maybe not a positive theme for a holiday.  

Perhaps the holiday is not intended to mythicize, but merely to express our debt to moms, imperfect as they may be, for the monumental work and sacrifice associated with motherhood? 

Better.  But repaying mom with a plate of waffles seems… laughably inadequate.  More to the point, it seems off-kilter.  Parenthood isn’t a debt that can be repaid.  Such an effort would be Sisyphean, impossible, ludicrous.  Expecting it would be warped.  I don’t want repayment from my kids.  My mother did not expect repayment from me. 

Arguably, though, it still makes sense to say thanks.  Mothers should not be taken for granted, right? 

Now we’re getting somewhere.  And yet… at the time in all our lives when our parents’ work was non-stop, exhausting, and downright gross, we needed to take everything for granted.  An infant shouldn’t feel guilty about hogging all that breastmilk, a toddler is incapable of fully understanding that Mommy didn’t want to be puked on, and even a ten-year-old needs to feel that bandaging that oozing scraped knee is something a parent wants to do, lovingly.  No judgement, no payment, no running tab.  Being taken for granted is a crucial part of parental territory.

What about later, though? 

Well, yes.  As kids reach the teen and adult years, they should gain empathy and perspective, to avoid becoming narcissists and sociopathic monsters.  But once we’re mature enough to understand where, when and why a “thank you” is merited, we begin to realize that – in the case of our parents -- there is no “thank you” that will suffice.  Uncomfortable, maybe, but true.  There is not, and never can be, anyone on Earth who loved me the way my parents did.  I have a great husband, two wonderful kids, a fabulous sister and some stellar friends; I’m not isolated and I’m not complaining.  It’s just how things work.  It goes the other way, too; I love my own kids more than they will ever be able to love me in return – not because their love for me is inadequate or stunted, but because mine for them is so inexpressibly vast. 

But can’t we still use the day as a reminder to celebrate our mothers? 

Well, yes.  Of course we can celebrate our mothers – not motherhood, not conceptual beings crafted from a monolithic ideal, not Mother the Wise Woman, Mother the Caretaker, Mother the Earth Goddess, or Mother the Embodiment of Sacrifice -- but specific real people that you know. 

In the nuclear family of my childhood, we celebrated everyone’s birthdays with enthusiasm, as celebrations of an individual.  All four of our birthdays occurred during the prettiest seven weeks of spring, rendering additional celebration seasonally redundant.  But for those whose birthdays are in November or February or August, Mother’s Day seems like a reasonable excuse for, essentially, a second birthday. 

I’m not qualified to define the “right” way to celebrate Mother’s Day.  It depends on who your mom is, or was, or might one day become.  But I do know that for me – and perhaps for most people -- feeling loved is closely linked to feeling known, feeling seen, feeling accepted and appreciated with all my flaws.  Thus, the core question: who was or is your mom? 

If she’s gone – or fading, as my mother did in her last few years – perhaps one way to celebrate her is to teach something that she taught you to someone younger.  Pass on a story, an off-color joke, an amusing habit, a bad-ass skill.  If your mother is still with you, maybe celebration means deepening that knowledge, that connection, that seen-ness.  Ask her what she’d most like to do, and where she’d most like to travel.  Email her to ask her opinions about something.  What book would she like to read?  Check it out from the library for her.  What would she laugh at?  Text it to her.  Is she training for a 5k?  Cheer her on. By all means give her flowers if she likes flowers, but give her video games or a new cordless drill or a bottle of whiskey if she’d like that better.  Celebrate your quirky, flawed, hilarious, complicated, imperfect, very-much-human mother -- not by putting her on a pedestal, but by knowing her.

My mother didn’t care about Mother’s Day.  That hasn’t stopped me from thinking about her today, because I think about her every day.  I also thought of her a lot on April 23rd, her birthday.  So too, it seems, did her childhood friend Angela.  On the 24th I received an email from England:

“I was thinking of Janet yesterday.....her birthday which, when we were ten, she informed me was the same as Shakespeare's.”

I recall my mother reminiscing about all the male roles she played – petite physique and waist-length pigtails notwithstanding -- in Shakespearean productions at her all-girls British school. 

Yesterday, I auditioned for this summer’s outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre.  Today, I got a call letting me know that I snagged a (small, comic) male role.  I’ll also pitch in with carpentry, costume-sewing, and flower-planting for the set.  I learned all those things from her, too.

There’s no Hallmark card that could capture my mother, on the second Sunday in May or any other day.  I know that.  I’m glad she knew that, too.   

All the same, happy Mother’s Day.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Words, words, words

 


How does one summarize a life? Places traveled, words spoken, tasks completed, people touched?  What is the sum of thirty thousand, two hundred and fifty-six days?

Many people knew Janet Fresco as the head clerk at a public library in a mid-size suburban town – the library lady with the practical skirts and cardigans, the bun, the friendly laugh, and the soft British accent.  They knew her as a woman in motion – a busy wife and mother of two, and later a grandmother of four.  They knew her as a walker, striding along the sidewalks or trails.  They might have known that she sewed all those practical skirts herself, knitted the sweaters, grew a garden, and turned her capable hands to carpentry to build more shelves for all those books. 

They might not have known that she spoke French and Turkish, and worked encrypting and decrypting encoded diplomatic mail for the British embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, during the tumultuous rise of the Khmer Rouge in the 1960s. 

My mother was a more complex and interesting person than I knew or understood when I was a kid.  But then, isn’t that always the case?

Mom (ahem, Mum) – Janet Malyon -- was born in southern England in April 1939, four months before Germany invaded Poland and Britain entered the Second World War.  Her earliest memories were a blend of warm family harmony -- her loving parents, big brother John, and friends Margaret and Angela – and the daily realities of wartime.  She remembered hearing the unmanned bombers and the air-raid sirens; hiding under the table and in bomb shelters; collecting interesting shrapnel from downed planes; carrying a gas mask and counting ration coupons.  Her father, an engineer, worked on the frenzied and crucial race to develop effective radar.  Her mother planted a garden large enough to be a farm, raised chickens in their suburban yard, and traded birds with the neighbors to avoid trauma when it came time to eat them.  The kids collected rosehips for the vitamin C.  The war ended when Mom was six, but food was rationed in Britain until she was 15.

My mother was someone who understood that Nazis have to be fought; knew the value of peace; and didn’t like waste.

Mom loved books from the time she was tiny, and ambitiously started writing her own when she was nine.  She easily passed the “eleven plus” exam and went on to the academic grammar school in Tunbridge.  She excelled there, passing a heap of A-level exams, but when the time came to choose her path forward, university held little appeal.  Her only educated female role models were unmarried teachers and nurses.  The world as she knew it had not yet grown to include women with education, careers, and families.  The world as she knew it boxed her in.

Plenty of people who knew Mom in later years assumed that she was a librarian, because she was so erudite, intellectual, and well-read, someone who not only worked with books, but loved them, too – not just Shakespeare and Dickens and Austen, but a full range from pot-boilers and romances to new classics and old.  But she never went to college; she had no library degree.

Instead, Mom took a secretarial course, learned to type and take shorthand at a blistering pace, and worked in London for a short time.  But her feet itched for adventure, so at 19 or 20 she took a job with Nestle in Switzerland, perfecting her French and doing a bit of light Alpine hiking on the side.  Around this time, her father suffered a very early heart attack, and died.  She didn’t talk about him often, but she missed him for the rest of her life.

After this taste of adventure, Mom launched herself further, signing on as a secretary for the British Foreign Service.  That’s how she ended up in Cambodia when she was still in her early twenties.  She served there for three years.  The Vietnam War was raging.  The entire region was unstable. When the embassy was attacked, she and the head diplomat were briefly the only ones who stayed. 

Back in London at last, Mom briefly worked for the local embassy offices on a collaborative project with the French – an agreement that, years later, resulted in the construction of the Channel Tunnel.

Mom was next offered a posting to a tiny consulate somewhere in Africa – Angola, was it?  She turned it down on the grounds that she wanted a larger city and a busier social scene.  Mom wanted to go to parties with compatriots, to meet people, to dance. She had, after all, given up on the idea of university because she wanted to marry.  She wanted a family.  And, now in her mid-twenties, she was practically an old maid by the standards of the time.  She was sent to a slightly larger consulate in Turkey instead.  She worked there for three years.

Four days short of turning 28, Mom met an American diplomat named Bob Fresco.  It was his 25th birthday.  A year later, they married.  Mom was required to give up her career immediately, due to some combination of sexism and fears of inter-embassy espionage (I prefer to contemplate the latter).  She did so.  A year after that, still in Turkey, my sister Sarah was born. 

I always thought Sarah’s birthplace was much cooler than mine.  By the time I came along three years later, my family was in Ohio, where my dad was working for the Cincinnati Enquirer.  A year later, he got a job with Long Island Newsday, and we all settled in Huntington, NY. 

Mom didn’t officially have a job during those early years of motherhood, but she was never not working.  She sewed most of her own clothes, and Sarah’s, and mine – using her own invented patterns and an old hand-crank machine that had followed her around the world.  She sold hand-made children’s clothes on consignment to a small boutique in town. She did everything on foot, piling groceries around me in the stroller.  She took her children to the public library so often that by the time I was four, she was recruited: “When Nancy starts kindergarten, would you like a job?”  Yes.  Yes, she would.

Mom’s accent shifted, gradually, as the years passed, but she was always branded as British.  She laughed about the assumptions that this burdened her with – positive stereotypes, but genteel ones.  She laughed about the fact that most Americans couldn’t differentiate a cultured BBC British accent from Cockney or Yorkshire.  She was condemned to being always very slightly foreign in a country that she ultimately made her own, although part of her heart was always in England.  She kept her green card for decades, and when she at last became a US citizen, it was not without regrets.  She had seen enough of the world to know how swaggering and ignorant America can seem.  At the same time, she loved America’s egalitarian ideals and generous landscapes.

No matter their nationality, Mom loved people – her family, her friends, her coworkers and all those library patrons, even when they were at their most maddening.  She could see through the differences, the trappings, the posturing, the biases, and the snobberies, and accept people for who they were. Most of all, Mom loved children.  Even as an old woman, she’d drop to the floor to play with Duplos or invent a magic carpet ride for any three-year-old who needed entertaining. 

While part of me is saddened by the thought that Mom gave up many potential opportunities to become a parent and grandparent, I know that she wouldn’t have altered those choices.  My own existence wasn’t the terminus of adventure; it was, for her, an adventure of its own.

It’s impossible to enumerate everything that Mom shared, gave, and passed on to everyone she touched in this world.  There are people she knew whose names I’ve never heard, or can’t recall.  Her legacy can’t be measured in stacks of old letters, hand-written stories, photos, or the quilts on her grandchildren’s beds. 

I wish Mom hadn’t started to decline mentally six or seven years ago, and that prior to that she wasn’t burdened with caring for Dad during his decline.  I wish they’d both had the chance to travel in retirement, as they always wanted to.  I wish my kids had had the chance to know Mom better, into their big-kid years and adulthood.  I wish she were still as she once was, and still with us.  But I find joy in all the ways in which Mom’s life is inextricably woven into who I am.  We all see ourselves, as we age, becoming our own parents.  Yes, this can be unnerving – but it’s also comforting.

Mom’s literary selections litter my over-burdened hand-built bookshelves.  Our family’s choices for reading aloud – still going strong even in the teen years – have included so many of her favorites (ahem, favourites).  The twins fell in love with the Swallows and Amazons stories early on, and have reread Mom’s battered copies of these 1930s British adventures perhaps even more times than I have.  Our current bedtime story is The Sand Reckoner by Gillian Bradshaw, a novel about young Archimedes of Syracuse, which I read myself years ago, at Mom’s recommendation.  Yesterday, the day Mom died, the kids begged me for extra chapters.  In the past month, I also read aloud A Town Like Alice -- a worn paperback by Nevil Shute, from Mom’s collection; they loved that, too.

Knowing how much Mom loved Shute’s books, I took one of her old copies along when I rushed east last week to pay one final visit.  Mom was no longer able to speak, although she smiled at me, and squeezed my hand, hour upon hour.  I read aloud to her from Pied Piper, a Shute novel about World War Two and an old man who risks himself to save seven small children.  On the book’s inside cover, in an achingly familiar handwriting, it says “Janet Malyon Phnom Penh”.  I showed the inscription to Mom.  She gazed at it for a long time.  She held my hand.

How does one summarize a life? Places traveled, words spoken, tasks completed, people touched?  What is the sum of thirty thousand two hundred and fifty-six days? 

There is no way.  And yet we try.

 

 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Everything You Need

As a companion piece to "Great Chemistry", this one is for the social scientists -- or for anyone who struggles to find meaning in life and the correct aisle at the grocery store.

In 2015, this ten-minute play was selected for the Annual 8 X 10 Festival of Short Plays hosted by the Fairbanks Drama Association and The Looking Glass Group Theatre.  It was performed at the Hap Ryder Riverfront Theater in Fairbanks, Alaska on April 24th and 25thth of that year. I'm sharing it now in memory of Peggy Ferguson, Executive Director of the Fairbanks Drama Association and Children's Theater, who was an inspiration to all of us -- and didn't mind my nerdy sense of humor. 


 

Setting:

Fairbanks Alaska, present time

Fred Meyer supermarket checkout – two parallel lanes

The setting can be merely suggested, using simple tables in place of conveyor belts and miming the checkout process. One checker stands at each register.

 

Characters:

VINCENT (CHECKER ONE), thirties or forties, male.

CHECKER TWO, any age or gender.               

OLIVE (CUSTOMER ONE), similar age to VINCENT. Female. 
 
Other CUSTOMERS (any age or gender; can be played by as few as three actors, switching hats, props, etc.) 

 

Scene I

 

VOICEOVER [loud, enthusiastic]

What’s on your list today?  You’ll find it at Fred Meyer!

 

(LIGHTS UP on the two checkout stands, where VINCENT and CHECKER TWO are already standing in place. In sync, OLIVE and another CUSTOMER hurry toward their respective checkouts. OLIVE is miming pushing a heavy cart. The other CUSTOMER is miming carrying a small basket.

 

VINCENT and CHECKER TWO(in sync)

How are you today?

 

OLIVE and CUSTOMER(in sync)

Fine, thanks.

 

VINCENT and CHECKER TWO(in sync)

Did you find everything you needed?

 

(Action freezes at checkout two, but continues at checkout one, with OLIVE miming taking items from her cart, and VINCENT miming checking and bagging items.)

 

OLIVE

Well, actually, no.  What’s going on with all the rearrangement?  I couldn’t find the organic steel-cut oats or the free-range hormone-free eggs… and… well, there’s this one brand of tofu, the kind that’s hand-pressed and herb-infused…

 

VINCENT

The Arboreal Organic Melodies?  Yeah, that stuff’s fantastic!

 

                     OLIVE

You like it too?  I always slice it thin with a little garlic hummus on half a Sprout-tastic Bagel.  But I can’t find those, either. Or the Vegan Vagabond quiches. I couldn’t find ANYTHING I needed today. 

VINCENT

Well, I’m not sure that any of those items – although technically food -- are shelved with Basic Physiological Needs.  Maybe your needs are actually at some other level of the hierarchy.

 

OLIVE

Hierarchy? Basic physiological needs? What are you talking about?  And why are the organic bulk bins now located next to the greetings cards, the Harlequin romances, and the condoms?

 

(Action freezes at checkout 1 and resumes at checkout 2.)

 

CUSTOMER

No, actually.  I didn’t find everything I needed.  What the heck is the deal?  Where can I find the duct tape, huh?  And a tarp. I need a tarp.

 

CHECKER 2

Oh, tape and tarps will be with the pilot bread and the mac and cheese.

 

CUSTOMER 

     Uh… what?

 

CHECKER 2

New policy.  Our manager, Mr. Maslow, is trying to make sure everyone finds what they need.  It’s all based on his hierarchical system.

 

(Another CUSTOMER enters and unobtrusively gets in line behind the first CUSTOMER, standing back slightly, but clearly listening.)

 

CUSTOMER

Look, I just want a goddamned tarp!  Where the -

 

CHECKER 2

Try checking the Basic Physiological Needs Aisle.  Just past the beer.  If you get to the cans of spray foam, you’ve gone too far.

 

(CUSTOMER stalks away, exiting, and is replaced by the next CUSTOMER)

 

CHECKER TWO

Hey there.  Did you find everything you needed?

 

(Action freezes at checkout 2, while actors at checkout 1 spring to life.)

 

VINCENT

Well, our new manager is really focused on the store slogan – Everything You Need.  We’re supposed to be shelving items according to his Hierarchy of Needs…

 

OLIVE

What do hierarchies have to do with organic turmeric and honey sesame sticks?

 

                     VINCENT

Well… I dunno… It made sense when Mr. Maslow explained it.  Basic Physiological Needs -- that’s the base of the pyramid. Safety, Security, and Health -- that comes next. Human Connection and Love is third… then Prestige and Confidence… and at the pinnacle, there’s Self Actualization. 

 

                     OLIVE

Great.  Well, can you tell Mr. - what’s it, Maslow? - that I don’t need bodice rippers or anything that’s “ribbed”?  I need Organic Arboreal Melodies Herb-Infused Hand-Pressed Tofu.

 

                     VINCENT

Fair enough.  That’s what I need, too.  Or… at least… [hesitates thoughtfully] that’s what I WANT.  What I actually need is…[trails off].

                    

                     OLIVE

[Interested, looking at him directly for the first time] What?  What do you really need?

 

(Action freezes at checkout 1, while actors at checkout 2 spring to life.)

 

CUSTOMER

(Fidgeting uncomfortably) No, I, um… Well, I couldn’t find… That is, my wife (or husband) told me to look for…

 

(CUSTOMER leans closer to CHECKER and whispers something unintelligible.)

 

                          CHECKER

The regular, or the extra strength?

 

CUSTOMER

(Very flustered) Oh, no! Not the... I mean, um, just the regular. 

 

(Another CUSTOMER enters, pulling along a SMALL CHILD who is designated as such by clutching a stuffed animal, sucking thumb, whining, etc.  They get in line.)

 

CHECKER

(Sounding slightly disappointed) You sure?  The extra strength, it lasts for fourteen hours.  At least, that’s what I’ve heard.

 

CUSTOMER

(Glancing anxiously at the other CUSTOMER and CHILD)  Yes, um… yes.

 

CHECKER TWO

Okay, that would be in Safety and Wellbeing.  Just past the vaginal yeast medication and the suppositories.

 

(CUSTOMER hastens off, exiting, and is replaced at the register by the next CUSTOMER and CHILD)

 

CHECKER 2

Did you find everything you needed today?

 

(Action freezes at checkout 2, and resumes at checkout 1).

 

VINCENT

What do I really need? That’s a can of worms, isn’t it?  I used to think I knew.  I mean, when I was sixteen, I was pretty sure that what I needed most in the world was to play lead guitar for a garage band called “The Ironmongers.”

 

OLIVE

(Laughing)  Right.  And I thought I needed to get into the college of my choice, rock the pre-med scene, and ultimately discover the cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s and hangnails.

 

VINCENT

I thought I needed to shout earnest, grating lyrics about world peace.  Of course, part of me also thought I needed to drive down to South Cushman with Laurie, from my homeroom, who applied her mascara with a trowel.

 

                     OLIVE

And I thought I needed to be valedictorian over at West Valley – and also magically seduce a boy named Greg entirely by gazing longingly at the back of his head during biology class.

 

VINCENT

     (Interested) So, did that work out?

 

OLIVE

Was I valedictorian?  No.  Third.  But I did go to the college of my choice.  Got lucky.  Or did you mean, was I ever Greg’s girlfriend?  I… (Pauses, looks away).  I’ve been… less lucky with… all that.

 

VINCENT

     I… um… yeah.   Me, too.

 

OLIVE

(Teasing) You’re not Greg’s girlfriend, either?


VINCENT

(Laughing) Maybe I’d have more luck if I were batting for that team. Maybe not. But, hey, it sounds like you got the degree you wanted.  The world will be both cancer-free and hangnail-free any day now -- assuming you specialized in both oncology and dermatology. 

 

OLIVE

You’re pretty erudite for a grocery checker.

 

VINCENT

Um, thanks? 

OLIVE

Crap.  That came out wrong.  I – I always say the wrong thing.

 

(Action freezes at checkout 1, and resumes at checkout 2).

 

CUSTOMER

No, I did NOT find what I needed. Do you carry the Baby Einstein DVD collection? 

 

CHILD

(In a piercing whine, grabbing for items on invisible shelves) Want candy!

 

                          CUSTOMER

I’m particularly interested in Baby Beethoven and Baby Van Gogh.

 

CHILD

(Even louder) Want this!  Want this!

 

(Another CUSTOMER enters and joins the line behind the CUSTOMER and CHILD, but leaving a significant space and recoiling from the screaming.)

 

                          CUSTOMER

     And Suzuki books.  I need Sukuzi books, too.

 

CHILD

(Screaming) Caaaaaaaandy!

 

                          CHECKER 2

Try Prestige and Feelings of Confidence.  Aisle eleven.  Look for the NFL infant onesies and the Class of 2035 toddler sweatshirts. On the bottom shelf you’ll find all the products intended to address sublimated hopes for status redirected onto the next generation. 

 

(CUSTOMER exits, dragging CHILD, who is still having a tantrum.  The next CUSTOMER steps forward.)

 

CHECKER 2

(Sounding extremely tired) Did you find everything you needed?

 

(Action freezes at checkout 2, and resumes at checkout 1).

 

VINCENT

It’s okay.  You’re right.  I AM pretty damned erudite for a cashier.  And you’re pretty damned erudite for someone out buying pressed tofu in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday.

 

OLIVE

Technically, I’m not actually buying any pressed tofu, because it’s hidden in some part of Maslow’s hierarchy that I haven’t found yet. 

 

VINCENT

Ah, but I can let you in on that secret.  All the Arboreal Melodies products are in the Prestige and Feelings of Confidence category. 

 

OLIVE

Maslow’s fourth level?

 

VINCENT

Yup. They’re with the hair dye, the SAT prep guides, the Let’s Go Travel books, and the ribbed flavored condoms.

 

OLIVE

But not the regular standard-issue rubbers?

 

VINCENT

Nah.  We’ve got a few in the third level – Love and Connection – but mostly they’re in Health and Safety, with the Tylenol and Tums.

 

OLIVE

Health and Safety, all the way down on the second level - that’s me, I guess.  I work the swing shift at the emergency room. 

 

VINCENT

I was an English major.  I’ve got seven unpublished novels on my laptop.  One of them is getting some nibbles from agents, but I’m nowhere close to quitting my day job. 

 

OLIVE

In the winter, I don’t see daylight at all.  All year, I see people who can’t afford health insurance, and people who made bad choices, and people who had horrible luck.  I guess I deal with nothing but low-on-the-hierarchy basics.

 

VINCENT

I’ve been here so long that I’ve got every produce code memorized.  Clementines: 3384.  Star fruit: 4256.  Chestnuts: 4927. 

 

OLIVE

And I’m not a doctor.  I’m an RN. 

 

VINCENT

Tamarinds: 4448.  Jesus, I even know tamarinds…

 

OLIVE

I haven’t discovered the cure for anything.

 

VINCENT

I haven’t discovered...

 

(Vincent stops in mid-sentence and meets Olive’s gaze.  She gazes back at him.  Action freezes at checkout 1, and resumes at checkout 2).

 

CUSTOMER

I need Lunchables.

 

CHECKER 2

No you don’t.  No one needs Lunchables.

 

(CUSTOMER looks momentarily confused, then nods and mimes handing over cash and receiving change as a new CUSTOMER enters, this time pushing an extremely heavy cart.  The first customer exits. As the second CUSTOMER reaches the register, action freezes at checkout 2, and resumes at checkout 1).

 

                          OLIVE

(Gaze still locked with VINCENT’s) I don’t have to be at work until midnight tonight. (Pause) I make a damn fine tofu and sprout sandwich.

 

VINCENT

My shift ends in twenty minutes.  I own a juicer.  And I know how to use it.

 

(Action resumes at checkout 2, but does not freeze at checkout 1).

 

CHECKER 2

Did you find everything you needed?

 

OLIVE, VINCENT, and CUSTOMER (in sync)

     Yes.  Yes, I think I did.

 

 

(END OF PLAY.)