by John Clancy
Setting: a bare stage
Character: DAVE, 40s
Dave stands alone on stage. He speaks to the audience.
I was home, with my wife of fifteen years, at the kitchen table. We eat in the kitchen, the dining room is too formal for us and the kitchen is closer. To the food. If you want some more, it’s right there, it’s just, well that doesn’t matter, we eat in the kitchen and we were eating, we had just sat down and my wife pushed a big plate of broccoli towards me.
Now I hate broccoli. I’ve always hated broccoli. It has never struck me as something a human being should eat. I have never understood broccoli. And I have felt this way all my life. And so I said to my wife and to the broccoli, “No.” And my wife said, my wife said, “It’s broccoli” as if I did not know what was on the plate, green and steaming in front of me, the plate, or platter, actually touching my plate. And I said, in a reasonable tone, “I know it’s broccoli.” And then she said and here it is: “You love broccoli, Dave.”
I said, “No, I hate broccoli” and I’m looking at my wife through the steam of the broccoli and I’m thinking “Who are you?” How could you not know this most basic thing about me after 15 years? Where have you been? Have you been paying no attention? And I’m looking at her and the two of us are just sitting there looking at each other, silent, the broccoli there between us, eyes locked and I’m feeling righteous and wronged and yet, she is so sure. She is so calm. And then she says, calmly, “You love broccoli” and she reaches over with a big fork and pushes some onto my plate. The platter and the plate were very close, they were touching, so it was just sort of a push and the broccoli was there in front of me. And then she takes the plate of broccoli and spears some stalks onto her own plate and starts eating them. Not looking at me. As if everything were as it should be.
And her calm, her self-possession, the certainty with which she pushed the vegetable onto my plate, well, it chilled me. It’s the only word. My hot outrage at her callousness, her ignorance of my long-held distaste for the broccoli, cooled rapidly and was replaced with a cold horror. Two horrors, actually, one upon the other. The first was that she had changed, like a werewolf, completely and her knowledge of my hatred for broccoli had been erased. Some other sat across from me, masquerading as my wife, sounding like her, looking like her, an almost perfect replica of the woman I had loved for many years, but the broccoli had betrayed this newly-minted counterfeit, the programming had not been complete, somehow this detail, the spouse’s aversion to a leafy green vegetable had been omitted and this tiny detail was the only thing which revealed her to be the monster that she was. But nothing else betrayed her.
And so I thought, and here the second horror was born, perhaps I have changed. For that’s the thing about drifting through your life. You’re never really sure where you are.
And if you’ve stopped having or caring about opinions, except to the extent that they are in general alignment with the opinions of those around you, then it’s hard to pinpoint exactly who you are, from moment to moment. I could have changed a dozen times in the last few years and not known it. How would I know?
And so in a state of quiet, near-perfect panic I looked at the broccoli. And I picked up my fork and I stabbed it. And I lifted it to my mouth and began chewing. And I ate the broccoli.
copyright © 2005 John Clancy. All rights reserved. ___________________________________________
John Clancy is an OBIE award winning director and a founding Artistic Director of The Present Company, as well as a founding Artistic Director of The New York International Fringe Festival. His plays have won The American Shorts Contest, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe First and have been short-listed for the Julie Harris Playwrighting Award and the Actors Theatre of Louisville Heideman Award.