Cupcake Deathbed (A Short Play)

31 Plays in 31 Days #14

(A hospital room.)

(GENO lies sickly on the bed. He is only in his 60s and looks too hale for being so obviously sick and in pain.)

(Geno’s eldest child, VERN, is also his nurse, and is attending to the room. Enter ANITA, his middle child, bearing a covered platter. GENO doesn’t notice ANITA until she sets the platter down over his bed and opens it with a flourish, revealing CUPCAKES.)

GENO
Sweetheart!

(VERN had been too preoccupied to notice Anita enter either, and now looks up. VERN looks shocked at the cupcakes.)

VERN
Oh-

ANITA
Poppa.

GENO
Come here, sweetheart. Oof. Agh.

ANITA
Relax, poppa.

GENO
This guy is though don’t you worry.

ANITA
Is it that bad?

GENO
Fine, fine.

VERN
Sis-
Are those-

GENO
Cupcakes!
Are these-?

ANITA
Your recipe, poppa. Exactly as you told me.

GENO
They look fantastic, Anita! Fantastic! The apple doesn’t fall far from the, tree, eh?
Oof- Agh-
Oh, I wish I could eat one.

ANITA
You can.

VERN
Uh-
No, that’s not a-

GENO
Got to watch the old gut eh? Want to get into heaven nice and svelte to meet your momma. She’s been up there dancing away the years…

ANITA
Awww.

(ANITA looks touched and gives her poppa a kiss on the forehead.)

GENO
Oof.

ANITA
Did that-?!

GENO
Worth it, sweetheart.

(GENO looks pale all of a sudden.)

GENO
No, I’m fine, I’m fine.

(ANITA and VERN exchange a significant glance.)

GENO
Those look great, they do. I love the frosting. Let me just give one a squeeze-
Mm-
Nice and plump like your old man- That’s the trick, right there. Good to know you can follow a recipe.

(That was a gentle tease, and GENO follows it with a wink to Anita.)

(ANITA looks pleadingly at VERN.)

VERN
Let’s talk in the hall a sec. Excuse us, pop.

GENO
Go on, he’s gonna explain to you why it’ll kill me even more dead if I have a cupcake.

ANITA
I didn’t think he had the authority.

GENO
Oh you don’t even know.

VERN
Yeah, they know better than to keep me away. Technically Dr. Kada is on the chart.

ANITA
Eh, what’s an ethics violation?

GENO
I wouldn’t have anyone else.

ANITA
Maybe another doctor would let you have cupcakes.

VERN
Okay, all right, just step out a sec-

ANITA
Coming!
(Just lick the frosting while we’re gone.)

GENO
Oh no, not without permission!

(GENO gives a genuinely trusting smile to Vern, then GENO makes a show of pushing the cupcakes away and lying back with his eyes closed, temptation avoided.)

(VERN sighs.)

VERN
We’ll be just a sec-

(ANITA kisses her finger and touches it to Geno’s forehead. ANITA exits.)

(As soon as they’re gone, GENO struggles and sits up and looks sadly at the cupcakes.)

(VERN and ANITA are in the hall out of Geno’s earshot.)

VERN
What are you thinking.

ANITA
It’ll make him so, so happy.

VERN
You made those from his recipe, and you want him to eat some?

ANITA
Why can’t a dying man have one last taste of what… well, what made his life so… sweet? He’s our dad, not some regular patient.

VERN
He-

ANITA
Christ, the family’s not going to sue you if he goes to his grave a little earlier, especially if it’s a little sweeter. What could be-

VERN
Anita!
It’s fine.
He can eat one.

ANITA
Oh.
Well then let’s go tell him-

VERN
But that’s a fucking horrible idea!

ANITA
Trust me.

VERN
No, no, no-

ANITA
He won’t doubt you. Medical sunshine comes out of your butt. Just say that you thought of some reason why one or two little bites-

VERN
I’m not talking about his health! Or his I don’t know faith in me or anything.

ANITA
Then what’s the problem.

VERN
Anita, we’re trying to make the last moments of his life pleasant. I want to remember happy, eternally half-glass-full pop with his cute old apple cheeks, not gloomy depressed version with his blue jowly jowls all sad.

ANITA
Sheesh.

VERN
You see how much physical pain he’s in-

ANITA
I know what you’re thinking-

VERN
Wait for Charlie to get here-

ANITA
I rushed to get here before Charlie did.

VERN
Well yeah Charlie wouldn’t let you feed no fucking Geno Bakery goods to him and ruin everything.

ANITA
Will it really be that bad?

VERN
We need to get him on some serious painkillers. He’s cogent now but that’s just because the pain is keeping him…

ANITA
Alive?

VERN
Kind of.
Once we put him under-

ANITA
Are we euthanizing him?

VERN
We’re being humane. He can either hold on for another couple weeks, in worse and worse pain, eventually barely able to open his mouth anymore so what good it’ll be that he’s cogent, OR, or, we can give him a serious cocktail and he’ll be comfortable, dreamy and probably, finally let go in… soon.

ANITA
How soon?

VERN
Charlie should be here within the hour. How the hell did you beat him here from across the fucking country and what, did you bake on the plane?

ANITA
No, I didn’t bake on the plane.

(GENO dips a finger into the frosting and examines it without tasting it.)

VERN
Well? These are pop’s recipe, right?

ANITA
No.
Vern.

VERN
They-
What?

ANITA
What do you think?

VERN
They-
You-
From the store?

ANITA
From Magnolia.

VERN
But-
Are you serious?

ANITA
I had a stopover.

VERN
You must have-

ANITA
I was in the car when you called. I drove straight to the airport. You can thank me for having deodorant in my purse and that fabric relaxer spray from the airport.

VERN
From Magnolia?
And you-
You told him you-
Oh.
You fucking evil genius you.

ANITA
Do you see?

VERN
That’s…
That’s terrible.

ANITA
What could be a better gift for pop than to have his life’s dream fulfilled before he dies?

(GENO wipes the frosting off, having decided not to taste it.)

VERN
That’s a bad idea.

ANITA
I was going to just tell him that I made some and sold them… Make up some numbers… But he wouldn’t believe that without evidence, you know it.

VERN
That’s a terrible horrible idea. You can’t deliver a shock to his system like that right when he’s-

ANITA
What, is it going to kill him? Gosh, I could kill poppa with joy.

VERN
Deep down, he knows he’s not a baker.

ANITA
No I think deep down, he knows he is. That’s always what the problem has been, you know?

VERN
You’ve got it backwards.
He won’t accept it. He’ll know you’re trying to string him along and it’ll break his poor heart.

ANITA
The cupcakes are a new thing. Maybe he’ll believe it was his thing all along, if he’d just abandoned the French stuff earlier.

VERN
Oh great, then he gets to die thinking “if only I’d cottoned to the cupcake trend ten years ago, I could’ve left a legacy. ‘I coulda been a baker. I coulda been somebody.’

ANITA
I think he deserves one god damn taste of success before he-

VERN
And I think sleeping dogs should lie and so should unfulfilled dreams.

ANITA
Look, just because you blame him for-

VERN
NO.

ANITA
Well hey-

VERN
Don’t.

ANITA
Sheesh, fine.
Let’s say I go in there, say, poppa, you can try a bite. He tries a bite. What happens?

VERN
Don’t expect him to be logical, Anita.\

(GENO begins dismantling a cupcake by hand, unwrapping it, tearing it into small pieces.)

ANITA
What happens?
It’s delicious!
Of course it’s delicious, it’s got the pedigree. I had a red velvet and a maple cream on the way here, and oh. my. god.

VERN
You would’ve been more convincing with a B grade store bought-

ANITA
He says, “At last! One of my children has taken up the mantle!”

VERN
Or he says, “ugh, dreck.”

ANITA
He only says “ugh, dreck” when we use his actual recipes because they, you know, suck balls.

VERN
No, he says “ugh, dreck” because we’re his children and he-

ANITA
He can’t be objective when he made them himself-

VERN
In his mind, we’re somehow to blame for mom and his whole miserable-

ANITA
Vern! When he tastes these cupcakes, he’ll have the external validation he never got. Not with Geno’s Bakery, Rest In Peace, or Geno’s Fine Pastries, Rest In Peace, or-

VERN
Geno’s Fragile Illusion, still alive and well. If you fake it, he’ll catch you, and he’ll know that we know-

ANITA
He already knows we know, for heaven’s sake we were there in the store every time he closed it down-

VERN
He’ll know. He’ll no longer be able to pretend that maybe it was just that the world was unfair to the little guy with the big chef hat. He only needs to make it a few more hours.
So now march right in there and apologize but I said he can’t have them and then march back out and throw those cupcakes out.

ANITA
He-
Well first of all I’m not thr- I’d give them to the staff at least-

VERN
Fine, just not any on his rotation-

ANITA
And second of all-
Most of all-
I think you’re just upset that it couldn’t be you.

VERN
…Me?

(GENO begins reconstructing the torn-up cupcake, using the frosting as mortar.)

ANITA
He never trusted me with the recipes much anyways. I’m half-convinced he only CCed me on this one by accident – it was sent to you.

VERN
And to allrecipes.com.

ANITA
Which thank god no one there reads whatever email address that was. But you know him. He was always old-world, the man is the chef, women prepare simple meals, but it’s men who have the art and the finesse for haute cuisine, for restaurant running, for patisserie and bakery. He’s the only father in the world who was disappointed that his son got a medical degree over culinary school.

VERN
Yeah, well, money pays more bills than flat-tire croissants.

ANITA
I’ll make you a deal.

VERN
Is it to throw the cupcakes out if I give you half my inheritance? Heck, take it all, it’s not worth a dime…

ANITA
I’ll give you half the credit.
I’ll go in there and say, “Pop, you know I was on the airplane? Yeah, I didn’t have time to make them. Vern did it this morning before his shift, he put the batter together and everything, I just ran by his house and picked up the finished product.” I’ll take credit for applying the frosting so artfully, and then he can be proud of both his children. Poor Chris will have to fend for himself, his fault for being so late.

VERN
I have a feeling he’ll show up just after I can’t wait any longer and put him on the meds…

ANITA
What do you say?
…Come on, Vern. Imagine that look in his eyes. “At last.” And look… I’m prepared.

(She reaches into her purse and pulls out a large chef hat.)

ANITA
It’s not the right style, but it’s the thought that counts. I even have a little sign that says “Geno’s Old World Cupcakes, genoscupcakes.com.”

VERN
You buy the domain name, too?

ANITA
Yep, on the plane. He can fly to heaven dreaming of people around the world sinking their teeth into the delicious, mouthwatering fruit of his brain, kept alive by the fruit of his loins.

VERN
…That the tagline for the website.

ANITA
Vern.
Come on.

VERN

(ANITA smiles. She stuffs the hat back in her purse, then opens the door.)

ANITA
I told you, you just needed to look at the blood sugar charts! Oh, hey, poppa.

GENO
June!

ANITA
Uh-
Poppa, no, it’s-

GENO
What strange shoes you have on.

ANITA
Poppa, it’s-

GENO
June, look what I made! Who’s a clever man, hum? Give me some sugar, sugar.

ANITA
Poppa! Mom’s dead- It’s me, An-

GENO
Anita, I’m joking.

(VERN walks in and suppresses a laugh.)

GENO
Sorry, bad joke. These cupcakes are exquisite!

ANITA
Have a bite, poppa.

(ANITA smiles at VERN, who is expressionless.)

GENO
…Vern?

VERN
…I helped her make them.

GENO
…Oh-
Really?! Vernie!
You two finally got along, huh? It takes synergy, I’ve always said, to bake, synergy and cinnamon-

ANITA
Totally, poppa. Now eat, eat before you fall asleep.

GENO
Well-

ANITA
Just a bite. I have a surprise for you-

(She puts her hand on her purse in preparation.)

ANITA
But you have to taste first. And tell us what you think.

GENO
Well-

(He hesitates, then smiles broadly.)

GENO
Okay!
Oo boy-
Oof-

(He sits up and hesitates again between taking either the reconstructed or an untouched cupcake. Just as he’s about to grab one and shove it into his mouth-)

VERN
I may have deviated a little from your recipe.

GENO
What?

ANITA
What?

VERN
I couldn’t find, what was it? Candymaker’s sugar?

GENO
No no no-

VERN
Well I did my best. But Anita did the frosting, so that’s why that’s so amazing.
Sorry if I messed it up.

GENO
You were supposed to follow my-
Vern. Always… You always…
Oof- Agh-

ANITA
Poppa-

GENO
No no no, let me taste-

ANITA
You don’t have to-
Wait-

(GENO takes a big bite.)

(GENO’s face shows instant surprise at the quality flavor. Then his expression flattens. He chews and swallows while ANITA and VERN look on.)

(GENO looks straight ahead for a moment. Then he smiles and looks at his children.)

GENO
So.

ANITA
What did you… think?

GENO
Come here, sonny.

(VERN comes closer. GENO struggles and leans up far enough to give him a kiss on the cheek.)

GENO
You chose the right profession. Baking… not for you.

ANITA
Wait, are you saying-

GENO
The frosting was artfully done, Anita. Give poppa a kiss.

ANITA
But the cupcakes- I thought they were-

GENO
Not bad, oh, not bad… but they won’t sell.
Take it from your old man.

(GENO blesses her with a kiss.)

GENO
Now if you don’t mind son of mine, old pop needs some of your fancy drugs.
That or a couple hot mama masseuses, eh? Eh?

(GENO laughs as he closes his eyes and leans back.)

(VERN takes the cupcakes and heads towards the trash can. ANITA intervenes.)

ANITA
Hey.
Asshole.

VERN
Sure, take them to the orderlies. I’m sure they’ll be polite.

ANITA
You-

VERN
Would you call Chris one more time while you’re out? See what the hell he’s waiting for?

ANITA
I’m sorry, poppa.

(GENO smiles without opening his eyes. ANITA exits with the cupcakes.)

(VERN walks over to the I.V. and fiddles with the line. GENO takes him by the hand.)

GENO
Son.

VERN
Pop.

GENO
Don’t tell Anita…
Oh- Higher, son, higher.

(VERN is confused, but sees he’s referring to the I.V. line. VERN turns the dial higher, or makes a show of doing so.)

VERN
Tell her what?

GENO
Don’t tell her…
They were actually very good.

(VERN looks shocked. GENO lies back and seems to fall asleep.)

(VERN stares at him.)

(End of play.)

writing time: about one hour

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One comment

  1. […] what else to do and thinking this might be the only venue I could try such a silly experiment 14) Cupcake Deathbed – a dying man is presented with cupcakes from a recipe he never got to try out Came from wanting […]

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