What is a Line (A Short Play)

31 Plays in 31 Days #15

I hope this is more interesting than offensive. The potential trouble – and potential joy – of this 31 Days, writing-a-play-in-one-sitting-every-day thing is that sometimes where the starting concept ends up is not where you necessarily foresaw. Enjoy?

(The year 2045.)

(A kitchen, represented by a counter with a stovetop on it; but the stovetop is an induction stove, so it’s just a black panel. There is a 3D printer off to one side, which just looks like a plain rectangular box with a door on the front, sort of like a wide mailbox, sizable enough to contain a roast turkey. A basket of fruit with at least one orange in it sits on the counter.)

(KAYLEE, age 40, is dancing around the kitchen whistling a pop tune from thirty years ago. She is stirring some pink goo in a pot. [Some pink glue or dyed cream will work as a prop.])

(KAYLEE touches the counter in a couple undifferentiated spots in front of the printer, looks at something invisible in mid-air, and smiles, then returns to stirring.)

(Enter IRRI, Kaylee’s 15-year old daughter. IRRI wears contacts that make her look bird-eyed. She is wearing a hoodie or jacket with her arms tucked inside.)

IRRI
Good. I’m hungry.

KAYLEE
Not for this, cinnamon.

(IRRI sticks her face into the pot.)

IRRI
Oh! Ew. I wish you would stop plasticking on the stove.

KAYLEE
Where else should I do it?

IRRI
I don’t know maybe just use the printer instead of making a mess doing it yourself?
What are you making this time?

(KAYLEE touches the countertop again – it’s as if there’s an invisible keyboard on it. A holographic screen [which the audience can’t, but Kaylee and Irri can, see] appears over the counter. KAYLEE flips the hologram around in the air so Irri can get a better look.)

IRRI
What happened to your purple one?

KAYLEE
Nothing, this is a birthday-present for Mama.

IRRI
Who needs more than one?

KAYLEE
Lol. This from the girl with like four egg ones.

IRRI
…People give me presents, I can’t throw them away.

KAYLEE
Well this is a present, cinnamon. I’ll make you something for dinner if you want once this is done.

IRRI
Ugh, but I’m hungry. Just put out a bowl of something.

KAYLEE
Get it yourself, I have to keep an eye on this so I can pop it in as soon as the mold’s done.

IRRI
Mommy!

KAYLEE
How old are you again? Are you actually fifteen today, or just five again?

IRRI
You’re such a waster.

KAYLEE
And you’re hungry.

(KAYLEE sticks her tongue out at Irri. IRRI looks way more conflicted than she should be for such a small decision.)

IRRI
…Just… open an orange for me. I want to eat it.

KAYLEE
Peck at it yourself.

IRRI
Mom!

KAYLEE
What?

IRRI
When you’re hateful, it makes me feel judged and policed for my natural preferences.

KAYLEE
“Peck” is a perfectly neutral word.

IRRI
Not when you use that tone.

KAYLEE
I don’t see why you can’t open it yourse-

(KAYLEE looks at Irri, horrified, and notices that Irri’s arms are hidden.)

IRRI
What.

What, stop staring at me like a bigoted stare-r person.

KAYLEE
Are you… chilly?

IRRI
It’s rather summertime isn’t it.

KAYLEE
Then, like, why are you all-

IRRI
What, I can’t stand like this?
I’m hugging myself.

KAYLEE
Don’t you usually run up to your room when you get back?

IRRI
I can’t be hungry? God, fine, I’ll go upstairs.

KAYLEE
Hold on one second young lady.

IRRI
WHAT.

KAYLEE
You wanted me to ask about it, so what is it.

IRRI
I don’t know what you’re talking about.

KAYLEE
You…
Just…
Show me your arms.

(IRRI makes a disgusted face.)

KAYLEE
Irri Dunlevy, show me your god damn arms.

IRRI
You’re not as authoritative as Mama.

(KAYLEE smacks the pot down making a loud noise, which scares IRRI.)

IRRI
God-

KAYLEE
You-
I-
Don’t scare me, when I’m scared, I-
I swear I will tackle you, and tickle you if I have to, girl-

IRRI
Fine, fine.

(IRRI pulls one arm out of her clothes. It looks fine. She waves her arm around.)

IRRI
There? Happy?

(She flicks her mother off, then turns to storm to her room.)

KAYLEE
Other arm.

IRRI
What? I showed you, you waster.

KAYLEE
I love the power-trip insult-your-parents stage you’re in. It’s so lovely. I am so happy you’ve decided to take that route to independence instead of something else.

IRRI
You wish I wasn’t so independent.

KAYLEE
How stupid do you-
SHOW ME THE OTHER GODDAMN ARM.

IRRI
Whatever.

(IRRI starts to go.)

KAYLEE
HEY!

(KAYLEE grabs the orange, and rips off part of the peel, then throws it at Irri, who catches it with her revealed arm.)

IRRI
Yay abuse?

KAYLEE
Eat it. It’s peeled.

IRRI
You call that-

(KAYLEE rushes over and takes the orange away from IRRI, who is startled. KAYLEE goes to the counter, pulls out a bowl, tears up the orange and puts the fruit pieces into the bowl.)

KAYLEE
Eat it.

IRRI
…Fine.

(IRRI steps forward and starts to pull her other arm out, but then pauses and looks at her mother. She looks doubting and remorseful for a minute.)

KAYLEE
I won’t be mad. I just want to know if you’re only screwing with me or what.

IRRI
I…

(IRRI blushes bright red as she goes to the bowl and leans down and pecks at it like a bird.)

KAYLEE
Okay…

(IRRI chews up the piece. She keeps her eyes on the bowl, not her mother. She takes another piece, this time acting disctinctively birdlike. She starts pecking at the pieces with more concentration. As she gets into it, she puts her normal arm away. She carefully releases her other arm and takes it out of the jacket. It is partially a bird wing, or at least feathered.)

(KAYLEE sees it and covers her face.)

(The 3D printer dings. IRRI continues eating, still avoiding eye contact. KAYLEE distractedly opens the printer and takes out a mold, pours some pink goo in, and puts the mold back in the 3D printer. KAYLEE pushes some invisible keyboard buttons to start the process.)

KAYLEE
Is that-
Modded?

IRRI
Please don’t look so scared about it, it’s my choice.

KAYLEE
You…
You fucking idiot…

IRRI
Hey.

KAYLEE
I HAVE A HUMAN FOR A DAUGHTER, NOT A BIRD!

IRRI
Raven!

KAYLEE
Yes of course a raven.

IRRI
You’re such a muggle.

KAYLEE
You don’t even know what that means.

IRRI
I’m not illiterate, Mom!

KAYLEE
You will be when you get bird eyes! And two bird wings that can’t scan in a reader.

IRRI
They’re making ones that can sense feathers.

KAYLEE
Oh great-

IRRI
And fur and claws and tongue, because this is real-

KAYLEE
We’re legitimizing it now-

(KAYLEE types on the counter.)

KAYLEE
Dammit. EMILY. …Oh, right.

(IRRI smiles a little.)

KAYLEE
You timed this for when she’d be in her big meeting. Smart. I’ll give you you’re smart, Mama would not stand for this one second, she’d march you right back wherever it was…

(IRRI stares at KAYLEE. KAYLEE types furiously into the keyboard.)

IRRI
You know I never quite believed it. I hoped that it would not be this bad, I told Bola that you and Mama would be a little upset and unable to handle but I thought you would come around once it stopped being so rather weird to you, once your box shifted, she said no no no, just because you have two moms doesn’t mean and I said please! they had to fight for it when they were kids back in history they get struggle and identity issues but she said no no no it doesn’t work that way, people draw a line when they’re younger and they never cross it.

KAYLEE
You’re trying to become a bird.

IRRI
I’m trying to become who I am!

KAYLEE
Of course you are, you’re fifteen!

IRRI
So what you’re going to make me wait until I’m eighteen and then I can-

KAYLEE
How about twenty-eight, I didn’t know what I-

IRRI
Sorry that I’m not as immature as you were at my age, maybe we grow up faster nowadays, the whole post-web society newness.

KAYLEE
You couldn’t get a tattoo. At least those are reversible.

IRRI
This is reversible! Not that I’m going to-

KAYLEE
But the damage isn’t.

(KAYLEE types up some images on the invisible keyboard and hologram screen.)

IRRI
What are you doing?

KAYLEE
Where did you go today?

IRRI
Don’t bother looking me up. I left it at school.

KAYLEE
“Left it”? So it’s still there? You skipped school. Oh right, birds don’t need school. Probably just flight school?

IRRI
Raven! Seriously, is that what’s bothering you.

KAYLEE
Who did you see?

IRRI
Why, so you can turn them in?

KAYLEE
Those places, cinnamon-

IRRI
Yeah yeah yeah, dirty, slapdash, wild evolution, crazy scary shit oh no, well maybe if your stupid generation would stop being bigots and legalize-

KAYLEE
Some things are just not to be done.

IRRI
There’s a line.

KAYLEE
Yes, there’s a line.

IRRI
Weren’t you over the line? Weren’t your what did they call it then, chocolate grandpa and cracker mother over the line back in the like 1900s?

KAYLEE
They weren’t a s’more. They were mixed-race.

IRRI
Whatever that means. But it was not allowed right? Don’t you get it?

KAYLEE
I draw the line at changing yourself into some weird godforsaken science project.

IRRI
I’m birdkin! It’s not different from people who are transgender! I thought your principles were rather all personal freedom and you can do what you want with your body.

KAYLEE
This isn’t your body. This is Mother Nature.

IRRI
Obviously, she’s okay with it, or she wouldn’t have made me feel this way.

KAYLEE
No one felt this way when I was a kid.

IRRI
Now I know that’s not true.

KAYLEE
Well no one felt this way until someone decided it was a thing. People in the middle ages were homosexual and homoromantic and whatever they called transgender at the time, those existed, but nobody turned themselves into a cat.

IRRI
It figures. Bola was right. The line just moves. The line is “what I wanted, what my generation wanted, and anything beyond that is CRAZY.” Don’t you think it’s funny that somehow the line of total perfect moral division between black and white and right and wrong just happened to be where you needed it to be? How lucky for you, that everyone before you was bigoted and everyone after you is fucked-up.

KAYLEE
…No, it really kind of sucks. My generation obviously made a mistake destroying all prejudice and solving all the world’s problems. Your generation had nothing to rebel against so you had to make something up.

IRRI
Fine, then do the classic thing when the kid rebels, kick me out of the house.

KAYLEE
So you can go live in an aviary.

IRRI
Ah fuck you. Why don’t you quote The Bible at me while you’re at it.

KAYLEE
I don’t know the fucking Bible!

IRRI
LOOK IT UP! Meanwhile maybe I’ll do your job for you and FLY AWAY!

(IRRI turns to go.)

KAYLEE
Wait wait wait! Slow down girl. I said SLOW DOWN!
I’m scared for you, don’t you see, scared. I don’t hate you. I don’t hate what you- What you… feel you are. I’m scared because I know, I know how much these rash decisions can…

IRRI
I’ve been pecking since sixth grade.

KAYLEE
Yeah- Well- I’m just scared.
If you were just doing the phosphorescent thing the kids are doing, or just did the eyes, or if you even wanted to do the sex worker thing now that they lowered the age on that… I could handle, I could. But I feel like I’m losing my daughter. You’re running headlong into the brick wall of a brave new world and haven’t even stopped to consider what it means for your humanity.
God, people these days are just obsessed with themselves.

IRRI
So you’re not going to accept me.

KAYLEE
Accept?!
How much danger can I accept on my child? If you go off the deep end and go hang out with, what do they call them, the free slicers?

IRRI
The Free Cutters? God, I’m not insane. I’ve realized the true form of my arm as a wing. I’m not going to cut it off for rather no reason.

KAYLEE
Well maybe the dirty-lab will mess something up and you’ll lose an arm. There’s a line between self-endangerment and self-expression, and it’s my job as your loving mother to keep you on the right side.

IRRI
Me, keep “me”? You’re keeping “me” on the side where I’m not “me”. You just want to keep me your little baby. But your little baby is a raven, Mommy. If you can’t accept that, you’ve given me up.

KAYLEE
At what point do you stop being you?

IRRI
I’m becoming me.

(The printer dings.)

KAYLEE
(talking to herself)
Do I need to become a bird to still be your mommy? Does Emily? At some point are we officially legally childless again, if you mod yourself enough?

IRRI
Your thing’s done.

(KAYLEE reaches in the printer and pulls out the mold. [Obviously, in production, a different, identical mold.] She opens the mold and a pink dildo is inside. She takes it out and throws it back in the pot with the pink goo.)

IRRI
Mommy!

KAYLEE
I don’t think we’ll be feeling particularly sexual for a while.
Mama’s birthday present will have to be “your daughter’s going full raven.”

IRRI
“Raven,” thank you.

KAYLEE
Don’t run away.

IRRI
Mama’s going to make me fix it or hide it somehow when she gets back. She’ll take me to a shrink.

KAYLEE
Yeah.

IRRI
You have to be on my side and convince her no this is right, this is okay.

KAYLEE
No.

IRRI
This is the part that hurts the most, you know.

KAYLEE
What?

IRRI
Seeing that me trying to be myself hurts you.

KAYLEE
…Yes it does.
…Go fly over to Bola’s for the night.

IRRI
…So you can argue my case with Mama?

KAYLEE
No, so we can cry together in peace.
Go on.

(IRRI hesitates, then turns to go.)

KAYLEE
Wait.

(IRRI waits. KAYLEE goes over to her and runs the feathers through her fingers.)

IRRI
That’s me, Mom.

KAYLEE
If… that’s you… Then so would a corpse, in a sense, be you.
Don’t die, cinnamon.

(IRRI slowly turns and exits.)

(KAYLEE goes to the pot and stirs the dildo in, watching it “melt.”)

(IRRI comes back with a backpack on. IRRI stands up on the counter. IRRI jumps up and flies away.)

(End of play.)

writing time: 1:50

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One comment

  1. […] and thinking about how an exemplar of the subgenre that I saw once was about cupcakes 15) What is a Line – in the future, a mother tries to figure out what her daughter is hiding Came from wanting to […]

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