Everyday Aviation

Rachael Carnes

A Play for Videoconference

CHARACTERS

COREY, man, 40’s 

BERNICE, woman, 30’s-40’s 

JOE, man, 40’s-50’s 

ADAM, teenage boy

SETTING  

Corey’s home  

TIME 

Too late at night 

***

COREY futzes with technology for a minute, then stares into his  

laptop’s video camera. He looks away, then back again. Shit.  

 

COREY 

I thought I should do this. Leave this. I don’t know. There’s no blueprint. It seemed prudent? There’s a rhythm to the day and I love you and I get that we can roll out snacks and games but — So many headlines. So many stories. And we’re just getting started. You don’t know that — You’re just a baby. Wide-eyed and content enough to have your mom and me home all the time. You crush me at UNO, kiddo! Undefeated Champion of the World! And I like reading to you. I’m worried: That cough you had on your last day of school (When was that?) hasn’t gone away. All day, I beg you to blow your nose and then wash your hands. Tucking you in — You asked: When can you see your friends? We had that video conference? Remember? That was fun. We blew out the candles for Sophie — We had an Oreo and she had a cupcake and we all sang? I can’t make you stop crying yourself to sleep. Your mother tries to anchor you, but we don’t — Little man, I spend less time in this space where I feel safe every day, y’know? I want to fight! And I want to curl in a ball and I want to cry and laugh and fall apart. But I read you stories. And we stack blocks and play Legos and I feel the walls closing in and — What if they close all the way? What if the trap door opens, and takes me out? What if — Oh, honey. What if the hole opens, and takes you from me?

BERNICE enters the meeting. She’s drying dishes with a towel. 

BERNICE 

And how’s my favorite grandson? 

COREY 

Grandma? 

BERNICE 

Look how handsome you got! 

COREY 

I — 

BERNICE 

I’m glad you got the chin from my side of the family.  

COREY 

How can you? 

BERNICE 

Your grandad’s side all look like turtles. 

COREY 

I haven’t been sleeping —

BERNICE 

I can fix a carburetor, you think I can’t figure out a new video conferencing platform? 

COREY 

But, grandma, you’re — Um. 

BERNICE 

Dead? 

COREY 

Well, yeah. I — 

BERNICE 

Did you ever get a postcard? 

COREY 

Sure? 

BERNICE 

You know how there’s a picture on the front, and writing on the back? 

COREY 

Yeah — 

BERNICE 

The dead part is the picture on the front, but the message lives on. 

COREY 

That’s poetic? 

BERNICE 

The problem is no one reads cursive anymore. 

COREY 

That’s the least of our problems. 

BERNICE 

You can trace an erosion of basic human decency to bad penmanship. How’s your handwriting? 

COREY 

Um.  

BERNICE 

Did I teach you anything?

COREY 

You taught me to dance? 

BERNICE 

I did, didn’t I?  

COREY 

Swing, and lindy hop.  

BERNICE 

I forgot about that. 

COREY 

Summer vacation. Grandpa put on Glenn Miller and you taught me to lead. 

BERNICE 

Oh, dance with me now!  

COREY 

No — I. It’s tough out there, grandma. How could we dance?  

BERNICE 

I don’t know. People have always just figured it out day by day.  

COREY 

I can’t — I’m leaving a letter for my son. 

BERNICE 

My great-grandson? Show me a picture!  

COREY holds up a picture of his boy for the camera. 

COREY 

He’s seven. 

BERNICE 

Cute as a button. He has your eyes.  

COREY 

So, grandma, if you could be going, I was just going to wrap this up — 

BERNICE 

Let me get your grandpa on the call. Joe! 

COREY 

I don’t have time for —

JOE enters the meeting.  

JOE 

This better be important. I was gutting a fish. 

BERNICE 

Look who it is! 

JOE 

A lumberjack? Those are some whiskers! 

BERNICE 

No, it’s Corey, Pa. All grown up. 

JOE 

I know that. Just taking the vinegar. How are you, son? 

COREY 

Not great. 

JOE 

I lived in a foxhole for a month. Is it worse than that? 

COREY 

I mean, I can stream shows? 

BERNICE 

What dear? 

COREY 

There’s this one about a Tiger King that everyone is talking about — 

BERNICE 

That sounds fun! 

COREY 

But I can’t get anyone in my family to watch it with me. 

JOE 

Do you have enough food? 

BERNICE 

I used to make a cake out of Saltine crackers. 

COREY 

I think so? We spend a lot of time ordering supplies.

BERNICE 

Time to get creative!  

JOE 

Time to hunt. 

COREY 

Hunt what? 

JOE 

Turkeys? Squirrels? What they got there? 

COREY 

Where? Suburbia? 

JOE 

You must have deer, raccoons. The stray pigeon?  

BERNICE 

I think what your grandpa is suggesting is now’s the time to be resourceful. To make do. 

COREY 

I did a few push-ups today? 

JOE 

That’s right. Rations only annoy the weak mind! 

BERNICE 

Remember that birthday I darned your socks? That was a treat. 

COREY 

I miss my friends, I miss work. I miss people! 

JOE 

When I was a boy, I had an iron bicycle.  

BERNICE 

Your grandpa likes to remind us — 

JOE 

I had a shepherd named Coco who could speak real words of English. 

BERNICE 

He’s still a little — You know.

COREY 

Grandpa, I’m scared. 

JOE 

Minute by minute, son. The table’s set, pull the tablecloth out from under! 

BERNICE 

Not my good china! 

COREY 

What are you — 

BERNICE 

It’s his parlor trick. You remember! 

JOE 

Your grandmother’s Wedgewood, crystal stemware, all the niceties. 

BERNICE 

After the War, we went all in. Big credenza. Huge davenport! 

COREY 

What? 

JOE 

Let’s put all the good stuff on the table on your grandma’s best white cloth. 

BERNICE 

No, please don’t. 

COREY 

I never heard this story. 

BERNICE 

He was trying to make it better. Pa, not now, please? 

COREY 

Make what better? 

BERNICE 

Your grandpa thought if he could teach her magic it might cheer her up? 

COREY 

Who?

JOE 

Your mother’s little sister. 

BERNICE 

She was four. 

JOE

Measles. Fever. 

BERNICE

Couldn’t catch her breath — 

JOE

Put all the china out on the table. All the stemware. I read it in a book: Household Magic!

 

BERNICE 

Fever — Dry cough. Poor thing. 

JOE 

Make sure the tablecloth is flat on the table. 

BERNICE 

She said she had a real bad sore throat. 

JOE 

The tablecloth should be flush with the end opposite from which you’re pulling — 

BERNICE 

Bright red eyes.  

JOE 

Let the cloth hang well over the edge — 

BERNICE 

My little porcelain doll, her skin raised red spots — 

JOE 

Arrange the dishes on the table. Maybe some fruit? 

BERNICE 

The rash spread down her arms, her legs, her middle — She cries? 

JOE 

Grasp the tablecloth with two hands. Hey, sweet girl. Watch daddy! 

BERNICE 

Fever 103. 

JOE 

Bunch the tablecloth up to the table’s edge.  

BERNICE 

Fever 104. 105 — 105.8! Dear God. 

JOE 

Yank the tablecloth downwards and step back from the table.  

COREY 

Then what?  

BERNICE 

She — 

JOE 

Our — 

COREY 

I never knew that my mom had a sister. 

BERNICE 

It was the message, on the back of the postcard. It was too hard to write.

 

COREY 

I don’t know what to do now. 

JOE 

Acceleration depends on the force acting on an object, and the mass of the object itself. 

BERNICE 

She was so tiny. She didn’t have a fighting chance. 

JOE

A ball bounces off the ground because it hits the floor with momentum. That pushes it up!

 

COREY

I don’t understand. 

JOE

See the next minute. And the one after — Just keep moving forward.

 

BERNICE

And keep dancing.

ADAM enters the meeting.  

ADAM 

Hi. My mom said I should try to see how you’re doing, grandpa. How are you doing? 

 

JOE 

Honey, was there a milkman you didn’t tell me about? 

 

ADAM 

Grandpa Corey, my mom says that you can help me with my science homework. Can you? 

 

BERNICE 

He has your eyes, and your chin! Hi, cutie! 

 

COREY

What? Oh — Hi?  

 

ADAM 

We’re studying the Laws of Motion.  

 

COREY

Who sent you? 

 

ADAM

My dad? 

 

COREY

He lives? 

 

JOE

He lives. 

 

ADAM

So, can you help me, or not? 

 

BERNICE

Come on, Pa. Supper’s on the table. It’s good to see you both. Bye for now.

BERNICE leaves the meeting. 

JOE

Remember son: Set the china on the table. The good stemware. Hold the tablecloth and —

 

JOE leaves the meeting. 

 

ADAM

I have a quiz in the morning.  

 

COREY

Okay: I think this is still true, when you come in: 

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. 

Instrumental Big Band music plays.  

Meeting ends for all. 

Playwright Rachael Carnes received a 2020 Oregon Literary Fellowship, and has had readings and productions of her work across the U.S., U.K., the Middle East, Canada and Asia, with recent invitations to develop work at the William Inge Theatre Festival, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Playwriting Intensive, the Midwestern Dramatists Center Conference, the Mid-America Theater Conference, the American Association for Theatre in Higher Education New Play Development Series, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Ivoryton Playhouse Women Playwrights Initiative, the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop, the Cambridge U.K. WriteON Festival, the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival and the Great Plains Theatre Conference. Her work is seen in many literary journals, and has been nominated for a 2020 Pushcart Prize. Rachael is the founder and editor of CodeRedPlaywrights, a consortium of writers across the country, responding to gun violence. She and her family live in Oregon. www.rachaelcarnes.com